Monday, 16 March 2015

Action Research

Action Research

Action research was carried out during 2013.
These conclusions are based on:
Digital Action Research 1 - using online videos to support maths teaching and SOLO
 for thinking development
Action Research 2 - does the motivation of choosing own project and pathway help inconsistent writers 
produce more consistent writing
Digital Action Research 3 - does the teacher as "guide on the side" help to improve
learning outcomes in children's own choice projects?

Action Research 1, 2013

Action Research 2, 2013

Of the 5 boys in question, one was particularly motivated by his project and was self managing, reflective and innovative throughout the project.  Although usually, he does not go out of his way to get his writing to a sufficient standard, on this occasion he made the effort to review his writing with a view to reaching the standard in content and structure as well as language and surface features.  He did reach the standard.

Three of the remaining boys showed writing in the same time period which met the standard.  Although motivated by their projects, no-one else was sufficiently motivated to improve their writing, during the project.  Actually, writing is not normally too much of a difficulty as the students know their rubric and clearly know what they have to do to achieve and most will make the effort to make that happen.  On this occasion, if anything, they were less motivated to write to a good standard.  This observation led to the next part of the action research which can be seen on action research 3.

Action Research 3, 2013

Initial observations:
Children were allowed to take breaks during the project when they needed them - instead of asking for more breaks, many chose to stay in at their playtimes to work - this indicates they were engaged and interested in their projects.

All children negotiated useful learning goals which covered the core curriculum.
They were using technology to support their learning in a variety of areas and some chose not to use digital technology.  Some children listened to music as they worked and were reluctant to stop working.  Eating was happening but not getting in the way.  At this stage there was high productivity and engagement.
Lots was happening at this stage: researching, practising, investigating and progress seemed very positive.  Incidental reading and writing was of a good standard.
The children were engaged in their projects and performing well in the mode of gathering information / doing the project.  They are very comfortable with this mode of operation and in a more teacher-directed environment they are usually scaffolded to take more steps to add depth and "so what?" to their learning.
Further observations:
The children did not seem to realise when they had reached the end of this cycle and at this stage they began to become aimless.  They needed direction to begin to synthesis, analyse or evaluate their progress.  Most children barely responded to feedback, only doing a minimal amount so they could move on to "presenting."  In a normal class situation I would have brought this back for some whole class teaching and guided them in specific process but I was still wanting to see how the motivation of their own interest would help them push for achievement.
Many children used their time very unwisely at the end and did not finish their projects to a high standard.
The project was divided into sections and achievement points awarded per level.

The total possible points was 12.  I made an OTJ on each child as to whether they were in general above, at, below or well below the overall year 7 level.
      OTJ           Average score
 Above     6.4
 At 6
 Below 8.4
 Well Below 10
Possibly the sample was too small to make generalisations.  However there was a similar pattern for the "above" children in their science fair work.  
The children "well below" showed the highest levels of concentration, commitment, self management and willingness to accommodate feedback ie qualities of 21 century learners.
The children "above" on the whole did not make meaningful learning intentions and only superficially engaged with the negotiated intentions.  Similarly they only superficially engaged with cues towards deeper thinking. 
 Part of the process    Average score out of 3
 Beginning -    2     
 Middle -     
The higher average score for the middle part correlates to the observed enthusiasm and success at this stage of the project.

The difficult parts were: 
  • children owning the negotiated learning intentions - some felt this detracted from their project,
  • children doing something meaningful with their gathered resources/experiments/information,
  • quality of the product.

Many of the children saw no value in working on their projects to put in their own creativity or critical thinking.  When left to their own devices there was a very prevalent Powerpoint mentality (gather and regurgitate).  It is clear that moving beyond this, at this stage, for these children, needs to be teacher-directed.

To become more active learners these children need to see achievement in terms of their learning agency and cognitive engagement.  E.g. an active learner considers and responds to feedback and shows how they have integrated this into their work.

I believe we could look at this as a whole school and see what sort of progressions we can put in place to grow more active learners.  For my own class this project has shown me that the children are comfortable with the researching/gathering phase and a lot of reading learning has taken place to make this happen.  In their next project, I am going to provide these children with information and scaffold two relational thinking processes to help them handle the information.

This video shows the students' self-evaluations and some of their reflections on the project.  It is a private video and St Joseph's staff can view it by emailing me for a link.

SOLO Development 2013

There is a saying, "Knowledge is power."  That used to be true when only certain people in certain situations had access to knowledge.  It is no longer true.  Knowledge is freely available through the Internet.  It is no longer a significant currency.

What matters now is what you do with knowledge, how you gather, analyse, create and evaluate.  What difference does it make?  This is why we have been working with a cognitive taxonomy - a way of helping our students get beyond the facts and opinions.

It doesn't really matter what taxonomy we use as long as we are consistently and systematically challenging our students to go beyond.  This page shares some of the things we have done with the SOLO taxonomy in Religious Education in 2013.

Some comparisons (relational thinking) from year 1:
Some extended abstract thinking from our year 8s:

This You Tube Video shows some of the extended abstract work our intermediate students did about what it means to be like Jesus in our world today.  They looked at peaceful ways people can protest about injustice and one of these was by using protest songs.  So we learnt to play and sing a protest song.

Year 7s think about their Young Vinnies community visits:

The Terrific Thursday's group is our New Entrant class and our visiting 4 year olds.

YEAR 6 - extended abstract questions about the God of the Old Testament

Why does God of the Old Testament change?
Why would God ask them to sacrifice and kill animals when he created them?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

First and Second Order Change

We seem to be undergoing a lot of change at St Joseph's.

Actually, we are not changing at all.

Underlying everything at St Joseph's is relationships.  Prior to the time I was in the school, Jenny Jackson and the team, helped by our RTLB teacher Linda Schofield, underwent focused development on positive relationships for learning.  This was before PB4L but essentially, it was the same thing.  Since my time, we've consistently focused on our vision for learning - lifelong learners in the Catholic Faith and also on our Charter Goal which reads:
in 2012: Every child engaged in learning
in 2013: Every child engaged in learning for success
in 2014: Every child engaged in deep learning for success.

As each year went on we focused more and more deeply on what we actually wanted for our learners.

There's no way anyone decided - "Hey let's do digital learning or team teaching or buy some bean bags (only 4 per class) or whatever, just because everyone's doing it and its so, so modern!"

What we DID look for was examples either through research and theory, or through experience in other schools - good examples of ways teachers were engaging students in deep learning.  Plus we used our teaching as inquiry process - our own processes of teacher action research to investigate what actually did make a difference to student achievement in our school.  For myself I have found that systematic teaching of the key competencies of the New Zealand curriculum, combined with learning to learn strategies, makes a huge difference to student achievement and that has been going on for quite some time now, since at least 2008 - so nothing new there.  Combining these with digital technologies and flexible working and teaching spaces - has not, in my investigations, improved achievement which is already high but it has improved depth of achievement.  Children are more able to take the next step into making the learning their own and applying it in new situations.  To my mind, this is the most elusive aspect of teaching and learning.

In about mid 2013 we had sufficient information to make some decisions.  I've learnt a lot from Jenny about sustainable change because I would have wanted to rush it way too fast.  We decided we wanted our senior years, at that time we thought year 5+, now we think year 6+, to have the benefit of one to one devices - or as close to it as we can make it, from the beginning of 2015.

To the degree that individuals and/or stakeholder groups in the school or school system hold conflicting values, seek different norms, have different knowledge, or operate with varying mental models of schooling, a proposed change might represent a first-order change for some and a second-order change for others.
Waters, Marzano, and McNulty, 2003, page 7 from:

“First-order” change is change that is consistent with prevailing values and norms, meets with general agreement, and can be implemented using people’s existing knowledge and skills. A change becomes “second-order” when it is not obvious how it will make things better, it requires people to learn new approaches, or it conflicts with prevailing values and norms. Second-order changes require leaders to work far more deeply with staff and the community. 

The change we are presently experiencing - from the teacher's and the student's perspectives, is first order change - it does not challenge our beliefs about learning (look at the previous post below  - A Machine for Learning to see what the children think about learning).  An analogy for what is happening is it is like a snake shedding its skin.  The creature is the same in essence but it has grown and it needs to shed its skin in order to take on its new dimensions.

We have worked very hard to bring our parents along with us in this change process.  We have had parent learning huis where we have talked about SOLO and deep learning and why we need to make the practical and organisational changes we are presently going through.  We have also had a lot of discussions along the way and we have listened to our parents.  For example we first thought year 5+ for digital learning but listening to our parent feedback and concerns we have decided in 2015 we will be looking at year 6+.    But I acknowledge for many, outside of the staffroom, this is second order change.  It appears to be a change in values and beliefs.  A change in essence.  It is not.  Our essence is - every student engaged in deep learning for success.  How they get there is a moot point - it will be different from 1957, 1997, 2007, and it will be different again in 2017 and 2027.  Yet I imagine the essence of what we are trying to achieve will not vary so very much.

Minecraft St Joseph's Oamaru

The second part of the children investigating learning environments was for them to accurately map what we already had.  They had a go at doing that in term 3 but it didn't look right.  This time, as part of our maths, they children have accurately measured the school and used a scale for their maps.  Some have done it on paper, some investigated 3D modelling software but most chose to do it with Minecraft and the results are surprisingly accurate.

The next step will be to talk about improvements for learning.