I’m often asked what tips I would give to anyone entering the further education, skills and training sector.
I’ve created this list based on my own experiences and those of my trainee teachers.
Click here for information about becoming a teacher.
Get to know the people who can help you when necessary, e.g. support staff, caretakers and computer technicians.
Get to know your learners as individuals and find out any particular needs they may have. Try and relate the subject to their ambitions as it makes it more real for them.
Plan well. Keep things simple: don’t try to achieve too much too soon, or expect your learners to either. They don’t know what you know, and they need time to assimilate new skills and knowledge and to understand the how and why of this new learning.
You will find you may need to keep repeating and recapping things, which might be frustrating at first, but it will help learning to take place.
Ask open questions such as: ’How do you....?’ This will achieve a knowledgeable response rather than asking a question beginning with ‘Do you....?’ which will usually only elicit a yes or a no answer. A learner may say 'yes' just because this is what they think you want to hear, but it won't tell you what has actually been learnt.
Always give a professional impression to your learners whenever you are in contact with them. They will learn important aspects of how to behave and act from watching and listening to you. This is often referred to as the hidden curriculum, so lead by example. For example, by arriving early, dressing appropriately, leaving the area tidy and not rushing away at the end of the session in case a learner wishes to speak to you. It’s also good practice to check your spelling, grammar and punctuation of any visual presentations and handouts you issue.
Agree ground rules or learning contracts from the first meeting with your learners. For example, arriving on time and not eating during sessions. Try not to impose them, but discuss them in a way that lets your learners decide upon them. This should help them to take ownership, help with any potential behaviour problems, and lead to a respectful learning environment. If a ground rule is broken, remind everyone of their existence and why they are important. Examples can be found by clicking here.
When providing feedback, try and start with something positive so that you don’t demoralise your learner. Even if they haven’t been successful, you can still be constructive. For example, ‘Well done for trying, however, you might like to think about doing it a different way next time.’ You can then involve the learner by discussing different ways of achieving the task.
If you feel nervous, your learners probably won’t even notice. Try and act confidently and be self-assured. Use eye contact and speak a litter louder than normal to command attention.
Use an appropriate icebreaker to help your learners get to know each other at the start of a course. Examples can be found by clicking here.
Be organised: always have a contingency plan in case anything goes wrong. For example if a piece of equipment stops working, is there something you can get your learners to do whilst you resolve the issue?
Start your session by recapping the previous session (if applicable) and asking if any questions have arisen in the meantime. You can then state your aim and link to the learning outcomes or objectives of the current session.
You could use a starter activity at the beginning of the session. This could be a quiz which your learners can carry out in small groups. It could be based on the topics covered in the last session or any homework or research you asked your learners to carry out. If a learner is late to the session for any reason, they only miss the starter activity, not any important aspects.
Use a variety of different teaching, learning and assessment activities to engage, inspire, motivate and enthuse your learners. Don’t just stick to one style because you find it easy. The sessions are not about you, they are about the learning which is taking place.
Treat your learners as individuals and use their names whenever possible. Involve all your learners during discussions and activities. Find out what they know already by discussing their experiences and how they relate to the subject. Learners can learn from each other as well as from you, particularly if you have learners of different age ranges and levels of experience within the same group.
Have an extra activity ready in case you have spare time during the session, or if a learner finishes a task before others. Equally, have something you can remove from your session if you over-run time. You can always give it as homework or carry it over to the next session.
Try and incorporate technology into your sessions and in-between your sessions, perhaps as homework.
Learners could communicate with each other and you via a closed social network group.
See this page for details of how you can help support your learners with their maths, English and digital skills.
The FELTAG (2014) report contains some interesting recommendations regarding the use of technology, it can be downloaded by clicking here.
You should try to assess continually throughout your session, not just at the end, so that you can see how your learners are progressing. Always make an objective judgement and don't get personal. Your learners are not your friends and you should not become personally involved with them. Try and retain a professional working relationship at all times. It's best to avoid joining their social networking sites. However, they will probably look at yours if you have one so do be careful what you post.
End your session by asking questions to check your learners’ understanding, and allow time for your learners to ask questions. Link to the learning outcomes or objectives, and state what will be covered in the next session.
Consider using a closing activity such as asking your learners in turn to state one thing from the session that has had the most impact upon them. If anyone has to leave early for any reason, they will only miss the closing activity.
Keep on top of your administration duties and keep your records up to date. If your learner loses their work you will need your records to prove what they have achieved.
Your organisation should inform you what records you need to keep and how, i.e. manually or electronically. Your car boot is not a good place. Awarding organisations expect records to be kept safe and secure.
Never be afraid to ask for advice from experienced colleagues. You could ask to sit in during one of their sessions to see how they manage the learning process.
Shadow an experienced teacher (preferably in the same subject area). This will help you to see other approaches you could use.
Try and reflect after each session to think about what went well, what didn’t and why. This will help you to improve for the future. If you made any mistakes, don't dwell on them, just learn from them.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake, learn from your experience.
Don’t bluff your way out of anything you do wrong, your learners might not notice, but if they do, you will need to be honest with them to help retain their respect.
Keep your own subject knowledge up to date, as well as that relating to developments in technology. You can find out about CPD on this page. You might not need to attend courses to do this, there are probably online articles you can read and often there are free online courses. Scroll down to the useful weblinks section.
A downloadable guide to what the FE, skills and training sector is all about can be accessed here.
Above all, be prepared, patient, positive and passionate about teaching your subject to others.
Stay happy, stay focused and enjoy the experience.
Resources to help teachers, assessors and quality assurers can be purchased by clicking here.
Animated videos of a few tips which have been narrated by me can be seen by clicking here.
A free document about managing behaviour in colleges can be accessed by clicking here.
A downloadable FE Guide from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) can be accessed by clicking here.
A guide regarding using assistive and accessible technology is available to download from Jisc by clicking here.
Resources to support home working and online teaching can be accessed from the ETF by clicking here.
The Education and Training Foundation have free or subsidised professional development opportunities for their members. Click here to access what's available online and click here to see what's currently taking place.
Online courses (most are free) are available by searching the following websites. They are not endorsed by me, they are for your information, and I recommend that you check their legitimacy before agreeing to sign up.
If you are considering taking an online course, check out these tips to help you find a legitimate provider.
Please contact me if any links on this page no longer work.