Teaching and learning

This page covers:

  • What is teaching and learning?

  • Support for teaching and learning

  • Roles and responsibilities

  • Starting point

  • Formal and informal approaches

  • The teaching, learning and assessment cycle

  • Resources

  • Beginning the session

  • Developing the session

  • Behaviour and motivation

  • Ending the session

  • Teaching and learning resources for immediate download

What is teaching and learning?

Teaching is about using various approaches and activities to help learners gain the skills, knowledge and understanding they need for a particular reason e.g. to gain a qualification or to perform a particular job role. 

You will teach, and your learners will learn.

Learning is about gaining and using new knowledge to demonstrate a change. This change might relate to the performance of a skill, the demonstration of understanding and/or a change in behaviour and attitudes. The teacher is then able to assess the progress and achievement which the learners are making.

However, it’s not about you, it’s about your learners and the learning which is taking place. You can teach all you like but if your learners don’t learn anything, the process is meaningless. 

Using different teaching and learning approaches and activities will help learning to take place, and they should include using technology wherever possible. 

Think of approaches and activities as the techniques you will use which can enable your learners to be actively engaged during the session and not just passively listening to you talking. They should be fit for purpose, i.e. to enable learning to take place. They should not be used for the sake of it or because you like to do things in a certain way.

Historical changes in education

If you would like to know about the history of 30 years of reform in FE (1991-2021), you can download the document below, or access it online here: Honorable Histories (from the FETL). You can also access other useful reports at the same link. 

You can access a history of changes to the education and exam system in England from the Cambridge Assessment Network and Research.

Support for teaching and learning

Scroll to the end of the page for downloadable teaching resources.

  • Resources to support teachers and learners of the teaching qualifications can be found by clicking here

  • Online modules for teaching and training can be found by clicking here.

  • Videos can be seen by clicking here.

  • Tips for teachers can be found by clicking here.

  • Click these links for: micro-teaching and lesson observations.

  • A downloadable guide: So what is the FE sector? can be accessed from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) here.

  • A downloadable guide: Understanding and promoting positive behaviour in the FE sector can be accessed from the ETF here.

  • A downloadable guide: Using assistive and accessible technology can be accessed from Jisc here

  • Resources to support home working and remote/online teaching can be accessed from the ETF here.

  • Resources to support Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) can be accessed from the ETF here.

  • If you are on Twitter, you can join in a community of practice with @FETeacherEd

If you are working towards a qualification, information and guidance for completing the units can be found via this page.

If you teach and/or assess the qualifications, support materials are available here

Roles and responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities can merge as it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the two. You should have a job description and/or a role specification which you will need to refer to, to help ensure that you meet the requirements of your job role. You should be qualified and/or experienced in the subject you wish to teach. Your employer decides what this is (it can differ depending upon where you work), in conjunction with the requirements for the subject you will teach.

As a teacher, your role might include:

  • interviewing learners

  • communicating with others

  • preparing teaching, learning and assessment materials

  • establishing ground rules with learners such as timekeeping, respect for others, not using social media during sessions

  • using a variety of inclusive teaching, learning and assessment approaches with learners

  • assessing learner progress and achievement

  • providing feedback to learners

  • evaluating your role

  • maintaining records.

Your responsibilities will vary widely based upon your job description. However, you should always follow: your organisation’s policies and procedures; relevant legislation; regulations and codes of practice; and the requirements of any professional body you belong to.

There will be boundaries which you need to adhere to. Boundaries are about knowing where your role as a teacher stops. Try not to get personally involved with your learners, always remain professional and act with integrity and impartiality. Boundaries are also about the challenges you might face as a teacher, such as a lack for your administration work, or having to meet certain targets by set dates.

Starting point

Whilst you might be extremely knowledgeable and experienced in your subject area, until you try and teach it to someone else, you won’t really know if you are good at teaching or even if you will enjoy it. The starting point will be to decide what it is your learners need to know and in what order, for example, from a qualification specification, apprenticeship programme or a job description. You can then decide how you will facilitate the learning process using a variety of teaching, learning and assessment approaches and activities. Due to Covid-19, a lot of learning moved online. You will need to find out from your organisation if they expect you to use certain electronic applications and devices for this purpose, and whether they will provide them or not.

Varying what you do during your sessions will give your learners more chances to engage with the subject. For example, a mixture of discussions, group activities, questions, demonstrations and role plays. You can plan how to do this by using a scheme of work for the whole programme, and session plans for each individual session (see the resources towards the end of the page for examples of templates). 

There may be times when you find that your learners know something that you don’t. This is fine, don’t be embarrassed as you can acknowledge your learner’s input and encourage other learners to contribute too. Your learners can also learn from each other. They won’t all have had the same experiences as each other in the past, therefore you can embrace this during your sessions. 

A group profile will help you to keep a note of each of your learner's experiences and needs (see the resources towards the end of the page). Your responsibility regarding identifying your learners’ needs may differ depending upon your job role. There are some things you might be able to deal with such as extra support with English, however, you will need to refer your learners elsewhere if not. There might be dedicated staff to ascertain any needs, or it might be your role to try and find out the information. Some learners might not want to disclose any needs they have, whereas others might be quiet demanding that their needs are supported.

Some organisations have specific departments to support learners, often known as ‘learner support’ and ‘learning support’. Learner support is any type of help the learner may need e.g. general advice such as welfare, health or finance. Learning support relates to the subject; e.g. study skills, literacy, language, numeracy and digital skills.

You can take an introductory qualification called the Award in Education and Training to find out more about teaching and learning.

If you are working towards a teaching qualification, guidance for completing the units for the Award, Certificate and Diploma can be found by scrolling down this page.

If you teach and/or assess the teaching qualifications, support materials are available here.

Formal and informal approaches

Formal teaching approaches include lectures, demonstrations, instruction and presentations which are usually teacher-centred. This is known as pedagogy as the teacher is usually in control. Learners are generally passive and it might be difficult for the teacher to assess that learning has taken place.

Informal approaches include discussions, group work, practical activities and role plays which are usually learner-centred. This is known as andragogy and the learners are usually in control. Learners are generally active, and the teacher can observe what has been learnt, and ask questions to check knowledge and understanding.

Some learners respond better to one approach than another. For example, one learner might prefer to listen to a lecture, whereas another might prefer to take part in a discussion. Whenever possible, it’s best to use a mixture of approaches, and to vary the activities used and the time spent on each. Click these links to find out more about how people learn and learning theories.

Using a mixture of different approaches can help to ensure that all learners are included during the session and can actively participate. You could use differentiation and adaptive teaching to adjust tasks and activities to meet the needs of learners at different levels of learning.

Teaching and learning should not be in isolation from the assessment process. You can check that learning is taking place each time you are with your learners. This can simply be done by observing them in practice to check skills, and asking questions to check knowledge. The exception to this is apprentice end-point assessment (EPA).

Ideally, sessions should have a beginning, middle and ending. Think of this as the introduction, development and conclusion. You will need to plan what you will do, and what the learners will do, in each section. This will be formalised by using a session plan (see the resources section at the end of the page). The sections should link together in a logical and progressive way. You will need to create and/or use relevant resources and anecdotes throughout your session to bring your subject to life.

See the resources section towards the end of this page for a table of teaching and learning approaches & activities, and a table of resources. 

The teaching, learning and assessment cycle

Your role will usually cover aspects of the teaching, learning and assessment cycle and will briefly involve:


  • identifying needs – finding out what your organisation’s, your own, and your potential learners’ needs are, finding out why learners are taking the programme and what their expectations are, carrying out initial and diagnostic assessments, agreeing individual learning plans, ensuring learners are capable of achieving their goals and progressing to their chosen destination

  • planning learning – preparing schemes of work, session plans and materials to ensure you cover the requirements of the programme, liaising with others

  • facilitating learning – teaching, training and facilitating learning using a variety of approaches, activities and resources to motivate, engage and inspire learners

  • assessing learning – checking your learners have gained the necessary skills, knowledge and understanding at all stages throughout their time with you, using formal and informal types and methods of assessment

  • evaluating learning – obtaining feedback from others, reflecting on your role and all aspects involved with the learning process in order to make improvements.

All aspects should focus on the learner. Internal quality assurance and standardisation of practice should take place throughout the process.


Resources are all the aids, books, handouts, items of equipment, devices, objects and people that you can use to deliver and assess your subject. The main purpose of using resources is to stimulate learning, add impact and promote interest in your subject. If you can search the internet, you might find resources for your subject are freely available. Depending upon your subject and what is/is not available, you may need to create your own or adapt someone else’s resources. This could be a handout of useful information; an online activity; a question sheet; a poster of information, a quiz; a worksheet; or it could be a complex working model used to demonstrate a topic.

There could be some copyright restrictions, particularly if you are using text books. Most educational organisations can apply for a licence to copy a certain amount of material from a book or a journal. If the work of others is used in teaching and learning materials, it should always be correctly referenced, otherwise it’s plagiarism.

Other resources include: interactive and electronic whiteboards; e-learning platforms; audio and visual materials, and other aspects of technology

Resources can be used to: 

  • aid revision
  • support teaching
  • encourage and stimulate learning
  • consolidate learning
  • assess learning.

Resources to support teachers and learners of the teaching qualifications can be found by clicking here.

Beginning the session

When commencing a session, if you are unsure what to say to gather your learners’ attention, start with 'Welcome to the session, today we will...' in a louder than normal, but assertive voice. It’s useful to have a session plan (see the resources towards the end of this page) to guide you with your topics and timings, which is based on an aim and objectives for your subject. 

An aim is what you want your learners to achieve, objectives are how they will do it. For example, if you want your learners 'to make a cup of tea', then that is your aim. The objectives will be all the activities a learner will perform to make the cup of tea. When planning your aim and the objectives, you will need to consider the skills, knowledge and understanding which learners must demonstrate regarding the subject. This will help you to plan your session i.e. what you want your learners to perform or to know, and how they can demonstrate that they have understood it. Their skills and knowledge will be aided by your teaching, however, their understanding will need to be assessed.

Always check if your learners have any prior knowledge and/or experience of the current topic. This can simply be by asking questions or using a starter activity or quiz (see the resources towards the end of this page). You can then draw upon their responses as you progress through the session. Never assume your learners know or don’t know something, always check.

Developing the session

Try and ensure your session flows progressively, i.e. is delivered in a logical order and assesses progress continually. When changing topics, try to link them together somehow or summarise one before moving on to the other. Break aspects down into smaller manageable chunks and don’t be afraid of repeating, recapping and asking questions.

As you continue with your teaching and learning approaches and activities (see the resources section for examples), allow time for questioning and for reinforcing important points. Only move on when you are sure your learners have understood the current topic.

Incorporate the knowledge and experience of your learners and, if you can, give relevant anecdotes from your own experiences to bring the subject to life. Try and relate what you are teaching to how your learners will benefit from it.

Try not to use the word obvious as things are only obvious to you, and never assume that your learners know something. Show interest, passion and enthusiasm for your subject and encourage your learners to take pride in their work. Use tone and inflection to emphasise key points and don’t be afraid of silent pauses; they will give you time to refocus and give your learners time to consider what you have said. Use eye contact when you can, and use your learners’ names as this shows you are interested in them as individuals. You might want to move around the room rather than stay in the same position at the front. This will give you a chance to check that your learners are focused and shows them that you are in control.

Don't forget to assess that learning has taken place.

If you feel you are overrunning on your timings, don’t be afraid to carry something over to the next session, cut it out altogether, or give it as homework or self-study material. Alternatively, you can adjust the timings of the other activities to reduce or increase them as necessary. Don’t feel you must keep to the number of minutes you have written on your session plan for each activity. It’s more important to ensure learning is taking place than to keep to your timings. 

If your learners tend to ask lots of questions and you are running short of time, ask them to write them on a piece of paper or a sticky note. You can collect them in and address them at the end of the session or at the beginning of the following session. If your learners have access to an online learning environment or a private social media group just for your course, you could post your responses on there.

Behaviour and motivation

Learners should demonstrate appropriate behaviour, not only towards their peers, but towards their teacher and others in the organisation. This should include good timekeeping, submitting work on time, acting appropriately, and not causing disruption during sessions. As the teacher, you should lead by example and set a precedent of how you wish your learners to behave.

Communication is the key to managing and improving behaviour during sessions. It should always be appropriate and effective, and to the level of your learners. To get through a session without any behaviour issues or disruptions would be wonderful, but this very rarely happens. It could simply be a learner asking to go and get a drink of water, which is a disruption rather than a behaviour issue. Or it could be a learner who consistently interrupts the teacher or others to gain attention. Experience over time will help you to identify various aspects and to know how to deal with them effectively.

Usually, disruptions or changes in behaviour occur because a learner doesn't follow the ground rules or they are bored. For example, they send messages via their electronic device as something to do. If this is the case, politely ask them to stop, remind them of the ground rules and tell them how they are disrupting their peers' learning. Other occurrences happen because learners don't understand what you are saying, their attention span is different to other learners, or you are not challenging them enough. You could give an alternative activity to stretch and challenge their learning, get them involved in a peer activity, or have a quick one-to-one chat to find out why they are behaving that way.

Learners need to be motivated for learning to take place. Motivation can be intrinsic (from within i.e. a desire to learn something new), or external (from without i.e. a pay rise if they achieve a qualification). Knowing what motivates a learner can help you to make their learning more relevant to them.

A free book about managing difficult behaviour in colleges can be downloaded here.

Ending the session

When you summarise the topic at the end of the session, try not to introduce anything new as this might confuse your learners. However, you should explain what will be covered in the next session (if applicable) and make clear what homework or self-study activities the learners need to do. 

You should allow some time for questions from your learners, and you can finish with a closing activity or quiz if you have time (see the resources towards the end of this page).

Try not to end a session with ‘Does anyone have any questions?’ as often only those who are keen or confident will ask.

This doesn’t tell you what has been learnt and might exclude some learners who might be shy, or do not want to embarrass themselves in front of the group.

Don’t forget to evaluate how the session went i.e. consider what went well, what didn’t and what you would change for next time. You could keep a reflective learning journal to help you (see the resources towards the end of this page).

Teaching and learning resources available for immediate download

If you are working towards a teaching qualification, guidance for completing the units can be accessed via this page.

Table of teaching and learning approaches & activities with their strengths and limitations (£2.50)
(Ref A9058)
17 page table listing over 80 different teaching and learning approaches & activities with their strengths and limitations.

Table of resources which could be used for teaching and learning (£1.00)
(Ref H9012)
1 page table listing over 100 resources which can be used when delivering sessions.

Starter and closing activities (£1.00)
(Ref H9031)
2 pages of information explaining what starter and closing activities are, along with examples of each.

Facilitating group learning (£1.50)
(Ref H9034)
3 pages of information about how you can facilitate learning with groups. Includes examples of limitations, how you can manage small group activities and successfully conclude group activities.

Facilitating individual learning (£1.00)
(Ref H9035)
2 pages of information about how you can build up a professional working relationship with a learner and facilitate learning. Includes a task analysis template to help break down a topic for one-to-one learning purposes.

Teaching, learning and assessment checklist (£1.50)
(Ref HC012)
A comprehensive 4 page checklist containing over 100 questions based on the five aspects of the teaching, learning and assessment cycle. It should help all teachers ensure they are performing their role effectively when delivering sessions.

Template – Scheme of Work (in Word) (50p)
(Ref AT014)
1 page pro-forma with relevant headings and boxes to help structure the content of a scheme of work. Can easily be adapted to suit your own requirements. See below for a completed example: Ref M9060

Completed Example of a Scheme of Work (£2.00)
2 page example based on an Introduction to Information Communication Technology (ICT) Level 1 programme. First, second and last sessions are shown. See above for a blank template in Word: Ref AT014

Template - Session Plan (in Word) (50p)
(Ref AT007)
1 page pro-forma with relevant headings and boxes to help structure the content of a session plan. Can easily be adapted to suit your own requirements. See below for a completed example: Ref M9062

Completed Example of a Session Plan (£1.50)
(Ref M9062)
2 page example of a completed three hour session plan (for the first session from the scheme of work about using ICT, which is available to purchase separately Ref M9060 - see two items above this). Includes examples of SMART objectives, appropriate timings, resources, teaching, learning and assessment activities. See above for a blank session plan in Word: Ref AT007

Group profile (in Word) (£1.00)

(Ref AT024) 

1 page template to add details regarding individual learners. It includes columns for: name, age, gender/ethnicity, prior skills/knowledge, initial and diagnostic assessment results, learning/learner needs/support requirements, barriers/challenges, attendance & behaviour concerns, additional targets.

Programme/course evaluation (in Word) (£1.00)

(Ref AT015)
1 page template with 13 questions for learners to answer, with responses of 1-4 for each. Can easily be adapted to suit your own programme or course evaluation requirements.

Template – Reflective Learning Journal (in Word) (50p)
(Ref AT005)
1 page template which can be used as a reflective learning journal. Helps focus thought by explaining, describing, analysing and revising actions. See below for a completed example: Ref I9015A

Completed Example of a Reflective Learning Journal (£1.50)
(Ref I9015A)
2 page completed example of a reflective learning journal. This is from the perspective of a teacher delivering their first session to a new group of learners. However, it will give you an idea how to complete it. The detailed reflection takes into account theories such as Schon and Brookfield. See above for a blank template in Word: Ref AT005

  • Resources to support teachers and learners of the teaching qualifications can be found by clicking here.
  • Videos can be seen by clicking here.
  • Online modules for teaching and training can be found by clicking here
  • Click these links to read about micro-teaching and lesson observations.

  • More resources are available, 

    click here for details.