Sei sulla pagina 1di 4

NFER Young Researchers Project

Final Student Report


Working as a group of students on a project like untrodden snow has
been both challenging and greatly rewarding. Our initial aim in the
project was a somewhat vague what makes a good teacher?.
Since our first report, our project has undergone great change and
development. While the first phase saw the group find our footing,
the second phase has allowed students to take on a more personal,
meaningful role, though still working collaboratively under the
notion of good teaching. This change of focus had not only provided
students with far more beneficial experiences, such as planning or
even teaching their own lessons, but also provided teachers with
feedback unlike ever before.
Background to Project
The majority of students, both first and second year, joined this
NFER action research project in order to pursue their interests in
teaching. In the first phase of our project, our aims as a group were
uncertain, trying to find ground under the aim of what makes a
good teacher?. The lack of direction that characterised the first
phase of the project was arguably mainly to the detriment of poor
communication on the students behalf. Becky Barness role was
almost that of, in terms of interaction with us as the students, a
project administrator the initiative was supposed to come from the
students. Though this did unfortunately mean we did get off to a
slow start, as the project has developed, not only did we gain
valuable experience and practise in our methods, but our
achievements encouraged new aims in more specific fields. In the
second phase of our project, individuals or pairs focussed in on their
personal interests in collaboration with their partner member of
staff, in order to gain more from the project, often on both the part
of the student and the teacher. This change in direction gave the
project far greater weight and direction than the uncertain initial
phase, and students have reaped the rewards of their finer tuned
work.
Methods Used
The methods used in the second phase of the project still remained
fundamentally the same as the first phase, with the interviewobservation-feedback structure, though more advanced with greater
complexity. In this sense, the first phases almost served to act as a
practise, or build up, stage. In phase two, students built on the
basic format of interview, observation, then feedback, working in

Amy Grandvoinet

extra components. Many students began by focussing in on a


specific aspect of the lesson either themselves or their teacher, or
indeed both, were interested in, for example male-female
participation.
This was a significant development in that the
students were carrying out observations on very specialised aspects
of the lesson, helping to give a more comprehensive report of how
well the lesson had worked in a specific field. Feeding back to the
teacher therefore had arguably greater purpose, the students
anticipated voice giving the staff critical information as to how a
certain aspect of the lesson had worked.
While providing the teacher unique clear and specific criticism on a
specific area of interest from a student perspective, the student also
was able to refine their skill in observing lessons and feeding back in
an informative and effective way. Some students also took up the
opportunity to go to Richmond College to observe lessons in a
completely different sixth form college, in order to broaden their
experience and provide something to compare and contrast to that
observed at Farnborough Sixth Form College. Benefitting on both
student and teacher sides seemed to become central to the second
phase, which in turn allowed the dynamic of student observation to
grow. Many students now planned a lesson with their teacher, then
observed it to see their input implemented, many ideas of which
were generated in previous observations. This allowed students,
many having teaching ambitions, to personally gain from experience
in planning lessons, as well as helping the teaching staff to
understand, though perhaps to a limited extent, what students want
from lessons. One individual actually taught a lesson herself after
planning with her teacher partner. This is indeed putting action
research to its name: the majority of students have broadly claimed
to have learned more from the experience of planning, and even
carrying out, lessons themselves rather than simply watching them.
However, needless to say, the initial basic methods were hugely
important in building up a strong foundation on which to develop
more advanced ideas, giving students the experience and skills to
do so.
Findings
During phase one, we came across a number of findings that we had
not foreseen. Before starting the project, each student had their
own pre-misconceptions regarding the practise of observing lessons.
Though the actual content of the lessons observed did not change
our original views as to what makes a good teacher, experience in
actually doing the observing was a learning curve in many ways.
Our main findings in phase one included:
Altered perspectives Prior to training, students found it easier
and more natural to pick out negative points of lesson, though

Amy Grandvoinet

after training this reversed, and it became difficult to fault


teaching
Note taking Need to maintain an objective approach to notemaking as opposed to subjective, refraining from making
judgements along the way
Teacher interest Surprised at how highly teachers valued our
voice through the observation-feedback process, nicely
reinforcing the significance of our project and highlighted the
growing importance of student voice in education

After the group had gained practise in the first phase of the project,
students had greater ability to identify interesting aspects of the
lesson in phase 2, particularly in under more focussed conditions.
This time around therefore, students in a sense had a greater
control over what they were finding, with clearer, more specific
goals. Many students took on roles in the planning and production
of lessons, giving them a far greater insight into what it means to be
a teacher, and the practicalities of delivering an effective lesson.
Due to the fact that each student-teacher group had individual goals
catered to personal interests, it is difficult to categorise findings
from the second phase. However, it is fair to say that the second
phase proved far more valuable to both the students and the
teachers, which should be taken into consideration in the
development of the project in the future.
Discussion
The level of discussion throughout the project is perhaps something
to work on in future development. From the very start of the
project, it was difficult for the team to coordinate and gel effectively.
Being a brand new project, the aims and outlook for the project
were quite ambiguous to us as students, therefore it was difficult to
grapple with ideas to begin with. Further more, a great mix of both
first and second year students, with lots of different things going on
outside the project meant there was to an extent little common
ground amongst the group in terms of relationships. It may seem a
simple thing, but it would have been hugely beneficial to the whole
project if relationships within the group had been worked on in the
first couple of weeks, which would simply have enhanced a team
spirit and sense of working collectively towards a goal. Students
had been attracted to the project largely via individual interests in
teaching. This could have been utilised more effectively to bring the
group together, even through casual discussion if a greater rapport
was built up from day one.
In terms of phase two specifically, inter-pair/individual discussion,
i.e. with the whole group, seemed to decline quite significantly,
whether this was to do with business in each individuals area of

Amy Grandvoinet

focus, or simply a failure in communication. In future projects, it


would definitely be beneficial to discuss findings between groups as
the project develops more extensively, so different groups could
take from eachother, thus developing their research to be more
comprehensive. This means in terms of both positive and negative
aspects: the students would not only be learning from their own
single experiences of success and struggle, but also benefit from the
learnings of their co-researchers, thus speeding up the development
of the project and hopefully making for greater innovation and
development. The practicalities of this, however, are what need to
be looked into.
Though communication through Farnboroughs
online system, Moodle, and email are easy and quick, perhaps faceto-face conferences, specifically designated for discussions, would
give more depth and allow for more coherent and fluid dialogue
between individuals. If the first phase of the project was redesigned
to be shorter and more concentrated, allowing the really beneficial
second phase to begin on a strong foundation of essential skills
needed, weekly group sessions could perhaps have the sole function
of a seminar, in which students learn from eachothers on-going
experiences on a regular up-to-date basis.
Conclusion
In conclusion, it is true to say that every student gained great
experience and exclusive insight into teaching via Farnboroughs
action research project in collaboration with the NFER. The project
allowed students to get closer to the roots of the teaching
classroom, and explore techniques, practises and methods that
would enable an effective lesson to be carried out. Although
student opinion on what makes a good teacher changed very little,
it seems as though the students involved in the project have
developed a more mature view to the role of the lesson in the
process of teaching. The project has also been greatly rewarding for
students in that our voices have been respected and greatly valued
by the staff at Farnborough Sixth Form College, far more than any of
us had expected. This suggests great prospects for such projects in
the future, and we hope we have helped to establish a strong
foundation on which this innovation in research can grow.

Amy Grandvoinet