4204.2 SPECIALIST AREA REVIEW
Stephanie Brown. April 2012
An understanding of the current state of pedagogy in my specialist area: Foundation Learning (FL) was first introduced in 2008 and was rolled out nationally in 2010. Its intention has been to provide a flexible programme for 16 – 19 year olds who are mainly studying at Entry level or Level 1, to help them progress. Its three main elements were FS, personal and social development (PSD) and subject or vocational studies. At my place of work FL is made up of four key courses – Vocational Pathways; Progress; Extension Studies; and Preparation for Work and Life - which have been developed in response to the new agenda for FL. Today, FL places the learner at the heart of the learning process. According to LSIS (2012), current pedagogy in FE today: Promotes the idea that the learner is a partner in the learning process and that learners should be empowered to determine their own learning.
Teaching focuses on what, why and how something is taught or learned. This is evident within my faculty. As a response to the Wolf Report (2012), the key elements within the curriculum are personal social development (PSD), functional skills (FS), employability and vocational subjects. The role of the teacher has shifted from “imparter of information to facilitator of learning” (LSIS. 2012). My role as a teacher today is one of continual reflective practise. I liaise with colleagues to plan interesting, motivational lessons to reengage learners. In order to maintain total inclusivity, differentiation is planned and applied daily.
-What have you learned about your specialist area during this year which is new? Returning to work from a career break - the replacement of “Key Skills” with “FS”. I now understand that the difference between these lie primarily in the assessment methods used. Key Skills used multiple choice tests and the development of a portfolio for assessment. FS assessments are structured to show the processes a learner goes through to find a resolution to a task. These process skills are integrated into assessments. The importance of embedding FS within the vocational subjects in our curriculum has led me to reflect on my own weaknesses in FS. I have subsequently bought books, practised online, attended training and sought advice from teachers who specialise in FS. However, an article in TES Magazine (2011) identifies potential problems with the FS set-up. It states that training providers working with some of the most disadvantaged teenagers are reporting students leaving exams or becoming emotional due to recent changes to literacy and numeracy tests. These involve traditional written exams, instead of online tests. Like the learners on Progress, they come from an informal, safe and flexible programme – then expected to sit the exam in an unfamiliar place – with unfamiliar people. Instantly, their barriers return. I agree, with Wolf’s (2011) comments: The Functional Skills system had “major fundamental flaws”: it aimed to “embed” literacy and numeracy qualifications in a range of vocational options to make them relevant, and it tested them in a common, external exam. “This is not a circle which can be squared,” she said. (FE News. TES. 22/04/11)
Response to the Wolf Report (2011, has seen development of the flexible learning programme allowing students to study a range of vocational subjects alongside FS in English and Maths. This model enables students to gain qualifications in a vocational environment with a strong emphasis on tackling barriers to learning and raising progression aspirations. The programme allows students to experience a varied, personalised timetable, designed to suit individual need and requirements. An individual learning plan is put together based on ability and interests, allowing students to experience success and enhance progression opportunities. This approach to learning can produce significant results. I have noticed the majority...
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