July 29, 2019

Research what’s Research???

What effect conducting a research project with my students had on my practice. A trainee’s personal reflection.

Help! 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.

Phew! 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? Probably not!

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. 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 University's 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. No-way!

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.

And Now? 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.


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