When I was forwarded an email entitled "interested?" from a member of the senior leadership team more than 18 months ago, I was intrigued to see that the University of Exeter was carrying out a new research project into moderate learning difficulties.
Definitions of MLD vary, but a common one is: "Pupils with MLD will have attainments significantly below expected levels in most areas of the curriculum, despite appropriate interventions." I know what you're thinking: "I'm sure I have a few of those." And you'd probably be right. I was keen to sign up.
We were one of 20 schools involved in the first wave of research that took place over the 2010-11 academic year.
The project used a teaching approach known as Lesson Study, which involves identifying five pupils in a class, some with MLD, then planning a lesson that will engage all of them. Schools in the Far East have been using this method for more than a century, but it's relatively new in the UK.
This process is repeated in two more lessons, with planning and observation sessions in between. What makes this procedure unique is that teachers from across subject areas plan a lesson together. In one science lesson, Year 8 pupils moved between activities in five-minute bursts, and teachers could use their expertise to tailor the tasks. Our intervention specialist recommended literacy activities to help the SEN pupils grasp key words and our geographer suggested a method of data collection that required pupils to circle the correct answer on a worksheet to avoid wasting time.
The observation phase is to judge how the pupils respond - not how the teacher performs.
The study seems to be gaining momentum in secondary schools and was even recommended by Ofsted at a conference last November as a way to improve teaching and learning. At my school, I have integrated the approach in the PGCE training programme and use it to help enrich the training programme for pupil teachers.
The key to Lesson Study is to move away from isolated teaching and open your doors and let others in.
Daniel Hartley is head of history and RE at Chulmleigh Community College, and TES adviser for history and geography. For more details, visit www.lessonstudy.co.uk
For inspiration for an inclusive history class, check out the MLD history resources on TES.
ttrb's research on teaching strategies for pupils with learning difficulties will help you understand what works for different students.
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Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources034.