Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Discussing the interviews

This morning I met with the student research team and we watched one of the Year 11 interviews back, discussing ideas and themes which appeared. I didn't share any of my emerging themes or codes with the students because I wanted our discussion to act as a form of triangulation; through our discussion, key themes and ideas would hopefully appear, which could or could not correspond with my own interpretations.

After watching, the students seemed to (unknowingly) support the themes which I had picked out, especially when it came to 'good' and 'bad' feedback criteria. Bad feedback, in their opinion, was when teachers gave out the examiners grade criteria; while they understood why teachers did this, they found the language too vague and not helpful; specifically, the called it 'teacher speak'. They said that they would prefer if grade criteria was made more accessible in 'student speak'. Good feedback was when teachers were consistent and regular in providing evidence of 'current levels' and offered advice on how to get to higher levels.

Focus was also given to ideas of 'right and wrong' and 'improving'. Overall, they tended to agree with much of what the interview students suggested, focusing on a desire to receive grades, criteria and examples all at once to help ensure greater chances of successful progress. They suggested that both grades and comments are needed together, because the grade provides them with a solid understanding of where they are and the comments help them to get to where they want to be. To quote one student specifically, he said that grades acted as a 'stepping stone' to progress using comments to help. Expanded ideas included providing students with clear checklists of success criteria and level ladders written in 'student speak'.

One interesting point which they developed further than the interview students was this idea of teachers marking 'for Ofsted'. They were quite articulate in suggesting that they could clearly perceive when teachers were marking because they wanted students to progress and when they were marking purely for Ofsted. One boy specifically said that he disliked it when marking was 'not for our benefit', especially when teachers made them do tasks which specifically related to Ofsted, such as 'tidying our folders' or 'responding to feedback in a different colour so it's clear to Ofsted' (direct quotes used). One phrase that stood out to me particularly was what they referred to as 'teacher panic'. The students expressed a lot of displeasure with what they clearly saw as teachers panicking about the arrival of Ofsted. It was something that they felt negatively affected them; when I asked them how it made them feel, two girls told me that it made them, in turn, feel panic themselves.

The conversation also took a reflective turn, with students beginning to discuss how they would do things differently, if given more time and opportunities. All of the students felt that the Year 11 respondents were more open and honest than the Year 8s. They felt that the Year 8s were more likely to give responses that would 'please the teacher' and that they tended not to disagree with each other or offer alternative viewpoints. Shyness and an unwillingness to stand out or be different were offered as reasons why this could be. Another student also suggested that the very setting of the interviews had a negative effect on the students; because the interviews were conducted in a classroom, they felt that the respondents made more 'teacher pleasing' comments. One student went so far as to suggest that if they were able to conduct the interviews again, they'd try to find a more neutral environment.

They also suggested that interviewing the students a second time, later in the summer term, asking the same questions, would be a good way to check to see if their opinions remained the same. However, due to time constraints, this won't be a possibility.

These are my initial thoughts to the meeting. We will be meeting again on Thursday, looking at some Year 8 interviews and discussing.