ERG SES C 02, Inclusive Education
Cooperation of students and teachers beyond traditional teaching and learning processes can be a partnership that results in creating a new set of knowledge and “self-empowered active learning” (Diaz, Allen, & Morris, 2015). Students from being “objects” of educational research turned into the “subjects” of research along with the growing importance of student's voice (Kellet, 2005), which tends to lead to a growing trend of school children research. The practice of engaging students in research is rather popular in many countries; however, it is not yet a common practice in post-Soviet countries.
The literature lists various advantages of involving students into research projects. Oxford International AQA Examinations (2018) states that student-led projects benefit students enabling them to step over the boundaries of the school curriculum and nurturing creative thinking, problem-solving, intellectual autonomy and research skills. According to Kellet (2006), the involvement of students in research results in a positive moral effect, namely their increased motivation, confidence, and self-esteem, and enhances critical thinking and communication skills. Similarly, Page, Ralebitso-Senior and Orr (2017) reported on the increased motivation among students engaged in research. In addition, the authors found that knowledge improvement, better academic writing skills, data analysis and organizational skills are also a major asset of research for students.
Taking into consideration the student-centred research is the object of investigation, it is crucial to acknowledge the role of teachers in facilitating students’ learning, school engagement, and involvement in research (Fives & Buehl, 2008; Fives & Gill, 2015). Hence, it is interesting to explore how teachers perceive this type of extracurricular work – how the project is carried out at its different stages, how the research team is shaped and what assessment and efficiency criteria they use.
At Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS), the network of 20 schools for gifted children in Kazakhstan, students acquire deep academic knowledge through the subject-oriented curriculum as well as extracurricular activities. One type of extracurricular activity is conducting research in cooperation with school teachers or external researchers from local and/or foreign institutions. This initiative is commensurate with one of the objectives of NIS schools “to create an educational environment favourable for the harmonious development of a highly educated, creative individual with a range of universal skills, namely:
- creative use of knowledge;
- critical thinking;
- ability to conduct research;
- use of ICT;
- application of communicative methods including language skills;
- working in a group and individually;
- problem-solving” (NIS, 2017).
The purpose of this paper is to study students and teachers’ current perspectives on conducting research in school as a part of extracurricular work regarding students’ motivation and efficiency. To achieve this, the paper asks the following questions:
- What are students and teachers’ perspectives on the level of students’ autonomy and motivation in doing research?
- What are the benefits and challenges of implementing research projects at school?
- What recommendations do students and teachers provide to foster the research work at school?
The authors believe that the research findings will contribute to the development of the research project framework at Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools which practice can be further adapted by secondary schools in Kazakhstan and may be interesting for other, especially post-Soviet, countries where the practice of student-led research is not widely implemented yet.
To answer the research questions, a mixed methodology design is planned to be carried out (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). There are two perspectives under investigation: students and teachers’ attitudes. Two versions of 24-item questionnaires were developed to ask students and teachers about the research projects they are doing as an extracurricular activity. Students of Grades 7-12 are asked about their motivation to be involved in the research work, whereas teachers’ survey is more focused on the efficiency issues. Both students and teachers are surveyed for their views regarding the main benefits and challenges of being engaged or leading the research activities and their recommendations for research work improvement. The surveys contain different types of questions: close-ended questions were used to collect participants’ demographic information while open-ended questions allowed the researchers to look into respondents’ attitudes. Also, both students and teachers are asked to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement to a series of statements on a 5-point Likert scale to study their perspectives on the benefits of implementing research projects at school and the level of children’s autonomy in doing research. Quantitative data will be analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics through the SPSS software. Using complete collection sampling (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011), 14000 students of Grades 7-12 of Nazarbayev Intellectual schools across the country are addressed with the online survey. Similarly, teachers’ questionnaire is administered online to 2500 school teachers to complete. Due to the voluntary nature of sampling, we expect the response rate to be around 30%. After the quantitative data is collected and analyzed (February-March 2019), a series of individual interviews with teachers and students’ focus groups is planned to be conducted in several schools to explain the quantitative findings (April-May 2019). Qualitative data participants will include research projects coordinators assigned for projects and several groups of students involved in research. The semi-structured interview and focus group protocols will be sequentially developed on the basis of the quantitative findings (Creswell, 2012) and processed using thematic analysis techniques (Braun & Clarke, 2006). As far as some quantitative and qualitative data operate with similar constructs, they will be combined in the discussion section to report on the findings: teachers and students’ perspectives on the level of students’ autonomy and motivation in doing research; the benefits and challenges of conducting research projects; and recommendations and implications.
Overall, the practice of school students’ engagement in research in Kazakhstan is a rare case in secondary education. It is a part of extracurricular activities in the network of Nazarbayev Intellectual schools which are innovative and autonomous in terms of the curriculum. These schools serve as an experimental platform to probe the reforms in secondary education. Thus, it is critical to understand the current tendencies in student-led research and its strategies to be implemented and potentially translated to the mainstream schools of the country. Children and teachers’ perspectives on research project work are expected to differ in terms of its relevance to students’ learning outcomes and autonomy. However, both children and teachers may experience similar challenges at various stages of the project. There can also be a different understanding of the research project benefits and rationale. Depending on the area of research interests, both students and teachers can experience particular issues while conducting research and collaborating with external organizations. A discussion on how to improve school research and recommendations for further project work enhancement will be provided.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology.Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101. Cohen, L. M., & Manion, L. (1979). L. & Morrison, K.(2011) Research methods in education. UK: Routledge. Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research. Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Diaz, A., Allen, L., & Morris, H. (2015, March). Student Research Teams (SeRTs): inspiring and enabling student-led extra-curricular and co-curricular research partnerships with academics and professional practitioners. In Proceedings of the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (Vol. 1). Fives, H., & Buehl, M. M. (2008). What do teachers believe? Developing a framework for examining beliefs about teachers’ knowledge and ability. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 33(2), 134-176. Fives, H., & Gill, M. G. (Eds.). (2015) International handbook of research on teachers’ beliefs. New York: Routledge. Kellett, Mary (2005). Children as active researchers: a new research paradigm for the 21st century? ESRC, UK. Kellett, Mary (2006). Pupils as active researchers: Using engagement with research process to enhance creativity and thinking skills in 10-12 year-olds. In: British Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2006, 6-9 Sep 2006, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK. NIS (Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools) (August, 2017). Integrated educational program. Astana. Oxford International AQA Examinations (2018) Student-led Projects. Accessed at https://www.oxfordaqaexams.org.uk/subjects/projects/ Page, H., Ralebitso-Senior, T. K., & Orr, C. H. (2017). Engaging students in bioscience research to improve their learning experience. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 1(2), 71. Teddlie, C., & Tashakkori, A. (2009).Foundations of mixed methods research: Integrating quantitative and qualitative approaches in the social and behavioral sciences. Sage.
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