Young People To Become: Successful Learners

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The QCA boasts the revised National Curriculum as one that is designed to “enable all young people to become: successful learners, who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve”. I am taking this statement as the basis of the CDA I am undertaking at Saddleworth School, in Oldham. I plan to investigate pupils enjoyment of certain activities used in the classroom and the pupils perception of learning through these activities. I then intend to investigate actual learning through testing of the pupils on each of the areas covered.

Saddleworth school is a larger than average comprehensive school with 1283 pupils on roll. The vast majority of the students are White British and the proportion for which English is not their first language is lower than the national average. Fewer pupils than usual come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have free school meals. The number of students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is low. The students' standards of attainment on entry to the school are in line with national averages.

Saddleworth School is adequately equipped for Science and the subject receives appropriate support from school management in terms of resources and class time provision. Science is a core subject and pupils take the subject at G.C.S.E. in ability grouped classes that are of a size suitable for student practical work. Pupils have good access to the school's laboratories and the science teachers co-operate in maximising their use. The laboratories are well kept and presented and prominence is given to the display of students' work. Equipment is in good working order, well organised and labelled well in order for students to access it easily. The science department has very good facilities for information and communication technologies (ICT) that are well used. The science department groups pupils at Key Stage 3 (KS3) in mixed ability sets and are re-grouped into ability set on reaching Key Stage 4 (KS4).

I intend to use a year 9 group to investigate pupil's enjoyment of different types of activities and their perceived levels of learning from each of these set activities. At Saddleworth School since the abolition of the SATS academic year 2008/09, the science department have made the decision for year 9 to study, and sit two modules from the edexcel 360 science examinations during year 9. The two modules from this that I will be teaching over the CDA period is (C1b.7) There's only one earth and (C1b.8) Designer products. Selected lessons from these two modules were chosen to teach through a variety of activities:

  • Practical experiment
  • Teacher talk
  • Demonstration
  • Class discussion
  • Use of ICT for research
  • Written answering of questions

I will then also question the pupils on the level enjoyment of the activity their perception of learning from the activity and assessment after the activity will monitor the actual level of learning.

Pupil's enjoyment of learning

The ideas that education should be an enjoyable process and of pupils learning better if they are enjoying the learning process are not revolutionary ideas to say the least. Neither is it is new to accept the fact that each child learns in a way suited to themselves and that a technique that is most effective to one child, could be moderately effective or even ineffective to another. Furthermore different teachers may well feel more comfortable using different teaching techniques. In an ideal pedagogy pupils and teachers would be matched in their optimum learning and teaching situations. For example, the teacher who is most adept at teaching in informal discussions will teach those students who most enjoy and learn best in that situation, while the teacher who can teach organised and effective practical based lessons will teach only those students from the appreciative audience. Rarely are these ideal situations present.

Since teaching and learning must occur within the constraints of class size, intellectual ability, and level of interests and enjoyment, a variety of techniques can be used to make teaching at least tolerable, if not enjoyable for every student. Inherent in all these approaches is the assumption that learning and enjoyment go hand in hand.

My initial belief was enjoyment is a fundamental aspect of learning, throughout my training period this has become more apparent. There I believe in order for pupils to achieve, as a teacher I must provide ample opportunity for pupils to fully engage in and enjoy activities in the classroom in order to maximise learning.

Positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (1993) proposed the flow theory of human behaviour; this is the mental state of learning in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. This ideally is the process pupils should go through whilst in the classroom environment. Research surrounding the flow theory suggests that enjoyment plays a crucial role in helping students become interested in a talent area and stay within it. This in today's society, with falling numbers of students choosing to study the sciences, should be an area that requires more focus.

Results have shown that the academic emotion of enjoyment is significantly related to students' motivation, learning strategies, and academic achievement, as well as to personality and classroom experience (Pekrun, 2002).

A study carried out in New Zealand showed a positive link between student engagement when defined in terms of their interest and enjoyment, and the effect of this on future motivation in science, attainment in the subject. At secondary levels, the strongest relationship tends to be between achievement and self-effectiveness. A student's confidence in their ability to do science, as well as their self-belief in their ability to overcome difficulties when attempting activities in the science classroom , are both included in the notion of self-efficacy in science. These reasons act in a cyclical relationship, as self-confidence can enhance performance and doing well can enhance confidence. It is clear from the evidence that these two factors interact strongly (A focus on science engagement and achievement NZ Research division April 2009). With this in mind I feel finding activities the pupils enjoyed and felt confident doing was crucial to both their leaning and my development as a teacher.

Effectiveness of practical experiments in the science lesson

Blosser in 1983 claims that school laboratories have been used since the 1800's “Laboratory instruction was considered essential because it provided for training in observation, supplied detailed information, and aroused pupils.” Over 100 years later, this observation was most definitely still true to the point. This statement almost certainly backed up by the chosen year nine group, with the first enquiry upon entering the classroom being “are we doing a practical today?” It is clear from my first ever experience in a classroom the pupils thrive on the knowledge there is a possibility that there will be some sort of practical investigation incorporated into that day's lesson.

However it can be misconstrued that laboratory teaching is expensive and time consuming. There is the cost of materials, the provision of the laboratory facilities along with the amount of teacher and laboratory assistant time needed for preparation, facilitation and removal and tidying away of equipment.

Effectiveness of teacher talk in the science lesson

Arnold in 1999 estimated that teachers talk between 60-75% of the time, Brown also stated: “our inclination as teachers is to talk too much!” (Brown, 2001). It has been shown a high proportion of teacher talk time or ‘linguistic exchanges' is conducted at the expense of others, i.e. the pupils (McDonough and McDonough, 1997), Nunan (1991) describes that while excessive teacher talk is to be avoided, and reasoning as to what is ‘excessive' is subjective to individual teachers. Nunan proposes that teacher talk is essential to provide learners with what can be their only access to live language input, something Brown is cautious of raising the following points;

  1. Teacher talk should not occupy the major proportion of a class hour; otherwise you are probably not giving students enough opportunity to talk.
  2. Lesson type also needs consideration. As Arnold in 1999 points out, in a cooperatively structured lesson the distribution of teacher talk is almost reverse that of a ‘traditional' lesson, with a much-reduced teacher-contribution. This is supported by Harmer's ‘Communicative output‘ stage (Harmer, 1991); which states that when students are engaged in communicative activities, intervention by the teacher is to be avoided.

Effectiveness of teacher demonstration in the science lesson

Effectiveness of discussions in the science lesson

Effectiveness of use of ICT in the science lesson

ICT is often used in the teaching and learning process of science at Saddleworth School. It is done by the use of laptops that are easily and safely transportable between the science rooms, this ease of acessability has been shown to be crutial in effective use of ICT (Brown and Harper,2003) . I intend to use ICT to teach Recycling and sustaibable development. They will reseach using the internet facts on the mentioned two issues and produce a poster that will be used for display work in their classroom.

ICT can help pupils access up-to-date news using secondary sources like the internet and multimedia software for projects such as this but there are many other purposes for the use of ICT in the science classroom:

  • During experiments and investigations variables can be measured and analysed. Data loggers support the recording of results, the construction of a results tables and the plotting of graphs (Newton, 2000). Pupils can use ‘higher-order' skills as they interpret and discuss the generated data identifying patterns and hypothesising (LaVelle et al., 2003).
  • It can be used to demonstrate animations, simulations or models of a scientific concept effectively to aide understanding (Trindade et al., 2002),
  • Pupils can also simulate or investigate experiments which may be too slow, too fast, too dangerous or too expensive to do in the classroom during normal school hours (McFarlane and Sakellariou, 2002).
  • plan, select, present and evaluate their work using text, graphs, pictures, sound or video. Work can be refined; this may help with pupils' self-esteem and perseverance (LaVelle et al., 2003), as well as allowing pupils to produce neater, more accurate work.