All 17 entries tagged Teacher
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March 08, 2017
Chemistry is an abstract subject riddled with possible misconceptions and areas for confusion. One of the educationalists who made great contributions to tackling this was a Scotsman, Alex Johnstone. He approached chemical education from an information processing perspective, which views the mind in a similar way to a computer. The best way to deliver chemistry to young people, he argued, was to introduce challenging ideas in a concrete way first of all. There is perhaps no more concrete of examples to students than food and drink, and these have worked wonders for engagement and understanding.
To demonstrate the concept of conservation of mass in chemical reactions, it is common to carry out reactions on scales to show that mass is not created or destroyed. Inspired by Johnstone, I instead bought a pack of microwave popcorn and asked my Year 10 pupils to predict whether the mass of the pack would go up or down, or stay the same. To my surprise, the pack lost mass as well as whetting the appetite of the class before lunch. Students explained that this was caused by the pack not being air tight, allowing steam to escape. When it came to chemical reactions, they had little difficulty then applying their knowledge to explain mass changes in open and closed systems.
Popcorn typically goes down well with a drink however, and it was a 2L bottle of Pepsi Max which served me in demonstrating trends in the Periodic Table to both Year 8 and Year 10 classes. Using the bottle as an electron, I asked one student to hold onto it closely while another tried to take it off them. Of course, the ‘electron’ was held. I then asked the student to hold the bottle at full arm’s length, and repeated the exercise. The bottle was easily taken, and each class managed to use this to explain why elements lose their electrons more easily as their atoms get bigger.
Last but not least, chocolate. When tasked with teaching bottom set Year 10 classes about chemical formulations, I looked to the ‘concrete first’ approach for help. Chocolate is a complex formulation of cocoa, sugar, milk, and other ingredients, and the composition affects how it looks, tastes, and feels. My technicians were able to find the best white, milk and dark chocolate money could buy at Asda, and the students did the rest. Initially in disbelief at being allowed to eat chocolate in a science lesson, the students made excellent observations about how the different chocolates tasted, snapped, and melted. Students with usually very weak literacy skills used a wide range of good words to describe what they saw and relate these to the formulation of the chocolate.
The research literature shows that understanding is stronger if the learner actively engages with new information. In turn, this is more likely if that information is presented in relevant and relatable contexts. For this approach, Dr Johnstone, both my students and I have you to thank.
Further reading: The biggest contributors to 'meaningful learning' and its relation to engagement were Ausubel and Novak and a nice research paper, looking at students doing compulsory chemistry at American universities available freely, is: Grove, N.P. and Bretz S.L. 2012, A continuum of learning: from rote memorization to meaningful learning in organic chemistry Chemistry Education Reseasrch and practice, 13, 201-208 Accessed via: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2012/RP/C1RP90069B#!divAbstract (you may need to cut and paste this into your browser)
December 19, 2016
Reflecting – “…through a mirror darkly…” Keith Pugsley
So, term starts, and there you are in the classroom, pen in hand, notebook at the ready, senses sharpened, dutifully primed (Christmas pun intended) by the well-oiled operation of the Warwick CPE induction team (leave that one with you!) and ready for applying yourself to observation. Observing, do it all the time, have done pretty much since birth, should be good at it. Off we go. An hour later and that’s one down. Much as I thought. Kids lined up, came in, sat down, slapped down a bit for being noisy, reminded that underlining is done with a ruler and, according to my notes, did some exercises. Oh yes, I recognised a strategy or two going on: countdowns; gentle rebuke to the disengaged; reminder of expectations. There we are job-done.
A week or two passes, more notes are taken when the sneaking feeling that these notes are all much the same and, dare I say, somewhat dry and moribund. I’m even writing down the topics and annotating the exercise questions? There are now bits of scaffolding jottings in my pad where I have broken away from observing to get involved in the doing (not that there is anything wrong with that per say). But is writing about whether the ladder leaning against the wall is safe, really going to help my classroom practice (short of the classroom’s openable windows being elevated to a significantly lofty location.)? I need to re-focus, and probably even take-a-look at the session we had on ‘observation’ at uni., which, I am sure, would have almost certainly been useful. Ah yes, focus on one aspect, study all the techniques used for BfL or AFL or differentiation. Makes sense. Right, I’m ready to go. I’m focussed. A few lessons pass. A quick look at my notes. What! Is that all I’ve written? Even some of my least diligent pupils would have recorded more than that! Needs re-thinking, but for now I need to concentrate on delivering my first full lessons.
What went well? I emerged, relatively unscathed. Excellent level of heat generated, possibly accompanied by a flicker of light. What, ‘could be better’? I’m left reflecting, but the next lesson is imminent, so I’m back to a bit more ‘observing’.
The Epiphany. Ah! so that’s what’s been happening. The Teacher ensures the students are admitted in good time, they are settled quickly, they know the routine, they have stuff to do immediately. The teacher glides effortlessly and with minimum instruction to the main focus of the lesson. The students are all, according to their respective needs, and with a relaxed freedom, on task. A flicker of disengagement is smoothly quelled and students are transitioned easily through effortless orchestration from the steady to appropriate, more challenging, tasks. Students are acting as autonomous agents, doing work, at consummative ease in an environment of unspoken, yet understood, boundaries. There is peer to peer support. The teacher is almost subliminally aware of the proceedings. There is a sense of safety and mutual respect, which seems to underpin the whole operation. Assessment of learning leads to a careful transition of tasks achieved effortlessly due to prior preparation. A brief round-up and the class ends. Students are reminded firmly but respectfully of the exit procedure. Staff and students are relaxed and smiling as they depart.
Funny, for all those previous notes and years of experience of ‘observing’, I somehow seemed to have missed all that, until I’d had a go myself.
July 26, 2016
A Never–ending Journey
A Never-ending Journey
If I am being completely honest, I didn’t enjoy conducting my action research and then writing about it as much as I thought I would, or as much as I enjoyed writing my other post-graduate assignments (if enjoy is the right word?). Despite this, as I go into my NQT year I am almost certain I want to continue my Masters at Warwick and conduct more education-based research, just next time on an area I am slightly more interested in. I’ll give a brief explanation about my reasons for wanting to do this.
Firstly, education is such a big topic and is changing so much and so often that I’m intrigued by the fact that there is still not really any set way to do anything because, essentially, every child is different and every individual has different viewpoints, opinions and ways to do things. In addition, to bring the politics in, every Government wants to bring different ideas to the education system. I’m baffled by the scope of educational research out there and think it is exciting that everything works differently in a different context.
In the light of this, I would love to look at action research on a larger scale and in a familiar context, to try and tackle a specific problem and see its impact and how exciting it can be. One of the students involved in the action research I undertook achieved a positive outcome from my intervention, and the more I think about it, the more I realise how interesting tracking this was. Moreover, it was fascinating to see how the rich qualitative data that I collected from student interviews and questionnaires gave me such an insight into how the project had an impact on students.
Secondly, I wasn’t fully engaged in the action research project I undertook primarily because I didn’t find the topic overly interesting. This meant that reading around the topic became quite a painful experience and I got to the point where I felt some of the literature was stating the obvious. I would like, next time, to choose a topic that engages me more and makes me want to read on. Furthermore, after completing my own action research I feel like I would take more notice of the analysis and discussion sections within the articles I read next time. Although I don’t really want to admit it, I had a tendency to skip these and simply focus on the literature review and the conclusion. I feel that now I’ve done my own action research, and understand it more, I’d be able to find the relevance in those, actually vital, sections.
Thirdly, I want to push myself to find a way to implement something in the classroom that isn’t bogged down by data gathering but still produces results at different intervals. This would mean further researching tools to consider the best way to undertake an intervention. I found that making students fill out something every lesson was definitely not the best way to evaluate, as they just wrote something without really thinking about it, so I doubt the reliability of some of the data I have collected. I’m aware that action research is a continuous reflective, looping journey and, although I don’t really want to do any more research on the project that I have undertaken this time, I’m very aware that I could work to find ways to refine it to develop it further.
To put it simply, I would definitely like to continue to engage in research. As a teacher, I see my own learning journey as continuous and ongoing. For some this may be frustrating, but for me, it is very exciting.
July 25, 2016
Tweet Tweet: Using Social Media to Continue with Educational Research
As I am rapidly approaching the end of my training year, I have begun to consider what place research will have in my career as I take on a fuller timetable and move away from my own academic studies. Will I have the time to sit and read textbooks on educational theory, as I have been doing over this past year? Probably not. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t allow research to continue to shape my teaching and most importantly, my students’ learning, as I have found several time-effective ways to quench my academic thirst.
Although this may seem a little unorthodox to some, the best way I have kept up-to-date with educational research, and also received some excellent advice which has shaped my pedagogy, is through Twitter. We live in an age of social networking, and as practitioners, we should fully embrace that we have access to an international level of support that is literally at our fingertips. This year, I’ve been struggling to come up with ideas to make the teaching of the new GCSE English spec fun and more effective, and my department are at a loss too as they are teaching it for the first time alongside me. I decided to log onto Twitter, and voila! A host of ideas from other teachers popped up, accompanied by a wealth of links to articles and journals which I would have never thought to search for. Seriously, teachers, Twitter has been my saviour this year. For general enquiries and support, look at the EduChat network, either by searching the username or the hash tag. Fellow English teachers, get following @HeadofEnglish, @SianCarter1 and @JamesTheo- their experience in the field, creative ideas, and above all, their obvious love for our subject, inspires me every day.
Alongside this, I’m looking into starting a blog to continue my research. I feel that there is a significant lack of support for trainees and NQTs out there, who need the reassurance that there are others who are just as exhausted, just as clueless and just as exhilarated by the rollercoaster ride that is teaching! As an English specialist, I feel that using blogging as a creative outlet would help me, and it means that I would continue researching in order to keep my posts updated for other users. I’d love to help people as much as others have helped me during my first year of teaching, and there really is no bigger platform for us as teachers to share our practice through than the World Wide Web. As cheesy as this sounds, our primary aim is to create fun, engaging lessons for students which ultimately help them to achieve above and beyond what they are capable of. To achieve this, a million heads (albeit virtual heads) are definitely better than one! So, my final word of advice to every reader is to exploit social networking for all the benefits it can bring to your research and practice. We get so caught up in the dangers of the Internet nowadays, we forget what it was initially created for: to spread knowledge. Happy tweeting!
Teaching without research, really?
Teaching without research, really?
Although my teacher training year is coming to an end, I feel that my learning and development as a PE teacher is only just beginning. As I sit and reflect on my progress this year, I consider the impact that research has had on my practice; the action research that I have carried out myself as part of my masters, the literature I have read and explored to develop my pedagogy and behavioural management, alongside the continuing professional development sessions I have attended at school, university and teaching school alliance days that have been centralised on research and key practitioners. I cannot think of an element of my teaching that has not had at least some influence from a form of research and therefore I cannot entertain the idea that I will not continue to engage within research as I enter my newly qualified teaching year.
Most importantly for me, I have engaged with research in order to develop my classroom pedagogy. As I enter my NQT year and in my future teaching profession, I have every intention to continually develop my teacher toolbox, so that my teaching is up to date and innovative to ensure pupils make the best possible progress. As a teacher I can experiment with my own ideas within the sports hall and conduct my own research about how successful or unsuccessful these prove to be, even if time is limited to write up the findings. However, I question whether alone I would have been able to develop the variety of ideas, teaching styles and models that exist for the teaching of the PE. For example, the Teaching Games for Understanding Model developed by Bunker and Thorpe has become renowned within PE for teaching pupils the skills through game based contexts and without the research that details how to implement the model, the discussions about the positives and drawbacks of the model within other PE teacher’s lessons, I would not have known about this pedagogical model and therefore may not have taught in such a way. One of my favourite journals that I have engaged with so far is the Association for PE’s “Physical Education Matters”. This has been particularly useful because I can read about the practice of other PE teachers and trial out methods that have already been tried and tested by other practitioners allowing me to make comparisons with my own experience. Not only this but each article within the journal, is both informative but relatively short meaning it doesn’t take too long to read. This removes one of the existing barriers that may prevent practitioners from engaging within literature.
Furthermore, I have had first-hand experience of how research can allow me to perfect and develop elements of my teaching practice through my action research around peer assessment. I intend to continue this approach throughout my career, experimenting with the findings of other researchers and implementing these within my own practice. By conducting research into the effectiveness of strategies used within my own lessons, I will be able to draw conclusions from my observations, the thoughts and feelings of the pupils (if relevant) and the impact of my teaching on pupil progress.
I spent a well-needed day at my alliance, exploring the ways in which we as teachers can help our pupils to make good progress within our lessons. The ideas presented were focused on research, allowing us to explore a variety of strategies and analyse the impact on progress. Without research and the contribution of practitioners sharing and discussing their experiences, we would only have our own singular vision of teaching and how best to do it. Some may consider research to be a very time consuming activity in our already very busy schedules but contrary to this view, seeking more effective ways to enable children to make progress could prove to save us time in the future. This could simply be through learning a new behaviour management strategy, experimenting with a teaching style to push gifted and talented pupils, seeking resources, learning about how best to implement peer assessment or self-assessment activities or understanding the factors of a lesson that allow for pupils to make the best progress. Of course the research doesn’t come with a one size fits all, but it allows you to see what worked for other teachers so you realise you aren’t completely alone!
July 18, 2016
Research … what’s Research???
What effect conducting a research project with my students had on my practice. A trainee’s personal reflection.
What on earth could I implement in my class, in a well-established school with ‘outstanding’ teachers that would have anything but a negative impact on learning? How could I, six months into training, devise a teaching technique that would make a difference or change the way we approach our lessons? How I could I compete with the likes of Vygotsky and Piaget, when I could barely even say their names?
These are the manic thoughts of a trainee about to embark on what seemed like the most challenging assignment of the year. Why did I think like this? I guess it was because I’d never done anything like this before, it was the fear of the unknown. I’d written essays, assignments, done practicals, and presented but never had I implemented or completed a research project.
I soon realised this wasn’t about me re-inventing the wheel, this was about having the chance to implement a technique, style or method that I hadn’t had chance to try out before, whilst being able to monitor and record its effect on my practice.
As a trainee I have done this all year round, such as experimenting with different teaching methods etc. It’s what we’re told to do. But did I read up on these techniques before? Did I understand where these methods had come from and why, and the context they worked in?
This light-bulb moment inspired my ideas, this realisation allowed me to start the reading into my theme (behaviour) as well as research methodologies and the theorists behind them. This literature review enhanced my previous study, giving me a greater understanding of their validity, influence and value in the classroom. [AM1]I was able to understand the context in which these theories were developed and why. What conditions these methods had been tested in, and more importantly why these factors were important in the outcomes of the interventions.
Behaviour had always been of interest to me, but for the first time since I’d started my course, the reading felt natural. It linked to my practice and enabled me to understand what variables would help/ hinder my intervention.
I found Google Scholar to be amazing for this as well as my Universities library online books and resources collection. As obvious as it sounds, searching key words e.g. ‘Behaviour, Rewards, Journals/ Research/ Theories’ pulled so much reading I struggled to keep on top of it. That’s where ‘document search’ came into play, by searching individual documents for my key words I was able to get to relevant sections straight away without wasting time.
Tip: Look up the references in books and journals so you can see their sources directly. You can then use these to influence your own reading.
The intervention itself lasted six weeks and consisted of embedding a ‘5,4,3,2,1’ count down which results in students collecting VIVOS (rewards) for beating the teacher to ‘0.’ The aim was to reduce LLD in the Art Classroom. The countdown was utilised to stop the class for instruction, behaviour management, and demonstrations.
The points were then collected over time and linked to various rewards. Conducting my intervention was just like any other method I had tried and tested in my classroom, the hard part was getting its impact captured in data form for analysis. That’s where fellow trainees came in and in the end was no extra work at all. Helping each other out meant we were all able to get the data we needed from people who understood what we were trying to achieve.
It actually turns out my intervention was successful in lowering low level disruption in the Art Classroom, allowing me to continue its use in the classroom.
By using an action research approach, I have captured data which validates it impact. Being able to back up my findings with data has meant that this technique has now also been rolled out across the department. This gives me an immense feeling of satisfaction and pride, not just in my work but also the fact that a shift has taken in my department away from sanctions towards positive reinforcement.
July 16, 2016
The pivotal role of Peer Assessment in PE
The Pivotal Role of Peer Assessment in PE… WWW and EBI?
Since learning about assessment for learning within my undergraduate degree and developing this knowledge further within my teacher training year, I have become a keen advocate for embedding, in particular, peer and self-assessment activities within my lessons. As supported by numerous research articles, feedback is critically important in helping pupils to make progress within PE, and peer assessment is key to allowing all pupils to receive immediate, individual feedback - an impossible task of the teacher! A number of sources suggest how peer assessment is not only a great way of engaging pupils within the lesson (rather than just allowing pupil to be stood ‘waiting for their turn’) but also in aiding their peers to progress and scaffold their own progression. As a result they are able to develop a better understanding of the standards they are aiming for within their own performance. With university, literature and my school all advocating the role of peer assessment within PE lessons, it seemed a relevant topic to inform my action research.
As there is already a vast selection of existing research around peer assessment and its benefits within PE, I decided to explore how peer assessment impacts the perceived competence of girls within their PE lessons. It is reported that girls are the more sedentary sex and it is has been found that girls are less likely to lead a lifelong participation in sport; linked to the negative perceptions girls have about their ability in sport and a fear of the negative evaluation they might receive from others. I therefore wanted to explore if the frequent use of a pedagogic tool, peer assessment, would change this. So how did this research impact my practice?
Firstly, the research that I carried out around peer assessment was supportive of the findings of other researchers; peer assessment can support the progress that the pupils make within PE. It also taught me about the importance of structuring peer assessment activities within a lesson. I am sure many teachers are familiar with the more common feedback practices of asking pupils to tell their peers what they did well and what they could to do to improve or to give three stars and a wish- myself included. But this alone without any scaffolding often leads to a lack of quality feedback and instead the pupils identifying and providing superficial feedback such as something “looking good” but not really influencing the way a pupil feels about their ability in an activity. Although, of course, some feedback is better than none at all! I therefore invested time into creating peer assessment resources with an explicit success criteria supported by pictures, alongside key words that the pupils should try to include within their feedback. These resources scaffolded the peer assessment activities really well and the quality of the feedback was much better as well as the pupils cognitive knowledge of teaching points and technical vocabulary increasing. One example of this was that a pupil, during a synchronised swimming lesson, provided feedback suggesting her peer’s body was streamlined and fully extended, as opposed to saying straight, flat or some other synonym. I also learnt that pupils need time to be able to analyse and identify the success criteria within their peer’s performance and pupils need to be clear on what each skill or success criteria should look like, through a modelled example, so that they can more effectively evaluate their peer’s achievements.
My research showed that the participants involved had mixed feelings about how the peer assessment activities impacted their perceived competence, with lots of them saying that this is affected mainly by their own perceptions of their ability and other people’s views. It was very interesting to capture the thoughts and opinions of the pupils about peer assessment activities. Although some of the participants felt that they liked being able to get instant feedback from a peer who was just focusing on them, lots of them doubted their peer’s ability to give accurate feedback and stated they themselves found it hard to give feedback even though the success criteria did make it easier.
The participants expressed lots of concern about offending their peers and admitted that when receiving critical feedback they ignored it due to not valuing or believing what was being said. This suggested to me the importance of my role as a teacher in teaching pupils to peer assess effectively before implementing peer assessment activities, the groupings of pupils for peer assessment and the important role that ICT and videoing performances could have in allowing pupils to show and justify they feedback that they give. Based on my research, it appears the most significant factor could be the facilitation of the peer assessment. It has become evident that I need to support the feedback the pupils make (as long as it is accurate) in order to help develop relationships of trust between the pupils, encourage reflective and justified feedback and dialogue between peers and guide them to see the fully understand the benefits of peer assessment to enhance their learning.
July 15, 2016
No simple thing
No simple thing
It is not a simple thing for a teacher to become a good researcher. You have to change position, use different skills and work in a team. And, make no mistake, research requires real discipline or it descends into mush.
The change in position is dramatic: from standing in front as the teacher and leading, to sitting as unobtrusively as possible and following. Of course, that’s too simplistic but the move is certainly from being a doer, to acting first and foremost as an observer. My greatest successes as a teacher-researcher were in learning how to observe learners as a quiet non-participant in other people’s lessons. Other teacher-researchers learn how to observe teachers skilfully. Both approaches will work but, for me, it was shifting to observe learners, early in my career, that changed my teaching practices. It changed my position, permanently.
The new skills are those of watching and listening, accurately. These are under-rated skills. Our tendency as teachers, certainly in our first years of teaching, is to develop our intuition and to make swift judgments that keep learning alive. But research requires a precision about watching and recording what we see. To be a very good researcher – paradoxically to see more – you have to try to take your own prior expectations out of the observation. Try to record what happens and not what you might want or expect to happen. Research usually blossoms where the researcher suspends their expectations and positively gets their burgeoning interpretation out of the way. Then they can look more clearly at the outcomes of their records, later. Evidence is never un-tainted but it can be made less tainted.
Teamwork is a huge help. It is in the nature of research to collaborate. Collaboration allows you to collect more evidence in more settings. It adds perspective and allows triangulation. And it is in the very nature of good research that it has to be shared, published even, so that others can examine and critique it.
But, my emphasis in this short piece is on the importance of discipline in research. Research is not just a business of observing practice and reproducing what we see as evidence for beliefs that we already hold. Discipline in research requires precisely the opposite: the conditions for seeking evidence should be to try to find conditions that disprove your assumptions.
More than that. The researcher should always examine their conclusions and their evidence to test whether the facts could be taken to support the very opposite of the interpretations they have made. In truth, good research – like the best science – should be allowed to surprise the researcher. Too often, when I read educational research, it feels like the researcher is relieved to arrive at conclusions that reinforce their prior values and beliefs. I am left wondering whether the teacher truly abandoned the discipline of teaching and embraced the discipline of research.
In my view, the two best Professional Development programmes in the world are founded in research techniques: Japanese Lesson Study and Harvard’s Instructional Rounds. It is not an accident that both require disciplined inquiry and they involve training for teachers in working in teams that abide by those disciplines. This is teacher research at its best.
June 05, 2016
marking – does research help?
Literature Review: How did reading around pedagogy affect my teaching practice? A trainee’s personal reflection.
Feedback within marking
Certainly in terms of my own professional development, reading around effective feedback within marking revealed a lot to me which I had never thought of before, particularly the negative impact that feedback can have. Being a brand new trainee, I assumed that the more feedback the better for the pupils, so had no problem writing swathes of response for each piece of assessed work and spending a lot of my time in the process.
Initially when I first set foot into the world of marking, I wanted to attempt it on my own to see how I would independently respond to a piece of work; the result of which is aforementioned and this of course was unsustainable. I was recommended by colleagues to give lots of praise within my first set of marking as a way to build rapport with the pupils - and it definitely seemed to work, pupils appeared up-beat and engaged in the lesson which followed. Utilising this ‘praise culture’ fitted in well with the school marking policy of ‘two stars and a wish’, a principle used across many schools under various aliases; praise followed by ways to improve.
Being a relatively young teacher who was mistaken as a new year 12 student by year 13s does have its draw backs – you just don’t have the automatic respect which a mature teacher can assume from a class of students. In which case you need to adapt and use your strengths to build respect – this is where praise becomes invaluable and two stars and a wish offered me the opportunity to utilise this tactic. I enjoyed using this method as it gave me scope to praise the students and build rapport whilst also giving me the chance to comment on where they can improve. I assumed this was working well for me without giving it a second thought – I was ticking all of my boxes; praise, improvements and progress.
Praise is an essential tool within a teacher’s arsenal; however what became apparent within reading around my topic was that praise within feedback can have a detrimental impact on a student’s progress; studies have found that students can start to slack and relax when given praise on their work, removing their desire to push themselves further. Discovering this research has really changed my approach to the way I teach and particularly mark, however breaking away from giving lots of praise was something I struggled to do. Worrying I would offend some students about their work was a main concern; my thinking was that giving no written praise could in turn knock their confidence and impact their learning within future lessons.
Working on my new understanding of feedback, I have attempted various techniques to change my marking style; I still feel it is important to feature written praise, however I now use it in far smaller doses. Ultimately what I have taken away from reading around the pedagogy is that whatever principle you are researching, whether it be providing feedback or behaviour management; it should not dictate exactly how you teach but should instead add depth to your style. Use reading to mould your personal approach in a way which best suits you and your personality; the profession is based on all teachers having their own individuality and that is always important to bear in mind in your training year.
June 04, 2016
Trainee teacher 7: Reading around motivation
I chose to focus my research project for my PGCE around the idea of motivation and its relation to goal setting and self-regulated learning. Following observations of students within my second placement school, there was a seeming lack of motivation coming from some students (even those that had chosen to take the subject up at GCSE) and I wanted to see how I could work to turn this around.
Much of the literature around motivation suggested to me that it was a very inward and personal ideal, but that one’s motivation towards a task or topic depends a lot on their interest with it. I saw this as meaning that I should try and create a place where students could be motivated and thus plan lessons that interested every single student. This idea was definitely not a revelation and running youth theatres before starting my PGCE meant I had been thinking of topics that attempted to engage every student for a long time. I realised though, that within school I had the task of engaging, on average, 30 students at a time whilst teaching them something new, facilitating their progression and following a scheme of work that I didn’t always write. Furthermore, I couldn’t always be sure (without asking every-single-one of them, every lesson) whether or not they took an interest in what I was teaching them about or their task. I have found that in Drama, in a way, there is enough creative scope to allow for individual interests in a topic to foster and for students to adapt performances to suit their interests, therefore increasing their motivation. For example, in a recent scheme of work about current affairs – I presented students with a number of ‘local’ (and albeit quite dry) headlines and they created scenes based on these – twisting and adapting them within their groups. Although this took some encouraging, as they realised they were able to adapt them to fit their interests whilst still showing the effect of the main story and characters, the level of effort and engagement within the classroom seemed to rise.
Reading the literature also made me aware of the importance of self-regulated learning and the impact this can have on a students’ success; essentially, teaching students to take control of their learning is integral to their development. I understood this as applying to the Drama classroom in that I offer more time for pupils to reflect on their own work as well as peer feedback. This means I now ask students in KS3 what they could do to improve in order to encourage self-regulation. I have realised though, that supporting students to become self-regulated learners is quite a long process and not something that can be done immediately. Furthermore, encouraging and facilitating students to become self-regulated learners may have to come from the whole school because, if students are not used to regulating their learning in other lessons, what is to say they will do it in my lesson. I saw an example of this recently when rehearsing with year 11 for their practical exam. Their pieces had been independently devised, with some direction and feedback from their class teacher and myself. The day before her exam a student was, to put it simply, asking me to show her how her monologue should be done and what she should do. I’m not sure whether it was because the panic was setting in, but her and the rest of the group’s efforts to facilitate their own learning and devise and perfect their piece for performance was lacking and they were very much relying on me, as the teacher, to tell them what to do, when to do it, how to do it and whether they were doing right and wrong. I think encouraging self-regulated learning to be a very powerful thing and I hope that in the future, as I teach classes of my own for longer periods, I can attempt to instil it within my lessons more which will work to support students as they progress through education.
The literature suggested that getting students to set themselves a goal would help to foster their independence as self-regulated learners and increase their motivation. I think it is important for students to set themselves goals, to help them understand and focus on what they need to do to improve and regularly do this within my lessons. I understood from the literature the power of feedback against these goals, as a way of checking students are not setting themselves something too easy, or too hard. This is thus something I have tried to do since doing my literature review and hope to continue to do (hopefully getting more efficient at it so that it takes less time). I hope that as students get more feedback against their goals, they will be able to regulate their learning better and set substantial and reachable goals. Whether this goal-setting actually has an impact on their motivation is what my action research projects attempts to consider.