MEASURING SUCCESS During the following two weeks I attempted to convert the above into real lessons. It did not happen instantly. I started by working with one or two points at a time. I do not feel that it is necessary, or of any use at this stage to detail the various lessons in which I attempted to realise my aims. (Give reasons. You may well be right, but the way you have written it gives us no opportunity to make up our own minds. This is a draft, and therefore in any subsequent write-up, I would hope to see evidence that you have at least thought about such comments and have either changed certain aspects in agreement with what I have written, or you do not. Whether you change it or not, you need to allude to the fact that questions were asked about this issue. ) I will therefore move on to two lessons where I feel that I began to get close to my target, and where I was able to collect concrete evidence to this effect.
Year 8 lesson: I gave a lesson on colonialism. I decided that the basic element of this lesson would be the concept of colonialism. I had one support teacher in the class who I decided could work with the four weakest children. My lesson plan was such so that at every stage of the lesson I had considered the less able children. The previous lesson, I had asked them to find out as much as they could about colonialism. As expected, most children had simply taken a dictionary definition of the term. None of the children could give me a reasonable definition of the word. At the beginning of the lesson I wrote the question "What is colonialism?" on the board. None of the children could answer this. I left the question on the board. During the lesson we explored the concept in various ways. At the end of the lesson, I went around the class. Every child that I asked (I was careful to ask a range of abilities) could answer "concept questions" and all could, when asked, tell me what colonialism was, how and why it had happened, and which countries were involved. This I felt to be evidence of learning, and evidence that I was beginning to reach the least able children in the class. (This is most interesting. I would like more detail because it seems to me to be the crux of what happened, and a close analysis of that might give the reader, and yourself, more insights into it, and thus enhance your practice. I like the way you seize on this point of the children’s learning as it appears to you at this stage. One of the central aims of Action Research is to enhance learning for the learner, so it is quite right that you should be emphasising their new understanding of colonialism.)
Year 9 lesson: I wanted to teach my year nine pupils the concept of "population boom". I reduced my lesson to the following basic areas that I felt I wanted all members of the class to learn. The concept of population boom; the population of the world in 1900, today and the projected population in 2010; the concept of developed and developing countries; and the fact that the population is growing faster in the latter.
Again, I attempted to build the differentiation into the lesson plan, and I attempted to present the lesson in as simple a way as possible, with a variety of activities. I used a worksheet in this lesson, with included many visual representations of the above concepts/facts accompanied by written explanations. At the beginning of the following lesson I set about finding out how much they had learnt the day before. I told the class to arrange themselves for a test. I then gave each a piece of paper and asked them to write down everything that they could remember from the lesson the day before. As expected, the brighter pupils produced a side or more of writing containing many facts and ideas. All the children had written at least some of the above concepts as well as other things that they had remembered. I was particularly interested to see how the weakest child in the class had responded. He cannot read, and has problems writing. I was aware, therefore, that he would have had problems coping with the worksheet. His work showed me that in fact he had learnt something during the lesson: he indicated that we had looked at "over population", what the population of the world is today, and what it will be in 2010. He mentioned India, but unfortunately I was not able to understand what he wanted to say about it. Given this pupil has many problems, I felt that it was an achievement for him to have learnt as much as he did.
Although I still felt that my "ideal lesson" was a long way off, I did feel that I had made a lot of progress, and I now had concrete evidence to support this. (I feel I would like more detail about how it was you arrived at your sample group, and if, in fact, you might have been better sticking to one group instead, as this could have generated a great deal of information in itself. I don’t know. It’s just an idea, Jayne. You have a right to choose your own target group, of course. I was just wondering whether in fact choosing two groups was putting an added burden on you without necessarily giving you richer material and conclusions. I think your choice is at least open to question. )