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5.3 LEARNING ISSUES

5.3.2 Student Involvement

Likewise, students also conveyed their interest in cooperative learning because it provided them with opportunities to discuss the learning issues in groups. It also facilitated an environment where they can help each other and make their own decisions. Thus, they believed this new method of teaching increased their motivation to learn economics and changed their perception about the learning of economics. The following two comments are representative of eight out of the nine students:

This is what we want. Many of my friends have shown their interest in the subject. We want to take part in the activities. In the past most of us feel sleepy during the lesson because our Miss talks all the time [POSTSI2].

We are very motivated to learn because we can exchange our ideas and also we get more time to think about the issues before making a decision [POSTSI5].

Finally, the above evidence supports my own classroom observations after the intervention in which we have observed students’ interest and motivation in the learning of economics. On many occasions during the above observations students were generally keen in discussions, sharing ideas between them and between teachers and studying activities. One of the observation notes indicates that:

… students were very well motivated to complete the activities allocated for them in groups [POSTTO2].

5.3.2 Student Involvement

claim that students are involved in the lessons. The below two comments in general share their view on student involvement in learning:

... I expect my students to be quiet when I explain things in the classroom. They get time to ask questions if they don’t understand any aspects of the topic when I finish the explanations ... isn’t this enough? [PRETI8].

… depending on the time available after the explanation I give opportunities for students to interact… I don’t like my students to interrupt the lesson while I explain. They should wait until I give them chance to speak [PRETI9].

On the other hand, another teacher expressed the need for students’ freedom to interact during the lessons but was anxious about possible discipline problems that may follow from the student interactions:

They should have the freedom to interact in the class but sometimes the discipline problems hamper us having such interactions. For example, some old students are not behaving the same way. So in some classes I don’t encourage them to have much interaction [PRETI4].

In addition, our classroom observations showed that a general pattern of interaction was restricted to questions at the beginning of each lesson to review the previous lesson’s work. But generally teachers were very strict and did not provide opportunities for their students to interact with others during the lesson.

One of the observation notes indicates that:

He was a very strict teacher who does not allow students to interact in the lesson unless he gives permission for them to do so. Students were very well behaved. The whole lesson was based on direct teaching by the teacher and no interaction between students or between students and teacher was observed. However, he posed some questions for students to be answered at the beginning of the lesson [PRETO2].

Furthermore, students of Grades 8 and 9 admitted that normally their teachers did not allow them to interact with others during the lesson. But they acknowledged that some sorts of questions were allowed only after the teacher’s explanations of the lesson. The following three comments were typical across the six students:

Our Miss is a strict teacher. She doesn’t want us to make any noise during the lesson. So very rarely we have chances to talk in the class [PRESI7].

We don’t have many interactions. Miss explains all the time and she wants us to stay there quietly. If we stay like that she says you are very good class things like that [PRESI2].

Basically we don’t have any other interaction [questions & answers]

between us and Miss. But we talk a lot among us during the lesson, off course Miss gets upset about it. Miss wants complete silence in the class, but how can we sit like that? [PRESI5].

However, some Grade 10 students acknowledged that they were given opportunities to interact with other students during extra classes. These classes are run during weekends and public holidays to provide extra help for students to prepare them for the final examinations. As mentioned earlier, this is because the outcome of these examinations determines the school’s ranking. Also the teachers’ popularity very much depends on their students’ success in those examinations. Hence, both teachers and the school management provide much help for Grade 10 students. One student remarked:

Because we are in Grade 10 and soon our exam starts the school has arranged extra classes to do past papers. These classes are more like our private group studies where we get chances to interact among ourselves. We do all the work by ourselves. Teacher helps us if we don’t know how to get the answers [PRESI8].

One teacher explained the rationale behind the opportunities for interaction that are provided for students of Grade 10 through extra classes, indicating that:

…. when we ask them to do past paper questions, most of them don’t know. What we do is group them, and give them questions…. And ask them to discuss because some concepts when I explain they may not be able to understand. But if a student explains it in his own language, they may understand it much better [PRETI1].

Post-Intervention

After the intervention it appeared that the perception of teachers and their attitudes towards the student interactions in the classrooms has changed. All nine teachers acknowledged the changes and appreciated the benefit of student interactions in the lessons. When I asked them whether they have noticed any changes in classroom interactions their answers were positive and the following two comments were typical of all nine teachers:

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