Potential to Performance

If I were getting started as a Learning Support Coordinator…

With 600 new Learning Support Coordinators (LSC) starting around the country, I have been thinking about how they are getting to grips with the new position and responsibilities as outlined in the Ministry of Education’s LSC Role Description.  This LSC position is part of the 2019-2025 Learning Support Action Plan.

When a role is new in a school, it can often feel overwhelming with so many directions and priorities.  It can be difficult to map your way or even put the first step forward.  This can lead to procrastination on establishing the role due to the lack of clarity or it can mean that valuable time and energy is put into things that are not going to make a huge amount of difference for students with a disability or additional learning needs.

Periodically since 2010, I have run reviews of both gifted programmes and special needs programmes.  I have worked with public and private schools across all deciles as well as special schools to support staff development and help them turn their intent into impact.  

This blog is based on those experiences.  It is not a comprehensive recipe of doing this, then that.  Rather it provides guidelines for your own planning – which direction is going to have the biggest influence on what happens for kids and their whānau.

 

 

Don’t go it alone                                                       

There is nothing more disheartening than feeling that you are all by yourself. And you’re not 🙂 Make sure that you get in touch with other LSCs as well as identifying who are your key points of contact within the school.  

These key people could be:

  • Your line manager or the SLT person who holds the Learning Support Portfolio
  • SENCO and gifted coordinator if they are inside the school
  • Pastoral care team – team leaders/deans/counsellors etc.

Early on meet with your principal and your SLT person to ask what they envision of the role being.  Ask them what has worked and not worked in the past. 

Establish a starting point – and a goal for this year, and in three years time

The easiest way to do this is by writing a rubric. Decide on your categories and then have five explanations to place your context, from early stages to fully embedded. You can use the MOE Role Description to help you with this as well as the elearning planning framework as an outline of the stages.

For example, this is what the rubric could look like for the LSC Role Description Stakeholder function:

 

Working with classroom teachers, other professionals and parents to identify student’s needs early and respond in a timely manner with the right support.” 

 

Pre-emerging Emerging Engaging Extending Empowering
Working with classroom teachers to identify and respond to student needs The LSC has been appointed but currently has little contact with classroom teachers. The LSC has contact with teachers and students with immediate behavioural needs being identified, some strategies are being put in place. The LSC is working alongside teachers to put in place strategies to support students with immediate behavioural needs as well as those that have learning needs but do not present behavioural problems. The LSC and teachers are implementing strategies to support the needs of students across the spectrum.  These strategies are regularly reviewed and adapted. The LSC, teachers and whānau are working together to identify and respond to student needs.  Student voice is included in reviews of these strategies and acted upon.
Why are we here?
Working with parents and whānau to identify and respond to student needs The LSC has been appointed and currently has little contact with parents and whānau. There are transparent processes in place for whānau to contact and work with the LSC. The LSC is proactive in reaching out to whānau to identify and respond to student needs. Whānau work with the LSC to utilise in-school and out-of-school provision to identify and respond to student needs. The LSC, teachers, students and whānau have clear lines of communication and reflect/adapt strategies to meet changing needs.
Why are we here?

 

The LSC Role Description is one way to formulate your rubric but I would also recommend that you consider the following subheadings to look at inclusive education across your context.

Schoolwide systems

Guidelines and procedures 

How is inclusive education referred to in the Charter and school-wide goals? What policies and procedures are in place for these students?  How up to date are they? Do teachers and parents/whanau know what is in them?  Are they followed? Are they easy to find and use? Are they transparent to all key stakeholders? How do they make clear to staff what is expected of them? Are they culturally inclusive? Are they accessible? (Please note in this context, it does not mean they are online.  Rather are they accessible to seeing or hearing impaired people).

Identification

What methods are used for the identification of students with additional learning needs? How are they identified upon enrolment? Are you effectively using transition data to identify these students? What happens to educational psychologist reports? Where are they filed? How is the information shared with teachers? What in-school or Kahui ako identification processes are you using? How are you addressing potential cultural barriers?

Flexible pathways

How can the student’s learning dictate their choices and pathways rather than the timetable?  Is the learner at the centre of all decisions made? Do parents and whānau know what options are available for their children?

Social and emotional support

 

Social and emotional support

What awareness is there on the staff of the social and emotional support that these students need? What are the processes for when there is an issue that is caused by this in class? What professional development has been provided with staff on these? E.g. meltdown vs tantrum, trauma-informed practice, stimming…

Using ‘labels’

What is the teachers’ current perception of labels? How do they find out what labels each label is (e.g. Fragile X, dyspraxia, ODD…)? What emotional needs does each of these labels come with? How do these emotional needs impact learning needs? 

Wellbeing policy and practices

What are wellbeing processes and procedures that need to be considered for the student that are supported by the LSC? How is the LSC included in pastoral care support (dean meetings, SLT meetings, counsellors etc)? 

 

Learning and teaching

 

Within classroom provision

What strategies are teachers using to cater for students with additional learning needs? What professional development has the school had already? Which teachers are already catering well for these students? How do we build on teacher strengths to lift the capability of other teachers? What is the expectation of the LSC in supporting class provision? 

Accountability

How does this link with attestation or other professional development? How are parents and whānau included in the planning of classroom provision? How is the student voice collected and acted upon?

Resourcing

Where are the resources for additional learning needs kept? Are the hard copy, soft copy or a mix of both? Who has access to them? How up to date are they? How are resources linked to the students that need them? Are you reinventing the wheel for some students? (e.g. could you have a generic dyslexic support resource that you could link in the Learning Management System [LMS] to all dyslexic students as well as individualised resources).

Beyond the school

External specialist support

How are you assessing the impact of external specialist support? How do all key stakeholders know what is available to them? How do they know the process of accessing it? What funding streams are available for this?

Communication with whānau

What is the line of communication between teachers, middle leadership and whānau? How transparent is there? How easy is it to find the processes? What is the opinion of whānau in regards to current information sharing?

 

Using the Rubric to evaluate where you are

Once the rubric has been drafted, get your team of key people to look over it and add their suggestions.  This rubric does not need to be written in stone – remember it is a tool to help you gauge where you are and where you want to be.  You can write and use one section at a time, or you can write it all and then adapt it as you go.

Mark where you are for each focus and explain the reason for being there.  I would do this with your team and collate as much evidence as possible for why you are in that section. 

 

Pre-emerging Emerging Engaging Extending Empowering
Working with classroom teachers to identify and respond to student needs The LSC has been appointed but currently has little contact with classroom teachers. The LSC has contact with teachers and students with immediate behavioural needs being identified, some strategies are being put in place. The LSC is working alongside teachers to put in place strategies to support students with immediate behavioural needs as well as those that have learning needs but do not present behavioural problems. The LSC and teachers are implementing strategies to support the needs of students across the spectrum.  These strategies are regularly reviewed and adapted. The LSC, teachers and whānau are working together to identify and respond to student needs.  Student voice is included in reviews of these strategies and acted upon.
Why are we here? Students that misbehave in class are receiving LSC support.  Currently being identified by teachers who are looking for strategies to manage their behaviour. Strategies to support learning needs have begun to be discussed in regards to changing this behaviour.
Working with parents and whānau to identify and respond to student needs The LSC has been appointed and currently has little contact with parents and whānau. There are transparent processes in place for whānau to contact and work with the LSC. The LSC is proactive in reaching out to whānau to identify and respond to student needs. Whānau work with the LSC to utilise in-school and out-of-school provision to identify and respond to student needs. The LSC, teachers, students and whānau have clear lines of communication and reflect/adapt strategies to meet changing needs.
Why are we here? An announcement has gone home on the school newsletter. Waiting for a position to be added to the school website. Lines of communication still need to be established.

 

Then mark where you want to be by the end of this year, in three years time and in five years time.  This will help you set your goals. 

Is your intent having the impact?

Once you have knowledge of where your school personnel thinks you are, you have their “intent”.  Now there is a big difference between “intent” and “impact”.  As an LSC you need to find out if this intent is having the impact that it is intended to have.

To do this run focus groups with key stakeholders.  I recommend the following:

  • Students (a range of year levels, those identified and not identified, gifted, disability, multi-exceptional – those who are gifted plus have a disability…)
  • Teachers (newbies and those that have been at the school a long time, leadership, cluster teachers…)
  • Teacher aides/Learning assistants (they will tell you what is really happening in classes)
  • Parents and whānau (open this up to anyone who wants to speak to you)

You could do these as an online survey but you will get a lot more information from a focus group. If you want to learn more about focus groups, have a read of the articles that I published in the NZAGC Tall Poppies magazine on collecting and using student voice.

The 2008 ERO Review on Gifted and Talented Education used the following questions as a guide.   (Please note that “talented” has been dropped by the Ministry of Education as it creates too much confusion.) I have included adaptations of these questions for learning support students in italics.

    • How well does the school leadership support the achievement of gifted students? 
  • How well does leadership support the progress and development of learning support students?

    • How inclusive and appropriate are the school’s processes for defining and identifying giftedness?
  • How inclusive and appropriated are the school’s processes for defining and identifying different areas of learning support?

    • How effective is the school’s provision for gifted students?
  • How effective is the school’s provision for learning support students? Is there value-added?

    • How well does the school review the effectiveness of their provision for gifted students?
  • How well does the school review the effectiveness of their provision for learning support students?

I also tend to use Riley and Moltzen’s (2010) three big questions:

  • What is going on?
  • Is it working?
  • How do we know?

The data you collect in focus groups helps you align your priorities and know what is “on top” for your key stakeholders but more importantly, it allows you to go back to your rubric and identify if where your team marked yourself is accurate.  

This is you measuring the impact of the intent.

So let’s say you have marked yourself Engaging on your policy and procedures as they exist and all key holders use them.  Then you find out at the focus groups that it is only the school leadership who know what is in the policy.  Staff do not use it.  Parents and whānau do not know it exists.  This means that your “intent” was to be at Engaging but your impact is Emerging.  It exists so you are higher than Pre-emerging but it is not being used.  So you change it to Emerging and make a note of the evidence collected in the focus groups.  This means that you are putting the impact of the learner as the starting point for your programme development.  Which in turn means that changes you make will have an impact on students in the classroom. 

Working out an action plan

Now that you have your starting point, you can work out where you want to go to.  I would recommend using your rubric to decide on a 1, 3 and 5-year plan.  

To prioritise these, ask yourself the question “what is going to make the biggest impact for students right now?” and “what systems need to be embedded for students in the future?”.  It sounds harsh, but I work on 20% for students now and 80% for embedding systems when it comes to goal setting.  I want immediate change in the classroom and “easy wins” but I also want to ensure that I trial systems that will create sustainable change. 

 

 

Like these tips & tricks? Receive some every month by signing up to Brooke’s Education Toha newsletter at https://www.potentialtoperformance.co.nz/ 

 

Want more? Check out Brooke’s online Teachable courses! Topics include Building Self Efficacy; Intensities & Overexcitabilities; Introduction to Differentiation; Introduction to Oppositional Defiance Disorder… with more being added each month. 

 

Please note that the views expressed in these blogs are those of the author and not necessarily representative of the views of the Ministry of Education or the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children.