03 SES 04 B, Embedding Students' Project Work in the Curriculum
Conducting research has great benefits for students in secondary education, because it requires a combination of several cognitive, metacognitive, and affective learning strategies, such as analyzing, critical thinking, testing, reflecting, motivating, focusing, and being curious (Van der Rijst, 2009). Such strategies foster the students’ learning process (Donker et al., 2014). Learning how to do research also prepares students for higher education, where doing research is common practice. However, students in secondary education in the Netherlands have difficulties carrying out research assignments. Gradually building up research skills seems to be necessary. This could be done by practicing isolated research skills, such as presenting or critical consideration of sources, but it could also entail going through the entire empirical research cycle in a simplified context.
In our study, research is defined in terms of the stages of the empirical research cycle (e.g., Klahr, 2000; Spronken-Smith et al, 2013; Willison & O’Regan, 2007). This means that we define student research skills as skills necessary to be able to go through the research cycle. The stages of a student research cycle include a) Orientation, in which students find and select a topic and get introduced into the topic; b) Focusing, in which students develop and select research questions; c) Planning, in which students make a research plan and determine which kind of data to collect; d) Collecting, in which students prepare, perform and critically consider the data collection, like a study of the sources, a survey, an interview, a test, an observation, a measurement, a visit or an experiment; e) Analysing & Concluding, in which students analyse the data and answer the research question; and f) Writing & Presenting, in which students report the research in a report or in an oral presentation. The latter stage includes an evaluation of the research process.
At this moment, higher grades students have to carry out a research project independently, but they are not properly prepared. There is no gradual building of research skills, because either research skills get little attention or the research skills are diffused over different school subjects. Complete research assignments in lower grades that require students to go through an entire empirical cycle are scarce. As a consequence of this lack of gradual research skills acquisition, students need much guidance in conducting the large research assignment (‘profielwerkstuk’) that Dutch students have to carry out in their last year of secondary education.
The current research project aims to develop and improve a research skills acquisition curriculum in secondary schools. The main research question is: How can continuous learning of research skills be implemented in secondary education? Teams of teacher-researchers in six Dutch schools have developed interventions that contribute to continuous research skills development across the age levels in secondary education.
Twenty-one interventions regarding students’ research skills were designed and implemented by teacher-researchers in six schools (two to six interventions per school). These interventions varied widely in scope, focus, and number of participants. The instruments and data collection procedure were different for each intervention. The teacher-researchers collected data for each intervention at their own school on the student and teacher level (in terms of students’ and teachers’ experience and grades on assignments). In addition, data have been collected about the characteristics of the interventions, school contexts, evaluations of the interventions and possible mechanisms through which the interventions should lead to improved students’ research skills. This was done by interviewing the involved teacher researchers. We compared the interventions on students’ research skills across schools using Context Intervention Mechanism Outcome-logic analyses (CIMO, Denyer, Tranfield & van Aken, 2008). This analysis concerns a case-comparative analysis technique which makes it possible to study implementation and evaluation of innovations across cases. This analysis technique is characterized by a chain reasoning starting with a specific Context, for which the design proposition suggests a certain Intervention type, to produce, through specified generative Mechanisms, the intended Outcome(s). First for each intervention in each school, the four themes (Context, Intervention, Mechanism and Outcomes) were coded. Then these four themes were connected using the chain reasoning of the CIMO-logic.
Data on the characteristics of the interventions and the school contexts show that, as expected, the interventions varied widely. The interventions focused on different research skills, school subjects, and both teachers and students in different grades. This combination of different interventions will provide a rich source of information on what type of intervention is beneficial for gradually building of students’ research skills. At the time of writing this proposal, the evaluation of many interventions is in its final phase, so for those interventions there is no information on the outcome or possible underlying mechanisms. Preliminary results based on the five interventions that are already finished show that students in one school experienced competence and autonomy during the orientation and planning phase of an empirical cycle, but felt much less competent and autonomous during the phase of focusing their research (composing a research question). However, results of another intervention in the same school, , showed that students recognized the criteria for a good research question and were able to identify good and bad examples of research questions. A third intervention in this school revealed that students had quite some knowledge of how to do research, but were unaware that they had this knowledge. At another school, students in their first year of secondary education were acquainted with different phases of the empirical cycle. They needed much guidance by their teachers, especially in formulating a research question. Third-year students in this same school participated in another intervention in which they had to solve a chemistry problem by doing research. There were large differences between students in this assignment, once again pointing out that a certain amount of guidance is needed before students will act autonomously.
Denyer, D., Tranfield, D., & van Aken, J.E. (2008). Developing design propositions through research synthesis. Organization Studies, 29, 393-413. Donker,A.S., Boer, H. de, Kostons, D., Dignath van Ewijk, C.C., & Werf, M.P.C. van der. (2014). Effectiveness of learning strategy instruction on academic performance: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 11, 1–26 Klahr, D. (2000). Exploring science: The cognition and development of discovery processes. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Spronken-Smith, R. A., Brodeur, J. J., Kajaks, T., Luck, M., Myatt, P., Verburgh, A., Walkington, H. and Wuetherick, B. (2013) Completing the research cycle: A framework for promoting dissemination of undergraduate research and inquiry. Teaching and Learning Inquiry. 1(2), pp. 105–18. Van der Rijst, R. M. (2009). The research-teaching nexus in the sciences: Scientific research dispositions and teaching practice. Academic dissertation. Leiden: Leiden University, ICLON. Willison, J. & O’Regan, K. (2007). Commonly known, commonly not known, totally unknown: a framework for students becoming researchers. Higher Education Research & Developent, 26(4), 393-409
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Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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