How to increase learner confidence and motivation with personalised support programmes

New research from Cognassist has found that apprentices who engage with support tailored to their learning needs increase in both confidence and motivation to learn over time.

The longitudinal study measured confidence and motivation in completing daily tasks that link closely to apprentices’ identified learning needs through a rigorously designed self-report scale.

Learners were initially surveyed after taking a digital cognitive assessment, which helps to identify hidden learning needs and assist post-16 education providers to implement support.

The initial survey found that apprentices who were identified with learning needs on assessment were less confident about performing everyday tasks, such as reading and understanding written information. Many of us would take these everyday tasks for granted, but for some learners it could have a serious impact on their learning journey and chances of completion.

After three months of engaging with a personalised support program tailored to the results of the learner’s cognitive assessment and additional support from their learning provider, learners were sent the same survey.

Apprentices who received support over the three-month period increased in confidence by 14% on average and their motivation increased by 16% on average. Crucially, learners who did not have identified learning needs and, therefore, did not receive support experienced no increase in confidence or motivation over the same period.

This study is important because, as previous scientific research has revealed, “Measures of confidence have the highest correlation with academic achievement.” (Non-cognitive Psychological Processes and Academic Achievement, 2016).

The conversation around SEND and high needs learners remains a top priority in education, especially for Ofsted; yet, the conversation on how to support these learners in practice and issues around self-confidence and its impact on educational attainment are less frequently discussed.

2019/20 data from the National Achievement Rates Tables shows that, on average, apprentices with learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD) had lower achievement and retention rates. With 66% retention of non-LDD learners compared to 63% retention of LDD learners, and 64.6% achievement for non-LDD compared to 61.7% achievement for LDD learners.

Previous research from Cognassist also highlighted that those apprentices who identify with learning needs are more likely to live in areas with higher deprivation across all seven of the Government’s deprivation indexes.

With the disadvantage gap increasing, ensuring every learner has the support they need to succeed is vital, and increasing confidence is part of any learning journey.

Speaking at an online event focusing on quality in the further education and skills sector, Former FE and Skills Deputy Director, Marina Gaze spoke about her experiences. She highlighted the ongoing focus on the learner:

[G]oing back since I started inspecting 25 years ago, is it’s always all about the learner. Are they getting a good deal? Is learning tailored to meet their needs? Are they supported? Are they happy? Are they developing into confident, independent people who can move on with their learning and their careers?

Kasim Choudhry, Managing Director at the BAME Apprentice Network, also highlighted some of the reasons why there are lower rates of identified learning difficulties in the BAME community,

It’s the lack of resources at the end of the day. Unfortunately, when you come from a BAME background, you are at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to these things. […] So there are three issues here. There’s self-doubt, access to support, and there’s discrimination within the system itself.

Many learners desperately need support in education but aren’t getting the right support at the right time, meaning educators are having a hard time with increased dropout and lower attainment.

We need to take a holistic approach to improving confidence and other positive outcomes for learners who are likely to face greater barriers in education. The findings of this study are yet to be published, but it shows the impact that only a few months of support can have.

A second, larger cohort of the study is already underway by Cognassist, and the company aims to measure confidence and motivation over longer periods.

The cognitive science team at Cognassist remains cautiously optimistic that confidence and motivation scores in learners who receive support will significantly increase over time. We would see this increase continue due to ongoing engagement with a personalised support program alongside additional support from tutors who are trained in neurodiversity.

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