Opinion Former Article

ESRC: Technology plus pupil participation equals interactive learning

Teachers and pupils agree that active participation and talking about their ideas in the classroom helps children learn more effectively than using ICT just because it's there, according to an Economic and Social Research Council-funded study. The research, based at Swansea Metropolitan University, found that interactive whiteboards, which can be used for animated diagrams, video clips and presentations, were unanimously liked by teachers because they encourage pupil participation.

'The children feel they are doing something together because the images are so clear and everybody can see the same thing. It's not always that they are interacting with technology, but the ICT gives them something to interact about. They are more engaged and motivated,' explains Dr Steve Kennewell, who led the project.

Children said they liked using ICT because it was 'fun' and everyone could join in games and quizzes. They associated 'fun' with unpredictability, risk-taking, rapid feedback and competition and disliked passive learning, such as copying from a blackboard or watching simulated science experiments.

'Our research suggests that good teachers do not inevitably see better results when they adopt ICT because they are already using non-ICT based interactive techniques. However, by the end of the project many teachers had found ways of using new technologies to enable children to try things out for themselves, as well as presenting information to them,' Steve Kennewell says.

The findings are based on a two-stage study which looked at interactive teaching and ICT in 21 primary and secondary schools in Wales. The researchers analysed data from interviews and observation of 41 teachers who worked in pairs to plan lessons in mathematics, science or Welsh or French language with a particular class. Data were collected from teacher and pupil interviews, initial assessment tasks, video-recordings of classroom activity and group discussions.

In the first phase, one teacher worked with ICT and one worked without ICT. In phase two, all the teachers had access to interactive whiteboards as well as help from researchers to incorporate more material such as images, video clips, games and quizzes into their lessons.

The research recommends that future ICT resource development, including computer software, videos, handheld devices and web¬-based systems, should be focused on improving pupil participation and influence over their activities.

'Teachers should be encouraged to develop activities which give pupils more influence over their learning, mixing whole¬ class, small group, pair and individual work,' says Steve Kennewell. 'However, teachers also need support in using ICT to its full potential and this requires investigation and planning time outside the classroom and experimentation in the classroom.'

In all parts of the UK funding has been allocated to support teachers in using ICT. Under the devolved government for Wales, interactive software has been directly funded and developed with input from teachers. 'Some of the best maths software we came across was bilingual interactive geometry developed in Wales,' Steve Kennewell says.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT

Dr Steve Kennewell (01792 482012) Steve.kennewell@smu.ac.uk
Dr Kennewell is only available for interview on Monday 8th September to set up an interview please call the ESRC press office.

ESRC Press Office
Kelly Barnett (Tel 01793 413032/07826874166, email: kelly.barnett@esrc.ac.uk
Danielle Moore (01793 413122), email: danielle.moore@esrc.ac.uk

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. This release is based on the findings from The use of ICT to improve learning and attainment through interactive teaching,(award number; RES-139-25-0167) part of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and carried out by Dr Steve Kennewell at Swansea Institute of Higher Education. Details in Research Briefing 33 at http://www.tlrp.org/pub/research.html

2. The findings are based on interviews and observation of 41 teachers in 21 primary and secondary schools in Wales. The teachers were studied as they worked in pairs to prepare six months of lessons on particular topics in maths, science or languages for a specific class in each year-long phase of the project. In the first phase one teacher used ICT and the other did not. In the second phase all teachers used ICT when appropriate.

3. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It provides independent, high-quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC 's planned total expenditure in 2008/09 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

4. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

5. The ESRC confirms the quality of its funded research by evaluating research projects through a process of peer review. This research has been graded as Good.

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