Four tips for a head of year to support students returning to school

Student well-being has always been a priority for any head of year, the school closures and subsequent lockdown in the United Kingdom following the outbreak of COVI-19 will bring to the fore an increasing range of issues for pastoral teams in school to face up to as plans are created to bring more students back to school.

There are four key things you as a head of year can do to support students in their return to school over the next academic year.

  1. Re-build positive relationships

At the heart of being a great head of year is an ability to build positive relationships with pupils, staff and parents. Time apart will have an effect on previously established relationships, you would be foolish to assume you can pick up where you left off before closures. These relationships will allow you to provide guidance, support your year group and provide challenge where it is needed. Building up positive relationships is more than smiling at everybody and saying hello; much of your work as a head of year will be building up key relationships through listening to the worries of others, giving people your time and showing that you care about their issues.

Your students will undoubtedly be in a heightened emotional state when they return to school and find their way back into a routine. Relationship building will be key in re-building the trust between you, your students and your team.

  1. Be alert to bereavement

As a head of year, you will naturally be closely monitoring students who have suffered a bereavement and at times may feel that additional support is needed to help the student deal with their emotions. Some suitable support interventions could be art therapy, forest schools, sports activities or indeed anything that can allow the student space and time to be reflective whilst also providing a means to channel their thoughts and energy away from any outbursts. Your students may have had a lot of time to reflect upon their loss at home but now they are trying to adjust to life in school whilst still dealing with their grief.

Being available to talk and to listen to the student will of course be of real benefit to them. Be careful not to attempt to fix all of their problems or try to protect them from everything. Instead, you should listen to what the student has to say and allow them to work through their issues by expressing their thoughts and feelings to you in a trusted manner. This is why building positive relationships with members of your year group is vital.

  1. Be consistent

Being consistent is key to your success. But it is also key to helping your students return successfully to school. Inconsistency causes confusion and leads to accusations of favouritism, indecisiveness and injustice. It destroys trust, community spirit and a positive school climate. In the privileged position of a head of year, you must make sure that rewards and sanctions are applied fairly and consistently in order to drive improvements within your year group.

Make it crystal clear what students are expected to do but also have secure procedures in place to support when things go wrong.

  1. Develop your own resilience

Be under no illusion, being a head of year can be tough. As a great head of year, you have set yourself aspirational targets and at times and you will feel as though they are unachievable. You need to be able to push on when times are tough and you feel like no progress is being made. The hard truth of being a head of year is that so much of what goes on in school is beyond your control while you may feel that you are left picking up the pieces.

Take care of your own well-being and that of your team. You will be operating in unfamiliar territory and no doubt will get some decisions wrong. Learn where you need to and recognise the positives in your work.

Being a head of year is a real privilege at the best of times, even more so when so many students will look towards you for support and guidance as they return to school.

Michael Power

Michael is the author of The Head of Year’s Handbook: driving student engagement and wellbeing. You can find out more at

New series for Higher Education Professionals

Critical Practice in Higher Education Series editors: Professor Joy Jarvis and Dr Karen Smith We are delighted to announce the launch on 1st May 2020 of a major new series for higher education professionals, Critical Practice in Higher Education, edited … Continue reading

Growing Recognition of Oracy

In this post author, Rupert Knight, talks about the growing recognition of the importance of oracy.

In the last fortnight, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Oracy has resumed its oracy inquiry following the election period. Once again, then, classroom talk – an aspect of schooling that has shifted into and out of the foreground over the past few decades – is back in the spotlight. There is a real sense, however, through this inquiry, comments from Schools Minister Nick Gibb and, above all, the growing school-to-school work nationally, led by organisations such as Voice 21, that this time we are seeing a more sustainable movement, recognising oracy’s central role in children’s education.

Oracy has been described by Voice 21 as the intersection between learning to talk and learning through talk. To put it another way, this is a commitment to promoting children’s spoken language as a pedagogical tool across the curriculum but also as an object of learning in its own right. Why is this important? I would suggest that there are three key arguments. One is based on the ways that learning throughout the curriculum can be shaped and enhanced by effective social interaction, another concerns what we know of the role of spoken language competence as a skill for life, while a third stems from a vision of inclusive education that values students’ ideas and voices.

In my book, Classroom talk: evidence-based teaching for enquiring teachers, I investigate what teachers need to know about this, based on the body of extensive international research in this field. As well as considering oracy as an essential skill, the book explores the role of classroom talk in everyday teaching, whether in whole class, teacher-led episodes or as part of interaction between students. I also consider the ways in which talk might support much-talked-about aspects of learning like metacognition and critical thinking. I have set out to evaluate key ideas in a balanced way and to illustrate implications accessibly with examples of whole school and classroom practice.

Thinking of own experience in the classroom, I often experienced dilemmas around issues like balancing curriculum coverage with a desire for discussions involving higher order thinking, or making the most of the benefits of peer collaboration while keeping interaction structured and purposeful. Many teachers will recognise these tensions!   In response, among the many evidence-informed insights in the book are, for example, clear indications of the kinds of ‘talk move’ that teachers can use to manage whole class questioning more effectively in order to elicit much richer student responses, as well as the complex factors found to contribute to high level, productive peer-to-peer dialogue.

As teachers across the world have discovered, teaching with oracy in mind by developing a classroom that is rich in high quality spoken language does not presuppose a particular philosophy or style of teaching. Oracy education should sit outside the vagaries of shifting policy directions and needs to be part of every teacher’s repertoire. A 2016 survey of UK teachers by Millard & Menzies found that teachers tended to regard oracy as a very important part of education, particularly for their most disadvantaged students, but also that they were hindered by a number of perceived factors, including their own confidence in enacting these principles. I hope that this book can play a small part in growing that confidence and capacity.

You can order Rupert’s book at

Reducing the gender pay gap: Could more women in STEM be the answer?

Amanda photo

This essay was written by Amanda Summers and is the winning education entry in the 2019 Critical Writing Prize. Amanda, a student at the University of Derby was nominated by her lecturer, Jennifer Marshall.


The gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between the median wages earned by men and by women (OECD, 2018c). Despite policies initiated by various governments to reduce gender inequality the gender pay gap remains a persistent problem worldwide. Indeed, recent data (Figure 1) shows that median wages earned by men outstrip those earned by women in every country in the OECD (OECD, 2018c).

figure 1

Figure 1: Gender wage gap (Total, % of male median wage, 2016 or latest available) for countries in the OECD. Source: OECD (2018c).

Notably, the UK has a gender pay gap above the OECD average and it is one of the highest in Western Europe. Prime Minister Theresa May has described this as one of “the burning injustices which mar our society” (May, 2018) and has committed the UK government to reducing gender pay inequality (Conservative Party, 2017). In this report I will examine the role of education in reducing the gender pay gap. Particularly, I will look at the gender pay gap of graduates in the UK, and how this is influenced by the degree subject choices of women. I will also examine evidence from Malaysia, a country which has successfully encouraged more women to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) (Tienxhi, 2017), and will discuss the effect of this on gender pay inequality.

The gender pay gap and the role of education

In almost all OECD countries, including the UK, the number of women enrolling in higher education exceeds that of men (OECD, 2018b). However, as previously highlighted, this does not translate into long term economic advantage for women. A recent analysis of the UK Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data by the Department for Education revealed that just one year after graduation male earnings exceeded female earnings by 9%, with the gap widening to 30% ten years after graduation (Department for Education, 2018). It should be noted that the data is not longitudinal in the strictest sense, as it does not follow a single cohort of students as their careers progress. Nevertheless, the study shows that a gender pay gap for graduates exists one, three, five and ten years after graduation across different cohorts (Table 1).

Table 1: Median earnings by gender, one, three and five and ten years after graduation. Source: Department for Education (2018).

Years after graduation Median Earnings (£) Difference

(% female earnings)

Female Male

(2013/14 cohort)

18,300 19,900 9%

(2011/12 cohort)

21,800 24,200 11%

(2009/10 cohort)

24,500 27,800 13%

(2004/05 cohort)

27,100 35,100 30%


It has been argued that part of the reason for this gap can be found in differences in the subject areas that men and women choose to study at university; women are generally over-represented in the arts, social sciences and humanities but underrepresented in the STEM subjects (Machin and Puhani, 2003; Grove, Hussey and Jetter, 2011; Davies et al., 2013). Since STEM degrees tend to lead to more financially lucrative careers, it is believed that this difference feeds into the gender pay gap (Machin and Puhani, 2003; Chevalier, 2007; Grove, Hussey and Jetter, 2011; Davies et al., 2013).

In the UK, the underrepresentation of women in STEM subjects is confirmed by an analysis of higher education statistics (Figure 2). Recent data shows that male students outnumber female students in every STEM subject apart from those associated with life sciences. Furthermore, female students outnumber male students in almost all subjects associated with the social sciences, humanities and the arts (HESA, 2018).

figure 2

Figure 2: Relative numbers of students by gender in each subject area for 2016/2017. Source: HESA, (2018)

Further data from the LEO survey shows that, ten years after graduation, those who studied medicine, economics, mathematics, engineering and technology, and architecture, building and planning, were able to achieve the highest graduate earnings (Department for Education, 2018). Of these five areas four were either pure STEM subjects or included a significant STEM component and all were male-dominated fields (HESA, 2018). Conversely, the lowest earnings were achieved by graduates of the creative arts, agriculture, education, psychology and mass communication (Department for Education, 2018). Of these five areas only psychology is a STEM subject and all are female dominated fields (HESA, 2018).

These findings have been used to suggest that policy makers need to consider the influence of the educational choices of men and women – particularly with regard to STEM subjects – when considering how to promote gender equality in earnings (Machin and Puhani, 2003; Davies et al., 2013). Such authors have supported this argument through use of the economic theory of human capital.

Human capital theory

Human capital theory asserts that a worker’s earnings are directly related to their human capital investments in the labour market and education. According to this model, a worker who makes greater investments in factors such as work experience or education and training should expect to attain higher wages than those with lower levels of investment (Becker, 1962; Blinder, 1973). Proponents of the theory suggest that this helps to explain the gender pay gap. Firstly, it has been noted that women tend to make lower investments in the labour market, as they are more likely to experience interruptions to their careers or work part time (Goldin and Katz, 2008; Bertrand, Goldin and Katz, 2010). Furthermore, as previously highlighted, they make different investments in their education – by studying different subjects. Factoring these variables into an individual’s stock in human capital, leads to the argument that men enjoy greater economic benefits because of these differing choices (Blinder, 1973; Oaxaca, 1973). However, along with this explained gap in earnings, economists note that there may be an additional, unexplained gap that cannot be attributed to one of these factors. This further gap, they suggest, represents discrimination (Blinder, 1973; Oaxaca, 1973). Thus, the explained gap plus the unexplained gap represents the gender pay gap (Figure 3).

figure 3

Figure 3: A schematic representation of the gender pay gap.


Consequently, human capital theory has been used as a framework to consider how the degree subject choices of men and women effect their earnings (Machin and Puhani, 2003; Chevalier, 2007; Grove, Hussey and Jetter, 2011; Davies et al., 2013). Commentators argue that as men make investments in subjects which provide a greater financial return, they maximise their expected wages. Whereas women are more likely to make investments in subjects that will lead to lower rates of pay (Machin and Puhani, 2003; Chevalier, 2007; Davies et al., 2013). This approach, however, has weaknesses; by making a distinction between the explained and unexplained gap, proponents of human capital theory have failed to understand that the factors contributing to the explained gap may themselves be subject to discrimination (England, Allison and Wu, 2007; Lips, 2013). For example, due to an unequal division of childcare responsibilities, women may be more likely to make investments in areas of the labour market that accommodate them at the cost of lower pay (Dias, Joyce and Parodi, 2018). This issue was recognised by economist Ronald Oaxaca who noted that one of the limitations of human capital theory is that “it does not take into account the feedback from labour market discrimination on the male-female differences in the selected individual characteristics” (Oaxaca 1973, p.708). Encouraging more women into STEM fields may not, therefore, be a straightforward solution in helping rectify the gender pay gap. To examine this further I will consider the experience of Malaysia and discuss the consequences of government policies that have been deliberately structured to encourage more women into STEM fields.

More women in STEM: The experience of Malaysia

Since the late 1960s successive Malaysian governments have pursued a range of interventionist policies aimed at fostering industrialisation and economic growth (Osman and Shahiri, 2014). Consequently, Malaysia has moved from being a low-income agriculturally dependent economy to being “one of the most rapidly developing economies in the world” (The World Bank 2007, p.8). Government investment in education, higher education and particularly in STEM education has been a key factor in this transformation (Ministry of Education Malaysia, 2016; Wan, 2018). As part of this drive for economic development the role of Malaysian women has been vital. Prior to its economic transformation female participation in the workforce was low, just 37.2% in 1970 (Nagaraj et al., 2014). With industrialisation, however, women’s labour came to be viewed as an underutilised resource and thus, successive governments initiated policies to harness it (Elias, 2011). In 1989 the Malaysian government formulated its national policy for women, with the aim of engaging women in the economic development of the nation (Economic Planning Unit Malaysia, 1991; Nagaraj et al., 2014). This was built upon in the 1990s, through a recognition of the economic role of women, in the Sixth Malaysia plan (Economic Planning Unit Malaysia, 1991; Nagaraj et al., 2014). More recently the Ministry of Education has outlined its strategy for encouraging women into STEM fields (Ministry of Education Malaysia, 2016). Such strategies have led to an increase in female participation in the workplace, rising to 51% in 2017 (World Bank, 2017), and with it women’s participation in higher education has also flourished.

An analysis of higher education statistics shows that in 1980 women accounted for 38.5% of the tertiary student population in Malaysia. By the year 2000 the proportion of women in higher education marginally surpassed the number of men and by the year 2015 this gap had grown such that the proportion of women in tertiary education exceeded 55% (World Bank, 2018). The data shows that these figures compare similarly with changes to the student population in the UK (Table 2).

Table 2: Percentage of students in tertiary education who are female (%) Source: (World Bank, 2018)

1980 1990 2000 2010 2015
United Kingdom 36.5 47.6 53.9 56.6 56.1
Malaysia 38.5 51 55.2


However, whilst participation rates may be similar, data shows that the degree subject choices of women in both countries differ. In recent decades the Malaysian government has encouraged participation in STEM subjects across the student population and has targeted female students through a variety of initiatives. For example, the highest attaining secondary school pupils, most of whom happen to be girls, are now automatically placed onto a STEM focussed curriculum (Ministry of Education Malaysia, 2016). Consequently, higher education statistics from 2013 show that, in contrast to the UK, the number of female students outnumbered the number of male students in all STEM subjects except for engineering (Table 3). However, even in engineering women still constituted 36.5% of the student population compared with just 17.5% for engineering and technology (combined) in the UK for 2017 (HESA, 2018).

Table 3: Students enrolled in Malaysian public universities by field of study 2013. Source: Ministry of Education 2014 (Cited by Wan, 2018 p.224).

Field of study Total enrolled Female enrolled % Female (vs. % male)
Science and Mathematics 48,591 33,479 68.9
Information technology and communications 30,586 16,276 53.2
Engineering 87,247 31,866 36.5
Manufacturing, processing and technology 18,259 10,582 66.3

The expansion of higher education, a focus on the education of women, and the promotion of STEM subjects appear to have done much to reduce gender inequalities in the Malaysian labour market. For example, as noted above, female participation in the workplace has grown significantly. Furthermore, government statistics show that in recent years Malaysia has been able to achieve a low gender pay gap, especially when compared with economies such as the UK (Figure 4). The extent to which Malaysian statistics can be compared to OECD calculations of the gender pay gap in the UK may be limited due to differing collection methods. Nevertheless, commentators suggest that this data shows that strategies to encourage women into STEM fields have reduced gender pay inequality in Malaysia (Strauss, 2018).


Figure 4: Gender pay gap in the UK and Malaysia 2012-2017. Source: (Department of Statistics Malaysia, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017; OECD, 2018c).

However, these figures may fail to give a full account of the Malaysian experience. The following data shows that whilst for younger women the pay gap is low – indeed on average women in the 25-40 age range earn more than men – for older women the gap is much greater (Figure 5). This suggests that whilst younger women are able to capitalise on their investment in education, this advantage begins to reduce once women reach their mid-thirties and is completely eradicated and even reversed later in their careers.

Gender graph
Figure 5: Gender pay gap in Malaysia by age group, 2013-2017. Source: (Department of Statistics Malaysia, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).

It has been argued that this is mostly due to the persistence of traditional gender roles in Malaysia, with women often undertaking caring roles in addition to employment. Goy and Johnes (2011) suggest that this factor along with a lack of affordable childcare and a dearth of company policies on flexible working has resulted in women being less likely to take on senior positions later in their careers. Therefore, the Malaysian example shows us that whilst female investments in STEM education may promote an initial reduction in the gender pay gap, this reduction may be short-lived if women operate within a system which prevents them from making long-term investments in the workplace. These assertions have been supported by other authors who also note that once they have children women in Malaysia are much more likely to leave the labour force completely (Elias, 2011). The Malaysian government recognises these problems and is seeking to remedy them through a range of policies such as encouraging flexible working practices and improving accessibility to childcare (Economic Planning Unit Malaysia, 2015).

When comparing the Malaysian experience to the situation in the UK it should be noted that levels of female participation in the workforce are much greater in the UK (World Bank, 2017). Consequently, a simple comparison of the gender pay gap does not demonstrate how Malaysian women are more likely to be completely absent from the workforce and thus unaccounted for in gender pay statistics. Therefore, a comparison of data between Malaysia and the UK is limited. However, when considering UK policy, and the extent to which the gender pay gap may be reduced by encouraging more women into STEM fields, the Malaysian experience serves as an interesting example.

Consequences for policy in the UK

The Malaysian example would indicate that encouraging more women to study STEM subjects does not automatically translate into long term economic advantage for women. Indeed, it demonstrates that despite achieving better educational outcomes, pay and opportunities for women are constrained by a system which limits their capacity to make equal human capital investments in the workplace. Commentators have suggested that women in the UK face similar barriers. For example in the UK it has been noted that an unequal division of childcare responsibilities often results in women moving away from jobs that provide higher wages and towards jobs that provide other benefits such as flexibility (Dias, Joyce and Parodi, 2018). Furthermore, it has been argued that within the context of male-dominated STEM industries such as engineering, IT or construction that these challenges are even more profound. Research in these sectors indicates that inflexible working practices are common and career breaks are viewed negatively. Consequently women are often side-lined into lower status jobs later in their careers (Watts, 2009; Herman, 2015; Kirton and Robertson, 2018). These assertions are supported by data from the LEO survey which shows that ten years after graduation female STEM graduates in the UK earn 15-23% less than their male counterparts (Table 4).

Table 4: Gender wage differentials for STEM graduates ten years after graduation. Source: (Department for Education, 2018)

Male wages 10 years after graduation (£). Female wages 10 years after graduation (£). Female wages as a % of male wages
Biological Sciences 33,000 28,000 85
Physical Sciences 35,600 28,800 81
Mathematical Sciences 43,900 35,700 81
Computer Science 35,700 27,800 78
Engineering and Technology 41,000 31,500 77

Nevertheless, it could be argued that encouraging a higher proportion of women into STEM fields may help to promote cultural change within these sectors, which could in turn reduce the gender pay gap. However, it has been suggested that when women enter male-dominated industries in significant numbers that this leads to a reduction in rates of pay (Cain Miller, 2016). Evidence to support this shows that when women move into a sector, the perceived status of jobs in that field reduces. Consequently, men within that sector negotiate new roles, which become higher status and better paid than the roles now fulfilled by women (Lips, 2013; Goldin, 2014). Examples of this can be found in longitudinal studies in the US (England et al. 2007) and Europe (Murphy and Oesch, 2014).

Taken together, the evidence suggests that encouraging women into male-dominated STEM fields may not be sufficient to bridge the gender pay gap. When looking at examples of other countries in the OECD which have succeeded in reducing their gender pay gap, none of them have achieved this through an integration of women into STEM fields. For example, Belgium has seen one of the most dramatic reductions in its gender pay gap moving from 13.6% in 2000 to 4.7% in 2015 (OECD, 2018a). This has been achieved mostly through strategies which seek to negate structural inequalities in the working environment. For example, collective bargaining has been strengthened, meaning that gains made apply equally to both men and women, and gender-pay-gap reporting has been made mandatory (Stone, 2018). Other countries with lower gender pay gaps have instituted a range of policies aimed at tackling structural gender inequalities such as improvements to pay transparency (Norway; Collinson, 2016), mandatory paternity leave (Sweden; Jackson, 2015), and mandatory employer certification of pay parity (Iceland; Henley, 2018). It is interesting to note that in these countries the emphasis has been on tackling structural inequalities in the workplace rather than targeting individual investments in education and the labour market.


Following an analysis of data from both the UK and Malaysia and a review of the academic work in the area, I would suggest that human capital theory only provides us with a limited understanding of the gender pay gap and how it can be tackled through changes to education policy. Commentators who use this theory as a framework fail to acknowledge that changes in individual investments do not take place within the context of a gender-neutral environment. As previously discussed, individual investments are subject to the constraints of the system in which they are made and these constraints may not be the same for everybody. Therefore, as has been seen in Malaysia, encouraging women into STEM education may reap short term benefits regarding gender pay equality but long term benefits may only be possible with structural changes to the employment system.

There are, of course, other reasons why it could be desirable to encourage more women into STEM fields. Since the year 2000 the government has shown concern over the UK’s ability to improve productivity within an increasingly technical global economy (National Audit Office, 2018). Within this context the National Audit Office highlighted the need to encourage more women into STEM education as it argued that women represent “a pool of potential STEM-skilled people that is currently being lost to the economy” (National Audit Office 2018, P.26). Therefore, encouraging more women into STEM could be regarded as an important step towards ensuring future economic prosperity. However, for women to enjoy an equal stake in this prosperity it will be necessary for the government to tackle systemic constraints on the ability of women to invest in the workplace on equal terms with men.


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Tienxhi, J. Y. (2017) ‘The Gender Gap in Malaysian Public Universities: Examining The ’Lost Boys’ ’, Journal of International and Comparative Education, 6(1), pp. 1–16. doi: 10.14425/JICE.2017.6.1.0116.

Wan, C. Da (2018) ‘Student enrolment in Malaysian higher education: is there gender disparity and what can we learn from the disparity?’, Compare, 48(2), pp. 244–261. doi: 10.1080/03057925.2017.1306435.

Watts, J. H. (2009) ‘“Allowed into a man’s world” meanings of work-life balance: Perspectives of women civil engineers as “minority” workers in construction’, Gender, Work and Organization, 16(1), pp. 37–57. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0432.2007.00352.x.

World Bank (2007) Malaysia and the knowledge economy: Building a world class higher education system. Available at: (Accessed: 17 July 2018).

World Bank (2017) Labor force participation rate, female (% of female population ages 15+) (modeled ILO estimate). Available at: (Accessed: 22 July 2018).

World Bank (2018) Percentage of students in tertiary education who are female (%). Available at: (Accessed: 17 July 2018).

Sample Chapter 5: Applying law in practice

The final extract from ‘Innovations in Practice Learning‘ is taken from Chapter 5: ‘Applying law in practice: Weapon, tool, manual or barrier?’ written by Allan Norman.

It’s not all about law: Let’s not kill all the lawyers

An understanding of law is compulsory for the social work student. The requirement has arisen out of historic concerns arising out of research (Ball et al, 1988) and service failures, that social workers have failed to demonstrate an adequate understanding. When the Diploma in Social Work was introduced, legal knowledge was the one area where there was specific and detailed guidance about what should be covered and how it should be assessed (CCETSW, 1995). Recent social work standards documents explicitly refer to the requirement to have an understanding of the law.

In particular, the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England (HCPC, 2017) require at Standard 2 that social workers are ‘able to practise within the legal and eth- ical boundaries of their profession’, which includes the following:

2.1 understand current legislation applicable to social work with adults, chil- dren, young people and families

  • be able to manage and weigh up competing or conflicting values or interests

to make reasoned professional judgements

  • be able to exercise authority as a social worker within the appropriate legal and ethical frameworks and boundaries
  • understand the need to respect and so far as possible uphold, the rights, dig- nity, values and autonomy of every service user and carer
  • recognise that relationships with service users and carers should be based on

respect and honesty

  • recognise the power dynamics in relationships with service users and carers,

and be able to manage those dynamics appropriately

My selection of these parts of that standard is intended to reflect that the require- ment to understand law is interwoven with an understanding of the nature of profes- sional judgement, of power and authority, of ethics, and of rights, among other things. The priority given to the different parts of this Proficiency Standard may well affect whether law becomes weaponised, seen neutrally as a tool or manual, or perceived negatively as a barrier.

The reference in the opening of this chapter to ‘authority generally, and to legal authority in particular’ reflects that when I introduce students to law, I start not with the idea of the law, but the concept of legal authority. This can convey both that it is a characteristic of law that it carries some kind of authority, and also that the law is not alone in possessing that characteristic. In turn, to view law as carrying some kind of authority invites thinking about the nature of law, and indeed critical thinking about whether and why the law should carry authority.

Rodriguez-Blanco (2014, p 11) observes:

Law transforms our lives in the most important way: it changes how we act and because of this it gives rise to fundamental questions. One such question concerns legal authority and individual autonomy and asks: if we are autonomous agents how do legislators, judges and officials have legitimate authority to change our actions and indirectly change how we conduct our lives?

This question, posed in respect of the relationship between law and the individual, takes on an added piquancy when revisited in the context of the relationship between law and social work: is social work an autonomous profession if its actions are tightly bound within the four corners of a restrictive legal framework?  Ife  (2012,    p 12) observes that the social work role manifests itself in different ways throughout the world, but that:

In societies such as that of the United Kingdom, social work has been seen as the implementation of the policies of the welfare state through the provision of statutory services …

Social work in the United Kingdom is thereby singled out as an example of a model constrained within the legislative framework and purpose. Social workers and students will need to be particularly astute to understand the framework of legal authority which governs their role.

One approach to opening up the different kinds of authority which the social work student will encounter is to consider the different types of question that might invite reflection in a practice situation. Table 5.2 introduces, alongside legal authority, some of the other kinds of questions that the law is not appropriately placed to address.


Table 5.2 Different sources of authority


Law What am I allowed or required to do?
Ethics What is the right thing to do?
Research/Evidence-Based Practice What has been observed to happen? What works?
Professional Standards and Codes What is considered professional behaviour?
Comparative Practice How is it done elsewhere?
Government Policy What does the government want me to do?
Policies and Procedures What do other people want me to do?


Students arriving on placement may have been taught law in a variety of different ways. In some institutions, legal knowledge and understanding is integrated throughout the course; in others, it is a discrete element of the course (Braye and Preston-Shoot, 2005, pp 23–4). In some institutions, law is taught alongside ethics (Braye and Preston-Shoot, 2005, p 66). In others – and indeed within the pages of this book – law and policy are grouped together. Sometimes, law is compartmentalised, with the law relating to different areas of social work practice separated out.

Table 5.2 invites certain reflections on the law with which the student arrives equipped on placement. If law and ethics for example are answering different kinds of question, then they might not point towards the same conclusion as to the right way for the social work student or practitioner to act. Practitioners cannot always avoid such dilemmas. Take, for example, the Withholding and Withdrawal of Support Regulations 2002. As their name hints, these regulations require social workers to withhold or withdraw social services support from certain categories of individuals on the basis of their immigration status. This is legislation, but there is good reason to think that there might be some conflict between such a legal obligation and one’s eth- ical or professional obligations. Humphries (2004) powerfully articulates that social workers operating such laws:


… have not resisted the gate-keeping and inhumane role thrust upon them. It is no wonder they are despised and feared by the people they purport to help. We can safely regard the rhetoric about anti-oppressive and anti-racist practice as harmless delusion.

If, however, law is no more than a manual telling you how to perform the social work role, then there might be no critical engagement between legal and other forms of authority such as professional and ethical authority.

A similar point might be made in relation to research into the effectiveness of different forms of intervention: the fact that a particular form of intervention is shown to be effective does not necessarily mean that it is ethical, nor that it is lawful.

Law and policy are so frequently elided that it might be surprising within Table 5.2 to see the suggestion that they are answering very different kinds of questions, and indeed that policies seem to be held out as having little authority. That, however, is an important point for the student to grasp. Policies and procedures play a prominent role within many agencies in shaping practice. Sometimes they are indeed conflated with the law in the practitioner’s imagination. However, the critical and reflective prac- titioner will understand that policies do not in themselves have any legal authority, and will reflect on issues of ethics, professional role, rights etc rather than turning uncritically to an agency policy as a manual determining how to act.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these sample extracts from ‘Innovations in Practice Learning! For more information or to purchase your copy of this book click here.


Sample Chapter 3: Supervision within placement

The next sneak preview from ‘Innovations in Practice Learning‘ is taken from Chapter 3 entitled ‘Supervision within placement: Achieving best practice’ by Heidi Dix.

Students may find that they have a practice educator who is based within the agency and from whom they will receive weekly supervision. However, in other placements the practice educator is not based within the agency and an on-site practice super- visor will be appointed to provide day-to-day support and guidance. Students who have an on-site practice supervisor in addition to their practice educator may find that supervision will be given on alternate weeks by the practice educator and the on- site practice supervisor. The nature and content of supervision provided within these roles is slightly different. For example, supervision with an on-site practice supervisor could focus on the direct work the student is undertaking and have more of a man- agerial focus, for example, ensuring that the student is working within the agency’s eligibility criteria. However, supervision with a practice educator may have more of an educational and reflective focus, supporting the student to apply the knowledge they are learning in university and their self-directed learning to the work they are undertaking in placement.

Below are some comments from students in relation to the advantages and disadvantages of off-site and on-site models of practice education which I have heard over the years. Of course, these are generalisations and will not apply in all situations, but it is worth noting the strengths and limitations of both models. However, the most important thing is that the practice educator and practice supervisor work together to meet the learning needs of each individual student.


Advantages of having an off-site practice educator and on-site supervisor Disadvantages of having an off- site practice educator and on-site supervisor
‘If practice educators are not directly working within the agency they can provide greater objectivity and support students to question agency policy, procedures and practice.’ ‘Practice educators may not have direct practice experience in the area of social work that students are placed in.’
‘Off-site practice educators often bring experience from other areas of social work, enabling students to  compare and contrast their placement with other aspects of social work practice.’ ‘Off-site practice educators are often not available outside scheduled supervision times.’
‘Off-site practice educators, particularly those who work independently, will often support a number of students and will often provide group supervision which can be beneficial.’ ‘Contact with practice educators will be limited, particularly within the 70-day placement.’


Advantages of having an off-site practice educator and on-site supervisor Disadvantages of having an off-site practice educator and on-site supervisor
‘Practice educators will have direct practice experience of the work required within the agency.’ ‘Students can learn from different approaches and styles, eg “two heads are better than one.”’
‘They are often available for both formal and informal supervision,’ ‘Practice educators can be immersed in the culture of the agency and could be

adverse to the student asking questions that

demonstrate critical reflection.’

‘Supervision will be offered on a weekly basis with the same person.’ ‘Students will need to ensure there are opportunities to shadow other colleagues, not just their on-site practice educator.’


The majority of supervision students receive will be on a one-to-one basis, although there may be occasions when group supervision is used. Students often find this helpful as it enables them to share learning with other students in a practice setting and provides another form of support (Doel, 2010). However, one-to-one sessions are critically important in enabling a student to focus clearly and in depth on issues specific to their individual learning needs, particularly if a student has additional learning needs (see Chapter 8). There are also different expectations of students in their first and final placements as they build on the capabilities demonstrated in the first placement. Although students will still be offered guidance and support in their final placement, they should be given more autonomy as their confidence and ability increases. Students often find that their learning needs change as their confidence increases and consequently require different things from supervision. For example, in early supervision sessions, students may require support to develop their self- belief. However, as students develop in confidence, they may require less of this type of support and supervision could focus more on developing critical thinking skills.

An insight into what students can expect from their supervisors and practice educators

As adult learners, Rogers and Horrocks (2010) suggest that although we will have similar characteristics we also have differing needs depending on a range of factors. These include issues of diversity such as gender, ethnicity and class as well as the level of experience, skills and knowledge that students bring to the programme. Depending on our personality types (Rogers and Horrocks, 2010), the attachment experiences we have received in childhood (Howe et al, 1999) and whether we are operating from a secure base (Bowlby, 1973), we may require more or less support in particular areas of development. Therefore, as part of supervision sessions, students can expect their practice educators to ‘tune in’ (Taylor and Devine, 1993) to their needs to assist them to identify previous skills and experience in order to assist them appropriately. Research conducted with social work students by Lefevre (2005) suggested that stu- dent learning is enhanced when students feel listened to and respected by practice educators; therefore, developing a professional relationship to facilitate effective supervision is helpful to both parties. It is important that each party understands what is expected of the other and this needs to be clarified if there is any confusion.

There are many ways that we learn and take in information. Many of us prefer to have information presented to us visually, some of us find if we hear things we retain them better, others prefer to see things written down, and some of us learn best if we can move around and utilise our senses (Fleming, 1995). For some of us, experien- cing something and thinking about it afterwards is the best way that we learn (Kolb, 1984). There are a number of questionnaires that are available to help us under- stand our learning styles (Honey and Mumford, 1992; Fleming and Baume, 2006) and it may be helpful for students to complete one of these and share the results with their practice educator to enable them to tailor their support to help maximise the student’s learning. Although we often have a preferred way of learning, it is important that we have the ability to be receptive to new ways of understanding, because as practitioners we will often work with service users who will have a different way   of learning to ourselves. We may need to present information to service users in a way that best meets their needs; practice educators may model this by encouraging students to be flexible and to begin to adopt new ways of receiving and processing information.


Organisations have different policies in relation to the amount of supervision to which employees are entitled. Students may find themselves placed in organisations where supervision is not something that is routinely offered to employees or volunteers. However, qualified social workers employed by a local authority are entitled to regular and consistent supervision (LGA, 2014). As social work students, the frequency of supervision will be determined by the university and negotiated with the placement provider at a Learning Agreement Meeting. In addition to formal supervision sessions, students should be able to ‘check out’ any questions they have in between sessions by utilising the experience and knowledge of other practitioners within the organisation. If students believe they are not getting the length and quality of the supervision they are entitled to as a social work student, they should be encouraged to inform their university tutor who may need to revisit this with the placement provider or practice
educator as part of the Learning Agreement.

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Sample Chapter 1: Generation Y

Here is today’s sneak preview from ‘Innovations in Practice Learning‘. This extract is taken from Chapter 1 ‘Generation Y: Reflections on our current generation of learners’.

Chapter 1 | Generation Y: Reflections on our current generation of learners

Caroline Hills

All supervisors want their student(s) to develop the requisite skills, attitudes and knowledge that are essential for graduating with competency in their profession. Indeed, taking a student on placement is indicative of the supervisor’s desire and commitment to mentoring and guiding the student towards the attainment of these essential skills and attributes. From the student’s perspective, the most successful placements are those in which the student has had a good relationship with their educator and have been facilitated towards independence with some degree of autonomy in that particular work setting. While many studies have reported that the most preferred characteristics of the supervisor are that they are enthusiastic and approachable (Francis et al, 2016; Perram et al, 2016), students have also used the term ‘belonging’ in their descriptions of successful placements (Hills et al, 2016a). ‘Belonging’ is the human need to be accepted, recognised, valued and appreciated by a group (Maslow, 1943). Social scientists have defined ‘belongingness’ as a feeling of being respected and appreciated and having an integral role in an environment, which is achieved through participation in that setting (Anant, 1969). People who experi- ence ‘belongingness’ feel they ‘fit in’ as they feel needed, valued and accepted (Hagerty et al, 1992). However, it is not only the relationship with the supervisor that facilitates this essential feeling; it is also being part of the team, feeling like a colleague – and for students it has been reported as a prerequisite to both enabling and optimising their learning (Levett-Jones and Lathlean, 2008).

In order to create a feeling of ‘belongingness’, the placement must begin with consid- eration of the student’s attributes in relation to their learning needs and preferences. This recognises that we do not all learn in the same way. To begin with acknowledging difference enables individualised learning approaches to be adopted. Considerations such as learning style, gender, cultural and family background, or the presence of a health condition or disability, may be important starting points, in addition to the student’s life and previous work experience relevant to the area of practice (Larkin and Hamilton, 2010). However, age or ‘generation’ has been noted as another factor that can affect student learning in placement (Larkin and Hamilton, 2010).


In her book Generation Me (2006), Jean Twenge describes the fundamental premise which underpins a generational perspective:


Everyone belongs to a generation. Some people embrace it like a warm familiar blanket, while others prefer not to be lumped in with their age mates. Yet, like it or not, when you are born dictates the culture you will experience. This includes the highs and lows of pop culture, as well as world events, social trends, economic realities, behavioural norms, and ways of seeing the world. The society moulds you when you are young and stays with you the rest of your life.

(Twenge, 2006, p 2)


Defining differences in generational cohorts was first proposed by the German soci- ologist Karl Mannheim in the 1950s. Mannheim (1952) postulated that each gen- eration has a similar worldview due to exposure to common historical and social events during their formative years. Every member of  a  specific  generation  will not have experienced the same life events, but they will have a shared awareness which creates a type of ‘generational personality’. This is attributed to belonging to the same generational age group and sharing a common location in the social and historical world. Subsequently, generational classifications have been developed by social commentators in westernised countries. These include the ‘GI Generation’ (born 1901–1924); the ‘Silent Generation’ (1925–1942); the ‘Baby Boomers’ (1943– 1960); ‘Generation X’ (1961–1981); ‘Generation Y’ or ‘Millennials’  (1982–2002)  and ‘Generation Z’ from 2003 onwards (Prendergast, 2009). Supporters of a gener- ational perspective have argued that each generation’s personality has a unique set of characteristics, developed as a result of their experiences during their formative years. These characteristics comprise beliefs, values, attitudes and expectations, which affect behaviour in general, as well as in educational and work settings (Boudreau, 2009; Lavoie-Tremblay et al, 2010).

Foster’s (2013) analysis of the narrative discourse of workers confirmed that being part of one generation or commenting on other generations is a reality in contem- porary society. For example, in this author’s research, participants used language such as ‘that generation’ or ‘the younger generation’ and ‘my generation’, when discussing approaches to doing things differently in the workplace. However, many qualified these stereotypical comments by stating that not everyone of a particular generation fits the generalisation. Foster (2013, p 211) concluded that a generational perspective:


… proves particularly useful when people attempt to understand and convey perceived differences in older and younger contemporaries, and the social, cultural, and especially technological changes affecting their lives. It is a one-word lens through which both choice and determinism are rendered visible in the lives of others.


Table 1.1 Societal influences during the formative years of generations


Baby Boomers (1943–1960) Generation X (1961–1981) Generation Y (1982–2002)
Notable occurrences Civil rights movement Rise of mass media and consumerism, end of Cold War Globalisation, digital age, age of terrorism
Major influences Family and education Media, AIDS, nuclear disasters as well as family and education Witness the growth of millionaires. Digital explosion. Family major influence. ‘You are special’.
Entertainment Television Multiple TV channels, VCR, Nintendo, cinema YouTube, live streaming,  multiple media and

technologies. Social media.

Communication and technology Touch-tone phones, calculators Mobile phones, beepers, laptops, email More complex mobile technologies, WiFi, social media, creation of apps, more interactive video gaming and computer programs. Most homes own a computer.
Spending styles Buy now pay later – with plastic More

cautious –pessimistic


Growth in designer labels and personalised items, ie phone covers
Value Regularity, predictability Fun, want challenges Fun but want to achieve
Work ethic ‘It pays to work hard’ – workaholics Satisfying teamwork Likes teamwork

but wants to achieve. May have multiple careers.

(Adapted from Prendergast, 2009)

You can purchase your copy of ‘Innovations in Practice Learning’ here.

Sample Chapter Six: Keep up to date

The final extract from Daniel Scott’s book is taken from his chapter, ‘Keep up to date’.


As an educator it is important to keep up to date with your subject-specialist expertise and emerging teaching practices. This is a process known as continuing professional development (CPD): retaining, maintaining and developing your professional credibility with your learners and organisation. While it can be challenging to find suitable and appropriate training and the time to participate, it is essential for your professional growth and to ensure that your learners are taught up-to-date knowledge, skills and rel- evant legislation. CPD is also important in learning about new tools and resources that can enhance your practices. However, it’s not just about knowing the latest thing, but about designing great teaching and learning though technology. It’s good to be on top of your game, to keep abreast of changes and emerging and trending digital technologies.

This final chapter summarises how you can keep up to date with the growing abundance of digital technologies and their potential contribution to learning. It introduces you to some ways that you can get up to speed on the latest ILT trends, engage and collaborate with other professionals, promote your own good practice and join courses or profes- sional bodies/associations.

Continuing professional development

CPD is not just about staying current in your specialist subject, but includes face-to-face, blended and online pedagogies and organisational and national policies. All of these    will positively impact on your job role and improve and enhance your practices. Another reason to embrace CPD is to stay current and validated, especially in the use of ILT, as those who use ILT most effectively are agile when meeting the demands and challenges of twenty-first-century learning.

To effectively plan and facilitate your CPD, it’s useful to have an action plan of the things you wish to experiment with, develop, implement and evaluate to enhance your practices. At the same time, keep an eye open (or have others do it for you) for new ideas in designing teaching and assessment. Having a plan makes it more likely that you will investigate and apply what you set out to do and reflect on its success. It’s important to not become complacent in your knowledge, skills and experience – be proactive and take the lead on your own development. The more effort and involvement you put into your professional development, the richer your knowledge, skills and experience will become.

Below is a list of organisations and bodies that offer professional support and are rele- vant to the further education and skills sectors.

» Association for Research in Post-Compulsory Education (ARPCE) –

» Association of Colleges (AoC) –

» Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) –

» Chartered Institute for Educational Assessors – institute-of-educational-assessors

» Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) –

» The Chartered Institution for Further Education –

» Chartered Management Institute –

» Education and Training Foundation (ETF) –

» Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE) –

» FE News –

» FE Week –

» General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI) –


» The Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (ITOL) –

» International Professional Development Association (IPDA) –

» Learning and Skills Research Network –

» Learning and Work Institute –

» National Education Union –

» Society for Education and Training (SET) –

» Tutor Voices –

» University and College Union (UCU) –

» Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) –

Reflective Task

» Using Appendix 6.1 (and considering Appendix 1.1), reflect on your current practices and the contents of the previous chapters. Identify and list areas you wish to explore further or imple- ment in your practices. For example, what new digital tools and resources do you want to try out? How do you want to digitally enhance your curriculum offering? Perhaps you want to iden- tify people to collaborate with or observe others’ use of ILT? You might like to take this time to think about:

  • What digital capabilities would you like to develop?
  • What barriers may affect you in developing your digital capabilities?

» As well as preparing a Personal and Professional Development Plan, you may want to include digital capabilities in your own appraisal process to track progress and development.

» Use Appendix 6.2 to log your progress and evaluation, and update it frequently.

CPD opportunities

Higher education courses are good opportunities to learn about underpinning theories and pedagogies, build new professional relationships with like-minded others, and learn about new kinds of ILT and how to use them in the classroom. Several universities offer distance, blended, taught or research-based ILT programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. If this interests you, do research locally and nationally to see what different institutions have to offer and the potential costs. Alternatively, you may be in- terested in the following vocational qualifications that may be offered locally:

» Level 1 Award in Digital Technologies for Learning

» Level 3 Award and Diploma in Digital Learning Design

» Level 4 Diploma and Extended Diploma in Digital Learning Design

» Level 4 Award in Digital Learning for Educators

» Level 4 Award for Technology Enabled Educators

» Level 4 Certificate in Technology in Learning Delivery


Free CPD programmes

Many organisations and universities offer free online courses, called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which are often short or ‘taster’ courses. MOOCs are delivered online or in a VLE and are usually open internationally, meaning that the courses typi- cally have a large cohort, giving you the opportunity to connect with like-minded individ- uals from around the world. You are expected to be self-motivated and navigate yourself through the course; however, there are online tutors to help. The more aspects of a MOOC you participate and collaborate in, the more you will gain from it.

Most MOOCs are free; however, some charge for obtaining a certificate of completion and course materials. Below is a range of free online courses that you can join and participate in.

» Alison –

» Coursera –

» edX –

» FutureLearn – Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started – courses/blended-learning-getting-started

» FutureLearn – Blended Learning Essentials: Embedding Practice – www.futurelearn. com/courses/blended-learning-embedding-practice

» FutureLearn – Blended Learning Essentials: Developing Digital Skills – www.

» FutureLearn – Blended Learning Essentials: Digitally-Enriched Apprenticeships – www.

We hope you have enjoyed these samples of Daniel’s book ‘Learning Technology’. You can purchase his book on our website here.

Sample Chapter Four: Assess

Today’s sample extract from Daniel Scott’s book is taken from Chapter 4, ‘Assess’.

Giving feedback

At the summative stage for assessment of learning, you may be using online submission tools such as a VLE assignment upload, Dropbox and Turnitin tools. Often, assignment upload tools will allow you to leave short or long comments and have options for leaving audio and annotated feedback. Annotated feedback is where you can leave interactive place markers such as question marks, ticks and crosses. These are good for drawing learners to your comments for them to act upon. You may even be able to grade work using criteria you have set.

Additionally, you may have the added bonus of having a plagiarism detector (Turnitin offers this feature). Once a piece of work is submitted, the plagiarism software will scan the text for any similarities against other people’s work nationally and internationally who have submitted through that system. Systems like these can also annotate the    text to show where text may have been copied from the original source. This is ideal to prompt a discussion with your learners about plagiarism and originality, and for you to decide the best course of action.

Online submission tools are ideal for providing final feedback on assignment or pro- ject work as you can leave overall comments on the collection over a period of time. However, bodies of work like this may be better presented as ePortfolios, which are a popular way for learners to demonstrate their achievements and competencies, partic- ularly in apprenticeships.

Collecting work-based evidence

Work-based learning is a topic on its own; however, an important issue when embedding eAssessment in the workplace is choosing appropriate digital technology that minimises learner interruption to their work. Work-based learning is naturally focused on ‘real work’ and acquiring industry knowledge, skills and experience, so assessment and feedback should be wrapped around this concept rather than being an intrusive addition. A digital experience for apprenticeships is achievable; however, you should aim to use a wide range of blended and flipped approaches.

When designing for work-based learning, it is highly important to identify on-, off- and near-the-job learning first, then decide on the most suitable digital technology to facilitate each process. Holistic assessment is advantageous here as it allows learners to dem- onstrate different criteria and units at the same time. Designing holistic assessment for work-based learning is time-consuming but is very effective once set up. You  can add     a digital layer to it by using links to the VLE for resources and activities for learners to complete as well as independently submitting evidence. This allows for a wide range of holistic evidence demonstrating both cognitive- and skills-based competencies. It also makes the process a more learner-centred approach and self-directed, allowing you more time to focus on other assessment activities. Visit the links at the end of this chapter for further guidance.


An ePortfolio is a digital tool or system that enables learners to collect and organise multi- media artefacts such as text, hyperlinks, images, video and audio to present their work and learning experiences. An ePortfolio becomes a product of learning and achievement which learners can build upon throughout their learning journey. ePortfolios support an array  of learning approaches such as reflection, self-directed learning and assessment of and for learning. The main benefits of ePortfolios are that they encourage reflective learning, support personal development, and increase the self-awareness and esteem of learners. This is because the ePortfolio is the product of the learner by ownership by demonstrating their individuality, abilities, aspirations and ambitions, containing learning, knowledge, experiences and achievements. Additionally, an ePortfolio can act as a transferable dem- onstration of achievement if a learner moves to another institution, progresses into higher education or employment. As well as the advantages of digital technology previously men- tioned, the following are significant benefits of using ePortfolios:

» Excellent for encouraging reflection and evaluating own work.

» Supports lifelong learning; the ability to use it before, during and after the programme.

» Can represent different starting points on a learner journey/achievement.

If ePortfolios can be effectively designed and integrated at the centre of a learner’s assessment, it will enable the learner to be more independent and in control of their learning and development. Figure 4.1 illustrates a typical flow of a learner working with an ePortfolio, a process which they can enter at any point. Access a range of available  ePortfolio  tools from C4LPT (

Daniel image 5

Figure 4.1. Illustrating how an ePortfolio is constructed.


ILT in quality assurance

With the right choice of digital technologies, you can use them to improve quality assurance systems and processes. Table 4.2 describes some ways of using digital technology in your quality assurance practices.


Table 4.2. Describing some ways to use digital technology in quality assurance practices.

Digital technology  




ePortfolios You could ask  assessors  to send you hyperlinks to the ePortfolios which have been selected for sampling. Plus you are not carrying physical files with you.


Most ePortfolios have the ability to allow you to  leave  assessor or internal verifier comments

for others to see, but not by learners.

This will allow assessors to remotely check other assessor and internal verifiers’ judgements and feedback wherever you have an internet connection. You

could also create an exemplar ePortfolio for learners to aspire to and for assessors to  know  what to look for.

Online discussion Microsoft Skype ( com) is a useful tool to keep all assessors and internal verifiers up to date as well as share samples of learners’ work, whether they are on site or not.


Each assessor could send you samples of work or use webcam live to show what is being done. It could also provide a really good question-and-answer function for assessors not on site.

All assessors could  join  a webinar and take part in a virtual standardisation meeting with a

discussion and reviewing samples of work and practice.

You can find out more about this book here.

Sample Chapter Three: Deliver and facilitate

The next sneak preview from Daniel Scott’s book ‘Learning Technology’, is taken from Chapter 3 entitled ‘Deliver and facilitate’.

Accessibility and assistive technologies

Accessibility is about ensuring everyone, especially your learners, has access to  resources and services, while ensuring that it is easy for them to obtain and interact with your materials. Accessibility is about providing people with as many options as possible, not so much about providing one form or mode of access. Assistive tech- nology means using tools, systems and devices that remove barriers to learning caused by an impairment. It is not about choosing a specific operating system or device.

To learn effectively you need to be in the right mindset and environment to fully store, recall and interact with knowledge. Due to our own preferences, when we learn in a classroom or online we may prefer a desktop or mobile device to help store knowledge and information. However, using different types of devices can either enable or hinder your process of learning. For example, you may prefer to use a laptop to have more screen space and a keyboard to focus, study and type. Mobile devices may be limiting  for some people who need to use multiple windows and files to research and absorb information or find it difficult to type on  screen.  Using  personal  devices  is  a  great way of embedding assistive technologies because it is likely already mapped to the learner’s preferences. However, be prepared that some learners will not have access    to personal devices or may prefer not to use their own devices on campus. Find out        if you can borrow sufficient devices from your information technology department or library for the lesson or the day so that all learners can be included in any ILT-related activities.

Assistive technologies can help learners to better use digital technologies if they have     a physical or learning disability or have accessibility preferences. Assistive technologies aim to increase access to learning, by improving flexibility and inclusion. In terms of ILT and eLearning, assistive technologies often include screen readers, voice recognition  and screen magnification software. For example, in your VLE you may have the option to change background colour, text size and the ability to speak text aloud on the web page. You can also purchase ergonomic mice and keyboards to suit specific needs to enable greater access to digital technologies.

There is a legal obligation to make learning materials accessible, outlined in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001). Also, your employer may have specific requirements that must be followed to ensure you meet the regulatory requirements as well as your learners’ needs.

Practical Task

» Select an online tool or device you are using or want to use with your learners.

» Consider the opportunities and constraints the ILT tools presents.

» Identify and assess a range of assistive and adaptive technologies to support your learners in their learning.

» Investigate the accessibility options and features that are available to help your learners use the tool or device to fully participate in the learning activity.

It is also important to consider accessibility when presenting your materials electroni- cally. The following are some suggestions you could follow in the planning and designing of your teaching activities and resources.

» Ensure the format and layout of your materials are clear, concise and consistent. Information should be appropriately presented so that learners can navigate it easily.

» Make alternate versions of your materials available to your learners, for example, if using Microsoft PowerPoint. Make video, PDF and Microsoft Word documents available with accessibility options on, such as the ‘navigation pane’, to increase readability.

» Ensure that relevant software is installed on the computers and devices and that it works. This will reduce time and frustration for you and learners trying to solve these problems during the session.

» Use appropriate sans-serif fonts such as Arial and styles to increase readability.

» Choose appropriate colours: be aware of any learners that have visual impairments, don’t use difficult-to-read colours like yellow, and ensure there is sufficient contrast between background colours and text.

» Ensure that any images you use have descriptions attached to them (alternative text). This will mean that the text description you’ve added will be read out to anyone using a screen reader.

» All diagrams and tables are labelled.

»  Add descriptive text to hyperlinks, rather than saying ‘click here’ as the link may not  be visible to some people.

The ‘Accessibility Checker’ feature in Microsoft applications is useful to help you identify any areas for consideration. You may want to consider the conditions that Figure 3.5 illustrates and perhaps select and implement an appropriate mix of text, images, audio, video and interactions to meet the wider needs of your learners – it’s about being inclu- sive by design.

If you would like to gain a greater understanding of accessibility and assistive technolo- gies, access the following links to free courses and resources.

» OpenLearn – Introduction to cyber security: Stay safe online – openlearn/science-maths-technology/introduction-cyber-security-stay-safe-online/ content-section-overview

Daniel Picture 4

Figure 3.5. Images adapted from ‘Accessibility Issues in Online Learning’ webinar from Jisc’s Alistair McNaught on 23 October 2015.

» OpenLearn – Accessibility of eLearning – development/education-careers/accessibility-elearning/content-section-0

» OpenLearn – Assistive technologies and online learning – education-development/assistive-technologies-and-online-learning/content-section-0

» FutureLearn – Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society –

For more information and guidance on using tools to create digital activities and resources while maintaining accessibility and promoting inclusivity, see Jisc’s guides: www.jisc. and needs or Dyslexia Action:

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