Classroom conditions for school improvement : students' views
The latter part of the twentieth century experienced an increased emphasis in industrialised societies on educational performance, and ongoing efforts are still in progress to enhance levels of performance, particularly to prepare young people for the ever-changing work demands occasioned by the revolution in communications and in the provision of information. Educationalists have been interested in the replicability of successful school systems, and this has resulted in a focus upon decision-making at the various levels of educational governance. At school level the concepts of enabling conditions and development capacity are now well grounded in the theory of school effectiveness and school improvement. Within the IQEA (Improving The Quality of Education for All) Project, schools are encouraged to develop their management and classroom conditions at the same time as they work upon their improvement initiatives. There exist a number of instruments devised within the project to measure the capacity of schools both at management and classroom level to sustain a culture of school improvement. Along with this interest in school-based improvement initiatives, there has been an increasing interest in the part various stake-holders within the school community can play in school improvement. One such group are students, and teachers, particularly within IQEA, have increasingly wished to consult them when undertaking or evaluating policy changes within their schools. To this end teachers have also been interested in comparing their own views with those of their students on the culture of the school and its classrooms. This thesis represents an attempt to provide teachers with just such an instrument of comparison. It first contextualises the notion of Student Conditions within the literature of School Improvement Conditions. In devising, conceptualising and researching a set of Student Conditions which are related to the IQEA Classroom Conditions this work sets out not only to give teachers and senior management a means of triangulating their own views with those of the students in their school, it also provides data for teachers to gauge the capacity of the student body to sustain school improvement. Preliminary results from the piloting of the Student Conditions Survey are presented. The final chapter discusses the implications for teaching and learning, for school improvement initiatives and for the culture of classrooms and schools if these student conditions are to be developed. The Student Conditions are, in the order they appear in the thesis: Self-assessment - The ability of students to reflect upon and to improve the quality of their own work. Independent Learning - The ability of students to access the skills and resources necessary to achieve learning autonomy. Affinity to teachers - The ability of students to maintain a relationship with teachers that enables them to seek and receive help and support when they require it. Learning repertoire - The ability of students to exploit fully the range of teaching and learning strategies encountered in and out of the classroom. Orientation to Learning - The ability of students to be self-motivated, and to enjoy learning. Adjustment to School - The ability of students to learn within a structured environment of rules and behaviour parameters. Along with the two other Conditions Surveys, the Student Conditions Survey is intended to contribute to a battery of research instruments, which will provide useful data and an agenda for a whole-school discussion on how schools can improve. The thesis also presents data from the piloting of the research instrument in over 40 IQEA Schools, and briefly outlines how some of these schools have used the findings in their improvement initiatives.