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Practitioner Inquiry In Education Education Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 4780 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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A high level of intrinsic motivation towards academic studies is widely accepted to have a positive influence on long-term academic success (Guay, Chanal, Ratelle, Marsh, Larose & Boivin, 2010; Lepper, Corpus & Iyengar, 2005; Gottfried, 1990). Research shows that there are a number of factors that influence intrinsic motivation; reflection on academic learning being one of them. Reflective practice is now appearing in many new education initiatives, such as the Scottish Government’s ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ and has been suggested by Zubizarreta (2009) to be ‘arguably the new frontier in teaching’. Researchers, such as Alexander & Winne (2006) and Reynolds (2010) suggest that reflective practice helps to aid motivation and learning through the control of emotional states and a process of cognitive development (Baumeister, 2007). As children with attention and behavioural problems often have difficulty regulating their emotions effectively (Hunter-Carsch, 2006) they can find the process of reflection difficult to undertake. Buchwald, Schantz-Laursen & Delmar (2009) suggest that for a number of reasons using a video camera for reflective activities may reduce the anxiety level of participants, for example: they are not faced with the pressure of either a one to one conversation or having to commit thoughts to paper. Therefore, based on the discussion outlined above, this dissertation will investigate the possibility that:

1. Digital technology will enhance the ability of children with attention and behavioural problems to become reflective thinkers.

2. The improvement in the ability to reflect will have a positive effect on the intrinsic motivation of the children with attention and behaviour difficulties.

3. There will be a reduction in off task and disruptive behaviours in the classroom.

In order to carry out the research, it is proposed that the following will form the starting hypothesis and questions for the dissertation:

How does reflective practice, using the medium of digital technology (video), effect the intrinsic motivation for academic studies of a sample group of children with attention and behaviour problems in a year 6 class?

a) What impact does digital reflection have on the intrinsic motivation of children with attention and behavioural issues as opposed to the experience of their peers?

b) Does reflective practice using digital media affect motivation across reviewed subjects equally? (Maths, reading, general school attitude)?

c) Does an increase in intrinsic motivation have a positive impact on the attention and behaviour patterns within the classroom setting?

d) Does the initial starting point of intrinsic motivation effect the degree of change?

e) Does reflective practice, using digital media, have any impact either positively or negatively on intrinsic motivation?

As part of the first year course work, the author of this assignment completed a small-scale experiment examining the effect of rewards and sanctions on children’s classroom behaviour. The conclusion involved a discussion on whether rewards and sanctions condition children to respond to the expectations of others instead of asking ‘what kind of person do I want to be?’ (Kohn cited in Fisher, 2003). Asking this question challenges the individual to examine their own motivation for doing something, a form of self – assessment that may lead to the development of their inner self or intrinsic motivation. The findings from the assignment, along with personal experience working in an International school where reflection for children is common place, has shown the author that reflective practice is a valuable piece of self assessment but that not every child finds easy to complete nor gains anything worthwhile out of it. After reviewing a selection of current research (for example: Barrett, 2004; Buchwald et al, 2009; Lofthouse & Birmingham, 2010) it became apparent that using digital technology as a medium for reflective practice could help to develop an environment that may be more creative, exciting and motivating, whilst also removing the element of expressive writing which many children with attention and behavioural difficulties find difficult to carry out.

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Although there is a growing wealth of research looking at two of the elements to this dissertation, a combination of all three for this age range has yet to be found. For example: Barrett looks at using video and reflection for learning but through story telling whilst Buchwald look at using video diaries for reflection but in the case of children with serious illnesses. However, by carefully examining criteria, it is possible to select extracts from previous studies and relate the literature and conclusions to this dissertation.

A review of literature has shown that there are a number of definitions for intrinsic motivation but Lepper et al. (2005), is typical of many stating that intrinsic motivation is: ‘the desire to engage in behaviors for no reason other than sheer enjoyment, challenge, pleasure, or interest’. The question of how intrinsic motivation develops and if it can be influenced has been studied in many different ways and ‘encompasses a diverse array of theoretical viewpoints’ (Green, Martin & Marsh, online). To gain an understanding of how motivation in individuals may be constructed and how individuals develop competence and control beliefs about themselves, motivation theories, such as self – determination (Deci), social cognitive / self-efficacy (Bandura), attribution theory (i.e: Weiner) and goal orientation theory need to be examined. An understanding of the work of Gottfried (author of measurement Inventory in this dissertation) regarding subject specific motivation, as highlighted by Green (online), is also important.

Brockbank, McGill & Beech (2002) state that ‘most modern theories (of learning) promote the concept of reflection as essential for deep and significant learning’. This dissertation will be using the learning theory of constructivism as a theoretical model as it promotes the individual to use previous experiences to build new knowledge or understanding. Reflective practice aids the learner to become more aware of these thought processes and so have a greater understanding of the strategies they use to overcome problems (Wikipedia a, no date). This is particularly important for individuals with attention and behaviour problems as Meltzer (2010) suggests these students often find it problematic to ‘switch between strategies available to them’. Reflective practice is often described as ‘knowing about knowing’ and can be termed ‘metacognition’ (Wikipedia b, no date) with Donovan & Bransford in Alexander (2006) stating that metacognition does not work ‘independently of content’ but that strategies must be taught ‘in context of subject areas’.

Although digital technology has been used extensively in research for the purpose of observation, its use as a medium for reflective practice is not well documented. Barbara Cambridge cited in Barrett (2004) suggests that it supports the principles for ‘deep learning … including reflection’, whilst Buchwald et al. (2009) suggest that popular television shows (such as Big Brother) has made the concept of ‘videos diaries’ and audiovisual technology for ‘the younger generation’ a more comfortable experience to share personal thoughts with.

The overall framework for this dissertation will be a case study. Firstly, a measure of observation and measurement was needed that would provide a wider picture of the children’s behaviour than a survey could provide. Secondly, as the author is currently not working in the school being used, ‘hands on time’ will be a limiting factor and so the cycle of investigation and reflection with colleges, typical of action research, would not be possible. Finally, ethnography was not chosen as this dissertation does not take into account the children’s cultural or economic backgrounds, nor does it study the implications these may have on the outcomes of the dissertation.

A case study is often described as ‘single instance of a bounded system’ and providing ‘examples of real people in real situations’ (Nisbet & Watt in Cohen, 2007) In this dissertation the ‘bounded system’ are two parallel classes that are being observed in the context of their classroom, taking part in their everyday and normal activities. The dissertation is not designed to alter or create a false environment for the children to work within. An important characteristic of a case study is that data must be drawn from a number of sources to provide validity to the outcomes (Qi, 2009). This is called ‘triangulation’ and, as in the case of this dissertation, can be a collection of data from different sources about the same phenomena (Yin, 2003). In this dissertation the data will be taken from three different sources – a children’s motivational inventory, class observation and teachers’ feedback. The data collected will be both quantitative and qualitative, with the inventory providing the statistical quantitative data and the observation and feedback proving the qualitative descriptive narrative. Ary, Cheser Jacobs, Razavieh, & Sorenzen (2009) suggest that using a mixed approach to data collection can in some cases be preferable to a single approach as it may offer a better and more enlightening understanding. Gilham (2000) clarifies this by suggesting that very important statistical outcomes often don’t provide the full picture, ‘facts do not talk for themselves’.

Quantitative data is used in research to ‘explain phenomena … using mathematically based methods’ (Aliaga & Gunderson cited in Muijs, 2004). In this dissertation, participating children will be given an inventory to complete at both the beginning and end of the reflective practice period with fixed responses that, using the Likert Scale, will be given numerical values and in turn be used to produce graphs or tables for conclusions to be drawn from. In this way the impact of the period of reflective practice on intrinsic motivation can be measured in a numerical, precise and controlled manner providing both a base line to work from and also a scale to measure change. This will also negate the impact of the differing starting points for each child as it is the change that is being measured not the level of intrinsic motivation at the end of the dissertation. The quantitative data will be collected in a ‘quasi – experimental’ approach. This method has been chosen as the assignment of children is fixed (established classes), variables that may effect intrinsic motivation are identified before the research starts with one independent variable (video reflection) being chosen to manipulate the observed and measured dependent variable (intrinsic motivation) (Ary et al, 2009).

Qualitative data is collected to aid ‘understanding a human phenomena, discourse or interaction’ (Lichtman, 2009) with other researchers (such as Yin, 2003; Sherman & Webb, 1988) emphasising the importance of the information gathered being a ‘discovery that leads to insight’ rather than looking for a predetermined idea (Sherman et al., 1988). The teacher interviews will be used to collect qualitative data for the purpose of both adding context and explanation to the outcomes of the Inventory. This method of looking at the data is called ‘explanation building’ with the data providing an explanation for the case as a whole (Klenke, 2008). In the case of this dissertation, as the author won’t be in the school often and so the opportunity for the author to act as a ‘primary data collection tool’ will be limited, the element of teacher feedback will be crucial in providing a better insight into additional contextual and environmental factors for example: parental and peer influence. The importance of this role is pointed out by Klenke (2008) as he suggests that it is only in face-to-face situations, that the ‘complexity and subtlety … which is human experience’ can be ‘captured’.

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The video observation of the children will enable both qualitative and quantitative data to be collected. Under this method, the qualitative information collected (behaviour) will be allocated numerical value using a coding system. This method allows for a snap shot of off-task behaviour to be commentated on with conclusions being supported with numerical values. However, it also allows for descriptive commentary where necessary to explain outcomes – for example: were some behaviours observed at particular points of the lesson or were any a reaction to a stimulation.

In designing this dissertation, one of the biggest problems to overcome will be the gathering of information on other factors that may also influence motivation. The social environment within which the individual exists, for example: parents, different teachers and peers, also have an impact on the development of motivation (Alexander, et al., 2006). Whilst it is acknowledged that factors such as peer / parent relationships cannot be controlled, it is hoped that the information provided by the teachers may help to explain some of the issues. In addition, to try and lessen the impact that different teaching styles may have, the teaching team have agreed to deliver the same materials for each subject in the dissertation, at the same time of day and using the same teaching mediums.

Two parallel year 6 classes will form the participants for this dissertation. Within each class there are 4 children with attention or behavioural problems. One of the classes will take part in a period of reflection on their academic studies using the medium of video cameras to record their thoughts. The other will form the control group. There will be three forms of measurement undertaken to determine the children’s level of intrinsic motivation at the start and the end of the dissertation. These are:

Pupil observation

Interview with the two class teachers

CAIMI – Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivational Inventory

Pupil observation will take place to determine the level and intensity of attention and behavioural issues occurring in target subjects. The observation of pupils will be in the form of a video recording taken by the class teacher. In advance of the dissertation commencing and in conjunction with the class teachers, a list of behaviours that are deemed to be ‘attention or behavioural problems’ constituting off task behaviour will be drawn up. From this, a rating scale for both number and intensity of off task behaviours can be devised. Both class teachers and myself will then view the videos, with a comparison of results. It is important that two individuals review the videos, as it will add to the validity of the data collected (Ary et al., 2009). It is also important to note that, as they know the class well, the teacher observers are at a risk of bringing a biased view to their observations (Muijs, 2004). At two-minute intervals, a record will be made of the children displaying off task behaviour and what they were doing. This information, together with the teacher interview information, will be used to make an independent evaluation of the children’s level of intrinsic motivation for the purpose of internal validation of this dissertation. That is to say: does the reported levels of children’s intrinsic motivation match what is being observed? If not, then the videos can be reviewed to help provide evidence to help explain any unusual findings that the CAIMI may produce. The data gathered from the observation will be primarily quantitative (use of the numerical rating scale), but with the opportunity for the teacher to add qualitative description to explain results. This formal approach to observation will be non-participatory on the part of the observer as it is wished to view the class in a natural setting, with the pupils unaware that they are being recorded. It is felt that alerting the pupils to the recording in advance will result in some pupils altering their behaviour patterns. This direct observation of the class, Ary et al. (2009) suggest provides ‘more accurate data’ than opinions of teachers and children alone. There are two main disadvantages of this form of observation. Firstly, the amount of time it will take to watch the videos and carry out the coding and recording of the target information (Gillham, 2000) and secondly, the ethical implications of videoing children. This point will be discussed later in this assignment.

Closely related to the class observations, the two class teachers will be interviewed and asked about their ‘beliefs and feelings’ regarding the intrinsic motivation of the class and any contextual factors they feel are important (Ary et al., 2009). The interviews will be semi – structured and use open – ended questions. In line with the comments made by Sherman et al (1988) earlier in this assignment, the data gathered is expected to provide information towards a ‘context’ for some of the children’s displayed behaviour rather than provide a test for the proposed hypothesis. As with the observational technique, the main disadvantages of this form of data gathering is in the time it takes to review the interview and the potential for biased views from individuals. In addition, it should be noted that the interviewer is not experienced in this form of data gathering and expects that this inexperience may influence the process with the need to repeat, ask for clarification or ask further questions at a later date.

The main bulk of quantitative data collected in this dissertation will be the undertaking of the Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivational Inventory (CAIMI). Devised 1986 by A E Gottfried, the scale measures children’s intrinsic motivation in a school environment as defined by Gottfried herself. This Inventory has been chosen over others as it focuses purely on intrinsic motivation, where as others that were considered, such as the Elementary School Motivational Scale, also include measures for factors such as extrinsic motivation. This ‘self – report’ Inventory is designed for children of primary school age, with wording of the 44 questions at an age appropriate reading level, however, it is possible for the questions to be read to individuals who are unable to complete this task independently. Class teachers will administer the Inventory. The Inventory measures intrinsic motivation in four school subjects and also provides an overall school motivation rating. This links with the comments made earlier in the literature review regarding metacognition and intrinsic motivation needing subject specific attention. The participants are asked to respond to each question using a five point Likert scale that is scored by assigning a numerical value to each answer. The biggest advantage of using an Inventory such as this is that it can be administered quickly and easily to all participants and it requires little explanation for completion (Williams, 1997). On the other hand a disadvantage is that children may not respond ‘truthfully’ (a lack of understanding the question or unwillingness to give truthful answers) and so the results are compromised (Ary et al, 2009). Gottfried has attempted to negate this by using age appropriate language and ‘both positive and negative instances of intrinsic motivation’ (Williams, 1997) a comparison of which will highlight bias.

Although quantitative data is the easiest from which to extract results, it is important to ensure that all data collected is given an equal weighting in the final report (Hesser – Biber, 2010). After completing the CAIMI, the raw score for each of the five sub scales (four academic and one overall) can be gained. Once raw scores have been determined, the Inventory’s manual provides tables to convert the data into normalised T scores and percentiles. By using this form of comparison with a mean score, it is possible to place a child on a motivation continuum from low to high intrinsic motivation. Using a graph, in conjunction with either a percentile or standardised scale, it will be possible to draw bar graphs for the purpose of evaluation and comparison of data, for example: before and after results for each child across the target subjects. It may also be constructive to plot, as a bar chart, the change in intrinsic motivation for each child, reflecting the possibility of both positive and negative changes. It is also possible to see that for one of the dissertation questions (d) it would be helpful to draw a scatter gram to demonstrate the level of change that may have occurred.

The analysis of the video looking at behaviour will also be collecting data in a quantitative format. Each of the target behaviours and individuals will be given an identity code. This raw data can be displayed in both a graph form and have a qualitative element where contextual information is provided in a written description. Again, as the information will be gathered both before and after the research it will be possible to make a direct comparison of behaviour change.

It is intended to use the qualitative data that is collected from teacher interviews as explanation for the quantitative results. It would be possible to code the information gained and draw information from it in a quantitative format, however, in this case it is the expanded descriptive information that is important. For note taking ease, it is intended to ‘group’ linked thoughts, subjects and quotes together.

Williman (2000) states that ‘sound ethical procedures are the basis of good research’. As this dissertation will be carried out in a main stream school and involve two year six classes, the first of the ethical considerations will be asking for consent for both the research to be carried out and for participants to agree to partake. In the first instance the school board of governors and the head teacher need to be asked, in writing, for their approval. They should be provided with a complete outline for the dissertation that includes issues such as timelines, staff involvement and practical implications for the school. In addition to this, they should be fully aware of ethical considerations such as, what data gathering instruments will be used, the use of video and how all material will be stored (Walliman, 2000). Greig (2007) suggests research using children should be something that is ‘done with them, rather than to them’, whilst the 2002 UNICEF guidelines on child research makes it clear that both the children and parents must know the implications of the research. From this it is clear that the next step is in gaining consent for participation from the children and the parents of the two classes. Parents will be informed along the same lines as the board of governors with parents asked to return signed consent forms. However, children could be provided with a simplified version of the research outline to ensure that they all understand. A signed consent form should be gathered from each child. It must also be made very clear to all children and parents that if any child does not wish to take part in the research, or wishes to withdraw after the research has started, then it would be possible for them to discretely be given an out of class activity when data collection activities are happening. Although gaining the consent of all is not anticipated as a problem, alerting the children to the intended objectives risks them altering their behaviour patterns for the duration of the research. One way around this could be to provide the parents with a full outline of the dissertation proposal and the children a partial one, for example: telling the children they will be observed but not when it will be done. The BERA Guidelines (2004) discusses this form of ‘deception’ and states that it must be ‘avoided’ unless it is used to ‘ensure the appropriate data is collected’. Another issue that may be raised is the potential that one class is getting something the other isn’t. The school is fairly certain that the promise of a roll out programme after the dissertation is completed will keep parents happy.

Another consideration to reassure parents and participants about will be how the collected data will be stored, used and then, where it will be published. This should be done in advance of the dissertation starting. Coming to an agreement on how and what format the results can be viewed is also important. Clearly, it would be interesting for parents to see results for not only their child but both classes as well. This information will be provided to all involved in the form of a leaflet at the end of the dissertation. However, ensuring the privacy of all the children must take priority with any information that could identify a child kept out of the literature (Quigley, 2008) for example: all names or identifying markers should be blanked out or given pseudonyms (McNiff and Whitehead, 2009).

During the dissertation there will be occasions when the children will be videoed. This raises a number of ethical issues such as who is allowed to see the videos, how they will be stored and what happens after the dissertation ends. These are all different issues from non-visual data as in the case of the video all the children can be easily identified (Flewitt, 2006). These issues need to be discussed in advance of the dissertation with both the school and parents. It is anticipated that the teachers of the classes will take the videos and download them onto the school server for viewing. They will not be copied or viewed outside of the school buildings. Through seeking permission before the start of the dissertation, it will be possible to ensure that only children who have granted consent will be seen on the videos. With some types of observation it is desirable to use the footage as part of supporting evidence or for further research at a later date. However, in this case it would be possible to delete the video taken as soon as the dissertation is complete. As the children’s own reflection diary will be part of normal school activities, the school is taking responsibility for all aspects of data collection, distribution and ethics in relation to it.

As the school is currently undergoing some staffing changes and requires time to purchase and install video technology, a delayed start date has been negotiated for September 2011. Late in the summer term 2010 a meeting with the parents and governors of the school to outline the research proposals and gain consent will be held. This will be followed by a meeting with the children, again to outline the research and gain their consent. The initial teacher interviews, behaviour observation and CAIMI data collection sessions will take place in the first three weeks of September. From the end of September until the February 2012 half term, the information gathered will be collated and written up. Along side this, a literature review will be undertaken with the first draft ready for proof reading by the end of February 2012. After the February half term, the second round of data collection will be undertaken. It is anticipated that coding, compiling information etc will take until the end of April 2012. From early May until the end of June the author intends to focus on writing up the design, methods used and findings section. Finally, July will be used for the draft of the discussion and conclusion section. As each section has been completed it will be passed to another individual for proof reading. It is planned that the remaining time will be used to compile and print the completed dissertation.


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