Year 2 research report

November 2007

About this report

This report provides an analysis of activities that have taken place in two schools during the project to date, focusing on the achievements and challenges which have emerged, and quoting from interviews with students and teachers. The report is a companion to the Enquiring Minds guide.

The full version is available to download (open pdf version of Year 2 research report - 29 pages, 274kb), while on this page you'll find the report's summary.

Summary

Enquiring Minds began in summer 2005. Two Futurelab researchers worked alongside a total of ten teachers from two secondary schools in the Bristol region. From September 2005-July 2006 the Enquiring Minds vision was refined into a range of practical classroom strategies through ten one-day workshops and planning sessions, and through experimentation in classrooms. From September 2006-July 2007 the teachers ran Enquiring Minds as discretely timetabled lessons (ranging from one-and-a-half to three hours per fortnight). Two groups of children from each school, totalling approximately 120 students across both schools, participated. In one school students were from Year 7 (aged 11-12 years) and in the other from Year 8 (aged 12-13 years).

Enquiring Minds is grounded in theory and research in education. The main directions for the analysis emerge from theories about curriculum change, children’s cultures, classroom organisation, the generation of knowledge in learning communities where teacherstudent relationships are changed, the role of assessment, and from ideas about teachers’ professional identities and children’s identities as learners.

All of the teachers have modified their usual teaching practices in order to allow students to define the content areas for exploration. They report that they have been doing much less teaching from the front of the classroom than normal. Students told us that they appreciated this, claiming that they valued the space to make choices about their learning that they were provided with.

The project has indicated that it is possible for teachers to make room for students to pursue their own interests, ideas, questions and concerns through enquiry-based learning. These ideas included some drawn from popular culture (eg fashion, Japanese animation) as well as others with more relevance to school subjects (eg medical breakthroughs, climate change).

Teachers found that they needed to provide flexibility and structure for students to differing extents. Most of them provided logsheets and research booklets to help structure each student’s work, maintained deadlines and checked students’ progression regularly in order to ensure that everyone was able to proceed effectively and that they were keeping a record of all work completed. The four-stage Enquiring Minds cycle was used as a device for planning and organising students’ projects.

Students welcomed the fact that there was less ‘grading’ of their work in Enquiring Minds; some claimed this made the lessons less pressured. They also reported that teachers had spoken to them more during lessons about possible improvements to their work, which helped them to understand their progress and their possible next steps.

Teachers reported that aspects of their professional identities had been changed by participation in the project. Some reported that they had reflected on their usual teaching routines, while others stated that the process of change had involved some stress, mistakes and risktaking. Some argued that it was important to take those risks and that, with the support of other staff, this process allowed them to come up with tried and tested methods for future work of this nature.

top of page