Annie Pendrey, FE / HE specialist





Setting up to work at home alongside the learners will inevitably test our concentration spans and self-motivation levels during this difficult time. My self-motivation has already been tested as I am not surrounded by the ‘buzz’ of my classroom, and whilst setting up my home office and working, I found myself picking up the TV remote and scanning the TV channels to discover the re-launch of Ready, Steady, Cook.

The host is now Rylan Clark-Neal and a new set of fresh-faced chefs - gone is Ainsley Harriott with his dance moves and over sized pepper grinder. Well, this is all very fascinating Annie, you might be saying, but what has this got to do with studying or working at home?

So here is it… Personally I loathe cooking, but I love studying and writing, so in order for me to cook I need to have an element of self-motivation, as much as our learner’s do in order to study at home in this challenging time for us all. In addition, as tutors most of us may now be working at home and need to remain focused in planning and delivering sessions for our learners in this new mode of learning.

Self-motivation in its simplest form is the force that drives us to do things, so if I were to relate this to my cooking, the self-motivation and the force would be for me to select a ‘green pepper’ and a ‘red tomato’, add a few extra ingredients and create a dish that would be worthy of a Michelin star for the family and, of course, it would only take me 20 minutes and cost £7.50.

Whilst my self-motivation to cook may be questionable, if I likened these skills to the current teaching and learning situation we face, we have to keep self-motivated to plan lessons and activities, to engage with our learners, to forge new networks and create virtual staffrooms in order to re-energise each other.

So, will it be a ‘green pepper’ in the coming weeks for learners where their self-motivation dwindles, or a ‘red tomato’ where they adapt a whole range of strategies for self-motivation and stay motivated in their studies?

The theme of Ready, Steady, (Cook) Study is one I have used many times as an approach to my face-to-face lessons with learners:

  • ‘Ready’ - together, the learners and I display being ‘Ready’ to begin our learning journey with pens, paper, laptops and the odd Powerpoint, ready to start the session.
  • ‘Steady’ -  is used to launch recaps, learning outcomes and activities, and
  • ‘Cook’  - being the impact of the session, where learners are asked to review learning and collectively we decide if we are bubbling and steaming ahead to our goal, or if we are more like my cooking where the learning is a little unpalatable and so the lesson (recipe) and learning needs reviewing as the learning journey (dish) looks nothing like the image in the recipe book or the lesson plan.

The Pomodoro Technique

So as my colleagues and I face a time when we are in virtual classrooms and may encounter learners lacking self-motivation there is one red tomato strategy we could use, the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Crillo whilst studying himself and one which we could use as tutors and share with our learners to support us with time management and increase our self-motivation.

This technique is a strategy which breaks down study or planning time into intervals, and whilst we may not all have the famous red tomato kitchen timer in our kitchens we can use, we can use an app or our phones to time our working sessions.

This technique has six underlying principles you may wish to share with your learners, these are the principles that work for me and which I have shared with my learners whilst working remotely:

  1. Prioritise and decide on the task you wish to start
  2. Set the Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Begin working on the task
  4. Once the timer rings, STOP, write down a key word on a post-it note ready for when you return (this will help you recall where you left off)
  5. Now take your 5-minute break, move away from your laptop and decide what you will do in your short break
  6. After you repeat 4 Pomodoro timers, you may wish to take a longer break

The aim of this technique is to help us all in the coming weeks to deal with any interruptions we may face whilst working at home and allow us to muster the focus to work more effectively and allow our work to flow, whilst keeping us motivated.

I have used this technique in both studies and throughout my working life and I will leave you with the thought… my love for studying and hatred for cooking has left with me a trim husband who is actually very clever!

Annie Pendrey, FE / HE specialist

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