Friday, 27 March 2015

‘Discovery Webs – Adults and students working together to develop research practice and understand the world about them'

Summary conclusions:

  •         Sometimes there is bullying in school: there is evidence of a variety of bullying.
  •         However, most students in a KS3 class feel safe most of the time.
  •         Importantly, students know what to do when bullying happens
  •         The school tries to stop bullying.

Discovery Webs is an action research project that involves adults and students working together on a specific topic. It provides a learning opportunity for the adults as well as students. The adults learn to provide effective action research frameworks. In turn, the students grow their competence as researchers and learners in a structured environment.

We chose an action research project because it enables us to work on a specific, current topic reflectively in a group. First, it provides a structure followed by the adults, who help pupils to understand the process. We sought guidance from Barry Frost, an academic at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln, who provided a step by step framework for our research. Second, it encourages action from all involved to gather evidence to support the framework. We considered each step of the framework and divided the tasks among the participants who gathered the necessary evidence. Finally, we met in order to draw conclusions. This is only an outline of the process of our action research. I will explain the process in detail. To simplify it, I will show the progress we made each week. We managed to complete the project in one term.

Week 1

We organised a group of five participants, two adults and three pupils. Due to confidentiality reasons, we would not mention names; instead, we would include their initials: A, B, Br, N, Na. We decided to meet one day per week for an hour to work on the project.

Our initial approach for the first meeting was to raise several questions:
  • What is our question?
  • Finding out
  • What skills will we use / need to learn?
  • Recording, letting people know about our work and use some Communicate in Print symbols for inclusion (symbols which we use on a daily basis with some pupils in school).
During our meeting, we went through the Discovery Webs proposal. We looked at the questions. Initially, three topics were offered for consideration.
  •  bullying,
  •  transition and
  •  healthy eating.
Here transition means a group of pupils moving from a special need education school to a mainstream school. 

However, new topics were added and some new questions were raised:
  • Golden Time – what is most popular?
  • Sports in school?
  • The timetable – where does it come from?
  • Friendships and gangs?
  • Growing up – from children to adults?
  • Bullying
  • Healthy eating
Here Golden Time means a Friday after school club which pupils choose as a reward for good behaviour during the week. 

We added 'Bullying' and 'Healthy' eating from the first list making seven topics from which we raised some questions.

We all voted for our favourite three and the two equally most popular topics were ‘Bullying’ and ‘Growing up’. We then voted again and ‘Bullying’ came out top, but we decided to keep ‘Growing up’ as a research topic for the future. It felt like a democratic process.

After a lot of discussion, choosing and voting, we had to raise a question for our topic. We thought that the following question would be suitable: ‘Who are the bullies?’

Then we decided that we would work on several aspects in order to answer that question:
  • What is a bully?
  • Why do they do it?
  • How do they do it?
  • Where and when does it happen?
We all talked about how to find out the answers. We discussed looking on the Internet and in books. We also thought it would be good to ask people.

Before we finished, we were still talking about whether we should all share the same jobs and whether some people might have special skills in doing something. The skills we talked about were: 
  • searching on the Internet;
  • interviewing people;
  • art work and pasting up the journal;
  • finding out the communicate in print symbols or Makaton signs; 
  • reading; 
  • writing neatly.

Week 2
Methods of working

We considered whether we should share all the jobs or whether some people have special skills that helped us to conduct this project. 
  • Searching on the Internet
  • Interviewing people
  • Art work
  • Pasting the journal
  • Finding communicate in print symbols or signs
  • Good reading
  • Neat writing
We decided as a group that searching on the Internet would be something everyone could do. Br said he could to the interviews and was good at reading. N is also good at reading and would like to paste into the journal as well. Na would find symbols to communicate in print and help Br with the interviews. 

We decided the next steps:
  • Brainstorm ‘What is a bully’?
  • Decide the search terms
  • Collect the information either written or in MS word docs
  • Decide who to ask
  • Decide what we ask them
  • Decide whether we do interviews or questionnaires
At this point, B, has left the project.  The journal was misplaced. We had to start from the beginning because we had no records. 

M joined the group.

Week 3
Re-launch of the project

We started this week with fresh ideas and we made a few changes to our approach.

We thank to Barry Frost for providing guidance for our research project. We considered his research framework and redefined and added our ideas. This is what we have achieved as indicated in the column 'Your Response':
Here 9MM - KS3 Year 9 group of pupils, DHT - Deputy Head Teacher. Baseline means data of bullying incidents collected by Behaviour Manager.

We narrowed our research focus by replacing 'Who are the bullies?' question with 'Is there evidence that there is bullying in school? (as seen by pupils in a KS3 class)'. This allowed us to define concrete steps which fit within one school term.  

Our plan for the next week was to develop questions for our questionnaire and to interview Behaviour Manager.

Week 4
Questionnaire design
Interview of Behaviour Manger

We had two tasks this week. First, we had to develop questions for our questionnaire. Second, we had to interview the Behaviour Manager.

In the first team, we had B, N and M. We spent the whole session of 50 minutes brainstorming questions for our questionnaire. Our aim was to gain an insight about bullying from a KS3 class pupils so we used closed questions. Closed questions require a yes or no answer. We had two types of questions: closed and multiple choice questions. We include the finished questions we used in an e-questionnaire:

As team one was brainstorming for the questions, the second team, A and Na, conducted an interview with the behaviour manager. From the interview, we established the baseline data about bullying. This is our interview:

Interview with Behaviour Manager (BM) TH-22-01-15

Na: What do you in your work?

BM: I work with pupil behaviour.

Na: Do you have records of data?

BM: Its all kept on SIMS.

Na: What do you do when you find information out?

BM: Sometimes parents are brought for ongoing behaviour issues. Its also important that we have a pupil voice. It’s important that everyone feels we can have a plan and that the action will have an effect.

Na: Do you do any recording of bullying?

BM: Yes on SIMS there are different categories and one is bullying.

A: What are the categories of bullying?

  • Name calling
  • Physical
  • Homophobic
  • Sexist
  • Racial
  • e-bullying
  • Letters – notes
Na: Are there any that happen most?

BM: Name calling most of all. Followed by sexist, racist and homophobic bullying.

Na: What else do you record?

BM: Information about -
  • When
  • Where
  • Timing and date
  • If there is repetition
  • Who
A: Are there any trends in this information?

BM: There can be patterns of peer group pressure. This can be a difficulty in sharing friendships where pupils struggle to empathize.

When it happens is a difficult question but we have to admit that bullying happens in all schools because there is evidence for it. It can be more during transition times both within the school between lessons and coming to school or going home.

Where It happens in playground for example because there are certain groups who are still struggling in establishing their identity so they need support. So as far as the timing is concerned, more positive intervention is needed in the playground and in the corridors during transition between lessons. We also have situations affecting learning following playtime, the start of day, and on route to and from school.

Sometimes there is a pattern of repetition between different people. They can learn bullying behaviour. So we find evidence of situations where peer pressure has an impact.

Na: Who are the bullies?

BM: We record evidence for ‘Participant’ ‘Bystander’ ‘Perpetrator’

Na: What’s bystander?

BM: They look on and have some part to do with the bullying.

Na: Is there any that happens in toilet areas?

BM: There are areas where you feel safe and others where you don’t always feel safe.

A: In a few words, what are your aims?

  • To reduce the incidence of bullying
  • To promote Pupil Voice because if pupils feel they’ve got a voice and are heard that’s the first step in dealing with their emotions
  • To increase feelings of safety
Our following tasks involved asking pupils in a KS3 class to complete the questionnaire and then for us to look at the results.

Weeks 5 to 6
Data analysis

During weeks 5 to 6, we managed to complete the questionnaire with some help from the KS3 form tutor. Once we had the information from the questionnaire, we sat together to analyse it.

We realised that there were two aspects of understanding the data from the questionnaire. First, we used a Google generated template with graphs, which meant we were interpreting processed data. It was also important for the students to work with raw data, or primary data, which Google form entered into an excel spreadsheet, in order to process data by ourselves. The example of processed data is attached below:

Soon we realised that some of the questions were not answered. This created a problem because we thought that our data was not complete. But we decided to proceed with the existing data.

However, students were able to use graphs, percentages and numbers which they understood quite well.

There was a moment when B, a student, asked why there were more answers than a number of pupils in the last question. He was able to work out why only when he looked at the raw data. We include a framework for our data analysis below:

We made some comments during the process of raw data interpretation. In this case, an adult worked with a student where the student interpreted the data and the adult only provided guidance by asking prompting questions such as 'where can we find the answer?' or 'what information does that column give us?'.

The next task was to conduct interviews with pupils.

Week 7 to 8
Student interviews
Interview with DHT preparation

We managed to finish the interviews with all three students and one adult involved in the process. N was filming, B and Na were interviewing on alternating basis. We had arranged 3 questions for each pupil:

   1.     How safe do you feel at school?
   2.     How should we behave when bullying is happening?
   3.     What sort of things could the school do to reduce bullying?

We agreed that students will use three skills in the interviews:

   1.     Encourage them to talk
   2.     Stop and pause in order to allow them to answer
   3.     Repeat answers back

The interviews were completed before our next meeting. We took one student at a time during their Physical, social, heath and education (PSHE) lesson. This avoided disruption of the lesson. 

A snapshot from the interview:

When we met for our weekly meeting, we analysed the interviews and these are the results that we were able to establish. We looked at individual questions from pupils. For example, the letter 'a' represents a student's answer across all three questions. 

How safe do you feel at school?

   a.      Totally safe
   b.     50% safe
   c.      Really safe
   d.     Not safe due to robbery
   e.      Sometimes safe
   f.       Feel fine
   g.     Okay
   h.     Kind of annoying

From the responses we received, we drew an interim conclusion that most students felt safe at school most of the time. Some answers did not give us much information as exemplified by ‘d’ and ‘h’. The three pupils who were involved in the project were not interviewed.  

How should we behave when bullying is happening?

   a.      Tell a teacher
   b.     Do not get involved
   c.      Tell a teacher
   d.     Talked about the act of bullying
   e.      Help people
   f.       No answer because it was given by the interviewer
   g.     It won’t happen
   h.     Very innocent

From the responses we received, we drew an interim conclusion that most pupils know how to behave when they witness bullying. Most of them would either tell a teacher or not get involved. Answers ‘d’ and ‘f’ were not taken into the consideration as pupils did not respond directly to the question.

What sort of things could the school do to reduce bullying?

   a.      Be kind/nice and friendly
   b.     No answer
   c.      Let the kids know/tell teacher
   d.     Can’t stop it
   e.      Don’t bring bullies into school
   f.       Stop fighting (given by interviewer)
   g.     Nothing will stop bullying
   h.     Less cameras and less scan keys

It was difficult to draw conclusions from the students’ responses. However, we considered that the pupils were not sure what the school can do.

In the absence of the conclusion about what the school can do to reduce bullying, we thought that the interview with the deputy head teacher (DHT) would provide an insight into this matter.

After the interviews with the students', we discussed what went well and what could have been done better. Here is what we thought:
  • Questions could have been a bit better.
  • We needed to interview everyone the same way.
  • Interviewers should not give answers to students.
  • Used skills a little bit – encouraged and read the question back.
  • Some answers were not focused – interviewers could have repeated questions.
  • Outside effects of bullying were not explored.
Next week we planned to interview DHT. 

Week 9
Interview with DHT 

We interviewed DHT. We decided to ask slightly different questions. These are the questions we asked:
  •        Does bullying happen at school?
      DHT would have liked to say that there was no bullying at our school, but added that it is  not true in all schools. 
  •        What does the school try to do to prevent bullying? 
      The school tries to reduce bullying by getting pupils to speak to the adults when they feel  upset or are worried about what would happen to them. It encourages pupils to have the  power to be able to tell an adult when things are going wrong. 
     A lot of work is done in personal, social, health and education (PSHE) lessons which are taught by form tutors. The form tutors talk about what behaviour is acceptable and what behaviour is not acceptable. This helps pupils to decide for themselves whether they fell that they are targeted by someone at school. The form tutors talk about the types of bullying and what bullying is. 

   There are incidents that pupils consider as bullying because they do not understand that bullying is a repeated action. 

      The school looks for patterns about certain individuals in order to establish whether there  is bullying. 
  •        How should pupils behave when they see bullying?
     The hope is that the above mentioned skills would help them recognise any bullying. One of the skills is finding an adult when they have a problem or see someone else having a problem.

     We agreed to meet up on week 10 to draw conclusions.

Week 10

After all the process of raising the question, designing the framework and collecting evidence to answer the question, we were able to draw the following conclusions: 
  •          Sometimes there is bullying in school: there is evidence of a variety of bullying.
  •         However, most students in a KS3 class feel safe most of the time.
  •         Importantly, students know what to do when bullying is happening.
  •         The school tries to stop bullying.

We also decided on the format of our journal. We chose to write a blog instead of a paper book because we wanted to share it with more people. We thought that people can access it from their computers.

We agreed to write the blog in a certain way.
  • We decided to add headlines in Communicate in Print so that everyone can read and understand the most important parts of our research. 
  • We decided to add some snapshots from the interviews.   
Many thanks for reading our blog. If you have further questions or comments, please write to us or leave a comment.

Kind regards, 

Discovery Webs team

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