Six ways that person-centred thinking tools help educators to demonstrate their commitment to SEND learners

17 March 2016

Sometimes proving the value of the work we do as educators can be hard. Not everything can be tested. Not everything can be measured with a grade. That said, there are times when we need to show what we've achieved to others.

In this guest post, Joe Baldwin, Head of Learning Support and SEND Strategic Lead for a Further Education college in Gloucestershire, talks about how person-centred tools can help us do just that.

Person-centred approaches are all about discovering what matters to a person, and working towards outcomes based on what we learn. Person-centred thinking tools are a simple but effective way to make that happen. But more than that, they can act as a tangible record of what you’ve achieved with your learners. Here are some reasons why.


1. Whilst you're doing it, you're documenting it

Person-centred thinking tools are a set of documents that a professional can complete following an open conversation with the learner.


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Once you’ve used a person-centred thinking tool, you should both know more about what matters to the learner as well as how best to support them, and you will have all this documented. That means that not only does the process itself make a difference to your understanding of that individual, it creates evidence of that difference too.


2. They help define personalised expectations

Ofsted expect that staff should have ‘consistently high expectations of what learns can achieve, including the most able and most disadvantaged’.

An example One Page Profile. This one belongs to Connor.

Person-centred approaches can provide a framework through which professionals can formulate these expectations, drawn directly from the strengths and needs of the individual. This means that you could use them to talk an inspector through how you set personalised expectations in the first place. Thinking tools such as ‘One Page Profiles‘, ‘If I could, I would’ and ‘Working / Not Working‘ can all play their part here.


3. You can use the tools to record progress

The Common Inspection Framework says that you must be clearly able to show learner progress.

Person-centred thinking tools are living, breathing documents that can be revisited, reviewed and updated as time goes on.

The documentation created from using the tools over time provides real insight into how the institution is helping a learner to progress. This is particularly useful for learners for whom this can’t always be shown with academic achievement.


4. You can use them to show a rich understanding of the person

The Common Inspection Framework says that:

‘Inspectors will make a judgement on the effectiveness of teaching, learning and assessment by evaluating the extent to which assessment information is used to plan appropriate teaching and learning strategies, including to identify children and learners who are falling behind in their learning or who need additional support, enabling children and learners to make good progress and achieve well.’

One Page Profiles are a fantastic tool that can be effectively used across any school or college to communicate invaluable information relating to a student. Using a One Page Profile can enable staff and other students to understand how best to support an individual and how best to enable an inclusive approach for that person. They document that you have a rich understanding of the individual to improve planning and delivery based on what really matters to them. One Page Profiles are relevant to all, not just those with SEND.


5. They provide structure to approaching challenges

In education, things don’t always go smoothly. The important thing is to have a strategy for tackling your challenges.

‘Working/Not Working’ and ‘Good Day, Bad Day‘ are just two of the person-centred thinking tools that can demonstrate a structured approach in this area.


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‘Working/Not Working’ provides a platform to celebrate success and identify areas which can be improved to support an individual. Again, this tool has complete relevance to all learners, not just those with SEND. It can serve as an excellent improvement and intervention tool.

When educational placements are at risk of breaking down, or changes in routine have proved problematic, ‘Good Day, Bad Day’ can provide a structure to work with young people and those supporting them to consider how we can facilitate and enable a step change towards more good days by better understanding the variables which cause a bad day.

Both of these tools can demonstrate to Ofsted that staff know their learners and their needs and are working effectively to support and enable inclusive practice.


6. They promote involvement of parents and other important people in the learner's life

“[In] judging the effectiveness of leadership and management… inspectors will consider how well leaders and governors engage with parents, carers and other stakeholders and agencies to support all pupils” Ofsted

Person-centred thinking tools promote partnership working because they actively seek the inclusion of a range of views within conversations. For example, ‘What’s working and not working’ is designed to incorporate opinions from the learner, family and professionals in a person’s life. These professionals may be from the school, or from another organisation.

By collectively identifying and acknowledging where we currently are we can work together in a truly aspirational way to identify outcomes and the stepping stones towards achieving them together.

Partnership working can cause others to consider more innovative ways of working, pooling resources and sharing what’s working. It also encourages experimentation and innovation – shared experiences and ideas can help to inspire and formulate new thinking and provision which is responsive and collective.


Find out more

There are a range of person-centred thinking tools that can be used in education, to support the all learners including those with SEND. 

To find out more about person-centred thinking tools in SEND education, visit HSA Online Learning.

You can follow Joe on Twitter @josephbaldwin.

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