03 SES 09 A, School Based Curriculum Development and Student Voice
Topic: Since the inception of the National Curriculum in 1988 in England there has been an increasing focus on measuring student and school/teacher performance, often referred to as output regulation. The dominant pedagogy is largely didactic and involves ‘teaching to the test’ (Berliner, 2011) which involves much ongoing testing. This focus on tests often reduces learning to a series of simplified steps which need to be mastered. The result is knowledge that is ‘decontextualised’ or ‘proceduralised’ and which loses its ‘organic’ connection to real life (Dewey 1916,1966) – in this context learning is thus neither authentic nor meaningful. This has serious consequences for student engagement with learning (Lawson & Lawson, 2014)
We have a general interest in enquiry-based and project-based learning (EBL/PBL) as these approaches have greater emphasis on meaningful work and student responsibility for learning. We are involved in a number of school networks committed to EBL/PBL and have two funded projects on the topic, as well a masters' module on EBL. Consequently we do not have a neutral stance.
'Skype Grannies' was a concept developed by Sugata Mitra, in which predominantly retired people conduct Skype session with pupils in India, in order to help them learn English. Both Skype Grannies and Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLES),another popular idea pioneered by Mitra, have been oriented locally towards EBL/PBL. The Skype Seniors Research Project is part of that adjustment, which built on Skype Grannies by working with schools in north east England, but using a wider range of volunteers, and a wider range of curriculum intentions. The objectives of the project were threefold: 1) to explore the potential impact that these new ‘voices’ in the classroom could have on the curriculum, pedagogy and student engagement; 2) to examine the technological infrastructure required and 3) to explore the motivations and experiences of the ‘Seniors’ volunteers. This paper explores the first two of these objectives through the following:
1) What are the practical challenges of using Skype in the curriculum?
2) What is the potential impact of the use of Skype in the classroom on the curriculum, pedagogy and student engagement;
We have approached the use of Skype in the curriculum in the full knowledge that all innovation is problematic, which has led one writer to conclude that an innovative school is one that uses one innovation after another without making any of them work (House, 1979). In such circumstances we take an interpretivist approach, in order to understand the perspectives of participants who are exposed to a number of strong policy influences, which favour more convergent styles of teaching. It is through understanding the pressures on and practical decision making of teachers and their leaders, and the perspectives of students that we are most likely to be able to support schools who are persuaded of the intrinsic value of EBL/PBL.
Berliner, D. (2011): Rational responses to high stakes testing: the case of curriculum narrowing and the harm that follows, Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 41 (3), pp. 287-302. Bernstein, B (1975) Class, Codes and Control Volume 3: Towards a Theory of Educational Transmissions (second edition) London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Brown, S. & McIntyre, D. (1993) Making Sense of Teaching, Buckingham: Open University Press. Dewey, J (1916, 1966) Democracy and Education New York: The Free Press Engeström, Y. (1999) Activity Theory and individual and social transformation in Engeström, Y., Miettinen,R. and Punamaki,R.L. (Eds) Activity Theory and individual and Social Transformation House, E. (1979), Technology versus Craft: a Ten Year Perspective on Innovation, Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol. 11, pp. 1-15. Lawson, M. & Lawson, H. (2013) New Conceptual Frameworks for Student Engagement Research, Policy, and Practice, Review of Educational Research, Vol. (3). pp. 432–479. Sannino, A., (2008) Sustaining a non-dominant activity in school, Journal of Educational Change, Vol. 9, pp. 329-338. Viilo, M., Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, P. and Hakkarainen, K. (2011). Supporting the technology enhanced collaborative enquiry and design project: a teacher's reflections on practices, Teachers and Teaching, 17: 1, 51-72.
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