Research for NCEA
NCEA provides a welcome
catalyst to get us to sharpen our definition of research and to
hone the way we teach it.
could have five major pieces of research for NCEA...
may have limited knowledge of how to teach research even though
they may feel more than competent in assessing this (O’Connell,
Like it or hate it,
NCEA is here to stay. Research, as noted by O’Connell, emerges
as a significant method of learning at every NCEA level. If secondary
students are to be successful in using research as a learning
strategy, we need to ask some basic questions:
- How we define
research determines how we teach it. So, how exactly do
we define research?
- Is research
the same as the ubiquitous ‘inquiry’ or ‘finding out’ that
has emerged as a dominant ‘learning’ method in response
to the primary curriculum?
- What hard
evidence do we have that, despite years of projects and
‘inquiry’, students are prepared for what research means
in relation to NCEA criteria?
- Are the very
students for whom NCEA is supposed to provide a more relevant
alternative to SC those students who don’t have the learning
management, self-regulation or COGNITIVE strategies needed
for successful research?
The New Penguin English
Dictionary (2001) has parallel definitions:
1. Scientific or scholarly investigation esp. study or experiment
aimed at the discovery, interpretation or application of facts,
theories or laws. 2. Careful or systematic searching or enquiry.
In Definition 1
the essence, for me are the words discovery, interpretation, or
application of facts, theories or laws - the cognitive dimension
- and in Definition 2 the words careful or systematic ...
Rather than alternative
approaches, Definition 2 often represents a precursor and
parallel process to the work implied in Definition 1.
Whether one is doing
scientific or scholarly investigation with a view to discovering,
interpreting or applying facts, theories or laws, the researcher
needs to read carefully and systematically to get background knowledge
on the topic. It is this broad knowledge of and interest in the
topic, and awareness of the driving issues and ideas, that elicits
the predictions, hypotheses, theses, assumptions, problems which
the researcher seeks evidence in order to explore and ‘test’.
In relation to NCEA
research, the following points may have bearing:
- To undertake
Definition 1 research - whether in ‘hard’ scientific or
‘soft’ arts and social science topics - you need COGNITIVE
SKILLS for analysing, synthesising and intepreting information
(data, evidence, etc). These cognitive strategies are eminently
teachable. They are taught by being modelled systematically
within the context of applying information to curriculum
learning tasks requiring analysis, synthesis and interpretation.
This is best done BEFORE exposing students to research.
The curriculum in every subject area from Years 4 onwards
provides ample opportunity for teaching these skills in
- There is no
research evidence to support the idea that these cognitive
skills will, somehow, develop if students (Years 11 plus)
are expected to undertake (largely independent) ‘research’
projects. These cogntive strategies are teachable and MUST
- To undertake
Definition 2 research (rigorous, systematic finding
out), most people use some sort of iterative stage framework.
Since Irving and Marland’s 9-stage framework, Gawith’s (1983)
6-stage AL Framework or the new 3 Doors® Model* there
have been literally hundreds of adaptations and derivatives.
What you use is less important than the close modelling
and guidance by the teacher that ensures that the process
itself is internalised by the learner.
There’s a huge difference
between finding some information and pasting it up on a decorated
chart or in a multimedia presentation, and doing research where
the focus is on finding evidence to confirm hypotheses, theses
or assumptions; where the focus is on accuracy, testing, measuring,
interpreting and applying information.
The research in the
article that follows, by year 4/5 students of Opoho School, demonstrates
that, with good teaching and guidance, students can produce significant
research. It shows that, even at primary, students are capable
of quality Definition 1 research to NCEA standards. Students distinguished
between predictions and hypotheses, came to terms with analysing,
synthesising and interpreting data and reporting their findings
accurately. While the abridged version does not show it, these
students also did considerable Definition 2 research and reading
prior to, and during, the actual project, and relied on ongoing
‘careful’ and ‘systematic’ reading to gain insights into some
of their data, for example the possum breeding season.
There is no doubting
the relevance of the project for these students, their involvement
and enjoyment, and the extent of the knowledge gained. They will
remember it for the rest of their lives. It represents real knowledge,
real research versus repackaged information. Congrats Opoho !
Thanks for allowing me to abridge and publish your study.
* Email firstname.lastname@example.org
for more details about new information literacy learning and research
models and courses.