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What *does* learning look like . . . to a pupil? March 14, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in research, TELIC.
Tags: , , ,

In a Tweet some while ago, Tom Barrett asked if anyone had thought of giving a camera to a pupil for a period of time . . . it might have been around the new year when all the 365 projects start.  This set me thinking, as posts from Tom invariably do.  In school we’re currently undertaking a thorough review which is looking at ICT as a whole school issue, at teachers’ ICT capability, at ICT across departments and we’ll shortly be exploring student ICT capability.  We’ve a pretty good idea how good students are in ICT, but what do they do with it beyond the confines of the ICT suite?  Part of that review will include a survey of some sort, but Tom’s comment made me wonder if there might be another way of exploring what students do in school and perhaps more importantly how and when they learn best.


From dkuropatwa on Flickr

Starting next year then, we’re going to equip 5 students from different years with a digital stills camera which they’ll carry with them and capture images showing what they perceive to be learning – a 365Learning project.  Now there’s clearly a huge amount to think about – practicalities, technical aspects, ethical considerations, monitoring progress and more.  But what’s challenging me at the moment is the basic premise – Learning.  What actually is it?  How can we recognise it.  Oh sure, we teach, ask questions, assess work, provide feedback, set and mark tests and note that students are making progress . . . ergo students are learning?  Well I guess so, but is that how students see it?  And how might we (they) capture snapshots of it happening over the course of a year?

Back to the ‘textbooks’ then to see what the world knows about learning.  Oh dear!  The answer seems to be quite a lot and not very much.  If my topic had been ‘the behaviour of gases’ rather than learning, I could have gone to a dozen different textbooks and got pretty much the same answer.  But ‘learning’ is a much slippier beast and has attracted a host of theories about how it works.  Greg Kearsley’s ‘Theory into Practice’ database lists 54 different learning theories, whilst the ‘Learning Theories.com: Knowledge Base and Webliography’ lists 5 learning paradigms, 4 Behaviourist theories, 10 Cognitivist, 9 Constructivist/Social, 6 Motivational/Humanist, 4 Design and 8 other miscellaneous theories. So that should be straightforward then!  I’m grateful to James Atherton for a much more accessible introduction on his fortuitously titled ‘So what is learning?’ page.

Perhaps I’m missing the point though and need to return to the original question – what does learning look like from a student viewpoint?  Maybe I ought to be looking at an approach using Glaser & Strauss’ grounded theory . . . might be quite a challenge as I’ve not worked that way before.

Anyway we’re going to run a pilot project to inform the planning and preparation of next year’s main study.  In addition to ironing out the technical and human elements , with luck and a following wind the pilot might suggest how we could design the study to allow us to analyse the data meaningfully.  Have you any thoughts?  How would you capture learning in a photograph?

ATHERTON J S (2009) Learning and Teaching; // What is learning? [On-line] UK: Available: // http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/whatlearn.htm Accessed: 14 March 2010

Glaser, B.G. & Strauss, A., 1967. The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research, Aldine Transaction.

Kearsley, G.  The Theory Into Practice Database. [On-line] Retrieved from http://tip.psychology.org Accessed: 14 March 2010

Learning Theories Knowledgebase [On-line] Available: http://www.learning-theories.com Accessed: 14 March 2010



1. jimbowa - March 16, 2010

Really be interested in how you are looking at conducting the review of staff student ICT skills. I am doing the same at our school and getting quality data from “busy” teachers is impossible.

2. ianinsheffield - March 16, 2010

Hi James,

Some of the thinking which went into the prep for the staff skills audit can be found here (https://ianinsheffield.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/ict-skills-2-0-audit/), where there’s also a link to a Google doc with the questions we used to form the basis of our audit. We were keen to move away from the word processing/speadsheet/presentation questions we used to use . . . things have moved on after all. Once we’d settled on the questions we wanted (pretty much most of the ones in the doc), used a Google form to deliver it to colleagues so that the data would build up in a spreadsheet behind it. We’ve already used the results to start informing our ICT CPD provision for colleagues, as well as inform our ICT development planning.

As for the student audit, same applies. We know from assessments in ICT lessons what their skills are in the common applications, but we’re keen to explore their capability in the newer aspects of Web 2.0, connectivism, collaboration, mashups etc and where and how (or if?) they develop that capability. Still working on that though so if you’ve any thoughts . . .

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