Smiley face for emoji project, as ETF reports on success stories in functional skills teaching

A project by the foundation is attempting to plug a gap in sector research

A project by the foundation is attempting to plug a gap in sector research


A project that used emojis in teaching and improved learners’ confidence with English, and another that used horror film trailers to help with handwriting, have been recognised for improving teaching and learning at their providers.

The Education and Training Foundation, which commissions training programmes for sector staff, has collated 53 reports of projects aimed at improving learners’ English, maths and digital skills.

Teaching projects ‘highlight the value of FE becoming research active’

One of these, Emojis in English and ESOL, involved tutors at Kendal College and South Lakes Community Learning annotating text for learners to read with emojis where the language would trigger an emotional response, whether that be angry, bored or pleased.

Learners later annotated their own work with emojis where they use emotive language, with one student saying this approach “really helped me engage more in my writing because I already have a much better understanding of the task”.

The anthology reports another learner became more confident speaking to neighbours and friends and eventually secured employment, thanks to the project.

Emojis in English and ESOL involved ten staff across the two centres, but it is not known how many learners from the GCSE, functional skills, and English as a second or other language (ESOL) classes this approach was tested on.

The anthology, entitled Outstanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment (OTLA) Anthology of Practitioner Action Research Reports 2020-21, is the latest edition in a project that has been run by the ETF since 2015.

The foundation’s national head of mentoring and practitioner research, Dr Catherine Manning, said it was “widely recognised there is little published research about effective practice in FE”, compared to schools.

“Over and over again, this anthology highlights the value of practitioners becoming research active, engaging with existing evidence, and generating further understanding of how to teach and learn effectively in our diverse, challenging and life-changing sector,” Manning continued.

Horror films helped improve learners’ handwriting stamina

Cambridge Regional College is also featured in the anthology for its A Toolbox of Horror project, which involved around 18 level 1 plumbing students taking a GCSE language resit course, and 11 staff.

The aim was to improve the engagement, attendance and writing skills of learners by looking at horror film trailers, talking about the structure and features of a horror movie or script.

The genre was chosen as the majority of learners loved horror and the project also drew on a technique known as “slow writing”, which involves teaching students to write text sentence by sentence.

The project, which also involved a writing competition at Christmas, led to a “vast” improvement in learners’ stamina in handwriting.

Handwriting is an “important challenge for our vocational learner”, staff said, as the GCSE English language exam is one hour and 45 minutes long.

The OTLA project is funded by the Department for Education, and project teams received grant funding to pay for teachers to take time out of working in a classroom to take part in training for the research they carried out.

They received mentoring from a group of post-16 education and research specialists who as teachers, managers, teacher trainers and researchers.

More from this theme

CPD, WorldSkills

Revealed: Second wave of providers and colleges chosen for WorldSkills UK’s Centre of Excellence

Six colleges and two independent providers have been picked for England

Fraser Whieldon
CPD, Governance

Institute of Directors takes over governor leadership training

The Further Education Chairs Leadership Programme has been run by the Oxford Saïd Business School since 2018

Shane Chowen

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *