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12c. Westminster AES

Bridging the Gap

Westminster Adult Education Service

This project actively engaged learners with diverse needs and disabilities to access components of the Essential Digital Skills (EDS) qualification by simplifying them into bite-sized tasks. Key to the success was the collaboration of EDS tutors with Diversity and Inclusion tutors who together reviewed and redesigned existing materials to better suit the needs of these learners.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway (link pending).

Rationale

We have been mindful that the EDS qualification is complicated and challenging for many learners with diverse needs and disabilities: components include navigation elements such as menus, hyperlinks and browser navigation control. There is a vast gap between Entry Level qualifications and the EDS qualification so our project aimed to bridge the gap so that learners with diverse needs and disabilities would be able to progress without feeling disadvantaged or overwhelmed.

Furthermore, we identified a need to support their daily digital literacy, thereby preventing them from being excluded from everyday tasks, e.g. universal credit, accessing medical appointments, etc.

One of the significant tasks was to adapt existing resources to make them more understandable by reducing words and adding images, to ensure that they were inclusive and accessible.

Other Contextual Information

Our action research was part of the Education and Training Foundation’s OTLA 8 programme. It took place in the Diversity and Inclusion department of Westminster Adult Education Service. We started working with the Pre-Entry Level beginners ICT class over a 12-week period. For some learners, they had never used a computer before and were very unfamiliar with typing, using a mouse and any functions that many of us take for granted. 90% of learners did not own a mobile phone. In term 2 we were able to extend the reach of the project to include an additional group of learners, whose digital operating level was more advanced at Entry Levels 1 and 2.



Approach

Our team took the following approach:

We started by trying to encourage learners and carers to engage with computers by sharing a simple PowerPoint and an A4 set of visual images providing step-by-step instructions on how to log on at home. Due to limited uptake of this, it was difficult to provide homework tasks. Also, some learners did not have computers at home.

In the classroom, with one-to-one support, all learners were able to log on to a computer. We discovered that without being able to practise between sessions, much of the learning was forgotten. A further consideration was that without a teacher or support assistant at home, learners did not have the confidence or ability to work outside the classroom. We therefore took the decision to extend the duration of the course for this group of learners so that they could practise and repeat small tasks to aid their long-term memory development.

In term 2 we worked with Entry Level learners, which led to more success. These learners were able to log on and follow instructions, though still needed support before moving on to EDS content. We also found that these learners were more actively involved because they were more aware that they are taking part in the research project.

The research project team devised simple tasks and resources in collaboration with the EDS tutors. Each step was broken down for learners and practised, to ensure sequential learning and to aid long term memory, before moving on.

As learner confidence grew, we were able to increase levels of activity to two tasks over a five-week period. One learner in the first group has now become a digital champion and is supporting other learners. As the project progressed, we recorded our progress on a Padlet, which is shown in the screenshot to the right.

Outcomes and Impact

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Having realised that we needed to try our approach with a different group of learners, we found that the resources were extremely effective. Our ‘what’s in a name?’ resource (Appendix 4.2) enabled learners to show how they could change the font, embolden text, underline, change colour and this led to a visible sense of achievement with the learners. The second resource was a research task that involved learners using the cut and paste function to add images and text to a PowerPoint template. This task invited learners to choose images themselves and also encouraged them to find out more about iconic people, such as Nelson Mandela. The third resource was an internet quiz comprising 15 questions in which learners were required to research and/or upload images. Their engagement, motivation and increased confidence were evident as they competed against each other to complete the task within an hour. It was clear to see that they had all progressed during the project and it was so encouraging to see how much they enjoyed taking part.

With each of the tasks described above, breaking them down into step by step verbal instructions was important. Not only did this lead to success with the tasks themselves, it also increased confidence and learners were able to take pride in what they had achieved. We learnt that the best results came from modelling the task rather than giving written instructions.

Below we share some feedback from learners in relation to task 1:

I was able to do the task easily as it was explained to me.

– Learner, LA

I found the task easy.

– Learner, SH

Because I was in the ICT Beginners class I was able to do the task and I was able to work by myself.

– Learner, HS

Feedback from task 3 was very positive and they collectively asked if they could do something similar again. (Learners in Foundation Skills L2).



Organisational Development

We collaborated with the digital skills department to better understand the EDS curriculum and the current challenges faced in its delivery to mainstream learners. We identified ESOL specific challenges and used this knowledge to inform how best we would break down the EDS tasks to meet the needs of our learners with diverse needs and disabilities. The experiences broadened our horizon on the complexity of the EDS qualifications and the difficulties our learners face in terms of employment as well as daily life if they remain disengaged with the digital world. In addition to this, digital poverty was an underlying issue that is present for learners with no requirement for additional support. This in turn emphasised the ever-increasing gap between those who are fully conversant with the digital world and those who are not.

Learning from this project


What worked well:

  • Two digital champions have been appointed within the Diversity and Inclusion team (both learners). The digital champions are going into lower level groups to support learners there. This is a very positive outcome of our research project and will be beneficial for all involved, in terms of employability, learner self-esteem etc. This initiative will continue after the project and will potentially lead to a more structured peer to peer support system within the organisation.• Liaising with the digital team was key to the success of this initiative and closer collaboration will continue after the research project ends.
  • We learnt that modelling and visual resources are more effective for learning than written instructions.
  • We learnt that breaking down tasks into small steps led to success.
  • The third task demonstrated the distance the learners had travelled during the project.

Even better if:

  • We are hopeful that the gap will be bridged so much that learners will be able to progress into a formal EDS class. Some learners are likely to do this in September, but we hope that our project will make it easier for others.
  • The first group would benefit from an extension to their course, so they can complete some of the resources and can visibly identify their progress on a termly basis.
  • We were inspired by a project being carried out by the project team at Haringey Adult Learning Service which involved peer to peer mentoring. This could be an outcome for us and perhaps we could collaborate with this team to make this happen.

Professional Development

Using the ETF’s Professional Standards for teachers and trainers. Please note, this report refers to the 2014-2022 standards.


  • 2. Evaluate and challenge your practice, values and beliefs.

    Our project provided time and space for us to come together to challenge our assumptions that learners with diverse needs cannot attain EDS qualifications. By engaging in research activities with the learner, we found that they are able to perform tasks and produce assignments, as it is tailor made for them. We started from a position of learners being novices at using the computer and moved onto learners who can complete basic digital skill tasks.

  • 3. Inspire, motivate and raise aspirations of learners through your enthusiasm and knowledge.

    Our research project demonstrates this standard through the following quotes from learners:

    “I have enjoyed being the class, I learnt in login and wait, I did a PowerPoint presentation, I have done some quizzes, I did some typing, and I sent my work to you via Teams and id CHECKS and telling time. Also researched Black history, we did famous Sportsmen”.

    “We learnt about emojis and put things in the chat”.

  • 5. Value and promote social and cultural diversity, equality of opportunity and inclusion.

    We were able to provide a learning experience where all of our learners thrived together in a mixed ability setting. Their uniqueness provided a richness and depth to learning outcomes.

  • 13. Motivate and inspire learners to promote achievement and develop their skills to enable progression.

    HS has been asked if he wants to move into another a more advanced group where he will be studying Digital Skills Entry Level 1; he has agreed.

Appendices

Appendix 2: Learner Case Studies

Appendix 3: Project Padlet

Appendix 4: Project Activities and Resources

References

Digital Poverty Alliance. (2022). ‘Together we can end digital poverty once and for all’. [online]. Available at: Digitalpovertyalliance.org [accessed 30.3.22].

Holmes, H and Burgess, G. (2021) ‘Pay the wi-fi or feed the children. Coronavirus has intensified the digital divide’. University of Cambridge [online]. Available at: https://www.cam.ac.uk/stories/digitaldivide [accessed 30.3.22].

12b. Haringey ALS

Peer to Peer Fusion Skills Project

Haringey Adult Learning Service

This project investigated how a range of foundational skills can be supported and embedded in the development of essential digital skills through an informal learning approach.

The aim of the project was to develop peer-to-peer support relationships via collaboration, with low-level learners receiving digital support from higher-level learners. By triangulating the arrangement with tutors, we aimed to use peer-to-peer support to improve learners’ confidence and ability in class and to help them participate in our ever-increasing digital society.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway (link pending).

Rationale

Haringey Adult Learning Service (HALS) identified a support need for ESOL and literacy learners who have low-level digital skills. This project explored how peer-to-peer support could benefit both high-level (mentors) and low-level learners (mentees) through a peer-to-peer fusion model, with learners developing foundational and digital skills.

HALS embed the 5 Cs model of fusion skills into the curriculum, and these skills underpinned the project. For more information about the 5 Cs, please visit our 5Cs model Padlet.

These fusion skills form part of 56 foundational skills identified by McKinsey & Company, the Distinct Elements of Talent (DELTAs), that will help citizens thrive in the future of work (June 2021). McKinsey & Company (2021).

There were two strands to the project:

  1. Mentors to improve their fusion skills
  2. Mentees to improve confidence with Essential Digital Skills.

The intention of this project is to act as the foundation for the creation of a peer-to-peer support culture across HALS, with a dual focus on both mentors and mentees.

Other Contextual Information

Our action research was part of the Education and Training Foundation’s OTLA 8 Programme. The peer mentors were Level 1 and 2 learners (Digital TLC volunteers) who had good digital skills and the mentees were lower-level English learners.

We began with 12 volunteer peer mentors who we matched with one learner (mentee) each. The context is adult learning and the mentoring sessions that were carried out in the learning lounge area were curated and monitored by staff.



Approach

Stage 1:
Facilitate Digital TLC Workshop to design the marketing and promotional activities in order to set up the Open Learning Lounge. The Tender Love and Care (TLC) group consists of learners and volunteers who want to make a difference and promote a more inclusive and a better place to thrive at HALS. The group has different subgroups, and the Digital TLC subgroup that took part in this project is made up from Level 1 and Level 2 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) learners with improved digital skills.

Stage 2:
Train up a group of HALS learner volunteers to support lower-level learners in developing digital skills and crucial transferable skills based on using our own 5 C’s Model. Tutors refer nominated learners from their classes to the group. Learners are paired up with Digital TLC volunteers for support.

Stage 3:
Hold tutorials with the participating learners to track the development of their foundational and Essential Digital Skills (EDS) and encourage this learning to be disseminated in the classroom.

Co-design tasks to enable the TLC to run drop-in sessions collaboratively, share skills and knowledge amongst themselves and provide support to lower-level learners with their EDS and foundational skills.

Stage 4:
Run presentation of outcomes across the service in dissemination events including class visits, team huddles and lunchtime talks by both learner groups and practitioners.

Stage 5:
Encourage the creation of video diaries by the participants.

Outcomes and Impact

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Mentors

Mentors involved in the project were motivated to take part to improve employability skills such as communication, problem-solving, and creative thinking.

By participating in this project of peer supporters, I hope to improve my ability to encourage other peers to work together in a positive way. I would like to be able to generate ideas on how to better improve the skills of learners I support by knowledge sharing. I hope to be able to communicate more effectively to gain skills to support others with digital skills.
– HB, mentor

I am taking many courses to improve myself, also to have better job opportunities. The reason why I wanted to join TLC peer-to-peer fusion was, first of all, to test my teaching skills and have an opportunity to improve my communication, observation and creativity skills, which will be required during this process. I am sure that the outcome from this will be a win-win situation, as I believe that you learn while you teach.
– GD, mentor

The impact of providing support to peers was beneficial to mentors, as the experience of adapting to meet the support needs of their mentees provided skill-development opportunities outside of those initially identified (such as listening in addition to communication). The experience of being able to support others through sharing knowledge and skills supported mentors to develop skills with building relationships and teamworking.

I am very happy from this experience because it helped me to develop my listening, also my communicative skills. The person, E, that I had to help, he trust (sic) me his email account and together we achieve to recover his password. The experience was very nice and helpful for developing new skills.
– OL, mentor

I am delighted to be part of this great project. My skills improved in teamworking, collaboration, communication skills throughout while communicating with my mentors, colleagues and mentees.
– JB, mentor


Mentors

Mentees gained essential digital skills that will allow them to access resources and participate in their courses on digital platforms. Some mentees benefited from learning targeting individualised skills to deal with a particular problem, like recovering and changing a password for an email account.
Skills acquired during the project included:

  •  logging on and off MS Teams
  •  downloading and uploading files
  •  opening and viewing files
  •  cut and paste
  •  inserting a digital signature
  •  recovering and changing the password for an email account.

Mentees benefited from receiving support to learn digital skills, and also had the opportunity to develop communication skills, which is of additional benefit to ESOL and literacy learners. Feedback from mentees included:

Checklists were also created to help track each mentee’s progress.

At a peer-to-peer celebration event, one of the mentees had the opportunity to hear their mentor speak about the project and their own experiences. The mentee and mentor discussed their experiences together at the event, with the mentor sharing that she had been a total beginner when she started, which the mentee commented was a huge inspiration to her. They talked together about how they had both benefited from the experience and learned from each other, and how their digital skills and wider skills improved throughout the project.


Tutors

Feedback from tutors on the support learners brought back to the classroom is noted below.

E needed support with changing the password on his email account as the account had been set up by someone else and he was unhappy that they had access to it. The peer-to-peer support provided an opportunity for him to work with a mentor to identify the steps to change his password. The impact this had in the classroom was E was able to feel confident accessing his emails to receive links to activities he was required to complete as part of the course. It had a positive impact on his confidence and feeling safe in the knowledge his information was secure.

– Caitríona, ICT Beginners Tutor

RC was able to enrol via ‘web enrol’ for the first time independently after getting peer-to-peer support. Previously he had to complete a paper enrolment form. The impact to RC was that he was able to have more agency over his learning and also to give him greater confidence when he is choosing further learning, as he knows he will be able to enrol online independently.

– Tutor

Some valuable feedback was also provided by Pre/Entry English tutor, S:

These learners are extremely low level and despite my 15 years of teaching experience I often find it really difficult to get them to understand concepts. Concepts and tasks have to repeated again and again

Our initial approach was to teach the mentees the skills that they wanted to learn. Tutor S requested that specific aspects of learning could be individualised by the tutor to meet the learning needs of a specific group. This approach was adapted. S indicated to the mentors the specific skills the learners from her low-level English group needed to improve on. Mentees received support on those specific tasks. A checklist of mentees learning illustrated in Figure 2 was produced for each learner and returned to the tutor. This method was then adopted across all of the support sessions.

Tutor S feedback following the session:
In terms of what was really useful: discrete activities supporting learners to get logged on to Teams, access classroom and upload files.


Stakeholders

The over 50s group participated in a peer support session. Quotes from the group representative included:

“Several of these people have really next to no digital skills.”

“Glad there was such a good turnout.”

“I am really looking forward to seeing this programme and relationship progress!”


Mentee Support Log

The Mentee Support Log, completed by mentors, also documented the skills required, shared and the impact for the ment

ee.

The screenshot below shares some of the data captured during the project via the Mentee Support Log. The first column includes skills required by the mentee, the second column skills shared by mentors with the mentee and the third column records the impact on the mentee.


Videos and pictures illustrating our project in action

You can access a variety of videos from our mentors and mentees on our Peer to Peer Fusion Skills Padlet board, as well as in Appendix 2, learner case studies. Below are some images of our mentors and mentees in action.

Figure 5: Peer to Peer mentoring sessions


Peer Mentoring Showcases Mentor and Mentees Experiences

Further examples of the impact of our peer-peer fusion skills project on mentors and mentees are evidenced on our Padlet board, under the column mentee and mentor experience. An example is shared below:


Further Quotes from our Peer Mentors:

The quotes below further illustrate the impact of our action research project in relation to teaching, learning and assessment:

I supported my Peer Mentee to improve his learning by how to get onto Microsoft Teams and navigate around the screen, to get to his class. Then he could access the work his teacher put on his Channel.

– J, Peer mentor

The meeting with Peers was successful. Improved IT skills for Mentee.

– P, Peer mentor

My mentoring relationship with my mentee was very positive, he was very eager to learn and always contacts me for help.

– F, Peer mentor

The relationship with my mentee is providing me with key skills that I will need in Team Management.

– H, Peer mentor

My mentoring relationship with Mentee was very supported and we worked well in a team. The Mentee appreciated the help he learned.

– B, Peer mentor



Organisational Development

As an organisation, we are looking to continue to use this approach, nurturing a culture of peer-to-peer support, and supporting documenting the impact of this culture with video diaries capturing progress and joy in the project. Our plans going forward include:

  •  establishing a regular culture of peer-to-peer support within the classroom;
  •  continued use of the Open Learning Lounge as a space for developing the foundational and digital skills of HALS learners, and as a centre for resources which will continue to grow as the peer-to-peer support continues;
  •  continuous staff support to adopt the peer-to-peer support model.

Promotion events took place across the service where learners, staff and stakeholders were getting familiar with the project.

Figure 8: Peer to Peer Fusion Skills Project promotion events

The peer-to-peer support practice became popular with our learners, staff and stakeholders. Our lovely Digital TLC volunteers recently provided peer-to-peer support for the Over 50s community group. This group were very delighted about the digital support they received and wished to further participate in this project. Below are some photos of our eager peer mentors’ and mentees’ experiences with our stakeholders.

Figure 9: Peer to Peer and individual mentoring session for stakeholders

The peer-to-peer support model enabled our staff, learners and stakeholders to have access to an informal learner-centred method that improved digital access to all of the participants as well as TLA by enabling learners to bring the learning back into the classroom. This method also fostered improved employability skills across the spectrum. Peer mentors/mentees became better at collaboration, communication, planning and digital skills.

Learning from this project


Mentor feedback shows how much the mentors enjoyed taking part in the project and how it increased their employability skills. As part of the project, they received training in how to provide support, which provided them with a variety of tools to support their peers. They also increased their own digital skills by creating and uploading videos to document their experience, and creative thinking by reflecting on the impact of the training they provided.

Mentees improved their digital skills, being able to access digital resources that will support their learning, and they, in turn, can support other learners in the classrooms. Having access to targeted, one-to-one support, provided an opportunity to upskill in areas that directly addressed their areas of need in relation to digital literacy, with an added benefit of improving communication skills.

Tutors benefited by extra support, which meant they could concentrate on their lessons and spend less time providing support for essential digital skills in the classroom.

During the project, feedback from a tutor identified that the peer-to-peer support for her learners would be even better if it was more structured for her learners. She identified key skills that would specifically benefit their learning experience that should be provided during the peer-to-peer support. We adapted the mentoring model with the tutor providing support topics that were shared with the mentors.

Mentors mentioned that they would have benefited from role play in their training. We implemented this as role play is a very useful activity for building confidence and communication skills.

Following the programme some peer mentors are considering progressing to teaching assistant roles.

The peer-to-peer support enabled me to gain experience in sharing the digital skills that I learnt with lower-level learners and improve my skills in planning and working collaboratively with others. It gave me confidence and now I am thinking of progressing towards a teaching assistant role.
– G, Peer mentor

The project team’s research findings in relation to other similar research projects shows similar positive impact.

For example, previous research demonstrated that peers learning from other peers is the path to follow (De Boer et al, 2013; Koster et al, 2010). These positive results align with our findings where all students can feel accepted, make new friends and enhance their employability skills.

The participants’ growth and progress as the session increased was noticeable. It was transparent that the mentees looked up the mentors and that they were forming strong bonds.

– Owusu, 2020

We hope our project research outcomes will assist others who would like to implement a peer program at their institution.

Professional Development

Using the ETF’s Professional Standards for teachers and trainers. Please note, this report refers to the 2014-2022 standards.


  • 6. Build positive and collaborative relationships with colleagues and learners.

    Our project provided time and space for us to come together as a teaching team to challenge our assumptions and build positive and collaborative relationships with colleagues and learners. There were discussions with colleagues about should we provide learners topics on what digital skills they need to improve on or give them the freedom to choose what they want to learn. These depended on learners’ individual needs and what worked for one learner did not work for the other. In conclusion, the peer-to-peer support was a great aid in the classroom as more learners gained digital skills and were able to better participate and support peers as well as a continuous interaction within staff themes from different departments.

  • 11. Manage and promote positive learner behaviour.

    During the programme we managed and promoted positive learner behaviour. A culture of mutual support and learning. Mentors interacted and supported each other sharing skills, knowledge and behaviour. Mentees brought back the knowledge they gained to their classrooms and further shared with their peers. The project enthused learners to develop a positive supportive behaviour across HALS.

  • 17. Enable learners to share responsibility for their own learning and assessment, setting goals that stretch and challenge.

    This learner-centred peer-to-peer approach enabled learners to share responsibility for their own learning and assessment, setting goals that stretch and challenge by supporting each other individually and in their classroom. They were continuously learning new digital skills and experiencing fusion skills throughout.

Appendices

Appendix 2: Learner Case Studies

Appendix 3: Support Log

Appendix 4: Video Diaries

Appendix 5: Mentor Training Resources

Appendix 6: Project Padlet

Appendix 7: Project Short Film

References

De Boer, A., Pijl, S. J., Post, W., and Minnaert, A., (2013). Peer acceptance and friendships of students with disabilities in general education: The role of child, peer, and classroom variables. Social Development, 22(4), 831-844. https://doiorg.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/10.1111/j.1467-9507.2012.00670.

Koster, M., Pijl, S. J., Nakken, H., & Van Houten, E., (2010). Social participation of students with special needs in regular primary education in the Netherlands. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 57(1), 59-75. https://doiorg.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/10.1080/10349120903537905

McKinsey and Company (2021). Defining the skills citizens will need in the future world of work. [online]. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/defining-the-skills-citizens-will-need-in-the-future-world-of-work [Accessed: 11 February 2022].

Owusu, P., (2020). ‘Peer to Peer Mentoring: A Multiple-Case Study Evaluating the LINKS Peer Support Program’. Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository, pp.44 – 7062. [online]. Available at: https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/7062 [Accessed: 11 February 2022].

12a. Barnsley MBC

Supporting learners to develop their knowledge of digital terminology

Barnsley MBC – Adult Skills and Community Learning

This project developed teaching and learning strategies and resources to support Entry Level 3 digital learners to develop their knowledge and understanding of digital terminology, as this was proving to be a barrier in embedding this knowledge into their long-term memory.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway (link pending).

Rationale

Learners on dedicated digital skills courses wanted to become more self-sufficient and were willing to continue to develop their skills independently. It was identified that these learners were struggling to embed digital terminology into their long-term memory and, when undertaking independent study away from their sessions, were unable to develop their skills due to not being able to remember the meaning of terminology.

The project aimed to develop strategies to support the development and understanding of digital terminology and ensure this knowledge was embedded into the learners’ long-term memories. Digital tutors would undertake research to identify which teaching and learning strategies would support this development.

Other Contextual Information

Our action research was part of the Education and Training Foundation’s OTLA 8 Programme and we worked with adult learners with low level digital skills. We worked with two different groups of learners, one a Level 1 Essential Digital Skills (EDS) group and the other an Entry Level 2 EDS group. We aimed to identify the most successful strategies to support learners’ understanding of key terminology and ensure it is embedded into their long-term memory. In Barnsley, 24% of adults don’t have all 5 basic digital skills (as outlined in the EDS Framework, gov.uk, 2019), and only 44% of adults indicate they have used all 5 of these skills recently, therefore this provision meets the needs of the local community (Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, 2019).



Approach

Our ICT and Digital Skills team wanted to explore and develop relevant and engaging assessment strategies and resources to support the development and understanding of digital terminology with adult learners who have low level digital skills.

We initially worked alongside a Level 1 Essential Digital Skills class and, for the purposes of the action research, we split the learners into two groups giving them two different tasks, but with the same expected outcome. One group was given a set of tasks with direct instructions, e.g. ‘change the title text to bold’; the second group had the same task but their instructions included an explanation of why they were applying the task, e.g. ‘Make the title text stand out by applying bold’.

The learners were assessed by completing an exercise which required them to explain their understanding of the terminology so that the answers could be compared. We wanted to identify if the instruction document with more information was more effective in the learner gaining a greater understanding of the terminology.

It was identified that it was not the learners’ comprehension skills that were preventing them from progressing; it was their lack of understanding of the key terminology used.

Online content was created to support the learners with their development of interactive bite-sized quizzes using Wordwall. These quizzes reinforced the same terminology with the intention of encouraging learners to be able to independently apply these terms. The quizzes ranged from matching-up exercises to cloze activities and wordsearches to help with correct spellings, as well as timed exercises that ran randomly.

Mini assessments were used to check understanding of the terminology and the results were more positive with learners being able to easily articulate the meanings of digital terms.
The new bite-size online quizzes we created are now being used with an Entry Level 2 group of Essential Digital Skills learners and have been adapted for the terms required at this level. Feedback from the learners has been collected with the results of their assessments informing future practice. One learner indicated that:

The matching exercise helped me to focus on one definition at a time and I was not overwhelmed with lots of words all at once.

with another learner stating,

I preferred the matching game so I could eliminate the incorrect answers and be able to identify the correct answer.

The tutors contributed to a Padlet on a weekly basis to document their reflections and achievements within each of the sessions and this was the place where results from the research were stored (See Barnsley ASCL OTLA 8 Padlet).

The first project activity aimed to address how to improve the comprehension skills of learners to support them to interpret internet searches independently.

Initially, different sets of instructions were given to the learners with one set containing short and direct instructions and the second set containing additional text and further explanations of the word processing functions.

After completion of the set task, it was identified that neither set of instructions supported the learners to achieve the expected end goal and it was a lack of understanding of key terminology that prevented the learners from achieving the expected outcome.

There was then a focus shift where strategies to embed key terminology were now the priority and a variety of mini bite-sized online interactive quizzes were created.

Outcomes and Impact

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

The use of the interactive quizzes resulted in the majority of the learners increasing their working knowledge and understanding of digital key terminology. The learners fully engaged with using this style of resource which promoted their enthusiasm for wanting to do more such activities. This was especially true away from the session as the instant feedback motivated them to continue doing the tasks independently to improve their skills.

Assessment by the tutor identified that the interactive resources had supported learners’ understanding of key terminology and the learners’ engagement with the resources; due to this, they are now being used with Entry Level 2 learners to develop their terminology understanding. These resources will be used with all levels of learners to support the embedding of key terminology and they have the opportunity to be used with learners across the whole of the service.

As the action research project gathered pace, the learning was shared with the whole Digital Skills Team. Collaboratively it was decided to use the mini interactive assessments more widely within the digital skills learning programmes (Appendix 3). Tutors created a wider knowledge base of assessment to prevent learners from being able to guess the correct answer and the use of more images to support ESOL learners. This was using learning from the OTLA 7 project (ETF, 2021).

This has now been developed to be used with Wordwall where the learner identifies themselves when undertaking the assessment and the tutors is able to use the assessment results to inform their next steps with learners (Appendix 4). The action research will continue after the end of this project to identify the impact of using these newly adapted assessment resources, but early indications show that learners are eagerly engaging with the resources.

The instant feedback that learners gain from using the online assessment tools has promoted them to access them away from the sessions, supporting self-directed learning. For learners who do not have access to an internet enabled device, the activities are also available in print format to encourage further study at home (Appendix 5).



Organisational Development

Use of a Collaborative Padlet
The Padlet became a working document and a shared space where the tutors reflected on the development and impact of the resources. It was also used as a discussion platform with the tutors and their line manager. It was an excellent source of reference when a new tutor joined the project.

Developing tutors’ confidence in their current practice
Tutors reflected on their current practice and developed varying resources to meet the diverse needs of learners and support them to work more independently. Tutors wanted to create innovative resources and adapt their strategies to help learners to learn. The interactive resources were well received by the learners and resulted in developing their understanding of key terminology.

Tutors developing as Reflective Practitioners
The action research project created frequent opportunities for tutors to focus on aspects of their established teaching strategies and to collaboratively, with their line manager, explore opportunities to develop and try newly-designed interactive resources to improve learners’ confidence in their understanding of key digital terminology. One tutor used Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory to support the development of their own learning: ‘through the transformation of experience’ (Kolb, 1984). This tutor is now supporting a newly qualified tutor to develop their reflective skills.

Building collaborative relationships with colleagues
Throughout the project, there have been good opportunities to share effective practice and develop the mentoring skills of one particular tutor, as she is currently working alongside the newly qualified tutor. The tutor has been encouraged to lead on the sharing of her ideas within team meetings and staff development sessions. The sessions she has led on have been opened up for all staff to attend and this has supported the tutor’s confidence in delivering to her peers.

Learning from this project


Learner feedback shows how the change to using the varying online interactive resources promoted their understanding of key terminology and how they were able to independently identify them. The user-friendliness of the resources motivated the learners to use them away from the session and the instant feedback from the resources encouraged the learners to continue to use them. The resources were used initially with a very small group and for the project it would have been more beneficial to have been able to use these with a wider audience of learners. The resources are now being used with more learners, working at a range of levels, but a larger range of feedback would have better supported the results of the action research.

The cohort of learners that were identified for the initial research project were on a short course with the service, and as there was a shift in focus from the original brief, this left a very limited amount of time to develop the resources and gain feedback from the learners. We therefore had to utilise two cohorts of learners, with the research from the second cohort only focusing on the amended project objectives rather than the original.

The action research has allowed the lead tutor to develop as a practitioner as she has embraced the project. As a practitioner she has reflected on what was working well within her current practice and also how she could adapt the resources to become more creative and innovative to meet the diverse needs of her learners and support them in developing their independent learning skills.

Professional Development

Using the ETF’s Professional Standards for teachers and trainers. Please note, this report refers to the 2014-2022 standards.


  • 2. Evaluate and challenge your practice, values and beliefs

    Being part of the action research project gave us the time and space to be able to question our current practices and work on an area that had previously been difficult for learners. Being able to conduct our own research was beneficial as we were able to apply it directly to our own practice and cohort of learners. The improvement in the learners’ understanding of the terminology was evident from their comments and the assessments that were undertaken.

  • 3. Inspire, motivate and raise aspirations of learners through your enthusiasm and knowledge.

    Our project enabled us to raise aspirations of the learners by the development of the different styles of assessment methods and giving them the satisfaction that their knowledge of terminology was engaged in their long-term memory. They also felt confident in using these key terms away from the safety of the classroom. Instant feedback from the online resources and being able to access the resources away from the session motivated the learners to develop their knowledge and skills outside taught sessions.

  • 15. Promote the benefits of technology and support learners in its use.

    The project supported learners to have the confidence to use online resources away from the session and continue to develop their independent digital skills.

Appendices

Appendix 2: Learner Case Studies

Appendix 3: Collection of interactive resources

Appendix 4: Examples of Wordwall Result Options

References

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (2019), Barnsley Our Borough Profile [online] Available at: https://www.barnsley.gov.uk/services/our-council/research-data-and-statistics/our-borough-profile/ [accessed 18.5.22].

Education and Training Foundation (2021). [online]. Anthology of practitioner research reports (2020 – 2021). Available at: https://www.et-foundation.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Anthology-of-Practitioner-Action-Research-Reports-2020-21.pdf [accessed 18.5.22].

Gov.uk (2019). Essential Digital Skills Frameowrk. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/essential-digital-skills-framework/essential-digital-skills-framework [accessed 6.6.22].

Kolb, D A., (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.