Assessing Learner's Needs in Education

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Units 101 &105

In this essay I shall be examining the importance of accurate initial assessment of learner's needs. In order to do this it is necessary to correctly identify my learners so that appropriate teaching methods can be structured for them. From there, I shall explore how to best support learners throughout their period of study, both in terms of educational support, and in terms of developing their self confidence.

The students I teach are studying toward a 2 year diploma in Creative Sound Engineering & Music Technology at Deep Blue Sound (DBS). It is common for the learners to come from a fairly narrow section of society. Broadly speaking, learners are male, and fall into the 16-25 age range, although there is also at least one learner in his late forties. Group sizes average between 8 and 14. The learner's first point of contact, and assessment, comes through their application. This will provide us with clues to the potential needs of the student, including their age (and need for supervision), current understanding of the subject, and any appropriate experience or qualifications they may have. From here candidates are invited to an interview, where they are given a full tour of the facilities along with an overview of the structure of the course. The interview stage allows us to assess both their suitability for the course, both in terms of attitude and ability, and gives us an insight into their expectations and requirements, and their potential barriers to learning. For example, those who are not school leavers may well have obstacles to learning that their school-leaving counterparts do not share. As Armitage (1999) observes: "(Having a continuous learning experience from the age of 5) is generally not the case for the adult learner who may not have been involved in a formal education experience for some time and whose knowledge and expectations of education may only be based on their own school experience. Equally, the adult re-entering the education system at any level has many more outside responsibilities and pressures than the younger FE or HE student." Applicants will also be tested at this stage for computer literacy.

During the enrolment procedure, learners are assessed for literacy using the Smog Readability Formula (McLaughlin, G. 1969: 639-646), in order to bring to light, amongst other things, potential learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

All these needs are assessed initially at an institutional level within the college, and are then supplemented and expanded on by the individual tutor's assessment on an ongoing basis. As I joined the teaching staff at DBS some time into the academic year, I was not personally privy to the initial assessment procedure, which has required me to make my own assessment of the students needs from a point in the course where they have already covered a fair degree of the curriculum. I started by reviewing their current body of submitted work, before taking time with each individual student to gauge their progress on the course so far.

Whilst this could have potentially been a hindrance, I have found it to be a useful exercise, as it has given both me and the learners the opportunity to assess their retention of what has already been taught, and to highlight any possible problems with the delivery of the course up until the point where I joined them. Indeed, as it turned out, by engaging the students in some simple question and answer sessions, and by assessing them with some rudimentary pop quizzes, we have established between ourselves that coverage of certain fields was either unsatisfactory, or delivered in such a way that made absorption of the information difficult. This has allowed me to schedule into my session plans a re-visiting of the concepts that were proving to be troublesome, allowing me to address them in the context of later stages of the curriculum. This proved to be a very positive experience for the students, as they were then...
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