Using IRIS Connect For Skills Development in Learners

Posted by Rachel Finch on 10 March, 2015

Using IRIS Connect For Skills Development in Learners

By Gareth Lewis @garethlewis76

Discovering IRIS Connect

I discovered IRIS Connect a few years ago as part of a strategic plan to improve teaching and learning in a school where I was an Assistant Headteacher. I remember a leadership colleague bringing this ‘ball-like’ camera into a meeting and explaining. We were instantly hooked! At first there seemed to be a lot of hesitation amongst our staff at the prospect of being filmed carrying out a lesson. It wasn’t so much the filming, but the thought that it could be used as evidence of weaknesses. This was not the case and ‘hearts and minds’ needed to be won. It came down to a few of our more confident teachers giving it a go and the using it to improve their own teaching practice.

At first we found it was important to let the teachers (and learners) have time to feel comfortable with having the camera in the classroom.We also found it was important to encourage teachers to use it and watch their own lessons and self-assess. Once this had been done a few times, teachers became more open to colleagues seeing it. We firstly used it in departments to share practice. Then, in very little time, all the participants started to watch each other on a whole school basis and began providing constructive peer assessment, proving IRIS Connect to be a great platform to use for improving teaching and learning without the need to pay high CPD fees for workshops, not to mention the savings in cover costs.

Then it struck me!

If IRIS Connect can be used for self and peer assessment for teachers; then surely it can be used in the same way for students? Surely we can film learners in the classroom doing activities and be able demonstrate progress in different ways? I was really interested in doing this. After all, one of the reasons why skills learning doesn't do very well in government educational policy development is that it can’t be evidenced easily. For example; how do you give an A grade for teamwork? What does it look like? We know that if a learner answers a question in a Maths exam and gets it right that will contribute to their grade. I wanted to try to use IRIS Connect in a different way.

Using IRIS Connect with learners

I taught Business Studies at GCSE level. As part of this learning, I always ensured that the students who were in my classes went away with knowledge and transferable skills, or ‘Soft Skills’ as they may be known. I did this by using the ASDAN Wider Key Skills qualifications of Working with Others, Problem Solving and Improving Own Learning. In short, students who opted for Business Studies in my department went away with academic and skills qualifications that would make them more effective potential employees than their peers in the future.

Here's an example: The learners had to cover Stakeholders as part of their GCSE in Business Studies. I set up a task where the learners got together and planned a meeting where they would take on different stakeholder interests in a decision that needed to be made. In this case the task was set around a local context, being based in Scarborough and a football fan, the task was; ‘Should Scarborough Athletic be allowed to build a new stadium in the town at a proposed site?’ Students got themselves into groups who were for and against. I had decided that the meeting should be chaired by a particularly gifted student who had the respect of their peers. I briefed them and extended their thinking in order for that person to be prepared in the skills of meeting management. The others researched about their stakeholder interest in the discussion. All the time that the small groups of students were working independently, the filming was going on.

The next week/lesson came and the meeting took place. The learners had a great discussion and conducted themselves, on the whole, very well. The filming took place once more. The third week/lesson came and we all sat down and watched the film of the planning and discussion. As part of their review for the Working with Others qualification they had to review their performance through peer assessment (random selection determined who assessed who) and a personal review of their own performance and participation. The filming provided this opportunity. The students were very respectful in their constructive criticism and each learner gave the other good advice for improvement. Each learner did two of these ‘Working with Others’ tasks over time so that they could demonstrate their progress.

Let’s not forget the academic learning that took place. At the end of that review process the students answered an exam question about stakeholders. With very little direction, or the giving of knowledge from me, and without any revision the students all achieved at least their target grade. Many students demonstrated over-achievement on expected progress. They also eventually passed their Working with Others, Wider Key Skills qualification.

How did this happen? The students were engaged in the learning. They took part in a real world activity. They made some of their own decisions about their learning and without realising they had secured both skills and academic knowledge by watching the film back and had helped each other.

THIS is where IRIS Connect can be used for the continual skills and academic development of young people in school or college. This works nicely alongside the benefit of IRIS Connect for the CPD of classroom practitioners.

THIS Education Skills Development in Learners

Gareth writes his own blog, THIS Education about skills based learning feeling that this has been ignored in education and so set up his blog to re-address that issue and try to influence policy in balancing academic and skills learning. 

Find out more about IRIS Connect:

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Topics: Classroom Strategies


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