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I can't say this loud enough this year: DO INDUCTION PROPERLY. No, don't go away. I'm not just talking to teachers. I'm talking to managers and all those involved in observing and improving teaching, learning and assessment.

Yes you know induction is important, and hopefully see that an 'induction week' is only the start of a longer induction that properly inducts learners. Actually, let's just press pause right there. Just to clarify – the term 'induction week' should not be taken literally. It takes far longer to properly induct learners, and it's this extended induction, where lots of magic can happen, that we are referring to here. I'll skip the full lecture ... hopefully you get my point. So, with that message presumably established, the question I want to ask is: Do you know to what extent learners are properly inducted into their course, learning to learn and preparing to improve their personal development, behaviour and welfare?

Let's see. Do you know:

  • Whether or not learners have an extended induction where they learn to learn?

  • Whether all teachers set and adhere to consistently high expectations from their learners?

  • Which groups of learners aren't adhering to punctuality and attendance rules at the start?

  • How aware learners are of the personal development, behaviour and welfare skills they need to complete the course / do the job?

  • If learners know what their own starting points are?

  • If learners are 'sold' on these skills – motivated to develop them and ready to monitor them as the year progresses?

  • Which learners are taking ownership for their learning from the start?

  • Which groups of learners aren't buying into English and maths?

  • Which behaviours seem to be lacking at the start?

  • What the teachers plan to do to encourage the crucial behaviours that appear to be weakest?

We need to know this stuff so we can support teachers with induction, and how to use the knowledge we (can but often don't) gain about learners. All too often though, observation and improvement activity (we aren't just talking about formal observations here) doesn't kick in for a few months. By then, bad learning habits and attitudes to learning can be pretty ingrained. Have you got time and energy then to battle with that?

If we get in early we can work with teachers (I cannot emphasise the 'with' in this sentence enough) to consider what skills might be lacking and how they can improve them. With care, this can encourage a 'let's all do this together' culture.

Getting observation (if you really have to call it that) and improvement activity off the ground early helps us to:

  • Identify learners' needs and how well they are being met so we can act quickly before habits form

  • Help teachers ingrain positive learning behaviors from the start

  • Develop a culture of continual improvement - one that's positive, reflective, open, transparent, trusting, fair and collaborative

The point is you do this with teachers. There's the 'with' word again. Are you getting the message? You become a team, all working towards the same goal.

So how do we work together to improve? First, learners, teachers and managers need a common understanding of what we are trying to achieve: Learners to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills required for the course and the associated progression. This includes progress towards effective 'personal development, behaviour and welfare'.

Sometimes we like to over complicate things in FE, but measuring progress towards these skills can be simple. We could begin with measuring learners' starting points and use these to plan what and how they will learn. We should do this not because it provides evidence when Ofsted visit but because it helps develop the right skills for learners.

If we expect learners to do this measuring and monitoring and we simply facilitate it, not only is the job much simpler, it makes for motivated learners. So to achieve this together, during induction we could:

  • Facilitate induction activities that support learners to identify, recognise and value the skills they need to excel on the course, do the job, and prepare for what comes next (and yes this includes specific English and maths skills)

  • Support learners to assess their starting points against these skills and characteristics. This could include self-assessment, first impressions from other learners, and teacher scores from fun activities

  • Help learners develop the skills they need to reflect upon their own performance and progress

  • Show learners and teachers we are here to help them develop by coming to see, asking questions, and offering support

Magic can happen during induction. Is it worth your time to get involved and see if induction is at least doing its job?

Deborah McVey is managing director of Deborah McVey Ltd, providing training, coaching and consultancy support to the learning and skills sector, specialising in improving teaching, learning and assessment. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

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