As part of the Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) programme, participants are required to undertake a quality improvement project.
SET’s Professional Status team reviewed all 60+ quality improvement projects submitted as part of the October 2020 ATS cohort, shortlisting the best 12 using a scoring matrix, including the below from Tanya Miller, Lecturer at Highlands College, Jersey.
This editorial provides an overview of Tanya’s improvement project which focused on the role of learning environments – both online and physical – in learner engagement.
To maintain consistent education, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Highlands College transitioned to an online and blended learning approach. It was noticed that learners’ engagement was much lower in online lessons than in the physical learning space, which led Tanya to investigate the impact that the learning environment has on learner engagement and achievement. She examined what increased learners’ engagement in the physical learning space, paying particular attention to the development of contextual learning environments.
The data for this project was gathered from a range of sources:
The results indicated that many students do not have a safe and designated learning space at home. According to Maslow (stated in Bates 2016), this will restrict their capacity to learn. The students reported more distractions from their home learning environment, such as animals, phones and games. The students also highlighted their experiences within the physical classroom when they were introduced to a new room, seating plan or table layout. This caused feelings of anxiety amongst 60% of learners.
After converting a base room from an English and Maths room to an animal-focused, student-led environment, it was found that the majority found the lesson and activities excellent instead of OK (from the previous study). The students’ impressions of peers improved and 70% of students found the tutor excellent rather than 10% (the figure before the transformation of the room). Feelings of excitement, independence and happiness all increased; 56% of the class felt inspired and 78% motivated in the session in the new room, and feelings of de-motivation and boredom were gone.
Results of the Year 1 & 2 Animal Management students in response to developing their base room. (The results represent data from before the room was developed in comparison to afterwards.)
The conclusions that can be drawn from this study indicate that the students, especially the first years, have benefited emotionally from the base room. They are more motivated and inspired to learn. They are happy in the space and the majority find the tutor, lesson and activities excellent. Peer relationships have noticeably improved as have the group dynamics. Having a structured and immersive learning environment where the students are surrounded by the context of their course enables them to function under a reduced cognitive load, whereby they feel comfortable in their learning environment so are more likely to learn and succeed (Choi et al 2014).
The students took ownership over the design and decoration of the base room. According to Butler (2010), giving students ownership of the classroom has a considerable impact on motivation and achievement. After the redesign, students’ responses included improved motivation, punctuality, confidence, and overall achievement.
Students in Health and Social Care and Child Care were happier to learn online and enjoyed learning in their own surroundings. Animal Management students, however, struggled with online learning and were far more focussed on learning in a classroom environment. This may be due to the practical nature of the Animal Management course and the inability to implement this fully into an online distance learning model.
In addition, it will be important to:
PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, PS5, PS7, PS8, PS9, PS10, PS11, PS12, PS14, PS17, PS18, PS19, PS20
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Content from ATS Academic Poster - Viva preparation – Tanya Miller – 2022