Barnsley MBC EDS Report

Delivering EDS to ESOL Learners

Barnsley MBC

This project developed visual resources and learning methods to support Entry 2 ESOL learners’ understanding of instructional language, with a focus on digital terminology. Once the language barriers were removed, the tutors found that learners were surpassing expectations and confidently able to take responsibility for their own learning.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway.

Summary

Adult Skills and Community Learning supports the delivery of Barnsley Council’s vision, addresses local priorities and supports the achievement of corporate outcomes by harnessing the transformational potential of learning. The Service maintains the key principles of supporting adults to develop skills, confidence and access to technology to be able to participate in a wider variety of learning experiences and transfer those skills to work and home-life and is committed to ensuring technology is fully embedded in the learner journey.

This project was designed to offer the Entry Level 2 ESOL learners a bespoke programme to develop their digital skills to enhance their life and work and also support the online delivery of their ESOL programme.

The learners were a small cohort of existing ESOL learners who had struggled to continue with their learning in the lockdown periods due to a lack of digital skills. The bespoke programme was developed to furnish the learners with the skills they needed to be more independent in the digital world.

The programme was designed and co-delivered by an ESOL Tutor and an ICT Tutor, who supported each other professionally and developed a rapport to be able to be each other’s “critical friend”. This collaboration has been the trigger in developing stronger working relationships amongst colleagues from different curriculum areas who now regularly draw on each other’s expertise when required. This has supported their own professional development.

Rationale

During the COVID-19 lockdown, low level ESOL learners struggled to effectively continue with their learning due to their limited digital skills. The Service wanted to address this issue by developing a bespoke cross-curricula essential digital skills programme for low level ESOL learners to develop their independent digital skills for use at home and prepare them for work.

The project would develop strategies to support the development and understanding of digital terminology to learners where English is not their first language. It would also improve the digital skills of the ESOL tutors and give them the confidence to embed and deliver digital skills within the ESOL provision. In the initial teaching session, it was identified that the ESOL learners would need additional support with understanding digital terminology before undertaking their essential digital skills qualification.

Tutors within both teams had previously identified needing support when delivering to low level ESOL learners and requiring knowledge to ensure digital skills are embedded within the ESOL curriculum. The project aimed to enable both teams to work closely together to develop and share good practice and develop resources to be used in future delivery.



Approach

The Service wanted to explore and develop relevant and engaging resources to meet the needs of the ESOL learners and promote their development in understanding digital terminology as a starting point to further develop and embed their digital skills.

The approach was to develop the use of instructional language and visual resources for learners to support their understanding of basic IT terminology and how it underpins the development of the practical action.

The planned activities supported the learners to access their own Google Docs accounts and be able to document their own reflections/progress in relation to their journey of developing essential digital skills.

The proposed activities were designed to support a positive learner experience, to develop the curriculum offer that progresses the knowledge and skills that the ESOL learners will need in order to take advantage of the opportunities that prepare them for their next stage and develop their confidence in using digital technologies.

The activities would support learners to build on previous learning and develop the new digital knowledge and skills they need. It was important that the foundation building blocks of gaining the knowledge and understanding of using correct digital terminology is embedded in the learners’ long-term memory and they have the confidence to use them fluently and consistently. From these activities there is a clear progression to essential digital skills which all the learners will have the opportunity to develop those skills as their next steps in their digital skills learning. This initial course enabled the learners to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to explore progressing onto the essential digital skills provision.

The tutors worked collaboratively in developing a glossary of terms with the ESOL Tutor being a “critical friend” and supporting the ICT Tutor to pitch the resource at a level suitable for the learners.

The tutors contributed to a Padlet on a weekly basis to document their reflections and achievements within each of the sessions.

Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

This project aimed to increase staff confidence in working with low level ESOL learners and developing their digital skills to support them in their ESOL course. The tutor reflections on the Padlet provided evidence of a significant rise in confidence when working with low level ESOL learners and having the ability to prepare resources suitable for the level of the learner. Importantly, the ESOL tutor is also more confident in embedding digital technology within her provision.

A glossary of terms was produced with the tutors working collaboratively to agree a final product to meet the learning needs of the learners. The development of the glossary went through three amendments, the images are shown below. At each revision version, the ESOL Tutor gave constructive feedback on how the resource could be adapted to benefit and better support the learners. This supportive and collaborative approach ensured the resource developed the learners understanding of the digital terminology. The ESOL tutor commented how she supported the ICT Tutor to develop this learner resource to support the learners’ understanding of key terminology:

“The use of visual aids such as images, shared screen, demonstrations, videos, glossary are essential to support learners’ understanding of the spoken language. The course requests learners to take actions using many different verbs: click, double click, open, tab, scroll, etc. Knowledge and understanding of the terms is essential to be able to take the correct action.”


Figure 1: Version 1 of the Glossary


Figure 2: Version 2 of the Glossary


Figure 3: Final Version of the Glossary

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisation practices

Use of a Collaborative Padlet

Image of the collaborative padlet

Figure 5: Screenshot of Collaborative Padlet

The Padlet became a working document and a community space where the tutors were able to reflect on the sessions, this was further enhanced by Lead Tutors being able to contribute and share their ideas and experiences which were used to develop the course week by week.

Developing tutor confidence in using the online meetings software

The use of breakout rooms became very efficient in meeting learners’ specific needs. Reflections from the ICT tutor early in the programme identified the language barriers with the learners and developed the sessions to use breakout rooms to ensure all learners can continue their learning at a suitable pace with the ESOL tutor supporting in one room and the ICT tutor in another.

Collaboration with teaching colleagues

Teaching using ICT can be stressful for ESOL tutors, but we found having an ICT tutor to support was very useful and the ICT tutor found that having an ESOL tutor present also helped communication. As one tutor stated:

“I have enjoyed working collaboratively very much … We agree on lots of good practice, and I’ve learnt lots about working with ESOL learners. I think my colleague has kept me grounded throughout the course and has supported me when I’ve struggled with the language barrier”.

Use of a wider range of digital platforms

The use of the Collaborative Padlet encouraged both tutors to reflect on the sessions and were positive and willing to develop their skills in using this in education. Staff involved in the project showed a positive attitude to using it to share and collaborate on.

Tutors developing as Reflective Practitioners

The digital action research project created frequent opportunities for the tutors to focus upon aspects of their established teaching strategies, and to collaboratively explore opportunities to develop and try new techniques and resources to improve learner participation both in and between the sessions. Teachers learn from each other and develop strategies and techniques that can be used in their future teaching.

Developing a supportive Community of Practice

Staff development sessions have previously been held in small curriculum teams, but through the project, this has resulted in the sharing of good practice, especially between the ESOL and ICT teams. The tutors have been encouraged to collaborate and share ideas in a relaxed and informal environment. The joint activities have become opened up to enable staff to reflectively evaluate what each team is trialling within their teaching, learning and assessment. This has improved working relationships between tutors from different curriculum areas.

Generated practical solutions

Collaboration between the tutors has helped to identify and find solutions to very practical barriers, such as how to ensure the learners can easily access their online session. Learners were struggling to find the link to the session, therefore as a Service we have decided to set a reminder email to be sent 15 minutes prior to the session, this will ensure the email containing the link is near the top of a learner’s inbox and therefore more easily achievable. This is crucial to support a prompt start to the session prior to a learner having confidence in using bookmarks.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression

Learners have surpassed expectations and have confidently been able to meet their negotiated targets.

Learners have been exploring and developing the use of their loan laptop devices from the Service. They are becoming less dependent on the use of the mobile phones and developing long lasting understanding of the roles and features of different platforms accessible from their laptops, eg Google search, Google Drive, etc – this is supporting the move to be able to develop their digital skills which they are using in their home-life and preparing them for the world of work. In week 2 the learners had made a language connection with their ESOL class where words such as document, CV and forms were being used. Recognisable language was building learners’ confidence.

Three of the learners contributed to a student feedback and reflection discussion at the end of week 3, using the following questions as a prompt:

  •  What did you find useful?
  •  What can you do now?
  •  How will you use this?

Video extracts from the discussion are available on the Good Practice Padlet. The learners were very positive about their progress and their lessons; they are really enjoying their learning and making great progress against starting points. They could clearly explain how their learning will benefit them in their lives and work. The learners identified they were more confident in using their laptop and becoming more and more confident in using Google Drive to sort and work with documents and had an increased confidence to undertake online shopping in a safe and secure way.

The learners also expressed that the digital class had supported them to be able to access their online ESOL courses during lockdown and continue their ESOL learning. One learner commented how he was combining the learning from his ESOL class to his digital class and was both pleased and proud of the progress he had made and was grateful that he had had this opportunity to undertake this digital course.

The tutors commented that the learners are showing good skill development and the positive impact this is having on their confidence. The learners can navigate successfully between Google search, Google images and Google Drive. They can copy and paste images into a new Google Document and add text. They can take screenshots. They have completed extra work away from their formal sessions and have created their own comprehensive glossary for their own use. The learners are able to confidently send e-mails.

The learners have also been successful in attaining the Entry Level 1 Digital Skills for Work qualification accredited by Gateway Qualifications.

Learning from this project

The course for the action research project had to be delivered fully online due to being in a National Lockdown situation. At the end of the course and upon reflection by the tutors, it was decided moving the course to face to face delivery would support the learners to develop their digital skills in a conducive environment, where the tutor was easily accessible to give the learners the support they need. The learners would be supported to improve their digital skills and prepare them for progression onto an online course. The initial face to face course would help to mitigate learners’ anxiety around getting online whilst developing their confidence in using IT equipment.

The skills gained by the ICT Tutor to prepare resources suitable for low level ESOL learners will also be able to be used when preparing and teaching Entry Level 1 and 2 learners to develop their digital skills. The tutor developed her knowledge on the need to grade language and extend the use of visual images to support learning, rather than the resources being too text heavy. The tutor flipped the resource, as can be seen in Figure 3 above, so that the learners were providing the language in a way that supported their own learning.

The tutors worked with learners who had spikey profiles in ESOL and also spikey profiles in digital, but the assumption should never be made that someone who is low level ESOL has low level digital skills, as once the language was no longer a barrier, the learners excelled in their digital skills.

Working collaboratively across specialisms has helped both tutors to develop their teaching practices, when preparing resources and developing digital content for learners. Providing the opportunities for both open and honest discussions between the tutors has been beneficial and resulted in a better learning experience for the learners. The honesty and openness of both tutors supported the success of the collaborative teaching, which was key to its success.

Islington ACL EDS Report

Developing Essential Digital Skills amongst elementary level learners of ESOL

Islington Adult Community Learning

This project developed a short discrete Digital Skills course to bridge the digital skills gap for ESOL learners and to enable the learners who have the greatest need to improve their Essential Digital Skills. The aim of the course was to enable the learners to confidently access email and Zoom sessions across a range of devices. Feedback from learners has been positive and the project team believe that the key to its success was the way in which it was delivered by ESOL teachers rather than IT teachers.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway.

Summary

Islington Adult Community Learning (ACL) is situated in the London Borough of Islington, which borders on the London Boroughs of Hackney, Haringey and Camden. The department offers further education and health and well-being courses for Islington residents over the age of nineteen, with learning centres located in libraries, children’s centres, community centres and other locations across the borough.

Islington is a borough of sharp contrasts, with areas of high deprivation as well as pockets of wealth. Within this setting, ACL operates under the wider council priority to create a fairer Islington.

Islington ACL’s mission is –

  • To create the opportunity for residents from whatever their background, to reach their potential and enjoy a good quality of life.
  • By delivering outstanding teaching and learning, to meet the needs of residents, employers and the local community.
  • To inspire learners to develop the digital skills, knowledge and aptitudes they need to be successful, happy in their future lives and realise their next steps in education and employment.
  • To remove digital skills exclusion, to enable residents who need to access basic digital skills course to increase employment opportunities, access online resources and information.

At a local level, the need for developing valuable skills in this area was exemplified during the 2020 pandemic when the delivery of our programmes in ACL Islington were largely carried out online. It quickly became apparent that there were many learners who were not secure in their digital skills which prevented them from participating and benefiting from our new online mode of learning.

This was a responsive, short term project to support adult ESOL learners to build their confidence and skills with the devices they had to enable the learner to engage in learning. The project revolved around a set of co-created interactive PowerPoint resources, which moved PowerPoint from a linear process to being learner led. Tutors would be able to apply theoretical understanding of effective practice in teaching, learning and assessment while drawing on the research and learner feedback.

Rationale

It is important that learners are able to make meaning from their online learning. The team were focused on developing responsive resources that helped to address specific needs that learners were bringing. Many of the learners involved in the project had been excluded from other opportunities due to not having the appropriate digital skills or access to devices; reaching them and supporting their digital development was especially important.



Approach

ESOL tutors identified 26 learners from ESOL spring term 2021 programmes (see appendix 1) who required urgent support with digital skills (Beard & Wilson, 2006:16). The learners were split into two groups Group 1 (ESOL Pre-Entry and Entry 1) and Group 2 (ESOL Entry 2 and Entry 3).

The following were identified as the greatest areas for skills development within the ESOL Pre-Entry – Entry 1 cohort. They are as follows:

  • devices
  • Zoom
  • pictures
  • WhatsApp
  • Internet

ESOL Entry 2/3 cohort required developing skills in the following areas:

  • Zoom controls
  • Device & internet vocabulary
  • Zoom chat & reactions
  • Online search
  • Moodle
  • Email
  • Attachments

Before the course went live the tutors developed resources that were able to be used with different devices.

Image of slide showing how to use chat on your computer/ laptop

How to use chat on your computer/ laptop

The course delivery was via Zoom and the tutor used interactive PowerPoint presentations (See Appendix 6). As our learners used a range of different devices to access online courses, we did not want to restrict the project to just one device. Although this could have been easier to deliver the project it would not have reflected our learners who use different devices to access courses. It would have been another barrier and further digital exclusion. The project was to develop resources and teaching methodology that could be used not only for ESOL learners on this project but also wider use across the service. Before the course started, the tutor contacted the learners to find out the type of device they would be using to access the sessions. The tutors were then aware of the different types of devices that learners were using and this in turn informed the resources that were developed to support them.

Each session was designed to take into account scope for free practice. Learners were given time away from the lesson to enable them to practice the skills being taught in the online lessons under the tutor’s guidance. This was a logical approach to support the development of the learners’ digital skills from the start of the course through to completion. Reviewing each session at the start of the next and giving the learners the opportunity to practice using their own devices, what had been covered in each session. The tutor started each session with a review of what had been covered in the first session and asked if the learners had had the opportunity to use the digital skills they had learnt from the previous session.

Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

The action research project enabled the tutors involved to reflect on what worked in their own delivery of the material, to meet the individual needs of our learners. Tutors developed their research skills and evidence-based practice. They also gained opportunities to network, collaborate and form professional relationships with other colleagues from different ACLs during research sharing events. The project gave the tutors more freedom and encouraged the tutors to be more creative in developing new resources and using different teaching and learning strategies. This had a positive impact on our learners and encouraged them to be more confident to try new skills and improve existing skills. Tutors are now more confident to try new teaching strategies and also support other tutors, who were not involved in the project to develop their own resources, developing a culture of self-evaluation through Teaching Learning Reviews and removing the fear of trying something new.

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisation practices

The project was a collaboration with tutors from two curriculum areas, ESOL and digital specialists. The combination of tutors from each specialist area was important to help address language barriers and to meet learners’ needs effectively. Teachers worked together to develop resources, with another member of the project team meeting learners after their sessions to collect and collate learner accounts.

The project encouraged and provided opportunities for staff to work together on a research project. Staff have an opportunity to lead in gathering the information, conducting the research, interviewing learners and tutors and presenting findings. The project also provided the opportunity for staff to work together to evaluate each other’s practice, including how the strategies implemented during the project impacted on learning and outcomes for learners.

Tutors on the project have shared resources developed with other areas not just ESOL and Digital Skills. The resources can be used across all curriculum areas for learners with low digital skills to enable the learners to access courses. Tutors are contributing to quality improvements within the organisation, delivering CPD sessions to tutors firstly about the project and then three training sessions to help tutors improve their own digital skills and develop specific resources’ that could be used in their sessions and shared across the service. This has been an important part of the Quality Assurance for the service, enabling staff to utilise their skills and share good practice across the service.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression

Essential Digital Skills course published on the ACL learner brochure (ACL Islington 2021)

Essential Digital Skills course published on the ACL learner brochure (ACL Islington 2021)

The project team arranged an initial introduction and a brief survey to find out what level learners were working towards, and which devices they would be using to access their course. However, the resources for the Week 1 sessions were prepared in advance of meeting the learners and having a clear picture of their needs. As a result of this, the materials focused on giving learners a basic understanding of the technologies/ devices they have in-hand and improving their confidence to engage and navigate their learning environment using Zoom.

Tasks were successfully evaluated and tracked through tutor observation of the Zoom participant panel, as well as learner feedback (yes/no). Learners used Zoom chat to send messages to their tutor and other learners in the class. They were also shown how to use WhatsApp to send messages and pictures. This helped provide feedback in sessions and for the tutor to evaluate their learning.

The original course outline was initially considered ambitious for this level of ESOL learner. However, tutors adapted the resources after each session. Using the revised resources, that were easier for the learners to understand and linked to different devices being used, there were an adequate number of practical opportunities for the learners and time to complete them. To check learning, the learners used their own examples of topics and keywords and considered how it could be used outside the classroom. At the end of the course, all objectives were met, and attendees demonstrated and fed back their understanding sufficiently to consider all aims as completed satisfactorily.

Though starting from a basic level, learners were now able to use their own devices to begin accessing courses:

“I learnt how to send message in Zoom chat, how to listen. Which phone is latest, which phone is an old phone, I didn’t know before. I know how to send pictures message, how to search and find everything online.”

Using the ACL Moodle VLE, learners and staff were able to share their experiences of the project. This provided a safe environment for learners to provide feedback and tutors to develop the resources for learners to access. Tutors were able to manage and encourage positive learner behaviour and learner experience. Removing the barriers of digital exclusion, similar to when learners’ opportunities are improved as their literacy and language skills improve and open up a world of opportunity, not only further learning but also able to access both social and employment opportunities.

The project gave learners from different social and cultural backgrounds (including those with limited or no access to digital technologies) opportunity to access and participate in learning. Teaching strategies and the resources developed by the tutors motivated learners to use technology, making the learners more confident in accessing learning. Learners were also no longer afraid to practise or make mistakes when using Moodle or attending sessions using Zoom. The project became more learner-led as it progressed, and as learners’ digital skills improved, tutors responded by developing resources that would further stretch and challenge them.

The project focus was on improving ESOL learners Digital Skills and accessing online course EDS and ESOL, the soft skill was learner confidence and this can be seen in the case studies.

“I learn how to find anything how to search, how to write my name in Zoom. I comfortable, I try by myself and I’m happy to teach computer because I want to do learn by myself and I didn’t want to ask my friend all day, what can I do what is this. It is hard sometimes to ask all day, ‘what is this?’. I’m happy now”.
Learner H (appendix 4)

“Nobody can come to you and teach you…struggle, very struggle. Now a little bit better than before because you can go to talk with them, you can talk with them, you can help you in office but because of corona, nobody helped you. Now I know three or four things, I know how you use it…zoom, email. I use it by myself. That one is important, if you learn more, you can do.”
Learner A (appendix 5)

Learning from this project

What Went Well

  • This project will help shape the landscape for developing the skills our learners need to navigate around the web safely and will greatly enhance their lives in the U.K. Following this discrete programme, learners now have the skills to conduct everyday things such as online browsing, shopping online, and accessing learning materials. Also, importantly, preventing further social exclusion by enabling learners to stay connected through online platforms. Both courses had a positive impact on the learners who attended and they were able to link the gaps in their knowledge to the newly acquired digital skills. They now have an understanding of the technical language needed to recognise and identify skills needed for future development.
  • Learners were able use the skills learnt to access online services that previously they were unable to, providing a new outlook for the learners. This was really important, and in a way, a light bulb moment for the learners; Bridging the gap between what they wanted to do and what they were instructed to do by others. This gave them a deeper contextual understanding.
  • Learners had particular areas of EDS that were especially aspirational such as transacting online. The project enabled an exploratory approach that was able to tap into learners’ interests and motivations.
  • The interactive and non-linear design of the resources enabled learners to ‘take their own route’, which was surprisingly successful.

Even Better If

  • The learners made huge steps to improve their digital skills. If we had more information about their level prior to starting the course, it may have helped designing and developing the resources.
  • Through the course of learner sampling, it became evident the skills to be taught on the course had to be scaled back to the bare basic. It quickly became evident after the first session that the starting point for the course is vocabulary used in digital skills delivery.
  • Learners and teachers would appreciate more time to work on digital skills.
  • Learners stressed that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and it is important for teachers to remember this.

Manchester AES EDS Report

“Beginner EDS? There’s an app for that!”

Manchester Adult Education Service

This project explored to what extent our Learning Community app could support low level English learners to develop their Foundation Essential Digital Skills (EDS) in a blended learning environment. Learners have responded positively to the app content and the project has inspired more of our colleagues to use it too.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway.

Summary

Manchester Adult Education provides Entry Level to Level 2 courses/activities to improve the lives and skills of adults in Manchester. Our learners are from diverse backgrounds with varying motives for developing their Essential Digital Skills.

This project looked at our Learning Community app, which had originally been designed for the delivery of Pre-Entry ESOL content to low level learners enrolled on the ‘Talk English’ Project programme. This app, which is actually a website, has useful features for beginner learners of digital. For example, clear and easy to navigate colour coded sections for ‘classroom’ and ‘targets’, and settings to prevent learners from leaving the app when clicking, so reducing the number of browsers open at any one time.

Teachers can direct learners to the app to complete modules and set targets. Learners can complete activities in the app and evidence completion through ‘ticking,’ adding photographs and using voice recordings. Teachers can give feedback to learners on their progress within the app.

We wanted to know to what extent this app could be used to develop EDS with foundation level learners with low English and Entry Level 1 to Entry Level 3 ESOL learners, and if it could prepare learners for developing their EDS in a blended learning environment. The app wasn’t used on an accredited EDS course; it was used on non-accredited courses with the aim to better prepare learners for an eventual EDS qualification (EDSQ).

Rationale

Image showing the learner view on the app

Figure 1: Learner view on the app

Our Digital Skills for Beginners courses attract significant numbers of low-level English and ESOL learners. Digital Inclusion and progression into positive destinations is a priority for MAES.

We noticed that many learners progressing through the Digital Skills for Beginners courses either did not want to progress to the next level course or they were not yet ready to progress. There were anxieties and confidence issues around moving to a blended learning environment (our Entry Level 3 EDSQ is a blended model delivery). It was also evident that, for some learners with low level language/basic skills, the acquisition of foundation skills could take longer.

We wanted to increase accessibility and progression amongst this particular group of learners and felt that the app could be used to facilitate these areas by providing a safe and supportive space for learners to develop their digital skills. The app can be thought of as a simplified Google Classroom, and it was hoped that use of the app would develop learners’ essential digital skills through a blended learning model.

Learners who had already completed a 6-week face-to-face Beginner course (or had slightly higher skills) would be invited to a 6-week blended course: “Beginner Plus”. The plan was that learners would have one session in the classroom and complete one task asynchronously at home, via the app.

The app tracks learner progress and helps provide an evidence base, so it is clear to see any progression through activities attempted and/or completed, recordings, feedback and to get a sense of the development of softer skills, e.g. digital confidence and resilience.



Approach

Image shows the digital skills clock created with learners.

Figure 2: Digital Skills Clock

In terms of app content, we wanted to prepare learners for potential future EDSQs and so we identified areas which we felt Beginner Digital Skills learners would need to practise (namely email and video conferencing). However, we did not want to impose the curriculum from the top down and so we worked with the learners to create a digital skills clock. This approach helped both them and us to see how and when they used digital skills.

From this approach, it became clear in all our classes that learners wanted to develop email and video conferencing skills. It was great that the areas of the EDS standards which we felt they needed to practise actually aligned with the skills the “Beginner EDS? There’s an app for that!” (Manchester Adult Education Service)
learners themselves identified as being most relevant to their lives. The EDSQs definitely seem much more reflective of how people use tech nowadays (than previous IT qualifications).

We decided to introduce the app in the face-to-face Beginner classes that were running at 3 centres during Lockdown 3 (Jan-Mar 2021). We had envisaged it as a simple blended learning approach that we could use with our Beginner Plus classes but we asked all the Beginner classes if they would be interested in using it too.

Different teachers had different approaches: some left it to individual students to decide if they wanted to use the app and some made it integral to their lessons. Modules on topics such as, email, video calling, copy and pasting were added to virtual classrooms and individual work was sent in the private chat as a link.

All teachers involved recorded their reflections on a shared Padlet (see Appendix 2). Here is a reflection from one teacher from the session where she first introduced the app to the group:

“I like how they are very vocal about what they need and would find useful. A lot of discussion on ‘IT frustrations’ and I wonder if we could have something on the app around ‘reframing feelings’ when something goes wrong e.g – “it’s another opportunity to practise those steps” instead of “oh now what have I done” – I heard a lot of that today and I think they put too much pressure on themselves.”

Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

Although some learners were really excited about it and seemed keen to use it; others were less enthused by it. This appeared to be for several reasons: some learners had come on the course to learn PC skills and did not want to practise on a phone app; some did not want to study at home; ESOL learners found it quite hard to get on the app on their phone, as well as trying to learn how to use a PC.

We felt that with more time to explore and practise the app (for both teachers and learners), more of us would come to see the value of it; that is, it is a relatively easy-to-use, self-contained VLE (virtual learning environment) and communication system. Instead of learners and teachers having to familiarise themselves with several different platforms, the app has lots of features and is self-contained. One teacher commented:

“I am looking forward to using the stream to communicate with my learners. It seems more efficient that emails and less invasive than texting them on their personal phones.”

Following discussions with the Talk English team (who have used the app extensively), we developed an approach to introducing the app that included breaking down the stages of using the app into microsteps, so as not to rush into getting learners on it and completing the lessons.

As a result of this useful feedback, a teacher on the Pre-Entry “Digital for ESOL” course (which we launched just recently) spent much longer on the lead-in to the app with these Pre-Entry learners than when she introduced it to the (mainly) native speakers on the Beginner Plus bridging course. She spent time pre-teaching lots of useful vocabulary before even mentioning the app; terms such as homescreen, click/tap, add, homework, app, PIN/password helped the learners to understand how and why they were using it. She also used lots of visuals to depict each step of searching for and logging on to the app website. This was a crucial stage that had been overlooked by some teachers when we used the app initially.

For learners in our pilot “Beginner Plus” classes, using the app seemed to help them achieve their stated aims. After watching tutorial videos on Google Meet and Zoom, and then testing their knowledge with Wordwall games, learners were able to access both Zoom and Meet and use some of the key features in these apps. By allowing them to see the interface in videos first and then reinforcing the video content by completing quizzes, it could be suggested that learners had a reduced cognitive load (Shibli and West, 2018) when coming to try the apps for the first time. They already knew what to expect and understood what each icon was for.

One learner noted that she and her classmates were making ‘small steps and big changes’. Learning how to cut and paste, for instance, made a big difference to their digital work. By studying tutorial videos on the app and then practising on their phones, they felt better able to cut and paste data to complete their Universal Credit journals.

In terms of teaching practice, we will continue to use tutorial videos, vocabulary pre-teaching, games and quizzes to introduce new software before learners access it for themselves.

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisation practices

The courses took place in different locations across the city and this resulted in different demographics according the localities. One group consisted of predominantly white British job seekers, another group was mostly learners with an ESOL background, and a further group was much more mixed. Teachers adapted their approach based on the needs of the group and it was revealed (perhaps unsurprisingly) that the groups with an ESOL profile needed more induction time on the app than those who had English as a first language. It is easy to tailor content on the app to each learner, by sending links as direct messages.

Increasing motivation and maintaining engagement to use the app was key. Through initial assessment, teachers came together to discuss key course targets and how this blended course would differ from our purely face-to-face beginner course. We decided to focus on email and video calling (the communication aspect of the EDS framework).

Tutors who were using the app shared ideas and activities to support learners in achieving the KCTs (key course targets). The project lead and deputy developed these into modules on the app for all teachers to use in their classrooms (with the flexibility of using the app in different ways that suited learners’ contexts).

Image showing reflections from the teachers google sheet

Figure 3: Reflections from Teachers Google Sheet

Teachers from different curriculum areas came together to discuss their experiences of the app and to direct our next steps with it. We learned from each other’s experiences (see Figure 3: Reflections from Teachers Google Sheet, also on the Wakelet from Appendix 2) and now use a shared Google Drive of resources to better introduce the app to learners.

Tutors added reflections to the collaborative Padlet (see Appendix 2) and caught up with each other in meetings, telephone calls and ad hoc conversations. Tutors could comment on reflections and concerns, and support with any trouble shooting. Participants in the project ranged from a student teacher to a curriculum manager; it was good to see collaboration happening amongst professionals of all levels and experiences.

We are now using the app as part of our “Digital for ESOL” short course, which is being co-created by teachers from Digital Skills and Talk English teams, and hope to use it as part of a new “Digital Nature” course, which will be informed by the work of a Family Learning tutor who delivered an “Outdoor Adventurers” course. There is great potential to roll-out the use of this app across all curriculum areas at MAES, both to capture learning on non-accredited courses and also to support the development of learners’ foundation digital skills, and we can share our learnings of what works (and what doesn’t) with our wider team colleagues.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression

Learners had differing motivations for joining the course. These different motivations were targeted through the app content. Learners looking to secure work and referred by local DWP centres wanted to develop specific skills relating to job search etc as well as develop confidence in relation to specific aspects of digital technology. Other learners wanted to develop their laptop skills, and some wanted to better develop their essential digital skills for learning on other courses.

During the first session, learners reported feelings of ‘confusion’ ‘being overwhelmed’ ‘being lost’ and ‘lacking in confidence.’ We wanted learners to experiment, take risks, make mistakes, use multiple digital skills and have fun. It seemed that the app would provide this safe ‘self-contained’ space for learners to have a positive experience and build their skills. It would also be a space where learning was manageable, and motivations could be met and/or extended.

Some learners returned to the app, others didn’t engage with the app outside of the classroom and some didn’t engage at all. This perhaps reflects the different motivations learners have or could be indicative of how much app “buy-in” the individual teachers developed with their classes.

As outlined earlier, learners in the “Beginner Plus” classes were able to achieve their targets by watching tutorial videos, playing games and then testing out the various platforms (e.g. Zoom, Meet, Gmail) for themselves.

Some learners really enjoyed getting the tailored work in the private chat and two “Beginner Plus” learners have just progressed onto a blended Entry Level 3 Essential Digital Skills course (see Appendix 2 for more positive feedback.)

Learning from this project

Despite being a short project, many learners got value from taking part in it. Feedback included “really useful”, “good for practice” and “excited” [to use it]. The fact that the app is simple and self-contained was really effective for lower-level learners and felt more effective than Google Classroom; we are now using it as the main learning management system for our Pre-Entry “Digital for ESOL” course. However, it was not wholly successful.

Image of the wordwall activity

Figure 4: Wordwall activity

For some learners the size of the screen was too small on their phones. Most of the app’s features were readable but when it came to doing Wordwall activities (see Figure 4), for example, the font size was just too small. Teachers must always check any content they add to the app on their own phones to ensure readability, ideally on different makes of phone where possible.

To make it easier to use (and to practise their PC skills), some learners added the website as a bookmark to their browser bar and they found that to be much more accessible.

We learned that if you want learners to start using the app regularly, you need to add content that is meaningful, relevant and useful to them and to provide timely feedback on any tasks you set. We needed to get into the habit of regularly checking the app from home to see who had been on it and responding to their input. We allocated time in our calendars for this task.

We also needed to use the app at set times in the face-to-face classroom so that learners could get used to accessing it with teacher support, where necessary. Setting warm-up activities on the app worked well for this and soon learners in some classes were used to logging straight onto the app to find the activity.

We all agreed that the app needed to be introduced early on in the course and at the start of a lesson. It was hard to take learners off a task that they were really engage in order to get them using the app. It worked much better in the classes where teachers used the app for starter activities.

We also agreed that the app needed to be an integral part of the course teaching method, at least initially. If it was not wholly integrated, it risked being just another onerous bit of tech to learn.

A common reflection was that getting learners on the app initially was quite hard work and generally required one-to-one support. Where it was easy for learners, this tended to be in classes where English was a first language.

Perhaps learners needed much longer learning the skills of how to enter their username (i.e. phone number) and pin. I wonder if, in some cases, the teachers could be so invested in the content of the app, that the stage of actually getting on it in the first place gets a little rushed. The skill of accurately entering a username and password could easily be practised over an entire lesson or more.

Also, once on the app, many learners would forget their pin between sessions and found re-setting it hard work. A screencast showing learners exactly how to re-set their pin, would be really useful.

We need to be mindful of the potential frustrations some learners may face when having difficulties logging in. Teachers reminded them that it wasn’t their problem; it is something we all struggle with at times.

We feel that a lot of pre-teaching of entering usernames and pins would be beneficial before introducing the app. This skill is essential for so many online services that it cannot be rushed or overlooked.

Now we have started using the app with Pre-Entry ESOL learners (who are learning Digital Skills), we have adapted our approach to spend much longer on the lead-in and pre-teaching important vocabulary. Getting learner “buy-in” to the app before trying to get them on it is so important too. If they know why they are doing it, and can see the value of the app, any potential frustrations during logging on may be mitigated by this desire to use it.



References

Shibli, D. and West, R. (2018) Cognitive Load Theory and It’s Application in the Classroom. Impact: Journal of the Chartered College of Teaching (2). Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/shibli-cognitive-load-theory-classroom/ (accessed 4 May 2021).

Update:

Since writing this initial report, we have used the app as the main learning platform for several 4-week Digital for ESOL courses. Learners have used the app to complete their ILPs (individual learning plans), complete online lessons and communicate with teachers and classmates.

These courses were taught entirely via learners’ smartphones and so the skills needed to use the app were relevant to the course content (namely, using phones to access online ESOL classes). Teachers spent time pre-teaching relevant vocabulary (e.g. app, log-in, PIN, add to homescreen) and focused on the micro-steps of getting on and using the app effectively.

Because the app was introduced as the main learning platform and all learners were eager to use it, there was no reluctance to it. Learners on these courses were not there to improve their desktop skills and so using the app on their phone didn’t feel like a distraction to the main lesson, as it did in some of the earlier classes. Several Beginner Plus learners said they were competent with smartphones and what they really wanted was the chance to develop their keyboard skills.

The absence of PCs in the Digital for ESOL classrooms also helped with learner buy-in. Whereas in the Beginner Plus courses learners were seated at and invested in using the PCs, in these Digital for ESOL classes the focus was on using the learner’s own device and so it became a habit for learners to engage with the app both during and outside of lessons.

Newcastle CL EDS Report

Assumptions and anxieties: Learners’ feelings about applying digital skills in workplace contexts

Newcastle City Learning

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Isaac Asimov

This project investigated learners’ feelings about digital notetaking in the health and social care workplace. The key discovery was that learners’ anxieties were based around the content of the notes themselves rather than the digital skills required to undertake the task. In response, supportive time-limited tasks were developed that modelled real-life scenarios whilst developing learners’ digital literacies.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway.

Screenshot of NCLs Padlet. See appendices to access

Summary

Newcastle City Learning is an institution which provides a variety of courses to Post-16 learners developing knowledge and practical skills for work in the UK. This project focused on a group of trainee caregivers enrolled on the Care Academy course. The group were a mix of ESOL and native English learners.

The main area of exploration was in relation to a work-based Care Academy and how to support potential carers to develop their digital skills for the workplace. The team supported learners to work on specific skills most pertinent to their area of work, including notetaking. The team found that building in time for talking and reflection with learners was especially important to help learners grow in confidence but also to reflect important values for working in care.

Rationale

Assumptions are often made about what learners can or cannot do, particularly in relation to digital skills and capabilities. Note taking is a particularly important skill that learners need to develop when preparing to work in health and social care and increasingly these need to be written and sent digitally. Digital skills are often taught discretely and not applied in work situations until after learners have finished their course. This research aimed to gain a fuller understanding of how learners feel about applying digital skills competently by simulating a workplace situation, within a given time frame. Additionally, this research aimed to introduce the learners to, and improve, digital note taking skills.



Approach

Before:

At the start of this project the tutors discussed the content and context of potential activities, the logistics and the delivery of this topic within the short 4-week window of the course. All tutors involved have contributed to the planning and delivery of the Care Academy curriculum, therefore they had a good understanding of the care standards required from the learners.

Tutors devised 4 open questions about aspects of digital notetaking skills competencies. In order to discuss in depth and to get ideas from all the learners, the class was arranged into breakout groups with an allocated tutor. They were then encouraged to discuss their feelings about digital notetaking skills. This allowed tutors to identify where their anxieties come from, rather than simply accepting that their anxieties were present.

The project team shared the responses and information collected from the learners and agreed on the next activities and strategies. Therefore, activities were planned around learners’ expressed anxieties rather than what we assumed were their anxieties.

During:

Most of the learners had neither seen nor written care notes before so scaffolded notetaking activities were developed, including exemplars, practice work and top tips for digital notetaking.

To start, example care plan cards were discussed in small groups and ranked from best to worst based upon learners’ educated guesses. Following this activity, students were encouraged to give feedback on the cards and their reasoning behind the rankings. This was intended to make learners think about appropriate and inappropriate notetaking practice.

Top tips for writing notes were discussed and examples were created as a group that listed the information they thought should be included when writing a care note. For example, physical changes such as: deteriorating health, pain, injuries or a change in hair colour.

A comparison of good and bad exemplar notes describing the same scenario was the final activity which prepared learners to produce their own digital care notes. Using a detailed scenario and some previous notes about the patient, learners digitally wrote and sent care notes with realistic time pressures. Tutor and peer feedback followed to discuss what learners felt confident or less confident about.

Reflecting:

Learners completed a questionnaire about the notetaking activities and shared their feelings about it. They were given 8 sentence starters to encourage discussion about their perceived confidence and ability when making digital care notes. This proved very useful to distinguish the various skills used and areas for improvement in teaching.

In depth discussions with two learners with contrasting English language abilities gave more in depth student feedback.

Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

This project impacted on our professional practice in numerous ways. Firstly, it led us to question our initial digital skills assessments and ask if they are too skills based and to a certain extent superficial. How can we get a clear image of students’ digital skills without witnessing them in a relevant context? This led to us changing our initial assessments by making them more discussion- and activity-focused to ascertain learner starting points.

Learner perceptions of their digital skills were different to our assumptions, and this made us question how much of our other teaching is based on assumptions. Learner perceptions were more focused on the desire to get it right with notetaking and their anxieties were directed here. Pullinger and Franklin (2010, p.111) discovered similar anxieties among pharmacists when writing healthcare notes. One pharmacist stated, “You wouldn’t want to be wrong in the notes… you’ve got to be pretty sure of your facts”, a sentiment shared by our learners. Recognising this has reminded us to be fully prepared to work digitally to alleviate these concerns through blending the unfamiliar skills of notetaking with more familiar digital skills.

We now appreciate that learners need opportunities to overcome these anxieties. Our planning has taken on a new focus on integrated tasks that can achieve this, rather than singling out desired skills to improve and expecting learners to know how and when to use them appropriately.

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisation practices

The project enabled a space for staff to connect and talk about teaching and learning. This is something that is not always prioritised but was really appreciated. With ever increasing time taken up with administration and developing the technical knowledge needed to teach online, it was a powerful reminder of the importance of tutors taking the time to ‘talk’ about teaching and learning. 

There is now a greater focus on talking, listening and Socratic questioning, which is filtering into other aspects of teaching and learning. Development in this area has been highlighted as key to developing critical problem-solving skills. 

Existing teaching and activities for this course are being reassessed, including pace and timings, to create time for these changes. 

The benefits of the action research approach have been disseminated within the wider organisation and an action research sharing CPD programme is being developed to demonstrate the success of our adapted approach. 

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression

In applying their digital skills to a real situation, the majority of learners changed from thinking that hand-written notes would be faster and easier, to agreeing that digital notes were their preferred option (See appendix 3).

Learners commented that they made fewer mistakes working digitally. When discussing benefits of digital notes one learner commented “When I write it down [on paper] I’ll probably make 2 or 3 mistakes”. Some learners felt more comfortable moving towards digital notetaking practices if they were able to write a draft in their phone first before adding their notes into the official document. This highlighted the importance of familiarity with technological devices and showed that the basic skills were present, learners just needed that extra step to demonstrate their digital notetaking competence.

Learners felt that they got through their digital skills activities more quickly, because they were using them meaningfully. Helsper and Deursen (2015, p.129) support these findings by stating “… [digital] training is more attractive for individuals when it’s built around contents and assignments that are appealing to those concerned.” This clearly made an impact on students as the course recorded 100% achievement and retention.

On completion of the course every learner had the opportunity to attend an interview and 60 – 80% secured employment. One employer commented that “the learners recruited from the course had much more awareness and confidence than our usual recruits”.

Learning from this project

Learning from this project has been wide ranging. Despite tutors’ assumptions, learner concerns were less about whether they had the required skills and knowledge, but whether they could apply the skills and knowledge in the role, and within a certain time frame, with many asking themselves ‘Am I going to get it right?’ 

Work in health and social care is perceived as low skilled and needing few qualifications. We wrongly assumed this meant learners would have limited digital skills or lack confidence, “Those most likely to have low levels of digital literacy tend to be simultaneously economically, socially and personally disadvantaged.” (Helsper and Deursen, 2015, p.129). However, our findings showed many learners are confident using technology and opportunities to apply them in the workplace is a key area for development. 

It is easy to assume that technology is the issue and that learners’ digital skills are limiting their ability to take care notes. How often are we guilty of making assumptions because we are unaware of our biases? How often should we ‘scrub off’ these assumptions and let the light in? 

More time needs to be made to talk to students about their concerns and starting points rather than developing token checklists to file. If we stick to the latter, we risk making activities less meaningful and relevant to future practice in employment. 

Integrated and context specific activities prepare learners for the workplace and build confidence. Increased opportunities to feedback and communicate their feelings led to increased engagement and feeling ‘valued’. 

If we were to do this again, a suggestion to improve the digital note taking task would be to simulate a more realistic digital system for submitting the care notes. This would give learners a more accurate experience. 

ESOL learners in particular could benefit from some help to understand the skills they are developing so they don’t remain overly focused on the knowledge they are learning. 

References 

Brophy, J. (2004). Motivating Students to Learn. 2nd ed. pp.4-9. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 

Helsper, E. and Deursen, A. J.A.M. (2015). Digital Skills in Europe: Research and Policy. In K. Andreasson, Digital Divides, pp.125-146. New York: Taylor & Francis. 

Pullinger, W. and Franklin, B.D. (2010). Pharmacists’ documentation in patients’ hospital health records: issues and educational implications. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 18(2), pp.108-115. 

Haringey ALS EDS Report

Embedding wellbeing approaches in EDS programmes

Haringey Adult Learning Service

This project underpinned principles around Trauma Informed Practice. We explored the real impact misinformation is having on women who are disproportionately affected in COVID-19 times. A co-design element was at the heart of the project where learners created video diaries and community messages outlining the positive influence on their wellbeing.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway.

Summary

Haringey Adult Learning Services (HALS) provide basic skills and vocational courses that target migrant residents with low levels of English, people with no qualifications or those not qualified to Level 2. Learners are unemployed or in low paid employment. High levels of health inequality in the east of the borough mean most learners have low to moderate mental health needs. The service works to the borough regeneration and economic development strategy via a Good Employment Recovery Plan. The service has a strong ethos of multi-agency working, partnership, inclusion and learner involvement, underpinned by a strengths-based approach.

Our work investigated the effect on learner wellbeing of embedding wellbeing activities into EDS sessions with a focus on online misinformation. We focused this project on women (particularly single parents) due to the disproportionate effects data has shown that COVID-19 has had on this group (Institute for Social and Economic Research, 2020)

The project team was made up from Essential Digital Skills (EDS) Tutors and a Creative Skills tutor to facilitate the co-design aspect of developing and embedding the misinformation/disinformation workshops.

Small group sessions aimed to give a safe space for learners to explore individual concerns around fake news. Through a co-design approach the focus was on empowerment to take control of these issues and, using new digital skills, create their own positive messaging around misinformation.

Intended outcomes included:

  • providing an understanding of what misinformation is
  • learning about who creates and shares misinformation
  • exploring what motivations people have for doing this
  • considering how misinformation can affect our wellbeing
  • investigating how we keep up-to-date with information online.

We wanted learners to build confidence in these key areas through the workshops and co-creation activity, and a sense of connection with a wider online community through their sharing of the resources.

Rationale

The focus on women for this project (particularly single parents) was in line with the Trauma Informed Approach (Weston College, 2018; Shevrin Venet, 2020) with which HALS has been underpinning its delivery since March 2020.

Our video diary activity was designed so that learners were able to use the device which is most accessible to them. The co-created message activity focussed on short slogans, which were digitally produced so that learners’ language and literacy skills will not be a barrier.

ESOL Learners were also encouraged to produce their messages in languages other than English so that they could be used in future in their communities. Tutors needed digital upskilling, particularly in the areas of digital wellbeing, to improve confidence to facilitate these topics.

To disseminate progress and learning, project updates were shared on service and team chat threads and access to workshop resources were shared with all staff through a range of accessible formats. Staff were invited to trial any of the project activities and to reflect on their experience and learning in a shared online project space in MS Teams. Project updates were also recorded so that staff will be able to access them in a range of formats.



Approach

Stage 1:

  • Learners are introduced to the project and complete a quiz on fake news.
  • Learners create short video clips where they record how they feel misinformation is having an impact on their wellbeing.

Stage 2:
Learners take part in 2 workshops around misinformation following principles of co- design:

Workshop 1: Presentation delivered outlining:

  • What is misinformation?
  • Why do people create it and spread it?
  • Why is it so overwhelming?
  • How can I spot it?

Learners completed a survey answering questions through ‘Panda’ Emojis. The reason for choosing panda emojis was because we felt they represented the different emotions more visually than just the smiley faces. The panda was simply a design choice made from the various emoji icons available in PowerPoint.

The decision to use emojis in particular was based on it being recommended by our mentor as a really useful strategy for accessibility and understanding for questionnaires and getting feedback.

Questions included:

  • Do you think fake news is harmful or misleading?
  • How would you feel if you shared a message to friends and found out it was fake news?
  • How much do you trust social media to keep you up to date about issues you
    care about?
  • If a news story made you feel strong emotions (fear, anger), how confident do you feel that you would suspect it to be false or misleading?

Learners took part in ‘The Bad News Game’ to be in the shoes of someone who is spreading misinformation.

A series of community messages based on their new knowledge and skills were produced by the learners in MS Word.

Stage 3:

Learners shared wellbeing journeys by creating a second video diary recording:

  • What their experience was of playing ‘The Bad News Game’.
  • How confident they now felt that they can look after their own wellbeing (and
    their family and friends’) online in relation to what is fake or what is misleading.
  • Wellbeing community messages which were shared across the service.

The workshop template for the workshop events was also introduced to other classes across HALS.

Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

We are now seeing digital literacy programmes appearing in schools, colleges and universities, with lots of innovative lesson plans and tools, but roll-out is still very much a

Screenshot of Jamboard

Figure 1 – Jamboard

process of trial and error. The co-design element of this project allowed us to work with learners to get an understanding of how misinformation affects them based on their lived experience and design resources to meet their needs.

Our approach for this project was to create a series of co-designed workshops with a group of learners to create resources to raise awareness of and promote discussion about misinformation.

The practitioners involved were professionally developed as action researchers: we encouraged critical thinking about education, values and practice. A process model in the design and delivery of the workshops was put into practice. A praxis curriculum model with learners empowered to co-design content (motioning of learners as experts in their own learning and development) subsequently improved their wellbeing. We drew on relevant research as part of this evidence-based practice (Wardle and Derakhshan, 2017).

Screenshot of Edmodo Group page

Figure 2- Edmodo Group

In advance of the first workshop, we created a series of questions about misinformation for the learners to respond to in their video diaries. This allowed us to have a better understanding of what type of information and resources might help to address the knowledge gap and what kind of concerns and attitudes the group had about misinformation at the beginning of the project. This demonstrated our commitment to maintaining high standards of ethics and professional behaviour in support of learners and their expectations.

The activities encouraged the group to consider how they keep up-to-date online, how being online might impact their wellbeing and explored trusting our instincts and judgement in the online space. This was supported by the group creating statements and messages in response to a series of questions, such as “What would you say to someone who is feeling overwhelmed by false and misleading stories online?” and “What advice would you give to someone about looking after their wellbeing online?”, which were then shared within the group.

Throughout the project we were active. After each workshop we made changes for the following workshop based on identified learner needs, for example, introducing ‘The Bad News Game’ using role play, placing learners in the ‘shoes’ of someone: spreading fake news (see response in Video diary 2). We dedicated an additional workshop to develop the personal messages which allowed learners the time to reflect on what they had learned and freedom to create their own personalised community messages, enabling them to feel connected:

Practitioners are subject and/or vocational specialists as well as experts in teaching and learning and showed commitment in maintaining and developing their expertise in both aspects of their role to ensure the best outcomes for their learners. Continual refreshing of knowledge and skill sharing occurred across the project by sharing resources via the MS Teams platform and CPD sessions.

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisation practices

Project updates were shared on the service and team chat threads and access to the workshop resources shared with all staff through a range of accessible formats. Staff were

Image of messages from/ to learners in different languages

Figure 3 – Messages in first languages

invited to trial any of the project activities and to reflect on experience and learning in a shared online project space in MS Teams. Any project updates were also recorded so that staff will be able to access them in a range of formats.

The video diary activity was designed so that learners would be able to use the device which is most accessible to them. As not all learners had a smartphone, it was decided as a group to use MS Teams to record the videos, enabling all to participate.

The co-created message activity focused on learners’ devising short slogans, brief messages and digitally produced content so that learners’ language and literacy skills did not become a barrier. Although the messages were produced in English, ESOL Learners were encouraged to produce their messages in languages other than English. The benefits of this enabled learners to respond in their first language and therefore reduced cognitive load (Bell Foundation, 2021).

The workshops were designed and scheduled based on learner needs through practitioner collaboration. Practitioners in different roles worked constructively in new relationships both within HALS and in their own setting. The class tutor and the associate tutor collaborated on the resources to ensure they were relevant for the learner group.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression

The learners, as a group, reported that they often struggled to tell the difference between news that is real and that is ‘fake’. They were unanimous in believing that false and misleading news stories are harmful, but less clear about the motivations of why people create and spread misinformation online.

When asked if they were concerned about what is real and what is fake or misleading online, they provided some valuable insight into the impact of misinformation on their wellbeing.

One learner expressed concerns around violent and aggressive news stories, another how misinformation might impact and affect her children. A young mother said that she finds it “very scary” not knowing if what she is reading or listening to is real or not and shared her worry that the intention of misinformation might be an attempt to control you or make you believe something that isn’t true. A male learner spoke about how he is starting to struggle with misinformation, especially the news on social media, where people post messages or share links and it’s hard to know if it’s a joke or if the statistics are real.

This can be illustrated best with learner case studies. The first case study focuses on two female learners, K and M.

What were the learners’ challenges at the beginning?

K has two daughters, 19 and 16, and it is their age group she was most concerned about. She worried about the ease of access to information making them:

“…feel that they are in control because they know stuff, but it’s not really that they know, it’s that they know how to get or how to access stuff about, they don’t talk about, they see it, and there tends to be especially a tendency to accept it because (their) friends have been hearing it…”.

It therefore becomes more commonplace more acceptable. K also felt that people access information differently, and this can be confusing.

M was very concerned and said she was:

“…trying to avoid the news which are full of violence and aggression and I just tried to sort out everything, so I choose what I want to hear.”

She commented that it is a:

“…very difficult situation because you know it’s getting more and more and then we just stuck. Now if you watch TV, it just full of the headlines and other headlines already hitting basically two words to tell us everything!”

M was trying to be aware but found it quite intimidating as to how to find trustworthy news amongst the amount “headline” news intent for an emotive response.

What did they learn in the end?

K commented:

“I definitely feel more equipped. It’s good also to know that it’s so serious that there is a need to educate people. It’s not just all in my mind!”

She also remarked that she does not “have worry but thinks about it.” This demonstrated her new, calmer way of approaching the topic now that she is more equipped. At the same time,

“I guess I’m always expecting that something will come along and catch me out. But it’ll be fewer things because I know a bit more about it.”

M reflected:

“I think I got so much information that I never thought about that before. Not to take everything from social media, so it’s a truth. Here I got some so much more and it will help. So yeah, we will be much more aware of everything and I will double check everything!”

She also felt confident to pass on what she has learned to friends and family as:

“Everyone needs to be aware, but of course not to be paranoid about it. But obviously…we have to have our eyes open, you know, just to decide what is good, what is bad. So that’s why it has been really helpful.”

This learner feedback tells us that the experience was extremely valuable, and the learners enjoyed all stages of the project. They were fully engaged as it was meaningful to all participants in their own unique ways. They enjoyed being filmed and learning these digital skills. I looked forward to teaching them how to record and edit their own video diaries and this element will be covered in a Level 1 qualification.

The next steps for the team are that most learners are progressing to EDSQ Level 1, where they will explore recording and editing videos themselves at Level 1, developing further their digital literacy.

Learning from this project

Over the course of our investigation, we learned that:

  • Learners had some degree of knowledge about misinformation but not a clear understanding of what it is.
  • Learners reported feeling overwhelmed by the scale of misinformation online and worried about its effects on them and those close to them.
  • Learners had some idea of the motivations behind misinformation, and it was a cause for concern for many of them, particularly relating to health information.

We also valued feedback from EDS research peers at the dissemination event, in which practitioner research peers told us:

“What a critically important part of education – considering misinformation. This should be at the core of so many courses today”.
“I like the idea of video diaries”.
“[This curriculum is] potentially so empowering”.
“Misinformation is having a real impact on community health and wellbeing”.

What went well:

The project approach of breaking down the key aspects of misinformation, e.g. defining it, tools to spot it, was successful in helping the group to feel more confident about dealing and interacting with misinformation online.

Creating the personal messages and statements facilitated discussion around the issue and allowed learners to hear about lived experience from different perspectives. Although the group were unanimous that misinformation is harmful, what that harm looks like and how it impacts differs from person to person. So, beginning from a place of understanding the needs and concerns of the group supported the creation of resources that played a meaningful role in addressing the issue of misinformation and, more broadly, looking after their wellbeing online.

Even better if….

In the future we would like to extend the curriculum to allow exploration of learners’ own unconscious /confirmation bias. Are there outlets that they think ‘oh that must be false’ because they share views that don’t sit with their own e.g. “I’m right dot com” (Joe Rogan Experience, 2015).

These could be further tools to promote critical thinking in real contexts.
ESOL Learners could produce more of their messages in languages other than English, widening the reach in a diverse community.

Learners could be encouraged to record and edit their own videos improving their digital skills even further. This will be explored by the team in future with progressing learners at Level 1.

There is so much rich evidence and information on this project through learners’ testimonies. The best way to experience it is to visit our Padlet (Appendix 7) where you will find learner journey evidence, case studies, evaluation reports and information about our teaching and training resources.

Examples of resources involved in the project may also be found in Appendices 1-4.

References

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WAES EDS Report

Supporting LDD learners using Microsoft Teams

Westminster Adult Education Service

This project developed a session strategy and supporting resources for tutors working with learners who are accessing a Microsoft Teams webinar for the first time. The session and resources have already been trialled successfully with positive feedback from learners both over the phone and in learning resource centres.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway.

Summary

The project focus was on using Microsoft Teams and getting learners up and running on this platform. These are learners who have never used this app before and prior to lockdown the use of digital within the curriculum was not explored with them.

The first challenge to overcome was to get learners logged on and using Teams. Once this became regular and more familiar, we wanted to experiment with other activities and resources which would enable learners to use the chat function in Teams to be able to interact with other learners in a classroom.

This activity is important for our learners as Microsoft Teams provides a digital space that brings learners together to enable them to have conversations with each other and allows us to provide support with their learning. It enables them as learners to take part fully in their own learning, as well as achieving the main aim of encouraging collaboration between learners and tutors.

Rationale

The first COVID-19 lockdown in spring 2020 taught the team a lot about what learners needed to be able to engage with online learning. When coming back into the classroom, the team were keen not to lose what had been learnt, including effective embedding of digital skills. The aim of the project was to develop a resource to promote independence with learners with LDD. Learners needed tailored support to access programmes like MS Teams; teachers were spending hours supporting learners to do so, so we decided we needed to create resources to support this process.

The need for the support resource was identified due to a recent induction session that one of our team had with a new learner which took place over the telephone and lasted 2 hours. This was because the learner was unable to comprehend the original induction document, which was only accessible from the website. Given that these learners faced sufficient challenges accessing the online space, this was far too difficult for them. Based on this tutor-learner experience, our first thoughts were that an image-based support resource demonstrating how to log in for the first time, which can be sent to learners’ homes, may be the best way forward.

At the beginning of the project learners faced difficulties in logging onto Teams and they needed to understand how to use Microsoft365 in the first instance to use Teams properly. In addition, learners with difficulties and disabilities found it difficult to navigate the internet and lacked patience when content was being downloaded to the web browser, which resulted in them repeatedly clicking, causing multiple pages to pop up.

By developing a resource that specifically focused on providing a Teams induction we hoped to allow more learners to log on to Teams. This access would give them confidence and allow them in the short term to progress on their existing course. In the medium term this would allow them to access a greater number of other courses.



Approach

The team needed to consider the varying needs and spiky profiles of the learners. As a first step, the induction process was reviewed, with the aim of better understanding learners’ digital skills and capabilities.

As a result of this review, we focused our initial attention on one specific resource to identify how learners can be helped to develop digital skills and confidence. We also hoped to develop an additional resource for slightly more advanced learners.

We developed a learner guide to support the wider induction onto Teams of learners who are operating at Pre-Entry Level. We were unsure of what format this would take and from discussions with our EDS teachers who deliver the EDS qualification to mainstream learners, we decided to incorporate some elements of an existing induction resource that they were using with their learners.

A ‘how to access guide’ for MS Teams was developed which consisted of a two A4 page visual resource that signposted learners through the steps on the WAES website to log in to MS Teams (see Appendix 2).

Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

From the tutor-learner experience we quickly realised that time spent developing a clear resource and a step-by-step guide for learners would help reduce time spent 1:1 supporting MS Teams login and resource downloads. Previously this was taking anything from 1 to 2 hours of support outside the classroom, which was in addition to the GLH provided by the course being undertaken.

We observed good practice being undertaken by colleagues who worked in Community Learning. We filmed a Community Learning teacher demonstrating to learners how to access MS Teams via their phones. This was done in a classroom- based setting and required the use of the interactive whiteboard. In the observed session there were three participants. The total duration of the session was 1.5 hours. Our observation revealed that this was an efficient use of time.

We had also identified by observing the learners we worked with that the major stumbling block was that many learners with learning difficulties and disabilities were not aware of their student ID numbers, despite wearing a lanyard which displayed them. Some learners also had challenges in recalling their date of birth and some did not know their date of birth. The learners’ birth date was the required initial password, but they had challenges in inputting this. The knowledge from these observations further informed the presentation of how to complete this requirement in the resource (see appendix 3).

An additional necessary learning experience was a greater understanding of how to access MS Teams on a smartphone, as we had initially only been focusing on laptop access. Using a smartphone requires the downloading of the Teams app which was an additional step that was not considered before, as laptop access of MS Teams can be done through the browser.

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisation practices

The LDD team worked collaboratively with the EDS tutors in the design and implementation of the induction resource. See figure 1:

Image showing an induction resource where learners see step by step how to access the MS Teams pages

Figure 1: Induction resource

Having a visual aid showing the hyperlinks required to access the intranet, along with clear examples of username and password addressed signing in issues for learners.

We were able to observe community tutors inducting learners onto Teams and this helped shape our resource ideas further.

The EDS tutor assisted the design process of the induction materials which was directly informed by their own experience of delivering the new EDS qualification. With this in mind, as an aspiring qualification for some of our LDD learners, we felt that it was very relevant in supporting our learners onto further accredited qualifications.

During a recent QIP meeting the quality manager, impressed with the action research being undertaken, suggested that the ESOL team would also benefit from having access to the finished resources which could then be amended as necessary to meet the needs of their learners during their digital induction. Due to the simplicity of the resource design and the ease of language accessibility the resources lend themselves to being used across the wider curriculum for a wider range of learners operating at the lower ability scale.

The team aligned themselves with colleagues from other departments, to see where there was consistency and inconsistency in digital support and set up.

From this we identified that ESOL and community-based courses used tablets and smartphones to access Teams and greater emphasis was given to live demonstration. This was in contrast to our approach which consisted of producing a resource for learners, which they would then follow through the steps as directed. This was done to promote confidence and independence, to further enable learners, using PC and laptop only.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression

As part of the action research, we worked closely with and tracked the progress of two learners, DB and LKB (see Appendix 6).

To overcome digital poverty LKB was provided with a smartphone which we secured through The Good Things Foundation, who aim to work towards a goal where everyone benefits from digital access.

LKB is now able to access Teams on the smartphone as well as on a newly acquired tablet. He now regularly communicates with the project lead using the Teams chat facility (see Figure 2 and Appendix 4). In addition, he is now confident in writing emails and has communicated using these (see Appendix 5).

Image of an MS Teams page, showing chat facility between teacher and peers.

Figure 2: LKB using MS Teams chat facility to communicate with teacher and peers.

LKB now uses the chat facility outside normal class time to communicate with peers.

During lockdown 3, DB maintained engagement on two different courses which were delivered on Teams. DB completed his courses during term 2 and did not enrol on any courses in term 3.

DB: “I now prefer doing courses online and learn more by doing it this way”.

LKB: “I was never happy around using laptops and preferred my phone, but this has now changed……I broke my phone in lockdown and the college helped me get a new one, which helped my studies”.

The final resource (see Appendix 2) has been used for learners who have newly enrolled onto term 3 (April 2021 starts). From a cohort of 5 learners, 4 learners were able to use the resource independently and access Teams. One learner required prompting from the learning support assistant, which consisted of them sitting beside the learner to remind them of their DOB and learner ID number. This was a remarkable distance travelled for new learners, as previously this would have taken the whole class time.

The resource has now been adapted due to the way learners access the college system, this was done so to improve GDPR compliance, however this has added an additional barrier for this group of learners, more so that this was done mid-term. Taking part in this project made us realise that any change in resource needs to be carefully managed so as not to cause anxiety and distress to learners.

This project allowed us to think about learners holistically and to consider their diverse circumstances. We were already aware of the learning difficulties and disabilities that the learners had arrived with, however this was further compounded when considering limited access to devices, connectivity and space to learn when using a digital platform. The impact of lockdown on these learners was not considered in this project and further work is planned to ensure content is reflective of potential trauma experience as a result of COVID-19, for example fear, loss, isolation, abuse or financial difficulties.

Coventry AES EDS Report

Developing colleagues’ digital communication and collaboration skills

Coventry Adult Education Service

This project took a diverse approach to Coventry Council colleagues’ digital skills development with individual tutors experimenting with use of Google Jamboard, Forms and Sheets and setting up and managing Zoom webinars. The council staff, who were the learners using the resources, commented via video feedback that they had expanded their skills and gathered some very useful evidence for their Essential Digital Skills (EDS) portfolios.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway.

Summary

This project aimed to use an action research approach to investigate digital learning and the effectiveness of learner-led digital activities. We wanted to detail what methods of delivery would be best suited to fully engage learners will low or no digital skills using the EDS framework. The focus group was Coventry City Council staff who needed to improve their digital skills for work and for daily life. We hoped to see how the activities impacted on engagement, achievement and progression.
We used three interconnected methods of delivery:

  1. use of a video conferencing platform (Zoom); The use of Zoom enabled staff to learn how to use a platform that could be used outside of the workplace to communicate with family and friends, enriching life skills.
  2. use of Google Jamboard to foster learner collaboration; The use of Jamboard gave a rich evidence gathering, collaborative, interactive formative assessment tool for learners and tutors.
  3. use of Google Sheets to promote learner collaboration online; The use of Google Sheets enabled synchronous and asynchronous working on a group activity.

Rationale

The aim of the project was to support learners (in this instance Council staff) to improve their digital skills for work and also within their daily lives. With circumstances due to the pandemic moving learning and work online, it has never been more important to support people to develop their digital skills.

The staff targeted were in those areas of the Council where use of digital skills for communication and work were low. Learners may have had no access to IT equipment other than a mobile phone. Thus, we are focussing on ‘hard to reach’ learners who are becoming increasingly disadvantaged in the modern world. As mentioned above, learners will learn how to use a video conferencing platform (Zoom) as a means to communicate for work purposes and in their daily life i.e. to communicate with family and friends and to help their children.

The action research also considered activities to foster online collaboration through the use of tools including Google apps, Jamboard and Google Sheets. The Google Suite was an online offer available for tutors to utilise as part of the wider online teaching and learning experience created through the COVID-19 pandemic. Tutors were instrumental in choosing these approaches.

“We have shared our findings as well as some of the projects we have created for ourselves and inspired each other to try different methods that each of us have created for our own classes when appropriate.”

The tools were also chosen by the tutors because of a curiosity to develop new ways of interacting with learners in an online environment that was ever evolving. The impact was measured against how well the learners engaged with the activities and how they used their new digital skills to better communicate both at work and in their daily life.



Approach

An initial advert was listed on the Staff Intranet to capture the interest of individuals who want to develop their digital skills as well managers who know that they have identified staff with low/no digital skills. The initial expressions of interest were captured via a shared document by the Council’s Admin team (Appendix 1).

The expressions of interest were then followed up and processed via a newly- designed Initial Advice & Guidance (IAG) form by the tutors within the action research group. The forms were used to note learners’ starting points (Appendix 2).

Individual learners were supported at every stage to get them to be able to engage online and were introduced to the online conferencing platform, Zoom. Three ICT tutors delivered the teaching of skills to enable learners to participate in EDS. Basic skills in the use of the internet, applications – such as Google Classroom, Google Sheets, Zoom and email were delivered to staff using pre-Entry Level 3 community learning courses to enable participation in EDS at Entry Level 3. Some staff members did not have the basic skills to engage prior to attending sessions with Adult Education.

The research project enabled the tutors to ‘think differently’ about their approach to EDS and their delivery styles. The new thinking brought about creative use of digital collaboration tools (Google Jamboard and Google Sheets) and the effective use of Zoom. Each tutor as a member of the project team facilitated one aspect of the activity.

Screenshot of a learner setting up a Zoom meeting

Figure 1: Screenshot of a learner setting up a Zoom meeting

The learners took part in the EDS activities during class time and then as homework, putting the strategies into practice in their daily lives (e.g., setting up a Zoom meeting with family or friends) (Appendix 3). The use of Jamboard was found to be very effective as a means to facilitate formative and summative assessment (Appendix 4). Learners collaborated on a Google Sheets activity that brought about skills in team working and sharing (Appendix 5).

Screenshots of Jamboard activities

Figure 2: Screenshots of Jamboard activities

Feedback from learners was gathered in written, recorded audio and visual forms on a weekly basis (session by session), and on completion of a unit of activity to clarify that learning had taken place. The reason for the differing forms of evidence/feedback was to embrace additional online tools, personalising feedback for learners who would normally have a face-to-face conversation with their tutor. It added variety to the gathering of evidence, analysing achievement of learning objectives mostly for formative assessment.

Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

The creation of the activities brought about an invigorating experience for the tutors, as practitioners. The use of a ‘multi-use’ document that captured initial advice and guidance and primary learning objectives made it easier to target activities to individual learner’s needs.

The processes of trialling the digital activities and receiving feedback from peers and learners enabled changes to be made to each activity and a growth in the approach to teaching learning and assessment practices.

Individual tutor reflections (Appendix 7) also improved subsequent delivery of the activities. Online practices (use of Jamboard, for example) helped teachers and learners build up an evidence base and the Jamboard activity was also very useful as an assessment tool. Learners really enjoyed engaging with the Jamboard and its use created new ways of capturing learner responses to activities set using online versions of sticky notes. It was quick and ‘convenient’ with a real sense of immediacy as tutors could post images or stickers saying ‘well done!’ which appeared right away.

Tutors have also collaborated, asking their peers for feedback on work they had created. Managers from vocational areas of learning are asking for training in the use of Jamboards for their tutors after hearing about its success on this programme.

“…using formulas in Google Sheets, working collaboratively so the learners could see what the other learners were doing. If a learner made a mistake, the other learners could easily offer advice and encouragement.”

Engagement with the digital tools enabled learners to see their learner journey through the activities creating a ‘can do’ attitude and collaboration and participation were enriched by the activities. The increase in collaborative working also supported asynchronous learning and allowed learners to ‘catch up’ if needed. The asynchronous part of the collaboration came about because one of the learners was at work and unable to attend the class but was still able to take part in the group exercise at a time that was convenient to them and input into the Google Sheets.

Evidence of learning and impact of learning was able to be captured on the equivalent of one sheet of paper, recorded digitally (Appendix 2).

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisation practices

As a result of the project more emphasis has been placed on the upskilling of Council staff with no/low levels of digital skills, enabling them to achieve the EDS qualification as a route to further CPD and greater digital inclusion.

Use of Jamboard enabled collaborative approaches to be developed, with learners and teachers working together on various aspects of the EDS qualification (see examples in Appendix 8).

The sharing of cross-curricular good practice stemming from the project proved motivational. This was showcased during a whole Service event which took place in April 2021 during an online staff development event. Many tutors commented that they would find the activities useful to trial in their respective curriculum areas.

The tutors involved in the project have experienced their first delivery of sessions to the whole service and are now being invited to other curriculum areas to share the project findings. Communication has also increased within the team of tutors as they explore more options such as an application called Mote, which can be used for recording feedback to learners.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression

Learners have engaged with the activities and their feedback has helped activity revision for future sessions. Some learners have developed in resilience and independence, for example, trying out activities in a supportive, collaborative space can encourage people to ‘give it a go’.

Learners have shown a more developed realisation of how digital skills impact their lives at work and home. They are also implementing their EDS learning within their daily work activities, empowering efficiencies and productivity. Examples of learner feedback illustrate this (further examples can also be seen in Appendix 3).

“Today’s learning about Google Sheets was really informative, as I am already doing my Level 1 maths and that helps me doing my tables and graphs. I enjoyed working together with my classmates and the way our tutor guides us.”

“Today’s lesson was very informative… I just need more practice and I will be able to use this skill in my work I carry out for the City Council, thank you.”

Learners worked towards targets set, evaluating their own progress as they achieve targets which may be written and/or oral. The learners’ individual learning plans therefore formed part of the evidence of progress and impact.

Screenshot of Jamboard activity

Figure 3: Screenshot of Jamboard activity

The demonstration of learner skills was collected through recordings of activities e.g., a learner hosting a successful Zoom meeting. Learners ‘know’ the skills they have acquired and how to use them effectively at work and at home.

(Further examples can be seen in Appendix 6).

Learning from this project

This project contributed to an ongoing developmental state for the EDS programme, especially the varying aspects of collaboration on learning and assessment for learners and tutors alike. Improved inclusion was the forerunner for this project and the aim for it and beyond, instead of looking inward, we decided to look outward, to ‘think outside the box’. The improved inclusion related to the bringing together of individual tutors that had been working in silos on the delivery of their teaching and learning remit. The tutors became a ‘team’ again. The creativity that was once a vibrant part of the delivery of digital skills, was re-ignited through collaborative working and the development of the project from conception.

Working digitally actually supported assessment and helped evidence learner progress. Before conducting the research, we previously felt that digital facilitation would be more difficult as we had to move away from face-to-face learning. Additional ‘sharing’ sessions and development sessions have been planned over the coming months to enhance delivery of teaching and learning activities.

There is now a new ‘open door’ to finding different innovative ways of working to facilitate initial, formative and summative assessment. The discovery of new tools for gathering evidence of learners’ learning has created a continuous professional development aspect to the thinking of the tutors. No longer do they have to ‘just fill in the assessment paperwork!’

“I have been able to offer a different approach for each learner to accommodate their style of learning, their reasons for learning different things and their requirements within their own individual jobs or personal projects.”

There is a correlation between this project and the results that have come from the collaborative ways teaching and learning has been conducted which tell us that use of digital platforms can impact the lives of tutors and learners alike. The digital skills gained bring a ‘social’ and ‘well-being’ element to the learner journey as they use the skills learned to communicate in their communities and abroad.

This project has highlighted the need for EDS in the lives of all staff, especially staff that have been disadvantaged and excluded for lack of digital skills.

The ICT curriculum team are now exploring ways of offering EDS to ESOL learners and encouraging more cross-curricular collaboration, looking at ways of embedding EDS into the ESOL programme.

It is very early within the life of the works that have been opened up. There is more to explore, try, investigate and implement and share. We look forward to seeing how these activities continue to impact on engagement, achievement and progression.

OTLA 8

Accreditation

Practitioner Research

Practitioner-led Action Research

We have led national practitioner research programmes in England since 2014. Our programmes aim to support teachers, trainers, support workers and managers from post-16 learning providers to:

  • develop rigorous, transferable action research approaches that inspire sustained professional development for all practitioners in the sector; and
  • generate learner-friendly strategies and resources that address critical issues in current post-16 provision. 

For 2021-2024, in partnership with NATECLA, Real Time Education, That Reading Thing, and The SfL Network, our team of research facilitators and subject specialist mentors are supporting action research projects focussing on English, ESOL and Essential Digital Skills (EDS) on behalf of The Education and Training Foundation. Together, they will establish teaching approaches and research methodologies with learners that help them to make progress in English and maths. Practitioners are working on study programmes, apprenticeships, adult courses, secure estates programmes and support ESOL learners/ learners with SEND/LDD.  

Our collective aim this year is to support English and maths practitioners and providers to gain a broader and deeper understanding of what works, for whom and why.

Find out more about previous practitioner research programmes by selecting the titles to the right.

  • PLAR 1

    Working with a team from emCETT, we provided blended support through the practitioner–led action research programme to 63 practitioners or groups of practitioners from organisations, reflecting the diversity of the education and training sector across England.

  • PLAR 2

    Working with a team from emCETT, we supported 63 providers through the Education and Training Foundation’s Practitioner Research Programme to to undertake practitioner–led action research.

  • OTLA 3

    As part of OTLA Phase 3, working in the NE of England and Cumbria, practitioner-led action research took place with a focus on attainment, retention and progression. Thirteen projects took place,  involving 42 providers and over 200 practitioners from colleges, adult and community learning, offender learning, third sector and independent training providers.

  • OTLA 4 (digital)

    In 2018, we supported action research projects focussing on digital practices in post-16 contexts, working with our partners the Newcastle College Group. 19 organisations collaborated across 5 projects on topics as diverse as ‘unlocking social capital to support outcomes in maths and English’ to ‘engaging staff with using digital technology within teaching, learning and assessment’.

  • OTLA 6 (English)

    This was the sixth phase of OTLA (Outstanding, Teaching, Learning and Assessment) projects funded by the Education and Training Foundation. Twelve projects researched new approaches for teaching English in the post-16 sector.

  • OTLA 7 (English and Maths)

    This is the seventh phase of OTLA (Outstanding, Teaching, Learning and Assessment) projects funded by the Education and Training Foundation. 36 projects are researching approaches for teaching English and Maths in the post-16 sector.

  • EDS 1

    A short action research programme focussing on Essential Digital Skills (EDS) in further education/ community learning contexts, on behalf of the Education and Training Foundation. With partners: That Reading Thing and Skills for Life Network.

  • OTLA 8 (English, ESOL + EDS)

    This is the eighth phase of OTLA (Outstanding, Teaching, Learning and Assessment) projects funded by the Education and Training Foundation. With partners: NATECLA, That Reading Thing, Skills for Life Network + Real Time Education.