Designing a tool to help teachers better understand, identify and support learners with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
Project funded by Erasmus+ Project team led by York Associates.
Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe.
York Associates is a training provider that offers a full range of courses from language to leadership, at our training centre in York and around the world.
The project set out to do a number of things:
- Define the syllabus, content and learning design of an online self-study tool
- Create content and author it into the tool
- Define a ‘train the trainer’ programme to increase the impact of the tool
LearnJam’s role in the project was to lead on the learning design and the definition of the technical aspects of the tool. This involved:
- Development of teacher personas and understanding of the problem space
- Workshops with York Associates and SEN subject matter expert to define the module structure and syllabus
- The creation of briefs for partners to write sample content
- Identification of the key features and functionality and user journey of the online tool, ready for development
Throughout the LearnJam tasks and responsibilities, we used our Learning Designing Principles to inform the way that we were conceptualising and defining the content and the tool itself.
Key moments and learnings
LearnJam as an organisation exists to remove barriers of access to education and to support learners who are currently underserved. This project was therefore very close to our hearts.
A particular highlight and opportunity for critical learning was the initial focus group research. From this research, undertaken in countries across Europe, we saw the same challenges coming back. Key findings included:
- Special educational needs are assessed differently across Europe and there is no standardised approach;
- The prevalence of stigma and misunderstanding that exist around SEN and neurodiversity;
- The challenges of integrating learners with SEN into the mainstream classroom and creating lessons that were genuinely inclusive and supporting of all learners
- The fact that support at primary age (~5–11 years old) was far greater than at secondary age (12–16 years old). This drop-off when transitioning to secondary school was particularly challenging for learners;
- The importance of bringing parents on side with SEN support, and the challenges involved in this.
The tool is now live and freely available to access online at https://sentoolkit.com/
With such an important subject matter, our approach was to define messaging that really resonated with teachers. We wanted teachers across Europe to really understand how important the problem was and how much value they could bring by raising their awareness and competence in this area. In order to do this we created a powerful manifesto as a call to action, and we introduced it over the first modules of the Toolkit.
We also saw that teachers are busy and often overstretched, so we wanted to ensure that the SEN Toolkit offered practical, immediately useful and usable information for teachers. This is in the form of lesson plans, checklists, tips and tricks to help teachers.
It was fascinating to learn so much about SEN and neurodiversity, particularly from the project subject matter expert, Martin Bloomfield. Martin shared so many powerful case studies that highlighted the negative impact on children of not getting SEN provision right, and potentially transformative impact for them if we do.
Using the LearnJam Learning Design Principles while designing the experience was also really helpful in shaping the ideas and direction at the early stages; and working with other European partners as the project progressed meant that the final toolkit benefits from a diverse range of perspectives, experiences and approaches.
From LearnJam: Katy Asbury, Laura Patsko, Jo Sayers, Lucy Williams, Berta Rojals
York Associates, Blackbird Language School, Growth Coop, Babel Idiomas, CPIP, I&F,