Me? An Author

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Judith Carter makes the case that the publication of a book is the ideal way to share your observations and practical experiences.

Writing a book has always been a dream of mine, but nothing prepares you for the feeling of ‘holding’ the actual book you have written. At the time of writing this article, I have been a published author for all of a week! So obviously I still have much to learn. I certainly was not prepared for ‘seeing’ my book on publisher websites. It is a strange feeling that combines pride, shock, relief and of course the inevitable anxiety, hoping, above all other things, that you have written a GOOD book! So why do this?

The ultimate purpose of writing my book was to share the outcomes of my work with others, in the hope that it will support colleagues, promote reflection and further professional dialogue, which ultimately may improve the experiences of children and families with SEND. I spent years noticing that there was an apparent gap in our language of assessment for children with SEND. Firstly, we paid limited attention to individual strengths, tending instead to focus on the difficulties or barriers to learning. But we also only had the curriculum as our language for assessment. Of course, the curriculum is essential, it is our ‘bread and butter,’ but the Code of Practice 2015, tells us that SEND provision should be “additional to or different from that made generally for other children or young people of the same age,”. Yet, more often than not, our provision was more of the same. For example, if a learner was experiencing difficulties with maths, we would give them more maths. Of course, they are entitled to more maths, as is every child in a class, but in what way is ‘more of the same’ additional to or different from? In fact, our priority should be to explore ‘why’ the learner is experiencing difficulties in maths, after all this could relate to working memory, speed of processing or a language issue. By establishing a hypothesis exploring the barrier(s) to learning, we are able to compliment the ongoing curriculum entitlement of ‘more maths,’ with action that seeks to develop language, processing or memory skills, which is by definition, additional to or different from that made generally for others.

This professional realisation, led to the creation of the 7 C’s Learning Portfolio. As the name suggests, it is a framework set around 7 words beginning with the letter C. The central C is the Curriculum, with Cognition, Communication, Creativity, Control, Compassion and Co-ordination surrounding it. Within each C, there are 7 learning themes that help to provide a language of SEND assessment. It encourages the identification of 3 strengths and 3 areas for development. The creation of this language of assessment enables Teachers, SENCOs, SEN Practitioners, Parents/Carers and the Learner themselves to reflect on existing strengths as well as areas for development. Having the idea for this portfolio evolved from direct work with children and staff in schools. It also grew within my work! It became an integral part of my language and work with schools, and SENCo’s and SEN Practitioners positively responded to the framework. It was this that led to the idea of publication.

As Professionals working in Education, Health and Social Care, we are engaged in action research every day. The assess, plan, do and review cycle of the graduated approach IS the cycle of action research! As such we are all well placed to be creating our own evidence base of what works in our settings and with our learners and their families. And this information is exactly what we need to be sharing with each other through publications. I made the decision to publish a practical resource for SENCOs and SEN Practitioners based on my own action research and professional observation. It looks at the issue of SEN assessment through a practical lens. Of course, it is underpinned by theory and evidence, but my publications are not trying to be an academic or theoretical text, instead they are accessible and practical and are intended to make a contribution to our shared work with children and families. I use this language of assessment as part of my work, as I hope readers of the book will also be able to. As practitioners working with children and families, we are exactly the people who should be publishing!

My best advice is to initially share your work within your school or across your Trust and as you reflect and refine this practice, consider publication. Publishers are wonderfully receptive to our work and their websites provide contact details. I have only been impressed by my publisher, and their systems for publication are clear and accessible. This means we have the potential to not only contribute to the lives of the children and families in our settings, but also to others. By promoting professional thinking, dialogue, reflection and challenge, we can further advance our shared contribution and support each other to ensure that we do provide education for ALL.

So, my positive challenge to you is to firstly recognise yourself as an action researcher! And then to notice what you are seeking to change in your school or setting, or how you are seeking to contribute to the learning and development of an individual child or young person and to capture this. Those of you undertaking the National Award in SEN Co-ordination or other Masters level qualifications will know, only too well, that you are action researchers! And although this can place a significant demand on already limited time, the impact of this research can be huge.

Judith Carter
Author: Judith Carter

Judith Carter
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Judith Carter is a registered Educational Psychologist (EP) and Director of Willow Tree Learning and author of “SEND Assessment: A Strengths-based Framework for Learners with SEND” published by Routledge Speechmark.
W: willowtreelearning.co.uk
T: @JudithcarterEP

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