Teaching Vocational Courses: Tips for Beginners

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One of the best things about becoming a teacher, tutor or coach educator is that you get to work with and develop potential. From September to July, I get to work with, develop and inspire young sports coaches to work towards individual dreams and aspirations. I’m sure you will agree the job has many more benefits to it, BUT, if you don’t get off to a good start those benefits will have no value.

Working with 16-19 year olds for a full day, every day of the week throws up potential problems and will test even the most experienced of individuals. Here are a few tips I have found help me out in the day to day running of the course and how they could help you.

1. Group Cohesion

Vocational courses are in demand as they attract pots of funding for Schools and Colleges for learners they couldn’t normally engage due to the fact they are not suited to mainstream education.

One group of 20 learners could and normally does present the tutor with their first problem, group chemistry. It is important that you get the balance right within the first week as this is when cliques amongst learners are formed. Take the opportunity during the first week to quickly build a rapport with the group, this will have many benefits long term. Once that level of trust has been established use this to create a “team” atmosphere. Make sure that every person in that team knows and values their role and how other people can help them achieve their goal.

Benefits of this:

– bridges the gap between confident and anxious learners
– helps new learners settle and feel welcome
– having a team mentality will help when others are lagging
– building a rapport will lead to an increase in productivity as they are doing it for you as well as themselves

2. Destroy Routine

Managing 15-20 ego’s all day for a full week is quite demanding and it is easy at times to get into a routine. One of the problems with routine is it breeds complacency. Once vocational learners find a comfort zone (same as finding a clique) it is very hard to break that mould. We are creatures of habit and unless that habit is consistently of a high standard then changing that habit will destroy point 1. Destroy the thought of routine, keep lessons different and always present them with a new challenge. Make them feel uncomfortable.

Benefits:

– The group is always guessing and the course is always fresh
– Motivation levels remain high
– Comfort zones keep moving
– They still have that level of respect and rapport (this is a massive point come April/May)

3. Be Inspiring

Think of that person who inspired you to peruse a career in teaching and look at their qualities that made them special.

I guarantee you won’t forget a thing about that person and you may even teach or structure lessons like them. Vocational learners at times can be hard to motivate. If you are not the type of person who can remain inspirational under a heavy and long work load then you should really work on this point. As soon as your learners detect a hint of struggle, stress or fatigue they pick up on it like a flash. Approach the job with the attitude and inspiration that drove you to the industry in the first place, they day you lose that is the day you lose the group.

Benefits:

– Once you have inspired someone they will almost do anything for you. Use this to your advantage once the theory work begins to mount up.
– Inspiration rubs off very easy, this will help your class room management. The more inspirational you are the harder the group works for you.

3. Know everything about them

As mentioned you are dealing with egos all year round. Egos are hard to manage unless you know what motivates them, have a common ground or interest and have a genuine like for what they are doing.

Finding out small things such as, family background, favourite football team, brothers or sisters, tv programme, favourite foods, role model etc.
By paying attention to the smaller details can help you develop and consolidate point 1. Spend time out of your day to talk “off” topic with them and you will find new respect levels, this will once again help you towards the end of the year.

Benefits:

– Further respect will be gained and increased level of trust.
– Learners will confide in you as they realise you do actually care about them.
– Having their trust can keep them on track as they will relate this back to their role In the team.

4. Have an End Product

Everybody has goals/dreams and everybody has to work hard to achieve them. The only problem is that not everybody wants to work hard. Nearly all of the 100+ vocational learners I have worked with this year have all wanted a job in sports coaching, a career in sport or just simply a job. I’d say of the 100+, 5% of them have actually wanted to put the work In and achieve their goal. The other 95% are simply put off by the process of achieving that goal. Once the process of achieving the goal represents more significance than the goal itself you have a problem. No end product for the learner = no end product for you. Establish what they desire in life from week one and map out a plan of how to get them there. Positively re-enforce that idea thoroughly out the year, focus on the goal not the process.

Benefits:

– Easy to motivate individuals who are goal driven
– Focusing on the end product makes the process seem minimal (coursework)
– Always assure them that the benefits of their goal can be achieved through you.

Follow the above tips to get off to a good start with vocational teaching.

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Why I like BTEC

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In education the powers that be are obsessed with Individual Learning Plans, Lesson Differentiation, Learning and Teaching Styles and Learner Feedback. All the emphasis is placed on how your skills as a teacher should be used to be inclusive to all and deliver lessons covering a range of styles. This is great and necessary for the diverse range of learners, but, why are we moving back to having them all assessed the same way?

Next Gen BTEC has had schools in a panic over the last 6 months even to the point were curriculum leaders are questioning it’s value. It may seem easier now with all the changes to just enter a learner for GCSE PE?

BTEC courses have superb structure that allows for Individual Learning Plans, Different Learning Styles and Learner reviews to take place. Best of all, it allows learners to produce various evidence to support all of the above to gain credits in certain topics. Slowly but surely the Government are forcing the hand of BTECs to culminate in a point of formal examination.

Education is going full circle and there will soon be a massive gap between the gifted and talented, underachieving and low level learners, once that gap widens, which it will do, then what next? Success rates will be the factor taken into account and it could make for shocking reading.

BTEC as it is now, encourages creativity from both teacher and learner, promotes different learning styles, helps break away from robotic learning and enables new teachers to bring fresh ideas.

I’m working on interactive QR codes for my learners next and I will fully integrate it with their underpinning knowledge of the subject area and I guarantee their results will reflect the quality of teaching and learning.