10 SES 04 A, Teacher Inquiry and Engagement when Learning to Teach
This paper addresses the conference theme of inclusion and exclusion through reporting on research into educational resources designed to cater for the diversity of learners in contemporary schools, and to assist in engaging all young adolescents in learning. Specifically, the paper reports on the evidence-based Student Engagement Continuum (SEC) Model and the application (app) that supports its implementation. Drawing from an international evidence base and empirical research conducted in a large Australian educational jurisdiction in 2016, the SEC Model was developed to provide a professional learning approach for secondary school teachers to engage all students in their learning, including those at risk of disengagement. In 2017, the Model was developed into an app—the Student Engagement and Teacher Reflection App (SETRA)—to ensure real time accessibility for teachers. A pilot study subsequently determined proof of concept and the potential effectiveness of the app as a teacher professional learning tool. Both the Model and findings from the SETRA pilot, and their relevance to European and international audiences, are discussed in this paper.
Aims and research questions
The aims of this paper are twofold: to provide insight into the development and significance of the SEC Model, including its theoretical and empirical underpinnings; and to report on findings from the pilot study into the effectiveness of the SETRA app. This paper therefore addresses the following research questions (RQs):
RQ1: In what ways does the Student Engagement Continuum Model serve secondary school teachers to engage students in their learning?
RQ2: In the views of a sample of secondary school teachers, how effective is the SETRA app in providing real time accessibility to professional learning for student engagement?
This paper draws from the work of classical sociologists such as Mead (1934) and Blumer (1969) to provide insight into the function of teacher education. As in previous work (see, e.g., Allen, 2009), we derived the theoretical orientation of this study from the interpretive school of thought of symbolic interactionism. This approach enabled us to focus on the professional learning of teachers as they described their experiences of both engaging young adolescents in learning and also of using the SEC Model via the SETRA app to enhance their own professional learning. Symbolic interactionism was appropriate for this particular study because it provides a means of elucidating how individuals give contexts and situations meaning through their interactions with others (Blumer, 1969). It aims to reveal the subjective meaning of human behaviour and underlines the role that language and thought play in the interaction among people in social contexts.
Mead’s (1934) concept of role taking was also used in framing this study. Described as one of the ‘‘specifically social expressions of intelligence’’ that shape the interpersonal nature of people’s work (Mead, 1934, p. 141), role taking involves an individual engaging in a self-reflective dialogue in order to act in a specified role. Mead (1934) considers the self to be divided into the ‘‘I’’ and the ‘‘Me,’’ with the I referring to the inner, reflective self and the Me representing the outward, socialised aspect of the self. Both are important for this study in which we examine the ways in which teachers participate in reflective professional learning to more effectively engage young adolescents at school. Professional learning is part of the role they play as teachers, a process that involves both parts of the self (the I and the Me) coming together. The reflective thinking undertaken in professional learning shapes the actions of the individual teacher by enabling them to develop and sustain a role through structuring and reacting to their own experiences (O’Connor, 2008).
This was a two-phased qualitative study. Phase 1 involved the development of the SEC Model and Phase 2 comprised a pilot study into the effectiveness of the SETRA app. Phase 1: Data collection in Phase 1 focused on gathering the views of a range of stakeholders about engaging young adolescents in their learning, including those at risk of disengaging from schooling. The study, conducted in 2016, was contextualised in one large Australian educational jurisdiction, with the sample comprising 107 teachers, students, school leaders, parents/carers, education departmental staff and consulting professionals. The data collection consisted of three parts: face-to-face and telephone focus groups; telephone interviews; and, school site visits. Thematic data analysis of data transcripts was undertaken and key findings were generated (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011) and used to inform the development of the SEC Model. Phase 2: The pilot study comprised a sample of six secondary school teachers in one urban government school. Data were collected via semi-structured interviews and participant written reflections. Thematic data analysis (Cohen et al., 2011) provided insight into the effectiveness of the SETRA app, both in terms of its functionality and its benefits as a teacher professional learning tool to engage diverse ranges of young adolescent learners in schooling.
The outcomes from this research have the potential to make a significant contribution to the teacher education field in several ways. First, the SEC Model is the first of its kind in that it has been developed from an evidence-based theorisation of teaching and learning that can inform the professional learning of teachers. Specifically, the Model serves to establish and foster best practice in teachers in engaging students in learning through meeting the behavioural, emotional and cognitive needs of young adolescent learners (approximately 11-16 years). The associated SETRA app provides teachers with real time access to supportive and reactive measures to address the particular learning needs of individual or groups of students; it thus serves as a conduit between theory and practice. Furthermore, the findings and outcomes from the research have international application as they address teachers’ digital competence and the integration of technology in teacher education and teaching practices, which are areas of increasing research focus in Europe (see, e.g., Ferrari, 2012; Spiteri & Rundgren, 2017) and beyond. Digital competence was identified as one of eight key competencies of lifelong learning by the European Parliament and the Council in 2006 and subsequently by the European Commission in 2010 in its Europe 2020 strategy. Using mobile technologies such as the SETRA app enables teachers to address their professional learning needs anywhere and at any time, thus overcoming conflicts with work schedules, which the OECD (2014) found to be one of the most commonly cited reasons why teachers across a broad range of countries and economies fail to participate in professional development activities. The OECD (2008) also calls for teacher professional knowledge and learning to be lifted beyond the level of tacit understanding, an issue addressed by the research reported in this paper.
Allen, J. M. (2009). Valuing practice over theory: How beginning teachers re-orient their practice in the transition from the university to the workplace. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5), 647-654. doi:org/10.1016/j.tate.2008.11.011 Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research methods in education (7th ed.). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. European Commission. (2010). Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Brussels, Belgium: Author. https://www.eea.europa.eu/policy-documents/com-2010-2020-europe-2020 European Parliament and the Council. (2006). Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning. Official Journal of the European Union, L394/310. https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/file/272/download Ferrari, A. (2012). Digital Competence in Practice: An Analysis of Frameworks. Seville, Spain: Joint Research Centre. http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC68116.pdf Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. O’Connor, K. (2008). “You choose to care”: Teachers, emotions and professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(1), 117-126. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2006.11.008 OECD. (2008). 21st Century learning: Research, innovation and policy: Directions from recent OECD analyses. Paris: Author. http://www.oecd.org/site/educeri21st/40554299.pdf OECD (2014), Talis 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning. Paris: Author. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264196261-en Spiteri, M., & Rundgren, C. S.-N. (2017). Maltese primary teachers’ digital competence: Implications for continuing professional development. European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(4), 521-534. doi:org/10.1080/02619768.2017.1342242
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