The Power of Talk: Refining my research aims

During the 2 years I have currently spent studying towards my degree, one of the key themes that has emerged is the importance of talk in the primary classroom. Social constructivists (namely Vygotsky) argue that children consolidate their knowledge and understanding through engaging in social situations (talk); in the context of school, working in small groups and pairs can enable children to do just this. Opportunities for talk have therefore become a natural part of the school day and can now be observed in many areas of the curriculum. This year, I have noticed how important the same principles are in developing my own understanding, with particular reference to my research project (iPads in science education). Although I have been reading about how to conduct research in the education sector and attended the taught course at university to develop my knowledge and understanding of the research process (developing research aims, methodology, ethics etc), it has been through discussion with peers that I have really been able to refine my ideas and consolidate my learning.

For example, this week, I have refined my research aim. Before engaging in discussion with my peers, my research question was "can the use of tablet PCs enhance learning outside the classroom in primary science?". While I was happy with this question, by including the outside classroom element, I was having to embark on a further literature review and encorporate this into my project. Although I believe the use of the outdoor environment is beneficial for all children (see, when discussing the literature I have currently reviewed with my peers, it became apparent that the key themes didn't incorporate this area. Instead, I found I was discussing the home/school use of technology and how achieving a balance in this is important for children. Other emerging themes are: how the use of technology can enable children to personalise their learning, and how children can lead their own learning through enquiry based approaches. Therefore, through the use of talk, I have now revised my research question to "Can the iPad motivate and engage children with enquiry-based learning in primary science?".

Reflecting on this, I believe that being able to vocalise my recent learning, I am able to cement and clarify my ideas.  Sharing my thought process with other student teachers, who are also embarking on their own research project, I have ensured I can explain the purpose and reasoning of my research to those unfamiliar with the subject area. Additionally, my confidence is growing in my subject knowledge and I feel able to speak with leading professionals on the use of mobile technology in the primary classroom and engage in meaningful discussions with teachers using iPads and other mobile devices. Ultimately, I feel the process of researching in education is developing me as a teacher and allowing me to find an area of primary education I am passionate about, that combines both science and ICT.

Further Reading:

Burton, N., Brundett, M. and Jones, M. (2008) Doing Your Education Research Project, London: Sage

Pollard, A. (2001) Social World of Children's Learning. London: Continuum [extracts available online here] accessed 28th October 2012.