603, 2020

We could all do with a framework

The Teaching Cycle



As with many tasks, it makes your life easier and more effective if you have a structure to work within. The teaching/training cycle offers this to tutors/trainers/instructors/coaches/ – (we get called many things!)

In future blog posts, I will go into each stage in more detail. For now, here is the overview.





It does generally start with the one at the top, Identify Learners’ Needs, but it doesn’t necessarily follow round in that order.

  • It is very easy at this stage to think of the learners’ physical needs such as wheel-chair users or people with a sight or hearing impediment.

But there are other things to take into consideration too.

  • They may have difficulty with getting to and from your venue, or in getting there on time due to transport issues.
  • They may be lacking in confidence not having been in a learning situation for some time – or they may have had a bad experience in a learning experience recently.
  • Their learning need may be to do with work – to gain promotion or even to keep their job.
  • And, of course, we must not ever set our learners up to fail so you may need to make sure they meet the entry requirements in terms of previous experience or qualifications.

These are a few of the things to consider at the first stage of the Teaching Cycle. I’ll go into the HOW you can do this in a later blog.


The next stage is to Plan to Address the Needs you have identified at the first stage.

This is where you write your lesson plan or go back to one you’ve used before and see how you need to vary it to accommodate the needs of this particular learner or this particular group. The sorts of things that might need to be adjusted could be things like:

  • The venue – maybe you need wheelchair access or a lift, a larger training room, access to outside areas, etc.
  • The timing – this could be start/finish times or even different days of the week/weekend
  • The ‘starting point’ of each person – are some more experienced than others – so do you need to change your content to bring everyone up to speed?
  • Ways that you use the training resources and the layout of the room, for example to accommodate learners with hearing or visual difficulties, or other medical conditions.
  • The learning styles of your learners – if you find this out early you can make sure your teaching methods will appeal to them

Again, we go into more depth in the Award in Education and Training Online qualification and I will give more detail in a later blog.


Now, at last, you’re going to Deliver the Training

Using your lesson plan as a guide, an aide-memoir, a timer, and a place to make notes when things go a bit off-track, you can be as sure as you can be that you are using appropriate teaching methods at the right pace and level for your learners.

Things don’t always go as planned, of course, and this might be the time you realise that you really should have gone into more depth at Stage 1 or done more in-depth planning at Stage 2.

Don’t ignore this if it happens, but use what we call Formative Assessment to test, formally or informally, whether everyone is keeping up, or whether some of the group need to be challenged a bit more.


Leading on nicely to Assess the Learning

Although this appears as Stage 4 of the Teaching Cycle, assessment actually happens all the way through. While you are Identifying Learners’ Needs at the beginning, you are carrying out Initial Assessment – assessing what your learners’ needs are at the start of the process, how much they already know, and what they need and expect from your training.

As described in the section above on Delivering the Training, it is Formative (or on-going) Assessment that will help you and your learners stay on track.

Summative Assessment is the more formal process as the end to measure the learning that has taken place and measured against the learning objectives stated at the start. This type of assessment could be assignments, Q&A, carrying out practical tasks, presentations, portfolio of wok-based evidence – and there are many many many more ways to summatively assess their learning.


And we end with Evaluate the Programme

All to often trainers ‘evaluate’ a session or a programme of learning by handing out an evaluation form. All too often this is done as an add-on at the end of the day when everyone wants to get out to beat the traffic on the way home. By leaving it to the end and by putting your trust in a tick-sheet you can miss out some valuable feedback.

I like to get my learners into small groups and ask them some key questions which they will later share with others to generate some discussion and trigger thoughts about what they found useful and enjoyable as well as what would have made it better for them. You can give the tick-sheets out afterwards, and I’m sure you will find your learners give more meaningful comments.

There are other ways to evaluate which I’ll go into in a later blog, but they include measuring how many of your group completed the course successfully and what they did with their new learning when they left you.


We cover all this in detail and refer to it often in the online course Award in Education and Training. For a free sample from the course please CLICK HERE

For more detail about the course and whether it is right for you, please contact me annie@ivitalearning.co.uk

2502, 2020

Beware of your own learning style…

Have you heard of VARK?

The VARK theory was first brought to us by Neil Fleming in 1987. Over time, his theory has been challenged and tested, but it still remains a good simple and accessible guide of how we as individuals prefer to take on knowledge and skills, and it is still widely used in every level of education.

And when I say ‘prefer’ that doesn’t mean that we choose which our dominant one (or ones) is because that can evolve over time depending on the way we were taught as children, or the way we were influenced by other people or other cultures.

There are alternative studies of learning styles, also devised in the 1980s, and I’ll cover a couple of them in future blogs.

For now, let’s concentrate on VARK.

To start with – what is this word VARK?

Well, it stands for:

V = visual
A = auditory or aural
R = read/write
K = kinaesthetic

Learners who have a strong Visual ‘preference’ will take on information more readily if it presented in a visual form (such as graphs, picture, diagrams, maps, charts, seeing demonstrations/or the finished article, and using colour) than, for example, by having a discussion.

Auditory learners, on the other hand, will learn more easily if they can have a discussion about the subject. They may like stories and parables that make the learning points, or to listen to a recording or a guest speaker about a subject.

Read/write learners prefer to take notes while learning, they will be the ones who read the handouts later to reinforce their learning and will generally be happy to do reading and research.

Kinaesthetic learners tend to learn better when they are actively involved. They will probably enjoy (the sometimes dreaded) role-play, they like to complete practical activities and use their senses to learn.

You may read that and think that you are, for example:

  • an auditory learner but that you ALSO like to make notes about what you’re hearing
  • or you may think you are a visual learner, but you ALSO need to have a go before the learning sticks
  • or any other combination of two, three or even all four (in which case you are multi-modal!) of the VARK Learning Styles

As teachers/trainers/instructors we need to be aware of the preferred learning styles of our learners to help them to have the best chance of learning.  We do this by mixing up our teaching methods so that we tap in all the learning styles during our lesson.

In a group situation, not every part of every subject needs to be explained and discussed, then demonstrated and practiced, and a handout given with written notes and diagrams. But in the course of your session, try to bring in at least a bit of each.

If you are teaching one-to-one it is easier to tailor your lesson to that individual.

And of course, some subjects don’t lend themselves to ‘just having a go’ – like learning to use a chainsaw. And other subjects don’t lend themselves to a classroom theory-based session to start off with – like learning to ride a bicycle. Appropriateness is probably the most important consideration of all.

Beware of your own learning style/preference

As teachers/trainers/instructors we need to be aware of our own preferred learning style. The danger is that if you are Read/Write learner and most of your group are Kinaesthetic learners you can easily ‘lose’ them if there is too much theory and writing.  Likewise, if you are the ‘just-have-a-go-you-can’t-break-it’ type of trainer, you may frighten off the learners who prefer some guidance as to what to do.

If you’re a bit nervous about being more adventurous (for you) in your teaching methods, see if you can arrange to observe someone who teaches in a different way to you, or better still, work alongside them for a while.

My own experience of this was MANY year ago, I reckon in the mid-80s.

My colleague, Debbie, and I had run a session on equal opportunities in the morning and planned to have a re-cap after lunch them move on to another topic. As we munched our sandwiches, she said, ‘Let’s get them into groups and ask them to draw a shield on flip-chart paper to illustrate what they learned this morning.’

Two problems for me:

      • I liked to plan things, and if possible, keep to the plan. This seemed to me way off plan.
      • I can’t draw – I hate drawing – therefore I didn’t want to subject our group to having to draw.

My learning from that (HUGELY SUCCESSFUL) recap session was:

      • It wasn’t really so far off plan – the objective was the same and was achieved.
      • Just because I can’t draw and hate trying to draw, doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same.
      • It also got everyone energised during the dreaded post-lunch slump.

So, do you know your own preferred learning style?

You can go to the VARK website and get lots of information about it, including being able to do the Learning Styles Questionnaire here https://vark-learn.com/the-vark-questionnaire/

You could suggest that your learners do the same and share their results with you.

There are also some short videos of Neil Fleming being interviewed about teaching and learning https://vark-learn.com/introduction-to-vark/

Then you can go back to your lesson plans and make sure they are not too heavily influenced by your own learning style – it might be time for a change around.

We cover this in detail and refer to it often in the online course Award in Education and Training.

For a free sample from the course please CLICK HERE

For more detail about the course and whether it is right for you, please contact me annie@ivitalearning.co.uk

I have a pdf with some suggested approaches for each of the VARK preferences. If you haven’t already got it, you are welcome to GET IT HERE

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