Review offers SEN-specific teaching tips for remote education

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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With two-thirds of SEN students having not engaged effectively with remote education, a research review has sought to offer practical ideas and tips for teaching staff.

A report from the Chartered College of Teaching (Müller & Goldenberg, 2021) sets out a number of ideas for engaging pupils who have different kinds of SEN.

The researchers warn that around 66 per cent of children with SEND did not engage with remote learning last year, echoing similar findings report by Ofsted in January.

Their report – Education in times of crisis: Effective approaches to distance learning – has looked at the most effective pedagogical approaches from across the world during the pandemic.

During the lockdown, special schools have remained open while many SEN pupils were entitled to attend mainstream schools. However, many stayed at home and were educated remotely.

It is expected that remote education will continue to play a key role in education this year after schools re-open fully from March 8, including for pupils self-isolating and those shielding.

Tips and advice

Among the findings for effective strategies when working with students with SEN remotely, the report includes research evidence from across the world, including general and condition-specific advice.

General advice: Plan time away from screens into the distance learning school day. Re-establish routines and allow children time to adapt to their new distance learning environment. Prioritise metacognition where appropriate so that students can take control of their own learning. Focus on making learning accessible – rather than the technology; this begins with clear learning objectives (p56-57).

Autism: Avoid too many options on the online learning platform. Ensure clear expectations and deadlines, as well as clear links between course components and learning outcomes. Create personalised interaction plans for students to ensure interactions with pupils and staff are helpful and not distracting (p58-59).

ADHD: Counterintuitively, there is research evidence pointing to the positive affect of additional stimulation. Parents and teachers might therefore explore introducing things like working with background music and using movement to improve focus and attention. Ensuring the constant availability of written instructions and materials is also helpful (p59-62).

Dyslexia: Crowded texts with animated images and texts that spanned over multiple columns are difficult to read and should be avoided. Writing difficulties can be exacerbated in an online environment – for example chat functions can be hard to interact with for some students with dyslexia (p62-63).

DLD: Children with developmental language disorder have difficulties with language development. Children with DLD can have listening difficulties, meaning they may need support during live online lessons (p63-64)

Down’s syndrome: The research identifies a number of challenges, including a lack of patience and easy frustration with computers and software, difficulty trouble-shooting or finding alternative solutions, and difficulty navigating online environments. Among the solutions, giving children more time for tasks and to explore online tools is key. Physical challenges may also require assistive technology (p65-68).

Hearing-impaired: Text services, induction loops and assistance listening devices can help the deaf or hard of hearing. Using visual notifications and captions can help. Wearing plain clothing and using diffused lighting when filming virtual lessons can prevent distractions when lip-reading (p69-70).

Visually impaired: While online learning allows for a higher level of personalisation, accessing some online content and websites is challenging or impossible. Visual or graphic content should have clear text descriptions, scanned documents should be avoided, as should cluttered pages and layouts. Real-time chat functions are challenging. Providing editable online content is effective, while ensuring software can be fully operated from the keyboard without the use of the mouse is helpful (p71-72).

Dame Alison Peacock, CEO at the Chartered College of Teaching, said: “This report compiles some of the best global research on strategies to help bridge the gap for the most vulnerable children in our society and it is our hope that it becomes a valuable reference point for the sector, easing the strain on teacher workloads so that they can focus on delivering high-quality education and pastoral support to students.”

  • Müller & Goldenberg: Education in times of crisis: Effective approaches to distance learning, Chartered College of Teaching, February 2021:


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