105 Learner Support

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					               C&G 7407             Unit 105 Learner Support

“Teachers and teaching teams need to be effective in providing
learners with support for their learning, guidance on current and
future opportunities and requirements, and personal tutorial
support. This involves meeting learners’ entitlements and
providing them with access to the full range of facilities and
opportunities that will enable them to benefit from their
programme of study. Teachers and teaching teams will need to
know how to access and use a wide range of services to help
meet learners’ needs.” (FENTO)

The subject of leaner support is an interesting one. The FENTO statement above at
first glance seems quite straight-forward; but education, colleges, teachers, learners,
legislation and society at large make it a fascinating and compelling subject.

There is a whole myriad of complexity just below the surface:

learners can be visually impaired

confined to a wheelchair

they could be dyslectic

they could have learning difficulties stretching back to childhood

ESOL students work hard, but language can be a primary barrier

they may have child care issues; be socially isolated; have no support

they could be financially disadvantaged


In 2001, SENDA came into force with the government’s main theme being that a
disabled person should have equal rights in terms of education, opportunity and
employment.

The Race Relations Act and the Equal Opportunities Act have been in force for many
years, so it is vital for colleges, principals, teachers and teaching teams to be aware of
this legislation and apply those principles both in and out of class.




Vincent Stevenson                   unit 105                          C&G 7407
At the start of a new course, I ask my learners to relax. I inform them that this learning
experience will be fun, sometimes intensive, but thoroughly beneficial. I tell them that I
love my subject, otherwise I'd be doing something else. They like that, it tells them that
I'm passionate about my subject and I want them to be passionate about it too.

I then invite them to participate in a simple ice-breaker exercise where they introduce
the person next to them. It only involves mentioning their name, where they're from and
what they hope to get out of the course.

How they present that information tells me something about their level of confidence
and I tick a small chart with marks from 1 to 10. It's hardly conclusive, but it’s just to
reference my first impression.

At the first break, I make a point of coming down five minutes later than the class. I
observe if they've spit off into small groups sitting around coffee tables, hopefully
chatting enthusiastically. I keep my eye open for 'loners'. If I identify one, I make a point
of inviting him/her to sit with me and I gently ask the following questions:

. why are you doing the course?

. what courses have you done previously?

. did you find that course easy or did you have any problems?

. what activities best suit your learning style?

. what are your long term aims regarding study and work?

I ask again about their expectations of the course.

This level of personal interest if done sensitively can have a beneficial motivational
effect on the learner. Geoff Petty – Teaching Today (Nelson Thornes) – page 513.

I have noted in other assignments that the teacher's communication skills can make or
break the entire learning programme. If a learner has confidence in the teacher as a
person, his integrity, teaching style and interpersonal skills, the likely outcome will be
that of success.

Petty references Paul Martinez's '9000 voices' research stating that a learner's favourite
aspect of FE was a supportive relationship with their tutor. He goes on to suggest
common themes in learner's requirements of the tutor:

'A tutor who has time for me when I go to see him.'

'Someone who'll listen to me.'

'A person who doesn't make me feel stupid.'


Vincent Stevenson                   unit 105                            C&G 7407
'Someone who's not always running aound and taking it out on us.'

'A person who takes us how we are.'

'Someone who'll help me when I have a problem.'

Petty makes the point that interpersonal skills are valued higher than subject matter
knowledge, liaison, organization, time management and planning. Interpersonal skills
make the difference between the learner staying or leaving.

Petty makes the distinction that learners on a full time course would expect to have
regular access to their tutor throughout the learning programme. Study support would
include the following:

. agree a programme of study and an Individual Learning Plan (ILP)

. review each learner's progress every six to eight weeks, or more often if necessary,
producing two reports a year

. ensure that students reflect on their own progress and achievements and take
responsibility for their own learning

. agree targets and individual learning plans for each learner and review them
periodically in 'one-to-one' or small group sessions

. maintain individual student records and ILPs

With regard to Pastoral Support, Petty suggests the delivery of an active and useful
whole-class tutorial which includes induction, careers, pastoral issues and study skills
etc. Support is usually provided by a combination of whole-class tutorials and one-to-
one tutorials.


One of the key skills in being a teacher, I believe, is to be resourceful. Not just in the
classroom where it's imperative, but outside of the classroom where additional learner
support is required.

Learners, like teachers are busy people. They must have good motivation and time-
management skills to achieve their goals. Learners can also be quite demanding and
when a genuine concern arises, they appreciate a considered and timely answer.

We often make the assumption that what learners need is more handouts,
bibliographies and theories, when what they actually need is information and advice on
less academically orientated material.




Vincent Stevenson                  unit 105                            C&G 7407
The problem with these weighty tomes is that learners can often feel they're drowning
under a sea of paper. Learners often live in cramped conditions and in my experience
they are not always as organized as they could be. Useful reference material often
becomes misplaced.

Reflecting on my own experience, I have a folder already bursting at the seams with
handouts from this course. There are many different colours of paper and it's not
always clear which piece of paper relates to which module. Yes, I should have noted
which session it pertains to, but I did not and I often handle and read the same piece of
paper a number of times to see where it fits into the jigsaw.

Bromley Adult Education College offers comprehensive resources to ensure access to
guidance opportunities for learners. It's the teacher's role to act as the signpost and
direct learners to the appropriate materials.

For example, access to information about training, employment and educational
opportunities can be found in a number of resources:

. the leaner handbook

. the college prospectus

. the Learndirect centre

. the college web site / intranet

. the office staff have a pivotal role in the process of enrolment; ensuring that learners
sign up for the correct course and informing them of alternative learning opportunities.


The office staff should also inform teachers of any 'special needs'; for example, if the
learner is blind, from the application form. This allows the teacher to prepare how best
to handle that learner's special needs.

From there, we have support services for basic skills to advise on further actions and
opportunities.

It's also possible to request a classroom assistant, to provide extra time on an individual
basis or in the preparation of specialist learning aids.

Teachers can give support in terms of providing advice and information on certain
specialist web sites.




Vincent Stevenson                   unit 105                           C&G 7407
College open days are a great opportunity for learners to interact with teachers and get
a 360 degree view of who's who and how the entire process hangs together.

Mentoring is another option where learners meet regularly with their teachers for review
and direction.

Teachers can also fall back on their senior colleagues' vast experience of knowledge
and resources. This can work in two ways; informally through a personal network or
more formally through staff meetings.

Teachers can also offer references to learners and former learners, recommending
them for further study or for interview situations.

Learners can be further supported by adding their details to specialist databases with
regard to career progression.

Finally, we can learn a great deal about our learners' needs simply by asking them
questions. This can be done informally at one-to-ones, or more formally via class
questionnaires obtained throughout the learning cycle.




Vincent Stevenson                 unit 105                          C&G 7407
Case Study

I am currently working on a Media Skills Project where I deliver a three day interactive
workshop to four students. The aim of the project is to embed previously learnt ICT
skills and then to demonstrate how to produce quality DVDs utilizing still photography,
sound, music and video.

The learners are all unemployed and they attend a council funded nature and
environmental establishment in a deprived area of the borough. The learners are a
mixture of male/female, young/old, and with representation from many ethnic minorities.
A number of the learners have low self-esteem, dyslexia, learning difficulties due to
literacy and numeracy problems, some of the foreign learners have problems with their
English. We also have some single mothers.

The workshop introduces learners to a digital video camera; how to shoot footage
without creating vast amounts of waste. I then show them how to download multiple
video clips to the PC hard drive. Then how to digitally edit the clips, fade-ins, fade-outs,
and removal of unwanted video footage. How to add music, digital photographs and
then how to insert DVD navigation buttons. When those activities are completed to the
required standard, we then test the products and burn them on to DVDs.

Most of these learners have poor work records, poor motivation and they have had little
or no structure in their lives. Many of them have a poor attendance record at the centre
which often causes problems with the administration staff who have to report this to the
various funding agencies.

By the end of three days, 95% of them have with guidance, completed the tasks to the
required standard. What has amazed me is the level of commitment to the project. Of
the five workshops completed there has been 100% attendance and about 90%
punctuality.

Many of the learners have never used nor had access to these tools and you can feel
the pride they exude as they hold the camera and record their own projects. As all of
the groups who’ve completed this project are now assisting with other projects at the
centre, this project is the one most often informally discussed.

Many students from previous workshops are coming into class at lunch times, asking to
go over various details. Some have asked for the slides of the objectives screens.
Some have asked for the five flow chart screens which make up the big picture of the
activities. Some have invested in digital cameras over Christmas and want confirmation
that the USB ports on their camera will work with our laptop. Sadly, many do not have a
computer of their own but would like to see pictures of Christmas with their families on
screen.

Although these workshops are highly intensive and the day flies by quickly, I find it
impossible not to stay behind after class and give them further opportunities to handle
the tools and familiarize themselves with the hardware/software. This workshop is a
winner because the learners define their own learning context. For most, it will be the
Vincent Stevenson                  unit 105                            C&G 7407
competent recording, production and distribution of family events on digital media. For
others young enough to find a foothold in the market, this could be the first vital step to
a new career. I have seen some remarkable changes of attitude and appearance in five
short weeks.

Almost 50% of the learners have asked me for advice regarding changes to their CV
following successful completion of the course. These learners are now taking
responsibility for their own learning. Some have taken the unprecedented step of
joining the library. Others are making regular visits to bookshops. All are suddenly
engaged in learning and they’re finding it a fun and rewarding. Many of them tell me
they have had no adult training and this wasn’t a problem because they ‘hated’ their
experience at school.

When this project ends, the learners will still have contact with me through a page on
the centre’s web site. This includes email contact information, bibliography and further
web sites where they can buy media at a fraction of the high street cost. The workshop
files can be downloaded as well as the slides for the objectives which explain ‘the big
picture’.

The course centre has internet access as well as qualified assistants who help with job
search activities, so the learners will continue to have access. A number of the
assistants have asked if they could attend the three day workshop to assist the learners
when the project ends. Personally, I think this is an excellent idea, however, the funding
criteria does not allow me. Thankfully, the course centre is going to fund a workshop for
assistants from another funding stream.

Although these arrangements are far from ideal, the learners are being supported as
well as possible under the circumstances of my professional availability and current
funding.


A number of clients are single mothers. When I know that single mothers are part of
learning group, I factor £30 per day childcare costs into the budget before submission to
the funders. This sum is a recognized figure and as such is never questioned as part of
the learners’ rights.



BIBLIOGRAPHY:

FENTO – Further Education National Training Organization

Geoff Petty – Teaching Today (Nelson Thornes) – page 513

Paul Martinez – 9000 voices – www.lsda.org.uk/pubs

C&G 7407 Unit 105 handouts


Vincent Stevenson                  unit 105                           C&G 7407

				
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