This video reflects my TaI plan. Mindlab has been so worthwhile as the assignments we have had to complete have been relevant to our practice and topical. This year I will continue to look at how blended learning and student agency affects, not only grades, but also enjoyment and engagement in my class.
- DEFINE THE COMMUNITY:
As a secondary school English teacher, I based my literature review on the impact of blended learning on secondary school students. However, while this review uncovered a wealth of research and investigation into tertiary students’ responses to blended environments, little was undertaken in secondary schools, (Sparks, 2015) and even less into the impact this teaching approach has on Kaupapa Maori students. I have some anecdotal evidence based on my own students and that of my colleagues, evidence to be found on our professional blogs. However, there is still a substantial gap in relevant New Zealand-based data which looks at the benefits and challenges of implementing blended learning. This includes whether giving students more control over their learning improves their learning outcomes.
To gather qualitative data, I will conduct an on-line interview with the English Head of Department. In addition, I will do a video recorded interview of the senior management team. It is important to ascertain the level of interest this teaching approach has with colleagues in order to determine their level of support. It is also important to get buy in from the senior leaders in order to drive the initiative through, particularly if it is going to benefit the student body. In addition, student voice is vital. Therefore, I will survey my two control classes to find out what they feel works best for them. It is important to remember that students have diverse talents and learning styles that should be respected and individualised by teachers (Kruger, n.d.). Probability surveys should give estimates from which findings can be concluded.
I am focusing on my year 10 and 11 classes because they have moved up through middle school where there is a lot more freedom and choice in how they approach their work, based on observations at the college I teach at. However, teachers tend to become more autocratic as students head into NCEA years, as the pressure to get credits tends to take precedence. My aim is to see whether giving higher levels of individualisation and independence with more senior students can lead to potentially higher levels of engagement. The potential impact of my findings could result in successfully attaining those highly sought-after credits.
The blended approach promises more one-on-one teacher contact, as well as peer-to-peer instruction. This seems to be in keeping with Kaupapa or collective philosophy and Mahi Ko tahi tanga or co-operation between students.
- TEACHING AS INQUIRY PROJECT PLAN: Description
The topic area of this teaching as inquiry plan is blended learning, with particular emphasis on secondary students in a one-to-one device school. If blended learning is said to combine the best of online learning with face-to-face contact, how does this impact on outcomes or results for secondary school students? I will examine how the experience differs from upper middle school, to their first year in NCEA. In particular, I will investigate the impact blended learning environments has on my Maori students.
In addition, I would like to weigh up the benefits and challenges of implementing blended learning in the classroom, given that these students have largely been part of a BYOD school for the past 4-5 years. How have their expectations in the classroom changed over the years? I would also look at what the contributing factors are that lead to effective uptake of the blended learning approach.
A branch of blended learning is the flipped approach which I have been adopting in my classroom for the past three years, to varying levels of success. Through the Mindlab course I have discovered that, not only are there a variety of methods of flipping course work, but also that blended learning is potentially more effective than flipped coursework. So what I would like to ascertain is if the blended approach is more readily adopted by students rather than the purely flipped approach.
Project plan: Justification in context
I have created an electronic book for each year level, which includes videos, presentations, tasks and reflective questions. I will put a link to this onto Google Classroom for each student to access and download. It will then be resident on their device and is not internet- dependent. This should facilitate access anywhere, anytime.
I will then share evidence, largely gained from my literature review, with my students of the benefits of blended learning in an attempt to show them an alternative to the traditional ‘chalk-and-talk’ method of teaching. This could be a new concept for them and it deserves a measure of justification and explanation. I have found one of the hurdles to new approaches in teaching is assuming students will simply adapt and accept. Students will be encouraged to take ownership of their learning and, through increased one-on-one contact, we should be able to adapt the projects and assessments according to their preferred method of working, as well as their varying ability levels.
Data in the form of surveys, interviews and grades will be analysed and shared with the relevant community. Data will be gathered at the start and end of term one, and then again at the start and end of term two. This should give a good reflection of what is working well, and what needs adjusting and improving. This data will be reflected on my professional teaching blog and shared with the relevant colleagues, Community of Learning teachers and the senior management team. Their input will also help with the reflective process.
Critical to my findings is the shift from student as consumer of knowledge and technology to student as producer of knowledge (Vickers & Field, 2015). So this focus, along with the impact on outcomes for secondary school students, will form the basis for the dual spirals of inquiry. Reflection and refinement will inform teaching practice.
- EVIDENCE OF COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
The communities I will focus on are:
Qualitative: Year 10 and 11 students:
Student voice is vital as they are the target group. So they would need to answer two surveys, one initially to ascertain their preferred way of working and gauge their understanding of blended learning. And then another near the end of term to ascertain how they feel they have progressed with their learning and enjoyment of this teaching approach.
I have taught both of these year levels for a number of years so I feel that I have data to compare to previous years. But more importantly, I will compare their responses both initially and then after each internal assessment or project. (See appendix 1 and 2)
A comparison of grades between last year’s classes and this year’s classes at the same stage of the term. While this is not fully credible data, it can give some generalised findings.
A comparison of the student’s grades from last year to this year. Again there are a number of variables but it could give an indication of the student’s progress, or lack thereof.
A comparison between my year 10 and 11 classes with that of other classes taught in a more conventional or traditional way will also give some insight. Estimates can be based on this sample of data.
The data will be analysed and put onto a simple, colour co-ordinated pie chart. I will post my findings onto my blog, being careful to exclude student names, classes and colleagues’ identities as the research must be ethical and responsible.
English department colleagues: It will be interesting to note the different approaches to similar topics. I will interview a range of teaching styles, going from traditional face-to-face approaches through to those at the start of their blended approach to teaching.
Community of Learning: Although my target group is years 10 and 11, I am also part of the Community of Learning (CoL) leadership team. Thus I would have small group discussions with the relevant teachers to get their insight and input on blended learning for their areas of expertise. This will further inform my own approach as it gives insight into how students are taught in the junior levels.
Senior leadership team and English Head of Department: It is important to discuss new approaches with the leadership team, particularly when it might have an impact on NCEA classes. Questions for interviews, as well as their responses, can be found in appendix 3 and 4.
Whanau: Instead of a survey, I will initially send an explanatory email home to parents, inviting discussion, questions and interviews if necessary. This is possibly the hardest group to engage and inform as generally I have found parents to be conservative in their approach to teaching, basing their views on their own experiences of school.
- REFLECTION ON EVIDENCE OF ENGAGEMENT
As an on-going reflection, I will record students’ collaboration and participation on a regular basis on my teaching blog. However more immediately I have reflected on the feedback given to me by Richard Wells, Deputy Principal at the college and Meryl Howell, Head of English department.
Reflection on how feedback informed plan
Having considered their responses, I feel that my plan might have too many strands. So upon reflection, I will spend the first term focusing on the changing pedagogical approach with both classes, making sure that all class members understand the blended approach. I will, with consultation with students, drill down to find the impact this has on Māori students. I will only address the merits of blended versus flipped learning at the end of term 2. Given that I will have more one-on-one time with my students, I should have a clear understanding of their preferred learning styles by the end of term 1 so that I can make any necessary adjustments to my course.
In terms of student outcomes, it is vital to go beyond grades to look at how empowered and confident students feel about their learning. While this is harder to measure, it can be reflected on in an anecdotal way.
Another aspect I feel I might have glossed over is that some teachers have a fixed mindset. So change like this blended learning approach might make them feel challenged and even have an emotional response against it. I need to be empathetic in my approach to colleagues.
Lastly, the point that Richard made about whanau is vital and should not be overlooked: blended learning has an impact on home life; learning should be seen as a social experience; perhaps whanau should be upskilled in order to fully understand this new approach to teaching and learning. These points will be addressed in my email home.
What I was encouraged by was that the respondents in my community did feel that blended learning was a pedagogical approach worth pursuing and that my spirals of inquiry were applicable to our students.
- POTENTIAL IMPACT OF FINDINGS
The outcomes of this project might benefit my community by creating greater understanding and communication between colleagues, not only at the college but also across the CoL. Through discussions, interviews and shared resources, the idea is to improve not only collegiality but also awareness of how students prefer to work. Initially it can be quite taxing to create the online resources in the form of video content and digital artefacts. However, once they are created and shared, it minimises the time needed to create resources in the future, particularly if there is buy-in from a few colleagues and a team effort is established.
This brings in the most important stakeholders, the students themselves. According to much of the research undertaken in the literature review, researchers indicated that teachers are freed up to support students individually and that blended learning removes classroom walls (Vickers and Field, 2015). When teachers make the work available online and allow students to communicate via social media, rather than being anchored to the front of the class, one-on-one time is more feasible. And with this, relationships improve.
John Hattie (2013) said that the biggest source of variance in schools is teachers. Surely it follows then that students experience daily, hourly and lesson-to-lesson variance. If this Teaching as Inquiry plan works, and not only outcomes but enjoyment, collaboration and engagement improves, surely this will have a flow-on effect into the school community as a whole? This should encourage colleagues to embrace blended learning over the tried-and-tested traditional approach many still cling onto.
Hattie, John. (2013). Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful? [Video]. Norrkopping TedX. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch
Kruger, M. (n.d.). Students’ Changing Perceptions on the Impact of the Online Learning Environment: What about Good Teaching Practice? In Proceedings of the European Conference on e-Learning. 188-196.
Sparks, S. (2015). Research Uneven, Tough to Interpret. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/blended-barriers
Staker, H., & Horn, M. (2012). Classifying K-12 Blended Learning. Retrieved from http://www.innosightinstitute.org
Vickers, R., & Field, J. (2015). Media Culture 2020: Collaborative Teaching and Blended Learning Using Social Media and Cloud-Based Technologies. Contemporary Educational Technology, 6(1), 62-73.