8. Richard Ward -the NCTJ Teaching Shorthand Good Practice Guide

Richard Ward – Curriculum Design
Based in the recommendations of NCTJ – teaching 1 hour without a break, a group of 20 students as a maximum, and a minimum of 120 hours, and yet the University states that you have to teach 50 students in one class at a time, only have 90 hours to teach the course, and 1.5 hours without a break – how would you manage this.

From reading the NCTJ Teaching Shorthand Good Practice Guide it is evident to me that like most practical skills, you can only truly learn this skill through practice. The NCTJ has outlines that 120 hours is the suggested amount of hours to teach shorthand. Richard has asked the question how would I manage to deliver a class to the NCTJ recommendations within the restraints of the university limitations. My answer is, with difficulty… without changing the structure of the course to smaller classes and more contact hours (which Richard mentioned in class that he has proposed within his elected unit) it would be tricky.  This being said the outline states ‘shorthand cannot be learnt and developed effectively in the classroom alone. It requires lots of practice outside classroom sessions.’ With this in mind and the information I have gained from this resource, I have highlighted the aspects I would enhance on within the current course structure.

Firstly, and possibly this most significant to me is this practice of shorthand outside the classroom. I would encourage students to use shorthand in lectures and everyday life, without the fear of making mistakes. A friend’s child who is reception class recently informed me that her daughter and fellow students are never corrected on their spelling if it is written telephonically. This method is used so that young 4-5-year-old are not discouraged by being told they are incorrect all the time but are allowed the freedom to explore and learn, to enjoy and connect with learning to write. I thought this was a really great lesson for all teacher to acknowledge. Obviously at some point there has to be an element of correction but perhaps if student learning shorthand where encouraged to explore this freedom with the skill at an early stage without complete accuracy they would gain confidence and a better connection to the skill. As someone with no knowledge of shorthand it feels to me like a completely new language and encouraging the student to use shorthand in everyday life without the worries of getting it wrong they are learning to embrace a new way of thinking and build a connection to the skill instead of seeing it as a barrier and test to overcome within their course.

The second point I took from this NCTJ guild was ‘To help retain [the students] interest, the best courses ensure that dictation material used in relation to the students’ work and interests.’ This is a technique I witnessed Richard Ward use in the observation I attended, he dictated to the fashion journalism students an article about Megan Merkle dress. This is an element I would enhance on further. Perhaps by getting the students to bring in an article they have highlighted of interest from another aspect of their studies they will start to make the link to the relevance of this skill to their future. This type of student-led learning can help students to become independent and responsible learners.  Podcasts on fashion designer, art movements and current events that are related to the student’s interest could be an invaluable source of dictation material. (Though I fear they may be spoken too quickly). These are the suggestions I would use to help students in the current course structure to make up for the decreased number of teaching hours suggested to be ‘recommended’.

On the issue of 1.5-hour lessons without a break- I would suggest dividing the lesson into two sections. The first section would focus on a new topic or technique.  In the second section of the class my suggestion would be to move the students around the classroom, by moving the students into smaller groups or even just to a new area of the room, can refresh their attention and help retain focus in a long class. Another technique that could be implicated in the second half of the lesson would be to ask the students what areas they would like to focus on, for example aspects they have struggled with in previous lessons. This could encourage them to start recognising their strength, weaknesses and areas to work on independently.

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