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Grand Designs


Ok, the title is not my own but from one of my favourite TV programmes. I try to watch all of the versions from UK, Australia and New Zealand. All versions are in English language, and yet can vary so much in the content, offering different insights, style and delivery, which makes it all the more fascinating to watch. I’m only a spectator and won’t go into any form of analysis on the differences, other than the fact that I enjoy watching all of the episodes from all of the countries as mentioned. I could not imagine watching any of the episodes out of context though. Put another way, watching the British version in an Australian context, or the ‘Kiwi’ version in the Australian style, or the Australian content delivered in a British or Kiwi environment. It would be out of place as each version would have its own unique characteristics, culture and even personality. However the overall purpose would remain the same for all of them, that of building beautiful houses. Well, how do we define ‘beautiful’? If a house is beautiful for one person, is it likely to be the same for anyone else? This is an extremely subjective question, and I think that’s ok to ask, considering one would need to live with it (or in it) for a very long time. I enjoy watching the series simply because I’d love to build my own house one day. I try to catch some tips, learn to avoid pitfalls, and hopefully save a lot of expense in the process. I often find myself saying ‘Oh, I wouldn’t do that’ or ‘That’s interesting, I never thought of it before’.

Well, what does Grand Designs have anything to do with teaching and learning you may wonder, especially if you’ve read thus far. I’d like to think educators set the scene and provide the appropriate environment in which grand designs are initiated, developed and followed through, without too much time and effort wasted. In my early days of teaching, I was always keen to observe other tutors, to see how it was done. I was terrified when I was told to teach a group of learners for 15 mins in my second day of teacher training course! What were they thinking of, throwing me into the deep end like that? I’m glad to say I survived the ‘ordeal’ 🙂 And I’m still on the lookout for more tips, activities, plans, and teaching styles from other tutors. I learn immensely by observing others.

Then perhaps it’s safe to say that observing other tutors is a good practice, and should be part of any regular professional development, right? I try to improve my teaching by inviting my colleagues to observe me, and by requesting to go into their class to observe them. It’s a mutually beneficial practice and both parties can gain a lot from the experience. Of course, defining the kind of experience, just like defining ‘beautiful’ in an episode of Grand Design, is the key to the whole process.

I felt compelled to write this blog article, after coming across another one by Hattie – Telling another teacher how to teach. It’s a sin…

During his keynote address, Professor Hattie insisted that, rather than telling one another how to teach, teachers needed to listen to each other. Just as pupils flourish in a culture where they are allowed to learn through mistakes, so do teachers.

Is it fair to say then, rather than having unannounced inspections, tutors invite their peers to their class and focus on a specific issue, and discuss it privately to find a solution in order to build trust first? Once the mutual benefit is established, then it can be reciprocated later on. Perhaps even turned into a research paper, but Hattie is adamant for teachers to leave research to the academics, and I think I’ll leave it to another blog post to discuss its merits.

Going back to teachers listening to each other, rather than telling each other how to teach, since all teachers bring their own personalities to their teaching. In order to meet any ‘compliance’ issues, if any required by the institution, the tutors can record the time and date of the observation visit to indicate that a reciprocal PD action has taken place.

It seems there’s always something to take away from watching the episodes of Grand Designs, and put into my basket of goodies to build my own house one day… And I’d be happy to discuss why I’d prefer one build over another, if the producers ever call me and invite me onto the show.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the new season!


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