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Practical Approaches to Vocational Contextualisation Jonathan Mann

Jonathan Mann has been an Advanced Practitioner at Greenwich Community College, teaching English to vocational learners on a variety of study programmes. He is moving to become a Tutor for English for academic Purposes at the University of East London. He studied for a PGCE at the Open University, following the School Centred Initial Teacher Training Scheme at Kent and Medway Training, Dartford.

Introduction When I first joined the world of adult literacy, I was armed with experience of secondary teaching and a smattering of ESOL. I had also read-up on contextualised practice in Further Education. Whilst I understood the theory of embedded literacy teaching and learning, I had yet to use it or observe it in action. In this short reflective article I will record how I semi-osmotically acquired a methodology for contextualisation and embedding when teaching English Functional Skills to classes from programmes of study as diverse as science, electrical installations, and cookery.

My present practice arose out of a number of clarifying moments which I would loosely classify as: 1) collaboration with the English and vocational teams; 2) observation of others, and being observed frequently; and 3) improving lesson structures through CPD input. Through these three key areas, I have also found that co-operation is crucial for embedded practice.

1) Collaboration Embedded practice revolves around sharing knowledge of both student progress, and - in a very practicable, sensible way - knowledge of what literacy and vocational teams are teaching. This enables learners to accommodate literacy knowledge within the framework of their vocational learning. I initially arranged meetings and what might be described as a small programme of training and observation. Busy departments, I soon realised, don't always have time for this; it was not practicable or realistic.

A softening of strategy was required. I opted to stop using Outlook, and start using staff rooms. Knowing exactly when and where I could find my key contacts become very important, as did purposeful socialising. My ad-hoc staffroom visits soon became helpful exchanges of ideas, and - eventually - data. This developed into me agreeing to regular office hours in a vocational staff room. From here, we have been able to share approaches, which has led to some team-teaching. The softening of approach has led to true co-ordination, although time is a constant enemy. Collaboration, then, has proven to be a particularly useful form of CPD, where partnered practitioners from separate subjects learn from each other.

2) Observation Observations remain a crucial CPD tool for contextualised teaching and learning. Graded or developmental observations will naturally make any teacher nervous. However, I have increasingly taken the view that they were also an opportunity to hopefully validate hypotheses about contextualised teaching and learning. I thus presented my lessons as "honestly" as possible. Happily, the college seemed to approve of how I wrapped the vocational content into, for example, starter discussions, which linked the lesson's subject to its real-world applicability. Learners seemed to find it motivating to know how persuasive emails are useful for acquiring pay-rises, or gaining more follow-on domestic electrical installation work. My re-writing of exam questions to include laboratory situations was likewise workable. There were inevitable negative points observed: whilst a particular web-based resource was exciting, did it help my learners to pass their exams? Even though there were questions about the staging of my lessons, I was getting the context right. I needed a balance, clearly.

On the other side of the coin, I, too, became an observer, watching lessons and tutorials as diverse as 5

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