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Action Research 1

Action Research 1



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Published by Eva

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Published by: Eva on Feb 16, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The aim of this action research was to assess sixth formers’ attitudes and their  performance concerning the expository and experiential (discovery)teaching/learning methods in relation to social sciences. 30 students from theBaylis Court School (Slough) were exposed for a period of three months toexperiential (discovery) methods of teaching/learning and then to expositorystrategies for the following three months. The use of a questionnaire, observationand unstructured interviews was utilized to assess the learners’ preferences,whereas a quasi experiment served as an appraisal of the learners’ performance.Concerning the former, the results revealed the rejection of a teacher role as themediator, which typifies the discovery or experiential learning and preference of the teacher instructive position characteristic to the expository teaching/learning.According to these data the sixth formers’ ideal lessons should integrate and applyequally both strategies. With reference to 6
formers’ performance, the quasi-experiment involved the use expository and experiential methods for a period of three months respectively. The attainment was assessed at the end each threemonths period via a summative assessment in the form of external examinationsconcerning the expository teaching/learning whereas a mock exam was used for assessing experiential teaching/ learning. According to the Wilcoxon test the W-value was 62.5 and hence significant on 1% level in favour of expositoryteaching/learning. However, due to the practical difficulties connected with thestudents’ greater commitment to external examinations rather than mock exams,this result is considered problematic. Additionally, because of the small sample being obtained from only one school and including female students, this outcomeis andocentric and cannot be generalised. Nevertheless, in terms of the students’ preferences, the combination of quantitative and qualitative methodology provides this investigation with certain strengths and it was thought that further research based on a more representative sample could be confirming. Despitecertain limitations, this action research challenges the ongoing expository-experiential dichotomy as both aspect of teaching/learning are essential for stimulating students’ learning as well as their ‘inner growth’ and confidence.1
1. Introduction
Having had 6 years of teaching experience in a few educational settings I have discoveredthat in the contrary to the definition and implications of the student-centred approachinvolving
teaching/learning methods, this notion appears to be problematic according to the opinion of many sixth form students concerning the subjectof psychology. Surprisingly, the more able students consistently prefer the moreorthodox strategies involving the dominance of 
(defined as the teacher-centredor teacher-lead) teaching methods. Therefore, although these students appreciate suchexperiential exercises as teaching by asking, games and group work (e.g. Petty, 2004),these are only treated as additions to the main instructive set-up of lessons based on theteacher centred approach.Interestingly, less committed students appear to be more appreciative of experientiallearning, yet, these exercises are treated as entertaining elements with an outcome of somewhat diluted acquisition of information, which consequently obscures the quality of knowledge and understanding characterised by more sophisticated features of learningsuch as analysis and evaluation (Bloom, 1956), simply because these are based on a verysuperficial informational basis.Paradoxically the main goal of the experiential learning (as opposed to the ‘regurgitation’of information that is associated with the traditional and expository teaching) is for thelearners to acquire these higher cognitive processes. It is important to acknowledge thatdifferent learning styles require different learning/teaching methods (e.g. Petty, 2004). Nevertheless, the recent educational trend is such that the traditional teacher-centredteaching based on expository methods is considered rigid, inflexible and the biggestaccusation on the issue is that such an approach expects student to be predominantly passive. Some authors suggest that experiential learning goes back beyond what isofficially recoded and it is present within our society not only by being formalised byeducational institutions but it simply occurs informally in individuals’ every day lives(see e.g. Kraft, 1991). Officially, the student-centred teaching stems from firstly,2
Bruner’s (1961)
cognitive perspective
according to which learning is an
information processing 
activity involving the
of information via a
coding system
that needs to be discovered by a learner. Therefore the teacher is amediator rather than an instructor and his/her role is to enable students to access thenecessary information without organising it for them. This way learner will not bedependant on others and will remember the discovered knowledge for longer in terms of applying it to ‘real life’. He also propagates a
 spiral curriculum
according to which ideasare continuously repeated progressively starting with a simple form and then developinginto more complex structures over a period of time. Learners can practice their discoveryor experiential learning either on their own or in groups (
co-operative learning 
). Thelatter particularly is supposed to raise the learners’ self-esteem and improve their interpersonal skills.The second well known name associated with the discovery learning points one to thewell respected
humanistic approach
of Rogers
Centred Teaching 
(Rogers, 1961) He proposes three conditions necessary for whole-person learning. These include learningoccurring in situations perceived in relation to problem solving by those who wish tolearn. Then such aspects of knowledge as concepts, theories, techniques that consist of raw data should be available instead of being forced upon students. Finally according tothe basic humanistic hypothesis the tutor needs to acknowledge the fact that students whoare in touch with real problems wish to learn, grow and create (Rogers, 1961).Indeed, some authors posit theories that would limit the teacher leading role. Petty (2004) proposes ‘25 ways for teaching without the teacher ‘talking’ in order to broaden students’learning experiences. The mentioned group work and the question and answer approach(Q&A) are part of these suggestions. It has been argued that such requirements addressthe higher cognitive functions on the Bloom’s Taxonomy, which starts with a lower cognitive skill such as an acquisition of 
and progresses to
respectively (Bloom, 1956). The claim isthat there is empirical evidence suggesting that if learners are provided with the freedomto explore fields based on their personal interests accompanied with such ‘active’ learning3

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