From education to employment

Value of FE practitioner research highlighted by new anthology

Dr Catherine Manning, ETF National Head of Mentoring and Practitioner Research

A new Education and Training Foundation (@E_T_Foundation) anthology of project reports highlighting the value of action research in the post-16 Education and Training sector is now available.

The publication – Outstanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment (OTLA) Anthology of Practitioner Action Research Reports (2020–2021) – features 53 reports across English, maths and Essential Digital Skills, illustrating how practitioners have worked together to improve the quality of teaching and learning around a particular theme. Many of the reports include a focus on approaches to supporting learners remotely and in isolation, reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and illustrating the ability of action research to respond to changing circumstances.

Projects featured include:

  • Work led by Kendal College and South Lakes Community Learning that used a learner-led strategy incorporating the universal language of emojis to ignite learner motivation and engagement, boosting progress in GCSE, Functional Skills, and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses.
  • ‘Word Up’ – a project at Reaseheath College designed to increase GCSE English resit learners’ vocabulary, which has boosted their overall confidence and demonstrated a clear correlation between learners using the vocabulary they have learnt in written responses and their rate of progress.
  • Work focusing on learner resilience and self-efficacy in GCSE English Language and Functional Skills English at Sheffield College that has developed learners’ confidence to engage in stretch and challenge activities and helped their ability to learn from mistakes.
  • ‘Busy on the bus’ – a Solihull College and University Centre project that has enabled students to engage successfully in online learning between maths lessons by changing terminology and consulting with learners and adapting tasks, and resulted in changed class norms, harder work and improved results.
  • A Weston College project at HMP Maidstone that developed the assessment of the English ability of ESOL learners to better understand individuals’ abilities and help ensure that they are placed on the right level of course from the outset.

With all of the teams working under the inclusive umbrella of the OTLA programme, participants were also able to connect with one another to share practice and discuss research findings.

Dr Catherine Manning, ETF National Head of Mentoring and Practitioner Research, said:

“It is widely recognised that compared to schools, there is little published research about effective practice in FE. One option is for the sector to wait for more research to be funded and published. Another, more courageous and exciting option, is for practitioners to capture and share their own evidence of improvements they and their learners have made.

“Over and over again, this anthology highlights the value of practitioners becoming research active, engaging with existing evidence, and generating further understanding of how to teach and learn effectively in our diverse, challenging and life-changing sector. In doing so, it emphasises the benefit to practitioners and learners alike of enabling and empowering teachers and trainers to take charge of their own professional development. We hope it will engage and inspire colleagues across FE.”

The ETF has been funded by the Department for Education to run the OTLA programme for the past seven years.

This year’s programme was run on behalf of the ETF by Claire Collins Consultancy with partners That Reading Thing and Skills Digital. Project teams received grants to support remission and take part in training alongside the action research they carried out.

They were supported and mentored by a group of post-16 education and action research specialists.

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