HEA Research Seminar

HEA Research Seminar series 2009: Access and Success for all

Briefing paper- AchieveAbility National Network
A framework for whole institutional inclusive practice

The framework was developed to be delivered as a transferable model to other sectors. It is for this reason that the research seminar was delivered to explore how effectively this could be done within an FE/HE context. The framework was developed within a school setting to include pupils of all abilities and learning differences through a whole institutional approach to inclusive practice. The research seminar set out to start a debate of how this might be implemented. The business case is that to ensure learning and teaching does meet the needs of different pupils would be good retention practice for successful completion of course.

Educational Background:
Since at least 2004, the DfES have recognised that Personalised Learning (PL) is an idea that is capturing the imagination of teachers, children and young people across the country (DfES: www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/personalisedlearning). They recognised that PL is the drive to tailor education to individual need, interest and aptitude so as to fulfil every young person's potential (DfES:www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/personalisedlearning) and that a move toward this form of teaching and education as a whole, will allow students more opportunity to reach their full potential, increase attainment and will encourage students to continue in and make the most of their education.

The notion of making the most of ones education has since picked up momentum with the 14-19 white paper (2005) identifying the need for an increased development of skills that are relevant to the work place. This paper set out a ten year reform plan to the education system with radical reforms in the 14-19 sectors. The paper noted that a high percentage of learners drop out at level 2 and that educational provision needed to be relevant to different learning styles and subsequent successful progression to employment from educational attainment. The 14-19 implementation plan outlines key targets for increased level 2 provision, more participation at 17 years old (90% participation in education or training by 2015), plus an emphasis on the reduction of NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) numbers.

What we do know is that the large drop out at level 2 would be linked to the 10% (British Dyslexia Association) of students in the classroom who have an SpLD. These pupils are often frustrated demonstrating behavioral issues in the classroom. They are working in a learning environment that is extremely difficult for them to manage. They can not process the information or make the links necessary for references to greater understanding and depth of learning that will enable them to progress.

The AchieveAbility research in the East of England region has shown there is a lack of understanding amongst teaching staff of cognition in relation to learning: The cognitive processes that result in new approaches to knowledge, the power of simple questions and the recognition that there are multiple intelligences.

To respond to this potential gap in knowledge, the AchieveAbility Network developed a training programme called the AchieveAbility Interventions Framework for whole class learning.

The Evidence: East of England training sessions
Since 2006 the AchieveAbility Network has delivered a set of training sessions to 91 institutions comprising of 145 staff from schools and colleges within the East of England region. This work was funded by East of England Aimhigher region. The purpose was to work with staff to develop greater engagment with teaching approaches to active learning. To enter into a dislogue about the underpinning knowledge of learning for pupil performance management. The underlying premise was that teaching and learning for SpLD students benefits all learners.

There were a set of three reviews which raised some questions regarding the effectiveness of embedding this approach within a whole institutional environment. It was decided to further research why this approach had been transferred to institutional priactice on an ad hoc basis.

The research comprised of mailed out questionnaires to participants, face to face and telephone interviews. The findings showed that there are;

Institutional twin tracks for pupils
Questions over who had the responsibility for learning?
There was a teaching subject focus
Underpinning learning was not included
A focus on targets rather than learning
Pupils within Inclusion Units
There were in-built predictions on achievement
The concept of value added not clear

The research conclusion was that School / College staff are working in silos and that institutional operational structures can be barriers to implementation. That change in delivery was perceived as risk taking with teaching reliant on subject based knowledge rather than underpinning knowledge of learning.

To Note: PGCE in the main does not include inclusive practice resulting in a loss of intellectual talent to the nation wit a potential growth in the NEETs.

The Framework:
In response to these findings the AchieveAbility Network and the Quintin Kynaston (QK) School went on to implement and embed multi-sensory teaching and learning practices within the school in staged process that became a framework for whole institutional inclusive practice.
It is believed that roll out of this project across other secondary schools may:

Help other schools gain a heightened understanding of the usefulness of and the benefits gained from multi-sensory teaching and learning practices within a secondary school setting
Help schools increase attainment levels of students through improved access to the curriculum
Help schools manage maladaptive behaviours of students within classroom settings through improved access to and understanding of the curriculum
Help students reach full potential and, in some cases, re-engage with the education system through increased enjoyment and improved understanding.
Help schools to start to make the move towards personalised learning given the move towards such initiative by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCFS)
Help students understand what they can choose to study and what impact different choices might have on their future (Raising Expectations. 2007); and
Attempt to engage every young person up to the age of 16, preparing them to stay on (Raising Expectations. 2007)

The framework is based on the actual workings of the project within QK School and is broken down into a step by step guide with the hope of enabling schools to gain an understanding of how a similar project could work within their setting. While these steps were integral for the project at QK it is important that other institutions make changes and adaptations to the framework to best suit their students, staff and school.
Initially when the project was started at QK, its main focus was around Specific Learning Differences (SpLD) and associated difficulties students with such differences may have in accessing the curriculum. This notion was then built on to suggest that all students, regardless of learning difference, would benefit from both an increased understanding of their own learning and learning style ( i.e. increased identity as a learner) and an improved ability to access the curriculum. In current stages of the project the focus has moved towards embedding practice within a whole school approach (i.e. ensuring that the school is operating from a multisensory teaching and learning philosophy and ensuring the staff are trained and comfortable in relation to this).
The Framework is set out in order of how the project was established at QK. Some steps were started and run simultaneously and often continuously, while others were stand-alone interventions/facets that needed individual facilitation.

Initially the project started with an audit of provision in relation to each of the areas of intervention/development listed below Results of that audit evaluated current good practice and areas for improvement, which would drive the update mechanism of the framework. Embedding new and/or improved practice would trigger another audit of provision and so the cycle will continue as multisensory teaching and learning becomes part of the schools holistic approach.

Step by step approach

Buy in and endorsement from senior management team (SMT)
Institution audit of provision
Action plan set in place by lead member of staff for the approach
Staff audit of knowledge
Materials audit both virtual and hard copy.
Staff training CPD ongoing
Observation peer and external
Embedding practice- across all subject areas
Whole school assessment- staff- pupils (learning profile)

The success of the practice depended on clear consultation with staff and management and good dynamic team working.

QK examples of how the practice was delivered:
Action planning:
An important part of the project and would need to be done annually. It should be a collaborative process between all members of the implementation team/working group and needs to take into account what is to be achieved how it is to be achieved, in what time frame and by whom. On completion the action plan needs to be available for all staff both within and external to the project to see. Reviews should be conducted annually with an evaluation of what has/has not been completed and how successful such components were. Recommendations as to what is left uncompleted can then be fed back into the action planning meeting for the following year. The project also needs to have an overseeing body which is responsible for ensuring that the aims of the project fit with the overarching aims/values of the school

Staff audit:
In initial stages of the project the focus was on vulnerable groups of students who, due to their differences and difficulties, may have had trouble accessing the curriculum. As a result a staff audit was conducted to assess staff's knowledge of and comfort related to teaching students with Specific Learning Differences (SpLD). Results were used to look at the need for staff training and to identify what resources could be purchased to be used by staff. Staff were emailed a link that was made through the website: www.freeonlinesurvey.com, and were asked to complete the audit.

Materials Audit:
To gather information in relation to what multisensory teaching and learning technology the school currently had, and what may need to be purchased, a materials audit was conducted by the project officer. Part of the audit was staff based and was included on the staff audit (above), while other areas of the audit were conducted by the project officer by contacting departments and faculties and seeing what was available and what resources departments would ultimately like purchased.

Further debate and recommendations
The debate is now centered on how such a model of practice can be transferred to the HE environment. Seminar participants had a desire to go away and develop practice within their own institutions; however they were concerned about Senior Management buy-in, which would need to be addressed by providing tangible examples of success.

Participants wished to look and reflect within their own institution and identify good practice whist recognising that sharing and collaboration is the key to development
However, they Identified difficulties with time and space for staff thinking and reflection. In particular participants wanted to know the list of benefits for HE and they requested a follow-up session for further discussion to link to HE

Participant's comments were as follows;
Student engagement and students having an understanding of their own learning is vital.

Recognised the need for student-centred interactive teaching and learning environments.

Identified that FE Initial Teacher Training incorporates inclusive teaching modules.

There is a debate to be had on the use of learning styles questionnaires (issues of labelling of students). Learning style questionnaires can be used to encourage self-reflection.

Staff development can be linked with Impact Assessment.

The learning support function can assist schools to develop an appropriate learning environment and learner-centred approach

Looking at the pedagogic needs of learners can assist with better teaching and learning experience for all learners ~ need to celebrate diversity

Linking one to one work into the classroom practice can assist with inclusive practices ~ integration and team working needs to be part of inclusive practice

Understanding of cognition is essential for effective teaching and learning ~ request from some to have training in this area.

Discussion about terminology and the need to move on from multi-sensory and to virtual learning environments and blended learning. www.incurriculum.org.uk