All entries for July 2019
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.
July 22, 2019
Selflessness or self–love? Is it an ethical choice? – Georgina Newton
Faced with the choice of how to spend our time, we often face a stark choice – spend it on ourselves or spend it on others.
How should an ethical educator, seeking to apply and embody the Nolan Principles of Public Life, behave? Selflessly, surely. Not selfishly? The two can appear to be completely opposed to each other.
Now consider your car for a moment. You ask it to take you to work and on holiday, perform at high (and low) speeds, navigate narrow country lanes and wide open motorways, carrying all kinds of cargo and in all kinds of weather. But you know you have to respect its needs. New tyres, MOT, a good service (check those spark plugs) on occasion the requisite “aircon regas”. New wiper blades, clean car mats and ash trays. A good wash with the jet hose and polish with a chammy leather. All that, before you’ve even started putting in the fuel, be it diesel, petrol or a charge of electric.
So we know how to respect and take care of a high performance machine. Mainly because if we don’t, we know that we will soon have oil leaks, squeaky wipers, bald tyres and failed MOTs. We will be sitting in the gutter by the road-side waiting for a pickup and an expensive garage bill. Do we consider any of that “routine” maintenance of our car “selfish” in any way? No. We regard it as essential maintenance. It keeps our vehicle in good condition and make it ready to take us where we want to go, when we want to go there. What a luxury. It keeps the car legal, functional and safe for us and for other people.
So why are we so apt to short-change our bodies, relationships and selves when it comes to spending time and resources on them? Why might the performance of regular routine maintenance appear to be a selfish act?
In order to perform at the high levels you demand of yourself you need to be in tip-top condition. So is self-love an indulgence? Is prioritising your wellbeing an optional extra? You might be able to run on low fuel until the dashboard warning light turns red, but we all know that if you do it for too long you’ll be stuck by the roadside with a whole new set of priorities. If you don’t take time to refuel, refresh, be rested, connect with others and if you don’t ensure that you’re able to perform to the max there’s no way you’ll be able to continue for any length of time.
So put yourself through an MOT. Draw up an action plan. Deal with those essential repairs and put a plan in place to address the “advisories”. That way, there’ll be much more of yourself to give and be selfless with.
The 7 principles of public life. (1995, May 31). Retrieved from Gov.UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/the-7-principles-of-public-life--2
July 15, 2019
What can be learnt from a lesson observation? – Nicoletta
It has been proven that both observing lessons, and having our lessons observed and reviewed lead to better teaching practice (Grossman & Williston, 2002; Hendry & Oliver 2012; Bell & Cooper, 2011), and, as a result, to improved students’ learning outcomes. Both practices have been fundamental parts of my learning journey, providing me with a wide range of behaviour management strategies which have already brought solid evidence of their efficacy in my classroom (Teachers’ Standard 7).
Effective teachers model in their daily practice the strategies that make their teaching effective. Therefore, observing competent teachers and supervisors “in the field” is highly beneficial for trainee teachers as it shows them how the theory they are learning is put into practice in the classroom. Moreover, through observational learning (Bandura, 1977; 1997), the novice teachers acquire the necessary confidence to attempt those strategies on their own, as well an unlimited amount of inspiration. In my professional experience, observing my colleagues’ classes has shown me that learning-productive teacher-pupil interactions, such as effective questioning and feedback strategies, lead to a higher level of engagement which results in improved students’ behaviour. Furthermore, I have observed that praising the pupils’ effort and referring to them by name helps to develop a better rapport, which has a trigger of extrinsic motivation and, as a consequence, it has a deep impact on behaviour management (Griffith and Burns, 2012).
Class observation, meant as review, means being observed by mentors or other experienced teaching fellows. This kind of observation provides the trainee teacher with the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge directly in the classroom setting under the supervision of competent classroom teachers and mentors. Having my classes reviewed provides me with valuable, instant feedback on my teaching, with the opportunity to reflect on my practice and with inestimable practical advice. Namely, following an informal class observation, a fellow teacher suggested that I could try to enforce a whole class reward policy to decrease negative competitiveness. On the next day, I gave my students the task to make a list of four positive behaviours which make a lesson successful for all the students in the class as well as for the teacher. After they all agreed about the content of the list, we established that I would put a piece of candy in a jar every time we had a successful class. Moreover, we also negotiated together the reward. This strategy has not only resulted in improved relationships between the students and enhanced collaborative learning, but has also raised my students’ motivation.
To conclude, based on my experience so far, class observation has been a powerful tool which has had a deep influence on my behaviour management strategies. Through class observation, I could witness first hand how motivation impacts on learner behaviour.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Bell, M. & Cooper, P. (2011). Peer observation of teaching in university departments: A framework for implementation. International Journal for Academic Development, DOI:10.1080/1360144X.2011.633753.
Griffith, A. & Burns, M. (2012). Outstanding Teaching: Engaging Learners. Carmarthen, Crown House Publishing
Grossman, S. & Williston, J. (2002). Teaching strategies: Strategies for helping early childhood students learn appropriate teaching practices. Childhood Education, 79(2), 103-107. DOI: 10.1080/00094056.2003.10522780
Hendry, G. D. & Oliver, G. R. (2012). Seeing is believing: The benefits of peer observation. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 9(1), 1-9.
July 08, 2019
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 02, 2019
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.