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Reflecting on AoC Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference

13 April 2021

by Tina Turner

Like most of us working in education I have experienced screen fatigue and at times have failed to engage in tedious online training activities but AoC delivered an engaging, thought provoking event with meaningful collaboration opportunities between delegates and expert-led presentations. Just like AoC, teaching and learning has had to adapt to online delivery too in response to the pandemic.

The future of learning is blended learning.

Over this last year there has been an explosion of terminology to describe how we are implementing TLA for example; remote, synchronous, asynchronous blended and digital.

In Ofsted’s recent research and analysis paper, Analysis of Remote Education Research Feb 21 it describes blended learning as “a mix of face-to-face and remote methods. An example would be the ‘flipped classroom’, where main input happens remotely (for example through video), while practice and tutoring happens in class”. (Source:

The phrase ‘blended learning’ itself still has shine to it, however the idea of mixing learning at college with learning at home isn’t new but has been given new life by the explosion of technology in the classroom. Sally Dicketts CBE, President, Association of Colleges and Chief Executive, Activate Learning shared her views of the ‘hugely bright’ future of teaching, learning and assessment. Reminding us all that learning is about building deep neural pathways and whether it really matter if this learning happens in a classroom or from a remote environment?

Sally explained how neuroscience and technology are key drivers in developing a learning philosophy and you cannot underestimate the impact of motivation and emotions on learning. So if we can provide the best online/remote learning that motivates students and gives some autonomy as well as provide teachers who are skilled at building relationships we have a solid grounding for learning.

LTE Group built on this thinking, providing insight on how they improved ‘the quality of education during a pandemic through collaborative work across nine FE colleges in Greater Manchester’.

They showcased the activity they had undertaken as part of the CCF project, enabling a cross college organisational approach to support and develop teachers, particularly around the potential of technology in education. With the support of digital and blended learning champions in each of the colleges, teachers engaged in communities of practices and contributed to a resource bank.

I was extremely pleased to hear the primacy of pedagogy of learning rather than the platform or tool itself as being the focus for teacher development. LTE Group noted that ‘teachers who are confident in the classroom are confident to take risks with technology’ and deploy a learning tech team who understand pedagogy as well as technology.

The project has resulted in a number of technology resources developed from a pedagogical background and short how to clips to sustain the development of teachers. The project also supported a leadership event for all of the college principals in the group. You can watch the event via this link:

Learning the lessons of lockdown

Melanie Lanser, Director of Teaching, Learning and Academic Research and Mark Dickson, TLA Innovation Lead, Derby College, led a session examining the organisational implications of blended learning. They reinforced the importance of student characteristics and pedagogy in using technology in explaining how they had developed the ‘recovery curriculum’ for September 2020.

Teachers and managers considered the five different blended models for developing a blended curriculum:

  • Seminar model. Face to face a recorded seminar with teachers setting additional activities
  • Pre learning model. Teachers send out activities for students to complete s prior to the session
  • Post learning models. Mirroring the more traditional sessions followed by students working independently
  • Separated model. Two segments delivered online and face to face to enable those unable to attend to access online
  • Simultaneous model. Some in, some out recorded

Mark reiterated the common thread of the two-day event by saying “engagement alone doesn’t equate to learning. We don’t just want edutainment”.

Explaining the five principle questions to planning learning using technology provides all in the sector with a common sense approach to restructuring the curriculum, scheme of learning or lesson plan to incorporate technology:

  • Pedagogical focus. How does it support the learning goal and intent?
  • Adding Value. Does the tool add value?
  • Does the infrastructure support the tool is it safe and GDPR compliant. Can training be rolled out, avoiding islands of innovation?
  • What is the experience like for the user, does it aid progress and achieve outcomes?

The final session of the event left me rethinking the way in which they develop their plan and deliver teaching and learning.

The Teenage Brain

Why do teenagers seem so much more impulsive, so much less self-aware than grown-ups? Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, UK, and leader of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Group helped to explain this by comparing the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to that of adults, to show how typically “teenage” behaviour is caused by the growing and developing brain.

Understanding now, why teenagers are more likely to take risks than adults has given me many more ideas for my toolkit as an interim manager for supporting teachers to plan and deliver sessions that teenagers are more likely to engage with, collaborate in and learn from. You can hear a short presentation of Sarah-Jayne’s research here:

If you require any short-term support related to curriculum and teaching and learning, you can find out more here or get in touch with our interim team,