All entries for May 2018

May 29, 2018

Trainee teacher 7: Reading around motivation – Sara

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.


May 21, 2018

My teaching and supervisory journey – Jen Rowan–Lancaster

Jen Rowan-Lancaster Teaching Fellow and MA Supervisor in CTE

My career in education began as a Teaching Assistant (TA) in a primary school setting. As a ‘fresh-out-of-uni’ graduate I was unsure about a future career but I knew above all else I had a love of learning. Stepping into a primary classroom for the first time was a huge learning curve and from day one I was hooked.

The primary classroom was extremely busy and standards and expectations were high. I was however fortunate to work with an outstanding teacher who was also the SENCO. Watching her teach and model learning was an invaluable experience, it provided the opportunity to emulate best-practice and to gain confidence before developing my own ‘teaching-persona’.

After a couple of years as a TA I intended to make the leap onto a PGCE, however working with the SENCO had inspired an interest in safeguarding so I spent the next few years working as an unqualified social worker supporting children, young people and their families. Through multiple roles I worked in a secondary school setting and for a branch of social care. These roles meant that I learned first-hand of our childrens' complex family backgrounds. I supported families with drug and alcohol dependency, truancy issues, mental health diagnoses, families in witness protection and more. Later when I qualified as a teacher, I often thought of these families and strived to remember that some children had been extremely successful just to be present in school that day.

As a teacher I knew that I was responsible for teaching and learning in my classroom, but I was also responsible for supporting children to understand how to become successful learners. To develop children’s self-efficacy, self-regulation and critical thinking (Tarricone, 2011) my previous school worked on a number of metacognition strategies (Flavell, 1976). My focus as a teacher then moved from seeing a child as an ‘empty vessel to be filled’ (Freire, 1970) to engaging children as critical thinkers in their own learning. Through working on Growth Mindset strategies (Dweck, 2012) whereby children work on a ‘can-do’ attitude that focusses on effort rather than a ‘fixed-ability’, children in my class became more engaged with their learning and more resilient. Through working in this way I also developed my own Growth Mindset (Dweck, 2012) and decided to enrol on a Masters course (MA). Combining my love of learning with trying to remove the little voice in my head that said ‘only clever people do MAs’, I focussed on effort. I read as much as I could, linked my MA topic with practice in school so that it was familiar to me and focussed on resilience rather than self-doubt.

After passing the MA I have now moved onto an Education Doctorate (EdD) which again is another process that requires a bucket-load of resilience and determination. I have also changed roles and am now a Teacher Educator and MA supervisor. Being an MA supervisor is a wonderful opportunity to support students on their MA journey. MA students at CTE are teacher-researchers at the ‘coal-face’, they live and breathe their research areas which is what makes them interesting and relevant. They have to work extremely hard balancing their teaching practice, studies and personal/social life however they develop excellent skills through this process. MA students regularly tell us that their research has positively informed their teaching practice and has often been used to supplement or overhaul whole-school processes. From a supervisory perspective it is fascinating to learn about different theoretical models, epistemic perspectives and current school practice.

If you would like to learn more about our MA programmes at CTE please follow the link below: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/cte/professionaldevelopment/cpema/


May 14, 2018

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory – Balram

As an economics student on the Warwick in Schools programme, I was immediately interested by the quantitative aspect in existing literature. The following is an excerpt from an assignment where I critically review literature on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory.

Gardner’s (1983) Multiple Intelligences Theory states that there are many types of intelligences, with weak correlations between them. Gardner conceptualised this theory as a reaction to the focus on mathematical and lingual intelligences in schools. Since its conception, it has been adopted into the mainstream, replacing Intelligent Quotient Theory (Stern & Klüver, 1925).

IQ Theory, in opposition to MI Theory, states that there is only one general intelligence factor. However, despite the accuracy of IQ tests at predicting achievement in certain specific subjects (Duckworth et al., 2012), it may not predict other intelligences, such as artistic and emotional, as accurately. MI theory accounts for a variety of intelligences, hence could provide a better indication of true intelligence than IQ.

However, this advantage is not ubiquitously accepted in literature. Studies find that there are strong correlations between the different types of intelligence, unlike the weak correlations Gardner hypothesized (Geake, 2008). Neuropsychologist Waterhouse (2006) found no studies supporting MI Theory in 2006 and there have been none since. Chen (2004) believed that Gardner was exempt from empirical rigour because intelligence is hard to measure. Waterhouse rebuffs Chen’s claims citing literature in the field, insinuating MI Theory does not stand.

There may be an explanation for the lack of evidence for MI Theory in considering Neo-Piagetian Theory. Neo-Piagetian theory compromises theories stressing the autonomy between the multiple intelligences and those that stress one general intelligence (Demetriou et al., 2011). This idea states that Gardner ignores sub-processes that govern all types of intelligence, such as processing speed and memory. One sub-process may determine many different intelligences; hence correlations between them are stronger than Gardner predicts (Demetriou, 2005).

Some have claimed practical applications of the theory may validate the theory. In Ireland, a study looked at reported evidence from teachers adopting MI Theory based techniques (Hanafin, 2014). In this study, teachers would teach the same topics through multiple intelligences, such as narrative and group projects, meaning that children of varying types of intelligence were taught equally. The study backed MI theory extensively as teachers gave positive feedback on how the feedback was received and the performance changes after, as opposed to before.

However, these studies should not be held as conclusive evidence of practical usage of MI Theory. It is possible that studies were successful because of a method that is independent of the MI Theory basis. For example, the study may have only led to better results because the same topics were taught multiple times to appeal to each of the different intelligences rather than because of MI Theory. The success of the study could have also been caused by the novelty of being studied (Waterhouse, 2006) because teachers and students are more likely to be attentive due to the excitement of a new teaching method. Moreover, the methodology did not use performance metrics and quantitative methods emphasizing this bias.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences is unlikely to hold in theory; studies show there are strong correlations between intelligences. Practical evidence cannot be taken as conclusive as the outcomes may not be correlated to MI Theory due to the lack of academic rigour. On this basis, the Neo-Piagetian theory may be closer to the truth.


May 08, 2018

My teaching journey – Guy

My first experience of teaching was in a rural secondary school with a broad brief to cover anything to do with citizenship. I didn’t wear a suit; I wore a police uniform complete with body armour and an Airwaves radio murmuring in my ear. I was a PCSO with Warwickshire Police and my brief was to keep the school safe in the belief that happy students make good students. It was a satisfying job and as long as I kept my crime figures low I had complete discretion as to how I developed my role.

I checked in with the learning support unit every day. This was the special room for the challenging students who disrupted lessons but also needed extra help with reading and writing, and patience when they grew frustrated or anxious. Mainstream lessons didn’t suit them and existing in a parallel educational world also set them apart outside of school too. When I patrolled the streets, my colleagues and I would spend our time dispersing the usual suspects of current and ex-students who would inevitably drift together. The younger group idolised the older rebels who broke the rules with abandon, and the older group enjoyed naïve, uncritical attention when their natural peer group had left them behind for jobs and college.

I took a redundancy package when the public cuts began to bite and retrained on the PGCE course. I wanted to help the children who were on the margins, socially isolated and unable to sustain jobs and relationships. I wanted to help children in primary before they became jaded teenagers and left school functionally illiterate and destined for low skill jobs or even worse prison. I enjoyed teaching and having my own class to teach and nurture. I was frustrated by the strait-jacket of aspirational targets in an academy under pressure from Ofsted to improve.

I left the classroom for social work, working with care leavers who have years of disrupted education behind them. As a cohort they have poor educational outcomes, limited social skills, low aspirations and lower motivation, as well as significant mental health challenges. The National Audit Office Report (2015) shows that while nearly a third of all 19-year-olds studied in higher education this compared to only 6% of care leavers. Almost 60% of children who have spent 12 months in care have special educational needs and emotional health challenges compared to 15% in the general population (DofE 2015). Only 14% of looked after children achieved five good GCSEs in 2015 compared to 53% of children not in care (DofE 2014 and 2015).

My Masters is focused on the experiences of looked after children as they bounce through the care system and despite the best of intentions graduate with the poorest of educations. I will sift through their case notes and study years of analysis and planning, then create a narrative that exposes the strengths and weaknesses of their education pathway. Using an ethnographic methodology I hope to find the crisis points where decisions are made that either propel or derail their education so we can improve our planning and support. My goals haven’t changed, I still want to overcome barriers for children and young people in education, but who says I have to be in school?


May 2018

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  • Thank you for setting up this Learning Circle. Clearly, this is an area where we can make real progr… by Gwen Van der Velden on this entry
  • It's wonderful to read of your success Alex and the fact that you've been able to eradicate some pre… by Catherine Glavina on this entry
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