Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reflect 7

There is a new issue of Reflect out in pdf, which I always enjoy reading. One article I found interesting, another I'm afraid to say rather made my blood boil.

Firstly, positively, I enjoyed the piece on Page 17 entitled Bilingual Learners - literacy or ESOL? It's about class placement, what is the boundary between an ESOL class and a literacy class. Examples are given of learners ending up in what purported to be literacy classes when their real need was oral English. At a few stages of my career I've had a hand in placing bilingual learners, and it's never been a problem, but then I've always known the content of the classes and the skills of the teachers. The examples given here could mostly have been put right if the learner's needs had been adequately assessed. I cannot say whether these learners were asked whether their main need was to improve speaking or literacy, but it looks as if they were placed to meet institutional needs, group everyone together because the institution cannot fund two different classes. There may also be issues with non-specialist referral staff who are confused by the presence of Speaking and Listening in the Literacy Curriculum. Working in Southall in West London in the 1980s, I was responsible for setting up specific ESOL/Literacy classes, for learners who had poorish oral skills but little or no first language literacy. These were taught by literacy specialists with an interest in or experience of ESOL. Currently colleges may run Basic Skills courses within their ESOL provision for this group of learners, mostly I believe taught by ESOL specialists. I have always been more than happy to place bilingual learners in literacy classes, but only if I am convinced that is what they need and want, and that the teacher can cope with it. The article also makes reference in passing to the idea that British born literacy learners may have ESOL needs as well. It is good to see that research is being done into the issue.

On a more negative mode I was less happy to see a plug for the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), under the guise of a review. There is a link between NRDC who publish Reflect and NCETM via the DFES - too many acronyms. The NCETM site worries me a lot, maybe because it does not seem to have a lot to do with excellence, although it should be a portal to so much. Sure there are links to resources, but in the world of mathematics, there are hundreds of sites with links to resources, some with just as strong moderation. However the site (and the "review")sets great store in its blogging. I fail to see what they mean by the word "blog"; I think they are confusing "blog" with "blog post". It's not easy to follow one person's posts, and there are no RSS feeds for "blogs" that I can discover. The only two blog posts with reference to post 16 consist of a starter entry and a single comment (from the same user) that he'll digest and get back. The biggest problem with the site at present from my perspective is that it's all about schools. The "review" says that we as practitioners should contribute, but I cannot see why we should as there is no evidence that this is the right forum. It also adds that Maths4Life is getting involved so that may change things. Maybe I'll look again next year and it will be wonderful. Unfortunately the burden of an unintuitive site may prove too much. Surely Reflect should distance itself more from NRDC projects.

Enough rant, back to preparing next week's teaching.

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