What the resource is:
This resource appeared in November 2006 in Practical Research for Education (PRE), the NFER publication for teachers. It is a reprint of a 2005 article from a new Zealand Journal Research Information for Teachers. This study was carried out in New Zealand with Year 11, 12 and 13 pupils. The aim was to collect pupil views of their experiences of research in different subjects and different types of courses. ‘Research' here means pupils identifying, interpreting and analysing information on their own or in a group. The pupils may be discovering information known to their teacher or collecting and analysing new data, such as researching traffic problems near schools.
The aims of the resource:
The aim was to collect pupil views of their experiences of research in different subjects and different curriculum organisations. The research is part of an evaluation of the Learning Curves Project (LCP) by Hipkins et al, funded by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. The project monitored the subject and assessment choices offered in six secondary schools to pupils in Years 12 and 13 as part of the reforms of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and the National certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). The paper presents how teachers and pupils saw ‘research', how researching might contribute to pupils' learning needs, what aspects of researching are taught, and to what extent might researching be subject specific. The pupil outcomes (what they claim to have learnt) are related to the aims of developing lifelong learners.
Key findings or focus:
35 focus group interviews were carried out with groups of about six pupils from years 11, 12 and 13, representing the three types of courses the LCP had identified: Traditional Discipline Courses Contextually Focused Courses and Locally Designed Courses.
Pupils often viewed research as a process of information retrieval and rewriting. The pupils did not identify many differences in different curriculum subjects. They say they learnt information retrieval and generic skills, such as asking questions or writing findings in their own words. Although some commentators have suggested that internally assessed courses may "suit girls' stronger organisational skills and motivation", (p53), the analysis found no gender difference for either positive or negative comments. Pupils' positive comments related to the benefits of research, such as transferring skills to a new context. Negative comments related to the conditions under which they had to carry out the research. For example, many pupils thought they were not taught to research, but had to develop the skills as they carried out research.
The pupil outcomes of the research are related to the aims of life-long learning, drawing on Bryce and Whithers (2003): "Some students are experiencing the power and enjoyment of feeling they have some ownership of their learning...But there are many students for whom research is a frustrating and mysterious foray into trying to ‘write in my own words'", (pp55-56). Hipkins suggests that it is unclear whether pupil research promotes how to think rather than what to think, and promises that future publications will explore ways that pupil research might be developed and taught, and how research might be made subject specific. It is hoped this will help pupils learn how knowledge is constructed in different subjects; that they will develop meta-level knowledge, a component of life-long learning.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
The author gives a clear statement of what might count as researching, drawing on a wider project in New Zealand. The context is a curriculum designed to meet a wider range of learning needs. The list of possible research purposes should prove useful for ITE students thinking about the work that they set their pupils. This paper offers extracts from focus groups to show how they have been classified and interpreted. This detail should help ITE students see how knowledge about learning and learners is developed. The paper will also provide a model for students to use in reporting this type of classroom data.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
The resource helps identify clearly what might be included in different types of pupils' independent work. It would be a valuable resource in refining what might be included, particularly in homework tasks. The links to life-long learning could come in discussing teaching practice and in analysing data which ITE students have collected in school.
The relevance to ITE students:
The list of different types of pupils' independent work should help students be aware of the demands of different tasks and what pupils might learn from them. The approach taken by Hipkins might well be used by students investigating their practice, a common approach in ITE and CPD (Cain et al 2007). ITE students should be able to go beyond generic skills to thinking about pupils' independent development of subject specific skills and how they might teach these skills and so focus on pupil learning.
Bryce J and Whithers G (2003) Engaging Secondary School Students in Lifelong Learning, Melbourne, Australian Council for Educational Research available at http://www.acer.edu.au/documents/LifeLongLearning_Engaging.pdf (accessed 21/03/08).
Cain T, Holmes M, Larrett A, and Mattock J (2007) Literature-informed, one-turn action research: three cases and a commentary, British Educational Research Journal 33 (1) pp 91-106.