Personalising Learning in the FE Sector

Personalising Learning

 The current context in the FE sector

During my work as a consultant, trainer and coach in the FE sector, I am hearing a lot of conversations about what it means to personalise learning. The recent introduction of a new Ofsted framework has a clear emphasis on this theme, as indicated in the snippets below. The Common Inspection Framework (2015) tells us that inspectors will be looking at how:

teaching and assessment methods and resources inspire and challenge all learners and meet their different needs, including the most able and the most disadvantaged, enabling them to enjoy learning and develop their knowledge, skills and understanding 

 staff identify learners’ support and additional learning needs quickly and accurately through effective initial assessment, leading to the provision of high quality and effective support to help learners achieve as well as they can

 staff work with learners to ensure that teaching, learning and assessment are tailored to enable all learners to make good progress and prepare for their next steps”

For me, personalised learning at practitioner level means planning and delivering the learning programme with the varied characteristics of the group in mind. It is about engaging with learners’ backgrounds, aspirations, personalities, needs and interests and responding to those through materials, tasks, class management, target setting and feedback while covering the course content. It is not about preparing twenty-seven individualised lessons with differentiated materials for all the learners in the group. It is about meeting the learners where they are and bringing their backgrounds and skills into the room with the aim of engaging and motivating them to work with the course content. It is the adjustments, tweaks and adaptations we make every day before and during sessions.

In my work with teachers, I notice that many practitioners feel concerned that they are not sure what personalised learning looks like and wonder if they are actually doing it in practice. They sometimes mention receiving action points in feedback from observed lessons around personalising the learning experience more effectively. In these conversations I notice that teachers can actually list a wide range of different approaches that they use in planning and delivery, but that these approaches can be so deeply embedded in their practice that they don’t think to note them on lesson plans or schemes for learning. So in this tracking focused culture, they sometimes don’t get the credit for this in observed lessons or audits. There is also a concern in some settings that they are being asked to individualise the learning experience to a degree that is not realistic, achievable or actually needed for the learners. There are some interesting comments in these blogs on that topic:

Greg Ashman blog

Amjad Ali blog

From these discussions with teachers I see that personalised learning involves a patchwork of approaches and techniques, threaded through programmes with varying degrees of prominence as appropriate. In no way am I suggesting here that teachers should be doing all of this in every lesson. I am noting that I see and hear this range of approaches being deployed in our sector right now and that it is helpful to be aware that this is personalised learning in action.

  1. Making links from current learning to future life, study or work
  • Personalised targets set or elicited at the start of the lesson
  • Stop and review slots to identify how skills or content will be used in life, study or work for individuals
  • Plenary slots to review personal learning from the lesson and over units
  • What’s in it for you? What are you learning now? How will you use it in future? Questioning in class or learning journal, log or blog
  1. Bringing learners’ background and experiences into the session where relevant, through tasks and group discussion, so you harness who they are.
  • Work experience
  • Life goals
  • Study skills and experiences
  • Skills and mindset used in social activities that may transfer to studies
  • Approaches for tackling challenges, pressure, previous learning tasks
  1. Providing choice and options where appropriate
  • Variety of activities and tasks in sessions
  • Different ways to provide assessment evidence
  • Work on something alone, in pairs, in groups
  • Use technology or use paper-based or human resources as tools
  • Have access to a range of self-study tasks on a differentiated take away homework menu
  1. Stretch and support for individuals
  • Multi-sensory approaches for example: visual back up for verbal information; using visuals and graphic organisers to present information; incorporating movement and physical dimension into tasks, e.g. things on walls, manipulatives such as card exercises
  • Provide guidance and additional support information for those who want or need it, e.g. writing frames for written tasks; tips for planning writing; key word reminders, prompt cards with steps in a process
  • Motivating easy to check extension tasks for strong, early finishers. Could involve a quiz, use of online materials, chance to get ahead with homework
  • Planning for learners with difficulties or disabilities, after discussing needs with them. You may need to consider font and colour of written resources; provide reading materials ahead of the session; configure room and group layouts in a certain way to aid learning; collaborate with learning support teams to get specialist input
  • Giving feedback that is personalised and not generic, with clarity on how to improve written work or practical skills
  1. Using group profile and group overview information to plan learning
  • Setting up group tasks to harness learners’ strengths or allow them to develop skills
  • Allocating roles in tasks based on what you know about learners
  • Using information from diagnostic testing to help you design materials and tasks to meet specific needs, through flipped learning and workshop tasks
  • Planning your approach to questioning, in order to scaffold learning or to extend it, for particular individuals – devising some specific questions for particular students
  • If learners are having learning support, liaising with expert staff to identify helpful approaches so you can work together to best support those learners
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This entry was posted in Advanced Practitioners, CPD for Teachers, Differentiation, FE, Personalising learning, Planning for Learning, Professional Development, Staff Development, Stretch and challenge, Teaching and learning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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