Creating personalised curriculum plans to improve learner outcomes
In education, the journey is every bit as important as the destination. The benefits of allowing learners to access their own unique learning paths are now increasingly recognised.
A personalised curriculum enables learners to experience customised, adapted educational methods and techniques, so that the learning process is honed to the individual, recognising their unique needs and cognitive profile.
Most educators would love to take a more personalised approach to their curriculum planning, offering personalised teaching to all learners in their care. However, the practicalities of curriculum planning that embraces this degree of customisation have traditionally proved difficult to apply at scale and may still represent a significant challenge to many providers.
When it comes to models of curriculum planning, a personalised approach is perceived to place higher demands on staff. But methods are in a state of continuous evolution, with the aim of making processes, resources, tracking and delivery easier.
If you still aspire to give your learners access to the benefits of personalised learning, help is at hand. In this article, we’ll explore some of the key factors to keep in mind when developing a personalised curriculum to improve learner outcomes.
What Are The Benefits Of Personalised Learning?
Personalised curriculum planning is widely endorsed as a key strategy to improve individual learner engagement and outcomes.
Studies in the workplace have also shown that 77% of learning and development professionals believe that personalised learning is critical to engagement, which can have an impact when providers are balancing the learner’s on-the-job and off-the-job requirements.
These benefits are particularly relevant when creating an inclusive curriculum that support a wide range of cognitive profiles and ensuring learning needs are considered as part of personalised learning.
Today, as the majority of providers move away from traditional ‘one size fits all’ teaching models, an expanding range of digital resources can help make personalised delivery more achievable. A great example of the positive impact of personalisation is in improved engagement and retention rates.
This impact is well illustrated by the case of Lincoln College, one of the largest education, training and apprenticeship providers in the Midlands, serving more than 11,000 learners every year. By evolving their initial assessment stage to better understand the individual starting points and learning needs of their apprentices, they saw an improved learner engagement rate of 93% and boosted their apprentice retention rate.
But what view does Ofsted take when it comes to the provision of personalised curriculums, and can the adoption of this method of delivery improve your inspection score?
In terms of personalised versus generic teaching and assessment places, no Ofsted inspector will express a defined preference – as our Ask The Inspector event revealed:
“What you have to answer is – what’s the impact on the learner? It’s really always back to the impact on the learner.”
So, while a personalised approach is not specifically requested, being able to demonstrate that your curriculum is designed to enable each learner to attain the very highest outcomes will certainly act in your favour.
Building An Inclusive Apprenticeship Curriculum
Let’s start by examining one crucial way in which apprenticeship provision can ensure a solid, supportive foundation for different learners to benefit from: an inclusive curriculum.
But what exactly is meant by an inclusive apprenticeship curriculum?
In the simplest terms, it is the development of a core curriculum that will give every learner the opportunity to achieve their aspirations and fullest potential, without encountering unnecessary blockers or barriers.
Since the introduction of the new standards, when it comes to curriculum planning, training providers are no longer bound by a specific set of guidelines. Instead, they are now required to set out their own unique curriculum.
This organisational discretion gives providers much more flexibility and control, and should, in theory, mean that they can plan in a way that allows for the individualised implementation of the curriculum. It also ensures that each apprentice has the opportunity to access learning in a way that meets their needs and improves their chances of successful engagement.
In order to design, implement and refine an inclusive apprenticeship curriculum, providers need a detailed understanding of all participants’ needs. To succeed here, providers must conduct in-depth initial assessment stage, which explores prior learning to understand a learner’s starting point or baseline. This stage will be an important factor in the way that the success of your curriculum will be assessed by Ofsted.
“Inspectors will evaluate learners’ progress in relation to their starting points, how carefully leaders have thought about the sequence of teaching to build on what learners already know and can do.” (Ofsted, EIF 2019)
It helps to ask yourself what the curriculum intends to achieve, how can this be implemented in an individualised way for your learners and finally, how will the impact of your provision be measured?
Once the core curriculum has been decided, providers can add more specific employer requirements and start to illustrate the ways in which it will be implemented for each learner.
Ofsted is looking to see the combination of seeing a solid core curriculum made accessible to all learners:
“Inspectors will consider the provider’s curriculum, the decisions the provider has made about the knowledge, skills and behaviours its learners need to fulfil their aspirations for learning, employment and independence.” (Ofsted, EIF 2019)
Demonstrating how your curriculum will allow for inclusive provisions is critical, but it’s essential that this is realistic and sustainable for your staff to maintain. Adapting a curriculum plan to accommodate learning needs can represent a real pain point for providers who don’t have access to adaptive processes.
With this in mind, let’s explore some of the options available when it comes to models of curriculum planning, especially those which go beyond generic teaching and learning plans.
Understanding Models of Curriculum Planning
To provide the very best support for individual learners through personalised teaching that reflects their specific needs, it’s important to understand the various stages involved in established models of curriculum planning. With clarity here, it’s easier to support learners who have different learning needs at every stage.
1. Initial Assessment
This critical first stage of curriculum development aligns with the “Intent” portion of Ofsted’s Quality of Education judgement categories and the “Three I’s”. In an apprenticeship, initial assessment should gather information on prior learning, functional skills, learning needs and whether the course is suitable for the learner.
In terms of ensuring that the insight gained from establishing these starting points is leveraged effectively, Ofsted will expect to see the assessment process used and referred back to throughout the apprentice’s ongoing programme.
When it comes to planning for individualised implementation, the initial assessment stage is more concerned with fact-finding than locking in defined personalised plans.
Getting a clear idea of each learner’s starting point means that as you enter the implementation stage of your curriculum planning, you’ll know who will require specific adjustments. While all apprentices should have access to the same quality of learning, this helps to ensure that baseline knowledge and any learning needs are known and will be accommodated.
And when it comes to initial assessment, inspectors will evaluate learners’ progress in relation to the starting points that this stage defines. This means evaluating “how carefully leaders have thought about the sequence of teaching to build on what learners already know and can do.” (Ofsted, 2019)
2. Apprenticeship Delivery
At the next stage of curriculum planning, the sequence of your delivery will be laid out, aligning with Ofsted’s second I – “Implementation”. This means that you’ll define learning activities, as well as your plans for the way that the apprentice’s learning needs (as identified during initial assessment) will be accommodated.
This flexibility of scope falls under the remit of Reasonable Adjustments. In addition to defining the aspects of the programme such as stretch and challenge activities, providers will also want to ensure that learners have comprehensive and individualised Learning Support Plans (LSP) in place.
You must set out the necessary sequential delivery of support and reasonable adjustments for their entire learning journey.
3. Milestones / Learner Progress
Finally, your curriculum planning will need to demonstrate a considered approach to milestones, helping to track ongoing learner progress (Ofsted’s third and final I – “Impact”). This stage reflects the earlier reference to the ongoing application of starting points, showing how learners have moved on from clearly defined marker points or milestones within their learner journeys.
When planning this element of your curriculum, you’ll need to show how these points and associated progress will be defined, and how employers will be involved in the process.
Ofsted will be paying attention to this aspect as “‘Inspectors will consider how the provider’s staff engage with employers to plan the initial assessment, training, reviews and milestones.” (Ofsted, 2019)
When it comes to personalised learning, these checkpoints should also function as Learning Support Reviews, measuring the effectiveness of any learning support plans that are in place. Plans should be evaluated and adjusted based on the findings.
Part of demonstrating learner progress will inevitably involve end-point assessment.
So you should outline the process for Gateway, factoring in both the learner and employer – as well as the proposed method of the end-point assessment.
How can personalised curriculum plans be created without adding more pressure to teaching staff?
When it comes to applying personalised learning to your planned curriculum, success will depend on attention invested in the most critical stages of the learner’s journey.
In terms of carrying the maximum impact for learners, the importance of a robust initial assessment cannot be overstated. Get this stage of your curriculum planning right and all future adjustments and individualisation will flow, being well-informed and grounded in dependable data.
All curriculum planning decisions stem from the learner’s starting point – what they already know and where they require support. Cognassist offers a range of resources to help ensure a successful initial assessment phase of your curriculum. With the Personalised Learner Journeys planning tool, providers can embed a detailed but accessible digital assessment of learners into the onboarding process, getting a clear idea of learners’ starting points and learning needs from day one.
By embedding initial assessment into your universal onboarding process, you’ll create a more open and welcoming atmosphere that should encourage selfdisclosure. And through showing a clear commitment to and understanding of learners with significant needs, you’ll show your dedication to ensuring no learner is left behind.
Beyond initial assessment, Cognassist continues to help the application of personalisation at scale throughout delivery, all the way through to end-point assessment. After helping identify learners’ individual needs, Cognassist applies unique insight to help define the areas of your planned curriculum where learning support plans may be required.
Backed by our team of data scientists and consulting neuropsychologists, learners are offered tailored learning and support, with access to a learning platform of more than 500 resources – ranging from short courses to videos and graphics. This support helps to give learners and their tutors a better understanding of their unique cognitive profile and keep them motivated and engaging with the course and their learning progress.
Cognassist provides individual guidance on reasonable adjustments, helping learners to receive appropriate support throughout the full length of their course, all the way to end-point assessment. Finally, reporting is streamlined – reducing another significant staff burden associated with personalised learning. This means that in the case of Ofsted inspection, it’s easier to demonstrate the support provided to learners, and the progress that they’ve made.
An Easier Path to Personalised Curriculum Plans and Improved Learner Outcomes
The importance of personalised curriculum plans continues to grow, impacting everything from learning outcomes through to Ofsted assessment, retention rates and, by extension, financial metrics.
The link between personalised learning and better outcomes has long been established, and today Cognassist’s platform is helping to bridge the gap between demand and delivery. We want tomake it possible to scale the kind of individualisation that drives real achievement, engagement and retention in an achievable manner that providers can confidently and comfortably maintain.
Learn more about how Ofsted inspectors will assess curriculum plans…
Science Communications Manager