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Constructing classroom learning environments that are interactive and authentic and aim for learner empowerment

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posted on 2008-04-28, 07:55 authored by Wesley Hamilton
This paper examines the concept of learning and teaching effectiveness as defined in Kimbell’s (2001) assertion that the real products of design and technology classrooms are to be seen not simply in terms of ‘3D artefacts’ learners produce but rather the ‘empowerment’ of young people. Assuming learner empowerment is the goal, the challenge for teachers is to provide more authentic instructional contexts that will motivate and enthuse pupils in their learning and give them a real sense of ownership and personal achievement. This paper argues that collaborative interaction and imaginative engagement in authentic design and technology contexts helps foster an approach to learning that is empowering for both teacher and learner. Toward this end, teachers need to be reflective and analytical about their own beliefs and practices, and acquire deep understanding of cognitive and motivational principles of learning and teaching. In this paper the author examines how teachers can model and promote greater learner autonomy and empowerment within supportive and creative classroom learning environments. The research tutor worked collaboratively with teachers in two schools, primary (11 yr old pupils) and post-primary (14 yr old pupils), encouraging a greater emphasis on holistic teaching and more active and reflective forms of learner engagement. In the primary school, a story, featuring a dilemma and a challenge, provided an authentic context by virtue of its orientation towards mutual engagement and intersubjectivity. In the post primary school, a short four-minute video clip and other source material related to the G8 ‘Make Poverty History’ concert provided the context for imaginative engagement and reflection. The aim in both schools was to provide real contexts for learning and a classroom ethos that would encourage student voice, purposeful and imaginative engagement, decision-making, action and reflection (learner empowerment). Audio and video recordings, collections of pupils’ work, teacher and pupils’ questionnaires, field notes and reflective comments were used to provide the data. Semi-structured interviews with the teachers and pupils helped illuminate the contextual conditions that seemed to be significant in promoting more participatory and inclusive modes of engagement. Main findings indicated that facilitating student voice and more collaborative ways of working and thinking together helped change the classroom culture to one that empowered pupils in their creative thinking and learning. The quality of the talk-ininteraction, the nature of the teacher-pupil relationship and a more authentic form of pupil assessment provided the engine for driving the learning process forward in creative and personally fulfilling ways.



  • Design

Research Unit

  • D&T Association Conference Series


HAMILTON, W., 2007. Constructing classroom learning environments that are interactive and authentic and aim for learner empowerment. IN: Norman, E.W.L. and Spendlove, D. (eds.). The Design and Technology Association International Research Conference 2007, University of Wolverhampton, Telford Campus, 4,5,6 July. Wellesbourne : The Design and Technology Association, pp. 27-36



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