Can instructional video develop autonomy in disaffected pupils?
School X is a larger than average mixed comprehensive school for 1,402 students aged 11-18 of whom 309 are in the sixth form. The school is located approximately 1 mile outside the city centre. The area is recognised as having significant socio-economic deprivation with many students eligible for free school meals. Nearly all the students are from minority ethnic backgrounds and the majority speak English as an additional language. The students’ attainment on entry to the school is well below average and a higher than average numbers of students have learning difficulties and/or disabilities. In September 2006 it acquired specialist college status for mathematics and computing, receiving Outstanding from OFSTED in 2007, em-blazing the slogan, “Achievement for all.”
With adequate resources and sponsored by Microsoft, the ICT department is staffed by seven specialist ICT teachers, the head of department / Key Stage 4 coordinator, Key Stage 5 coordinator, Key Stage 3 coordinator, the head of year ten and 3 NQTs. Alongside these members are four full time technicians and a VLE administrator who is currently developing the Learning Gateway using Microsoft Sharepoint, although the Learning Kit has not yet been utilised.
The group of learners, 10ZIT1, a year 10 mixed group who have not opted to take ICT and therefore have only one hour a week, comprises of equal amounts of achievers and socially dysfunctional, disaffected pupils. Behaviour is challenging within the classroom and the pupils’ use of ICT leads them only to games. Classroom management is an issue, although the lack of a whole school behaviour policy could account for the entrenched inappropriate conduct across the school. The school delivers OCR Nationals Level 2 ICT from year 9 onwards, whilst the class should have completed the mandatory Unit 1 during that year, the last four months have been spent trying to complete it, unsuccessfully. The decision has been made to move onto Unit 20: Creating animation, a creative unit that will hopefully reengage the pupils into education and learning through creative thought. As the disaffection has been ongoing, the pupils’ listening and speaking skills are somewhat underdeveloped; an area that needs to be targeted during the remainder of their schooling, their responsibility and sense of achievement also needs nurturing through which the instructor believes they could accomplish independently. Their lack of concentration on instructor led demonstrations causes disruption, from which the whole class suffers.
The aim of the intervention is to develop a series of instructional videos that will teach the pupils how to use Flash to create an animated sequence. As the pupils will be in control of the delivery of the video, they can work at their own pace and refer to the resources when needed whilst creating their project. This feature of multi tasking will need to be taught initially although the instructor believes it will have great rewards, for both pupil development, autonomy and classroom management.
As this paper aims to uncover whether instructional video can improve autonomy in disaffected pupils it is essential to determine what is meant by the term autonomy.
Autonomy in schools is crucial to educational effectiveness. Autonomy empowers individuals within the system to teach to the changing needs of the students and the community (Sergiovanni and Moore, 1985 cited in Dondero, 1997).
Freeman and Lewis (2000. 151) argue whether “autonomy includes the broader ability to control one’s destiny“. This theory of self-determination involves not only the control of ones destiny but also self-governance an area that involves conforming to the expected social norms of behaviour. Maclean (2005) describes autonomy as “acting in your interests while staying affiliated with the values of the organisation”. However, the relationships between pupil and teacher within the classroom are built upon a constant power struggle whereby disaffection occurs as pupils engage in the natural form of resistance as part of their subculture. This resistance could be interpreted as individual autonomy as they are being their own person and as Christman (2003) states “not the product of manipulative or distorting external forces”. Conversely this behaviour is somewhat regarded as deviant owing to the underdeveloped communication skills which have a tendency to be confrontational, as foundation relationships at home are generally poor, especially in areas of low socio economic depravation leading to greater detachment and disaffection to the society they are required to become a part of.
The learning environment then again is a major contributing factor to the development of pupil autonomy. The initial steps towards an autonomous classroom requires that the existing power struggle, dissipate, creating a climate where mutual power exists between both pupil and teacher to an appropriate degree. Clear boundaries should be set although pupils must be given the opportunity to challenge these in a respectful way developing communication skills whereby the greater understanding of negotiating takes place, becoming a part of the decision making process. As purposeful relationships develop within the supportive classroom, communication between both pupil and teacher should be as an equal, whereby mutual respect exists removing aggressive behaviour and disaffection. In the same way as autonomy and self-determination develop so should independent thought and pupils should be encouraged to question confidently whilst taking their own initiative and personal responsibility for their actions and learning. Dondero cites Meyers (1986) who “suggests that autonomous behaviour occurs in degrees (i.e. given certain situations, people will act more or less autonomously). To have the ability to act autonomously does not guarantee that the behaviour will occur; individuals will only act autonomously if the situation is appropriate to them”. To ensure the success of the autonomous classroom, an educators approach must be from the pupils’ view to engage their interests passionately.
“It is notoriously difficult to ‘measure impact’ in any educational innovation, whether it be a teaching method, a new teaching approach, a new curriculum scheme or indeed an intervention of any kind”. (Wellington and Cole, 2004, 101)
To ensure development as a practitioner within the teaching profession it is essential to reflect on ones practice. It is from this that the stakeholders, namely the students will be able to progress and attain from the cyclical reflection of the instructor. This will in turn influence and improve teaching and learning.
McKernan states “Action research as a teacher-researcher movement, is at once an ideology which instructs us that practitioners can be producers as well as consumers of the curriculum inquiry;(…)”. McKernan continues to describe “action research has attempted to render the problematic social world understandable as well as to improve the quality of life in social settings”.
As a method of action research the instructor will use the Kolb model of experiential learning, a model that progresses over four stages which Kolb and Fry (1975, cited in Smith, 2001) argue that the learning cycle can begin at any one of the four modes but suggest that the optimal learning process begins at stage 1, ‘Concrete Experience’. Here the learner observes a response from the immediate action or concrete experience. It is from this then that the learner is able to reflect and progress onto stage two, ‘Observation and Reflection’. Understanding the circumstances of the concrete experience the learner can anticipate the possible impact of a similar situation or action. With this information the learner can then progress to step three, ‘Forming Abstract Concepts’, synthesising the experience “from which new implications for action can be drawn” (Boyatzis, Kolb & Mainemelis, 2006, p.3). This then leads to the final stage of the model, step four, ‘Testing in new situations’ where application of the reflective concepts based on experience can be tested and new experiences drawn continuing the cycle.
The current educational climate within the classroom is not pleasant. The battle between pupil and instructor is constant which has a detrimental effect on teaching and learning. As the instructor attempts to engage pupils through modelling using the whiteboard from the front of the class, the reception of the students is unapparent considering behaviour and response. The pupils were observed and the instructor made generic notes from lessons. Using this as a baseline for “ordinary”, chalk and talk teaching it is necessary to reflect on this.
Observation and Reflection
From the results of the observations (see appendixes) it became apparent that these pupils were disengaged with ICT. As the results show the majority of pupils were distracted and more preoccupied with their social status.
Emotional intelligence (Petrides et al, 2004) is seriously below average. This is not only reflected by the pupils’ attainment on entry but the minimal progression throughout the year, which in turn influences the lack of control within the classroom (Vidal Rodeiro et al, 2009). Combined with the inability to connect / apply, skills learned / taught to possible ideas, results in dependant pupils who appear to lack any drive or passion for anything other than their current social standing within their insular community.
There is no real desire to learn or in fact engage with ICT creatively, which hinders development and attainment. They have no pride in their work based on the previously submitted assessments.
Discussing the state of the learning environment the instructor found the pupils did not enjoy sitting at the front watching the teacher modelling but preferred to log straight onto the computers and ‘get on’ with their work. This indicated that the pupils could be receptive to autonomous learning.
Forming Abstract Concepts
Considering the pupils voice it seemed valid to diffuse the power struggle and the adult in the room should meet the pupils’ demands in order to move the learning environment forward. Pupils in year 10 should be moving more and more toward independent thought with the ability to make decisions and face the consequences of their actions.
Testing in new situations
Establishing the classroom as an environment to achieve autonomous learning, the power struggle that existed during the initial stages was slowly dissipated to help build relationships. Listening to the pupils’ voice, class members were not required to sit at the front and watch the teacher modelling, an area that caused the most disruption. They were however required to come in, settle down, log on and open their animation and supporting document to evidence their work. Clear boundaries had been set with regards to playing games, alongside, an agreement was set in place whereby pupils could have free time if they had made sufficient progress during the lesson. This approach diminished the aggressive behaviour creating a more pleasant work environment improving “the quality of life in social settings”. In spite of this the issue of mutual respect is still one of the main disrupting factors within the class is most pupils’ attitude towards homosexuality. Defying the socially accepted norms within their society and to some degree that within dominant culture the instructor’s homosexual presence could be interpreted as a catalyst for non-conformist behaviour, spurring the pupils to partake in their rebellious subcultural norms. On the other hand this could also represent the pupils’ lack of respect within the classroom (Rofes, 2000; Iftikhar, 2009; Teachers TV, 2008). Speculating around these key issues does not necessarily resolve them and requires further research into Muslim pupils’ opinions of gay teachers. Nevertheless from observation their behaviour is somewhat more deviant compared to that in a class where a ‘respected’ or ‘feared’ teacher is host, drawing a series of conclusions that is not necessarily debated.
Tapping in to their interests, quality visuals of aspiring material goods (Bentley, Clinique, Porsche) were delivered to engage the pupils and inspire them (Meyers, ibid). These images were composited together to create animated sequences, which received an enthusiastic response, usually “Sir that’s sick man” (Sick meaning: great; COOL, AWESOME according to The Online Slang Dictionary). The assets were distributed amongst the class, ensuring there was sufficient choice for them to make decisions of what they would create.
The final inspirational solutions were not only played full screen on the whiteboard but also accessible from the Learning Gateway. Alongside these a series of quality instructional video resources were created to inspire pupils giving step-by-step instructions to help them create the final product. Initially sceptical about dictating the final outcome, the drive to approach the topic in such a way was founded on the lack of vision pupils have, combined with experience of INSETs previously taken with staff who also had difficulty in realising the potential of basic instructional videos which taught you how to bounce a ball. It was felt necessary to show what you could achieve with three very different pictures using very simple techniques.
Pupils were directed to the instructional videos and encouraged to work independently. This new process of learning was alien to them, requiring self-control and motivation. Only three pupils from the class accessed the material to help with their animation. These pupils were constantly encouraged and reminded to access the resources however one respondent voiced, “They take too long”. The realisation that they are in control of their learning was not apparent, causing disengagement with the material. However the three pupils that did engage initially with the instructional resources were proactive using the software although they had no realisation of what and how they had achieved it.
The antisocial, deviant behaviour was minimised over the first few weeks as relationships began to form however this deteriorated as the instructor had four consecutive weeks away from the group. The positive environment built up again quite quickly with more class involvement as pupils were given the opportunity to demonstrate the learning objectives.
This helped to establish what had been learnt previously and as the group are quite social they were attentive to the modelling. This allowed the instructor to combine pupil / teacher led demonstrations alongside the instructional videos more easily as talking during demonstration diminished. Pupils were following instructions more readily, which made teaching and learning more effective.
Talking throughout work time did not diminish and stayed constant although the work ethic improved radically. The talking may reduce as the unit progresses and they become more competent in Flash.
Playing games was still an issue with some pupils, although not near the amount at the beginning of the intervention as the free time agreement was effective.
Working on other assignments became a concern towards the end of the observations, as pupils were more conscious of current exams or coursework deadlines. For non-option ICT groups such as this, the application of ICT makes more sense when applying it to something they are interested in, hence an opted subject. Most pupils were enthusiastic towards the end, creatively engaged and on task although pride in their work was not equivalent. Some pupils were not saving their work properly and having to start again. Un-fazed by this there still seemed to be a lack of pride and engagement even though they were still on task.
Using instructional video was not apparent at all toward the end and had reached its peak a few weeks into the observation with a total of three pupils, which deems the technological intervention a failure. However the classroom routines that were put into action did improve teaching and learning on some level.
Conclusion and recommendations
Learning from instructional video is a skill requiring continuous reinforcement. Understanding the resources can be paused, rewound and fast-forwarded the same way when listening to music or watching a film is crucial. Pupils should watch, then attempt, see if it works, if not go back to the resource and watch again or if successful move on. This level of learning requires determination and self-control from which the pupils should feel empowerment realising they are acting in their best interests as well as those of the school resulting in autonomy. This skill is possibly too advanced for a group of disaffected pupils and would require a longer period to teach self-control after positive relationships have been built.
As this action research project aimed to develop this level of learning, the data however is flawed and no real successes can be determined as the group dynamics were continuously changing. This was due to a series of factors, namely disorganisation and reorganisation of pupils’ timetables, which caused a serious amount of disruption within an already disaffected class. Over the weeks the observations took place several new pupils were added, taken away and some who seemed to be generally in the wrong classroom.
The technological intervention did not work as planned, however the routines put into place from the initial observations and reflection where the pupils’ voice was considered did begin to diminish disruptive behaviour. Autonomy was not achieved, as finding things out for themselves was not an incentive, since they could not recognise the personal gain. More frequently “Sir I need help” or “Sir you haven’t helped me” continued to be common phrases shouted out which suggests that most did want to engage with the software however they still required one to one support to ensure total engagement otherwise they would become disruptive and regress into the social mode they are accustomed to.
The scenarios reached some of the pupils’ current social awareness connecting them to the work, and one pupil adapted the brief to suit his personal interest of boxing. Equally more discussion is needed to clearly identify the interests of disaffected youths to ensure that the topic is relevant to them and actively reengage them in the classroom.
To raise achievement and attainment within this area of compulsory none option ICT, more ‘social’ group work would make the subject accessible to improve not only their grades but also their Emotional Intelligence through the development of socialisation. Autonomy is only the beginning of the journey in which the outcome should be to work towards a unanimous group goal and fit in with the social confines we are all subject to. Collaborative group work could be the key for pupils to understand their own personal strengths and identify weaknesses to aid personal development. Unit 23: Creating Video would be a more fitting area to bring together a variety of skills and personal qualities as it could be successfully divided into vocational hands on areas such as director, actor and editor. This combination would allow individuality and independence to flourish.
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