Death by PowerPoint

In many of the presentations I have been required to sit through, I have been subjected to a barrage of data. But in order to be successful, PowerPoint presentations should contain more than mere facts.

Irrespective of the topic, the purpose of most presentations is to communicate an engaging message which sticks in the minds of the audience and persuades them to do something – to think, to change or to act. This certainly applies in the context of teaching and learning.


Engaging message
To engage with our learners, we should have a clear idea about who they are and what motivates them. In education, this usually comes under the headings of ‘differentiation’ and ‘equality and diversity’.
A presentation should take the form of a conversation instead of a lecture. The aim here is to make connections by developing talking points throughout the presentation, rather than reading from a script.


Sticks in the minds
The more visual the presentation, the more memorable it will be. If the content is interactive and not simply passive, making learners think and giving them things to do, this will stay with them for much longer and also makes for a more engaging presentation.
We can achieve this by incorporating colour, video, illustration, and photography. There’s an added bonus if the visuals relate to something the learners are already familiar with.


A persuasive statement consists of a conclusion (the idea or course of action we want our learners to adopt), supported by reasons, evidence, examples, analogies, anecdotes, and explanations.
The philosopher Aristotle suggested that the following three types of argument are required to be persuasive:


Credibility enables tutors and learners to connect via shared values and has a significant impact on the quality of learning. This was discussed in an earlier blog post on teacher credibility.

Telling stories is a very powerful way to prompt an emotional response in learners, which minimises the risk of them becoming passive. Stories about how techniques can be applied in the workplace and success stories about alumni can be used to cement their understanding and make learning outcomes more tangible. If they are given opportunities to tell their own stories, this is even more engaging.

Presentations must have a logical structure; in the same way that we would compose a story with a clear introduction, development of the main points, and a conclusion. The flow of the slides should make sense and visuals should support and not distract from the main message.
The biggest mistake people make is to jampack their slides with information – full paragraphs, long quotes, and wordy bullet points. The less clutter, the more powerful the message.

Finally, we also need to think about how the content of our slides is revealed in order to maintain focus and maximise stickability:

If you use a plethora of words, your audience will read the slide more quickly than you can explain it, making you strangely irrelevant to your own presentation
Nancy Duarte



Further Reading
Duarte, N. (2008) Slide:ology The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations: O’Reilly Media Inc.
Duarte, N. (2010) Resonate: John Wiley and Sons Inc.
Duarte, N., and Sanchez, P. (2016) Illuminate: Portfolio Penguin
Krystian, M. (2016) ‘How To Design Powerpoint Presentations That Pack A Punch – In 5 Easy Steps’. Blog. 7th January 2016. Available at: [Accessed: 10th September 2016]
Lally, J. (2008) OCR AS Critical Thinking. Harlow: Heinemann. 
Shattuck, S. (2016) ‘The Science of Effective Presentations’. Prezi Blog. 7th June 2016. Available at: [Accessed: 19th September 2016]

Teacher Credibility

If a teacher is not perceived as credible, the students just turn off

This is a claim made by John Hattie in his 2012 book, ‘Visible Learning for Teachers.’

I have been reading a lot about credibility recently because it’s a significant part of ‘A’ level Critical Thinking, which I am currently studying. This lead me to consider the importance of credibility in teaching and learning.


Dr. James McCroskey is credited with being one of the first people to popularise the idea of credibility in education. He identified the following key factors of credibility:

Learners must feel their tutor has their best interests at heart and that they genuinely care about their success.

Tutors who are consistent and fair with regard to discipline, include all learners in activities and use teaching resources based on sources that are trusted by learners, are more likely to develop trustworthiness. To develop deeper trust, tutors could also take an interest in their learner’s personal hobbies, interests and culture.

It is not sufficient for a tutor just to have mastered their specialist subject, it must also be delivered in a meaningful way. Therefore, they need good classroom management skills, the ability to answer questions and proficiency in explaining complex topics in a way learners will understand. Relevant personal experiences can also lead to more impactful learning.

In order to achieve these, session plans must be organised and detailed. Communication (both written and verbal) must be as free from errors as possible including SPaG and pronunciation.

Tutors must consider how they interact with their learners and aim to present their materials in an exciting and engaging way, eg not reading from PowerPoint slides which are packed with content.

This necessitates using a variety of sources, stories, visual aids and ICT, also varying vocal qualities, such as tone, rate, pitch, and emphasis.

This is about using techniques which reduce the distance between tutor and learner. These can be verbal – for example, using terms like “we” or “us”, or non-verbal – moving away from barriers such as desks or rearranging the group so they all feel included.


Further Reading
Hattie, J. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning (2012)
“Make Them Believe in You”

Bloom’s Taxonomies

Most educators are familiar with Bloom’s (Cognitive) Taxonomy which is based on the following six-level structure:




Bloom believed that the ability to understand and apply knowledge was essential before advanced levels of development, such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation could be attained.

This model is very useful when planning learning objectives and aligning those objectives to differentiated assessment for learning strategies.

However, it is less well-known that Bloom also contributed to the development of taxonomies in all three learning domains; Cognitive (knowledge), Affective (attitude) and Psychomotor (skills).

Bloom devised his Affective Domain Taxonomy with Krathwhol and Masia in 1964. This particular theory advocates an approach for developing beliefs, mindsets, attitudes or behaviours. As per the others, the Affective Domain provides a framework for effective teaching, learning and assessment.


Bloom's Affective Domain
This five-stage model is based on the assumption that the learner is open to, and has a genuine willingness to change. It is perfectly reasonable to expect that some learners could oppose the tutor’s perspective of what is being taught if it is not compatible with the learner’s current beliefs.

It is important to grab the learners’ attention from the outset and create opportunities for them to share their feelings, and address any potential resistance to change.

Ideally, learning should also include links to experiences that develop attitudes and mindsets. In doing so, learners can develop social skills, personal relationships as well as their value systems.

As such, it is probably the most complicated of all three domains and requires more time for learning to be embedded than the others.


The Psychomotor Domain focuses on skills development, specifically the physical aspects of accomplishing a task.


This model was finalised by Ravindrakumar Dave, who argued that learners must first observe, imitate skills, and then repeat them from memory before mastery can be achieved.

In order to maximise the learning opportunity, learners should be clear about what they will be able to do by the end of the session (outcomes). The tutor’s demonstration can take many forms, eg in person or using video, before allowing learners to do it for themselves.

Nowadays, the term ‘skill’ covers a multitude of attributes, which means that this Domain extends beyond the original traditionally intended manual and physical skills; tutors should therefore consider this Domain even if they think learning is adequately covered by the Cognitive and Affective Domains.


Further Reading
Bates, B., (2016) Learning Theories Simplified: Sage Publications Ltd.



Big Four

We have completed our first round of formal training session observations, and some common themes have emerged that we can work on as a team. Also, our 2015-2016 Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) has been finalised, detailing clear targets and actions for improvement identified in the self-assessment report (SAR). Self-assessment and quality improvement planning must be integrated into the wider quality assurance and planning processes of all training providers.

It is important that a strong link is made between quality improvement and strategic planning. Although a provider may produce a whole-organisation self-assessment and quality improvement plan, this is normally evidenced by a subset of quality improvement plans produced by the curriculum areas. In our case, the resulting subset for our training and assessment team is called “The Big Four.”

Big Four Poster Jan 2016
Learner-centred Teaching
The emphasis in any learning environment should be on the learning outcomes and the purpose of learning rather than on control. Learners should not be regarded as empty vessels; they come with their own perceptions, prior knowledge, attitudes, opinions and preferences etc.

We know that learners learn in different ways and have different learning styles. Personalised/individualised approaches to teaching are encouraged which will help to foster creativity in learners.

The role of the tutor is that of facilitator, helping learners to access and process information. This probably means ‘less’ work for the tutor during the training session (as learners are directed to solve carefully constructed tasks by themselves, and in collaboration with their peers, under the tutor’s supervision), but more work outside the session to plan and then evaluate learners’ work in preparation for the next session.


English Language Development
One of our targets is to ensure all tutors and assessors correct spelling and grammar of all written work.  There must be minimal errors of spelling, grammar punctuation in learners’ written work, which will result in learners who are all able to make outstanding progress in improving their English (and Maths). This will be supported via feedback and the documentation generated for assessment visits.

When conducting research for assignments, learners need to know how to make effective decisions about what they have read – when to skim, when to focus, and how to take concise quotes. Copying from source material constitutes plagiarism and does not indicate whether the learner understands the context or implications of the material.

Learners can also develop the quality of their English via speech. In this instance, tutors should be using specific strategies to improve the quality of any discussions, and any tutor intervention should be should be minimal and timely.


Most educational research indicates that around 80% of classroom questioning is based on factual, recall questions which do not develop higher-order thinking skills.

Outstanding tutors use an array of approaches to assessment which maximise the quality of information they receive, whether that is around prior knowledge or checking that learners have really learned (and understood) what was originally planned. Using this information enables them to make judgments and accelerate the progress of learners.

You cannot measure progress without first establishing the starting points of the learners. Their individual starting points vary, depending on what is being covered during that session eg topics covered in school or college, topics covered in previous training sessions, and experience gained on work placements. This ties in with differentiation and equality and diversity.


Getting to know our learners and using that knowledge to shape the training session is an important prerequisite for effective differentiation, not only does this empower them, but it also demonstrates equality and diversity. Tutors should view every interaction as an opportunity to get to know their learners better.

The question tutors must ask themselves throughout their training session is: “Has sufficient provision been made for all learners to be included?”

Our target is to develop a set of resources and CPD training sessions aimed at helping tutors challenge all learners, such that they all feel stretched by training. Every tutor should also be able to make outstanding provision for additional needs.


Further Reading
Gadsby, C., (2012) Perfect Assessment for Learning: Independent Thinking Press.
Jones, R., (2014) Don’t Change the Lightbulbs: Crown House Publishing Ltd.
Maclean, A., (2004) The Motivated School: Paul Chapman Publishing

5-Minute Lesson Plan by Ross Morrison McGill

5-Minute Lesson Plan

  • The big picture: How does the session  fit into the scheme of work/main topic? What knowledge are learners coming to the session with already? What links have you made/can you make? Describe the lesson in 30 seconds!
  • Objectives: The objectives for the current session. The arrow is just a visual reminder that the session is building on what’s gone before. Try to incorporate at least 2 different leveled objectives – perhaps allowing learners to choose their own.
  • Engagement: What’s the hook? How will you gain learners’ attention at the start and throughout the session in ways that are exciting and meaningful (without the you having to work too hard!)?
  • ‘Stickability’: What will stick in learners’ minds as they leave the session? What key point(s) should they remember and bring back to the next session?
  • AfL: How will you assess where your learners are at during the lesson, so as to know how to take them where you want to go? What Assessment for Learning (AfL) strategies are you going to use? What key questions will help you to lure learners into learning? Plan for various AfL strategies to allow learners to see progress. Use a Targeted-Question grid to help frame higher-order questions. Where possible, use the Pose Pause Pounce Bounce AfL strategy to stimulate discussion and incorporate stretch and challenge.
  • Keywords/Numeracy: Literacy has never had such a high-profile as it has at the moment. Encourage learners to read aloud. Pick out keywords and extrapolate their meanings. Plan what keywords you want learners to learn. This promotes high levels of literacy which is an Ofsted focus. You should also add numeracy to this section. Every session should involve some mathematical content, where applicable.
  • Differentiation/Groupings: Plan what activities you will provide for gifted and talented students (G&T); learners with SEN (Special Educational Needs) and EAL (English as an additional language). How will you embed Equality and Diversity (E&D)? What sort of groupings are needed? What are they doing and when? Is this mapped to a seating plan with current levels of progress?
  • Learning activities: What is going to happen in the session from start to finish? Identify as many opportunities for learner-led learning as possible. The four boxes on the template do NOT denote a four-part lesson. Just use as many as required to show what needs to happen.

Session planning is not just a box-filing exercise, and the sections do not have to be completed in the order that they are presented on the template. Every box should have some content, even if only to show that a particular aspect of teaching and learning is ‘N/A’; This indicates that every aspect of teaching, learning and assessment has been considered.


The following video shows how Dulwich College identifies strategies for AfL and differentiation after outlining each learning activity.

Remember that the end of a training session is just as important as the start, so learners should not simply pack up and drift out of the room. This is an opportunity to reinforce ‘stickability’ and set expectations for the next session.

The Learner Voice

The learner voice is an important part of the Ofsted Common Inspection Framework.

The Ofsted survey report, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Further Education and Skills – What Works and Why, September 2014, recommends that for providers to improve their teaching, learning and assessment, leaders should ‘draw fully on learners’ views about the teaching, learning and assessment that they receive to inform self-assessment and improvement actions’.

We need to listen to our learners in order to improve the quality of our services, and in the same way that feedback we give to them must be impactful, resulting in positive change, we must reciprocate with the feedback given to us.

A teaching observation is a 45 to 60-minute snapshot of delivery on an entire programme and can be affected by nerves, a bad day, sickness etc. However, an effective learner voice provides more of an overview into the entire programme and so is highly significant.

Using both strategies in conjunction enables us to compare our view of our services with that of those that use them.

Other benefits of the learner voice:

  • We can get instant feedback from the group of people who are most important;
  • We demonstrate our priorities to Ofsted; and
  • It provides an evidence base for the SAR.

One of the ways we collect feedback from associates is via our monthly online survey known as The Associate Barometer. The purpose of this survey is to collate regular feedback on associates’ motivation and identify those in danger of leaving prematurely.

There are a number of questions about training, mentoring and work placements, and the three key questions are:

1) Please rate your last month on the programme (0-10)

2) How challenging are you finding the programme? (Too challenging / Appropriately challenging / Not challenging enough)

3) Do you feel that you are receiving enough support on the programme? (Yes/No)

Another vehicle for obtaining feedback from learners is a recently-elected Associate Board, made up of one representative from each of our nine step teams. The Board will meet once a month for approximately two hours. Each meeting will include updates from the Step Forward Delivery Leadership Team as well as requests for feedback from each Step team.

There may also be times when Associate Board members choose to share ideas or are asked to present work they have done outside the meeting.

The aim is that this will be a forum in which everyone is able to speak openly about the successes and problems the associates and programme as a whole face, with the aim of improving the programme for everyone involved.

Associates are the only people present at all pathway training sessions, PD sessions, ILP meetings, assessment visits, and mentoring meetings, and are therefore best placed to provide the most comprehensive feedback about the programme.

Feedback is not Marking

The old-fashioned image of a solitary tutor wading through piles of marking has proven to do very little to raise achievement, because:

  • Learners don’t always read the written feedback they receive;
  • If learners read their feedback, they don’t necessarily understand it; and
  • Even when it is understood, learners might not act on it in a way that helps them make progress.

Feedback, on the other hand, should be interactive and collaborative. It’s part of a working partnership and not limited to achieving success in assignments or exams.

The Ofsted outstanding criteria require that:

Learners are making substantial and sustained progress as a result of incisive feedback.

Therefore, feedback must be impactful, resulting in positive change, as opposed to merely indicating correct and incorrect answers in the work that associates are producing.
An interesting piece of research conducted jointly by The Sutton Trust and The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), suggests that effective feedback can accelerate learning by up to 8 months. On a 12 month programme like ours, this is highly significant.

When giving feedback, tutors, assessors and mentors should also promote English, mathematics, ICT and employability skills where appropriate.

In those instances where it is possible for associates to achieve the units comprising their qualification without correct and accurate numeracy and literacy, we would be doing them a disservice by ignoring these. Even if we don’t, they will be held to account further down the line for incidences of poor spelling, grammar, punctuation and basic mathematical ability.

On the Step Forward programme, opportunities to give feedback are many and varied, including conversation, demonstration and observation.

Within our delivery team, verbal, non-verbal and written feedback are given to and received by associates, tutors, assessors, mentors and employers. The following checklist is useful for pathway training, PD training, ILP visits, assessment visits, assignments, exams and one-to-one meetings:


Feedback Review Checklist

  1. Do the associates understand the assessment criteria and what members of staff are looking for?
  2. Are the associates assessed regularly?
  3. Are there examples of comments that give appropriate advice?
    Do staff pose questions as part of their feedback or identify specific areas for improvement?
  4. Are associates made aware of spelling, vocabulary, punctuation and numerical errors?
  5. Do associates respond to feedback?
    Does their work and/or behaviour show progress over time?
  6. Are there areas of good practice to share?
    Are there areas of strength in the associates’ work?


Further Reading
Bentley-Davis, C., (2014) How to be an Amazing Middle Leader: Crown House Publishing Ltd.
Gadsby, C., (2012) Perfect Assessment for Learning: Independent Thinking Press.

“Short and Sweet: A Guide to Presenting!” by Sian Reilly

Are you a slide slave? …
I admit and confess to being a slide slave and this particular point I struggle with immensely. Presenting is about perfecting your thoughts; not your slides. Therefore, it does not matter how many slides you create if you have not created your presentation speech. This is because in a presentation you should aim to talk to the audience and not depend on your slides.

Distracting or Engaging?? Debate endures
Another hot topic is whether to even use a presentation at all. Some regard basic public speaking to be the most effective as there are no distracting elements such as zooming, which could detract from the important points. A dynamic speaker is one that connects to the audience, and if these effects prove to be a barrier to that connection you should seriously evaluate why you are using them. Furthermore, software like Microsoft PowerPoint can often feel impersonal or generic to an audience and result in disengagement. The principle is therefore simplicity produces clarity in communication.

Visually Veracious
However, I am pro-presentations as a visual learner. Moreover, in terms of retaining knowledge, in a lecture-styled approach only 5% of knowledge is retained. In contrast, by employing audio-visual 4 times more knowledge is retained, so to retain veracious (accurate) knowledge get visual!

Retain or wane in vain
Yes, I know the rhymes are terrible… but let us continue; perseverance in is in the STEP acronym after all…
Demonstrations, discussions, practical work and teaching others are also vital in retaining knowledge; by teaching others 90% of knowledge is retained. Nevertheless, it is often hard to implement the ‘teaching others’ style in a presentation format.
On the bright side, you can make your presentation more interactive by adding videos, invite a member of the audience to be involved (a ‘lucky’ volunteer), welcome questions throughout your presentation, include props and a summary competitive quiz.

Break it down!
Even if you cannot dance, I assure you that you can break it down. Welcoming questions throughout your presentation is vital as the audience typically disengages after ten minutes. By taking gentle breaks in your presentation to interact with your audience, thereby incorporating them into your presentation, they will be more engaged. Tools such as enable audience members to ask questions anonymously so even reticent audience members can participate in the discussion.

Silence I say, Silence in the House! *judge bangs hammer*
Ralph Waldo Emerson once declared:

“The most precious things in the speech are the pauses.”

The success of any presentation is ultimately judged not by how much knowledge you send out but by how much knowledge the audience listening receives. Pauses are therefore absolutely essential. As in music, pauses allow the audience time to reflect and process what has been said or discussed. This time allows the audience to form their own opinions and develop questions to ask the presenters.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”- Dr. Maya Angelou (1928 to 2014)

Finally to connect to an audience you have to make them feel an emotion. If you can evoke an emotion, audience members will feel more of a connection to you and thus remember your presentation more. In order to evoke emotion, you can tell personal stories to illustrate your humanity. To emotionally connect with your audience, you can also choose a colour palette that psychologically resonates to the culture and demographic of your intended audience.

I generally use Prezi as a tool as I find it much more than Microsoft PowerPoint. This is mainly due to Prezi’s ability to present a non-linear story. A non-linear story is much more understandable as it illustrates the relationships, a mind map linking your ideas to give the audience an overall picture. This also enables you to create a more customised presentation that is based on the audiences’ interests, which they will therefore more easily appreciate and thus remember. Other tools I have also used are Visme and Emaze.

Further Reading…


The Blob Tree

In our ‘Momentum Monday’ session on 14th September 2015, Edyta our Business Administration Training Manager, spoke to us about a resource called The Blob Tree.

Blob Tree

Edyta used this resource to introduce associates to the Business Administration pathway during induction.

At the start of a session in which associates were advised about the different teaching, learning and assessment aspects of their pathway, they were asked to colour in which figure they most identified with. When the session was over, they were then asked to perform the same exercise to see if any changes had ocurred. Some of the associates volunteered to share why they had chosen certain figures, together with their expectations and apprehensions about undertaking a programme of study while working full-time, being assessed in the workplace and widening their networks.

The Blob Tree helps people to articulate their feelings. If a learner identifies with a particular figure and then talks about that figure, it doesn’t feel as though they are speaking directly about themselves. This is helpful for those who are self-conscious or who lack confidence. There are no right or wrong answers about the blob figures, and they are completely open to interpretation, not just in terms of mood, but also in terms of gender, culture, race, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity etc.

There are many different versions of The Blob Tree to make it more contextual and meaningful to both tutors and learners.

Blob Examples

It can also be used over a period of time to develop skills or track progress. As with any resource, the frequency of use and the desired outcomes should be carefully considered to maximise the impact on personal and professional development.


Further Reading…

Ofsted Common Inspection Framework – Further Education and Skills

Ofsted have updated all of their inspection handbooks for September 2015. The one that is most applicable to us is the Further Education and Skills Handbook, which covers the provision of apprenticeships.

Two important points to note from the outset:

  • The content of the handbook must not be viewed as only applicable in the lead up to an inspection, and the way we work should never be for the purpose of impressing Ofsted. If we plan our sessions effectively and continually strive for outstanding, then whenever Ofsted, funding providers, employers, parents and other interested stakeholders visit, we won’t feel the need to put on a performance for them – it will be a case of ‘business as usual’; and
  • The outstanding criteria are not restricted to classroom teaching. The apprentices’ attitudes, behaviours and employability skills are also under scrutiny, which means that professional development training, ILP meetings, SMART target-setting, social mixing, and the extent of social action are just as important.

Ultimately, Ofsted inspectors judge the quality of teaching (however it is delivered), and assessing by the impact on learning, and not by the impressiveness of available resources, nor how many activities a tutor can cram into a single session.

Providers must carefully consider how to measure and record the impact on learning, which will have implications from a compliance perspective.

The outstanding grade descriptors for the quality of teaching, learning and assessment include the following, which are worthy of note:

  • Staff plan learning sessions and assessments very effectively so that all learners undertake demanding work that helps them to realise their potential;
  • Staff have consistently high expectations of all learners’ attitudes to learning and learners are set challenging targets to achieve;
  • Learners use their experiences in the workplace to further develop their knowledge, skills and understanding;
  • Staff give learners incisive feedback about what they can do to improve their knowledge, understanding and skills;
  • Learners capitalise on opportunities to use feedback to improve;
  • Where appropriate, parents and/or employers are provided with clear and timely information that details the extent of learners’ progress in relation to the standards expected and what they need to do to improve;
  • Staff promote, where appropriate, English, mathematics, ICT and employability skills exceptionally well and ensure that learners are well-equipped with the necessary skills to progress to their next steps.

In relation to personal development, behaviour and welfare, the following characteristics are included as outstanding:

  • Learners are confident and self-assured. Their excellent attitudes to learning have a strong, positive impact on their progress. They take pride in the work they complete with the provider and in the workplace;
  • Learners understand how their education and training equip them with the behaviours and attitudes necessary for success in the future, as reflected by the excellent employability skills they acquire and the achievement of relevant additional qualifications;
  • Learners often quickly become an asset to the business and make a highly valued contribution;
  • Attendance and punctuality at learning sessions and/or work are consistently excellent. They meet challenging deadlines well;
  • The personal and social development of learners equips them to be thoughtful, caring and active citizens.

This should manifest itself in the form of apprentices who are aware and able to articulate their knowledge and understanding clearly, and convincingly demonstrate the skills they have acquired.

In other words, they should be able to distinguish between what they have done and what they have learned.


The unabridged version of The Further Education and Skills Inspection Handbook is available here.