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Within this Collaborative Professional Enquiry (CPE) it is proposed we move towards resolving problems of a lack of social skills which has been impacting on the behaviour of the S4 learners in school. The learning of social skills shall be facilitated through a specially devised "Buddy Training" programme judged appropriate to the needs of each S4 learner within the school; these social skills to be reinforced through being a "buddy" to the S1 learners. The success of the programme will be measured through the study of changes in behaviour of the S4 learners.
Collaborative Professional Enquiry (CPE)
In describing Collaborative Professional Enquiry (CPE), Reeves et al, (2008: 63) believe that,
a group of teachers come together to explore an aspect of mutual interest or concern and that the group will decide on the direction of the enquiry, after taking cognisance of what is already known about the area. It involves "a collaborative, democratic model of leadership" (Harris and Muijs, 2005: 88).
Street and Temperley (2005) also agree with the above adding that as well as increasing the learning of the professionals involved in the CPE, it should also increase the learning of the learners or the school community as a whole.
Bickel and Hattrup (1995: 36 in Potter, 2001: 9) defines collaboration as,
Equality among all. Sound collaboration is a give and take situation. You work together as a team.
The above describe what we will be endeavouring to succeed during this pilot intervention and in turn the enquiry.
Does "buddy training" help in the improvement of social skills for S4 learners facilitated within the programme, in conjunction with being a peer helper?
If there is an improvement in social skills does this impact on instances of recorded negative behaviour in S4 learners with additional support needs?
The enquiry shall be conducted in a secondary school for learners with intellectual and associated behavioural disabilities within the mild to complex range. The learners' involved in this enquiry are from an S4 and an S1 class, both classes having eight learners with "mild to moderate" intellectual disabilities and "Global Developmental Delay".
What is a buddy?
A "buddy" is a term used by our cluster schools when referring to pupils who are helping with younger peers in an academic or social learning situation in school (Miller, 2002). In essence it is cross-age "peer helping" as defined by Lippitt, in Allen (1976: 157) as being "a dynamic teaching-learning process in which older students help younger ones".
Miller (2002) also supports the use of the term "peer helping" as being an "umbrella term" to include the many variations of peer tutoring in small groups, and mentoring which is seen as a one-to-one situation; and sees "buddying" as an "overlap" of these two activities.
Our S4 learners will be "helping" the class teacher with a small group of S1 learners in class. They will have a specific buddy. Within the less formal setting at break and lunch time, they will be assigned duties to help their younger peers in the social setting. In school and for the purposes of this enquiry, they will be called "buddies".
The Reason for the Enquiry
My previous enquiry involved cross-age peer assisted learning with S3s buddying S1 learners within the physical education setting, demonstrating a marked improvement in learning by the S1s. During the enquiry I noted in my Learning Journal that a number of staff members observed the S3s demonstrated positive behaviour traits within the formal and informal school settings (Riach, 2008-09). It was then that I began to speculate "Was there a social benefit through being a buddy during this enquiry for the S3 learners?" This was the impetus for the following enquiry.
Social Skills and Behaviour
There is a recognised problem with behaviour in our school (School Development Plan, 2009-10). Evidence of this is recorded in the form of "Behaviour Sheets" and "Behaviour Points". Behaviour Sheets are written by members of staff when a negative incident occurs in school and Behaviour Points are given to learners who have shown good academic and/or social skills.
The government document "Better Behaviour - Better Learning: Report of the Discipline Task Group" (Scottish Executive, 2001) suggests that learners' with behavioural difficulties are often the least liked and least understood of all children with special educational needs, stating,
Whether a child 'acts out' (demonstrates bad behaviour openly) or 'acts in' (is withdrawn), they may have barriers to learning which require to be addressed (Scottish Executive, 2001).
It can be seen from our school behavioural records that an element of our learners "act out" and subsequently receive few Behaviour Points and many Behaviour Sheets. However, it is also evident that some of our learners "act in". They receive full points and are issued with no or a negligible amount of Behaviour Sheets.
Our school agrees with the Task Group's findings and is also aware of and committed to carrying out the recommendations of "Personal Support for Pupils in Scottish Schools" (HMIE, 2004), which suggests that all schools have a duty to encourage positive behaviour in learners and to celebrate this as an individual achievement, complimenting the whole school ethos (School Development Plan, 2009-10; Cluster Improvement Plan 2008-10).
This commitment is illustrated within our School Development Plan (2009-10) when discussing methods in improving learners' behaviour, stating actions,
Social skills programmes to be developed in relevant curricular areas and practised,
Formalise peer support "buddying" system, and also
Further develop and support peer mentoring - give pupils opportunities for joint working together (School Development Plan, 2009-10: 21).
These actions also demonstrate our agreement with Topping (1983: 111) when he states that merely controlling disruptive behaviour within the school leads to "short-term and situation-specific improvements". We feel that learners with behavioural problems need specific social skills training which should be reinforced within their school environment to have any long term behavioural effects and agree that only then will we see improvement in other areas of our learners' lives which could produce lifelong changes (Frostad and Pijl, 2007; Topping, 1983).
Spence (2003: 84) recognises that "social skill deficits are integral to many emotional and behavioural problems". Our school mission statement is, "helping young people develop confidence, respect and skills for life" (School Development Plan, 2009-10). When discussing this mission statement, it was clear we saw the link between appropriate social skills and acceptable behaviour as an important life skill for our learners. This coincides with the philosophy of a "Curriculum for Excellence" (CfE) which promotes the four capacities, Responsible Citizen, Successful Learner, Confident Individual and Effective Contributor, indicating that cognitive, affective and social characteristics of learning are seen as integral to an effective curriculum to enable the learner to participate effectively within society (Scottish Government, 2008). CfE supports the entitlement of each learner to be educated within what it terms "pre-vocational skills". The vision is that these skills should be embedded throughout the curriculum, but especially within the "Health and Wellbeing" experiences and outcomes which also includes Guidance (Scottish Government, 2008).
Buddy Programmes and Peer Mentoring
When reviewing the approaches and effectiveness of Guidance systems in Scottish schools it was found that "peer guidance" was amongst the variety of methods adopted to support the social and emotional development of learners (Scottish Government, 2005). One of the strategies under this heading was "Buddy Schemes". It was found that 85% of local authorities had schools engaging in these schemes. Their overall assessment was that although there were some positive experiences, it was recommended that there should be further evaluation of the outcomes to prove its effectiveness within each school (Scottish Government, 2005).
To aid in the development of the above schemes, schools have recently been issued with literature to aid in the development of Peer Support systems to help create a positive school ethos and reduce bullying in Scottish Schools (Hendry and Mellor, 2005).
However, from the literature researched it can be seen that the buddy programmes in Scottish schools are set substantially within the mainstream system; between cross-age mainstream learners or with mainstream learners supporting learners with intellectual, communication or physical disabilities (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2010; Health Promoting Schools, 2010). No research has been found relating to cross-age buddy programmes situated entirely within the special school setting in Scottish schools.
However Dennison (2000) instigated her "Big Buddies" programme in a school in the USA to help the "at risk" or "school drop-out" section of her school's society. Diver-Stamnes (1991) in Dennison (2000: 163-4) states that, "Peer helping programs have also benefited the helper", and also recognises through her literature review that "peer mentors and tutors" had increased self-esteem and improved academic results after their involvement in buddy programmes. She also found that "mentors" became more interested in the needs of others after undergoing training and buddying.
Although the above example is not directly related to the acquisition of social skills in learners, it seems reasonable to assume that the behavioural and attitudinal changes achieved by Dennison's programme could give credence to the intervention we are planning.
After reflecting on the literature together with the perceived needs of our learners, it is proposed that we can progress to facilitating the learning of social skills by S4 learners. The success of the intervention will be measured through the reflections of colleagues and learners involved, triangulated with the study of changes in behaviour of the S4 learners (Burton and Bartlett, 2005).
Good ethical practice is vitally important when carrying out research therefore the team has been made aware of the BERA Revised Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research (BERA, 2004). The head teacher had previously given verbal consent for the enquiry to take place. Before continuing with the pilot intervention I explained the aims and methods of the enquiry to the learners in language appropriate to them. Learners were given the option of not having their work or comments used if they so chose. A letter was also issued to the parents/carers of the learners informing them of the pilot intervention, making them aware of the option to withdraw work, comments or results, while also inviting any queries or questions they had and guaranteeing the anonymity of their children. It was also important that my colleagues that consent was gained from my collaborative group and that the same rights were given and explained to them before entering into the enquiry.
The Feasibility Study
In preparation for the main enquiry a feasibility study was carried out in the form of a pilot intervention. This was part of the cyclical process for the enquiry; an 9 week pilot intervention (3 weeks buddy training; 6 weeks buddying) carried out to assess any changes that may be recommended within this "action-reflection cycle" (McNiff and Whitehead, 2002; Bell, 1999).
It was important that the collaborative group considered the opportunities and restrictions which could arise, and reflected on adaptations deemed necessary before committing methods and assessments to the main enquiry (McNiff and Whitehead, 2002).
Classroom Training Lessons
The pilot intervention began with the training of the S4 buddies. This was a useful process as the programme was being adapted from a mainstream example (Reid, 1997). The original programme was worksheet based which did not suit the needs of our learners. We reflected that since this was an intervention which was aiming at improving social skills we should involve the social process from its start, learning was contextualised, co-operative and self- assessed (Carnell and Lodge, 2002; Craigen and Ward, 2009; Frostad and Pijl, 2007; Spence, 2003; Scottish Government, 2008).
From our knowledge of this S4 class it was decided that within this co-operative learning structure the main learning strategy should be role play, giving the opportunity for "active learning"- a social learning process where the learners' were given time to reflect on their learning (Black and Wiliam, 1998; Carnell and Lodge, 2002; Pollard, 2006). This was a successful strategy as it gave us learner feedback for the development of the training programme in conjunction with teacher and learning assistant reflections (Black and Wiliam, 1998; Carnell and Lodge, 2002; Pollard, 2006).
Playground Training Lessons
The Playground Buddy training was also based on real life situations for the S4s. However, as the intervention progressed, I noted in my reflective journal that during our discussions in our twice weekly Buddy Guidance sessions the S4s revealed they felt the S1s should have been included in the playground training. The S4s reflected that due to the lack of teacher supervision in the playground, they found it difficult to hold the attention of the S1s who had only classroom preparation for the project (Riach, 2009- 10). We have agreed with the S4s and will adjust this for the future. The S1s will be part of the Playground Training to increase their knowledge of the activities on offer and, it is hoped, encourage their participation.
After reflection, it was felt that in future the Active Schools' coordinators work collaboratively with a teaching staff member giving each the opportunity to share knowledge (Pollard, 2006).
We gave each S4 a partner to train and work with over the next 9 weeks of the intervention, using our professional judgement to assess their social and behavioural needs (Brewer et al, 2003). Some of the S4s did not like their buddy partner, but as they grew as a team their relationship changed (Topping and Ehly, 1998). As I reflected in my Learning Journal (Riach, 2009-10; 12/2/10),
"they have grown to tolerate each other and work together, something which would not have featured earlier in the session".
The group feel that this is a sustainable method of buddy selection to be use in the future.
After reading about the work of Byra and Marks (1993) in Ward and Lee (2005) who grouped learners by "degree of friendship and ability" and found no difference in learning between the two, it was decided it would be better to let the S4s choose their S1 buddies to avoid any unnecessary disharmony which could be threatening for our S1 learners at the beginning of the intervention (Topping and Ehly, 1998). Using our professional knowledge of the S4 class we decided this would be important to the majority of the S4 learners and could influence the extent of their motivation towards the enquiry during its early stages.
Classroom Buddy Sessions
After attending a CPD opportunity on Cooperative Learning I used the knowledge gained to develop the buddy training programme based on co-operative learning strategies. I worked closely with the S4 class's guidance teacher to deliver the programme. We discussed the themes for the lessons and the organisation which included the Basic Elements of,
Face to face interaction, Individual accountability, Positive interdependence, Collaborative/social skills and Processing (Craigen and Ward, 2009: 10).
Through my demonstrations of the cooperative structure of the lesson it is hoped that my colleague will have obtained a greater insight into techniques of cooperative learning strategies and will use this in the future either in her own teaching or during the buddy training programme.
I also learned from my guidance colleague from her experience in working with her learners on role play situations.
The teachers have reflected that classroom sessions went well and no changes were deemed necessary to their structure. Each learner and teacher knew in advance which social skill the learners were focusing on and set the S4 buddy tasks accordingly - the visual prompts were successfully used to reinforce the social skill(s) of the fortnight (Black and Wiliam, 1998). The idea was to lay the card in front of the S4 whilst they buddied. It was hoped it would aid their understanding of what they were learning and because it was non-verbal it did would not disturb the class or draw unwanted attention onto the S4.
Collection of Data
Quantitative data - Centrally stored behavioural data
As previously mentioned, behaviour points and behaviour sheets are recorded by the school which made this data easy to source. Together with reflective data, it proved to be valuable in establishing if there was an improvement in behaviour from the most "openly" challenging of the S4 learners during the pilot study. It did not however, prove a change in behaviour from the more "withdrawn" learners (Scottish Executive, 2001). It is felt that to ensure validity of results teacher/LA reflective data is required in triangulation with summative data to give reliability to this evidence (Burton and Bartlett, 2005; McNiff, 2002).
Before the pilot intervention began each staff member was asked to complete a questionnaire which reflected the behaviour of the whole S4 class.
On reflection and through comments given by the staff group, this was not a reliable way of assessing the social skills of each learner. It is intended for the next intervention there will be a sample taken of the S4 group and the questionnaires will be issued with responses applying to individuals within this sample group (Bell, 1999, Burton and Bartlett, 2005).
TOAD Behavioural Analysis (Goldstein, 1995 in Olsen and Cooper, 2006)
From the pilot we have assessed the need for two changes within this assessment.
Initially it was decided that the original behaviours initiated by Goldstein in the acronym TOAD - Talking out of turn, Out of seat, (not paying) Attention and Disrupting others (Olsen and Cooper, 2006) would assess the social skills we were focusing on. In hindsight we found we were mistaken; the results were invalid and unreliable as they did not assess specific social skills. We will adjust the behaviours to be assessed to relate more directly to our intended outcomes for the next intervention to increase their validity and reliability (McNiff and Whitehead, 2006).
We agreed a LA who is a psychology graduate should perform this baseline assessment. However, from the LAs reflections and the results it could be seen that the behaviour of the S4s changed. They were suspicious of this "stranger" sitting at the back of their class and observing them. In future, the LA who is normally assigned to the class will carry out this assessment, which will be less obvious and less influential towards the subject's behaviour, making the results more valid and reliable (McNiff and Whitehead, 2006).
To enable the LA to collect reliable data, I discussed the analysis procedure with her and issued written instructions. I also arranged for the opportunity for the test to be practised before the actual recording of S4 data and discussed any problems that occurred in the practise sessions.
The classroom assessment was through a prepared tick sheet and a star and a wish from the teacher for each of the S4 learners attending the lesson. This worked very well as it gave a focus for the lesson, giving formative feedback to the learner which instigated the setting of targets for subsequent lessons (Black and Wiliam, 1998). The feedback was discussed during guidance each Friday, initiating the focus for the next week which was decided between learner and teacher. This also provided evidence of changes in the focus of social skills and in triangulation with other data showed an increased or lack of improvement in these skills (Burton and Bartlett, 2005).
This assessment was discussed as part of the collaborative group meetings. Some colleagues had not experienced "A star and a wish" in their teaching and this pilot was a good opportunity for them to practise and reflect upon their experience. This reflection would then impact on the intervention through feedback to the group.
Peer and Self Assessment
On reflection, the collection of data from peer and self assessment proved to be successful only if effective questioning was used by the learning assistant allocated the role of collecting this data (Black and Wiliam, 1998; Costley in Lewis and Lindsay, 2000). The group discussed this and the learning assistant (LA) found as the intervention progressed, she became more confident and proficient with this task which reinforced the value of the pilot intervention to ensure valid and reliable data is collected (McNiff and Whitehead, 2006). Appropriate questioning techniques were discussed at our collaborative meetings and I also shadowed the LA during her initial assessment sessions to ensure depth of questioning of the learners (Black and Wiliam, 1998).
Due to our learners' literacy problems the LA had to scribe comments. Initially we used symbols J and L etc, but through group discussion we reflect that this told us little of what the learner really thought. In the future we will use a sample of learners to illicit comments from and the LA shall continue to scribe.
It can be seen through reading this interim report that we found this to be a significantly effective method of collecting data. It has allowed us to consider our experiences and reflect on ways of dealing with various aspects of the intervention by using our professional judgement based on the knowledge we have gathered throughout the pilot and the professional knowledge accumulated throughout our careers (Coghlan and Brannick, 2010; Pollard, 2006; Sachs, 2004; Tripp, 2006).
Together with the quantitative data this reflective process will be triangulated to help maintain reliable and valid assessment results (Burton and Bartlett, 2005).
Development of Collaborative Professional Enquiry
Past experience of working together
At the time of preparing for this pilot intervention the school staff had little or no understanding of the concept of collaboration. This was due to the school culture (Drew et al, in Reeves and Fox, 2008; MacGregor, in Bennett and Anderson: 2003). Our school had a "top down" system of leadership which gave little scope for teacher instigated collaborative learning. We saw leadership as a role bestowed on a promoted staff member (MacGregor, in Bennett and Anderson: 2003).
My colleagues (and I) have had past experience of "Teacher Working Groups" where a member of the management team led the group and teachers were merely group members (Hulme et al, 2009). It has taken a long time for this culture to change within our school, which differs from the opinion of Troen and Boles (1992, in Harris and Muijs, 2005) who state that teachers do not subscribe to leadership as, ""higher" or "superior" positions within the organizational hierarchy".
Through reading current educational thinking it is recommended that school based continuing professional development (CPD) centres round the promotion of collaboration for the benefit for the whole school community (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2009). Lacey (1996: 68) writes that there is a need to train teachers to work collaboratively and it is not just something that happens, feeling there are "a set of skills and concepts which are attached to collaborative working that do not emerge naturally." I agree with this as I feel that it is taken for granted that schools will achieve collaborative status as a result of the publication of government directives. I have yet to see CPD which helps in this area.
On realising this, one of the aims of the pilot was to take us further along the continuum of what Wenger (1998 in Hughes, 2010) described as a "social process"; where our group members are given the opportunity to develop their own identity within the group whilst still contributing as a team player.
Increasing knowledge on collaboration
In an effort to increase my group's knowledge relating to collaboration, I gave them some short readings related to establishing a community of practice. The hope was that this would instigate informal discussion and help in the understanding that this was an enquiry that was not just for my benefit en route to my M. Ed, but that it was also a CPD opportunity which would benefit the school and ultimately the learners. Despite this I still felt the group were co-operating with me as opposed to collaborating and I realised that issuing a few readings was just the first step in establishing effective collaborative relationships (Duncombe and Armour, 2004).
Group meetings are important to the collaborative process, but it was difficult to get everyone together to attend group meetings (Harris and Muijs, 2005). Initially there were some personalities who were reluctant to attend. I approached our head teacher and she agreed to allow time spent attending collaborative group meetings to count towards CPD time. This agreement has allowed us to move forward in creating our "group culture" and beyond the "forming" and "storming" stages of our group, now working towards developing the "norming" stage of our development (Harris and Muijs, 2005; Tuckman, 1965). It was then that we began to demonstrate a feeling of working towards a joint goal which was not always evident in the early stages of the pilot. It seemed the group now realised that they were learning something through working together and the school would benefit through the intervention.
Issues in the day to day running of the school can pose problems for the depth of collaboration. School life is unpredictable, especially in a school for learners with additional support needs, where daily plans can change on frequent occasions. This can lead to delays in e.g. carrying out baseline testing, learners' involvement with their counterpart in the buddy process. The group has to take this into consideration and we can expect this to impact on collaborative meetings from time to time (Street and Temperley, 2005). To overcome this we set a mutually suitable date for the next meeting at the end of each meeting. Minutes are taken during each meeting and distributed to the group with agreed action points. This ensures that we are all clear on any points of concern, developments or future plans for the intervention.
Developing Relationships within the group
The meetings did help to strengthening relationships within the group and as the intervention progressed I wrote in my Learning Journal (Riach, 2009-10: 12/3/10),
There were some very constructive comments made at the meeting today. We are admitting problems now and discussing them. We are having more experience of the S4s in our class and also working together. I am really pleased with the atmosphere.
I realised that I would have to capitalise on this progress, agreeing that if our collaborative intervention was to be successful, "Teachers need to trust one another enough to admit they have a problem and to share their problems" (Darling-Hammond, 1994 and Nicholls, 1997 in Duncombe and Armour, 2004: 159). We could trust each other enough to share our reflections.
However, the entire group did not feel like this. A lack of trust and disinterest in the intervention was alienating one of the teachers from the rest of the members. Unfortunately, this was a problem I did not manage to solve and I eventually had to agree to remove an S4 buddy from the teacher's class and take him into mine. The commitment was not there and I sensed this teacher's disillusionment with her professional life was having a negative effect on the progress of the S4 buddies and the cohesion of the group (Duncombe and Armour, 2004; Jacques, 2001).
Through maintaining friendly and relaxed atmosphere within the remaining group members I feel I have encouraged a good "participation pattern", coupled with the promotion of a democratic style of leadership which as well as encouraging enthusiastic group discussions, is ensuring I guide the group to working in a professional and disciplined way ( Jacques, 2000). We shared our reflections with each other which lead to improving our methods and in turn the quality of our intervention (Coghlan and Brannick, 2010).
Ultimately, I feel we all respect each other and although this is a new experience for us all, the group trust me and each other enough to contribute to the collaborative enquiry and give their time to developing buddying within our school.
This section relates to the following Professional Actions which are part "The Standard for Chartered Teacher" (Scottish Government, 2009).
Educational and social values
4.1.1: Relates practice to wider school aims and social values. (PA 4.1.1).
Collaboration with, and influence on, colleagues
4.4.1: Contributes to enhancing the quality of the educational experience provided by the school and to the wider professional context of teaching (PA 4.4.1).
This shall be linked with the following Professional Values and Commitments
1.1: Educational and social values (PVPC 1.1)
1.4: Collaboration and influence (PVPC 1.1)
Within the section I shall summarise what I feel I have learned in terms of exercising the "actions" and my next steps in developing my practice
I have found setting up a collaborative team challenging and as I will illustrate my experiences so far concur with Munn (2008: 428) when she states, "Collaboration takes time and effort, good communication systems, and considerable tact and diplomacy".
Although I got a good response when I asked colleagues to support the collaborative enquiry it soon became evident that there was a naivety as to what being a member of a collaborative team really meant; the "lone wolves" within the school viewing the concept of collaborative enquiry as something quite turgid and unnecessary. I have learned that collaboration can be a difficult concept for teachers to grasp if their background is from a "top-down" leadership experience and I will have to develop this within my collaborative group (Lacey, 1996).
We have also received support from outside agencies, i.e. active schools' coordinator, school psychologist and behavioural support outreach department; but because of the infrequency of their visits to school they are helping purely in an advisory capacity through informal chats, emails and providing literature to support the development of the buddy training programme. Through discussion of their advice, practice has been influenced by providing stimuli to develop the focus of our teaching towards the social process of learning through co-operative learning, integrating the learning of social skills through visual stimuli and helping to give learners more responsibility within this process though questioning and discussion. (PVPC 1.4; PA 4.4.1)
I judged I had made it clear that our goal was to improve the social skills of our 4th year pupils and stated clearly my perception of the individual group member's roles in helping the group achieve this (Jacques, 2000). However, in the early stages of the enquiry I felt the members were not as committed as I was in achieving these goals; possibly due to the fact that deep down they didn't think they were achievable. The group were not, as yet, prepared for the roles they were to play in the enquiry and I had to make it my immediate task to ensure the group was prepared for the job ahead (Jacques, 2000; Lee, 2000 in Duncombe and Armour, 2004). As we progress from the pilot intervention I have learned that it is important to clarify roles during the early stages of planning of the intervention to ensure a clear focus and commitment from myself and my colleagues (Duncombe and Armour, 2004). (PVPC 1.4)
Collaborative meetings have been held during lunch breaks as this was the time that suited the majority of our group members.
I had a long term supply teacher involved during the early stages of the enquiry as the guidance teacher to the S4 class. This teacher was being obstructive towards the collaborative process, as evidenced in my learning journal,
"I am finding it difficult to get everyone together for meetings and the main trouble is coming from a supply teacher who has agreed to join the group until a permanent member of staff returns. This teacher is actively (in front of me) trying to discourage another supply staff member from attending meetings as they do not get paid for lunchtimes. In an email to me she has accused me of being "in preach of Health and Safety Guidelines"." (Riach, 2009-10: 9/12/09)
I discussed this with my critical friend and we decided that we should communicate with supply staff through email and individual discussion to keep them informed of plans and developments for the period they are with the school. I have learned that it is not productive to be confrontational in this situation as this may have a negative effect on group dynamics, affecting the atmosphere of the group (Jacques, 2000). I can now identify with Wenger et al (2002 in Dooner et al, 2008: 565) when they suggest that "tension is inherent in group work". I realise I will have to be perceptive and proactive to avoid any future instances of this nature occurring within the group by making it clear from the outset that attendance at meetings was purely on a voluntary basis, especially for supply staff who have different work and pay conditions as permanent staff. (PVPC 1.1; PA 4.4.1)
I have since negotiated with our head teacher that the meetings will count towards each staff member's personal development time. This has been welcomed by each member and I now feel I can call meetings without worrying about the reaction of some group members and I can also feel more comfortable about giving short readings to the group which help us in discussions and decision-making relating to the development of the enquiry. (PA 4.4.1)
Developing from a "group" into a "team"
From the enquiry conception it has been evident that I am the leader of the group. However, at times there was a "just tell me what to do and I'll do it" attitude, and as I noted in my Learning Journal (Riach, 2009-10: 9/12/09), "I worry that this is going to be detrimental to the collaborative enquiry". At this point I judged from my reading that we were at the "forming" stage of our group and the way that I conducted meetings and discussions with group members would dictate how far along Tuckman's team-development model the group would progress. I tried to lead the group with a democratic style and to date feel, as has been demonstrated in Section 2 of this assignment, we have developed some way towards Tuckman's "performing" stage (Tuckman, 1965). (PVPC 1.4; PA 4.4.1)
The longer the group is together the more we are developing into a "team". We have our own roles and a joint target for the team. We are now beginning to "fit together" and have a sense of belonging. I would hope that as we move further into this enquiry a sense of group history and culture will be shared as this sense of trust and feeling of belonging is crucial to the success of the enquiry (Weick, 1995 in Dooner et al, 2008; Harris and Muijs, 2005). (PVPC 1.4; PA 4.4.1)
Through this experience I have developed the same opinion as Fisher et al (1997: 233) who, when agreeing with Parker (1990), states,
"A group of people are not a team; teams require a high degree of interdependence geared toward the achievement of a goal or completion of a task"
To try to extend this interdependence I have made sure each collaborative meeting has an agenda and minutes with action points which give a clear structure to the enquiry. I realise that it is important that each team member knows that their opinion is valuable and is valued by others (Street and Temperley, 2005). It is now noticeable that more members are putting forward ideas and showing more interest in the project; we realise that each of our roles is crucial to the success of the enquiry. (PVPC 1.4; PA 4.4.1)
During the pilot intervention as each team member has used their expertise to fulfil different roles, e.g. Guidance teacher team taught with me to train the buddies and introduce social element to S4s and ICT co-ordinator help to devise prompt cards as visual aids in developing social skills. Through reflective group discussions and allocation of roles we used the expertise within the group to develop new strategies for learning, drawing from the knowledge and experience from individuals to help advise colleagues.
Potter (2001: 10) suggests,
"Social interaction, engagement in conversation, debate, creative tension, questions and divergent perspectives among individuals all provoke the development of opinions, understanding, new positions, and professional growth."
McLaughlin and Talbert (2006) also suggest that teacher learning of this type also increases the learning of their students. This has shown to be the case in this pilot intervention where through our formative and summative assessments we have demonstrated an increase in learning of social skills by the S4 learners. What we have learned from the process will help in sustaining the development of the buddy project to impact on the social learning within the school for the future. (PVPC 1.4; PA 4.4.1)
The pilot intervention has demonstrated that this is a worthwhile enquiry within this school. The S4 learners' that "acted out" improved their behaviour measured by behaviour points and sheets, and the S4 learners' who "acted in" were judged to have improved their social skills through self and teacher reflection (Scottish Government, 2001).
Whilst looking at our development needs, we will also consider the priorities set by our school, local and national authorities (Scottish Executive, 2004).
It is hoped the knowledge gained within this pilot will be transferable to other areas of the school, other learners and schools (Hargreaves, 1999).
Preparation for the main enquiry
In preparation for the main enquiry the group shall present its findings to our colleagues in a bid to recruit others for the new intervention, giving them the option to benefit from this CPD opportunity and in turn introducing more knowledge and experience into the group (Duncombe and Armour, 2004).
I will also look for appropriate readings to issue to staff to increase their knowledge of the processes and benefits of CPE which is specifically adapted to our school context as this might help in the motivation of colleagues that still remain on the periphery of the group (Reeves et al, 2008).
Baseline assessment data will be gathered, as stated in Section 2, before the end of this term and the beginning of next session in readiness for use at the start of the intervention. Some of this has already been collected and shall remain stored in a locked system to ensure confidentiality (BERA, 2004).
Learning and Teaching
Targets for the learning of social skills shall be discussed by the group and the opinion sought from others, including parents and the learners' themselves at our school "target setting" evening early in September. The group shall discuss how we shall approach this in a meeting before the end of the session.
Due to our learners' intellectual disabilities we have decided that it would be beneficial to prepare them to use formative assessment strategies before the start of the intervention so that they understand the purpose of this and its relationship to identifying next steps in learning (Black and Wiliams, 1998; Black et al, 2002).
It is also intended to enhance our teaching through increased reflection and evaluation of our practice; increasing our professional judgement and developing the cyclical process of reflective teaching (Pollard, 2006). This intention shows that the collaborative group envisage the skills they are learning through this intervention are transferable to other areas of their teaching (Hargreaves, 1999; Street and Temperley, 2005).
In accomplishing the above, it is hoped that a democratic style of leadership shall be developed to enable a change in the school culture towards the encouragement of shared decision-making and involvement (Harris and Muijs, 2005).