Wednesday, 12 November 2014

REG project: An update

Admittedly, the information I am going to share here is a bit dated; I conducted the questionnaire which I will analyse here three weeks ago. This is also when I happened to teach the associated lesson. As such, my ability to reflect on the lesson itself may be a bit hazy, and therefore slightly less trustworthy. However, I do think there are some things of value worth sharing and reflecting on.

To start, I distributed a questionnaire to my Year 11 history students; there were 8 females and 12 males you completed the questionnaire. The questions were as follows:

1) Are you male or female?
2) What do you think is meant by the term ‘independent learning?’
3) A resilient learner is someone who ‘keeps going during very hard times’. Choose 5 qualities that you think are the MOST important in becoming a resilient learner from the list below.   
[  ] Take a risk
[    [  ] Be determined
[  ] Have goals and ambitions
[  ] Learn from your mistakes
[  ] Positive relationships with other students
[  ] Be motivated and positive
[  ] Have self-belief
[  ] Be prepared to fail before succeeding
[  ] Be confident
[  ] Use your initiative and be inquisitive
[  ] Try everything before asking the teacher
[  ] Go the extra mile
[  ] Be happy and enthusiastic
[  ]Be focused and behave maturely
[  ] Other (please specify)

4) What could your teachers/other adults do to
encourage you to be a more independent learner? 

5) How would you rate your own resiliency? Please mark your response on the scale below.


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I give up quickly                                                                                               I will try and find a way


I had hoped to gauge my students initial understanding of what it meant to be a reflective learner before incorporating reflective skills into subsequent lessons and then issuing the questionnaire again. Some of the results I found will be outlined below:

In terms of the responses to question two, the majority of females (4) tended to define it as 'learning on your own' or  (2) 'choosing to learn outside of school'. Males tended to agree, with 6 defining it as 'learning on your own' most often, while 4 described it as 'learning without the help of the teacher', which could be argued as being similar.

For question three, the most common responses to the qualities of a resilient learner for both males and females where 'being determined', learning 'from your mistakes' and being 'focused and mature'. Arguable, the first two show understanding of the concept, while the third suggests that students don't quite grasp what being resilient means; the last response of being 'focused and mature' is more ego-eccentric than the other two. Interestingly, 7 boys selected 'be prepared to fail first' compared to only 4 girls. This suggests that boys are more likely to take risks that girls, perhaps because they are less afraid of failure.

Few students (one male and female each) chose 'taking a risk', using 'your initiative and asking questions', and one male chose 'try everything'.

On the fourth question, two male students spoiled their response by writing that teachers should provide 'custard creams' to encourage independent learning. However, this element of not completing a questionnaire honestly is something that all researchers must take into account; it is usually inevitable that some people will spoil their response with silly answers.  On the whole, most boys did manage to write insightful ideas, including having 'more opportunity to work independently' and the use of 'revision based/research lessons'. Other ideas, which were not repeated like the previous two, include 'praise or rewards', teachers making 'the work interesting', and the use of independent 'worksheets'.

In contrast, the girls rarely had responses that repeated; the two ideas that came up twice were to have 'no seating plan' and for teachers to 'praise achievement' more. Other ideas suggested by the girls included 'structured lessons and tasks', the use of 'extra revision materials', 'doing work or research for future lessons', 'clarity of learning objectives', and for teachers to teach/model 'skills for independent learning'.

In terms of ranking their own resilience, all but one ranked themselves quite highly on the scale. This suggests that the female students are more willing to complete challenging tasks. In contrast, the males responses varied much more widely. For example, two students ranked their resiliency as quite low, 3 ranked themselves in the middle of the scale, and 7 ranked themselves quite highly. This suggests that the majority, but not all, of the boys feel quite confident with challenging tasks, but they may run the risk of being less resilient over time.

The results seen here have made me question why boys appear to be less resilient than girls when they are assessing themselves, but are able to identify that 'taking a risk' is a key part of being a resilient learner. It suggests that they know what it means to be resilient, but perhaps are less keen to do it themselves. These are questions that I will try to address in future lessons, by focusing on how the boys vs the girls adapt to challenging tasks.

In the lesson that followed the questionnaire, I attempted to teach a challenging topic on Hyperinflation in Germany. The technique that I used to try to teach visible, independent learning, was the 'Micro-Lab' resource (see post in past blog). Admittedly, the process did work in getting students to EACH talk and engage with what they had learnt; however, I did notice that the girls were more likely to talk for the full minute, without pause, than the boys. They also took the task more seriously, and were able to come together at the end to better formulate a group response.

I will be using a variety of different techniques over the next few months, to see which independent learning skills best benefit all students in the class, and will report my findings here.