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Project Method
Stage One,
I researched student engagement and inquiry to develop my survey
questions and components
Stage Two
I had teachers from three schools complete the survey and then I
extrapolated the main themes for discussion by the focus group.
Stage Three
The focus group of eight teachers answered the questions I had posed
(which they had received prior to being videoed) and added further
comment, in answer to the main themes. (See video footage).
Stage Four
Analysis and evaluation of all findings and collation of findings for
presentation to peers.
Stage Five
Presentation of findings to all teachers and access to wiki with all details
etc. Expectation of ongoing professional development of teachers using
key findings and main themes.
Stage Six
Final Report for EDUX 441 paper and feedback/feedforward to principals of
schools involved.
Student Engagement
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All teachers could define student engagement successfully (question
one). When identifying factors that influence student engagement
(question three) there was a direct correlation between the years of
teaching experience and the numbers of factors identified. Only the
very experienced (more than seven years) teachers identified the non-
school factors e.g. home experience, personal comfort ±food etc. The
less experienced teachers all identified the following components: class
culture, resources available, student confidence to learn.
 
More experienced teachers have the skills to focus on a greater number
of variables whereas less experienced teachers are still focusing on
knowledge, personal skills etc as well.
 
Articulating and identifying the variables for less experienced teachers
so they are aware of them and hopefully will consider them more
because they are more aware of them.
Disengagement Strategies
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All of the disengagement strategies fitted into four key areas.
They are: energizer activities e.g. start jumps, high fives etc,
new activities or direction, student reflection/discussion, teacher
reflection. The less experienced teachers tended to indicated
activities and direction and the more experienced teachers
tended to indicate student reflection/discussion and teacher
reflection.
 
The increased focus on reflection currently was a key reason
given by focus group. They also indicated that less
experienced teachers focus on activities was perhaps due to
their pre-training focus on activity based programming rather
than focusing on student driven needs. Lots of discussion
occurred as to why this is, and no research is available to
confirm or deny why this would be so.
 
Greater emphasis needed on reflection and the strategies for
ongoing classroom reflection practices. From informal
discussions with teachers this is still an area of need identified
by teachers with varying levels of experience.
Inquiry Programmes
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There was a correlation between teachers experienced in teaching
inquiry and the number of components identified. Experienced teachers
averaged nine out of twelve of the components. Teachers with less
experience averaged five out of twelve of the components. All of the
less experienced teachers identified the following components:
authentic context, personal questions, appropriate activities and learning
styles.
 
After formal discussion with focus group members and informally with
several of the teachers the belief is that many of these teachers are well
ahead of their peers with their inquiry programmes as many others are
coming to watch their programmes. They consider the number of
components identified as high and they would like to compare these
results with schools who had not focused on Inquiry for their professional
development. Many have identified additional components now as a
result of the survey.
The components identified by the less experienced teachers are the key
components to start with and show the emphasis I have placed when
working with them with their personal professional development.
 
We need to focus on the less obvious components next years and
provide peer support buddies from the more experienced teachers.
Are students more engaged in Inquiry
than in other programmes?
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There was a direct correlation with class level (apart from with the non-
teaching principals). The teachers who were teaching in Y3 and above
almost all indicated Yes. The teachers in junior classes (Y0 to Y3)
indicated No. The main reasons given by teachers for yes were:
choice, practical/hands on, authentic contexts, width of learning styles
catered for. The main reasons given by teachers who said no were:
focus on reading/writing, lack of experience (in Inquiry), the age/stage
of their students.
 
From the responses in the survey it is obvious that the junior
programmes are dominated by the focus on literacy and numeracy
whereas teachers in more senior classrooms (Y3 ± Y6) indicated the
importance and the main reasons were similar across class levels and
schools.
 
Introduce a junior Inquiry model that will work within their junior
timeframes that better meets their needs. Having identified this last
year I am working on a junior inquiry model (based on Kath Murdoch¶s
play based programmes developed in Australia) that is activity based
with an inquiry focus and a clear structure.
Inquiry aspects that engage students
most
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There was a direct correlation between the aspects that engage
students most and the aspects that students liked best. The
aspects that were most often identified were: use of
equipment/practical/hands on, Tuning In/Finding Out/Sorting Out
± process, speakers/trips.
  
I expected to see the use of equipment/ practical/ hands on
aspects to feature highly because my anecdotal evidence
indicated this but I was surprised that Tuning In/Finding
Out/Sorting Out featured but after discussion it is thought that this
is because these parts of the process are best understood by
teachers, the best taught and therefore the most identified. I
wonder what components within these processes are most
engaging.
 
I would like to research further the correlation between
engagement and enjoyment and how they correlate so
completely. I will also spend more time talking with students
(student voice) to try to gauge the components within the
processes identified that engage students most and why?
Importance of student engagement
(specifically in Inquiry programmes)
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All teachers except one indicated that this was µvery important¶ and one
teacher indicated that it was µimportant¶. All teachers were undertaking
personal professional development in Inquiry and all identified the focus
through reflection or formative assessment. The key areas of focus
were: Inquiry process, integration with other subjects, components of
inquiry that support student engagement and reflection practices.
There was a direct correlation between identified importance and
professional development being undertaken.
 
I found this personally satisfying as I had worked closely with all of
these teachers with their professional development in Inquiry. The high
level of importance identified by the teachers indicated to me that this
was a significant reason for Inquiry programmes in schools.
These findings also highlighted the move towards identified professional
development through ongoing formative assessment results and
reflection processes which is vastly different from the externally driven
model of professional development that is being encouraged by our
present government with its µone size fits all¶ methodology for National
Standards implementation.
 
To continue with my current professional development model which the
focus group indicated was hugely successful and provide ongoing
feedback and feedforward to practices, as always.
lassroom Examples/ Further
omments (optional)
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All the comments were positive and insightful. The comments
were all made by more experienced teachers (more than three
years experience). lassroom examples showed excellent
understanding of the impact Inquiry programmes have with their
students. Some of these examples came from less experienced
teachers (less than two years) but the majority came from more
experienced teachers.
 
These comments and examples highlighted the impact and
importance of inquiry programmes and the focus group confirmed
that the engagement levels were higher within them than other
curriculum areas. The key point made was the transference of
these engagement levels into other areas because of the
integrated nature of their inquiry programmes. This was
emphasized most by teachers of senior classes.
 
I will work on including more examples of µbest practice¶ within my
workshops so as to show teachers examples of their peers
programmes etc and hopefully build greater networking between
schools as there are some truly stunning teachers of Inquiry
within our area.
How can we improve our practice and
professional development as a
response to this survey?
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Experience levels of teachers has featured in these survey results with
greater identification of components being the key evidence for this. All
teachers can describe student engagement and have indicated its
importance in programmes. The indications are that Inquiry
programmes increase student engagement more in senior classrooms
(Y3 to Y6) and less in junior classrooms even though all teachers
indicated its importance.
 
After discussion with teachers it is evident that student engagement
levels are anecdotally higher in all class levels in inquiry programmes
than other programmes and this is also more evident with the boys (as
evidenced by the teachers I talked with). The reason for this, according
to the teachers, is that Inquiry better caters for the learning styles of all
students.
 
I will survey students about their engagement in programmes and
analyse the correlation/ or lack of correlation with the µteacher voice¶
evidence that I have collated so far. My anecdotal observations over
the last ten years would agree with the above analysis. I intend to
research this analysis to find evidence to prove or disprove these
findings.
What components of Inquiry programmes improve
student engagement in the primary school and
why?
Although this question was answered in slide 7 the key messages for
me from this research process were:
‡ Inquiry programmes do increase student engagement both within
the programmes and in other programmes due to its integrated
nature.
‡ Student engagement is well understood by teachers and
components of engagement are considered by the teachers when
developing programmes.
‡ Teachers used a variety of disengagement strategies to re-
engage their students.
‡ Teachers consider student engagement to be very important.
‡ Teachers of senior classes (Y3 to Y6) believed that students were
more engaged in Inquiry programmes than in other programme
and gave a variety of reasons for this.
‡ Teachers gave positive examples and provided positive
comments about their Inquiry programmes and the increased
engagement they have witnessed as a result of these
programmes.
‡ Personally, my work as an educational consultant working with
these schools on professional development in Inquiry
programmes has been affirmed by all and this research will inform
the changes to my practice (as outlined previously) in the future.