PERFORMANCE IN SOCIAL SCIENCES By Eva Carlton Abstract 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 the Baylis Court School (Slough) were exposed for a period of three months to experiential (discovery) methods of teaching/learning and then to expository strategies for the following three months. The use of a questionnaire, observation and 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 the mediator, 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 apply equally both strategies. With reference to 6th formers’ performance, the quasiexperiment involved the use expository and experiential methods for a period of three months respectively. The attainment was assessed at the end each three months period via a summative assessment in the form of external examinations concerning the expository teaching/learning whereas a mock exam was used for assessing experiential teaching/ learning. According to the Wilcoxon test the Wvalue was 62.5 and hence significant on 1% level in favour of expository teaching/learning. However, due to the practical difficulties connected with the students’ 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 outcome is 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. Despite certain limitations, this action research challenges the ongoing expositoryexperiential dichotomy as both aspect of teaching/learning are essential for stimulating students’ learning as well as their ‘inner growth’ and confidence.


1. Introduction Having had 6 years of teaching experience in a few educational settings I have discovered that in the contrary to the definition and implications of the student-centred approach involving experiential or discovery teaching/learning methods, this notion appears to be problematic according to the opinion of many sixth form students concerning the subject of psychology. Surprisingly, the more able students consistently prefer the more orthodox strategies involving the dominance of expository (defined as the teacher-centred or teacher-lead) teaching methods. Therefore, although these students appreciate such experiential 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 the teacher centred approach. Interestingly, less committed students appear to be more appreciative of experiential learning, 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 learning such as analysis and evaluation (Bloom, 1956), simply because these are based on a very superficial 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 the learners to acquire these higher cognitive processes. It is important to acknowledge that different learning styles require different learning/teaching methods (e.g. Petty, 2004). Nevertheless, the recent educational trend is such that the traditional teacher-centred teaching based on expository methods is considered rigid, inflexible and the biggest accusation on the issue is that such an approach expects student to be predominantly passive. Some authors suggest that experiential learning goes back beyond what is officially recoded and it is present within our society not only by being formalised by educational institutions but it simply occurs informally in individuals’ every day lives (see e.g. Kraft, 1991). Officially, the student-centred teaching stems from firstly,


Bruner’s (1961) cognitive perspective according to which learning is an information processing activity involving the categorisation and organisation of information via a coding system that needs to be discovered by a learner. Therefore the teacher is a mediator rather than an instructor and his/her role is to enable students to access the necessary information without organising it for them. This way learner will not be dependant 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 ideas are continuously repeated progressively starting with a simple form and then developing into more complex structures over a period of time. Learners can practice their discovery or experiential learning either on their own or in groups (co-operative learning). The latter 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 the well respected humanistic approach of Roger’s Centred Teaching (Rogers, 1961) He proposes three conditions necessary for whole-person learning. These include learning occurring in situations perceived in relation to problem solving by those who wish to learn. 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 to the basic humanistic hypothesis the tutor needs to acknowledge the fact that students who are 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 address the higher cognitive functions on the Bloom’s Taxonomy, which starts with a lower cognitive skill such as an acquisition of knowledge and progresses to comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation respectively (Bloom, 1956). The claim is that there is empirical evidence suggesting that if learners are provided with the freedom to explore fields based on their personal interests accompanied with such ‘active’ learning


as group work, peer teaching and independent attempts of problem solving, they not only achieve better academic results but also develop socially and personally (e.g. Rogers, 1994). Kolb (1984) proposes a four stage experiential cycle. The first stage includes an acquisition of concrete experience, the second stage is typified by reflection and the third one extends this reflection in relation to a conclusion. However, this theory has been criticised on the grounds that for instance the idea of neatly set learning stages, does not reflect most learners’ reality, simply because a number of cognitive processes can occur simultaneously and stages can be skipped or missed out completely (Kayes, 2002; Forest, 2004). The latter introduces different view of scholars who argue that the teacher-centred approach has certain rewards. One underestimated element is that this method undoubtedly covers a large amount of material in a short period of time for a large number of students (e.g. Dewey, 2006). The expository teaching is linked with Ausubel (1960), according to whom (in the contrary the cognitive approach’s claim) this strategy is constructivist, because students are not passive receivers of information as the experiential method implies. They learn from it via the reception learning. Nevertheless, Ausubel (1977) recognises that not all reception learning is meaningful and for this meaning to take place, the teacher needs to explain how new knowledge is connected with the already existing information. He proposes the use of advance organisers which consist of expository and comparative organisers teaching methods. An expository organiser is characterised by descriptions of relevant concepts (the concepts are exposed to learners), whereas a comparative organiser is typified by a presentation of how that knowledge is designed to be learned, compared to, and related to the existing knowledge. Ausubel argues that there is no conclusive evidence that experiential or discovery learning is effective and that in many instances the teacher exposition is necessary. Indeed, some educationalists argue that direct instructions are inevitable in such subjects as mathematics, science, history and geography (Dewey, 2006). Psychology, which belongs to social sciences, presents similar problems as it involves concepts and theories requiring in many areas the teacher intense instructive and explanatory involvement


enabling students to obtain full understanding and it is clear that the quantity of information (that seems to be better achievable via instructions) shapes the quality and more advanced aspects of the students’ cognitive processing. Indeed, Dewey (2006:2) argues that: I assume that amid all uncertainties there is one permanent frame of reference: namely the organic connection between education and personal experience; or some kind of empirical philosophy … The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative…some experiences are miss-educative…any that has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience…engenders callousness…produces lack of sensitivity or responsiveness…Everything depends on the quality of the experiences. Cognitive Apprenticeships that stem from educational psychology are an approach that suggests the expository teaching combined with the discovery learning (see Gadsdon, Harari, Legge and Sherry, 2005). The purpose of this action research is to address the above concerns. Action research can be defined as: ”…a form of self-enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own practices and their understanding of these practices and the situations in which the practices are carried out” (Carr and Kemms, 1986:162). Thus, more specifically, this research is about assessing the required level of either expository (teacher-centred) or experiential (student-centred) methods to a large extent introduced by students. Subsequently, it has been decided for a period of six months to test the students’ learning preferences via exposing them to the expository teaching/learning methods (first three months) and to experiential strategies (the following three months). A quasi experimental design will be used for both periods of three months, which will be assessed via summative assessments. After the considered six months period, the students’ views will also be assessed by asking them to fill in the especially designed questionnaire and by their participation in unstructured interviews. Finally, the use of observation will be based on the implementation of the learning by teaching strategy in order to allow the students to prepare and teach some parts of lessons and hence also to reveal their preferences.


The benefit of this technique has already been recognised by Seneca according to whom individuals learn if they teach docendo dicimus (Latin.: “by teaching we are learning”) (epistule morales, I,1,7,8 cited in Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia). In addition, Martin (1994) draws one’s attention to the anthropological basis of this concept emphasising the relevance of the pyramid of hierarchy of needs consisting of progressive requirements involving a learner’s physiological, safety/security, social/love belonging, esteem, growth and self-actualisation respectively (Maslow, 1970). The role of learning by teaching addresses learners’ needs beginning on the social/love belonging hierarchy and enables their progression towards the higher needs (Martin, 1994). It will be argued that the expository-experiential dichotomy should be abolished and these concepts should be considered in integrative rather than antagonistic terms in relation to social sciences. 2. Methodology 2.1 Aims of the research The primary aims of this action research are firstly to gain insight into the learning preferences of sixth form students in relation to social sciences concerning the expository and experiential teaching/learning methods. Secondly, this research is also concerned with assessing the sixth formers’ performance in view of the above. The secondary aims involve the theory building that would be based on the students’ active involvement in this research. It is assumed that the strategies used in the students’ teaching/ learning methods will hopefully be revealing in terms of the uncomfortable either/or dichotomy concerning the teacher-centred and student-centred approaches. Furthermore, due to the friction between science, policy and practice, this investigation also aims to stimulate further research that will consider students as co-researchers (e.g. Lea, Hayes, Armitage, Lomas, and Markless 2003).


2.2 Participants Initially, thirty one students (sixth formers) in total have been selected from Baylis Court School for this action research. Because one student within the selected sample decided to leave the sixth form, these data were reduced to thirty students. The above number will vary in the used investigative methods (see below). Due to the geographical position (Slough, Berkshire) the opportunity sample included mostly Asian and female students. The original target aiming to include sixty students has not been met due to the fact that the other two approached schools have not responded to the researcher’s enquiry concerning these schools’ permission to include their students in this investigation. 2.3 Design It has been decided to use a quantitative and qualitative approach involving the use of a especially designed questionnaire, observation and interviews. The latter will take a multi-layered phenomenological approach by applying the hermeneutic circle to the data analysis (Cohen, Khan and Steeves, 2000) in order to strengthen this study’s ontological and epistemological position and to meet the requirements of saturation. Subsequently, the whole analysis was derived from the following: 1. A questionnaire, which aim was to find out what type of teaching/learning methods (whether expository, experimental or both) the sixth form students studying psychology do prefer. It was thought that the use of self-reports will allow the researcher to gain the information from a larger number of students. These data included a combination of AS and A2 psychology students (25 in total). Closed questions were used according to the Likert scale involving a numerical rating from 1 to 7. For example in the case of such questions as: “I feel I learn best by working in groups during lessons” and “I feel that the lecture-based lessons are boring”, the ratings from 1-3 (disagree), 4 (neither agree nor disagree) and 5-7 (agree) will indicate the students’ opinions on the issue (app1). However,


this method in isolation would prevent the researcher from revealing complexities connected with the ‘why?’ questions. Therefore: 2. 9 individual and unstructured interviews that were based on questions used in the questionnaire (app1) and involving AS and A-level students were also included. The original target of 10 interviews has not been met due to some students’ feeling uneasy being interviewed. According to this qualitative method’s requirement’s no priori hypothesis had been established. The possibility of semistructured interviewing was rejected as the restricted questioning would deprive the students from their full expression and would obscure a role of the social context. The purpose of 1 unstructured interview with the teacher of sociology (the reasons as above) was included in order to investigate another teacher’s perception on the issue and to limit the researcher bias (e.g. Cohen et al, 2000). The sample included ten participants. 3. An observation including a time sampling method involved recording of the students’ behaviour during their teaching sessions (30 students). This method was to assess the students’ preferences and orientations (expository, experiential or both) through observing their teaching strategies. The observation was of an undisclosed nature as the students were not told that the aim of this procedure was a part of this action research. This decision was made in order to avoid the possible demand characteristics and social desirability (Maykut and Morehouse 1994). The students viewed this activity in terms of their other learning methods (i.e. group presentations and debates) that constitute a part of their experiential learning. 4. A quasi experiment was used to assess the students’ performance. As mentioned above, the students were exposed to the expository teaching/learning methods for a period of three months (twice a week) and examined externally. Then the learners were taught according to the experiential strategies for the following three months (twice a week) and assessed via a mock exam. As the next external examination is due after submission of this research, a mock exam was the only 8

option. It was thought that the application of a quasi experiment would expose the students to their natural environment (classroom) and hence increase ecological validity (realism) concerning the obtained results. The independent variable (IV) was the manipulation of the two different teaching/learning methods and the dependent variable were the tests’ results in percentages. As the scores reflected an ordinal level of measurement, the Wilcoxon’s non-parametric test was used for carrying the statistical analysis of these data. This choice is also justified by the fact that these data are within-participants, which means that the same group of students will be subjected to two different conditions (Clegg, 1990). Experimental hypothesis: There will be a significant difference within the 6th formers’ performance exposed to the expository teaching/learning methods and exposed to the experiential teaching/learning methods. Null hypothesis: There will be no significant difference within the 6th formers’ performance exposed to the expository teaching/learning methods and exposed to the experiential teaching/learning methods. 2.4 Provision for trustworthiness An issue of trustworthiness has already been demonstrated by considering more than one approach in achieving the final outcome. It was thought that the inclusion of another teacher (member check, Lincoln and Cuba, 1985) will reduce the potential researcher bias. 2.5 The morality of research This action research was undertaken after previously consulting the headmistress of the Baylis Court School. It has been agreed that the students neither physical nor


psychological wellbeing will be affected. The deception used during the observations was not considered harmful as ‘learning by teaching could have easily constituted any part of an experiential learning strategy. Although, interviews can be intimidating compared with anonymous quantitative measures based on depersonalised numerical data, the students had the freedom to withhold any kind of information and completely withdraw from the procedure according to their wishes. Furthermore, their identity was protected by the use of an alias. It has also been established that the experimental procedure’s deception (the students did not know that they taking part in a quasi experiment) did not cause the students’ any harm. Although the students were exposed to the expository teaching (which some educationalists may find restrictive), this strategy was used only twice a week for a selected topic involving ‘psychological investigations’. Indeed during this topic, which initially started (two lessons) as a experiential delivery, was challenged by the students on these grounds, hence the birth of this idea. The students were debriefed after each investigative procedure. 2.6 Procedure 2.6.1 Investigation 1 – a questionnaires At the end of the six months period, twenty five students who study psychology (AS) were asked by a researcher whether or not they wished to take a part in completing the explained above questionnaires (app 1). All the students agreed and the questionnaires were filled in a few minutes before a start of the psychology lesson during the first period and on the same day. The classroom environment was quiet and uninterrupted. The students were thanked for their participation and debriefed. The obtained scores were analysed and graphically represented (see the result section). 2.6.2 Investigation 2 – observation 30 students participated in the teaching/learning strategy involving the ‘students as teachers’. This procedure was carried out in the fifth months of this investigation. About


two weeks prior to the observation, the students were allocated into groups of five and asked to prepare and present the studies chosen from the developmental psychology section to the rest of the class. The time point sampling observation was used according to which the students’ behaviour was reordered every two minutes. The learners were not told that this method was a part of this investigation and they were asked to devise 10 minutes teaching sessions reflecting teaching methods according to which they would like themselves to be taught. The students had an access to such resources as the power point presentation, white board and coloured pens, paper and pens/pencils and textbooks. The observation was carried out during five consecutive days (one hour per day) in the morning involving periods one, two and three (depending on the psychology time table). 2.6.3 Investigation – unstructured interviews Also during the end of the six months period, the students had an opportunity to participate in the 1:1 individual interviews that were carried out in the Baylis Court School in Slough (9 students and the teacher of sociology). Nine interviews were carried out in the psychology classroom and 1 interview took place in the students’ common room. On both occasions the environment was quiet and the room temperature suitable for the purpose of interviewing. The investigator was wearing a suit, which is a standard dress code in the school. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxing and all the participating students seemed to be at ease with the situation. These data also included the teacher of sociology. The interviews lasted about twenty minutes and all were taperecorded (with the permission of the participants) and transcribed according to the emerging themes during the researcher’s listening to their content. Each interview underwent the seven stages. The first one involved thematising concerned with establishing the aims. Second – planning focused on choosing the type of the interview, which in this case was unstructured. Third stage included conducting these interviews using the interview schedule. Fourth, stage involved transcription and preparing the material for analysis. The fifth stage comprised the analysis and so the interpretation of interview material; the present data was analysed by the use of hermeneutic phenomenological analysis (Cohen et al, 2000). None of the students reported feelings of discomfort of any kind and they were pleased that their opinions were considered.


2.6.4 Investigation – quasi-experiment. From the14 of September 2006, both groups of AS psychology students (initially 31 in total) were taught according to the expository teaching method. The use of this method in this action research was purely coincidental. As mentioned above, the researcher had to alter her teaching strategies due to the students’ dissatisfaction with experiential learning – particularly working in groups. The topic involved psychological investigations that were taught twice per week within the five day-schedules. When asked, which methods they would be pleased with, the students requested extensive power point presentations and individual work such as note-taking during the teacher exposition. The expository lesson’s framework was based on the reception learning and involved the use of advance organisers. These consisted of expository and comparative organisers teaching methods. Thus, the teacher exposition included descriptions and explanations of relevant concepts and theories. This strategy was integrated with comparative organising according to which the students were made aware of how that knowledge was designed to be learned, compared to, and related to the already existing knowledge. The more complicated questions that students asked were clearly explained by the teacher. At the end of the three months period, the students underwent their external examinations. The results (in percentages) were gathered for the statistical analysis.

From the 16th of January 2007 until 30th of April 2007, the students were taught according to the experiential teaching and learning methods twice a week involving the topics of Physiological psychology that was followed by Individual differences. The students on each lesson were introduced to Q&A working in groups and in pairs. Once a week on separate days the students were taking part in the class’ discussions and debates. Twice a week the students were provided with additional handouts, which needed to be read before the next lesson. Once a fortnight the students were role-playing. The teacher expository input was minimal and any students’ questions were answered via the teacher further questioning that guided the students to discover their answers independently. At the end of the three months period, the students underwent the mock exam involving


Physiological psychology. The obtained results were converted into percentages (to match the external examination’s marking system) ready for their statistical analysis. 3. Analysis 3.1 Results derived from the questionnaires The overall findings of these data point to the combination of the expository and experiential teaching/learning strategies. In view of the size of this sample it has been decided that the most accurate reflection of the scores will be their modal occurrence (see below). The questions that posses the most highest modes concerning experiential methods are 3 – “ I feel I learn best by working in groups during lessons”(mode of 5 occurring 12 times), 1 – “I feel I learn best when the teacher asks questions, ‘Teaching by asking’”, 5 – “ I feel I learn best during the class debates” (mode of 5 occurring 11 times) and 6 (mode of 5 occurring 11 times). The next highest result that support this method is question 4 – “I feel I learn best through the use of games, i.e. re-calling a theory via the use of cards” (mode of 6 occurring 10 times) According to the bar chart below, the questions with the most highest modes in relation to the expository teaching/learning methods are 8 – “I feel I learn best from the power point presentation during which the teacher explains the topic in question” (mode of 5 occurring 14 times) and 18 – “I feel that prior to any class activity such as group work or class discussion, the teacher should teach by clearly explaining the topics” (mode of 5 occurring 12 times). The next highest modal representation in this distinction was question 9 – “I prefer teacher explanations rather than reading textbooks and other sources in order to learn about the topic in question (double mode of 5 and 6 occurring 10 times). The yellow colour represents discovery learning whereas blue colour represents expository teaching/learning.


Prefrences in expositary and discovery learning
7 6 5 Modes 4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Questions

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

The calculated means demonstrate that the highest mean is connected with question 18 (as explained above) showing the mean of 6.3 indicating the students’ prioritisation of the teacher exposition that should take place before any assigned activities. The following highest mean of 5.8 is reflective of question 18 (as explained above), which also views the teacher exposition as important. The next preference points to the question 4 (as explained above) according to which the mean score is 5.6 and suggests the students’ preference of learning games, which favour the experiential learning. The mean score of 5.4 relates to question 6 (as explained above) and emphasises the importance of class discussion, which also favour experiential learning (see the bar chart below).
Preferences in discovery and expository learning
7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Questions


Series1 Series2 Series3


The yellow colour represents discovery learning whereas blue colour represents expository teaching/learning. 3.2 Results derived from the observation This analysis is derived from observing individually 30 students’ teaching strategies for 10 minutes (micro-lessons). This observation was based on the time-point sampling method, which means that the students’ teaching/learning strategies were recorded every 2 minutes with no pre-prepared coding established. The overall findings demonstrate the superiority of the expository teaching over the experiential methods. During the first 6 minutes the whole sample demonstrated expository preferences by using the power point presentation and explaining the topic to the rest of the class (see the table below). During the next 4 minutes the 27 teaching students were using Q&A in the quiz-form by dividing the class into groups. The remaining 3 students continued their micro-lessons in the expository manner. According to the pie chart below, the difference in percentages shows that 66% of the sample reflected expository methods and 35.7% of experiential strategies. The purple colour represents discovery learning whereas blue colour represents expository learning.

Prefrences in expository and discovery learning

1 2


3.3 Results derived from the interviews According to these data there are three following main themes that emerged during this qualitative analysis: • • • Teacher as an instructor: ‘the student isn’t always right.’ The exclusiveness of experiential methods as an outcome of diluted information. Creating quality of the learner’s experiences: abolishing the expository-discovery dichotomy.

3.3.1Teacher as an instructor: ‘the student isn’t always right’ All the interviewed students considered the teacher role in expository rather than experiential terms. In other words, for the students to learn effectively, the teacher should be an instructor rather than mediator. Anisa exemplifies this preference. EC (Eva Carlton): What type of teachers do you prefer those who talk a lot or those who ask you to work in pairs, group and/or working independently? A: I prefer teachers who do a lot of talking. EC: Why is that? A: Because then, we like, take in the information in our own time and do our notes and stuff. EC: Why do you think explanations are so important? A: Because then, we know what we’re looking for and things like that. EC: What do you think about learning by responding to the teacher’s questions? A: I think that first the teacher should explain the topic and then ask questions. Nazia emphasizes the quality of experience. EC: Do you think that the teacher should always explain the topic prior to any activities, for example working in group? N: Um, may be just give like a head start, but be involved in the activity as well, so you’re communicating with the teacher because the student isn’t always right.


3.3.2 The exclusiveness of experiential methods as an outcome of diluted information The interviews with both the sociology teacher and the students were indicative of insufficiency of experiential methods. For example, the teacher of sociology emphasized the limited acquisition of information concerning the required coverage of the syllabus and subsequent examinations. EC: Do you think that experiential methods alone are effective? T: I don’t think that experiential methods alone are essential in A-level teaching. I think a combination of interactive techniques along with the teacher’s exposition is the most effective in order to provide full coverage of the syllabus. E: Why? T: I think students can’t benefit alone from experiential learning, because it doesn’t enable them to get all the information and content that is necessary for their exams. The students share very similar views. Cathy recognizes certain benefits of experiential learning, yet these methods appear to be insufficient on their own. EC: Do you like working in groups? C: Yes I like working in groups. EC: What is so good about it? C: You get ideas from other people and you can, like, talk to them about your ideas and then you get your understanding about whether you’re on the right track and stuff. EC: Do you like working in pairs? C: Yeah I like working in pairs. EC: Do you find that working in groups and in pairs is effective? C: No, I think that independent learning is the best. EC: What do you mean by ‘independent learning’? C: Like, doing your own spider-diagrams, cards and stuff for your revision.


EC: So, would you’d rather work on your own than with other students? C: Yeah, I would. EC: Do you think that learning games are effective? C: I like playing games, but I don’t think that they are effective, because they are too much fun. EC: Don’t you think that fun can be effective as well as educational? C: (Laugh) Yes, it can, it can be effective as well, but it’s like-not rememberable (sic), because it is like a normal day to day thing. 3.3.3 Creating quality of the learner’s experiences: abolishing the expositor-/discovery dichotomy The main theme of these data challenges the either-or view concerning the expository/experiential division. The most favored experiential method was debates as students felt free to express their opinions by comparing and contrasting the two related ideas. In other words the students’ higher cognitive skills appeared to be cultivated. Sue exemplifies this occurrence by pointing to the evaluative benefit of debates. EC: What about the class’ debates. S: Yea, I like the class debates the most. EC: What is so good about debates? S: We get to share ideas with the students and get to debate about subjects, which is good, because that’s how I learn. EC: What it is in particular that you learn from debates? S: Um, we get to evaluate all the points that are for and against. However, the students also clearly value the teacher exposition. The interviewed teacher of sociology points to the quality of learning. EC: Thank you very much for agreeing to take part in this interview. My first question: ‘Do you think that your students prefer experiential methods compared with didactic methods of teaching and learning’? 18

T: I find that they like a combination of both of them. I think near exams they very much like didactic teaching to sort of cramming everything in but then occasionally they do like experiential types of learning. EC: Do you think that they like working in groups? T: I think they do but I’m not convinced they do as much work in a group as they would individually. EC: Why is that? T: I think there is generally too much chat and off task conversations. EC: What about working in pairs? T. Yeah that is effective, working in pairs. It gives them confidence, the ones that maybe haven’t grasped something then they can discuss it with someone that might click and feedback in pairs. EC: Do you think that they’d rather work on their own or you teaching them? T: They prefer me teaching them. This idea of them working on their own or independent study; they really haven’t grasped it at all. The students appear to support the integration of the two methods because of the subject’s complexity, the quantity of information and their own contributions during the teacher exposition. Jane exemplifies this occurrence. EC: How do you think psychology should be taught? J: I think it should be um, like more interactive with the teacher, because some of the concepts are quite difficult to grasp, because students don’t really have any background knowledge about psychology like English, maths and science, in those kind of subjects students can work independently, whereas in psychology, some theories and research are difficult to understand….I personally prefer teachers who explain topics and interact with students. EC: Tell me, what do you think about the power point presentation? J: I think they’re good, because we can get a lot of information. EC: Don’t you think that the lecture-based lessons are boring? J: No.


EC: Why? J: Because we learn from it and we can always say some things and have our own opinions. Anila claims that the lecture-based lessons do not have to be boring provide that this type of teaching is applied in moderation. EC: Don’t you find the lecture-based lessons boring? A: Not boring, because if you’re interested in the subject and find it exciting to learn about new stuff and new concepts and ideas – um, with lectures, if they’re too long they get boring, but if there are regular breaks in between, then you can learn from them. EC: What would be your ideal lesson? A: Half of it the power point presentation, during which the teacher actually explains the topic… (pause). EC: And then… A: And then we’d make our own notes and go through them and may be the class debate. EC: Do you think that the teacher should explain a topic prior to debates? A: Yes, it is important because then, you can just go off track and use something that probably is not relevant. Sharondeep similarly to Anila integrates the two teaching/learning methods in her preferred sequence. EC: I would like you to describe to me your ideal lesson in sequence, from start to finish. Can you do that? S: Um, walking into the classroom where the teacher has everything prepared and you know your place in the classroom. He could start with the power point presentation that could last for half an hour and then have a good discussion, debate or other class activities and then finish by homework or ask us to think about something for the next lesson. 3.3.4 Results derived from the quasi-experiment. The aim of this quasi experiment constituted the second aim of this action research and it was to assess the sixth formers’ performance after the two explained above three months


periods including different teaching/learning methods. The table 1 below demonstrates that the students’ performance was more effective under the guidelines of expository teaching/learning. It shows that three students achieved their top A-grades there three Bgrades and four non-passes (grade U) Average grade was D (53.6%). According to table 2, the students’ performance was less successful as there was only one top A-grade, there were no B-grades and 13 students got U-grade. The average grade was U (38%). The Wilcoxon’s test was used in order to statistically analysed the ‘within participants’ scores obtained from 25 pairs. The sum of positive ranks was W+62.5. According to a twotailed test, the values from the table are 5% 90 and 1% 68. Subsequently, the present result is significant on 1% level suggesting that the students performed better whilst exposed to the expository teaching/learning methods in comparison with the experiential or discovery teaching/learning strategies.

January 2007 Table 1: Psychological Investigations – external exam in psychology, year 12

Total of Students

Students with grade

Students with grade

Students with grade

Students with grade

Students with grade

Students with grade

Students with grade


A 3

B 3

C 5

D 5

E 5

U 4

X 0


April 2007 Table 2: Physiological psychology – mock exam in psychology, year 12

Total of Students

Students with grade

Students with grade

Students with grade

Students with grade

Students with grade

Students with grade

Students with grade


A 1

B 0

C 2

D 1

E 8

U 13

X 0

4. Discussion The aim of this action research was to concentre on two areas connected with the expository and discovery teaching/learning strategies. The first focused on the students’ preferences and second addressed the students’ performance. Concerning the former, the students appear to prefer a combination of expository and experiential teaching/learning strategies. Therefore the cognitive perspective’s constructivist claim that learning is an information processing encompassing categorisation and organisation of information via a coding system that needs to be discovered by a learner (Bruner, 1961) is not supported in this action research as these attributes need to be integrated with the use of expository organisers involving exposition of concepts to learners and comparative organisers according to which the required knowledge is designed to be learned, compared to, and related to the already existing knowledge (Ausubel, 1960, 1977). It was thought that the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods strengthened this investigation’s outcome at least in relation to the Baylis Court School. According to the results derived from the questionnaires, the students recognise the benefit of experiential methods including Q&A, working in groups and taking parts in debates. Yet, these strategies should be integrated with the teacher instructive rather than mediating input. The term ‘death by the power point’ (Petty, 2004) is not supported in this research and the 22

students value the teacher exposition that should take place prior to any experiential activities. There are certain limitations to consider concerning the use of questionnaires. The present questionnaire has been designed by the researcher without having it validated by the British Psychological Society (BPS). Perhaps unknowingly some questions were reflective of a researcher bias and to a certain extent, some students wanted to be socially desirable (see app 1), which may have influenced them to give untruthful answers (demand characteristics). Furthermore the inaccessibility of the appropriate statistical tool – in this case the Polytomous Rasch’s model (Rasch, 1961 cited in Wikipedia, 2007) – this outcome cannot fully permit testing the increasing level of an attitude or a trait. This is why the use of an observation was beneficial for assessing the students’ behaviour in their naturalistic settings by providing useful check on demand characteristics, which undisclosed observational methods manage to avoid. The students were asked to teach others according to the way they would like to be taught with the results predominantly favouring expository strategies. Nevertheless, again there are certain disadvantages to consider. It is important to emphasise that the common problem associated with the interobserver reliability where there is only one observer involved may lead to the observerbias (e.g. Cohen et al, 2000). This possibility can be excluded as there was not any ambiguity concerning the observed behaviour. However, there are other aspects that are not problem-free. The first one points to the issue of control over potentially confounding variables. For instance the observed sixth formers do not study for PGCE. It can be argued that teaching by ‘talking’ was the most obtainable method for the students to use. Nevertheless the peripheral outcome deserves attention here as it supports the secondary aim of this action research. As the students thought that they were taking part in presentations, this method is classified as experiential and it was clear that every student’s effort was appreciated by the other students. At the end of ten minutes session, each student-teacher was applauded by the rest of the class, which was very effective in terms of building (the particularly less able learners’) self-esteem. These results support Martin’s (1994) idea of anthropological basis of the learning by teaching concept by


emphasising the relevance of the pyramid of hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1970). This strategy also reflected the students’ use of their higher cognitive skill such as synthesis and evaluation (Bloom, 1956). The implication therefore is that in terms of theory building, learning by teaching empowers students and creates a mutual empathy and comradeship. Then, the use of unstructured interviews enabled the researcher to gain subjective meanings connected with the social context rather than only obtaining answers from standard formats that prevent a broader view. The present outcome confirms the insofar findings and clearly challenges the expository-experiential dichotomy as the students view the two in integrative rather than antagonistic terms. According to these data, the students’ ideal lessons should be halved by accommodating the two methods respectively. The students recognise that experiential strategies alone dilute the acquisition of information and hence the limited quantity of knowledge affects its quality. Subsequently, although the higher cognitive processes are associated with experiential learning, little knowledge could distort the nature of this experience (Dewey, 2006) as a “student is not always right”. There are limitations to consider. The first one points to the interviewer effect, who was a teacher, which may have caused the demand characteristics resulting in the social desirability bias (Cohen et al, 2000). However, as the students did not know about the teacher-researcher’s opinion on the issue, this possibility is not considered in confounding terms, especially that the interviewees were sixth form students for whom education is not compulsory. The second possibility includes the interpretation of data and certain misinterpretations may have occurred. Thirdly, limitations in interviewees’ responses point to the possibility that the students may have had difficulties in putting their more complex thoughts precisely into words. Despite these possibilities, in terms of the students’ preferences, this outcome is consistent with the other implemented methods above. Finally, considering the students’ performance, the effect of the expository and experiential teaching/learning methods was assessed via a quasi-experiment and the result


suggest that the students’ performance was better according to the use of experiential learning compared with the expository teaching/learning methods. Unfortunately, the present results are problematic. In general, it is difficult to establish high levels of control in this type of experimental design. For example, there may be a different level of difficulty in the taught material that was delivered in the first three months compared with the part of syllabus that was taught during the following three months. Yet, on a more specific level the problem is much more complex. The re-occurring difficulty concerning summative informal assessments is that students tend to take learning seriously before their ‘real’ exams rather than mocks. This was evident in the first mock exam that bared high level of non-passes (including able students) and the fact that the students admitted to not being able to revise because of all the other ‘real’ deadlines set in relation to other subjects. It would be interesting to find out whether the students’ results from their second end-of-term external examinations that will soon take place (but which unfortunately cannot be included in this action research) will be better compared with their previous exam. Interestingly, this second peripheral outcome in this action research implies changes within educational policies concerning the role of formative assessments. It can be agreed that learning, especially in such complex subjects as psychology, depends on repetitions or rehearsals that are necessary for a meaningful retention of information. I have argued in my TL 204 that despite a wide literature on various types of assessments and different learning theories, the present educational structure is not supportive of formative assessments. Many students do not learn systematically. They either cram the material approximately two weeks before their exam or pay attention only to the selected material for their coursework. A large number of psychological studies emphasise the negative effects of cramming, particularly concerning the duration of rehearsed information in this particular manner (e.g. see Freberg, 2007). Cramming is based on the so-called maintenance rehearsal (Craik and Watkins, 1973) according to which the information is massed and rehearsed over a short period of time and hence largely deprived of meaning. Yet, the material spaced and rehearsed over time relies on an elaborative rehearsal that is practiced in a meaningful by organising and linking the


information with previous knowledge and thus demonstrating a much longer retention of information (ibid). I have suggested that the UK should be more inclusive of methods that are characteristics to, for example, some Eastern European countries, in which the internal marking criteria based on variety of formative assessments create a percentage of the considered total mark integrated with external examinations. The present outcome suggests that in social sciences, the Cognitive Apprenticeships approach that harmonises expository and discovery learning should be acquired and supported by legislatively formalised formative assessment. This outlook should involve students as ‘co-researchers’ concerning their views on how they wish to learn, simply because (especially due to the technological revolution) these preferences may have a life-span. Due to the small and andocentric sample, the present cannot be generalised. However, there is potential for further research addressing sixths form students preferences and performance according to their grades, learning styles, gender and possible changes in perceptions on the above between AS and A2 learners. Bibliography Aspy, D.N. (1972) Toward a Technology for Humanizing Education. Champaign (IL): Research Press Company Ausubel, D.P. (1960) The use of advance organisers in the learning and retension of meaningful verbal material. In Gadson, S., Harrari, K, Legge, K and Sherry, L (2005). Psychology A2 for OCR. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers. Ausubel, D.P. (1977). The facilitation of meaningful verbal learning in the classroom. In Gadson, S., Harrari, K, Legge, K and Sherry, L (2005). Psychology A2 for OCR. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers.


Bloom, B.S. (Ed.) (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain, London: Longman Bruner, J.S. (1961). The process of Education. In Gadson, S., Harrari, K, Legge, K and Sherry, L (2005). Psychology A2 for OCR. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers. Carr, W. and Kemmis, S (1986) Becoming Critical, Education, Knowledge and Action Research. Lewes: Falmer Clegg, F. (1990) Simple Statistics. A course book for the social sciences. Cambridge: University Press. Cohen, M. Z; Khan, D.L. and Steeves, H. R. (2000) Hermeneutic Phenomenological Research. A Practical Guide for Nurse Researches. London: Sage Publications Inc. Craik, F.I.M. and Watkins, M.J. (1973) The role of rehearsals in short-term memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 12, 59-607 Dewey, J (2006) Learning is thinking about experience. Forrest, C (2004) Train the trainer. Freberg, L. (2007). Psychology, Biological and Social Psychology. Gadson, S., Harrari, K, Legge, K and Sherry, L (2005). Psychology A2 for OCR. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers. Gardner, (1993) Theory of Multiple Intelligence. In Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall


Kraft , (1997) in Studying Experiential Learning Lea, J. Hayes, D, Armitage, A Lomas, L and Markless, S (2003) Working in PostCompulsory Education. Maidenhead: Open University Press Kayes, D.C (2002) Experiential learning and its critiques: Preserving the role of experience in management learning and education. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 1(2): 137-149 Lincoln, Y.S. and Cuba, E.G (1985) Naturalistic Inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Martin (1994) Vorschlag eines anthropologisch fundierten Curriculums fur den Fremdsprachenunterricht. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia. www. Maslow, A. H. (1970) Motivation and Personality (3rd Ed.) New York: Harper Collins Maykut, P. and Morehouse, R. (1994). Beginning Qualitative Research. A Philosophic and Practical Guide. London: The Falmer Press. Petty, G.(2004) Teaching Today (3rd Ed) Cheltenham: Nelson Thomas Ltd Rogers, C. (1961) On Becoming a Person, London: Constable Rogers, C (1994) Freedom to Learn (3rd Ed) New York Merrill Shonkoff, J. P. (2000) Science, policy and practice: Three cultures in searched of a shared mission. Child Development, 71, 181-187 Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia. (2007) www. 28

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