Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Day Two: An 'unstructured' discussion of how to support students as researchers within a school

Session Two - An 'unstructured' discussion on how to support students as researchers within a school

The following notes are very much a 'stream of thought' based on the second session of the day. I do apologise if my thoughts don't come across clearly.

To begin, there was a lot of discussion about ethics in the second session, with many links between how teachers were initially brought into educational research. The suggestion was that now we're at the stage where we're attempting to bring students into the process.

Bethan brought up the idea of a 'proliferation' of toolkits and marketing agencies who work on Student Voice, and the idea that these groups are 'branding' student voice. Does this take away then value of student voice in schools? Is there a correct way to engage in student voice? She feels (and I tend to agree) that these things should be made available for free to schools - but in that case, how do schools choose a toolkit that works?

Below are a few different resources that we discussed, which are all available free for download or, in the case of some of the texts,  purchase:

Chad-Young Kim - Open University - started off by talking about how she has developed a toolkit to help young children acquire key concepts of research and principles. There are a list of resources that are useful here - http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/childrens-research-centre/resources

I have consulted many of these in my own research, and will make use of the texts by Bucknall (2012) and Kellett (2005) when I begin to train my Year 7 form as student researchers.

ASKAIDS toolkit - available here - http://oer.educ.cam.ac.uk/wiki/ASKAIDS

EduGains/Speak Up resources from the Ontario Ministry of Education - http://www.edugains.ca/newsite/studentVoice/student_inquirers/students_as_researchers.html, which includes some ethics activities that can be used by people training students as researchers.

Helen Beattie's work on Students at the Centre - http://www.studentsatthecenter.org 

There's also the Sutton Trust Teaching and Learning toolkit, which shows that large gains can be made at small costs if we give students a voice within a school. http://www.suttontrust.com/about-us/education-endowment-foundation/teaching-learning-toolkit/ 

Many of these resources are found on the CSVS website/blog, so do check the full lot out here:
https://cambridgestudentvoiceseminars.wordpress.com/our-resources/ 

One fundamental issue we discussed was democracy within schools. This sprang from a discussion of what happens in Denmark, where the students are really empowered to make change within the education system. However, I brought up the fact that I often feel that, as a teacher in the UK, I don't have a voice in what goes on in my own school, let alone in the government; if I don't have a voice, then how can we expect students to have a voice? It's a very tricky concept, and one that needs development. I think the way forward is to create my own voice and to 'speak up' (fittingly, this echoes the title of the student voice programme established in Ontario), meaning to speak to the people above me, 'speak as an activist that is speaking upwards to secure resources'.

Another issue that came up is that 'Enquiry is the most powerful way to learn'. We talked about how this can be used in CPD, and I think, from my brief talks with the current research coordinator at my school, this IS the pathway that we're trying to go down at my school. I just hope that I can be involved in this process. Teacher research could and should be used more in CPD in order to engage people and get them to take it seriously. As one of my colleagues suggested, we're looking for a 'mind shift' in schools.

What it all came back to was that we can't really encourage student voice until teachers are given their own voice and proper support within schools. We need to change the research culture in schools so that it's tightly linked to pedagogy and improvement, and not seen as a 'chore'.