GCSEs 2021: Why not every student needs a bespoke plan

We can't provide a personalised learning plan for every GCSE student – so how we can ensure individual needs are met?
9th November 2020, 1:00pm
Elpida S. Christianaki

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GCSEs 2021: Why not every student needs a bespoke plan

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/gcses-2021-why-not-every-student-needs-bespoke-plan
Gcses 2021: How To Identify Students In Need Of Personalised Learning Plans

Clearly, it is not practical to provide an individual plan for every learner for GCSE and A level. However, we do need to ensure that students' individual needs are met. So how do you hit the sweet spot between the two?

We need to ensure that we don't fall into the trap of trying to create an individual pathway for every student. Knowing our students can help us to finely tune our delivery without the need to introduce an individual plan, as there will be a lot of overlap across our learners' strengths and weaknesses. 

Indeed, the gap across the range is usually not large enough to require a completely different approach for every student in the class. 

GCSEs 2021: individual plans?

But is this enough? For most of the students, the answer is actually "yes".

However, for some GCSE and A-level students, it won't be. So how do we know when a student requires an individual plan? When is it not enough to just focus on clear planning and engaging delivery? 

We need to be selective about the students we create individual plans for, and it needs to be evidence-based. Concerns that can trigger additional strategies could be:

  • a) Missing various deadlines.
  • b) The quality of their work has been regressing.
  • c) Difficulty retaining information.
  • d) And/or their behaviour in class has changed.

Bespoke learning

To be able to recognise when students' work is suffering or when it is time to step in and step up, we need to know our students' base abilities, strengths and aspirations. Monitoring of student progress can inform the procedure.  

But prevention is better than cure here. How can we plan our lessons to incorporate enough support in advance to minimise the need for additional individual plans? 

Designing engaging and interactive lessons presented with enthusiasm and confidence in a supportive setting where expectations have been clearly explained and sanctions are followed through can make students more supportive of the learning process.

This will provide students with an opportunity to ask questions and allow you to prepare resources that can challenge all students' learning and give them a positive experience.

Success in exams

When these fundamentals are securely in place, there is less room for misunderstanding, falling behind or disengagement.

Providing a rationale for each activity, going through best practice templates, directing students' attention to a specific cue and asking them to explain a concept or a process can make the learning more manageable. 

Effective learning encourages students to perceive knowledge as part of a continuum related to what has been covered before, enables them to see individual components and patterns and detect similarities and differences so as not to be thrown off when a question is worded differently.

When students struggle to see the pattern, when they find it difficult to emulate best practice answers or imitate modelling, then you know that it is time for an individual plan.

Examples of specific targeted support include: asking students to type rather than handwrite, getting them to use voice cancellation headphones or allowing them to decompress at a predesignated area.

Before considering any additional actions, like the implementation of an individual plan, we need to be reassured that there were no apparent learning obstacles that could have been overcome by adhering to the fundamentals of clear explanation, engaging delivery and interactive learning.

Elpida S Christianaki is assistant principal at Mander Portman Woodward, Cambridge

 

 

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