Curriculum Approaches to Improve Engagement and Online Learning Approaches

Catherine Gray (mentor)

The common theme of my three projects was collaboration. Each team identified a barrier to engagement: limited vocabulary range was denying students access to the higher GCSE grades; difficulty reaching the maths problem due to literacy constraints; a need to approach students holistically to help them engage and succeed when they feel assaulted with so many anxieties. Of course, the context grew far more problematic when the teams were compelled to adapt their approaches for online learning. Nevertheless, there were some common outcomes that grew from their action research in challenging times:

  • The teams grew an extra coat of determination when conditions became more complicated, rather like the Mastermind line: ‘We’ve started so we’ll finish’. They were projects they’ll never forget for this reason and I suggest that undertaking the projects in lockdown gave them an edge.
  • Teamwork at Petroc gave value to every member of the team. A united front of support assistants, facilitators and teachers demonstrates what can be done if all staff around the students are included in a venture. At South Essex College, English and Maths teachers were paired up and entrusted to create their own bespoke strategy to help Maths students with their English.
  • In all projects, the work has led to further trials and adaptations.

Does integrating additional learning support and coaching into lessons improve attendance and outcomes?: Petroc

This project was designed to look at the use of Additional Learning Support (ALS) within the college and how we could make this more effective, in combination with the expansion of the instructor role, a change we introduced last academic year in our GCSE English lessons to help learners engage with their taught session content.

Developing the Descriptive Vocabulary of High Needs Learners: New City College

This project aimed to improve responses to creative writing tasks from high needs learners by developing their use of descriptive vocabulary. This included improving their range of vocabulary and their understanding of when and how descriptions should be applied. Although the focus was on high needs learners, the entire GCSE English 16-18 cohort took part in the project.

Curriculum approaches to improve engagement in GCSE Mathematics: South Essex College

How many times have maths teachers identified that the low literacy levels of their students prevents them from being able to understand the questions and ‘do’ the maths? This action research project adopted an ’umbrella‘ approach which involved 5 GCSE English teachers and 5 GCSE Maths teachers to work together in pairs in response to the overarching theme of the project. It was designed to improve GCSE maths outcomes for learners, by exploring how to expand English skills within the maths curriculum. The focus was on creating a culture of collaboration and evaluation among students and staff; as part of the impact on the students, with the objective that this would remove barriers to learning and help develop resilience and confidence.

Watch the group presentations at the final dissemination event by clicking play (to the right).

Access their full reports below.