The Purpose Of Adopting A Learning Strategy Education Essay

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Following on from working in commercial Information Technology, I have taken on the role as an IT tutor for adults, working in communities that are below a particular score on the English Indices of Deprivation as published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The majority of the courses are between 4 and 6 sessions, lasting between 1½ and 2 hours each. Class size ranges from a minimum of 4 to about 12 depending on the subject and location. The learner age range is from 19 to 90 with the majority of learners having not been in classroom learning for many years.

The idea for this action research project evolved from a short presentation I gave about my own teaching experience of the past few years (see ). In the course of developing this presentation, it became clear that I needed to develop new ways to interact with the learners and for learners to improve their interaction with one another.

"It would follow that implementation of icebreakers and re-energizers in the classroom might well contribute to improved student participation, increased student persistence, and ultimately enhanced student learning."(Chlup & Collins, 2010)

Chlup also highlights six factors of group dynamics that can have a profound effect on the learning environment (see ). These factors will change a classroom from an environment where learners are passive recipients of knowledge, to one where they are active participants in their education.

The purpose of this action research project is to investigate, with the purpose of adopting, a learning strategy that will enhance the socialization and peer learning factors. In my experience, engagement can be difficult if the majority of the learners have not been in a learning environment for a long time. Either they are only able to participate when directly asked or they participate fully to the exclusion of others. In either case, I would like to see if the adoption of an icebreaker speeds up process of the learners feeling part of the group and therefore be able to engage with the other members of the group.

Literary Review

300

Development of Action Research

Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) is the psychologist who has be credited with creating the term action research. He identified a need for social research in a form that resulted in social change. He wanted the research not just to produce literature about the research but also to be rooted in social and organisational settings. Lewin developed an approach that was a series or spiral of steps and his basic cycle is reproduced in Error: Reference source not found. This approach is focussed on problem solving and relies on planning, acting and then evaluating or reflecting. The second iteration of the cycle now begins with a modification of the original idea brought about by the reflection on the previous step's activity {{69 Smith, Mark K. 2001}}.

This approach with its sequential steps makes it a straightforward model to follow but also runs the risk that the practitioner will follow the steps and the process of the action research will dominate the content of the action research. In other words, the practice will be regarded as 'correct' because all the steps have been followed rather than 'good' because something has changed.

Jean McNiff

In order to investigate what action research is Costello (2011) identifies a range of definitions that can be found in Appendix 3. Analysing this list identifies a number of factors:

Action research is referred to as a process, a study, an enquiry, a spiral, a cycle, and an approach.

It is a practical exercise.

It aims to improve the practice of the investigator.

It is used by the investigator to understand and evaluate.

It involves research, action and reflection.

Importance of Learning in an group

Borough of Manhattan Community College has created a valuable one page document that summarises why learning in a cohesive group is so important. Although the study skills hand out was written for students working on their own and preparing for a test, the key points apply to my adult learning groups participating in this research.

The purpose of an icebreaker is to help learners relax in a situation that they can perceive as formal, a structured activity, known as an icebreaker, will introduce them to each other and allow ideas to flow.

Icebreakers may not be connected to the subject of the course and they will help to break up existing groups (if some members already know each other) and reform random ones in a fun and non-threatening way. It is the intention of the icebreaker, therefore, to enable learning to happen by making the learners comfortable with each other and to help bring about conversation. (Clark, 2004)

Learning Involvement. The exercise can act as a "springboard" to the main topic that you want to explore in detail later on. This helps the delegates to get a bearing on the topic and be more receptive to the idea when you go into more details.

Team Building. Naturally, there is a strong sense of team building when delegates have to interact together, especially to achieve common goals. This is particularly an important aspect of icebreakers since they encourage socialising and make people more comfortable with each other. This opens up possibilities of peer-group learning and simply makes the atmosphere more positive.

Assessment. You can use this opportunity to perform a quick assessment of the group to gauge how much they know about the topic, how comfortable they are in groups, what is their background, expertise and so on.

Research Methodology

Identification of methods of research methodology. These are likely to be:

Reflective Journal

Observation of learners during activity

Post-lesson learner questionnaire

Discussion with learning support assistant

300

Observation of groups before and after

From my experience, many of the learners that attend my courses have not been in a learning environment for many years, most not since childhood. As the average age of the learners is 50 plus, their expectations of the learning environment is very different from learners that have more recently left the compulsory education sector. One manifestation of this difference is that the older learner is more likely to expect the tutor to instruct them at every stage. Interactions with other learners are minimal and generally speaking only the tutor has the answer.

Questionnaire from learners participating in AR

Consultation with peers

Issues

Small group

Only sampled 2 groups

Limited learner base, may have met before.

Analysis

Recommendations

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Universality

Connections with others, common concerns & problems

Didactic Learning

Information giving, sharing knowledge

Altruism

Helping others, can raise one's self esteem

Socialization

Benefits from interactions with others

Peer Learning

People often learn better from one another

Group Cohesiveness

Acceptance from others, belonging, support

Group Dynamic Curative Factors

(Chlup & Collins, 2010)

Appendix 3

Kurt Lewin's Action Research spiral

illustration: lewin's model of the action research process

{{69 Smith, Mark K. 2001}}

Appendix 4

'Action research is a process of systematic reflection, enquiry and action carried out by individuals about their own professional practices' (Frost, 2002)

'Action research is a term used to describe professionals studying their own practice in order to improve it' (General Teaching Council for Wales, 2002)

'Educational action research is an enquiry which is carried out in order to understand, to evaluate end then to change, in order to improve some educational practice' (Bassey, 1998)

'Action research combines a substantive act with a research procedure; it is action disciplined by enquire, a personal attempt at understanding while engaged in a process of improvement and reform' (Hopkins, 2008)

'Action research … is applied research, carried out by practitioners who have themselves identified a need for change or improvement'

'When applied to teaching, [action research] involves gathering and interpreting data to better understand an aspect of teaching and learning and applying the outcomes to improves practice'

'Action research is a flexible spiral process which allows action (change, improvement) and research (understanding, knowledge) to be achieved at the same time'

'Action research is … usually described a cyclic, with action and critical reflection taking place in turn. The reflection is used to review the previous action and plan the next one'

'[Action research] is an approach or umbrella term, which … has proved to be attractive to educators … because of its emphasis on practice and problem-solving over a particular period of time'

'[Action research] is both a sequence of events and an approach to problem solving'

'Action research is intended to combine a strong and rigorous research activity with a respect for participants'' knowledge and understanding. It therefore brings together theory and practical knowledge, to test each other with the purpose of developing practice'

(Costello, 2011)

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