Findings from “Qualitative Characteristics of Educators’ Modules”
Student advocacy and creativity are not mutually exclusive. Students who identify with education-related topics are more likely to design course materials such as projects, experiments, or even simulations to create informational lessons and ways to learn about those topics, according to a new study. In fact, these students are more likely to design new or custom lesson plans than their peers.
The study, titled “Qualitative Characteristics of Educators’ Modules,” is published in the April 2016 issue of Library and Information Science. Co-authored by Lijun Zhao and Marek Petrow, the study surveyed 704 U.S. college and university staff members in grades 12 through 18, asking questions such as, “What kind of assignments do you assign to students?” and “What activities do you frequently use to direct students’ instruction?”
The researchers defined educational interest as “knowledge of a topic that they may care about, or interest in studying and education education.”
“While our study was not conducted specifically to determine whether these questions of interest to students actually influence the creation of more creative assignments in classrooms,” Zhao and Petrow noted, “it does suggest that interested students are more likely to design project and experiment-based assignments to help them gain knowledge about the subject matter.”
The study took into account multiple variables such as the teacher’s design background, interests, and the opportunity to have students conceptualize and design their own lessons, which they found to be the most influential factor. Students who were involved in Students Design I, the National Alliance for the Teaching of Mathematics’ course design competition, were particularly likely to design their own learning material.
An important finding is that while students are predominantly involved in designing the learning experiences, they also participate in finalizing the lessons, performing research, and assessing their projects.
In addition, the research shows that teachers who take student initiative in class can have a positive impact on learning.
“Students who believe in their own ideas regarding the course content may be more interested in designing assignments,” Zhao and Petrow stated. “This may partly explain why students in class who design instructional materials are more likely to be involved in finalizing the lesson plans.”
Zhao and Petrow’s findings are based on data from 84 faculty or staff, collected during the past decade.
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