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Filling an important gap in next year’s Common Inspection Framework

Seb Schmoller, Vice-Chair of the Governing Body of The Sheffield College

The absence of any mention of technology-supported learning in relation to the quality of teaching, learning and assessment is a major omission from the Ofsted review of the Common Inspection Framework (CIF) for the FE and Skills sector that must be remedied.

We were very pleased to learn during the Institute for Learning’s (IfL) recent consultation meeting with Matthew Coffey, Ofsted’s Director of Development, Learning and Skills that this problem has been recognised by the inspectorate, with a view to addressing it.

As the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) makes clear in its response to the consultation: “Our specific concern is that the CIF must take explicit account of the fundamental and seismic changes that are currently taking place in the way that knowledge is created, acquired and distributed.”

Essentially the environment for learning has been rapidly changing beneath our feet for the last decade and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. These changes are every bit as important as – probably more far-reaching and definitely more rapid – than those that occurred as a result of the invention of printing, and the CIF needs to be written so that inspectors, learning providers, and teachers are left in no doubt about the significance of the changes for “good” teaching, learning and assessment.

There are easy ways to address this. For example, CIF consultation document says inspectors want to see “staff set challenging tasks, build on and extend learning for all learners”. If we add the clause “making appropriate and effective use of different learning methods including use of learning technologies” this would help immensely. Also, where the CIF consultation document suggests “staff set challenging tasks, build on and extend learning for all learners” the following clause could be added: “equipping all learners to take full advantage of technology and the Internet in their learning and in their lives more generally”.

On a different point, it should be noted – and Ofsted obviously knows this – that it is learners who do the learning; teachers cannot “provide learning”, as the CIF consultation document currently asserts. For this reason the clause “staff have appropriate skills and expertise to provide good quality teaching, learning, assessment and support for each learner” needs to be adjusted.

These are not nit-picking points; they are simple statements that make clear the long term centrality of technology-supported learning for all staff and learners.

Similarly with issues around effectiveness of leadership and management, the consultation document talks of the need to “deploy resources, including staff, accommodation, facilities and technologies to support learning effectively”. Again, our disagreement here stems from the inadequate treatment of technology in the clause.

As we say in our response, provided that suitable changes are made to how the quality of teaching learning and assessment is judged, so that the effective use of learning technology is explicitly brought into scope, then the weakness of the current formulation would be less important. However, categorising technology merely as a “resource to be deployed” does its importance a disservice. It also tends to concentrate the user of CIF’s mind on technology only as something under the provider’s control “to be deployed”, rather than as a whole mesh of services and functionalities “out there” that providers need to make good use of. Thus we suggest the addition of an additional clause such as “ensure that learning technologies and ICT more generally are appropriately resourced and utilised across all relevant aspects of provision and across all relevant business activities”.

Seb Schmoller – [email protected] – is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), an independent membership charity whose mission is to ensure that use of learning technology is effective and efficient, informed by research and practice, and grounded in an understanding of the underlying technologies and their capabilities, and the situations into which they are placed. Seb is also Vice-Chair of the Governing Body of The Sheffield College

Read other FE News articles by Seb Schmoller: 

What can we learn from Stanford University’s free online computer science courses?

What did the ALT conference have to say for FE and Skills?

What you can read should not depend on where you work – why ALT is making its peer-reviewed journal Open Access


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