ACTION RESEARCH: PUPIL EVALUATIONS OF TEACHING AND LEARNING: AUTUMN 2017
Researcher: Mrs C Jackson and Mrs D Young: Minchinhampton
Context: Year 1 Questioning (across the curriculum)
Desired Outcomes: Children thinking deeply about their learning and applying reasoning to their thoughts.
Initial evaluation: Pupil conferencing with six randomly chosen children, some previously high attaining in questioning and some previously low attaining in questioning. Questions asked include ‘Why do you think that..?’, ‘How do you know that…?’ and may in lesson time include ‘What are your reasons for…?’, ‘Do you have evidence of…?’, ‘Can you justify your opinion…?’
Second evaluation: Repeat above exercise and look for qualitative differences in pupil responses/ Any conclusions from difference – improvements in responses responses/improvements in learning.
When we began this research in September, the children concerned had just come out of Reception. The age of the children at this time, combined with their early language and communication skills, presented a challenge when it came to collecting evidence. Given this barrier, we saw fit to engage the children 1:1 with the reasoning and evidence questions, such as ‘Why do you think that…?’, ‘How do you know that…’, as it was difficult to ascertain their opinions in a small group setting.
We found that the children’s ability to answer our questions at this early stage with any deeper reasoning than ‘because it is so’ was limited. They struggled to apply logic or make links between different areas of their learning to help them answer the questions. Generally, they were not willing to question their conceptions themselves, and would attempt to ask for the answer rather than choosing to explore it more deeply on their own.
We employed the ‘reasoning and evidence’ questioning techniques steadily throughout the Autumn Term, encouraging the children to give deeper answers in the hope that they would become more confident in offering their opinions in front of others. Over time, a few of the children began to do just this, and the responses of their classmates became increasingly respectful and carefully considered. As a class, the children are developing the ability to bounce off each other’s thoughts without completely changing the subject, although they still require support with the structuring of their conversations, e.g. ‘I understand your idea but I disagree because…’.
In conclusion, we have found that mindfully applying reasoning and evidence questioning to everyday conversation with the children has led to them becoming more autonomous in their thinking, which has been extremely satisfying to witness.
1. The children’s ability to think openly and give reasons for their thoughts developed throughout the term.
2. The children became more able to bounce off each other’s thoughts.
3. Structuring the conversations with prompts such as ‘Why do you think that…?’, ‘How do you know that…?’ often lead to the children questioning their previous ideas and laid misconceptions bare.