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Learning higher on agendafor HMI

It is not just the Scottish Further Education Unit which is pressing the case for more attention to be paid to learning in colleges: the inspectorate will also be placing an increased emphasis on student learning.

Wray Bodys, the chief inspector for lifelong learning, says HMI reports on colleges have highlighted "the need to improve the tools with which learners operate and increase their capacity for personal, social and technical development".

Writing in Broadcast, the FE journal, Dr Bodys points to the importance of all new students having an induction session in the different styles and skills of learning.

The inspectorate's report on Student Learning in Scottish Further Education Colleges, issued in February, drew attention to "ineffective development of core skills and insufficient encouragement for students to acquire core skills beyond the minimum".

The report also criticised teaching which was heavily dominated by lecturers, with too little time for student discussion and too much reliance on dictation of notes. Time for student teamwork was limited in many cases.

Dr Bodys said that, while many staff understand these issues, others do not have a sufficiently systematic understanding of how students learn. He acknowledged that a number of colleges have instituted lesson observation to evaluate teaching and learning but says the emphasis is often on the lecturer.

"There is less consideration of issues such as dialogue between learners, negotiations between the lecturer and learners, students' learning styles and the quality of learning," Dr Bodys comments.

The inspectorate now plans a wide range of initiatives to push learning processes further up the FE agenda - including good practice conferences, developmental workshops, training sessions for the 120 college staff who act as assessors on inspection teams and staff development on a wide front.

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