Action Research – Europe

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School: Miss HughesHighfield CE Primary School
Getting Ready
1. StimulusWhat could go better? What do you want to improve?What interests you? The impact of child-initiated learning in Yr3/4 vs. Directed learning.Child-initiated learning is central to the EYFS…why? Is it the best way for children to learn? Why is it not central to learning from Yr1-6? Is it beneficial beyond YrR? Does it engage pupils more/less as they grow older? Does child-initiated learning embed learning better than directed learning? Is there any value of creating child-initiated learning opportunities in upper year groups? Do pupils engage with child-initiated learning in upper age groups?
2. HypothesisWhat are your thoughts about the issue you are focusing on? Child-initiated learning is central to the EYFS for a reason…it therefore must have learning value.
3. ResearchWhat does the research say? What do others in my school know about this? The child-directed approach dates back to the 1700s when Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that the child is to be viewed as an active constructionist who engages in experimentation and exploration as he or she moves through biologically unfolding stages of development. Programs built on this premise focus on informal child-directed learning practices (Rescorla, 1991).“During adult-led learning we can feel that we are in control of the teaching we are providing. However, what we cannot have any control over is what young children are learning from these experiences. This is why it is so important to balance adult-led learning with time and opportunity for children to explore their own ideas, play with resources and use their imagination and creativity. It is only through doing this and practising the skills that they have learned that children will be able to take ownership of their learning and be able to apply it in different situations. To provide high-quality experiences for young children we should aim for a balance of one-third adult-directed activities and one-third child-initiated activities. The other third of the time should ideally be taken up by child-initiated activities that are then picked up on and supported by an adult – these are opportunities for ‘sustained shared thinking’ to take place.” (Optimus Education, web source, 2009)

The child-directed preschool believes that allowing children to choose the activities in which they will participate promotes enthusiasm for school, self-confidence, and creativity (Hirsh-Pasek, 1991).

Crosser (1996) defines the child-directed preschool program well when she states, “The teacher is seldom center stage. Children are the actors–the players. The teacher is on the sidelines coaching, observing, asking probing questions, and providing an island of security and comfort when needed.” Crosser adds, “An age-appropriate schedule for preschoolers is built around large blocks of time during which children move freely about the classroom, self-selecting activities in which to engage alone or with others.”

The child-directed philosophy believes that teacher-directed academic instruction creates pressure, inhibits creativity, and deprives the children of self-motivated learning (Hirsh-Pasek, 1991).

From a historical perspective, John Locke characterized the child’s cognitive development as shaped by the environmental experiences and learning opportunities provided by adults. Programs associated with this view are concerned with developmental and instructional theory and believe that children can benefit from structured learning (Fowler, 1983).

Advocates of the teacher-directed approach argue that formal academic experiences provide enrichment which gives children an important and valuable early start to school (Eastman & Barr, 1985). They believe that there is information that is both interesting and beneficial to young children and which young children, with limited life experiences, are not in a position to be aware of and seek knowledge about.

Bruner suggests that the curriculum be organised so that basic concepts are introduced and reintroduced at increasing levels of abstraction over time (Bruner, Olver, and Greenfield, 1966).

Jean Piaget’s developmental theory states that knowledge arises from an interaction between the child’s mental structure and the environment. He contends that learning takes place as the active child explores and manipulates the real world of objects and events. These are sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete-operations, and formal operations. The concrete operational stage includes opportunities for children to interact with a wide variety of objects and events while exploring their environment. In learning about objects and events, children develop intellectual skills such as classification, relationships, reversible and irreversible change, and concepts of time and space. These rules are practiced as children apply them to basic subject matter concepts, relationships between concepts, and problem solving (Forman and Hill, 1980).

My Focus
4. Research question Which is best for children’s learning: a ‘child initiated’ or ‘teacher directed’ approach?
5. PrioritiesHow does my question sit within my school’s current priorities? Have I checked with key team members/senior staff? Both approaches are valued within the teaching and learning at Highfield. Ultimately, we wish our pupils to enjoy their learning, while making effective progress.
My Enquiry
6. The InterventionWhat you will do? When? Who? How? This exploration will be set up in relation to a clear Learning Objective, whereby two control groups will experience the different approaches – child initiated or teacher directed.
7. Evaluation MethodsHow will you notice, measure and describe what happens? Two control groups, with the variable of teaching approach changed, and the following means, will allow for a comparison to be drawn:- Pupil interviews- Observation of children’s learning

– Outcomes subsequent to children’s learning

Key task(s). – Allocate children randomly to two groups. Both groups will gain equivalent curriculum content, while only the variable of teaching approach (child initiated, teacher directed) will change.- Undertake exploration.- Evaluate using evaluation methods (see above).

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