Wilts BA12 9PJ
John of Gaunt School
Wilts BA14 9EH
BEST PRACTICE RESEARCH No. S 687
This piece of research was conducted in the belief that post 16 students
learn and have improved recall if their learning includes a variety of
experiences that take them out of the classroom environment, accessing
an extended range of learning styles held by students.
Specifically, one major difficulty found in Design and Technology is
that students find it very difficult to demonstrate an adequate level
of knowledge as required by the exam board regarding industrial techniques
and their application.
The aim was to increase this understanding by arranging off site visits
to a variety of industrial sites and incoming visits from experts working
in industry and commerce, in the expectation that learning would improve
as a result.
IN WHAT WAY WERE AIMS REFINED?
The first and unsolicited finding was that students were not as effective
independent learners as expected; without guidance they were unable to
take advantage of novel situations.
Before looking at the end results i.e. any effect on understanding, learning
and retention, it was necessary to review student's preparation before
entering these situations, with the aim of enabling them to benefit from
the experience. Therefore the first aim became to enable students to enter
new situations with confidence.
Instruction and role playing scenarios were set up to improve understanding
and confidence. It also involved question preparation, practice question
and answer sessions to enable the students to gain the information that
was sought as well as to increase self assurance and reduce anxiety. This
was found to be absolutely essential as very little was gained from visits
without thorough preparation.
WHICH RESEARCH PROCESSES DID I FIND HELPFUL?
The fact that this was a piece of action research was extremely beneficial.
It meant that although there were expected outcomes, I was able to use
findings as they occurred to shape the research process. One of the most
helpful processes was the reviewing of student's acquisition of knowledge
at an earlier stage than would usually have taken place. This enabled
the structure of sessions to be altered in order to improve student's
ability to access information.
As with all pieces of research, it was also a learning process for me,
endowing me with a sense of affinity with the students and what they were
experiencing, understanding what they might find intimidating, making
it a collaborative process, resulting in mutually beneficial development.
WHICH RESEARCH PROCESSES DID STUDENTS FIND HELPFUL?
The fact that this was an interactive piece of research benefited the
students in that they undertook their own research into their investigative
skills. They were then able to take advantage of feedback given on how
they had improved - i.e. when writing up relevant industrial visits -
which enabled them to validate their own research. Students were able
to view this development as a life skill, useful as personal progression
as well as in other areas of the curriculum.
WHAT WERE THE LEARNING POINTS GAINED FROM UNDERTAKING THE RESEARCH AND
After instruction and practise, students were able to make more effective
use of opportunities such as industrial visits or visiting experts, and
the realism and novelty of these situations did improve recall.
A very small cohort of students was studied here, so findings could be
put down to individual differences, however, having discussed the findings
with other teachers of post 16 students, I think it is safe to conclude
that expected key skills are lower than expected, and need to be consolidated
before benefits from the variety of learning experiences will become evident.
Overall, the experience has increased my awareness of learning opportunities
and the barriers that exist making them inaccessible to students. This
has made me more flexible in my approach to teaching which I hope has
improved the learning environment that I create.
WHAT EVIDENCE RELATES TO THIS LEARNING AND YOUR FINDINGS?
Students were interviewed and also filled in evaluation sheets as part
of the process for recording evidence. Specifically, coursework sections
relating to industry were more effectively completed and received a higher
proportion of marks than in previous years. Students had established much
better working relationships with industrial mentors than had previously
occurred, again resulting in more effective evaluative comments throughout
their coursework as a whole.
WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS FOR YOUR FUTURE PRACTICE?
This process was very labour intensive and could only be undertaken with
small group sizes, so the question would be how to maintain this in larger
group sizes and across subject areas. Some possible tools have been identified:
· One of the tools used during sessions with students was a video
camera. Initial unease at filming and being filmed soon passed and students
were able to review and evaluate their own actions and improve their confidence
before entering a new situation. This enabled them to take full use of
opportunities presented; extremely useful as many of these were 'one off'
situations. This is definitely an underused tool in the classroom situation
and one for further development.
· Tape recording was identified as another inexpensive way of self
and peer evaluation. Students (all female in this case) tended to be very
self critical, this was useful for identifying what was done well in order
to improve self-esteem, before targeting what could be improved.
· Usefulness of learning partners was also established; despite
planning and good intentions, without the commitment of another being
involved students were often unable to take work forward.
WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS FOR YOUR SCHOOL?
Specifically relating to post 16 students, one of the questions raised
is whether KS 5 students are being equipped with the skills to become
and remain effective independent learners in the future? Evidence would
suggest that students are acquiring skills but do not have the ability
to see how these transfer to other areas of their life, be that other
academic subjects, social situations or work placements. One possibility
is that we could encourage this adaptability if as KS 5 teachers we communicated
more ourselves across subject areas, identifying areas of commonality
that students find difficult. Despite the many meetings that take place,
there is not one that encompasses all KS5 teachers!
ARE THERE ANY QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH?
What are the true aims? Is it improved grades in our individual subject
areas or is it to create students enthusiastic about learning; autonomous
learners, better equipped to face their future as life-long learners?
By making the learning experience as exciting and interactive as possible,
equipping students with key skills, will improved academic results occur
as a by-product? Is the correlation causal or incidental?
Can all students benefit in the same way? Is it possible to improve or
enable the success of the more able at the same time as the less able?
Do male and female students benefit from different learning experiences?
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
· Initial findings were discussed with other teachers within the
research group. (This was particularly helpful as it directed the research
· Summary sent to B Mackereth at John of Gaunt
· 6th form Centre, Warminster School
· Presentation planned
· Clips of student interaction demonstrating some of the activities
are available for perusal and evaluation.