From your examination of an aspect of practice (in Phase 2 Task A3), use the information you have gathered to understand and analyse how this aspect of practice is enacted (i.e. how it is done) in the workplace setting. Think about the potential implications (positive and negative) for young people’s learning experiences and professional learning.
**Post in your blog a critical analysis of how this aspect of practice is enacted in your work-place setting using evidence (from your methods of enquiry) which highlights implications for young peoples’ learning experiences (500 words). This is a summative posting and should follow the conventions for academic writing and referencing. Post this by Monday 22 October 2018.
A critical analysis of practice
The aspect of practice for this enquiry is how teachers ensure pupils’ attention is directed to intended learning. What follows is a description of the working definition of this aspect of practice, a brief review of the two methods of enquiry (group interviews and concept mapping), a summary of the implications for pupils’ learning and, finally, concluding remarks.
Clarity about the working definition of this enquiry is important because ‘attention’ in learning has multiple meanings (Banikowski (1999), Szpunar et al (2013), Fischer (2014)). For this enquiry, my working definition of attending to intended learning is ensuring the intended learning is the focus of thought (Shimamura, 2018).
The group interview was interesting but only consisted of 2 teachers. Following the advice of Delamont (2012), I ‘switched methods’ resulting in more of a focus group approach (sampling my teaching staff). Nonetheless, the discussion was very interesting not least because both teachers admitted that they had never considered ‘attention’ as the focus of thought having only considered ‘distraction’ and ‘losing focus’. However, once their own attention was directed to this ‘essential for learning’ (Szpunar et al, 2013) there was rich discussion about this micro-practice.
Concept mapping as a method for enquiring into practice was selected to help me better understand the theory of attending to intended learning. Whilst concept maps can be used for different purposes (Huang et al, 2017), I used them to “summarize detailed information succinctly” (p.209), namely to help me filter through my readings. The most important outcome of this concept mapping was the distinction between the different understandings of ‘attention in the classroom’ and, therefore, enabling my further enquiry to focus on attention as the focus of thought. The resulting reading then revealed some interesting advice on how teachers help pupils attend to intended learning (Banikowski (1999), Shimamura (2018)).
The implications for pupils’ learning that I have gleaned from these methods of enquiry so far are two-fold. Firstly, my teachers commented that now they are aware of this micro-practice they can see how important it is to give real attention to the possible distraction from learning that some tasks and activities inadvertently create. For example, the ‘rainbow spelling’ activity in infant classrooms is questionable in relation to how much time pupils think about the spelling compared to thinking about the colour of pencil. Similarly, with older pupils, asking them to write instructions for playing ‘Quidditch’ (J.K. Rowling, 1997) could involve more thought about the fictional game than about procedural writing. Secondly, the assertion that people can only attend to one demanding task at a time (Anderson (1993) in Banikowski (1999)) caused the teachers to rethink how they present new learning, ensuring enough time is given for a firm grasp of concepts before trying to apply them.
In conclusion, the methods of enquiry that I used were informative but didn’t actually work as I had expected or intended. The group interview method became, by necessity, a focus group interview but the resulting data was still very rich. Similarly, concept mapping – whilst not strictly a form of documentary evidence – was a necessary research method to explore the theory behind this aspect of practice. The data from both methods has revealed important implications for pupil learning that I, and my teaching staff, will seek to address going forward.
Banikowski, A. (1999) Strategies to enhance memory based on brain-research, Focus on Exceptional Children, 32(2)
Delamont, S. (ed) (2012) Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing
Huang, M-Y., Tu, H-Y., Wang, W-Y., Chen, J-F., Yu, Y-T. and Chou, C-C. (2017) Effects of cooperative learning and concept mapping intervention on critical thinking and basketball skills in elementary school, Thinking Skills and Creativity, 23, 207-216.
Szpunar, K., Moulton, S. and Schacter, D. (2013) Mind wandering and education: from the classroom to online learning, Frontiers in Psychology, Volume 4.
Shimamura, A. (2018) MARGE: A Whole-Brain Learning Approach for Students and Teachers. Available at https://shimamurapubs.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/marge_shimamura.pdf [Accessed 5.10.18]
Rowling, J. (1997) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, London: Bloomsbury.