Thursday, 21 July 2016

Teaching T&T

 I completed Level 3 Digital Literacy Practitioners Qualification.  It took about 28 weeks to complete the course. I haven’t received my official certificate as yet – but I know it’s coming. This now means that I can officially teach the subject. Woo-hoo. This suggests I know what I am doing, doesn’t it? Well, for the most part, I do.

However, the Task for both Level 1 and Level 2 Essential Skills Digital Literacy (ESDL) that must be delivered is really tough, and I am not sure how, in a “controlled” learning environment, learners can realistically, meet the criteria.
There is so much information that must be covered. It is a hard subject that must cover the 6 Strands of Digital Literacy; involve collaborative learning and presenting of information; and a very technical one-to-one discussion about specific elements of the subject.

Bear in mind that my learners are “work based”.  The departments I look after are Business and Hospitality. Some of my learners are pretty up on their computer skills (I’m not just talking about MS Office programs); but for the most part, they really are not.

My learners range from ages 19 years on up to 60+.  They are in employment, on apprenticeships, and have very busy lives.  The Essential Skills (Communications, Application of Number and Digital Literacy) is a necessary part of the framework of their education/qualification. So, regardless of what they are studying, they have to take these “essential skills” and they have to pass it.

There are several areas which are marked against a matrix. The areas that are part of the communications requirement
are the same areas that learners worked on before the new Task & Test (T&T): Reading, Summary, Planning, Discussion, Writing, Research, and Presentation - if you are taking Level 2. Here’s a problem with the current Task as it is presented: if a learner does not pass every element of the task, they must take the entire task (a NEW one) over again. 

For example; they pass the reading and written aspects of the task – they did brilliantly; perfect grammar, sentence structure, spelling, text style and punctuation. BUT, they completely bombed the discussion part; they didn’t even bother to participate in the group discussion. They fail. The entire task; not just the discussion. So, they are given a new task to do over again (rather deflating isn't it?)

Some people are better at listening; it doesn’t mean they are not participating in the discussion. What about those learners who really struggle with standing in front of a group and presenting information? If I had 30 weeks to teach these learners, I could build their confidence and skills and help them (at least) to pass the task requirement.

But, I don't have 30 weeks. These are work-based learners. They have to complete their ES before starting their NVQ or ILM (main framework); which means, I only have about five weeks with them….once a week (five lessons). It works – but only if I am teaching to the task and not identifying areas which are in need of underpinning - because we just don't have the time.  I am not really teaching, am I? I am just shoving them through for qualification sake. 

This is not the kind of "teaching" I signed up for.

How about you? Are you teaching Task & Test? How do you feel about "teaching to the task" or "teaching to the exams"?  I would love to hear about your experience.
Thanking you in advance....

For resources in teaching the Communications Task and preparing for the Test:
 Task and Test


  1. Hi Melinda. It is great to see a teacher thinking out loud on the Essential Skills Wales curriculum, and on the implications for teaching and learning practice. This blog deserves to be widely read.
    A couple of thoughts on different aspects of this. Firstly, 'teaching to test'. Undue focus on assessment is an issue right across the educational spectrum, and I agree with your comments about 'teaching to test'. This probably is not helped by the notion of the 'controlled task' as an exam-like substitute - that feels a bit weird in the context of adult education, especially in relation to part-time students. I hope that you have appropriate channels to feed these thoughts back to the team which designed the curriculum - you should do this if you can.

    Secondly, I would like to pick up your comments on the difficulties of engaging part-time students in discussion. You don't say specifically whether or not this is online discussion. If so, then I have to say I am not surprised. It is a popular misconception that the current generation of learners, who often have experience of Facebook and Twitter, are automatically equipped to take part in structured and purposeful discussion online. By the same token, neither are teachers similarly able. Lots of people have tried and failed at this. (And I speak from personal experience here). I hope that you will not be too downcast about this, but instead try some alternative strategies to build your students' discursive abilities.

    I hope that you find these comments useful. Please feel free to get in touch. Best regards, Paul

  2. Oh, thank you so much Paul, for your insightful comments. I really do appreciate it. I will definitely expand on this topic now that I have experienced a few weeks of task and test. What an interesting challenge this has been. Thank you for reading! Cheers, MG


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