St Hilda's Primary School
English Language IGPS Action Research Report
a) School context
As part of the school’s initiative to equip our students with critical thinking, collaboration and information skills necessary for the 21st century, St. Hilda’s Primary School set out to work on an action research project which involved the use of an ICT-infused STELLAR curriculum and the ACTS Thinking Tool -- an in-house developed tool involving the steps of “Ask a question”, “Challenge my idea”, “Think further” and “Speak up”.
The action research project aimed to enhance students’ process of developing details for writing an information text. Through the use of ICT, students receive real-time feedback from their teachers and their peers during the process of learning, and refine their work as they progress towards achieving the objective of completing a piece of writing that consists of relevant details and thoroughly developed plots. ICT is also used to track the students’ work progress.
The first iteration was conducted for 2 classes in the Primary 3 level, P3/1 and P3/5. Students in P3/1 range from the lower progressive to the middle progressive abilities. Students in P3/5 range from the middle progressive to the higher progressive abilities.
The second iteration was conducted for 3 classes in the Primary 3 level, P3/1, P3/2 and P3/5. Students in P3/2 range from the lower progressive to middle progressive abilities.
In both iterations, the students had access to laptops at a ratio of 1:1. This is underpinned by the school’s belief that with the use of 1:1 computing, students would be better able to create meaning using a range of modes of representation that goes far beyond what might be normally expected in print-based academic work.
b) The issue
One of the more significant areas of concern that the team noticed and wished to research further was developing details for writing an informational text.
Hence, the following initial statement of the issue was crafted to commence the action research project: Does application of critical thinking skills improve students’ ability to generate ideas in writing?
Based on the students’ writing assignments marked by the teachers, a typical area of improvement is for details in a composition to be relevant and thoroughly developed. However, an example of a student’s writing assignment below shows the research issue:
As observed from the above sample writing, the student has provided insufficient details for the setting in her first paragraph and insufficient details regarding the character's feeling or reactions in her second paragraph. This lack of developed details is observed in stories written by typical students in the study.
By incorporating critical thinking skills with writing plans, the students will be exposed to the alternative approaches that a writing piece may develop. Thus, the students may explore different ways and with different details to generate ideas for writing. With this approach, the issue of lacking details in writing is addressed.
Taking into consideration the evidence presented through the results analysis and close examination of students’ writing assignments, the project team decided to re-state the issue and reword the action research question: How does ICT-enhanced STELLAR approach integrated with ACTS develop students’ skill in adding meaningful details in writing?
c) Evidence of ‘success’
Based on Bowen & Cali (2003), we determined that evidence of success would be based on sufficiency and relatedness. This was incorporated into our Instructional Scaffold:
The following use of an Instructional Scaffold tracked the areas for improvement of the students’ group writing and it was observed that the students made an improvement to their writings in terms of Elaboration, Connectedness and Vocabulary.
Elaboration (Sufficiency): There are 2 main ideas found in this paragraph; introduction on the canteen and library. We found that there are enough facts and observations with regards to the canteen but further improvement can be made to elaborate on the atmosphere in the canteen. For the main idea on the library, he does have enough and credible facts about the school library.
Connectedness (Relatedness): For the first main idea about food sold in the canteen, the student has chosen details not only about food, but also about the stalls. The details about the stalls are not directly related to the main idea -- they would be more related/connected if the chosen details were about types of food instead of types of stalls. The second main idea about the library includes details which are specific though -- they are about what can be done in the library as well as the atmosphere in it.
Vocabulary: All of the vocabulary chosen is appropriate to the contexts of the two main ideas.
Elaboration (Sufficiency): There are enough and credible facts and observations to elaborate on the main idea. He described about format of the race, which is a fact about the race itself. An observation he mentioned is how the skills needed are arranged in such a way that it is challenging and fun.
Connectedness (Relatedness): The chosen facts and observations are specific and directly related to the main idea of how the race has been designed. Facts chosen include what skills are included in the race, how they are arranged, and what students are required to do in it.
Vocabulary: All of the vocabulary chosen is appropriate to the context of the main idea.
According to Bowen & Cali (2003), the key to helping pupils develop support and elaboration in their writing is to help them take the perspective of their readers and having them ask more specific questions. She posited that two important concepts in support and elaboration are sufficiency – the amount of details – and relatedness – the quality of details and their relevance to the topic. Referring to conferencing as being at the heart of helping pupils develop support and elaboration in their writing, Bowen & Cali (2003) opined that pupils learn to revise their own writing by asking questions about it and about the writing of others in their conferences with the teacher and with peers. Pahomov (2014) pointed out the value of technology in that it allows both pupils and teachers to easily provide instantaneous feedback, and allows this feedback to be archived for future observation and use. Putting together these ideas, conferencing done through ICT tools like Google Docs and Google Slides, which allow the teacher to provide instantaneous feedback during pupils’ writing, seems to provide much potential for pupils to develop sufficiency and relatedness in their writing.
Laurillard (2012), in writing about how teacher-student dialogues can be enhanced by technology, suggested that by entering into large-scale dialogues with pupils, the teacher “gives each learner a richer learning experience because they have an iterative dialogue with other learners, generate an agreed response, see the variation in responses across all groups, and hear the teacher’s discussion of each one.” Separately, she emphasises the importance of keeping the learners focused on articulating what they know, refining their articulation, and assessing for themselves the extent to which they are meeting their goals.
In writing about how technology can be used to transform the classroom, Pahomov (2014) highlighted that the use of technology allows the democratising of learning in the sense that student interaction can be highly synchronous, with everybody having a voice, along with the provision of an increased sense of confidence, in contrast to a typical classroom setting where only one person speaks at a time. This can be achieved using ICT tools which foster collaboration and peer feedback, like Linoit and Today’s Meet.
Two units based on information texts in the STELLAR curriculum– Life on the River from Primary 3 and Sports Day from Primary 4 – were selected for the two iterations. In designing the instructional activities for the units in the two iterations, the following process was adopted. Each unit was designed to comprise six key stages: Reading, Whole Text Study, Explicit Teaching, Class Writing, Group Writing and Individual Writing. At each stage in a unit, ICT tools were chosen to facilitate the instructional activities. Information in the boxes outlined in blue in the diagram below show the purposes of ICT tools for each key stage.
Iteration 1 – Life on the River
In the first lesson, the teacher used the Supported Reading approach to guide the students in reading the text “Life on the River” in chunks for details, focusing on four main aspects of living on the Mekong River -- travel, work, play and live. Utilising the A.C.T.S Thinking Tool developed by the school, questions relating to details about the four aspects were posed to students during reading. After re-reading the text, the teacher modelled the annotation of parts of the text using the web application "Crocodoc", uncovering the four main ideas in the text. Following the teacher’s modelling, the students did annotation on their own hard copies of the text. Through the lesson, the students understood that an information text is made interesting through its presentation of text features, including its paragraphs, main ideas, details and visuals. They also learnt to identify the main ideas in the information text and noted that each idea is supported by its own related details.
In the second lesson, the Whole Text Study approach was adopted. Revisiting the details that have been annotated in the previous lesson in Crocodoc, the teacher demonstrated the derivation of one main idea of the text with reference to the A.C.T.S. Thinking Tool.
Questions such as the following were used in the teacher’s demonstration:
A (Ask A Question)
What or who do you think are the details about?
Are the details talking about the same thing?
What is the overall message of the paragraph?
C (Challenge My Idea)
Can the chosen main idea represent all the details?
T (Think Further)
How can I refine the main idea to include all the details in the paragraph?
Can I re-arrange the details from the various paragraphs to form new main ideas?
Working in groups of fours, with each student having a laptop, the students modelled after the teacher and used the A.C.T.S Thinking Tool to derive main ideas for the rest of the text. Their annotation of details and main ideas were captured on Crocodoc. As the groups annotated, the teacher toggled between different groups' documents and used the 'Comment' function to give his comments and suggestions. When all the groups had finished their annotation, they were instructed to use the A.C.T.S Thinking Tool as a scaffold and the 'Comment' function in Crocodoc to comment on one other assigned group's work. When the feedback had been given, all groups were allowed time to refine their initial work based on the feedback given by their peers. The teacher consolidated the students' learning points at the end of the refining exercise. Through the lesson, the students learnt that each paragraph in the text had 1 main idea and at least 2 supporting details.
In the third lesson, the teacher began by revisiting the annotation and feedback completed by the students in the previous lesson. Gaps of understanding details and main ideas were addressed before the teacher moved on to explicit teaching of the language items used in the information text -- similes, vocabulary, adjective-noun combinations and simple present tense. Each member of the group was assigned one of the abovementioned language items to focus on in a portion of the text. They were required to annotate their findings on their group's Crocodoc, explaining how each of the language items was used in the text.
With reference to the A.C.T.S. Thinking Tool, questions such as the following were used:
A (Ask A Question)
What are the sheets of flattened rice noodles being compared to?
What are the carved pineapples being compared to?
C (Challenge My Idea)
Why do you think the writer of the text compared those things that way?
Through the lesson, the students learnt how information text is represented using present tense, as well as how relevant vocabulary, similes, and adjective-noun combinations are used to represent details and make an information text interesting.
In the fourth lesson, students in each group worked on one of two given scenarios based on the topic of “Life in Singapore”.
You are a nine-year-old student. You have been tasked by your parents to describe life in Singapore to their friend's child who is visiting Singapore. How would you do so?
You are a volunteer with Singapore Tourism Board. You are tasked to describe life in Singapore to tourists. How would you do so?
Each student in the group was given a main idea to research on using Google Custom Search. Information found by them was to be keyed into a pre-assigned Google Slide.
The students were required to use the A.C.T.S. Thinking Tool to help themselves as they looked for suitable details:
A (Ask A Question)
Did I use present tense to present my details?
Did I use similes and adjective-noun combinations to make my details interesting?
As the students worked on their Google Slides, the teacher monitored the progress from his own screen and gave feedback to them using questions such as the following to help them refine the presentation of the details:
C (Challenge My Idea)
Can the chosen main idea represent all the details?
How can you refine the main idea to include all the details?
Thereafter, the students were required to present their slides orally within their group. The students refined their work after comments were given by their peers, with refinements typed in another colour for easy tracking of changes. Through the lesson, the students learnt to build on others’ development of main ideas and details using guiding questions and refine their own development of main ideas and details.
In the fifth lesson, each student group presented its Google Slides to a neighbouring 'Listener' group. Using a Google Form, the 'Listener' group assessed the 'Presenter' group and gave comments. Thereafter, the groups switched roles and repeated the activity. Students then accessed the comments given by their 'Listener' group and refined their slides for improvement. The teacher showed some of the groups' Google Slides on the visualiser, gave his feedback on their work, and concluded the lesson. Through the lesson, students learnt to plan and organise the main ideas of paragraphs by providing relevant details.
In the sixth lesson, the teacher demonstrated how the students' input on their Google Slides could be put together to form two paragraphs of an information text. The students were then assigned one of two scenarios based on the narrower topic of "Life in the Eastern Part of Singapore". They were required to use Google Custom Search to find information on the topic, and to use Google Docs to produce a piece of group writing. Each member in the group was to focus on writing about one main idea. Following that, students engaged in peer commenting using the "Comment" function in Google Docs, with each member in the group in charge of reviewing one of the four aspects of the writing -- main ideas, similes, adjective-noun combination, present tense. Students then refined their own work based on the feedback given by their group members, making changes in another text colour.
In the seventh lesson, the students each typed an individual piece of writing on an even narrower topic of “Life in St. Hilda’s Primary School” using Google Doc.
Iteration 2 – Sports Day
Throughout the various lessons in Iteration 2, students were asked to fill in Google Forms as shown above to record their reflection and make their learning visible for the teacher.
The spreadsheet below shows a sample of the students’ input.
In the first lesson, the teacher used the K-W-L approach and the ICT tool, Linoit, as shown above, to guide the students in reading the text “Sports Day”. The Linoit board was divided into 3 columns with the headings "What I Know About Sports Day", "What I Want To Know About Sports Day" and "What I Have Learnt About Sports Day". Before reading the text, the teacher engaged the students' prior knowledge by asking them what they remembered about the Lower Primary Sports Day they had attended in Primary 1 and 2. He required each group of four to post one yellow 'sticky' in the column "What I Know About Sports Day" on the class Linoit board, stating one point. Next, from each of the ten responses posted, the teacher modelled the inference of main idea, categorising and arranging similar posts together under headings such as "People involved in Sports Day". Then, each group was asked to post a question about what they wanted to know about Sports Day using a green 'sticky' in the column "What I Want To Know About Sports Day". On their own, each group was required to categorise and arrange the 'stickies' under headings prepared by the teacher in advance. Following that, the students read the text silently on their own to try to find the answers to the questions they had just posted. The teacher discussed the text with the students thereafter. After a short text discussion, the class revisited the "What I Want To Know About Sports Day" column and added a 'tick' icon to their green 'stickies' if they were able to find the answers in the text. Suggestions as to where answers to the remaining questions might be found were then discussed. Finally, students were asked to post blue 'stickies' in the "What I Have Learnt About Sports Day" column, stating one main idea that they have learnt in each 'sticky' posted. These were required to be categorised under appropriate headings. Through the lesson, the students learnt about how the writer of the information text arranged his details.
In the second lesson, the Whole Text Study approach was adopted. Through examples from the text highlighted by the teacher in a deck of Google Slides, students were reminded that a main idea represents the broad message a writer wants his reader to understand about the topic. They also learnt that details develop and elaborate on main ideas, and can take the form of either a fact or an observation. Working in their groups of four on a deck of pre-designed Google Slides, students were required to identify whether certain statements from the text were facts or observations, and note down justifications for their choices. As the students justified their choices, the teacher gave ongoing feedback by using the 'comment' function in Google Slides. Students refined their justification statements and choices as they received feedback. Consolidation then took place in the form of a class discussion of selected groups' work.
Next, groups were assigned different paragraphs of the text to analyse. Working in their groups of four on a deck of pre-designed Google Slides, students were to identify one piece of facts and one observation from the given paragraph, and from the two pieces of details, derive the main idea of the given paragraph. The A.C.T.S. Thinking Tool was utilised by students in the form of questions:
A (Ask A Question)
What is the paragraph about?
Are the details talking about the same thing?
C (Challenge My Idea)
Can the chosen main idea represent all the details?
T (Think Further)
How can I refine my main idea to represent all the details?
The teacher gave ongoing feedback by using the 'comment' function in Google Slides. Students refined their justification statements and choices as they received feedback. Consolidation then took place in the form of a class discussion of selected groups' work.
In the third lesson, students were required to select from a list of words a word that does not fit the context of Sports Day. Each pair of students in a group worked on a pre-designed Google Slide and had to provide a rationale for why the word they had chosen did not fit. Through the activity, students learnt the importance of context and how to identify vocabulary relevant to the context through reasoning. The second part of the lesson involved students sourcing for relevant details for a piece of class writing. Taking on the role of student reporters who have to write an article about the Youth Olympic Games, the students used Google Custom Search to research for information. They were required to organise the details found under assigned headings such as “History of YOG”, “People Involved in YOG” and “Sporting Events” in a deck of Google Slides. As the students entered and organised the details, the teacher gave ongoing feedback by using the 'comment' function in Google Slides. Students refined their work as they received feedback. Consolidation then took place in the form of a class discussion of selected groups' work.
In the fourth lesson, the teacher demonstrated how the students' input on their Google Slides could be put together to form two paragraphs of an information text. Next, students were required to carry out research for a group writing piece based on a narrower topic of "Lower Primary Sports Day". To help provide context for their writing, they were given the following scenario:
"You are a writer with the school's newsletter. You are tasked to introduce what Sports Day in SHPS is like to the students in school. How would you do so?"
Students were provided with two web links to help them research for information about the school's Lower Primary Sports Day. Each member in the group was required to research details for one main idea and enter his input into a Google Slide. As the students worked on their slides, the teacher gave ongoing feedback by using the 'comment' function in Google Slides. Students refined their work as they received feedback. Following that, students engaged in peer commenting within their own group by using the "Comment" function in Google Slides and applying the A.C.T.S. Thinking Tool. Through the lesson, students applied their learning about information texts having main ideas, relevant facts and observations as details, as well as associated vocabulary.
Upon finishing the writing assignment, the students’ writing is stored online for all the students to see and learn from one another. It also allows peers to comment on one another’s writing for improvement and thus facilitates process of writing where editing and conferencing form the integral aspects.
The package was planned to be conducted for two iterations. The first iteration was conducted for the following two classes, P3/5 and P3/1, by their respective English Language teachers. The lessons were conducted in a regular classroom with students having access to laptops and tablets at a ratio of 1:1 and 1:2 respectively for most of the lessons. The first iteration was planned to have a total of seven lesson packages and they were all conducted within three weeks. This was a modification from the initial plan of having the first iteration for half a term, which is around 4 to 5 weeks, as there was a time constraint due to the curriculum planned earlier.
After every lesson conducted by the teachers, they would meet up with the Educational Technology Officers from MOE for a post-observation discussion on the lesson that was conducted. The teachers reviewed the lesson and discussed on the learning points of the lesson. Positive points from the lesson would be brought forward to future lessons. Negative points from the lesson would be further discussed as to how it should have been improved. The improvements being brainstormed would then be incorporated into future lessons where possible. There were some significant modifications made to some lessons due to these improvements discussed and will be further elaborated below.
For the first lesson of the first iteration, most of it was conducted as planned but at the last section of the lesson, a change was made. The initial plan was to have students annotate and highlight their work on hardcopies of the ‘Life on the River’ text. However, it was decided to allow the students to annotate their work on softcopies of the text on their tablets, using an online software called Crocodocs. It was because it would be more efficient and it could better facilitate the teachers’ assessment of their work. Due to time constraint, this activity was postponed to the second lesson.
During the second lesson, the teacher for P3/1 observed that most of the students faced difficulty with the usage of Crocodocs to annotate and highlight their text. They found it confusing with the technicalities involved. In addition to that, they were still unsure how to sieve out the main idea and the two details from the chunk of text given. Nevertheless, to ensure that the learning outcome was met, the teacher used an online platform for simultaneous discussion called TodaysMeet. He found that it was more effective in eliciting responses from the students and they were not distracted by the technicalities of the platform. The students were allowed to give feedback to each other’s responses for further extension of their learning.
The learning point discussed for this lesson was that the students were able to build on their peers’ responses and the teacher must be able to leverage on their eagerness to build on each other’s works constructively in future lessons. Besides that, the teachers agreed to re-emphasise with the students for the next lesson the importance of identifying the main idea and two details for a given chunk of text.
The third lesson was planned to reiterate the abovementioned and allowed the students to practice it as a group using Crocodocs. The teacher would then have a class discussion and presented some of the groups’ works on the front screen. The discussion was done using TodaysMeet. The last section of the lesson was planned to be the explicit teaching of language items, structures and skills. Each group member would be an ‘expert’ in an area as mentioned and they would then teach each other within their groups what they knew. However, due to time constraint, the students did not manage to teach within their groups. The teacher then explained to the class all the ‘expert’ areas and had a short class discussion verbally before concluding the lesson.
Following are the learning points surfaced for this lesson:
● The teachers discussed on a few strategies to streamline the distribution of laptops to the students.
● The use of TodaysMeet enabled students to delve deeper into the context of the passage as their thinking are made visible to themselves and the teacher.
● Teachers agreed that with proper structure and guiding questions, students will be able to give better feedback and strengthen their understanding of concept taught.
● Students were able to quickly assess his student’s understanding through the usage of Crocodocs. The teacher was able to make use of his students’ work for future lessons and bridge the gap between the various levels of understanding of the groups.
For the fourth lesson, the plan was for the students to have their presentation through Google Docs so that all the group members were able to input their ideas simultaneously and review each other’s work later on. However, a modification was made to use Google Slides instead as the text alignment in Google Docs might change abruptly without warning if more than one user edit the document simultaneously. However, a learning point raised for this lesson was that slides could be deleted accidentally as students’ intention to delete some text on a slide could cause the whole slide to be deleted if the wrong component (the slide itself instead of the text box) was selected from the document. Nevertheless, the teachers agreed that Google Slide would still be used as the main presentation tool as it had the necessary functions. The teachers would just need to briefly give instructions to the students the technicalities involved when deleting or adding text. Another learning point was that the “Comment” function within Google Slides was not user-friendly for students of that age group. Students were not able to comment productively on their peers’ work. Thus, the teachers agreed upon a Google Form for students to give comments through guiding questions and drop-down options. This allowed the students to assess their peers’ work through a simple rubric and at the same time, to still give feedback if necessary. These suggestions were then implemented into future lessons.
The fifth lesson was initially planned for a class writing session. However, it was modified to become a group oracy presentation due to the learning points raised from the previous lesson. The teacher would then consolidate all the students’ work and produce a ‘class writing’ piece by extracting relevant and interesting information from the various groups. In the sixth lesson, the teacher would then demonstrate the process of extracting the main idea and relevant and interesting details from the various documents, incorporating the language items, structures and skills. This was necessary for the next activity, which was group writing activity. The lesson went as planned and no further changes were needed. The last lesson was also conducted as planned without any modification required.
For the second iteration, it was conducted for three classes, P3/1, P3/2 and P3/5 by their respective English Language teachers. Similar to the first iteration, the lessons were conducted in regular classrooms with students having access to laptops at a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2, depending on the requirements of the respective lessons. This iteration was planned to be conducted for a total of six lessons within two weeks. Through the feedback from the first iteration, the teachers were able to ensure that the unit design was as comprehensive and streamlined as possible so that there would be minimal modifications to the lesson packages. Nevertheless, the post observation meetings were still carried out to ensure that the best teaching and learning would take place within the classroom.
Most of the changes carried out in the second iteration were more on the content aspect of the lessons as the teachers felt that greater scaffolding was required for some of the lessons, especially for the second and third lessons, where explicit teaching was required. There was an exercise for the students that was changed from requiring an open-ended answer to a drag-and-drop answer from a few choices available. The reason for this change was that they could better understand the skill required to identify the main idea from a chunk of text from the details given rather than over-thinking about the text itself. There were also helping boxes at the bottom of the exercise to explain the definition of facts and observations. Thus, in conclusion the lessons from the first iteration had helped to reduce the difficulties faced when conducting almost similar lessons in the second iteration.
Through the unit design plans and the artefacts gathered from this action research, we could see significant improvements to the issue that we originally faced at the start. However, we observed that these improvements were only significant after the second iteration. This could be due to several factors which will be further discussed below. Nevertheless, we agreed that an action research could not produce results over just one iteration but instead, would be most effective and productive after several iterations. This would be due to the constant improvements and modifications made to ensure that the students receive the best teaching and learning practices.
One of the main factors as abovementioned was unfamiliarity. The teachers involved are definitely very sound and adept with their curriculum knowledge and relevant teaching pedagogies. However, they were unfamiliar with the processes involved in an action research and the artefacts required from the research. It was a steep learning curve for both the teachers and students to adapt to the teaching and learning processes of ICT-infused lesson packages targeted for an action research. However, after a few lessons, they were able to understand the processes involved and the teachers were able to observe relevant results from the first iteration.
The second main factor was the technology itself. As the action research was very targeted and focused, the teachers used quite a handful of online tools and platforms frequently which would not have been the case frequently. Using technology also involves logistics with regards to the distribution and usage of laptops and also the connectivity to the Internet. Thus, it may not be seamless at the start but with constant usage, both the teachers and the students would be familiar with the technology required. This further enhanced the lesson packages and raised the students’ productivity.
Another factor that was agreed was the unfamiliarity the students had with informational text. Before the first iteration was conducted, the students were not exposed to the abovementioned text type. Thus, they had the uphill task of familiarising themselves with it and understanding the components required of such text type. In addition to that, the lesson outcomes required of them was to be able to identify and apply similes and adjective-noun combination to their writing. However, with the explicit teaching by the teachers (which includes teacher role-modelling), the students were able to comprehend what was required and the teachers do observe the fruits of their labour in the artefacts.
As observed from a student’s final writing above, the student was able to provide relevant and meaningful details to a main idea which includes his observations and facts about the topic discussed.
In conclusion, with the completion of the second iteration, the teachers were able to come to an agreement that the students writings had improved significantly with regards to information text as they were able to write proper pieces with the minimum requirements. They had a main idea for every paragraph of text and had relevant supporting details inside the paragraph. Furthermore, they were able to give facts and produce observations as the supporting details for the main idea.
As have been mentioned in the previous section, the artefacts gathered do support the unit design that was planned. It should be noted that the unit design had always been dynamic, not static as modifications were always necessary for improvement. The teachers were able to ‘see’ the students’ thinking throughout the process as they were given written reflection exercises to pen their thoughts on the lesson and also give suggestions to what they might want to see in future lessons. These reflection exercises were non-restrictive as they could discuss about the content or skills acquired with respect to the lesson conducted. It was very useful for the teacher to assess their students’ level of understanding due to this. With respect to the teachers’ thinking process on the other hand, the post observation meetings had been vital in capturing this and being laid out as learning points for further discussion and improvement to the iteration itself.
However, a concern that might arise from this is how far do the teachers go to constantly modify their lesson packages to meet the students’ learning needs? How much scaffolding is needed until the teacher reached the level that is considered to be ‘sufficient’? These were some of the questions the teachers had during the meetings because as much as the teachers wanted the scaffolding to be comprehensive and exhaustive where possible, they had to think of the limitations in practice. Examples of limitations could be time constraints, students’ learning abilities, physical resources or the technology available. Thus, even though the issue that needs to addressed might seem straightforward initially, a lot of factors need to be considered before it can be resolved. In addition to that, the issue could even require several iterations before the fruits of the labour could be observed.
Learning & Insights
- In facilitating the learning experience, the teacher’s role transforms from that of ‘a sage on the stage’ to ‘a guide on the side’. Concomitantly, the teacher’s teaching emphasis shifts from being on content to being on skills.
- The heavy use of ICT makes it essential for teachers to be proficient models of ICT tools usage and ensure that pupils are technically competent. Teachers must also take up the roles of creator and enforcer of classroom ICT routines.
- No longer just a one-way street, the more decentralised learning process for pupils requires the teacher to be a provider of instructional scaffolds that streamline learning in a non-traditional way.
- The teacher’s traditional role of monitoring pupils’ learning remains, but with this approach, there is an additional avenue to ensure that they are engaged through providing real-time feedback to guide thinking process and correct misconceptions.
- As learning becomes more decentralised, the teacher’s consolidation of pupils’ learning increases in importance.
Providing and Facilitating Real-time Feedback
- Real-time feedback that is timely, targeted and specific allows pupils to refine their ideas as they construct their final product instead of after they have completed their product
- In giving peer feedback, pupils model the way teachers provide feedback. This underscores the importance of teachers being explicit and accurate in the way that feedback is given.
Practice Enhancement through Technology
- The use of technology enhances classroom practice because of its power to democratise learning in two ways. Firstly, it allows an increase in pupils’ choice: Access to the Internet gives them the flexibility to pursue their own personal interests (for example, in the area of what information to research for inclusion in their writing) instead of having the teacher impart all relevant knowledge. Secondly, it allows an increase in pupils’ voice. Instead of the typical classroom setting where only one person speaks at a time (generally the teacher or confident pupils), interaction can be highly synchronous, with everybody commenting at once. This increased voice also makes pupils’ thinking visible.
- With technology allowing pupils’ ‘voices’ to be made visible and archived, their learning can be tracked to seek out improvement.
While a review of the student artifacts from Iteration 2 revealed that many pupils have increased in competency levels in all three areas of the Instructional Scaffold (i.e. sufficiency of details, relatedness of details, and vocabulary appropriateness), our reflection on the pupils' process of finding relevant information made it clear to us that they still need to be equipped with specific strategies for selecting relevant information from the sea of information available on webpages they visit while doing research. In other words, going forward, an action plan that teaches pupils how to separate the wheat from the chaff is needed. Pupils should also learn that in the selection of information, they must take into account their audience and select the strongest and most relevant information, delete the weakest and least relevant information, and arrange the information from strongest to weakest in their writing Bowen & Cali (2003). A possible idea suggested by Bowen & Cali (2003) is to have pupils summarise a same set of information for different audiences so that they learn to identify facts that are relevant to a specific audience. A follow-up action plan can take these into consideration.
Moving forward, St. Hilda's Primary School will be increasing the pervasiveness of the implementation by rolling out the planned lessons on "Life on the River" to all P3 classes and "Sports Day" to selected P4 classes in 2016. As the lessons are being conducted by the various teachers, peer observation will take place, followed by professional discourse to be carried out during the school's Professional Learning Communities (PLC) sessions. The school's ICT Mentors will also be consulted to review and fine-tune the choice of ICT tools used based on relevancy and effectiveness.
Bowen, K. & Cali, K. (2003). The Five Features of Effective Writing. Chapel Hill, NC: Learn NC. Retrieved from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/685
Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a design science: Building pedagogical patterns for learning and technology. New York and London: Routledge.
Pahomov, L. (2014). Authentic learning in the digital age: Engaging students through inquiry. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.