The rationale, broadly stated, was the need to get to know our English students better.
In 2017-18, it was decided that the Functional Skills curriculum was not suited to all our adult learners, especially those with specific learning difficulties. Progress was often limited with frequent repetition of levels. Therefore, new non-accredited English classes were created to address the specific needs of these learners.
Also, initial research and screening by an educational neuroscientist intimated that some learning difficulties had been mis-identified as dyslexia, either by learners themselves or others: these difficulties could have stemmed from general learning difficulty or other related factors, including speech and language impairment, poor working memory, auditory processing difficulties, short and long-term memory deficits, comprehension difficulties, acute and generalised anxiety, or poor phonological awareness, whether developmental or acquired.
The OTLA project provided an opportunity to develop such a more appropriate learner-oriented curriculum. Also, it was felt that a more specific pre-course assessment that incorporated a screening of the cognitive profiles of our English learners would give us more information about their neurodiversity. Combining these assessment findings with advice from a neuroscientist could inform tutors about what practices might work best for different learners.
We also wondered whether advice from a neuroscientist might help students in literacy classes become more aware of appropriate strategies and practices for improving literacy, providing a language and analytical framework to help learners, tutors, support workers and managers learn more effectively.