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Catherine's H800 Design Narrative: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is...

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Catherine Dartnall
24 March 2014



This design narrative describes the redesign of an ICT Functional Skills lesson.  Classroom layout was restricted and lessons were often disrupted with students taking a long time to settle down at the start of lessons.  In reducing ‘teacher talk’ for activity instruction and changing the tutor position from the front of class to moving within the group, this enabled more time to be spent in noticing and commenting upon positive behaviours displayed by individuals.  The focus and attention were therefore removed from the negative behaviours resulting in changing the classroom atmosphere to be more positive and increasing student productivity.


Students enrolled on a practical, hands-on Construction course were required to attend mandatory ICT Functional Skills lessons for one hour per week.  Students were able to take their assessment when they were individually ready to do so. 


The setting is a small classroom.  Facilities available are a PC and desk for each student with a PC and projector for the tutor.  The projector can only be projected onto the front wall of the classroom and all students sit along the two sides and back of the classroom, facing the wall.  This can’t be changed due to room size restrictions and cabling.


The students are aged 16-19 and attend a Further Education college on a full-time basis.  They attend this lesson in the same groups that they are in for their other subjects so know each other.  Although the course is full-time, some students have to attend college for this hour long lesson only on a given day due to their personal time-tabling.


As this course is mandatory and is in contrast to the practical nature of their core qualification, this lesson can be viewed as ‘not relevant’ to the group or ‘a waste of time’.  They enjoy socialising with friends although some relationships between peers are at times tense.  Some find it difficult to concentrate in a traditional classroom setting due to factors such as ADD, ADHD and negative previous experiences of education.  These negative experiences have a detrimental effect on learning motivation – ‘what’s the point?’ There is a lot of chat and noise at the beginning of lessons and time is wasted in waiting for everyone to settle down before starting. 

Force Map

 I am experiencing problems uploading to Flickr currently but will display my Forces Diagram in the embedded content section as soon as I am able.


The challenge is:

  • to enable students to gain an essential qualification to enable progression within their chosen programme
  • to contextualise the learning in relation to their potential future roles within Construction to demonstrate relevance
  • to enable the students to gain a positive experience of learning to replace the previous negative experiences that some may have had. 

Theoretical / Pedagogical Framework

The main part of the challenge was to encourage positive behaviour towards learning in order that individuals could participate in lessons.  The plan was to do this using a model of positive behaviour reinforcement.   Unless extreme circumstances necessitated this, undesired behaviours were not commented upon with a focus instead of finding opportunities to praise positive behaviours wherever they arose.  The aim was to remove negativity from the classroom and replace it with an atmosphere where students enjoyed participating in the activities.  The longer term goal was to demonstrate to students with negative previous experiences of education that learning could be an enjoyable process.


I changed the structure of the lesson and instead of waiting at the front of the classroom, I met everyone at the door, greeting them by name and ensuring everyone got settled at their PC.  When asked by some students ‘What are we doing today’, I would act quite casually and point at the screen at the front of the room which gave a simple instruction: ‘Welcome to today’s lesson, please log in and check your email :) 

Students logged into their email to find an email from me giving background for the lesson’s activity:  “Your mission, for today, is…” They were asked to go to Moodle to download their worksheet which contained further details. Their mission was a learning objective treasure hunt of sorts rather than one delivered traditionally by the tutor.

After downloading the worksheet from Moodle, students could either print out the worksheet or read it on screen.  The worksheet listed tasks:  a research activity and to create a spreadsheet.

When the task was complete the final stage was to send me an email, telling me that they had completed the task, complete with a copy of their work as an attachment.

These tasks linked to the learning outcomes of the ICT Functional Skills assessment and enabled students to practice reading and following instructions.

While students were working I was able to move freely among the group, who were all working at different speeds, offering individual support as required.  The new structure gave me more time to comment positively on the work that they were carrying out rather than focussing on what wasn’t being done.


Sometimes login passwords were forgotten and I would have to reset them which took away some attention from the group briefly but eventually everyone started to take care to remember their passwords as they didn’t want to get ‘left behind’.


Some students finished the work very quickly and wanted to leave the lesson early which they weren’t able to do whereas others completed the work in the allocated time. 

Students responded well to less ‘teacher talk’ in relation to instruction and the relationship between tutor and students was more relaxed and less tense as I was able to offer individual support and comment positively on the work that was being done as opposed to focussing on the negative aspect of the initial disruption at the beginning of sessions.


By changing my own position within the room and not attempting to ‘lead from the front’, this removed the initial issue of the inflexibility in room layout.  The students couldn’t move in order to change the dynamic so I did.  This took away a lot of the traditional classroom feel that was learning barrier at the beginning.

Sessions were less stressful for both myself and the students as the focus was on encouraging and commenting upon any positive behaviours.  Due to the increased productivity within the group this led me to expand the activities that were given to include a ‘Step it up’ task at the end which was a stretch task. 

Data and References

Harvey, Brendon, and Josie Harvey, 2012. Creative Teaching Approaches in the Lifelong Learning Sector. McGraw-Hill International.

 O'Brien, Tim, 2013. Promoting positive behaviour. Routledge.

Geoff Petty, 2004. Teaching Today: A Practical Guide (Third Edition). 3rd Edition. Nelson Thornes Ltd.



Extra content

Embedded Content


Louise Worsley
11:07am 17 April 2015

I like this.  I have the challenge of improving my tutor group's online research skils - there are 20 in the class which is not too bad - I could image getting them to do something like this - with the hint being an online search of some kind.  Now I need to find a computer classroom!

Allison Laine
1:25pm 5 April 2018

Hi Catherine, 

This is far more detailed than my learning design was, but I think it really allowed you to explain your rationale for all aspects of this programme, including your implicit/explicit assumptions, your theoretical grounding, and your situation. 

In terms of the designed learning, I think your method to teach the functional and practical skills of ICT was exceptional. You really shifted how learning is to be done by placing the students at the centre of the tasks. 

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