Monthly Archives: April 2015

Case study about English as an additional language (Benedict Hardy)

Introduction and research

Learners with English as an additional language (or EAL learners) can be hindered from progressing as they should by their levels of communicative competence. Research by Feyisa Demie (2011) shows that learners at the lowest stages of fluency have severely reduced chances of achieving key attainment milestones. By contrast, EAL learners who have achieved a sufficient degree of fluency actually tend to outperform their monolingual peers.

There is a growing body of academic writing which suggests that the national curriculum does not adequately meet the needs of our EAL learners. Recent research by Naomi Flynn (2015) suggests that the national curriculum favours monolingual learning styles and promotes teaching which does not meet EAL learners’ needs. EAL learners benefit from teaching which promotes a sustained development of their English skills, as well as helping them meet the requirements of the national curriculum.

Furthermore, the needs of EAL learners vary significantly. For many, grammatical knowledge which seems intuitive to native speakers can be challenging to master. Equally, the idiosyncratic aspects of our language such as metaphorical expressions, collocations, phrasal verbs and tense can pose problems for developing EAL learners of all abilities and backgrounds.

I decided to undertake a small-scale investigation into some strategies for promoting accelerated progress with an EAL learner on one of my teaching placements, in light of this disparity between EAL learners and their monolingual peers.

The learner

My targeted learner was a Cantonese-speaking learner from Hong Kong, whom we shall refer to as Student A. I ran interventions with Student A as he prepared for a creative writing controlled assessment in Year 10, with a view to boosting his progress. He was an intelligent and diligent pupil, yet his written and spoken English were relatively weak, which was a barrier to his attainment.

The Intervention

I ran three forms of intervention with Student A to address the issues identified in my research. My strategies involved personalised feedback on his grammatical errors, which helped to target the particular issues arising from his Cantonese-influenced idiolect, and promote long-term improvements in his written expression. I also taught his class through the frequent use of model texts. Analysing and borrowing from these models allowed Student A to imitate sentence structures which he would have been unlikely to attempt independently. Finally, I ran a series of lessons on the use of extended metaphor and encouraged him to link his personal experiences to abstract concepts like freedom and determination. This empowered Student A to write some impressively sophisticated poetry.


My work with Student A impacted positively on his final controlled assessment grade, but I felt that more consolidation was needed for the learning to benefit his level of English proficiency. To make the leap from imitation to integration, Student A needed to consistently revisit the skills we had covered, however the summative assessments made of students at key points through the curriculum encourage one-off performance, not sustained development. This form of learning is particularly damaging to the progress of EAL learners and our curriculum will continue to disadvantage them, so long as it continues to measure attainment in this way.

Demie, F. (2011) English as an Additional Language: An empirical study of stages of English proficiency Available from: [Accessed on 9 January 2015]


Case study about Down Syndrome (Alex Mason)

Until the early 1980s, it would have been impossible for me to do a project as a trainee teacher on a pupil with Down Syndrome in mainstream education because there were not any. The case for inclusion of pupils with Down Syndrome is not an obvious one, and I certainly embarked upon this project sceptical of the place of the pupil I was studying in mainstream education. One would certainly assume that the differentiated and well resourced learning environment of a special school would be the better place for this pupil, especially given that she had relatively severe learning difficulties. It is certainly not my intention here to deride special schools, however I would like to present the case for inclusion.

There are three main strands to this argument. Firstly, that there are educational benefits to mainstream education for pupils with Down Syndrome. The argument here is essentially two-fold: the positive role-models provided by a non-disabled peer-group improves the level of progress made by pupils with Down Syndrome. This is especially the case with literacy, as the pupil is exposed to correct language-models more regularly than might be the case in a special school. Studies (although limited in number) have shown a measurable positive impact on progress in mainstream schools compared with special schools.  The second argument is that the use of Learning Support Assistants who get to know the pupil well to provide one-to-one support both in lessons and in a withdrawn setting can actually mean more individualised support than in a special school where there is a greater variety of different needs that all need to be met.

The second argument is social. By including pupils with Down Syndrome in mainstream schools, they are naturally included in the social interactions of their peer groups, and the research suggests that this is almost always positive. While one might assume that such pupils might suffer from bullying or social exclusion, this has not been found to be the case.  Indeed, allowing a pupil with Down Syndrome access to mainstream schooling in their local community is inclusive in wider social terms than just in school, for parent and child alike, than going to a special school outside the community.

Finally, there is a moral argument. Schools are as much institutes of social engineering as education, and ought to reflect the best in society. An ideal society would surely integrate, rather than segregate, the disabled. Therefore, schools ought to model a society in which all pupils are equally valued and provided for, rather than promoting the segregation of disabled groups in special institutions. Such inclusion benefits the rest of the pupils in the school as well, as it makes disabled pupils their peers and encourages them to view them as other individuals who have the same rights in the same society as they do, rather than normalising their exclusion.

Therefore, at least theoretically, there are some very good reasons for including pupils with Down Syndrome in mainstream education. Most surprisingly, there are compelling educational reasons for inclusion, as well as the more obvious social and moral arguments.

Case study about more able pupils in mathematics (KEC mathematics trainee)

Effective provision to support able mathematicians

Three key factors contribute to pupil success; ability, opportunity and support at school and at home and motivation and hard work by the pupil.

Mathematical ability encompasses a variety of aspects including being able to reason mathematically, derive a generalised approach to problem solving, think flexibly and adapt an approach, work forwards and backwards to reach a solution and remember generalised mathematical relationships.

I worked with a year 8 pupil (‘Pupil A’) identified by his school to be particularly able in mathematics.  I investigated the impact of three teaching strategies on the progress he made: enrichment, acceleration and one-to-one tuition.


Enrichment activities are not just more difficult versions of the same work, but are activities that promote a more general understanding of a problem.  Providing opportunities for enrichment means able pupils acquire a deeper understanding of concepts.

My reading suggested that one way to create challenge in the classroom is to introduce problem-solving activities, which require high level thinking and create interest based on a real purpose.  I created an enrichment task for Pupil A based on a real world application of the topic.  He made progress to apply his mathematical knowledge to model and solve real world problems.  He said how much he enjoyed the ‘real life’ nature of the task.


Acceleration may mean that an able pupil moves ahead to a class of older pupils or works through the normal content at a faster pace.

Able pupils should not be given unnecessary practice, as they require less practice at tasks than other pupils, not more.  I did not give Pupil A much time for practice.  Instead, I provided him with an open-ended task linked to a related topic beyond the curriculum.  Pupil A made a good start on the task during a lesson.  I provided him with prompt feedback to support him to extend his learning and generalise his findings.

One-to-one tuition

One-to-one tuition involves giving pupils ‘intensive tuition’ on an individual basis.   I provided one-to-one tuition for Pupil A to help him prepare for an upcoming national competition.

Pupil A arrived with two ‘brain-stretching’ questions I had provided in advance.  With support he managed to solve both questions by the end and seemed very satisfied with his achievement.

A key reason for using questioning strategies to teach able pupils is to elevate thinking.  I planned questions in advance to scaffold Pupil A.  My pre-planned questioning to encourage Pupil A to use the multiple choice options to structure and justify his solution gave him a strategy which he transferred to the other question.

Every child is different and this case study was only based on one pupil.  However, it gave me an insight into how enrichment, acceleration and one-to-one tuition can all have a place in my teaching strategies for able pupils going forward.

Case study about Asperger’s Syndrome (Rosa Sanchez)

Recent legislation and publications [1] have emphasised the need to improve standards for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and facilitate their inclusion in mainstream education.

With regards to this, it is considered that ‘a child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her’ [2]. Children with dyslexia or dyspraxia, with English as a second language and children with autism are all examples of pupils with SEN.

Amongst these SEN, due to the increasing number of pupils on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in mainstream schools [3], this paper focuses on pupils with ASD, those with Asperger syndrome (AS) in particular. Consequently, the different characteristics of AS are summarised and results from a small case study are presented.

The National Autistic Society (NAS) defines autism as:

‘a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.’[4]

The NAS also outlines its spectrum condition, stressing that people with autism experience common difficulties but will be affected differently by them.

AS is one form of autism and, consequently, pupils with AS have difficulty in three main areas:

  • Social communication: people with AS have a very literal understanding of language and struggle to understand non-verbal language, metaphors and jokes. Modifying the language used in lessons can help to ease these difficulties.
  • Social interaction: people with AS are usually friendly but find it difficult to establish social relationships with other people due to a lack of understanding of social rules and difficulties to understand other people’s feelings.
  • Social imagination: although people with AS can be creative and imaginative, they have problems to imagine alternative situations and to understand other people’s thoughts.

Other characteristics of AS include high stress levels, enjoyment of routines, motor skill problems (clumsiness) and development of special interests.

On a positive note, people with AS are honest, loyal, and reliable and have determination and a strong sense of justice [5].

Amongst the activities implemented in a small case study carried out in a selective school for girls in the West Midlands region,  the use of colours and visual elements (mind maps), the modification of the language used and the breaking down of tasks seemed to be effective and could be easily transferred to the whole class teaching. Although the small nature of this case study and the short period of time in which the strategies were implemented make it hard to make big claims, it seems clear that pupils with AS can make progress if support is provided.

To sum up, due to the spectrum nature of ASD and the complexity of this condition, that affects everybody in a different way, it is difficult to find a set of strategies that work with every pupil with AS. However, there are strategies such as getting to know pupils better, reducing stressful situations, promoting peer understanding, modifying conversational language and adapting subjects that can help these pupils in their school life [6].


[1] The National Archives Website. (2001) Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001. Available from: [Accessed 31 January 2015]

[2] Department for Education and Department of  Health. (2015) Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years. Statutory guidance for organizations which work and support children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities. Available from:   [Accessed 31 January 2015]; p.15

[3] Humphrey, N. (2008) ‘Including pupils with autistic spectrum disorders in mainstream schools’. In Support for Learning, 23(1): 41-47. Available from: [Accessed 03 January 2015]

[4] The National Autistic Society. (2015) What is autism? Available from: [Accessed 04 February 2015]

[5] Winter, M. (2003) Asperger Syndrome: What Teachers Need to Know. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

[6] Humphrey, N. (2008) ‘Including pupils with autistic spectrum disorders in mainstream schools’. In Support for Learning, 23(1): 41-47. Available from: [Accessed 03 January 2015]

Case study about moderate learning difficulties (Kate Leech)

This assignment considered the effect of personalised learning on a child’s progress. Having selected a pupil (Pupil A) for four hours of intervention within English lessons, it aimed to identify strategies that would suit her particular needs, implement these and then assess the result.

Pupil A is a student at a special school (School A) for Moderate Learning Difficulties. She has Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and English as an Additional Language (EAL). Research and observation revealed comprehension as the main barrier to learning faced by Pupil A and children like her. As her Statement of Educational Needs and school educational targets list this as a particular difficulty too, this is what I decided to focus on.

Both the research and Pupil A’s school targets listed speaking and listening work as an area to focus on, both to aid and demonstrate comprehension. My targets for the series of interventions were therefore to improve Pupil A’s contribution to whole class questioning and discussion and to improve Pupil A’s interaction with peers through contributions to group and peer work.

With this in mind, I planned personalised learning for Pupil A within four English lessons. Some of the most common themes in the research were the use of lesson-time visual support and Teaching Assistant support for pupils with both ASD and EAL. The plan for each lesson was a visual taskboard with pictorial aids and one-to-one TA support for each lesson with a speaking and listening activity incorporated to gauge comprehension.

My success criteria were: that Pupil A will voluntarily contribute in a whole class verbal setting, or at least be willing and confident to answer when called upon; that Pupil A’s verbal responses in whole class, group or one-to-one interactions with adults will demonstrate full comprehension of tasks and texts; that Pupil A will actively contribute to group work, instead of going along with the decisions of the rest of the group.

In practice, the lessons were variable in success and Pupil A was not in class on the day of the third one. After the first lesson I added a keyword list to the back of the taskboard. Overall, the visual taskboard did help, but the one-to-one support from TAs helped a lot more. This seemed to be because it allowed Pupil A to have tasks and resources broken down for her and instructions repeated on a level that would not have been so possible in a whole-class setting.

The final lesson was most successful. In this Pupil A met all three success criteria in that she was voluntarily contributing in a whole class setting, her comprehension of tasks was reasonably strong and she was actively and productively contributing to group activities, even being the first in her group of six to meet the requirements of a group discussion. Feedback from the TA made it clear that it was the one-to-one prompting that primarily enabled this.

In conclusion, though this was very minimal research with just one child, the results did fit with wider academic research and demonstrated the great benefit of personalised learning with an effective TA for someone with Pupil A’s particular barriers.

Case study about speech, language and communication needs (Emily Barnett)

For my assignment, I carried out a case study on pupil A in school B, a mixed comprehensive for 11-18 year olds in the West Midlands, who is recognised at School Action Plus on the school’s Special Educational Needs (SEN) register for Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN).

The impact SLCN can have on a pupil is substantial. Language is important as a form of communication and instruction, expressing emotions, controlling behaviour and understanding your surroundings. It also plays a major role in establishing friendships. Hence problems involving language can put them at a significant disadvantage. Most children will develop language skills naturally as part of their development. However children with SLCN may need to be directly taught some of these skills.

Key teaching and learning strategies that should be used with SLCN pupils have been identified. These include:

  • making the pupil feel relaxed to build their self-esteem and confidence
  • commenting and praising good speech and language
  • responding to what they say, not how they say it
  • modelling good language.

Practical strategies can also have a significant impact. These include:

  • seating them away from distractions
  • using visual aids
  • establishing a routine in the class
  • explaining in detail any changes that are to be made.

SLCN pupils can have problems with receptive language skills and/or expressive language skills. Pupils who struggle with receptive language find it difficult to concentrate, will need instructions broken down and will find it hard to learn new vocabulary. Strategies to help with this include using names and eye contact, single instructions and checking the pupil’s understanding. Pupils who struggle with expressive language find it difficult to form sentences, can sometimes not find the correct word and can find it hard to express themselves. Strategies to overcome this include using open ended questions, allowing more time and using prompts. It is important that schools have strategies in place for SLCN pupils to support them during their time in secondary school.

After observing pupil A in lessons and speaking to the special educational needs coordinator (SENCo), I planned 3 one-to-one intervention sessions with him. My overall aim of these sessions was to increase his confidence as I found this was lacking especially in mathematics. In these sessions, we recapped work from lessons that he struggled with and looked at work that we would be covering in future lessons. Pupil A was much more confident during these sessions, making good progress monitored by successfully answering questions I set.

I believe that one-to-one intervention sessions are a good strategy to use with SLCN pupils as it helps boost their confidence, can improve their speech and develop their understanding in the subject. However, one must consider the practicalities of such intervention strategies when working in a busy school with many other commitments. Teachers could struggle to find the time to plan additional sessions/resources for pupils with SEN in their classes.

Case study about autism (KEC mathematics trainee)

The consideration of pupil differences is a key factor in effective teaching. The teachers’ standards require that every teacher must have “a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils…and be able to use and evaluate distinctive teaching approaches to engage and support them.” This case study was motivated by the importance of understanding pupil differences and provided some insight into how effective interventions can be designed. I chose one particular boy, at a selective school for boys in the West Midlands, for three reasons. Firstly, he has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism and has a number of educational needs linked to this condition. Secondly, he is a highly able mathematician, and thus also requires stretching. Finally, he was a member of a class that I taught which allowed me to observe him as a class teacher. I delivered three one-to-one sessions in which I attempted to put into practice some strategies for supporting his needs.

I began by speaking to the SENCo and his class teachers about him, and then studied his report cards, Individual Education Plan (IEP) and education and health care plan. I discovered that he is an exceptional mathematician, but that he struggles with written work. He requires a considerable amount of support with a whole host of issues, including speech therapy, organisation and metacognition. He has particularly strong interests in mathematics and computing, and these are his strongest subjects. He struggles with English and geography because of the questions which require extended written answers.

One key message which came from the literature was that every autistic pupil (and indeed every pupil) has a unique set of needs. Therefore, it is important to marry the needs and interests of the pupil with the proposed interventions. I decided to try interventions which focused on providing structure, assisting with written work and stretching and challenging. For structure, I decided that I would bring a schedule to each session which detailed what topics we were going to cover and in what order. This proved to be a useful intervention, with the pupil able to consult the schedule, see what is coming up and engage completely in the entire session. For assisting with written work, I attempted to motivate the pupil to engage more thoroughly in a piece of extended writing by linking it to an area of interest – in this case, I set a homework on the philosophy of mathematics. Unfortunately, this was not completed – but I feel that with a little more persistence, this could have been a useful intervention. Finally, to stretch and challenge, I introduced him to some university level concepts which he enjoyed and gave serious thought to.

Clearly the conclusions we can draw from a case study are limited, but I feel that the key principle of designing interventions based on a thorough consideration of the pupil’s needs and interests is one which is likely to be effective.