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Title: Levelling the playing field and learning outside the box : a study of supported learning in post-compulsory education
Author: Ellison-Bourne, Catherine Norah Antonia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 3905
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2016
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The research reported here is a study of learning support in a further education college in the South of England. It arose, firstly, from the researcher’s personal experience as a learning support tutor at the college and as someone with disabilities, who has an extensive experience as a student and tutor in the education system, including herself receiving learning support. It also arose from the broader context of widening participation in post-compulsory education, as well as the important role the further education sector plays in that process and the extent to which it has included many students with disabilities and other disadvantages, which may lead to the need for support. Key questions addressed are the experience of learning support and positive and negative evaluations of that experience in one FE college from the perspectives of supported students, support tutors, and mainstream tutors. Issues of equity and fairness and the idea of a ‘level playing field’ were addressed both through the literature and in the data from the participants. The applicability and value of the ‘post-social’ model of disability was also considered. A wide range of literature has been considered including different arguments about effective approaches to provision, different models of equity and fairness, literature dealing with the social and post-social models and empirical studies of support provision in FE and HE. Data was gathered in one college by means of interviews and questionnaires completed by supported students, support tutors and mainstream tutors. There was also a small scale survey of provision in other colleges to set the context for the detailed study. In general, all three groups were positive about support at the college although many concerns and criticisms also emerged. A general consensus was found in favour of all students having some form of support and has gained ground from the idea of support only being available for assessed/screened learners. The data comparison yielded a fruitful debate concerning the nature and limits of support and how to level the playing field. Mainstream and support tutors and supported students were all concerned about supported learners becoming too dependent. Mainstream and support tutors were concerned about the dividing line between supported and non-supported students and mainstream tutors expressed concerns over coursework and examination concessions being loaded in favour of supported learners. The supported students found coursework support helpful in empowering them with the appropriate skills to enable them to become independent learners and they praised their support tutors and support provision, but were critical of the examination service for failing to make reasonable adjustments for examination concessions. Support tutors raised concerns over testing and targets at the expense of differentiation and individual learning needs. Whilst the remedial/medical model has been replaced by the social/environmental model within learning support provision and practice, there has been a further paradigmatic shift in that, whilst the social/environmental model is still useful for pointing out barriers and how practice may be improved, it has been superseded within support practice by the post-social/individual model which looks at the complexity of individuals’ learning needs and empowers them to provide for their needs in a manner most appropriate for them. Keywords: adjustments, concessions, differentiation, disability, empowerment, equality, fairness, further education, higher education, inclusion, independent learning, learning support, specific learning needs, special educational needs, study skills support, widening participation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available