Case Study: Farnborough Sixth Form College

What was the research question and how was it chosen?

“What attributes and qualities make a good teacher?”

The teacher who led the project chose the research question. She felt it would have broad appeal to learners and be genuinely useful to improving teaching practice. The college already had an established programme of action research and a commitment to student voice. Asking students to carry out their own research was therefore a logical next step within the college’s enquiry-based ethos.

Who were the researchers?

A group of Year 12 and 13 students – Sidrah Ahmed, Nick Cade, Natalie Chappell, Yvonne Chueng, Rachel Clark, Sophie George, Rachel Gough, Amy Grandvoinet and Sade Underwood – who were interested in teaching as a career carried out the project. Becky Barnes, a teacher at the College, supported the group. She recruited the students by placing an advertisement for volunteers in the college newsletter.

How did the group communicate?

The students met once a week throughout the year to share experiences, discuss opinions on teaching, collate information and write progress reports. The students led most of the sessions, while the adult facilitator directed and attended some of them. The group also used the college VLE to share documents and discuss findings and issues (via discussion forums).

What methods did the young researchers use?

The facilitator identified student observation as an appropriate method to investigate the research question. Each young person carried out two to three lesson observations across the year. In total, they observed ten teachers’ lessons. Students carried out pre observation interviews with the teacher they were observing, to establish what the lesson would be about, and what the teacher was interested in receiving feedback on. They then carried out a post observation interview to formally deliver their findings using the lesson observation reports which were usually used by teachers.

How were the young researchers supported?

The facilitator supported the group by:

What challenges did the young researchers experience, and how were these overcome?

 

Challenge Overcome by...
Co-ordinating deadlines and activities for the whole group Students setting short term goals from session to session to move forward in project steadily
Learning to give feedback, especially negative feedback, to teachers in an appropriate way Providing observation and feedback training
Working on their own was “daunting” for some students Pairing up students to observe and give feedback
Students found interviewing teachers “quite nerve wracking” Training and practice, for example the facilitator staged mock interviews which made them feel more confident
Writing report objectively, backed up by evidence Writing an interim short report to develop their skills

What challenges did the adult facilitator face?

What were the research outputs?

What impact did the research have?

The observed teachers were very positive about the impact that the observation has had on their teaching. The young researchers were fairly sceptical about whether their role as student observers was contributing to the development of their teachers’ practice. However, some felt that student-teacher relationships had improved, and they now had a clearer grasp of what makes a teacher good.

How did the project benefit the young researchers?

How did the project benefit the adult facilitator?

Top tips for adults supporting young researchers