Supporting success in hairdressing programmes using an embedded literacy approach to enhance student performance in written assessment
A Case Study from Universal College of Learning (UCOL)
Hairdressing students often enter the programme with a negative view of writing and their ability to express themselves in this medium. We asked the question, “Do deliberate acts of teaching of hairdressing students improve their ability to demonstrate comprehension in written assessments and bring about a change in their attitudes to writing?”
The research group comprised three hairdressing lecturers and two members of UCOL’s literacy and numeracy team. Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods, data was collected over a four month period. Twenty-four students participated and each completed: a piece of free writing before and after the intervention which was mapped against the ‘Write to Communicate’ Learning Progressions; and a written ‘Attitudes to Writing’ survey. A focus group of students repeated a rating scale exercise from the initial ‘Attitudes to Writing’ survey and were also interviewed about their feelings about writing. The three writing strategies chosen were ‘using a shared approach to writing’, ‘clustering’ and ‘pair definitions’. Finally, data on reassessments for the student cohort in 2009 were collated and compared with data for the 2010 cohort.
Summary of findings
It was difficult to evaluate whether the deliberate acts of teaching had definitely improved students’ ability to demonstrate comprehension in written assessments because changes in unit standards made it difficult to compare assessment requirements between 2009 and 2010.
Evidence suggested that many of the students had increased their ability to express themselves in writing. Seven out of ten students moved up a step on at least one of the six writing progressions. Project group students demonstrated greater understanding of technical knowledge, terms and concepts than students from previous cohorts.
Implementing an embedded approach, including deliberate acts of literacy teaching and specific writing strategies improved students’ attitudes to writing. Most students reported increased confidence in writing and rated themselves more highly against at least one other question.
Students commented on the writing strategies lecturers implemented. They felt these activities were helpful, they made the classes more interesting and gave the students more confidence in letting their lecturers know this. Students began to take control of their own learning.
Having a five-person joint-discipline project team was particularly beneficial.
Developing expertise in action research especially in our vocational programmes; creating a wider community of practice of researchers within UCOL; assessing specific literacy strategies and activities objectively within all our Level 1 to 3 programmes.