10 (more) student responses to questions about how they learn

10 (more) student responses to questions about how they learn

This is the 2nd post in a series looking at over 1000 students’ responses to questions about how they learn and their attitudes to learning and school. This was the pre-test survey carried out before some of the children were given iPads as part of a 1-to-1 scheme in their schools. The survey will be repeated at the end of the year. Analysis of any notable differences will inform triangulation with data from semi-structured interviews and progress data. The methodology is described more fully here.

We don’t know what, if anything, this research will reveal. We hope that it will help these schools make informed decisions about what works and what doesn’t work in their contexts and, therefore, what to do more or less of in the future.

 

Questions 11-20

11. I can work independently without needing help from a teacher very often

Perceptions of self-efficacy are crucial in maintaining effort in the face of challenge. We all know (I hope!) what it’s like to feel helplessly at sea with a task and to feel like giving up. Clearly, we want all pupils to be feel that they can usually work independently. This pre-test survey shows that most of the children involved have a high level of confidence in this area (around 88% Agree or Strongly Agree), with Y8s suffering a blow before Y9 display the greatest faith in their ability to work independently (91.3%).

  • Research question: Will the introduction of mobile technology have an impact on pupils’ views of themselves as independent learners?
  • Hypothesis: Positive impact on treatment group, due to increased access to both knowledge and supplementary sources of support (peer networks, collaboration sites, video tutorials etc) via the Internet.

 

12. I can usually complete all my work in the time given

This is an interesting one; work pace is closely linked to the ability to concentrate and how easily distracted you are. Increased access to on-demand (and often when you don’t demand it) technology may make focusing more challenging for some pupils. Alternatively, it may be that some children find that access to tools which take some of the slog out of producing written work (typing, for example, may be quicker than writing due to spelling and presentation concerns) and are actually positively affected. Roughly 86% of all those surveyed Agreed or Strongly Agreed with this statement, there being only very minor variations between the year groups or genders.

  • Research question: Will the introduction of mobile technology have an impact on pupils’ reported success in completing work in the time allowed?
  • Hypothesis: No observable impact; some pupils may be affected positively and some negatively by greater access to technology.

 

13. My friends and I work together on school work when we’re not at school

Collaboration is one of the approaches with the strongest effect size (the EEF put its impact at +5 months of progress). I would argue that, implemented well, a 1-to-1 technology model will support meaningful collaboration very effectively, by providing an ecosystem in which interactions between students and students (as well as students and teachers) can take place beyond the boundaries of the school day/ site. This has to be one of the major benefits of the use of technology – extra learning, long after traditional ‘school’ has stopped. Many apps are designed around sharing ideas and collectively generating content, but none of the schools involved is actively using a ‘collaboration’ ecosystem like GAfE or O365 yet. The results of this question were remarkably negative – only 35% of boys and 44% of girls Agreed or Strongly Agreed with the statement. This current low level of collaboration outside of school will make an impact easier to spot, if it exists.

  • Research question: Will the introduction of mobile technology have an impact on pupils’ reported opportunities for collaboration on school work?
  • Hypothesis: Positive impact on treatment group, due to the devices’ capabilities (wifi, camera, voice) and the range of sharing applications schools are planning to use.

 

14. I think the tasks I’m given in lessons are usually relevant to my life

As we are all aware, humans are highly sensitised to authenticity and seem to use their perception of this as an indicator of whether they trust and are interested in something/ someone. Basically, we are pretty good at spotting when something is false, or when it doesn’t fit with what we need. In learning, this is a problem, because pupils’ perceptions of whether the tasks they’re asked to do have authentic value to them are seldom kept private – if you’ve every tried to teach any intangible mathematical concept to a group of children, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If something is relevant to a student, they’ll find it easier to engage with it and to maintain their focus according to the meta-analyses. The children surveyed were fairly negative about this – a high of 65% Agreed or Strongly Agreed in Y7, falling to 55.7% in Y8 and 45.7% in Y9. The percentage of students Strongly Disagreeing leaps from 1.4% in Y7 to 12.8% by Y9. As these students age, they see school work as less relevant to their lives, at the moment.

  • Research question: Will the introduction of mobile technology have an impact on pupils’ views of the authenticity of their work tasks?
  • Hypothesis: Positive impact on treatment group, due to the opportunities that students’ devices gives to teachers preparing tasks  – for example, the ability to present resources in ways which more closely echo children’s experience of the world such as a combination of text, video, graphics and images rather than, say, a paper worksheet.

 

15. I feel challenged by the work I do at school

When we fail, we can feel demotivated. Equally, when success is too easy, things become routine and much of the pleasure of succeeding is removed. Finding a balance between the two results in tasks that challenge learners appropriately but differentiating across multiple levels of ability and experience doesn’t scale easily. Technology could offer an effective solution to this, with enhanced opportunities to support mastery techniques and automatic variance of the level of challenge. Most children surveyed do currently feel challenged – the figure Agreeing or Strongly Agreeing hovers between 75-81% with no clear pattern emerging. Interestingly, the level of perceived challenge is greatest in Year 8 (a year group associated in other questions with a ‘dip’ in positivity).

  • Research question: Will the introduction of mobile technology have an impact on pupils’ view of the level of challenge they experience in learning?
  • Hypothesis: Positive impact on treatment group, due to the technology’s ability to monitor performance and adjust the level of challenge.

 

16. I often get to make decisions about how to do my work, rather than being told how to do it

Closely linked to Q14’s discussion of authenticity, learner agency is often posited as an important factor in engagement. Will the addition of multiple digital productivity tools to the existing options of manual writing/ drawing have an impact on students’ view of their control over outcomes? Will teachers take advantage of these new methods of producing work in the tasks that they plan? Responses here are a good example of the Y8 dip referred to in the previous question. The percentage Agreeing or Strongly Agreeing with this statement in Y8 is only 57.6 – 15ppts down from Y7 and bouncing back almost 10ppts in Y9.

  • Research question: Will the introduction of mobile technology have an impact on pupils’ perceptions of their agency in learning tasks?
  • Hypothesis: Positive impact on treatment group, due to the increased opportunities to produce outcomes in different media.

 

17. I regularly get to share and discuss my work with the rest of my class

Collaboration and feedback – both highly effective learning strategies – are present behind this question. It’s possible that opportunities for peer review and feedback will become more frequent and more effective through the ease of screen mirroring and that this will help support student progress. I was surprised by how low the Agreement rates were for this question, as the technique is well embedded in teaching in most schools – even Y7 are only 64.8% positive. The usual slump in Y8 settles back to 60% in Y9.

  • Research question: Will the introduction of mobile technology have an impact on pupils’ reported opportunities for collaboration/ peer review of work?
  • Hypothesis: Positive impact on treatment group, due to more effective discussion/ improvement of work and more positive cultures of learning as a result.

 

18. When I’m at school, I feel positive

This question isn’t about a learning process but rather attempts to track changes in pupils’ outlook on school and their education in more general terms. The pre-test reveals very little difference between boys and girls and, after the honeymoon period of Year 7, very little difference as children age. Broadly, most children Strongly Agree or Agree (c. 80%). If you believe the industry hype, the iPad has ushered in an age of unparalleled, lens-flared personal contentment. On the other hand, many media reports are concerned about the psychological impact on children of too much access to technology, particularly in relation to young people’s ‘inability’ to moderate their access without adult oversight. A very interesting debate that goes to the heart of modern life… but I’m not certain an unequivocal answer will emerge through this study. The students surveyed are a generally happy bunch at the moment – the keeness of Y7 (85.1% Agree or Strongly Agree) is largely maintained as they age (77.5% Y8, 77% Y9).

  • Research question: Will the introduction of mobile technology have an impact on pupils’ reported feelings of positivity when at school?
  • Hypothesis: No observable impact; some pupils may be affected positively and some negatively by greater access to technology.

 

19. I usually enjoy the lessons at school

Again, a question designed to track any change in attitudes towards school. Currently, boys report lower levels of lesson enjoyment than girls, Year 7 are very clearly enjoying school, there’s a dip in Year 8 and a slight recovery in Year 9. There’s a debate to be had about the usefulness of these data. Detractors will argue that pupils’ enjoyment of lessons is unimportant in any analysis of the effectiveness of learning. Hopefully, the tangential approach taken will have done enough to remove the likelihood of pupils reporting increased enjoyment because they are being asked about technology (see previous post in this series). Levels of lesson enjoyment are currently high (88% of Y7 Agree or Strongly Agree), but Y8 are stubbornly cynical in comparison to their older and younger peers at 76%.

  • Research question: Will the introduction of mobile technology have an impact on pupils’ reported enjoyment of lessons?
  • Hypothesis: Positive impact on treatment group, due to the increased range of activities and perceptions of authenticity of task/ agency/ control of outcomes.

 

20. At home, I have access to a computer whenever I need it for my work

The only question that goes anywhere near technology, this has been included to provide some data about previous levels of access, which may enable analysis of whether any effects that emerge are related or unrelated to the novelty of access. The phrasing is an attempt to get at the reality of their access (that a computer is available when needed, not when it’s their turn), as we are comparing this to life in a 1-to-1 model, when there is no competition for this computing resource. As this question is aimed at helping shape interpretation of other responses, I won’t speculate too much on what the numbers tell us. Access is high in all years (80%+) and climbs steadily with age.

 

So what have we learned?

There is scope for some well-evidenced teaching and learning techniques (notably collaboration and feedback) to be further supported through technology with these students. Their responses currently indicate relatively low levels of satisfaction with the tasks they are given the the ways in which they can complete them. In these areas particularly, any impact should stand out quite clearly against this backdrop. In others, such is the positivity of the students (they all attend good schools!), it may be harder to discern any notable benefits from these responses alone – which is why we use triangulation to add detail to the picture they present. I am looking forward to the 2nd round of surveys in the summer!

 

 

Link to Educate 1-to-1 book

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