Quest for Learning

Guidance and Assessment Materials for Children with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties

Quest for learning is the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment’s (CCEA) first assessment tool and comprehensive guidance materials to support the teaching and learning of Northern Ireland pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD).  It was launched at the Dunadry Hotel, Templepatrick on 5 June 2007 and since then has been used extensively in special schools across Northern Ireland.

Quest for Learning focuses on the development of skills and capabilities (in line with the NI Revised Curriculum) and as such represents a move away from the assessment of children using subject-related targets, which were often found to be unrealistic and unattainable for children with PMLD.  The materials are intended to be used by staff to identify a range of possible learning pathways, rather than representing a checklist of pre-determined small steps.  The guidance points to “key milestones” in learning but without prescription of how learners should get there.  There are instead a number of possible “steps” along the pathway between the key milestones which are not set out in a linear sequence, reflecting the different (often non-linear) patterns of development in individual children.  The three key learning priorities for learners with PMLD which are identified and assessed in Quest for Learning are communication, social interaction and early cognitive development.  Unlike mainstream assessment “Quest for Learning” also welcomes the involvement of parents, carers and other family members as well as the multi-disciplinary team who work with the children in educational settings on a daily basis.

The Quest for Learning guidance notes in conclusion:

“Our learners are entitled to access a curriculum and assessment framework which is fit for purpose and meets their specific needs.  The Quest for Learning materials recognise that learners with PMLD have unique abilities and ways of learning.  The materials provide a holistic assessment of the related areas of communication, social interaction and cognitive development and the underlying learning processes.  The same approach should be taken to planning the whole curriculum.  Staff should increase opportunities for learners to practise their skills in real school and community activities as well as working  to extend the skills they have.  This, as opposed to teaching of isolated skills, will encourage learners’ active participation.  Although some learners may never complete a task alone, they may begin actively to contribute to or continue a movement they have been helped to begin.  Such shared participation is more likely to have a real impact on their lives than a ‘piecemeal’ approach to skills development.

In supporting the assessment of this group of learners, the Quest for Learning materials will also support the diverse needs of ALL learners within the inclusive assessment framework in Northern Ireland.” (p.57)

Quest for Learning materials can be downloaded free of charge from the NI Curriculum website.