Integrating Functional Skills

The purpose of this assignment is to show how the topics discussed have affected my teaching. The first subject covered is “Negotiating With Learners”. I would like to learn new methods of doing this with the intention of “Hitting the ground running” more, i. . sometimes I have felt that some leaner groups take a little time to fully engage with my sessions. By negotiating with tem earlier and more effectively I should be able to improve this area.

I hope by learning more about Inclusive learning to make my learners feel more valued as individuals again this will increase engagement, it should also have an effect on the “Customer Experience”. This is important to me as I operate in a commercial environment where customer feedback in the form of testimonials can increase business levels.

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Integrating Functional skills is a necessary part of the apprenticeships that I already deliver , by researching and learning more about how to do this effectively I should reduce the amount of subject specific time taken on the courses, whilst still helping the learners through the Functional skills aspect of their Apprenticeship. Communication is at the core of all we do as teachers, I am looking at this with a view to improving my overall understanding of how learners and teachers interact in the classroom. This will help me better monitor how my learners are progressing, feeling and developing.

I have researched the 4 topics required for this assignment online and in various published works. The websites and books are listed at the end of the assignment. My findings are summarised by individual topic with a final precis. Negotiating With Learners The purpose of negotiating with learners is to allow both parties to share their understanding of the learning journey about to be undertaken, recognise any barriers to learning, agree on the way forward and enter a learning contract which can then be implemented.

Learners therefore are empowered with some measure of decision making and given or take a more responsibility for their learning. (M McCarthy, 1991,page 2) Negotiating with learners takes several forms. It should start with Initial Assessment. Although this takes place at the start of the learner’s journey it should be part of a wider and ongoing process. The learner should be involved in the Initial Assessment so they can become aware of their skills and knowledge relative to the course of study being undertaken.

The teacher can also learn about the learners expectations and preferred learning styles at this point. This will allow the teacher to negotiate goals and actions with the learner who should feel a part of the process rather than having the process imposed upon them. Ongoing assessment should be built into any course of study to check the progress of the learner, goals and actions can then be renegotiated according to need. (learningmatters uk) Another way of negotiating with learners is in the setting of Ground Rules for the group.

Typically at the start of a course of learning a group would be split into smaller groups to form their own Ground Rules. The different groups would then negotiate with the teacher and each other to formulate a final set of rules acceptable to all. These rules should be revisited as the course progresses to allow for change, i. e some learners may not have the confidence to speak out at the start of the course, but as they become settled may find their voice. This process will help foster a “safe environment” for learning in which respect and co operation between learners and teacher will grow. Gravells, Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector page 91 – 93)

The teacher must also take into account their own fears, insecurities, preferences and self perception. All teachers will have preferred teaching styles, activities and structures, they will equally have prejudices against other styles , structures and activities. The teacher must therefore be prepared to compromise in the interests of the learners. (M McCarthy, 1991,page 2)

Ann Gravells and Susan Simpson state in “Planning and Enabling Learning in he Lifelong Learning Sector” (LearningMatters;gravells and simpson,www. learningmatters. co. uk) that allowing 15 minutes before and after a session commences for learners to talk to the teacher can allow for informal assessment which will highlight any concerns. This more informal approach can be very successful as the learner would regard the chat as being more personal. Inclusive Learning Quote: “Inclusion is a never-ending process, working towards an ideal when all exclusionary pressures within education and society are removed. Booth, T(2003:2)

Inclusive learning means recognising, accommodating and meeting the needs of all learners where reasonably practicable. We need to acknowledge that learners will have a range of learning needs when planning out a course of instruction. Individual learner needs should be taken into account to ensure that all learners, whatever their, language, dialect, culture, personal circumstances or physical capability, will feel both motivated and encouraged to learn The structure of the course should include Initial Assessment to discover these needs and constant monitoring and/or assessment throughout the course.

There may be occasions where for personal reasons a learner may not wish to share issues with the tutor, or the learner has developed their own coping strategies . The tutor should be aware that this may be the case and through personal engagement, constant evaluation and assessment any issues should become clear. The tutor then would have the opportunity (sensitively) to discuss with the student what additional support may be accessed. (Gravells, PTLLS 2012) Some of the types of support that can be offered are as follows.

The rooms to be used need to accessible to all, I have come across learners who cannot tolerate fluorescent lighting and one learner who was too large to fit into the chairs at the venue. Both learners would have not been able to attend the course unless their individual needs were met, both were accommodated successfully. Handouts, presentations and assessments should not just be written or expressed clearly, they should also be organised clearly – readable fonts, uncluttered text, accessible colours and clear diagrams and images should be used.

  1. The tutor should plan course with the following points in mind
  2. The objectives and outcomes for any activity should be identified
  3. Check if the rooms, methods or materials to be used could present issues to learners.
  4. Talk to the learners about any reasonable adjustments that can be made to the methods, venue or materials without affecting the objectives or outcomes
  5. Find out if the learner has any additional support in place ie, scribe or support assistant and involve them as early as possible.
  6. Agree any actions to be taken and who is responsible for them, tutor, learner institution and keep a record of these.
  7. Review the adjustments with the student on a regular basis.

There is a danger of moving from a “one size fits all” approach to a situation where so many different specific needs must be met that the course of learning becomes too unwieldy or even too expensive or impractical. It is important therefore that a culture of Inclusivity must exist within teaching organisations. Where this is not the case the individual teacher must take responsibility within the teaching environment to ensure that teaching is inclusive as far as reasonably practicable. Integrating Functional Skills

Functional Skills have replaced Key Skills in education, they are also an evolution from the 3 R’s that were seen as the basic skills necessary to function in life and work. They are available as stand alone qualifications for 14 to 19 year olds, they can also be embedded in adult education programmes in four ways Discrete – Taught by FS specialists and taken as separate learning and assessment from the main subject matter Partly embedded – taught by FS specialists and applied flexibly within the main programme of study Mostly Embedded – taught by FS specialists through a range of contexts across the programme.

Fully Embedded – taught, developed and applied across the learning programme, using naturally occurring opportunities for FS development. I am teaching a BTEC Level3 Management course at the moment and we have Fully Embedded the Functional Skills into the course in the following ways. The learners are asked to carry out an investigation into a fictional business called Applegate. As evidence they are given emails, absence reports, Bradford Factor rationales, letters from staff and a case study which includes an inspection report on the premises. Fs skills required are as follows.

English the learner must be able to read the emails letters and report and make deductions and recommendations based on their understanding of the information available Maths, the learners must use the Bradford Factor formula to look at staff absence and the effect it has on the workplace ICT, the learner must access emails and send recommendations to the tutor as word processed documents. This exercise while not covering all the necessary standards for the FS qualification covers a lot of ground and is entirely relevant to the BTEC Management qualification as well.

I believe it also shows that FS skills can be found in almost any activity. The FS skills are the basic skills needed to function ie understanding written text, basic maths skills and ICT. The ICT part is probably the one most likely to cause concern for non IT literate learners, who in the minority still occur. On a recent Team leader course Initial Assessment found 2 learners who were IT Illiterate, and had no personal recourse to IT equipment. They were advised that they would need to address this before commencing on the Apprenticeship and support was sourced from Chesterfield College to achieve this.

I have been involved in a process of Embedding functional skills into our Apprenticeship programme for a year now. I believe there is a widespread fear of this process within teaching organisations. Many people seem to be under the impression that all courses need to be rewritten to Integrate Functional skills. My experience shows that this is far from the case. Having looked at some of the lessons being delivered by my fellow DTTLS students I have found examples of Functional Skills in all of them.

The “trick” is to recognise and develop them once found and put appropriate assessment tools in place to prove learning and development. Communication Communication is the process by which we transfer information from one person to another. It can be sub-categorised into verbal and non-verbal communication. Verbal communication is where language/words are used to convey information and non-verbal communication is the use of sign language, body language, expression and tone to do the same.

One of the potential barriers to effective communication occurs when information is lost or misunderstood because the non verbal aspect does not match the specifics of the words being used. Mehrabian’s Theory illustrates why this can happen. He states that a person receiving information will be affected in the following ratios. 7% of the message is in the words, 38% in the tone used and 55% in the body language of the speaker. (www. businessballs. com) Other potential barriers to communication include noise, learners with reading difficulties and language/dialect.

The teacher should therefore ensure that the learning environment is quiet and free from distraction, the learners needs are assessed and met(eg. coloured paper and different fonts) and care should be taken in the use of language and colloquialisms. Teachers should be aware of body language in the classroom both on their part and that of the learners. A teacher whose body language is lethargic, over relaxed can impart this to the group who in turn will “follow the lead” causing a poor learning environment.

The teacher should be aware of the body language of the learners as well, for instance learners scanning the room for something to look at, learners not paying attention, learners doodling or chatting or even shaking their heads at points made by the teacher. All of these are non verbal or even unconscious ways of the learner communicating to the teacher “I am not happy with this” and should be recognised and addressed. Some people are more aware than others of Non verbal communication, As a salesman for 12 years I learned to take notice of this and understand its sources and how best to address concerns etc.

I have now applied those skills to the classroom and find I have been very successful in keeping learners engaged during sessions. I have also been on course at Chesterfield College where I have been dismayed at the level of awareness of non verbal communication shown by some teachers with many years of teaching experience. I believe this is very often down to arrogance or complacency i. e they believe that as they have doing the “job” for years they know what they are doing.

This type of teacher very often will blame the learners for a failure to engage, for instance saying “they don’t isten”. If the learner appears not to be listening it is the duty of the teacher to change the delivery of the message. This can relate back to Inclusivity and possibly even the negotiation process at the start of learning. Conclusion I believe by findings show that the essence of teaching is in communication or the transfer of information from one person to others. The teacher needs to be aware of all the different ways we communicate with each other, both in planning and delivering teaching.

After consideration I believe a teacher must also be aware of their own preferences and styles, as it is too easy to concentrate on others, we need to know how we come across. This was proven to me when a learner on one of my course asked me to cheer up. I was fine but concentrating on an issue with a resource. My body language suggested annoyance with the group, I explained that it was the resource that was the problem, but it still taught me that Non verbal communication is just as important as verbal.

Negotiation is a vital process in teaching, I believe teachers take part in negotiation almost unconsciously to get the best out of students. If we as teachers understand the process of negotiation better, it will allow us to engage students quicker improving motivation and thereby success. My research into negotiation has shown me that it is the teachers responsibility to ensure that the learner has a voice in the learning journey and that that voice is heard, valued and acted upon. Functional skills are actually if not embedded, present in most if not all areas of teaching.

I found in my own teaching, when asked to embed Functional Skills, that they were already in use but I needed to adapt my assessment processes rather than redesign the course. Following this assignment I believe my organisation’s approach to this issue is meeting the needs of our learners very well in this respect. To be successful in any attempt to teach I believe it is vital to have an Inclusive approach. By this I mean that learners should be pre assessed to establish their individual needs before starting any course.


  1. I use this website for management and leadership, communication when leading teams also applies to classroom situations Accessed 12/12/12
  2. Integrating Functional Skills: Functional Skills in Work-Based Learning; LSIS, Learning and Skills Improvement Service. Accessed 20/12/12 Inclusive Learning: http://www. lluk. org/documents/mcg_llnictg__section6-1. pdf
  3. Lifelong Learning UK; publication on maintaining an inclusive learning environment; A Learning and skills Improvement Service website with many different resources available to teachers Accessed: 18/12/12. http://www. excellencegateway. org. uk/page. aspx? o=135154
  4. Inclusive Learning and Teaching; A government website of articles and resources that are no longer updated but still valuable Accessed: 18/12/12. http://www. businessballs. com
  5. Communication, Mehrabians theory on Non verbal communication. I have used this website for ideas for training managers, many of the theories on there are just as applicable to teaching Accessed: 18/12/12

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Integrating Functional Skills. (2016, Nov 13). Retrieved from