1. a. Research topic.
As teaching progresses throughout the 21st century, information and communication technologies (ICT) is likely to become increasingly involved in the classroom environment. With the increasing involvement of ICT in the classroom, it is reasonable to assume an imminent move away from traditional teacher-centred pedagogy. This transition may progress at different rates in different places, however as the use of technology becomes widespread, older teaching methods may become less relevant. If project based learning (PBL) is found to increase student engagement, in assistance with ICT it might suggest that PBL is a good student-centred candidate for pedagogy in the 21st.
Research has been conducted into the three main focus areas of this study, specifically PBL, student engagement and ICT in education. However research into the synergy of these three strands is scarce. Most research into ICT focuses on the technology and not the pedagogy required to successfully and meaningfully integrate the technology into the classroom. Teachers are told it is important to use ICT, but are not told why or how. Barron (1998) found that PBL had ‘positive effects on student learning’ yet Muniandy (2000) found that ‘despite the availability of adequate technology infrastructure (to teachers employing PBL in the classroom) its use was … limited’. Harriman (2003) characterises PBL as a ‘disruptive force within classes’ which has a positive impact on student engagement as well as outlining the benefits of ‘online presentation of projects’.
This study aims to harness these benefits of PBL and ICT to enhance student engagement in the secondary English classroom. John Dixon observed in the 1970s that ‘Learning to use language continues so long as we are open to new experiences and ready to adapt and modify the representation of the world we have.’ (Dixon, 1975) ICT-based PBL aims to provide students with the collaborative and creative-thinking skills to adapt and modify their representations of the world through the criticism and creation of texts.
b. What research strategy will I employ?
The population will be at least two separate cohorts of students matched for age, demographics and ability and assumed to be representative of the students in this year group across Australia. Two different cohorts will be used to avoid practice effects whilst keeping the teaching environment the same except for the difference in the independent variable. One cohort will be taught using the traditional teacher-centred pedagogy (including text-book, whiteboard, worksheets and a classroom layout with students arranged in rows facing the front of the classroom) the other will be PBL-style (including digital technologies such as web-based tools, educational social-networking tools like edmodo, IWBs and mobile devices including mobile phones, iPods and netbooks/laptops.)
I will use a mixed-method data collection, including:
o questionnaire/surveys/check-lists assessing and evaluating the levels of students’ engagement.
o Collection of student scores based on formative and summative assessments using explicit marking criteria (for example quizzes, essay-style extended responses and group presentations) as well as student work samples.
o Interviews with students and classroom teachers.
o Examination of a variety of educational documents and artifacts used during each ‘trial’.
2. a. Key concepts for my topic.
o Project-Based-Learning – ‘In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking).’ http://www.bie.org/
o Engagement – defined as a “student’s willingness, need, desire and compulsion to participate in, and be successful in, the learning process promoting higher level thinking for enduring understanding.” Bomia, L., Beluzo, L., Demeester, D., Elander, K., Johnson, M., & Sheldon, B. (1997). “The impact of teaching strategies on intrinsic motivation.” Champaign, IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education. p. 294.
o ICT – in the 21st century classroom ICT refers to a combination of fixed (televisions, IWBs, computer lab) and mobile technologies as well as the software and web-based tools teachers and students access.
b. How will I collect data on key concepts?
o Project-Based-Learning – questionnaire/surveys/check-lists and collection of student work samples (possibly).
o Engagement – questionnaire/surveys/check-lists and interviews with students and classroom teachers.
o ICT – interviews with students and classroom teacher and examination of a variety of educational documents and artifacts.
3. Research question.
Does ICT-assisted PBL enhance student engagement in the secondary English classroom?
4. Independent and dependent variables.
Independent variables include the PBL intervention including the use of project scaffolds and ICT. Dependent variable is student engagement.