Monthly Archives: March 2016

Case study about autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Victoria Hudgson) (KEC science trainee)

During the 1980s, ideas around education began to change, as the concept of inclusion, based upon ideals of equality and human rights, began to gain currency. It was felt that all children should have the same access to the same quality of education, and should not be segregated on grounds of disability. Today, the Department for Education estimates there are around 15% of children in mainstream schools who have special educational needs.

 

I looked at the case of one child, Pupil A, a fourteen year old boy who had been diagnosed with both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) whilst at primary school. He arrived at secondary school with a statement of special educational needs and has been supported through this school by a teacher who is a specialist in ASD.

 

As an ASD student, Pupil A shows many of the behaviours typical of this syndrome. He struggles with making friends at school, dislikes people coming too close to him or shouting and can become overwhelmed if too much information is presented at one time. If this happens, he may disengage from the lesson or become very anxious, which can result in aggressive behaviour. He is uncomfortable around new people, particularly new adults, and it takes time to build a trusting relationship with him. His handwriting and spelling are very poor, and he particularly dislikes having to write.

 

Pupil A also displays many of the behaviours associated with ADHD, such as fidgeting and tapping, getting out of his seat to move around the room, shouting or calling out without permission and can occasionally be rude and openly defiant to teachers. He is very easily distracted by other students and struggles to maintain focus on the task in hand.

 

All of the above factors impact negatively on Pupil A’s learning, and as a result he has made poor progress over the last few years, despite much support and frequent interventions, and is currently working well below his target grades in most subjects.

 

The particular needs and challenges faced by students who have co-morbid ASD and ADHD are so complex and intertwined it is hard to unpick where the difficulties lie in academic underachievement. In an effort to tackle one small aspect of Pupil A’s learning in science, I tried creating ‘taskboards’ for each lesson: checklists for all the activities that he would need to complete. The rationale is that pupils with ASD respond better in class when they can see a clearly defined structure to a lesson and understand what is expected of them. Many ASD students struggle with processing spoken instructions and find a printed list easier to deal with. Unfortunately, in the short time that I was working with Pupil A, I was unable to ascertain whether or not these taskboards were indeed helping him, but perhaps, over the longer term, they may become a routine that can encourage his focus in lesson time.

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Case study about English as an additional language (Lucy Wade) (KEC MFL trainee)

Introduction

I carried out a case study on a pupil with English as an additional language (EAL) within the context of a mixed comprehensive school in the West Midlands, as this is a very pertinent issue both nationally and locally with 117 schools in Birmingham alone where ‘bilingual pupils are in the majority’ (NALDIC, 2015). Pupil A is half Italian and half Polish and has been in England since the end of September 2015. In this case study I looked at strategies to support the pupil’s progress in the French classroom.

The interventions

Before designing the interventions I would use I interviewed the pupil, the teaching assistant with responsibility for EAL and the pupil’s English teacher. My plan was twofold. Firstly I wanted to make sure that Pupil A was not disadvantaged in my lessons by not understanding any instructions or work that were in English, and secondly I wanted to help them to draw links between Italian and French, both to improve their understanding and confidence in French and to demonstrate that their home language is valuable. The first strategy I employed was to increase the amount of target language I used in the classroom, so that Pupil A was not disadvantaged due to not understanding my instructions. This meant that all the pupils in the class were on an equal footing, as they had all started French at the same time. Similarly, I provided Pupil A with any worksheets with English words on prior to the lesson so that they could look up the meaning of any words they were unfamiliar with and come to the lesson fully prepared. For the second part of my plan, I gave the student a personalised homework, encouraging them to work trilingually. Thus, instead of just translating the time from English straight into French, they also were asked to put it in Italian. This would encourage Pupil A to spot patterns between the three languages and further their understanding of how the French grammar system works.

Outcomes

I measured the outcomes of the strategies using a questionnaire about their effectiveness and usefulness, which I conducted in Italian so that Pupil A could give more detailed answers and not be limited by how much English they knew. I could also tell that using more French in the classroom was beneficial to Pupil A because they were a lot more engaged and attentive. To summarise my findings, Pupil A found the strategies useful because it allowed them to follow their natural pattern of translating from English to Italian to French, and it meant that they were able to make links between the languages to further their understanding. Another strategy that they thought would be useful in the future is to provide definitions of English words in English to reduce any further misunderstanding that could take place.

 

References

National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC) (2015) EAL Statistics. Available from: http://www.naldic.org.uk/research-and-information/eal-statistics/ [Accessed 23 January 2016].

Case study about moderate learning difficulties (Katharine Williams) (KEC Classics trainee)

44.9% of pupils with special educational needs have moderate learning difficulties or speech, language and communication needs, making MLD the biggest group within the SEN range. It is also one of the most wide-ranging, the only definitions being that the pupil’s pace of working is limited in some way, and that they require extra support to achieve the same goals as non-SEN pupils. Unfortunately, compared to other SEN categories, MLD has had ‘less research and less written about it’ (Norwich and Kelly, 2005, p.5), and as recently as 1978 the term ‘educationally sub-normal’ was commonly used, carrying pejorative and harmful implications.

Learning strategies

Depending on the individual needs of a pupil with MLD, similar teaching approaches may be used as for non-SEN pupils. The pupil I studied (referred to from now as ‘Pupil A’) had particularly low reading and comprehension skills, a slower writing speed and a weaker working memory. His strengths included strong engagement in competitive tasks and quickly adapting writing frames to argue a point. Learning strategies recommended for pupils with MLD to improve their literacy in English include breaking complex tasks down into shorter questions, or sections. This avoids overloading Pupil A’s working memory, and prevents the presentation of too much new material at once. Visual and physical apparatus also aid comprehension, particularly with abstract concepts. Pupils also benefit from TA support, although since Pupil A is not entitled to this in his English exam, it is vital that he does not become dependent.

Impact

Pupil A made good progress in understanding new texts and volunteering answers in class; his sense of achievement from succeeding at small tasks motivated him to persevere. However, his disruptive behaviour, and difficulty in concentrating around other pupils, prevented progress in individual work. Pupils with literacy problems caused by MLD often have trouble communicating their difficulties to teachers (Lamb et al., 1997). However, withdrawal, either with or without TA support, had a very positive impact on Pupil A’s progress, and increased his confidence in his own ability. Pupils with MLD must be given real opportunities for success, and should be attempting working at slightly beyond their current level; it is important not to underestimate the potential of a pupil with MLD to learn effectively when able to work without distractions. A good working relationship with a pupil with MLD is also vital, as learning is only possible when the pupil feels supported, encouraged and motivated.

Conclusions

Pupil A’s target in English was to understand and interpret meaning in texts, and he made evidential progress in this area by writing paragraphs including a point, evidence, and exploration of the idea. However, his weak working memory means that this skill may be forgotten by the time of his GCSE examination. He makes the most progress working alone or one-to-one with a subject specialist, but unfortunately regular withdrawal from the classroom is not practical in the mainstream school Pupil A attends.

 

References

Lamb, S., Bibby, P., Wood, D. and Leyden, G. (1997) ‘Communication skills, educational achievement and biographic characteristics of children with moderate learning difficulties’. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 12 (4): 401-414.

Norwich, B. and Kelly, N. (2005) Moderate Learning Difficulties and the Future of Inclusion. Abingdon: RoutledgeFalmer.

Case study about special educational needs and disabilities (Alice Carter) (KEC science trainee)

All schools are required to ensure that the barriers to learning for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are removed. By conducting a case study of the needs and support currently in place for a physically disabled pupil and providing personalised learning opportunities for this pupil the effectiveness of strategies to support the learner was examined.

The case study focused on pupil A, a year 11 student at a West Midlands academy which has a higher than average proportion of pupils with SEND. Pupil A has a degenerative genetic condition, the symptoms of which include restricted growth, limited movement of limbs and poor fine motor control. As a result of this pupil A must always be in a wheelchair in school and requires assistance the majority of the time. Teaching assistants work with pupil A to act as a scribe in lessons as well as assist with basic everyday tasks.

Although pupil A’s condition does not cause cognitive impairment, the effects of the condition have impacted upon their education. This is mostly because of regular absences from school to receive medical treatments. This has led to pupil A falling behind with coursework.

A review of the literature focused generally on the difficulties faced by pupils with physical disabilities. Fox (2003) identifies that the time spent by a pupil outside of the classroom to provide physical management of the condition, for example medical treatment or physiotherapy, can limit the physically disabled pupil’s access to the curriculum. Also, the written communication of pupils with physical disabilities may be poor, and Spooner (2006) suggests how this can be overcome by using flow charts and mind maps.

These two points are relevant to pupil A since they are areas that were addressed in a series of one-to-one sessions with the pupil during lunchtime. During these sessions pupil A was provided the opportunity to complete parts of a science coursework that were missing, due to medical absence, and as a result limiting their final grade. Teachers also identified that pupil A can struggle with written communication, which is hindering them in exam questions which assess this skill. It was intended that improving written communication would also be developed in one-to-one sessions by using flow charts to plan answers.

Unfortunately, time with pupil A for one-to-one sessions was limited, and sometimes cancelled due to demands from other subjects and unforeseen circumstances. This meant that no distinguishable progress was made by pupil A in their written communication skills. However, this study does demonstrate the importance of providing pupil A time to catch up with missed work, particularly coursework, when physical disability has caused them to miss dedicated lesson time for this. Unfortunately, time is a difficult resource to provide because time during lunch is limited and the pupil cannot stay after school because of special transport requirements. It may be best to include written communication skills within the lessons pupil A is attending, as this will benefit not only pupil A but also the rest of the class and differentiation therefore becomes a priority for the class teacher.

 

References

Fox, M. (2003) Including Children 3-11 with Physical Disabilities. London: David Fulton Publishers.

 

Spooner, W. (2006) The SEN Handbook for Trainee Teachers, NQTs and Teaching Assistants. London: David Fulton Publishers.

Case study about English as an additional language (KEC history trainee)

The term EAL (English as an additional language) applies to children ‘who are being educated through the medium of English but whose home language is other than English’ (Murphy et al., 2015, p.2). Yet under this umbrella term there is a broad range of English language ability, ranging from beginner learners who are developing basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS), to advanced learners of English who possess communicative competence, but may be struggling with the cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) necessary to maximise their progress and attainment (Cummins, 2002). Efforts to cater for the needs of EAL pupils have met with mixed success. Murphy et al. (2015, p.13) cite a ‘lack of specialized staff, lack of provision for more advanced children with EAL, too much crossover with Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision, more sensitivity to cultural than linguistic diversity, and perhaps most worryingly, a strikingly absent EAL pedagogy.’

Within this pedagogy lie important considerations related with the specifics of EAL pupils’ native languages. This can include different grammatical structures, difficulty understanding English idioms and, in the case of Chinese speakers, pronunciation and spelling problems related to the substantial difference between English and Chinese, a tonal language with a non-alphabetic script.

I decided to undertake an investigation into some strategies to promote progress with an EAL learner on one of my teaching placements.

The learner

My learner (Pupil A) was a Mandarin-speaker studying in Year 11 at a mixed comprehensive school in the West Midlands. I ran one-to-one invention sessions as she prepared for her GCSE examinations and sixth form interviews. She was an intelligent, well-organised and highly-motivated student, with predicted grades of A* and A in all subjects, and an impressively sophisticated grasp of both written and spoken English.

The intervention

I ran four sessions of intervention with Pupil A to address some of the issues identified in my research. This included a focus on specialised vocabulary for History, what Leung (1997, p.29) refers to as ‘language expressions realising the subject-based knowledge and skills’, which helped Pupil A to understand the processes necessary for achieving top marks in GCSE style questions (for example, provenance, message, inference), as well as technical vocabulary that will help gain Pupil A top marks (for example, hyperinflation, passive resistance, and German terms such as Diktat, Lebensraum and Grossdeutschland). I also focused on the correct use of articles and prepositional phrases, something highlighted as a particular issue for Mandarin speakers. Finally, I conducted a mock sixth form interview with Pupil A to help her gain practice of using English in a formal interview setting.

Conclusions

My work with Pupil A impacted positively on her sixth form interview, as well as helping her to improve the level of her examination responses. However I felt that more consolidation was needed to see progress on eliminating small mistakes with articles and prepositional phrases, something that would inevitably only improve over a longer period of time. Further practice was also needed to embed the technical vocabulary in her lexis, including moving it from her passive to her active vocabulary, or from recognition to production. Pupil A will need to revisit the skills we covered, however her calm, confident manner and diligence mean that I have great confidence that she will achieve her potential in the GCSE examination.

 

References

Cummins, J. (2002) Language, Power and Pedagogy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Leung, C. (1997) ‘Language content and Learning Process in Curriculum Tasks’ in Leung, C. and Cable, C. (eds.) English as an Additional Language: Changing Perspectives. Watford: NALDIC. pp.28-39.

Murphy, V., Kyriacou, M. and Menon, P. (2015) Profiling Writing Challenges in children with English as an Additional Language (EAL). Available from: http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Profiling-Writiing-Challenges-in-children-with-EAL.pdf [Accessed 18 January 2016].

Case study about English as an additional language (Tom Foxall) (KEC Classics trainee)

English as an additional language (EAL) learners are a diverse population and the needs of individual pupils when learning English are highly specific and context-sensitive. It is estimated that UK schools are responsible for over a million learners of EAL between the ages of 5 and 18 whose level and experience of English can range from newly- arrived learners who have no familiarity with English whatsoever to learners whose first exposure to English came at a very young age and whose English has perhaps surpassed their first language as their language of thought and understanding.

 

The pupil with whom I worked, Pupil A, is a year 9 native speaker of Pashto from Afghanistan who arrived in the UK at the end of Year 6. Despite long-running intervention and support from EAL coordinators at School A, a mixed comprehensive school in the West Midlands, his progress in English has been slower than anticipated. He is often a reluctant student, who often remains silent in the manner expected of a much more recently arrived pupil.

 

My aim with Pupil A was to develop his writing skills in preparation for an internal assessment on poetry before half term. Although poetry may appear a difficult topic for an unconfident speaker and writer of English, research by Obied (2007) has suggested that many poetic registers, given their highly stylised, rhythmic, repetitive and often sonically evocative vocabulary, provide greater opportunities for EAL learners to deepen and extend their knowledge of English.

 

The short intervention aimed to improve features of Pupil A’s writing, ranging from his use of capital letters through to writing in paragraphs. By familiarising Pupil A with the themes of the poem, and working closely through the poem’s linguistic and historical context, it was hoped that Pupil A would come to understand enough of the poem to be able to produce a coherent piece of structured writing.

 

The period available for the intervention was short and, unfortunately, external circumstances led to the period available for working with Pupil A to be curtailed. Upon taking his assessment, it became clear that Pupil A had not had sufficient exposure to the poem to be able to understand its content, and to produce a well-structured piece of writing in response. Nonetheless, there was some limited evidence in Pupil A’s work that writing frames – a technique I had planned to use and had not found the time to implement closely, but which I had seen in action both with Pupil A’s teacher of English and in other subjects – had helped in some limited fashion to organise his thoughts during what must have been a very difficult exam. It is this evidence of sustained incremental progress, albeit small, that is perhaps the most important for Pupil A’s continued development of English.

References

Obied, V. (2007). ‘“Why did I do nothing?” Poetry and the experiences of bilingual pupils in a mainstream inner-city secondary school’. English in Education, 41: 37–52.

Case study about Down Syndrome (Rowena Bennett) (KEC dance trainee)

Since the review of educational provision was carried out as part of the Warnock Report in 1978, inclusivity in education has become a priority. In 1997 the Labour government bought inclusive education back to the forefront of educational issues stating that inclusive education is a fundamental right for all. From the literature there are three clear arguments for why Down Syndrome pupils should be educated in mainstream education. These are: the educational benefits; social inclusion and the moral right to inclusivity. In recent years there has been an increase of academic research focusing on these three areas which suggests it is an area of great importance. Down Syndrome affects the short-term memory which makes the learning process long, repetitive and complicated. Therefore one-to-one provision must be provided if the pupil attends mainstream education.

 

Many pupils with Down Syndrome will not be given the opportunity to obtain a GCSE in a special education setting because mainstream and special education have different foci, needs and limitations. Laws et al. (2000) and Buckley et al. (2006) argue that more emphasis is placed on the academic curriculum in mainstream education. This suggests that pupils who attend mainstream education will be given more academic opportunities. This has proven to be the case for pupil A, a year 11 pupil with Down Syndrome who attends both mainstream and special education. Research by Wearmouth (2009) suggests that mixed ability groupings allow for positive role models which increases the educational benefits of mainstream education.

 

Dolva et al. (2010) suggest that many parents of children with disabilities expect that inclusive education will lead to friendships and increased social competence. However this has not found to be the case for pupil A. The level of conversation experienced by pupil A between their peers in mainstream education and their peers in special education is extremely different. This has led to pupil A becoming excluded from conversations within the mainstream setting. It has also been suggested that the pupil becomes segregated because of constant one-to-one support from a teaching assistant.

 

Finally there is the moral argument for inclusivity within education. Schools must be able to provide education for all pupils regardless of their needs. Inclusive education suggests that the school adapts for the pupil and their need. A pupil should not need to fit into a school but rather the school adjusts accordingly for each individual. Inclusive education is a model where a pupil attends mainstream education full-time as opposed to partial inclusivity into mainstream education which is the experience of pupil A. This automatically impacts on pupil A’s ability to be socially included as they are not in school full-time.

 

The research conducted in this study has found that small but significant progress can be made with pupils with Down Syndrome during one-to-one withdrawal sessions using visual, kinaesthetic and repetition strategies. However the progress made is not always consistent due to the difficulty with recalling information. The educational benefits of mainstream education are strong however more research into social inclusion needs to be undertaken to ensure an inclusive policy can be implemented.

 

References

Buckley, S., Bird, G., Sacks, B. and Archer, T. (2006) ‘A comparison of mainstream and special education for teenagers with Down syndrome: implications for parents and teachers’. Down Syndrome Research and Practice, 9 (3): 54-67.

Dolva, A., Hemmingson, H., Gustavsson, A. and Borell, L. (2010) ‘Children with Down Syndrome in mainstream schools: peer interaction in activities’. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 25 (3): 283-294.

Laws, G., Byrne, A. and Buckley, S. (2000) ‘Language and Memory Development in Children with Down Syndrome at Mainstream Schools and Special Schools: A comparison’. Educational Psychology, 20 (4): 447-457.

Wearmouth, J. (2009) A Beginning Teacher’s Guide to Special Educational Needs. Oxford: Oxford University Press.