This assignment supports the Planning and Enabling Learning module of DTLLS and requires research to be conducted in the following areas: Negotiating with learners, Inclusive learning, Integrating Functional Skills and communication. I will present a precis of my research to reflect my findings. The format of the assignment in many ways reflects the experiential learning cycle as described by Kolb (1984), as I’m expected to plan research, conduct and review the findings before applying my learning.
As part of the research process I consulted Researching and Writing Dissertations (Horn, 2010), to ensure best use of time and appropriate use of research methods. I then reflected on how I might maximise the benefits of the research in order to positively impact my teaching. As a result of this reflection I decided to structure my research around the concept of the learning journey as I believe the four classification areas are naturally entwined around it.
The web enabled me to consider thinking and ideas in an instant; however the reliability of the information retrieved can be questionable so I concentrated my research around professional body and journal websites. A broad range of written texts were also considered and included access to books, resources in the LRC, and the Jersey Library. My research remained focused on leaners within the 14 – 19 age groups. To support my assignment I have made summary notes, printed out materials, saved to favourites materials of specific interest and annotated texts in books.
This varied approach to researching and collecting information made the process more engaging. My research notes and references will be classified and stored in files (manual and electronic) to assist future access, with a list of sources and references noted at the end of the assignment.
Precises of Findings Negotiating with learners
The tutor is a facilitator who enables learners to successfully learn. Research has proven that negotiating with learners is a powerful method of communication which encourages mutual trust and respect between both parties.
This method of communication encourages the learner to take responsibility for their learning and develop self-reliance, in particular as the demands of study increase in intensity/difficulty. It is a way of recognising the individual needs of learners and facilitates differentiation. Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), presents the concept of the three learning domains, one of which is the affective domain (attitudes and beliefs) and negotiating with learners responds to this domain.
An inclusive learning environment respects individual needs and includes the learner in the decision making process, whilst recognising that the development of appropriate communication skills is an important part of the learning journey. Some decisions are not open to negotiation, with a typical example being health & safety issue. When negotiation is inappropriate it is important to present to the learners not just what is required but also why, G Petty. Another example would be an examination syllabus which encourages negotiation, typically the choice of optional units.
Effective teaching requires an assertive and respectful approach to negotiation so that learners feel safe, valued and heard whilst they become more skilled in using this communication technique. Goal setting at every stage along the learning journey ensures success is achieved by recognising and agreeing the end goal but also building in transitional goals to recognise progress made, typically at the unit or modular stage.
Communication, when effective supports the learning journey both individually and collectively. It could be argued that communication is the key element that enables learning and vice versa. It is the tutor’s responsibility to communicate effectively in order to engage all learners and support them on their learning journey. Tutors need to be very aware of how they communicate and become adept at reading, if and how their messages have been received and understood, G Petty. This is an on-going challenge especially when we realise that only 7% of the words we speak influence the learning process.
Successful teaching therefore requires high order communication skills. The planning process provides a structure for ensuring communication flows are managed and varied. This planning process becomes even more important when we consider the need for inclusive practice that differentiates between learners. It has been proven that face to face communication is usually the preferred option but technological advances mean that learners can access the classroom via video conference to enable them to access a real time class from an alternative location.
This in turn offers another way to support inclusive practice. The communication style and skills of a tutor will have an immediate influence on the classroom dynamic and behaviours. McGregor’s analysis of management style, X and Y theory of management/supervision, is of real significance. The idea of taking a very authoritative, X style stance to learners because they can’t be trusted does harp back to the’ old school’ style of teaching. The Y style supports a participative or liberal style of teaching where learners are expected to be naturally motivated.
As learning is a continuum and individual learners have a variety of needs, effective communication will need to move across the styles in order to capture and engage learners on a regular basis, whilst avoiding the extremes of either. Inclusive learning Inclusive learning without differentiation is a contradiction in terms as ‘there is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals’, Dr. K. Dunn. By nature learners are unique therefore a tutor must differentiate to enable effective learning.
I have certainly found that you should never assume someone has understood but should always check for understanding and learning. If this is to be effective a safe learning environment must have been created and maintained. In the modern classroom ICT becomes a powerful tool that supports the learning journey and enables communication channels to be open to learners who might otherwise be disadvantaged or excluded. It can also extend and reinforce learning outside of the classroom.
This in turn provides a method for supporting learners to communicate in a way that best suits their learning needs, for example it is not unusual for a learner with fine motor control difficulties to record their work on a laptop. Inclusive learning is written into educational policy in the UK and is underpinned by initial assessment then encouraged through the process of embedding functional skills.
The UK Government describes Functional skills/key skills as the ‘generic skills which individuals need in order to be effective members of a flexible, adaptable and competitive workforce and for lifelong learning’. They include literacy & language, numeracy and ICT skills with a strong focus on application rather than pure acquisition of knowledge.
UK Employers frequently state they are concerned about abilities in these areas, across the working age population. It is current policy that Higher Education establishments should require these skills to be embedded into every subject and in order to do so the teaching staff are required to be competent in them also. This presents a challenge to all parties and therefore requires pro-active communication across courses and delivery teams.
I have been required to gather information from a much broader range of resources than previously required. Although familiar with the Harvard Referencing system I have to extend this knowledge in order to correctly record that wider range of source materials. ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’ and yet in order to enable learning we must be able to adapt our plans to meet learners needs.
Enabling and Planning learning reaches across the three learning domains and is of significant importance. I’ve welcomed the opportunity to increase my knowledge and understanding of it and already identified how I might develop my practice further so as to meet the needs of young people within a formal academic setting. In particular I will incorporate more paired working and peer assessment. I have considerable experience of working with a diverse range of learners including those who have a disability or special learning needs.
The research I have undertaken has increased my understanding of how to plan for inclusion and differentiate. My delivery to Advance to Work trainees will benefit from this research. I’m required to teach large groups of young adults, with no profiling information being provided before the sessions. Although I plan for inclusion and practise differentiation I believe I can meet the learners needs better by making subtle changes to my planning and incorporating a broader range of teaching techniques.