University of Cambridge Faculty of Education Research Reports

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These research reports have been submitted by students who have completed postgraduate level courses in the the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education. In some cases, these reports are assignments completed as part of the course; others are derived from longer dissertations, which may also be available.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 9
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    Finding your voice: A critical investigation, using approaches drawn from action research, into the use of dialogue and discussion to support A-Level students’ production of sophisticated academic writing
    (Camtree: the Cambridge Teacher Research Exchange, 2024) Lopez, Lauren
    Background and purpose: A-Level Literature students’ constant use of structured scaffolding techniques had resulted in limited analysis and exploration in their academic writing. Aims: This study investigates the use of dialogue and discussion to support A-Level Literature students’ production of sophisticated academic writing. Methodology: My investigation draws upon approaches from action research, using McNiff’s (2016) ‘action-reflection’ model. This research consists of a two-phase enquiry, with the initial phase investigating students’ experience of the teaching of academic writing throughout secondary school, and the second phase entailing the crafting of a lesson intervention to investigate the impact of dialogic teaching strategies in the teaching of academic writing. A qualitative methodology which is underpinned by a constructivist ontology and interpretivist epistemology adheres to the personalised nature of academic writing and dialogic strategies. Findings: The 15 Year 12 Literature students involved in the study, recalled their experiences of the teaching of academic writing throughout secondary school as involving predominantly teacher-led lessons and an overwhelming use of structured scaffolds. This influenced students’ attainment as they struggled to craft coherent arguments and explore their ideas, in addition to stifling their confidence and independence. Through the second phase of my action research investigation, promising evidence emerged that dialogue and discussion has the potential to transform students’ attitude towards academic writing. 80% of students in the research group saw their grades increase or remain within the A-A* bracket as a result of the dialogic intervention. The intervention granted students the confidence and independence needed to explore texts critically and creatively through the means of academic writing, thus creating ‘informed, personal responses’ (AQA, 2021). These findings have been summarised in ‘The Maximus Model of Academic Writing’ (Model 2). Conclusions, originality, value and implications: This study indicated the need to move away from structured scaffolds in the teaching of academic writing, particularly in the KS5 classroom. Dialogic strategies offer a promising alternative, by inviting detailed analysis and exploration by encouraging students to share their ideas and perspectives, while considering those of their peers. This approach allows for complex thought and personalised scaffolding, thus aiding in the development of written composition.
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    How can microblogging be used to facilitate an online community of practice and increase dialogic thinking?
    (Camtree: the Cambridge Teacher Research Exchange, 2023) Feliciani, Karolyn
    Background and purpose This inquiry aims to explore what happens when microblogging is introduced as a tool to facilitate an online community of practice. For many of our schools, online teaching during the pandemic was the predominant way of teaching and although some have now resumed face-to-face teaching many are still using a blended learning approach. Teachers are concerned that when teaching online some students are no longer participating and that this is hindering their progress. Aims The goal was to identify whether Talkwall (a microblogging tool) could create opportunities for online teaching to become more dialogic. Any change would be measured by the coding of group dialogue based on the T-SEDA analysis framework (T-SEDA Collective 2021). Study design or methodology The intervention involved three teachers based in Pakistan who were willing to discuss how they use a scheme of work over the course of two sessions. The first session was held over Teams with a question and answer format. The second session was also held over Teams but with the added intervention of a microblogging tool to help create a more dialogic environment. Teachers were also introduced to the concept of ground rules for talk. Findings The initial findings indicate that instances of inviting others to build upon ideas increased with the use of Talkwall. Contributions also increased among the participants as they began to lead the conversation while using the microblogging tool and implementing the ground rules discussed. Conclusions, originality, value and implications The use of microblogging is something for teachers to consider using when online teaching to help create a more dialogic environment in conjunction with dialogic pedagogical strategies.
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    How might explicitly increasing the use of dialogic approaches affect whole-group dialogue in virtual teacher professional development session run for an international examination board?
    (Camtree: the Cambridge Teacher Research Exchange, 2022) West, Rachel
    Background and purpose: This inquiry aims to explore what happens when trainers running virtual professional development (PD) sessions for teachers use a more dialogic approach to whole-group debrief sessions by setting up ground rules and introducing a repertoire of “talk moves”. The continuing professional development sessions focused on a specific curriculum subject and were designed for teachers new to teaching it. The PD sessions covered the curriculum framework, learning objectives and how to use the resources to teach the subject effectively. Aims: The goal was to identify opportunities in the existing PD programme where dialogic approaches could be used and to put this into practice, then to measure how the dialogue had changed using coding of whole-group dialogue based on the T-SEDA analysis framework (T-SEDA Collective 2021) as well as reflection sessions with the trainer and feedback from teachers. Study design or methodology: The intervention involved one trainer, who was running a virtual PD event for teachers in the USA. The PD session covered teaching and assessing a syllabus for teachers who were new to it. The baseline data was gathered from a past virtual event run by the same trainer with different teachers in the USA. Findings: The initial findings indicate that instances of the focus talk categories (build/elaborate, reasoning and reflect on dialogue) increased by using the tools and strategies mentioned, and the average proportion of teacher talk time, as well as average turn length and percentage of the whole group who contributed to each debrief all increased from the first iteration to the second iteration. Conclusions, originality, value and implications: This could have had a positive impact on learning for teachers in this event.
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    Assessing engagement with construction-based, structured-play activities designed for the teaching and learning of the language of metacognition in a primary Pupil Referral Unit
    (Camtree: the Cambridge Teacher Research Exchange, 2022) Linale, Jamie
    Background and purpose: I conducted a case study at a primary pupil-referral-unit (PRU), exploring the use of construction-based, structured-play activities for the teaching and learning of the language of metacognition (LoM). Metacognition is important for developing independent learners and, in the context of a PRU, for both assisting students in obtaining academic outcomes similar to their mainstream counterparts and facilitating reintegration into mainstream settings. Aims: Engagement is a necessary pre-requisite for teaching and learning to occur, and in this report, I explore primary-PRU students’ engagement with the activities to determine if the activities are sufficiently engaging such that they can unfold in a manner consistent with their design. Study design or methodology: Three students at a primary PRU in the South-East of England participated in eight sessions of two construction-based, structured-play activities; both activities included ‘metacognition resources’ of my own design, which were intended to introduce students to the LoM. To explore engagement with these activities, context-specific indicators were obtained from observation of video and audio data, and a ‘Leuven-inspired’ scale of engagement, ranging from 1 (very low) to 5 (very high) was constructed and used to monitor engagement throughout the sessions. Findings: Considering the context and the archetypal PRU student, the activities were generally engaging. I found students to be sufficiently engaged such that the activities could unfold in a manner consistent with their design. The build process was, however, generally more engaging than the ‘metacognition elements’ of the activities. Implications for practice: The findings suggest that construction-based, structured play and the metacognition resources offer a viable means to engage students with metacognition. Such activities may provide a way to help students in PRUs develop independency in learning, facilitate their reintegration into mainstream settings, and improve their academic outcomes.
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    How can critical thinking best be developed in adolescents through a dialogic classroom approach?
    (Camtree: the Cambridge Teacher Research Exchange, 2021) Maas, Francine
    Background and purpose: The rationale for this investigation came from observing student interaction. Students showed reluctance to think and reason independently, to share ideas respectfully, and responses were often combative. This inquiry sought to challenge students to listen and engage respectfully and intelligently, as well as improving their critical thinking skills. Aims: The inquiry focus was the development of critical thinking skills through dialogic talk around a range of topics, encouraging students to articulate their viewpoints using reasoning and credible evidence, and to listen, engage and respectfully challenge the ideas of their peers. Study design or methodology: This project used a practitioner inquiry approach, involving five students (3 girls; 2 boys) aged 12-13. The institution was my place of work and sessions occurred during normal scheduled lessons. Dialogic Talk occurred weekly for six weeks, with all sessions video recorded. Data was transcribed and coded for analysis. Following the inquiry I created a Scheme of Work, Lesson Plan and Evaluation guide for teaching a 6- session module on Dialogic and Critical Thinking. Findings: Inquiry data proved too limited to show conclusive quantifiable change in critical thinking skills. Individual students did, however, display “breakthrough” moments of understanding or offer quality reasoning. Students’ discussions retained much of their disputational character, and while students seemed to make some gains in quality of the dialogue over time, this tended to be incidental and random. Conclusions, originality, value and implications: Students seemed to enjoy being challenged with real-world issues, and contribute their own perspectives. I felt they appreciated the opportunity to think independently and have opinions. While the project’s scope meant its impact was limited, the individual changes observed in students offered hope that the program could have lasting impact if applied consistently. The inquiry has inspired me to add a dialogic element to my teaching practice.