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5.3 LEARNING ISSUES

5.3.3 Inquiring

Yes, I have actually noticed more smiles in the classroom … [and] I have noticed they were enjoying themselves and they were actually learning something [POSTTI8].

I see students’ involvement, interest and their motivation towards learning that I didn’t see from my students in the past [POSTTI5].

Although the teachers had some concern earlier about student discipline problems and lack of motivation to study, now seven out of the nine teachers believed cooperative learning in fact helped them to improve classroom behaviour and student involvement in learning. The following two comments were made during the post-interviews:

Consequently there is a change in the classroom behaviour and students gain the interest of the subject and there is the vast change in the students’ involvement in the learning of economics [POSTTI5].

… they are more interested in being involved in the classroom activities. I am very pleased with their cooperation [POSTTI2].

Another two teachers also agreed with the changes but they were quite skeptical about the student involvement in the learning:

I found that the majority of the students were involved, except for some cases. But that happens in any classroom situations. But most of the students were very cooperative and I found them involved in learning [POSTTI1].

… I have noticed changes in student involvement in the classroom.

Some children are interested and took it very seriously. But I find those children are the ones who are good with their studies [POSTTI3].

5.3.3 Inquiring

observed had a similar pattern of teaching practice that did not encourage students to inquire during the lessons. In fact it was part of the school culture that students were discouraged from inquiring about presented information through discussion, and instead passive learning was promoted that involved sitting quietly while teachers explained the lessons. One of the observation notes indicated that:

Teachers do not allow students to ask questions during the lessons, but they ask students few questions at the beginning of each lesson to revise the previous work. And also ask questions towards the end of each lesson, if they have time, to summarise the lessons. Normally teachers select one or two students to answer the questions being posed [PRETO1].

This was clear from two of the teachers’ comments regarding whether or not the teachers invite their students to ask questions during the lesson:

Actually I ask questions at the end of each lesson. If any student has a problem or doubt about any aspects of the material that we covered then I try to explain it in another way. Perhaps using different examples or sometimes I invite them to my office for further explanations [PRETI8].

... they can ask anything to me. I am very friendly with them. But during the class time, they should be quiet, they should listen, that’s only my policy [PRETI2].

About eight out of the nine students interviewed indicated that they have been encouraged to sit quietly and not to inquire during the lessons. Some of their comments were:

... not many of us ask questions. We are scared to ask questions sometimes because they laugh at us if we make mistakes. Miss always says I can’t waste the period [PRESI2].

Our teacher doesn’t like us to raise questions during the lesson [PRESI9].

Although the above students had indicated that the classroom atmosphere was not suitable for them to ask questions, one of the teachers blamed students for not asking questions:

…they [students] don’t ask questions, even if you ask a question they just keep quiet. So I feel awkward we don’t get responses from the students. It becomes very dry like you know. You also get frustrated because there is no response from that side [PRETI1].

As I have previously indicated, it was the teachers’ perception that many students were not motivated for learning, so they would try to disrupt the learning activities if they were given such opportunities to inquire during the lesson. One teacher commented:

Sometimes students ask questions without paying attention to the lesson. This is purposefully, so I don’t pay attention. I don’t really care and I don’t give answers for them [PRETI3].

However, the above statement was refuted by another teacher who believed that teachers who were confident in both content and methodology would not have such problems in class:

… see that is in the hand of the teacher. Teachers are not good with the content the problem will come. If the teacher is very good with content and she knows what she is going to teach in that particular day, she may not be worried about the students’ questions. They must ask questions and teachers should also be ready to answer or at least tell them that I will explain that later [PRETI5].

Post-Intervention

After the implementation of the lessons on cooperative learning it was clear that more inquiry-based learning activities were conducted in classes. No major problems were reported or observed. In fact all nine students and eight teachers indicated the importance of inquiry-based discussions for a healthy learning environment in class. Also the classroom observations during the intervention indicated that both teachers and students were very cooperative and keen to encourage dialogue when they had discussions in class. Some of the evidence from the post-interviews and classroom observations are as follows:

It was observed that teachers were more willing to accept questions from the students and put these questions before students to discuss.

Also teachers’ attempt to generate real discussions in classes was observed [POSTTO1].

… now they want more inquiry based activities and discussions [POSTTI2].

However, one teacher was doubtful about the students’ sudden changed behaviour indicating that:

… the students were well behaved now, but I have a feeling that these students will try to disturb the classes if they are free to ask questions like this [POSTTI7].

5.3.4 Understanding