Friday, 27 March 2015

Initial impressions

Well, the team of student researchers have completed their first set of interviews. I have uploaded the video data to a private Google Classroom page (access is invite-only, and requires a private password), and left instructions for the team to try and watch the videos over the half term break. I've also started the ball rolling by writing up my own comments/thoughts about the videos underneath each one. My hope is that the students will watch the videos and then engage with my comments and each other.

The reason I did this was to encourage critical engagement with the research process; I had given each student a notebook to write in, but when I collected these in, only two of the five students had used them. Those that did use the books had only written a few notes on the first page. This was a bit disheartening, as I was hoping to have a second data source from the notebooks. However, I cannot force the students to use them, as I want the experience to be natural for them; I want my input and direction to be minimal, so that they feel a sense of responsibility and ownership.

As I've mentioned, I have already watched the videos once through. It was an interesting experience, because when I piloted the project I conducted the interviews myself. Watching other people conduct interviews that you've worked together to plan is quite an odd experience; I really have felt a certain loss of control. There were a few moments where I wish I'd been able to delve a bit deeper into what's been said. However, the students have been pretty good at using prompt questions to tease out information.

It's interesting to me to see which students are taking a leadership role in the interview process. One male student, who is academically the weakest in the group, is actually engaging really well with the process. He recognised, on more than one occasion, where the responses had been vague, and pushed the students to explain themselves in more detail. The higher ability girls were especially keen to get the interview process started, though I think they were more likely to follow the interview schedule exactly, whereas the boys tended to be able to think 'on the spot' a bit better.

I am eager to start the Year 8 interviews after half term, so that I can see if any of these patterns crop up again (in terms of how the student research team works).

As for what was said in the interviews, the following are points of interest:

- most students recognised that feedback was used to address both strengths and weaknesses
- English and Maths were mentioned as examples of good feedback by all students - Science was suggested being less effective (might be an interesting thing to explore in follow-up interviews)
- negative comments are viewed as unhelpful, but these are rarely given
- a 'bad marker' is a teacher who uses ticks and crosses
- generic feedback is not helpful - it helps when it feels personal
- constructive feedback, which links clearly to a mark scheme, is most helpful
- self-assessment isn't viewed as helpful, because students feel they 'lack a clear perspective' on their own work
- most students recognise that when work is set, it will usually be marked
- however, if students begin to realise that their teacher doesn't regularly mark their work, they lose motivation to do it - this suggests that small, regular bits of work and feedback promote a better work ethic within the students
-  most students feel that they can recognise when teachers are marking 'for Ofsted' and when teachers are marking because they genuinely want a student to improve

Obviously more information is needed; I think some follow-up interviews might be in order, to help us clarify some of the points that were made. That, or a few more individuals could be interviewed, to see if any of these ideas appear again.