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Peer Observations as a Vehicle for Engaging with the Student Voice: A Phenomenological Inquiry

Hall, Valerie J. (2014) Peer Observations as a Vehicle for Engaging with the Student Voice: A Phenomenological Inquiry. In: SAGE Research Methods Cases. SAGE Research Methods Cases . SAGE Publications Ltd, London.

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When I started on this research, I had looked at the works of Collinson and Forrest et al. because I wanted to know how students could be more directly involved in the observation process: I had a strong background in mentoring and developing teaching staff, and also involvement with ‘learner voice’ and graded observations. I had sufficient depth of prior ‘interest’ and experience to get me started, but finding that ‘gap in the knowledge’, that specific area within which I could make a contribution to knowledge was critical. Prior research was limited, the majority of which was in the compulsory education sector, and what did exist had a poor methodological stance. Although linking with student voice initiatives, the case studies tended to focus around whole school improvement, student councils, anti-bullying strategies and so on: even where learners had been involved in formal observations, the ‘participants’ had been selected by the school, and findings were reported anecdotally.
Having found my ‘gap’ in the literature, my aim was to investigate why adult students, and teaching staff, might choose to volunteer for a peer observation action research study, what they each anticipated gaining from the process, how their sense of identity might influence these perceptions, what might evolve from the reflective conversations between teacher and student and how these findings might be used to improve the teaching and learning experience for everyone involved (Hall, 2012). This necessitated looking at the research, and the data, from a range of perspectives and levels: the personal (micro), the interaction with others (meso), the institutional (exo) and policy (macro). Although the research was informed by policy, having completed an initial review of the main drivers, as I was seeking phenomenological perspectives, I chose to use semi-structured interviews as my primary research method. After all, if you want to know what people think, it is usually simplest to ask them, particularly when it is the depth of insight and feelings that you want to discover as this often requires additional, follow-up questions to probe further. This was not only about the individual perspectives, however. The study was also seeking to analyse what was happening in the ‘interactions’ between the student and the member of staff, and the implications this might have for the peer observation process. So, in addition to issues around these interactions and individual perceptions, the study also sought to understand what was happening between these various ‘communities’, that is, students and staff.
As such, I used Lave and Wenger's communities of practice and Bronfenbrenner's ecological learning systems, as initial theoretical frameworks through which to view
these: were we looking at ‘master-apprentice’ models, with students gaining some form of legitimate peripheral participation to the teacher's world through their engagement with the observation process and their ‘input’ into the peer observation feedback, or was it something more fluid where the student's agency was more independent and there was a more bi-directional influence in the evidence (Hall, 2012)? As with Kolb and Kolb's work, I wanted to understand how this experience might enable learners to engage with metacognitive practices, and so become ‘expert’, if at all, and what their perceptions were of this experience.

Item Type: Book Chapter or Section
Subjects: X100 Training Teachers
X200 Research and Study Skills in Education
X300 Academic studies in Education
X900 Others in Education
Faculty: Professional Development
Depositing User: Valerie HALL
Date Deposited: 18 May 2015 10:03
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2015 08:29
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/1944

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