Tag Archives: learning experiences

TechnoPush – An Inquiry Learning Project

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This video discusses the learning experiences of a class of year 4/5/6 students as they participated in the TechnoPush Challenge. It was designed mainly as feedback for parents to describe the learning experiences that students participated in and was included in the E-NEWSLETTER:-


“Jacqui Hinshaw has been completing a research project for her university degree and has offered to share her BLOG. The 4/5/6 class and TechoPush project were the basis for her project and she has put together an amazing analysis of the Inquiry learning that the children were involved in. If anyone is interested in having a look this is the link: https://learninginquiry.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/video-title/.You may also click on the two previous posts on this site, these explain the whole process in greater depth.” KH

ACTION FROM QUESTIONNAIRE #1 AND OBSERVATIONS.

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ACTIONS

The action that was taken to improve learning after the first questionnaire and observation of the Information Learning Activity (ILA) was to consider the configuration of the groups that students were working in. This was based on my observations that students were having some difficulty with the research process in their current groups and this was supported by the data from Questionnaire 1, Question 5, where students had listed “finding true (relevant) information” as the hardest thing to do. Given that the students had selected their own groups it was simple for the teacher to reorganise them into more efficient working groups of three to four that had a range of ages, abilities and skills in them. This was in keeping with Kuhlthau et.als, (2007, p.36) recommendations for establishing a community of learners.

“Small, flexible groups provide students with opportunities to collaborate with others and share the many perspectives that they bring. Using small interest- based groups through the inquiry process allows students to co-construct knowledge while collaborating on projects.”

The classroom teacher had knowledge of the students’ particular strengths and weaknesses in terms of their ability to research, process and present information and once she re-organised the groups according to student ability and skills the ISP progressed more smoothly. This strategy of the teacher assigning members to groups was utilised throughout the project and group configuration was changed with each new phase of the project.

 Given that Questionnaire 2 was completed at the end of the ILA the next action that I recommended was after an observation of the class whilst they were again working in small groups, after the cart had been built. The class was working on five group tasks: – pushcart decoration, scientific investigations, sponsorship letters, pushcart identity and poster production during the lesson. They were mostly in the initial stages of discussion and brainstorming with regards to these topics and the demands on the teachers’ time were enormous. It was a lesson where many students would have benefitted from guidance, described by Kuhlthau (2004) as a “zone of intervention, in which a student can do with advice and assistance what he or she cannot do alone or do only with great difficulty”.

 I was quite concerned about the demands that were being placed on this teacher, particularly given that she was both the library and science specialist in a small school who also took on a number of other leadership roles. Considering that all the research underpins collaboration (Kuhlthau et.al, 2007; Quigley, Marshall, Deaton & Cook, 2011; Donham 2010) and the use of an instructional team (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007) as essential for the success of an Inquiry Learning project I thought it was important that she was supported throughout the process. To help address this issue I scheduled my next observations to coincide with the periods of intensive group work so I could both assist and observe on the same day and there was also a fourth year student teacher who was on prac for four weeks who was assigned to the class. Although this was not an ideal collaboration (as will be discussed further in the blog post, Recommendations for Future Practice) it did improve the instructional climate for students. The teacher also found benefit in being able to discuss and share ideas and creatively plan and solve problems.

REFERENCES

Donham, J (2010) Deep Learning Through Concept- Based Inquiry. School Library Monthly 27 (1) Retrieved September 5, 2012 from http://www.schoollibrarymonthly.com/articles/Donham2010-v27n1p8.html

Kuhlthau, C. (2004) Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services. (2nd ed.), Electronic Library,

Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L. And Caspari, A. (2007) Guided Inquiry: learning in the 21st century school. Westport: Greenwood

Quigley, C. , Marshall, J.Deaton, C.Cook, M, & Padilla, M.(2011) Challenges to

Inquiry Teaching and Suggestions for How to Meet Them Science Educator; 20 (1) 55-61 Retrieved August 12, 2012 from http://www.eric.ed.gov.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=EJ940939

RESULTS

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RESULTS OF DATA ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF RESULTS

The first three questions on the Learning Reflection / Questionnaire sheets aim to ascertain the student’s prior knowledge and interest level in the assignment topic. In particular, Question 1. “seeks to capture the existing knowledge of a topic that the student brings to the task” (Todd, Kuhlthau and Heinstrom, 2005, p.18). The first question was worded to specifically ask students what they knew about the TechnoPush project and building and racing a pushcart. As previously stated the first questionnaire was completed a few weeks into the project and the second (final) questionnaire was completed two weeks after the conclusion of the entire TechnoPush project. The student responses to question 1 were then categorised into knowledge statements and coded as fact, explanation or conclusion statements.

Figure 1: Class results for Question 1

The results presented in Figure 1 demonstrate an increase in explanation and conclusion statements. Todd et al. (2005, app.B ) state that this is indicative of a significant growth in understanding of the topic. This signals a significant conceptual change to the student’s initial knowledge and demonstrates evidence of deeper processing which is one of the aims of inquiry learning. In order to achieve processing at this level “engagement and motivation” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari , 2007, p.26) are required. Figure 2 examines the students’ interest level at the beginning and end stages of the inquiry process and it is of value to compare the two sets of data.

Due to problems uploading this graph, click below to see it.

Figure 2  

Figure 2: Student Interest Level, Questionnaire 1 and 2

From the outset students were interested in this topic and their level of interest increased significantly throughout. On the first questionnaire 5 students (1/3), rated their interest as only ‘slightly’ but by the end of the project twelve out of the fifteen students record their interest level as being; ‘ very or extremely’ interested, the two highest ratings. The overall success of this Inquiry learning project can be attributed in part to the high levels of student interest. Student engagement in the project is essential for deep understanding and learning to occur (Kuhlthau et.al, 2007, p.25, Alberta Learning, 2004). “People learn best when they are actively involved in making sense of the world rather than passive receivers of information” (Bruner 1994 as cited in Kuhlthau et.al 2007, p.25).

To relate the data from questions 2 and 3 to the findings from question 1 a subset of six students were tracked throughout the Inquiry Learning Activity (ILA). Two students from each year level were selected and their data has been analysed in greater detail in Figure 3.

STUDENTS

Questionnaire

Yr.6 S1

Yr. 6 S2

Yr.5 S3

Yr.5 S4

Yr.4 S5

Yr.4 S6

Self Rated Level of Interest (scale 0-4)

1

3

3

2

3

1

4

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4

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4

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3

4

Self Rated Level of Knowledge (scale 0-4)

1

2

2

2

3

2

3

2

3

3

3

3

1

3

Knowledge

1 Fact

1

4

2

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1

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Explan

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Conc

2 Fact

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Explan

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1

Figure 3. Table of responses. Questions 1 – 3.

Students 3 and 5 rated themselves at the lowest end of the scale, both in terms of interest and knowledge in Questionnaire 1 and although their interest levels had increased by two points in Questionnaire 2, Student 5’s self rating for knowledge had decreased. His actual measured knowledge in contrast had increased: In Questionnaire 1 Student 5 had only provided a fact statement.

              It has wheels.

Whereas in Questionnaire 2, Student 5 provided both a fact and explanation statement;

One pushes and the other (one) rides. You have to do this together to race echother (sic) to the finish line.

So, in terms of knowledge gained Student 5 had increased, but his perception of his knowledge had decreased. One reason for this anomaly could be that insufficient reflection had occurred throughout the project. ” Reflection and thinking about the ideas encountered in the inquiry process enable students to construct knowledge and meaning” (Kuhlthau et.al, 2007, p.25). Given that the student is only in year 4 he may have benefited from increased reflection, which is a fundamental component of each step of the Inquiry process (Alberta 2004, para. 8).

Three out of the other five students in the sample rated their knowledge higher and two rated themselves the same in Questionnaire 2. Their levels of interest also increased significantly. There was no great variance in interest between the tracked students in years 4, 5 & 6 but there was a slight difference between the year levels in the measured knowledge component.

On Questionnaire 1, the year 4 students only provided one fact each whereas all the other students (with the exception of S1- year 6) had provided at least two fact statements. This could be due simply to their age and level of cognitive development. However by the end of the project each of these students demonstrated a measurable increase in understanding.

Student 5s responses have previously been discussed. In questionnaire 1, Student 1 (Yr. 6) responded with a single fact statement.

               It has wheels and steering.

In questionnaire 2 he still only provided a single statement but it was an insightful conclusive statement based on the experiences gained throughout the whole project.

              Its (sic) not all about winning its (sic) about having fun.

Student 6 also provided a single fact statement in questionnaire 1.

              I knew what one should look like.

Then, by the end of the project in Questionnaire 2, he was able to provide two factual and one explanation statement.

You build a pushcart design then you choose people to make the design. You vote choose a pitcrew (sic).

Each of the students in this Inquiry project have demonstrated that their past experiences and prior understandings formed the basis for creating new knowledge. This is one of the basic tenets of constructivist theory which also maintains that connections to a child’s present knowledge are essential for constructing new understanding (Kuhlthau et.al, 2007, p.25). This Guided Inquiry project has been successful in that students have been able to build on what they already know to form personal perspectives about the world around them. They have been involved in an active ongoing process of learning.

Data for the first three questions were coded and analysed according to the SLIM toolkit. For questions four and five and six, themes emerged from the data and coding categories were developed for these.

The responses on Questionnaire 1 relate specifically to research as this is what the students had been engaged in. However, Questionnaire 2, relates to the whole TechnoPush project and when experienced in its entirety research was only a minor component hence there is a great variation in emergent themes. The themes have been categorised according to the terms that students used.


Figure 4. Questionnaire 1. Student responses to questions 4 & 5

Interestingly, in the responses to questions 4 and 5 on Questionnaire 1 (Figure 4) ‘research’ and ‘write out information’ appears as both easy and hard in varying degrees. If time permitted it would have been worthwhile to interview the students and extrapolate exactly what they meant by these generalised terms. The seemingly conflicting data in these responses can be explained from an observation I did of the class whilst they were researching.

My initial observation of this class occurred during the students’ first research lesson and they experienced a number of difficulties with the information search process (ISP). They were attempting to find information about specific components of the pushcart i.e. steering:- rack and pinion or Ackermann; brakes:- pedal or hand; and so forth. This research was to help them make informed decisions as to which components to include on their pushcart when they constructed it and they also had to ensure they met the specifications set by TechnoPush (Appendix A).

The students were working in self selected groups of four and the information they were finding was complex and very little related specifically to pushcart design. When they did find relevant sites most students did not have the capabilities to extract the necessary information from them .So, even though the students could easily find sites about ‘rack and pinion steering’ finding exactly what they needed to inform their pushcart design was extremely difficult for them. This could account for the largest number of responses in hard to do being ‘finding true (relevant) information’. Added to this frustration were the large numbers of blocked sites that students encountered. This lesson left most of the students experiencing feelings of frustration, confusion and doubt which is common during the information search process. (Kuhlthau et.al, 2007, p.19. Oberg, 1999, Para. 12).

Blocked sites were a common source of frustration for students during the ISP.

As Questionnaire 2 was filled in after the whole TechnoPush project had been completed the responses to Question 4 and 5 encompass this total experience. The emergent themes for Question 4 can be grouped under the broad heading of physical experiences (Figure 5). The students found driving, building and steering the cart easy to do. Added to this, from my observations they also found these physical aspects very enjoyable. The results they achieved during the race challenges would also support that the students performed extremely well in this aspect of the challenge, being selected to travel to Sydney for the finals.




Figure 5. Questionnaire 2. Q 4. Easy to do.

In contrast the responses to Question 5, hard to do, (Figure 6), can be grouped under three broad headings; physical, emotional and cognitive. Building the cart again appears and as noted on some of the individual responses a specific difficulty was learning how to use tools which is discussed further in response to Question 6. The other physical aspect that rated as hard was ‘running’. From some of the individual responses it would appear that the endurance part of the course was difficult as was the fitness training they did each week.

Running fast up hills on the course was hard.(S2)

I dont (sic) like running round the oval all the time.( S3)

Interestingly ‘research’ rated as the highest score in hard to do. This could be as a result of the difficulties experienced as discussed previously. In addition to this students had to re-visit their initial research several times throughout the entire project and present it in different formats emphasising varying elements. They had to use it for posters to explain the entire research, design and building process and also for two PowerPoint presentations required by the Kids Design Challenge judging panel. So, as students again accessed the research that caused feelings of frustration, confusion and doubt it seems that those feelings were again experienced to some degree with each new collection and presentation phase of the project.

 

 

 Students researched and presented posters in small groups, they then used these to present information to the TechnoPush judging panel.

An unexpected response from the students was the inclusion ‘cooperating’ as hard to do. Although only listed in this question by two students it is the equal highest rating in Question 6 and is discussed in detail as part of that analysis.

Figure 6. Questionnaire 2. Q5. Hard to do.

In the SLIM toolkit; Question 6. “What did you learn in doing this research unit?” gives the students an opportunity to reflect on their acquired skills (Todd et.al. 2005, p.19). However, as the TechnoPush project was broader than just a research project the question was reworded to: Question 6. “What did you learn in doing the TechnoPush project?” This gave students the opportunity to reflect on the project in its entirety and the emergent themes portray this.

Figure 7. Questionnaire 2. Q 6. What did you learn?

Constructivist theory recognizes learning as an holistic experience incorporating many ways of knowing. Children learn through all their senses. They apply all their physical, mental, and social capabilities (Kuhlthau et.al, 2007, p.27) and this was demonstrated in the data collected for Question 6. Again the emergent themes can be categorised under three broad headings; physical, emotional and cognitive. The surprising result to myself and the ILA teacher was the emphasis on ‘cooperation and teamwork’. This was not an explicit goal of the project but working in small groups and participating as a large team was something students were required to do throughout. Interestingly, whilst this project was taking place the Year 5 & 6 students were also participating in a Peer Support Camp and learning about leadership skills and it is this cohort of students that listed the responses in the emotional / affective domain. Through their participation in this ILA they were able to further understand both the difficulty and value of the collaborative process as they were the students whom took on the role of group leaders.

When working togeather (sic) you have to learn to cooperate with each other, to prepare for whats comming (sic) and think before you act (S3)

To co-operate with class members (S2)

To work coropratively (sic) with all studants (sic)(S4)

The students in this ILA were engaged in social construction throughout the entire project. They were required to have ongoing interaction with peers, parents, siblings, teachers and strangers, thus participating in a learning environment in which they were continuously constructing and making meaning for themselves (Kuhlthau et.al, 2007, p.28).

The greatest number of responses to Question 6 can be categorised under the theme of physical, which encompasses; Using tools, driving skills and physical fitness. Individual responses in this include:

           How to put a pushcart together and driving safely(S1).

           Leaning (sic) how to use tools (S6).

           Exsawsise (sic) and helthey (sic) eating (S5).

Learning how to use a variety of tools and how to construct the cart within the set time frame was challenging to most students in the beginning and there were affective feelings that mirrored the ISP experiences of frustration and doubt. However with weekly practice students were able to master the skills needed and became proficient at this task as is reflected in the number of responses in Figure 7 categorised under this theme.

Interestingly, research skills has a low number of responses and I believe that this is not because the students didn’t think that they learnt them but it is more to do with the timing of the final questionnaire and the wording of the question. The results of Question 7 ( Figure 8), support this theory as all students indicate that they they are either ‘confident’ or ‘happy’ with their research.

Figure 8. Questionnaire 2. Q.7.Feelings about Research.

This particualr ILA provided a holistic approach that simultaneously engaged students in a variety of learning experiences as evidenced by the results in Figure 8 and this has been the great success of the project. A wide range of resources in an array of formats presented through a variety of activities offers children a wealth of opportunities for learning (Kuhlthau et.al, 2007, p.27). The students who participated in this Technopush ILA project were offered many ways to construct deep meaning of the world and their life in it. Thus students were able to achieve success at developing competence with learning from a variety of sources while enhancing their understanding of the content areas of the curriculum (Kuhlthau et.al, 2007, p.28). This was evidenced both by the feedback sheet provided by the TechnoPush Committee (Appendix B) and the students individual assessment marks for the unit. Also, as demonstrated by the data collected and my observations of the group, students achieved an important aim of inquiry learning, “building deep knowledge and deep understanding of a topic and growing independence and ownership of their learning.” (Todd et al. 2005, p.8)

REFERENCES


Bell, R., Smetana, L.,Binns, I. (2005)Simplifying Inquiry Instruction. The Science Teacher. 72(7) Retrieved August 15, 2012 from http://www.nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=50983

Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L. And Caspari, A. (2007) Guided Inquiry: learning in the 21st century school. Westport:      Greenwood

Oberg, D. (1999). Teaching the research process – for discovery and personal growth.

In 65th International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Council and General Conference Bangkok, Thailand, August 20 – August 28, 1999 Retrieved September 8, 2012 from
http://archive.ifla.org/IV/ifla65/papers/078-119e.htm

Todd, R. J., Kuhlthau, C. C., & Heinstom, J. E. (2005 ). School Library Impact Measure (SLIM): A Toolkit and  Handbook For Tracking and Assessing Student Learning Outcomes Of Guided Inquiry Through The School Library. Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries, Rutgers University. Retrieved August 11 from

http://cissl.rutgers.edu/joomla-license/impact-studies/57-impact-studies-slim

 

APPENDIX A

 

APPENDIX B