• Reviewing the challenge for able students’: a participatory enquiry exploring the nature of pedagogy that can enhance cognitive engagement with homework.

      Devlin, Linda.; Badyal, Caroline (University of Wolverhampton, 2013-07)
      This thesis investigates and analyses the level of challenge for able students in an 11 - 18 Academy. It is addressed from my position as the Principal of the case study Academy and a novice researcher. Eight teachers who formed the Teaching and Learning group within the Academy participated in the study, as part of a community of practice with an interest in the issue addressed and the research process. The study focused on concerns arising from Learning Walks and Ofsted feedback about the perceived lack of challenge for able students. Using a three layer action research methodology, the views and practices of staff and students about challenge in ILTs (Independent Learning Tasks) were explored. An initial brainstorming activity was followed by questionnaires, lesson observations and focus group sessions with a sample of 100 students (Years 7, 9, 10 and 11). At the close of the first layer of research, data analysis revealed a range of levels of challenge in different subject areas, and from these a Year 10 Geography group was selected, with the support of the teacher. The second action research layer involved the Geography teacher and 15 Geography students who had identified a lack of challenge in their ILTs. This shifted the focus of the research to consider the cognitive challenge incorporated into tasks, focusing on thinking skills and questioning techniques. The third and final action research layer resulted in a newly developed, collaboratively-constructed ‘student friendly’ thinking skills analysis which provided powerful and formative insights to ‘label’ challenge. The teacher responded reflexively to the outcomes by trying out a redeveloped approach to ILTs (homework) and questioning techniques within the Academy. The findings from this investigation suggest that, cognitively challenging, problem-solving tasks, co-constructed with students to include opportunities for Socratic questioning provide for greater challenge in the classroom. Finally, the benefits to be gained from establishing a research community where the Principal is the lead researcher, include an increased emphasis on staff as change agents and the critical contribution of student voice in pursuit of challenging teaching and learning.