Resources: The Engagement Profile
The Engagement Profile’s core approach is that “sustainable learning can only occur when there is meaningful engagement” (Engagement 4 Learning).
As the link Educational Psychologist for a special school which supports children and young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, I regularly use the Engagement Profile (Engagement 4 Learning). This tool has been in circulation since 2011 but has current relevance in light of the Rochford Review (2016) and the suggestion to remove the statutory requirement to assess pupils with SEND using performance scales (P scales).
What is The Engagement Profile
As The Engagement Profile explicitly connects concepts of learning and engagement it marries well with dynamic assessment. It can be used as a measure to assess how a young person approaches a task and what strategies they typically select in order to engage with new stimulus.
The profile is based on the idea that engagement is multi-dimensional, and encompasses seven specific areas;
Intervention can then be informed by focusing on these areas e.g. ‘what needs to change to stimulate Robert’s curiosity during literacy activities?’ It is very much a tool designed to inform intervention and changes to teaching style.
How I have used The Engagement Profile
I have used the profile in my role primarily as an observational tool. I typically ask to observe a student in a ‘highly engaged’ lesson and a ‘less engaged’ lesson. I will then make notes alongside each engagement area during the observation and, if appropriate, rate the level of engagement from ‘no focus’ to ‘fully sustained’. The E4L framework recommends a simple 0-4 scale for each area, giving an overall ‘engagement score’ out of 28.
Of course this approach has the limitations of any observation – “They were having such a bad day” vs “They knew you were observing them so they were deliberately wonderful”. I would never use it as a stand-alone measure, always ensuring I triangulate findings with other information gathering tools. The manner in which I use it means that information gathered is a ‘snapshot’ in time, as with the majority of tricks in an EP’s toolbox. Its utility for me is the ability to inform intervention with the comparison between high and low engagement.
As an example, Gemma might have very low responsiveness during a table based numeracy activity but have much higher responsiveness during Bucket Time. Whilst this might not be a ground-breaking observation; what the profile can add is information about other areas of engagement. Gemma might have relatively low anticipation and persistence for both activities despite the differences in responsiveness. This might suggest that Gemma needs different types of activities and/or would benefit from some further teaching and support around the concepts of First and Next.
The Engagement Profile as a tool for consultation
Like all tools, the Engagement Profile is not perfect. I have spent many an afternoon trying to decide just what is the difference between curiosity and discovery. I have finally deduced that curiosity is ‘building on an initial reaction to a new stimulus’ and discovery is an ‘ah-ha!’ moment. It can also be hard at times with students with additional medical needs to determine the exact relationship between their medical condition and levels of engagement.
It is a tool that has been developed for use with individual children. The E4L resources suggest that teachers use it for specific children over time to inform their teaching approaches. However I have also found it a helpful tool to use as a framework for consultation. A mainstream secondary school in my area forms a ‘transition class’ for every Year 7 cohort. This is a group that has been identified as likely to struggle with secondary transition and typically working significantly below expectations. This year the school have found this cohort to have a higher level of need than they felt able to cope with. Using the Engagement Profile as a consultation tool we were able to reframe questions such as ‘How can we get them to listen?’ to ‘How can we develop their curiosity and persistence?’
This secondary school piece of work was a novel use of the tool to me as it has been specifically developed for Key Stage 1 and 2 and for students working towards early learning goals. However, I now regularly use it as a framework to shape my thinking for both mainstream and non-mainstream pieces of work throughout the 2-19 age range.
The Engagement Profile national pilot study
A number of schools nationally have now completed a pilot study using the Engagement Profile (Standards and Testing Agency, 2018). Results were mixed suggesting that it would not be appropriate as a blanket replacement for P Scales. A lot of schools used it alongside existing data collection methods and found it a tremendous amount of additional work. I would suggest that there may be a role for the EP in supporting schools to understand and implement the framework more efficiently.
The pilot found that teachers generally preferred the profile as formative assessment rather than summative. I would generally agree with this point. Some schools used it as part of their end of year assessment for which they typically found that it did not work well. As a dynamic tool it is not best placed to summarise a year’s achievement. One concern was that it does not effectively evidence progress which was a concern in terms of communication with parents, governors and of course, Ofsted. Some schools did integrate engagement indicators into EHCP outcomes. This was most successful when outcomes directly related to engagement e.g. ‘Jermina will increase her engagement in learning by persisting in tasks for up to 10 minutes’. Engagement indicators were harder to integrate for physical and sensory outcomes.
A lot of schools reported that they did not like being number driven by the 28 point scale which is perhaps at odds with the current achievement focused climate. This possibly reflects some insecurities around the subjective nature of the profile.
Overall I welcome this shift towards engagement indicators and the manner in which they can inform intervention rather than reflect previous achievement. The E4L resources include a number of tools which can be used dynamically by anyone in education. As mentioned they may not work as a stand alone resource but have a great deal of applicability and flexibility in their use. There is definitely a role for EPs in supporting schools to think about how to use these resources.