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An investigation of the features of design and technology lessons that motivate disaffected and low ability pupils to engage in learning : an action research project focussing on perceived relevance

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posted on 07.08.2008, 11:12 authored by Michael Gary Thomas
This thesis is based on practitioner and action research by the author. A series of iterative case studies identified factors that contributed towards a group of low ability and disaffected pupils being engaged in learning in design and technology. The findings of each case study were analysed and conclusions used to frame the subsequent case study. Findings from these case studies were then used to develop an action research project. Discussion of the relationship between pupils’ perceived relevance of an activity and their levels of engagement has appeared on the UK educational agenda, (Ofsted 2005:51-52, Davies et al, 2004:147, Daniels et al 1998:5.5, Denton, 1992), but not with the frequency which might be expected. Initial research at the school found that a group of low ability and disaffected pupils had a very positive perception of the “relevance” of design and technology. In contrast the literature reviewed suggested that pupils in their samples had a low perception of the “relevance” of design and technology. Qualitative methodology was used. This included interviewing teachers and pupils and the development of a semi-structured interview schedule. Analysis of this data was aided by the use of a Likert, (1932) rating scale. A "summated" scale, Trochim, (2006) supported the interpretation of data. Observations were used to record classroom interactions. A Delphi group (Toffler, 1970:462) explored issues emerging during the research and to limit the danger of single observer bias. Pupil understanding of the term “relevance” was explored. The findings identified strategies employed to promote the relevance of the subject. These strategies were developed into an action research project that tested the strategies in three other schools. One school, with a relatively inexperienced teacher, found the strategies had a positive impact on teaching and learning.



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Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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