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International Journal
Learning, Teaching
Educational Research
p-ISSN: 1694-2493
e-ISSN: 1694-2116

Vol.15 No.6
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VOLUME 15 NUMBER 6 May 2016

Table of Contents
The Socratic Method Reloaded: a Rereading to Improve a Technologically Sound Education ................................... 1
Rogerio L. Roth

Documentary Film: The Next Step in Qualitative Research to Illuminate Issues of Social Justice in Urban
Education ............................................................................................................................................................................... 33
Jennifer Friend and Loyce Caruthers

Teachers Professional Knowledge: The case of Variability ............................................................................................ 48

Sylvain Vermette

Can the Clubs finally lift the rock? Assessing the Sustainability of Reform in Greek Education System ............ 61
Konstantinos Karampelas

Legal Aspects in the Collaborative Production of Open Digital Resources ................................................................. 78

Everton Knihs, Nizam Omar and Ismar Frango Silveira

Paparazzi and Self-Awareness: Reflective Practice Using Digital Technology ............................................................ 93

Catherine Caldwell, Helj Antola Crowe and Robert Davison Avils

Examining the Effect of Playing an Arithmeticbased Game- Chopsticks on the Arithmetical Competencies of 5-
year-old Children in Singapore ......................................................................................................................................... 102
Marcruz Yew.Lee. Ong and Manabu Kawata, PhD

Modelling in Vietnamese School Mathematics ............................................................................................................... 114

Danh Nam Nguyen

Negotiating Accountability and Integrated Curriculum from a Global Perspective ................................................ 127
Susan M. Drake and Michael J. Savage

Perceptions of Teacher Counsellors on Assessment of Guidance and Counselling in Secondary Schools ........... 145
Bakadzi Moeti

The Effects of an Engineering Design Module on Student Learning in a Middle School Science Classroom ....... 156
Nigel Standish, Rhonda Christensen, Gerald Knezek, Willy Kjellstrom and Eric Bredder

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 1-32, May 2016.

The Socratic Method Reloaded: a Rereading to

Improve a Technologically Sound Education

Rogerio L. Roth
Ca' Foscari University of Venice
Venice, Italy

Abstract. If on one hand the ubiquity of the internet allowed the

invasion of our privacy, also created a plethora of learning and work
opportunities. This is how the Khan Academy got started, to provide a
free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. However, the
involvement of customers could be stimulated through a provocative
method, known as Socratic, which reflects how human cognition has
been developed. Certainly is necessary a rereading, a recycling to adapt
it to the needs and current technological possibilities that, so inexorable,
refers to the omnipresence of videos and videoconferencing and without
which all systems related to digital educational technology remain
indifferent to stakeholders.

Keywords: discrimination, e-resources, paradox, recycling, rereading,

socratic method

Lessons from the past, eventually a bonus for the future

Even the didactic and technological solutions that we can consider correct and
brought us to the present day will not necessarily be the same that will lead our
education to the future.
More important than trying to develop a new approach, method or solution
would be to use effectively of everything that already available, mostly free of
charge, even developed by others
Regardless of the various developments and setbacks, we must always learn
lessons from the past, at least to avoid repeating the same mistakes even
though committed by others.

This paper is related to an eponymous chapter and draws on findings from up-
to-date research Building an Immersive Distance Learning Experience beyond
Massive Open Online Courses with Web Conferencing, Socratic Method,
Problem-Based Learning and Social Networks funded by CAPES Foundation.

The project was developed and submitted to the funding agency in 2013 and
began in March 2014. However, Riffel (2014) published an article with a partially
similar name, exploring the Reloaded. This is not about reference, just

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The different inspiration may even have been commonplace, but it is explicit:
The Matrix Reloaded, a Silver and Wachowski production (2003a), sequence of
The Matrix (Silver & Wachowski, 1999), where the virtual reality system had
been reloaded (rebooted) in a less perfect way. At the same time, the film served
as a passage for a continuation, a revolution: The Matrix Revolutions (Silver &
Wachowski, 2003b), that completed the trilogy of films.

Far from this pretension that this text becomes a rite of passage, watershed or
even lead to any revolution in education we seek only an update, a simple
evolution or even rereading depending on the approach not necessarily of
less perfect form, but that allows for a better use of all that now we have access,
often free of charge and that, nor for this, we use...

Previously, Gregory (Rebane, 2013) in a criticism, defends the sage on the

stage claiming that giving up the traditional teacher's role as the purveyors of
knowledge would be the same as the Socratic method reinvented, something
with no Socrates needed or expected in the classroom...
This is one absurd statement, from any viewpoint used to analyze the issue.
Hypothetically, Socrates never played the role of the sage on the stage on the
contrary and the school, in all its levels, should be a space in constant
transformation and not defined lines, which remain unchanged.

Socrates left no written record of his own philosophy. Deliberately, not

bequeathed his own texts for posterity, similarly to what would have happened
with Jesus Christ and his apostles; or even Buddha.
What we think we know about Socrates are just reflections provided by different
mirrors: those who consider themselves disciples and those who provide
testimonies, with and without temporal relationship; the detractors, equally
close or far apart in the timeline, as well as very few signs and relics. Nothing
more than footprints of others...

Our gods never wrote anything, which does not prevent that pseudo-
representatives continually evoke the word of god (Ancient Aliens, 2008) or,
as in this case, the words of Socrates. Perhaps we will discover the answer
when we open our eyes to the possibility that what we think we know is an
illusion, and what we think is illusion may very well be real (Burns, 2013).

According to Moraes (2010), Socrates preferred the thinking in-group than the
solitary reflection, the dialogue than the writing. In this way, he can always be
considered as an actor whose historic facet appears shrouded in cloudiness,
characteristic of everything we think we perceive from a remote past.
The main sources from ancient Greece would come through three different
views: the satirical and iconoclastic portrait of the comedy the Clouds (The
Clouds, 2001; The Clouds, 2002), directed against the sophists, that the author,
Aristophanes, confuses with Socrates because this is the most prominent
philosopher at the time; the idealized and elegiac vision in the works:
Memorabilia (Memorabilia, 2005; The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates, 2006),

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Apology (The Apology, 1998; Apology, 2005), Symposium (The Symposium by

Xenophon, 1998; Symposium, 2005) and Oeconomicus (The Economist by
Xenophon, 1998; Oeconomicus, 2005), all of Xenophon historian, soldier,
mercenary and disciple of Socrates; and the numerous dialogues of Plato (Hare,
2010), other disciple, which feature Socrates as the protagonist although it is
questionable whether these texts represent the true thoughts of Socrates, just
reflections of Plato's thoughts or even a fantastic piece of his imagination
(Burande, 2015).
Some authors (Glenn, 1995; Jarratt & Ong, 1995) believe that Aspasia would
have invented the method, because she would have been mentioned by Socrates
as being one of the most important people to guide him in his philosophical and
intellectual development, especially in the art of rhetoric (Pownall, 2003).

Both in the past as well as present times, absolutely nothing can be considered as
absolute truth, definitive or even accepted by everyone without questions,
controversies and discussions. Do not agree or disagree is part of human nature
and it is exactly this method that we find developed in the Plato's Socratic
dialogues (Hare, 2010) where the truth is born of discussion and not from a
former truth stated, created, manipulated or even forged.

Nowadays, when we delude ourselves that we are no longer in times of

inquisition, we should all have the right to freedom of thought, association and
ideas among others. But try to expose yourself beyond what is permissible, go
against the dominant doctrine, reveal criminal actions committed by the so-
called democratic countries or even challenge some created truths without any
credible proof to back them up in some countries, even some considered
modern and developed, such as Germany, whose prisons are full of teachers,
researchers, scholars, historians and even elderly languishing for not accepting
the absurd official version of rewriting history that was imposed on them
without evidence through a gag law (Hall, 2015). The past is erased, the
erasure forgotten. A lie becomes truth and then becomes a lie again The
past is forbidden (Perry & Radford, 1984).
A country that has no freedom of expression (or we could say of thought as if
that could be controlled), enjoy no freedom at all...

In the opinion of Malcolm X (1963), Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can
give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.

We live in a world of rules and regulations, controlled by certain groups,

institutions, organisms and governments; where any alternative means that
arise, aiming the protection and the anonymity of the common users like Tor,
Bitcoin and Deep Web will always be questioned and discriminated against
negatively, with the explicit intent to discredit and criminalize them mainly to
connect them with aspects that are considered drawbacks, depending on the
point of view (Bowyer, 2013). The internet, whether it is open or protected, will
always be a reflection of the world we live in: multifaceted, complex and
imperfect, with good and bad aspects.

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When some governments use the same means to perform some operations
considered illegal, nothing happens especially if the country is part of the
United Nations (UN) Security Council. But when groups or individuals make
denunciations of infractions from these same countries in a public or
anonymous way or use similar procedures and technologies, they are
persecuted and often crucified. Even when these arbitrary acts are condemned
by an expert panel from OHCHR (2016). The UN and all its appendixes were
structures created in the post-Second World War, only for others...

The cases of Julian Assange (WikiLeaks), Edward Snowden (CIA/NSA), Ross

Ulbricht (Silk Road), Kim Dotcom (Megaupload/MEGA) and Shawn Fanning
(Napster) are totally distinct, but exemplary when the system feels threatened
and tries to crush anyone who acts outside of the dominant order. Moreover, the
biggest surprise for the unbelievers seems to be the technological simplicity of
surveillance techniques of the governments.
For Alex Winter Deep Web: The Untold Story of Bitcoin and the Silk Road
In the digital age, our privacy can no longer be ignored. You can no longer
throw out the ridiculous axiom that if I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to
fear (Wong, 2015). We live not only in a post-Snowden era, but also mainly in
an era post-Sony attack. There are several parallels between the shutdowns of
Napster, Megaupload and the Silk Road when arise several similar services:
Once its decentralized, its game over.

Revolutions in the real or virtual world are always seen as a risk to the dominant
system. They could be seen not just in a very optimistic rhetoric as an
opportunity, but usually this is not the case. This is no exception neither in the
education sector.

Currently, what we imagine they can revolutions in the area of education (Klein,
2011; Konnikova, 2014; Dasgupta, 2015), with rare exceptions, are only
individual proposals or from small groups that do not evolve towards a
consensus are not discussed, are not adopted, are not practiced, are not
successful and, when they do, they earn this status through other merits or
reasons, apart from the fact that some pedagogical procedure have really been
revolutionized or even evolved.

These possible success cases, which apparently defy the current structure,
normally do not develop in universities and, in this way, are not linked to the
status quo, nor the traditional sale of knowledge held by public and private
institutions although that eventually also practice the sales knowledge.
Currently are initiatives created under the internet infrastructure, strongly
supported in the use of videos and videoconferencing, using as a marketing
argument and methodological approaches the possible gratuity, the timesavings
and the reducing of study period.

If a picture may be worth a thousand words, when we join several images in a

sequence with words, making a video, we will always be the best of both worlds
(Roth, 2014).

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The intensive use of videos and videoconferencing can be considered a trend to

be followed by educational institutions; valuable resource to be replicated and
an important differential of the outdated support systems education based only
on Learning Management System (LMS) characteristic of an education that is
not involved with students, whether it is practiced face-to-face, blended or
totally by distance. However, seen in isolation, without a context of use,
production logic, interesting content production (carried out in a professional
manner); and specific combined methodologies as the Socratic method and the
Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is still far from being considered as disruptive

Being initiatives competitors to the established structures and still dominant are
not linked or even related to the practiced and illusory monopoly of higher
education (Carey, 2012; Ellsberg, 2012), idea created, maintained and
erroneously perpetuated by universities and similar institutions, that insist or
even still delude themselves that they are in control...

In the past, universities were seen as a possibility to obtain and guarantee a job
for many years, or for life (Ellsberg, 2012). These days, a large portion of people
that can complete a higher education course surely never going to use the same,
not even work in the target area. (Crotty, 2013; Ellis, 2013). The continuous
training and the lifelong learning are becoming an increasingly common feature
concepts that should be applied indiscriminately to all of us, even to those who
deceive themselves that only teach.

If on the one hand the ubiquity of the internet allowed the invasion of our
privacy (Rich & Smith, 2007), also created a plethora of learning and work
opportunities. This is how Salman Khan created the Khan Academy (2006), with
the mission of providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
This non-profit venture as they should be all initiatives related to education
is described by some (Okabe, 2014) as a teaching model, while sharing their free
classes through videos. For free. For everyone. Forever.

The Veja magazine (Weinberg, 2012) always trying to kid ourselves that there
is a better world than we can imagine in addition to promoting it as a
phenomenon, mistakenly crowned him as the best teacher in the world, for
allegedly making the learning more attractive, satisfactory, interesting,
productive and he has taught four million students over the Internet.
On the other hand, the Khan Academy has been criticized because Salman Khan
would not have training in pedagogy (Danielson & Goldenberg, 2012; Strauss,
2012). This argument was absurd, from any viewpoint used to analyze the issue,
but perhaps may help to explain the success he would not have learned how
not to do things or even how to do things the wrong way. Steve Jobs (Apple,
1976) has suffered similar criticism. While other technology companies were led
by geeks, he was the only in running a business about which he actually knew
very little. What he lacked in experience, he made up for in his ability to think
outside of established standards. Jobs showed us that, what I know is less
important than how I think (Crpin, 2012).

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Salman Khan probably is not the best teacher in the world, but this fact does not
make any difference and neither should be given any importance or significance.
Bill Gates (Microsoft, 1975), for example, never was the best programmer in the
world not even close. He did not invent the BASIC language, did not invent
the DOS operating system and not the graphical operating systems. He never
completed a university course in the same way that Steve Jobs and Mark
Zuckerberg (Facebook, 2004). This did not prevent him from building one of the
largest technology companies or even be ahead among the world's richest
people (Forbes, 2016) a fact that cannot be interpreted as being a
discouragement to higher education.
However, completing a university course does not mean absolutely nothing in
terms of success or even guaranty a secure future. Or someone can still imagine
that, even in the 21st century, the road to success is linked to the completion of
some graduation course or even the universities?
Regarding the United States, this thread is just academic, given that some of the
nation's greatest minds never finished college (Grassy, Parrish, & Winter, 2016).

Being the best in any discipline means first of all fit into a given paradigm, that
is, is suitable to certain rules under which we can try to compare the contestants
(Ahmed, 2013; HEC, 2008). This never happens in an honest, ethical, reliable,
unbiased and transparent manner in the area of education where many resumes
are forged, manipulated and constructed without any personal merit. We
shared, at the same time, with professors pedagogically and technologically
sound; pretentiously modern; and pseudo-educators that replicate methods or
ways of trying to teach of the past without any update, including the materials
and books used (Roth, 2015a)...

Ferias (2014), for instance, prefers the path of problematization and

deconstruction than the finding or even the construction. Rehearses a criticism of
differentials, innovative and revolutionary values of Khan methods followed by
an unnecessary comparison with Comenius (2006), in whose work Didactica
Magna (Great Didactic) would be present the inaugural speeches of modern
didactics the universality, a more effective education (starting from the
simplest concepts to get the most comprehensive), the continuous learning
(lifelong), the development of logical thinking (rather than simple
memorization) as well as the access of poor children and women to school to,
at the end of fourteen pages, to surrender: ...the teaching methods of Khan are a
kind of realization of the universalist ideal of Comenius: teach everything to
everyone. ... In 2012 this formula is completely feasible and could be expanded:
instead of a master to teach hundreds of students, the megalomaniac project of
education via the web made possible to teach not hundreds, but hundreds of
thousands of students.

Unlike alleged by the author, most teachers do not have any didactic. Especially
the university level ones, have very little sometimes none didactic-
pedagogical apprenticeship. Rules and principles alone are not sufficient to
produce an educator. They do not receive this kind of instruction in the

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universities, much less in education area courses that should train teachers. They
go straight from graduate courses to teaching, without prerequisites, often
without prior experience, training or even vocation, as if the teaching skill was
implicit in the certificates that accumulate during life (Roth, 2015b).

In what kind of serious enterprise outside the limbo of universities, in real

life this is accepted without reservations?

What many of them imagine that it could be didactic or even something like this
is just replicated behavior from their masters: inefficient, ineffective, criticized
(mostly by students that when they become teachers tend to reuse it, in the
absence of good references), outdated or even inappropriate (Ribeiro, 2014), not
only to the current times. Comenius (2006) criticized this approach since 1649
and at the same time regrets that the good ideas were not always put into

Our pseudo intellectual supremacy only inhabits these positions, or better, orbit
around (Leite, 2015). Many imagine that they are like the wine and that, with
time, become increasingly better (Ramos, 2015). They only delude themselves,
because the legend that all wine improves with age is not true. Only 10% of red
wines from around the world mature well, against only 5% of whites (Porto,
n.d.). Eventually, all wines will turn into vinegar.

Naturally, these days, Sal does not produce or present any other video for Khan
Academy. In the same way as other technology area entrepreneurs, he found
people far more qualified than he to do so (costing much less).

Could still be questioned the certification that our politically incorrect world
tends to give infinitely more importance than the knowledge effectively
acquired. However, this recurring issue since the establishment of the
universities seems to be with a set expiry date.
Since many years that areas such as computer science do not have the excellence
centered in the universities. IT Certifications, such as AWS, Cisco, Citrix,
CompTIA, EC-Council, GIAC, ISACA, ISFCE, Microsoft and MongoDB have a
much higher value on the market than university courses in the target area
(Roth, 2011). Moreover, the certification of this knowledge is not held by
universities, but by private institutions such as the Prometric Testing (1990).

After the OCW (OpenCourseWare) and MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)
waves, the natural evolution would be the availability of higher-level courses,
with certification, totally free of charge and no limit of users.
Free and Open Source College Course (FOSCC) or Free/Libre/Open Source
College Course (FLOSCC) is an online university course with certification that is
at the same time an open course, free of charge, open source and freely
accessible by the general public through the web from anywhere, anytime,
using any suitable device. Derived from the acronym FLOSC (Free and Open
Source Course or Free/Libre/Open Source Course) that was coined in 2013 for
the project COFUNDRAISING Sustainability and Latest Revenue Models for

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Academic Resources: Facing the New Challenges of Education Economics (FP7-

This area is a hotbed of development right now. OCW, MOOC and
FOSCC/FLOSCC always have production and maintenance costs and this
variable remains a research issue because both the Khan Academy as Coursera
and edX universities have not yet found a suitable model of sustainability.

Another case that has also carved out an individual space and seeks
differentiating factors is Myngle (2005) of Marina Tognetti, that presents itself as
the leading multi-language global platform for live online language learning,
although focused for business professionals. This virtual classroom has resulted
in students and teachers participating from over 150 countries, but unlike the
Khan Academy, the mYngle is not free of charge presumably because it has not
yet found an alternative way to ensure its sustainability.

Certainly it is possible to offer a product, service or even courses including at

tertiary level at no cost to the end user, by obtaining other funding sources that
do not depend on the payment of study fees or public funds. Google and Khan
Academy have taught us this lesson...

Wauters (2009) points out some similar proposals. The one offered by Babbel
(2000) is similar and also paid. Others present themselves as social networks for
learning languages. Like the case of WizIQ (2005), italki (2006), LiveMocha
(2007) and Busuu (2007), all with free basic services and premium paid options.
The eduFire (2007) was acquired by Camelbak Education Group in 2010 and is
offline. And the VoxSwap (2007), only option totally free of charge, is with the
domain expired since 30 August 2015.

The Holland Herald (Latten, 2015) inflight magazine, in a quick interview with
Marina Tognetti, claimed: mYngle is just what youve been waiting for,
language lessons that come to you, after all, Myngle (2009) states that you can
learn any language online with the best private teachers. Marina, unlike Sal,
apparently always selected people who worked for her and by using this
argument to be able to count with the best teachers also seems to adopt a
trend to get a market advantage in contrast to the bad impression that we have
all of us as students of those deemed as traditional teachers

Conversely, it would be a good idea while professors and researchers hear

the calls of the market, not just marketing, but of our customers our students
who were born in a different reality, with expectations that normally we do not
meet the demands...

Serving the business as usual or bending over the absolute and unquestionable
truths including in didactic terms does not lend support to any personal and
professional growth. Does not add any new experience, even for those who
delude themselves that they teach much less for those who we intend to educate.

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Aldous Huxley (2004) wrote in 1932 that, the experience is not what happens to
a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him. So, if we were not
welcomed with a contemporary vision of education (as learners), it does not
seem fair to penalize our students by replicating the old ways of teaching. All
educators should position themselves critically in relation to the model through
which they were trained and not repeat the same mistakes without
experiencing fear for having transgressed a trend.

We do not need to reinvent the Socratic method, not even give up who embodies
the role of Socrates, intentionally or not. This is not an act of apostasy, but
certainly is necessary a rereading, a recycling to adapt it to the needs and current
technological possibilities that, so inexorable, refers to the omnipresence of
videos and videoconferencing and without which all systems related to digital
educational technology remain indifferent to stakeholders, always representing
an education not involved with students

The Socratic method, elenchus or dialectical: of the debate, of irony and

of maieutics
This model, popularized as the Socratic method, reflects how human cognition
has been developed. The method of examining a certain argument from an
ignorance position and through rational discussion would have revolutionized
the western philosophical thought being considered the first use known of the
inductive argument in which a set of experience-based assumptions would be
initially confirmed as true and as a result, would lead to a universal truth. This
argumentation form became the basis of all the empirical sciences (Costa, 2013)
and has been used many times to question the knowledge of those who
considered themselves wise. It starts from the perspective of one who knows
nothing and, following on from, exposes inconsistencies observed in the
arguments or even the gaps perceived in the answers to gradually extract
insights or perceptions.

The philosophical activity of Socrates supposedly takes place in stages (Yankee,

2013). He asked, insistently, questions that interested him and, in this way, has
developed a new way to investigate what we think we know. Initially, in the
part of the process known as irony, the philosopher purposely expressed in the
opposite way to what he believed, imagined or even knew about a given subject,
forcing the interlocutor to reveal its assumptions, ideas and opinions. With this
tactic, Socrates led him to demonstrate his own ignorance on the subject, namely,
that in fact this knew very little or almost nothing about the object of discussion.

The next step in the method was known as maieutic, a word that comes from the
Greek maieutik and can be translated as the art of childbirth. Socrates would
have said that his mother who was a midwife gave birth to children, while he
gave birth to the ideas. He could be considered as an accoucheur, not
accoucheur of babies but an accoucheur of suppositions, assisting the birth of the
true ideas through brainstorming sessions.

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Starting from the concepts presented by the interlocutor in the initial stage,
Socrates exposed the contradictions and took him to agree with a new set of
conclusions, seeking to discover the veracity of the knowledge in question. This
method of seeking the truth through dialogue including the processes of irony
and maieutics receives the name of dialectics, because it develops as a dialogue
between opposing views.

To Costa (2013), Socrates did not seek definitive answers or explanations. He

possibly believed that to understand who we are would be the primary interest
of philosophy and, in this sense, investigating only the basis of the concepts that
we apply to ourselves. It would mean the love of wisdom, feeling experienced
only by those aware of their own ignorance. Its central concern would have been
the investigation about life: The unexamined life is not worth living. The
mission of the philosopher would not be to instruct people or even learn what
they thought they knew, but to explore the ideas that they had. All the truly wise
man should say that they know nothing. And to get some knowledge about
oneself and the world that surrounds it would be necessary to remove the
preconceived ideas and understand the limits of your own ignorance. Only in
this way, there would be some hope of determining the truth.

How to argue using the Socratic method

This method can be used to show someone that he is wrong, imprecise or even
get him to agree with statements that contradict their original assertion.
Considering that Socrates possibly believed that the first step to knowledge
would be the recognition of ignorance, it appears that this methodology is
focused not only to prove certain concept, but to deconstruct the opposite with a
series of questions (elenchus), leading to the uncertainty. This approach is used
to develop critical thinking skills, used in classrooms, training in management
and psychotherapy. (Burande, 2015; Come Discutere Utilizzando il Metodo
Socrtico, n.d.).

Step 1: Locate a statement that summarizes the argument being debated.

Apparently, Socrates discovered this statement by asking the person to answer
certain question. For example: What is the color of this table?. The Socratic
method can be employed with respect to any answer or statement in which the
person appears to be sure, like, This table is green.

Step 2: Analyze the consequences of this statement. Assume that the declaration
is false and find an example where it can challenge it. You can provide a
scenario, real or imaginary, where this argument is inconsistent. Use this
scenario in a new question: To a blind or colorblind person, is this table still
green?. If the person answers no, proceed to step 3. If the person says yes, ask:
What makes it green and not red to a colorblind? Or any other color to a blind
person?. In other words, If someone is colorblind or cant see, what makes the
table green?. This question may well confuse some people who consider the
vision as the perception of the human being. If so, go to the next step...

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Step 3: Change the initial statement to take into account the exception: So the
table is green only to those that can see normally. Challenge this new statement
with another question. For example, If the table is in the center of an empty
room, where no one can see it, is it still green?. Eventually, it will be possible to
reach an argument with which the person agrees, but contradicts their initial
declaration. In this example, you can end up indicating the subjectivity of the
perception of color and argue (through questions rather than statements) that
color only exists in people's minds as a result of their individual perception; it is
not actually a property of the table. In other words, the table is not green. It is
your opponents perception of it that makes it green.

Through this method it is possible to create challenging assumptions. If the aim

is to argue effectively, this procedure can offer a number of suggestions,
including to challenge their own beliefs. The key to using the methodology is to
be humble and not assume that you or anyone else knows anything for sure.
Each premise should be questioned, since the objective is to examine
possibilities, which is done through questions and not answers.

A rereading of the Socratic method

In a debate about the role of social networks in education (Atica & Scipione,
2011), Eduardo Chaves said that the method of Socrates can be considered not
school-related, that is, cannot be studied or submitted to the learning process in
school context. But that could change with the use of social networks.
Furthermore, in the same way as happens in Socratic practice, the activities
connected to these networks are not likely to be pegged to the curriculum
frameworks. There would be, an education in vertical in which all educate each
other paraphrasing Freire (1987), mediatized by the world. And what the
world offers us at this time? The social networks, virtual worlds, instant
messaging and gaming systems.
If the school will be able to adapt appropriating of this possibility and making
non-formal educational practices we will be finally educating us more outside
of school than at school.
This is a challenge that depends on the capacity of the institutions not
necessarily the formal to reinvent themselves towards a new situation that,
without the technology, it would be absolutely impossible: to have something
that is, at the same time, personal, customizable, and even global-scale.

From the dream of Comenius (2006) to the finding of Freitas (2014), through the
vision of Freire (1987) by challenge of Eduardo Chaves (Atica & Scipione, 2011)...

The Socratic method can be considered an educational tool, since Socrates

himself turned the marketplace of Athens into a classroom enticing his
interlocutors through a dialog whereby they could have their assumptions
questioned and at the same time learn, traveling towards new conceptions of
knowledge and understanding (Davey, 2008). Probably, this is the first reference
we have of a kind of student-focused education, stimulating their own thoughts
and impressions of the facts not accepting ready-made truths, forged, rewritten
or imposed, as being absolute and unquestionable truths. Something similar to

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the scholastic, which is centered on dialectic with the aim of extend knowledge
through inference in the quest to solve the controversies.

This concept is reflected in the UNESCO suggestions directed to educators and

philosophers to find ways to include philosophy and philosophical inquiry in
current education practices, in order to enhance the democratic ways of life
(Tchoshanov, 2013). This recommendation is completely consistent with the
current proposal that suggests the rescue of the Socratic method, and through a
rereading, adapting it to current educational practices didactic and
technologically correct these days in which the use of the internet has
abolished the frontiers. Davey (2008) considers this time as the arriving at a
new beginning through the redefining socratic pedagogy.

However, what often prevents the connection between philosophy and

educational technologies is a theory distant from practice and technologies; and
a technological practice without any theory. That is, two completely different
speeches that does not turn into a transformational practice. Lopes (2005)
discusses these antagonisms and proposes to classify the charlatanisms of higher
education pedagogy in four areas defined as alpha, beta, gamma and delta.
Although in an empirical way, the reflections show a sad portrait of the reality.

Over recent years, a wide range of researches have been carried out on using
web conferencing to facilitate student collaboration (Winter & McGhie-
Richmond, 2005; Diziol, Walker, Rummel & Koedinger, 2010). Something that
Downes (2012) calls cognitivism, that is, that knowledge is distributed across a
network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to
construct and traverse those networks. The study of Tucker & Neely (2010)
explore the use of the Socratic method through web conferencing. Badgea,
Saundersb & Canna (2012) brings new tools to visualize student engagement via
social networks, where the Socratic method was used. Shahsavari & Hoon (2013)
discuss the role of Socratic questions in promoting students critical thinking
through Web 2.0 tools. In addition, the portal SMRP (2004) dedicated to
advancing the use of the Socratic method makes available free of charge all
teaching perspectives, methods and resources developed for this purpose.

Videoconferencing and telepresence systems

Mobility is always something interesting for students and teachers. But it has a
cost and usually only includes some, discriminating the others. Not everyone
can afford these costs and the scholarships and grants are not enough to meet
demand. So it makes much more sense to move Mohammed to the mountain
than the mountain to Mohammed. And Mohammed presently can use
videoconferencing to be virtually in the mountain.

Every artist has to go where the people are (Nascimento & Brant, 1981).

According to Wauters (2009), the mYngle advocates the use of Skype for
videoconferencing tutoring. This is an option of reasonable quality these days
(broadband accesses), simple and free. Klein (2012) argues that the mYngle and

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WizIQ use a proprietary technology for virtual classrooms solution also used
by eduFire, as well as Adobe Connect. Suggests two options: Vyew (2005) and
BlueTeach, although these remain problems with the use of Flash (Adobe) and
discusses some possibilities for the virtual classroom of the future, as the
Conceptboard, without the use of Flash.

The ClickMeeting (2006) offers several solutions, all paid, with differentials for
nonprofit institutions. On their website there is a specific session suggesting
ways to incorporate videoconferencing in a traditional classroom, fostering a
more dynamic and engaging learning environment: lectures and classroom
presentations; virtual presentation from a guest speaker; recorded lessons for
online review; online meetings and webinars; staff meetings and professional
The Fuze (1996) is another option, and is presented to the market as the best
HD videoconferencing including online meeting services, webinar and screen

PC Magazine (McLaughlin, 2015) compared what they regarded as the best

videoconferencing services of 2015: ClickMeeting, Join.Me, Adobe Connect,
Cisco WebEx Meeting Center, Citrix GoToMeeting, eVoice, Microsoft Skype for
Business, Onstream Meetings, StartMeeting and InterCall. In addition to these
services, there were comments about CometCall, Drum's ShareAnywhere,
Google Hangouts and Zoom.

In recent years, Roth (2007) has discussed, examined and specified video
conference systems, as well as accompanied its evolution to telepresence systems
(Roth, 2011) and what is perceived is that the ubiquitous availability of
broadband in the various types of internet connection and video cameras in all
mobile devices only contributed to increase the gap between the reality and the
practice of schools and universities.
All active social networks and the dominant Facebook have adapted, by
providing additional support (add-ons, plugins and extensions) to the
videoconferencing and making the usual and transparent practice, without the
need of additional softwares. The same situation was verified in the various
LMS (Roth, 2014).

New videoconferencing solutions are always emerging (LVTSPB, 2009): Avaya

(Radvision) Scopia systems; AVer Information HVC330, H300; Cisco Systems
Cisco TelePresence; Huawei TP Telepresence series; Ericsson-LG LVP series
PSTN, ISDN and IP videophones; Librestream Onsight; LifeSize LifeSize
Team, LifeSize Room & LifeSize Conference; Panasonic VC500; Polycom
RealPresence Immersive Studio, OTX, HDX, Group series; Polycom VVX; Sony
PCS systems; TrueConf TrueConf Terminal; Vidyo VidyoRoom &
VidyoDesktop; and Zoom Video Communications ZoomPresence.

Apparently, these solutions with dedicated hardware-based codecs still offer

better quality than software-based codecs, but that is not always important or

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even necessary not to mention that the situation can change rapidly with the
availability of a higher bandwidth and cloud computing resources.
The costs involved indicate that the best structure must be on the side of
whoever produces the contents (videos) or even the person who manages the
processes (does the current teachers role in videoconferences). Usually only one
person speaks at a time with the exception of the Italians (parlare tutti insieme).
In this sense, even the solutions considered more modest and without
acquisition costs may be suitable.

The differential should not be focused on technology (best system and with
better quality), much less in technological dependence, but in the effective use of
solutions that are already available in more than one vendor absolutely
nothing lasts forever if possible free of charge, as an affordable means of
natural and transparent use.
Try to give emphasis to technology or even consider it not as a means, but as an
end sends us to the fears of society entering a new era. To Gale Anne Hurd, the
vision in the Terminator was that human arrogance has led to the complete
destruction of civilization, because we placed all our trust in technology
(Southwell, 2014).

What could change, of course, should be the involvement of customers

(students) through a provocative method so that they get out of inertia.
One of the main goals of education has been to strengthen the relationship
between long-term memory and intelligence, helping people to store
information to subsequently use them in problem-solving (Hielkema et al.,
2012). Soon, regardless of where they are these clients, videoconferencing will
always be a means to distribute tasks, since the Socratic method can and should
be associated with PBL methodology.

Stop & Go
The year 2015 can, in a sense, be regarded as the year in which the internet lost
definitely their innocence. We passed the boosterism of the Free (Anderson,
2010), to the unfulfilled promises of cloud computing (Seshachala, 2015;
Henthorn-Iwane, 2015) with all of the coupled traps, until we reach the total
lack of privacy and security, as demonstrated in all Google episodes and by
latest Microsoft OS version (Windows 10) with several definitions that not only
simplify, but try to impose the socialization of the user. Not to mention the
trend of intelligent virtual assistants who want to know all of your life and
always inform the owners (Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now, Amazon
Eco Alexa, etc.). The dream of having a J.A.R.V.I.S. (Just A Rather Very
Intelligent System) at home can always become a nightmare.

George Orwell would have commented about his book, 1984, that In times of
universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act (Mller, 1989, p. 106).

The documentaries Facebook Follies (Peill & DEon, 2011) and Deep Web
(Winter, 2015) exploit these facets of modernity. The exacerbated exposure on
one side and the quest for anonymity and privacy of another, considered

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politically correct or not, depending on the time in which we are living. But in
both cases we witnessed astonished to governments considered democratic as
of the United States, and in the Obama era acting contrary to rights and basic
and fundamental guarantees on behalf of copyright protection, the drug
enforcement, or of the so-called terrorism and they do it through something
much worse, something created by themselves: the state terrorism (Roberts,
2004; IPE, 2011).
From yes we can to yes we scan. Common place in history when a society
makes the transition from freedom to dictatorship and just one more of the
contradictions of a country with a discourse of respect for human rights, but that
does not submit nor even the decisions of the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights (IACHR).

According to Siddiqui (2008), The same jihad which was acclaimed as a holy
war of liberation and was supported in terms of money, weapons, training,
manpower and moral support is now seen as terrorism in a world where war on
terror is the slogan of the day. Scapegoats are created (Osama Bin Laden,
Saddam Hussein, Shawn Fanning, Ross Ulbricht) to manipulate the masses and
create exemplary executions, which can serve as an example and spread the
fear: When the mob governs, man is ruled by ignorance; when the church
governs, he is ruled by superstition; and when the state governs, he is ruled by
fear (Hall, 1928).

Schrder (2002) points out the risks of a greater intervention by the modern civil
state and a weakened right of defense for the accused whoever they may be. In
this way, by the completely arbitrary definition of terrorism it is very easy to
realize that the war on terror has little to do with combating terrorism and
instead has as its primary objective the erosion of fundamental rights in the EU.
What often we tend to classify as terrorism may well be a last gasp of freedom.

The real terrorism is always implicit in immoral actions and unfortunately in

both situations we will always have innocent victims. This limit position is just
another consequence or even proof of our inability to solve our conflicts.
The modern definition of terrorism could be something like: everything that
others do to try to survive or even to not submit to the actions and desires of the
powerful against which has no chance to fight under the same conditions.
Powerful states that create laws and international courts to others, because they
are the first to ignore these limitations or even international treaties which have
acceded and signed...

But what could be the way to ensure security, privacy and at the same time
universal access to information, training and opportunities that the internet can
offer without any kind of persecution, overexposure or discrimination?

The businessman Jorge Paulo Lemann, currently the richest man in Brazil (2016),
pondered that idealistic speeches don't help to build practical solutions: There's
a lot of people in Brazil who thinks that equality is a beauty. I think equality is a

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beauty too, only it doesn't work. Equality of opportunity, that is true. Now,
equality for equality... People are not equal (Frias & Bilenky, 2015).

Surely people are not equal, but many of them can count with a family
background or even with an initial financial support and privileged information,
not always obtained honestly and transparently. Most do not have access to the
same level of education; to the personal, professional and government contacts
in certain places that allow leverage their individual possibilities exponentially,
in a short time and put them in prominent positions with minimum effort and
many times none. In this way, of course, they can't count on the same

But where there is equal opportunities and inclusion for all persons, without any
kind of favoritism or discrimination? At Lemann Foundation, or even in
companies captained by Jorge Lemann? Of course not. In these places a given
profile is exploited or even searched at the detriment of others of workaholic
entrepreneurs, who according to his own words should save Brazil (Instituto
Millenium, 2016). The opportunities are created just for some few privileged
people, and despite the capitalist logic of the creature, does not match with the
public discourse of the creator. It is just another fallacy of meritocracy...

Jorge Lemann (Lemann Foundation) and Bill Gates (Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation) are supporters of the Khan Academy, but it is not a matter of
collective funding (crowdfunding).
The full list (2014-2015), which includes many foundations, can be verified in
Our Supporters (2016). Probably the support for this kind of venture really free
of charge and within everyone's reach is derived from a sense of guilt. There's
a correlation between generosity and guilt. But, you got the money. Break as
many eggs as you like (Feige & Russo, 2016). At the same time, there is always
an untold story, different from the official, which hides the tracks of those who
fell by the wayside, in climbing to success. The things that weve done to
survive they dont define us (Miller & Showalter, 2014).

Although it is laudable the work of some foundations and institutes, it is not any
favor. Basically, they dont do anything with their own resources, but from
donations, deductions, and taxes not paid directly to governments, applied in
their own social programs (Guerreiro, 2012). Something similar to what the
Lions Clubs International (2001) always did: success with the money of others
in this case, with the tax money, which theoretically should be to the benefit of
all citizens.

Why not create opportunities for everyone, not only of study, but also of access
to knowledge and subsequent application?
A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance
(Perry & Radford, 1984). When we tried to fetch only a certain profile at the
expense of others, when we begin to choose the best often in a subjective and
biased manner, to the detriment of all or even any one this possibility of giving
specific destination to resources that should be public fails blatantly...

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Only a state committed to social equality and free of the corruption in essential
sectors would be able to give exactly the same opportunities, without
discrimination of any kind, for everyone. Considering that a market where
really are created the professional opportunities and where companies and
states hire labor able to select personnel in a transparent way.
The problem is that this issue is theoretical and even in socialist or communist
utopias was never able to materialize since the discriminatory employment
practices are always present.
Even in the European Union who built his unit under the difference and as a
product of a long historical construction receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (EU,
2012) the policy of protection against discrimination cannot fulfill its role (EC,
2015; Equinet, 2015).

The instinctive reaction of all creatures with fear is to retreat to a safe place.
However, for a large portion of legal immigrants (or even real refugees) the
European dream of today or the American dream of the past remains an
urban legend. Suddenly, the dream so desired becomes a nightmare...
Even citizens of member states coexist with intolerance and discriminatory acts
that constrain, mistreat and ignore human and community rights. In the
background seems to persist the fear by changes in lifestyle, the dispute by the
labor market or even the access to health and education. After all, following the
implementation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the European
university courses all look the same (independent from the university), though
some are fully or partially paid and other totally free of charge (Roth, 2015a).

What is the subjective importance (always discriminatory) that can be attributed

to its origin, to the country, you are in; to university in which you have studied,
the publisher in which you print your books or the journal you publish your

Many researchers provide their papers to publishers like Elsevier, JSTOR, Sage
and Springer because they consider that have a study published in these
magazines brings prestige and recognition by the scientific community. Directly,
they do not earn anything with this and do not receive no portion of the money
collected through exorbitantly high charges. These publishers simply take
ownership of the content, for which they do not pay (Oswald, 2016). They create
their own systems of indexing and impact factor something that only reflects
your edits ignoring the open access journals. Such global indices as the Science
Citation Index, Scopus or Web of Science include a small number of journals
and tend to favor publications in English considered the global scientific
language (Altbach, 2014) something that can be characterized as neo-
colonialism. Thus they handle only what interests them and feeds the wicked
system. In this sense they discriminate what may or may not be published, who
can or cannot publish, the pseudo-subjective quality or even the validity of
publications in accordance or not with certain editorial line. They live from this
system where they imagine that only they have the right to do so and then
charge what they imagine without the payment of any copyrights.

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Notice the sequence: take ownership, adapt and not pay for the use. This
practice is so absurd as the rankings that imagine evaluate the quality of
universities and, in some countries, could be characterized as larceny and
formation of gangs. But count on the connivance of the universities, which seem
to be engaged in a global arms race of publication, of researchers hostages of
this system or even of a corrupt and compromised system of justice.

For many students and researchers, the website Sci-Hub (2011, 2015), (Tor:
scihub22266oqcxt.onion) the equivalent to The Pirate Bay for academic
research is the only way to gain access to certain content that should be in the
public domain, but which are subject to exploitation, privatization of
knowledge, trading and a false elitism in the scientific sphere.
The world, although round, has many corners (Abreu, 2013). In this sense,
merit should always be something individual and own of personal production
and not derivative, discriminated or even pegged to an imaginary differential of
quality or tradition...

The Khan Academy and the mYngle can and presumably will always be
criticized by people and institutions who are part of the dominant system and
see their lifestyle threatened. It is always easier and comfortable criticizing who
does that at least trying to do.
However, they can be considered as contemporary models, efficient, effective
and successful of the market differential and the effective use of videos and
videoconferencing to leverage ventures and educational initiatives through the

Marina and Sal basically did not create anything new. They just reused
everything that was already available, even if developed by others and for free.
Probably this is one of the keys to success: take ownership of an idea, adapt and
not pay for the use. This simple modus operandi is part of absolutely every
business success stories that we so admire. Just check the cases of Microsoft,
Apple, Facebook or even some publishers that are parasites of science.

Many people who have created or developed something original like Kane
Kramer, the real inventor of the iPod will not have gained any money from this
(Boffey, 2008).

In Brazil, it has become fashionable to discuss the legacy of Jorge Paulo Lemann
and his business partners Carlos Alberto Sicupira and Marcel Herrmann Telles
however there is also that the ideas were never of them. To Claudio Haddad,
president of Ibmec So Paulo, Jorge Paulo is not a genius in an ivory tower.
This was one of the striking features of developed culture at Bank Garantia: its
ease in copying the good examples. According to Carlos Alberto Sicupira, The
great advantage of Brazil is that you can copy what is being developed
elsewhere and do here. You can copy everything, no need to be reinventing the
wheel. What we have done for the entire life? Only copied. We did not invent
anything. Still well. Inventing things is a danger darn.

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Copy and implement and do not innovate or even create have always been
the favorite words in this group. Jorge Lemann confirms, Worth much more a
good logic, a good execution, than any brilliant innovation. You have to worry
about innovation. But if someone is doing well, best not to spend too much time
looking for how to do it. Go there, look and adapts to their way, and ready.
(Teixeira, Hessel & Oliveira, 2008).

What lessons can we take of the mega ventures of William Henry Gates III,
Steven Paul Jobs, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg or even of Jorge Paulo Lemann?
Practically no teaching.
No one replicates success stories, because the temperature and pressure
conditions are never the same. However, we learn more from our mistakes and
from the mistakes of others than with our possible achievements or even with
the achievements of others...

Probably Salman Amin Khan and Marina Tognetti have much more to show us
than our representative icons of certain exceptional situations not always
clearly demonstrable and exempt from criticism...
Our false heroes are always better at everything: are richer, more intelligent, are
better-looking, more resourceful or simply are considered better than us,
without any superficial adjective. In this context, modern heroes are amenities
missing, at least, through a paradoxical perspective (Sapelli, 2011).

Jos Abelardo Barbosa de Medeiros, known as Chacrinha (2009), was a great

radio communicator and one of the biggest names in Brazilian television. Was
the author of the famous phrase: Na televiso, nada se cria, tudo se copia (In
television, nothing is created, everything is copied) probably parodying the
statement of Antoine Lavoisier (2001): Rien ne se perd, rien ne se cre, tout se
transforme (Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed) or
Giordano Bruno (Kessler, 1900): Il tempo tutto toglie e tutto d; ogni cosa si muta,
nulla s'annichila (Time gives all and takes all away; everything changes but
nothing perishes).

This concept of lack of originality can be taken without risk to everything that
relates to the Internet, especially education even that considered
technologically correct where the copy and paste many times means the
practice rather than the exception.

Be ahead of its time is a capacity that almost never gives any advantage to its
possessor. Lavoisier was convicted of treason and lost his head on the guillotine.
Giordano Bruno was called a heretic and burned at the stake by the holy
inquisition. Malcolm X was murdered before he had time to develop their new
ideas. Socrates was forced to drink hemlock for pissing off many people.

The premise credited to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, that When a human
being awakens to a great dream about and it throws all the strength of his soul,
the whole universe conspires in your favor is false, because the human element
is always perversely present. We always destroy our heroes.

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


The reality that prevails, corrupts and marginalizes all those who oppose the
established truths makes many thinkers remain hidden with fear of rejection or
ridicule (Roth, 2015c).

Faced with several notorious practices, observed in several amazing schools

around the world, Roth (2015a) pointed out good examples that could be
followed, copied or even reused with proper adaptation: the secret ingredient.
Any cake recipe when replicated requires the use of this supplement that is
neither explicit nor described. In the case of the deployment of a new idea will
always be the previous sensitization, persuasion, participation, and agreement of
the parties involved. Without pressure or obligation to those who will actually
use every day a new process or way of working. Without this small detail, there
will always be some kind of boycott and any action in this regard will be subject
to the low level of adoption, as verified in all pretentiously modern universities.

Among these special cases, the Escola da Ponte, from Portugal, became known
among those that should be considered hors-concours. And it is exactly this
model of non-formal practices that will be tested (Souza, 2016) in a pilot project,
in a pilot project, by two public schools in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do
Sul: without assessment tests and without formal classes...

When we want to carry out some movement forward in educational terms we

always have the opportunity to skip steps and go straight to the current state of
the art. Learn from the experiences of others. Although this can be verified in
some schools of Brazil, cannot be generalized. In March 2016 took place the
Open Education Week (Open Education Week, 2011), with the support of the
Parana Program for Open Education Practices and Resources (Rea Paran, 2014),
an interinstitutional action created in 2014 by the Federal University of Parana
and the Federal Technological University of Parana.

Open Educational Resources (OER) and the inception of repositories never

formatted or delivered any product (full course, with or without certification
only lessons of courses). It can, in a way, be considered as an evolutionary stage,
but it is an outdated view, at least fourteen years. Although there are verified
experiments since 1999, the OCW movement really took off with the launch of
MIT OpenCourseWare in 2002 (OpenCourseWare, 2007). The MOOCs were a
step forward they were formatted as courses (they could use OCW materials),
but never reached the level of FLOSCs. Not to mention that all this requires
some level of authorship, something unthinkable for anyone who does not
create, only copies or appropriates. In the videos and in video conferencing
this changes, but imagine that the model of the Khan Academy will be the next
step remains an open question. The really public universities (without tuition
fees) is that should evolve to take this step forward.

The Khan Academy and mYngle, how they were developed, would not have
existed without the current internet. Without the use of videos and
videoconferencing not left the commonplace, would not have gained such
visibility, recognition, and attracted so many users. For sure is a refreshing

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change, recycling the same old material that has always been rehashed. The
main attraction of the Khan Academy is the fact of being free of charge and the
promise of so remain for future Besides, of course, the quality of the currently
produced material. The mYngle, by contrast, faces many competitors with
similar strategies.
Which business model will be able to survive is a matter of time, for the future.

There is no an apparent didactic innovation in reference only to those

considered correct today in none of the initiatives. What exists is a good use of
available technology and a good selection of teachers, not only based on inflated
resumes, who you know (recommendation letters) or even dishonest
While the mYngle applies the traditional concept of maintenance (who pays the
bill are the users) does not represent a serious risk to the status quo. On the other
side the Khan Academy appears defending opposing ideas to those of the
establishment, and applies the maximum of the Free (Anderson, 2010), that is,
that someone will surely pay the bill, but need not be the end user. In the case,
currently who pays the costs are several foundations, individual donors (who
earn the right to expose its name as benefactors) and anonymous donors (who
do it out of conviction and do not seek this form of promotion).

In these two ventures the effects are much more noticeable, because the actions
are not limited to a particular country or language, since the internet usually
does not impose borders. This concept of not only globalization or
internationalization, but of universality should be replicated by all universities
in the world, to keep up to date and adapt to changing times in order to finally
meet the beautiful revolutionary, democratic and constitutional rule of
education universal, compulsory and free for all. This is not a reality, not even
in Europe. Ferrer (2001) said fifteen years ago that And the European Union has
the moral and political obligation to provide the financial resources necessary to
achieve free education for all between now and 2015. And since last year this
deadline is not met without which the objectives have been achieved.

In this context, Downes (2011) tells stories about open source, open content and
open learning through the lens of the person who wants access to these
resources, rather than the provider's vision. We have to somehow, go through
this learning curve.

Sherman (1982) wrote that You cant go back and make a new start, but you can
start right now and make a brand new ending.
We still cannot go back in time, but we can all take a step back and then take two
steps forward and make a new choice.

An important question that should be reviewed and continues to move away the
academic environment from the business community is an alleged false pretense
or even a pseudo-referential of originality that permeates the publications and
practices of the educational milieu (Silva, 2011; Dey, 2006). Fake, because in daily
practices, subtly, manipulated or even explicit manner, prevails in the copy, the

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


plagiarism, the unethical practices (as to include co-authors without

participation and after have this favor reciprocated) and the reuse of materials
without update, by professors.
The writers have always known that books always speak of other books, and
every story tells a story that has already been told (Eco, 1984).

We should not be forced or pressured to create useless academic papers, theses,

dissertations or even supposedly scientific papers, that have as justification only
fulfill some imposed precondition, not practical or even constitute some number
abstract to be able to reference some level of production under the false aegis of
the quality or even giving some merit to its supposed author (DORA, 2012).
More important than this would be the adaptation, the applicability and the
massive use and this has been, demonstrably, the recipe to get good results...

Parodying Umberto Eco (1989), this is an open work, and as such should be
seized and enriched by each one of us. More complex paths could be traveled by
with creativity, knowledge and competence qualities not always present in
who clings to certain jobs and positions without the intention or even pretension
to enable change, regardless of fads. There is therefore a special need to promote
the formation of the new generation of teachers who, in the near future will be in
educational key positions.
The background should always be the belief in the need to democratize
education, provide access for all; and in the capacity that we have many of us,
educators, trained or not, to do an education with high standards of quality,
regardless of distances (Roth, 2013). Then we can move forward, without
turning the issue into another sensationalist story or continue putting forever the
blame on our colonizers (Filho, 2015).

At Ca' Foscari University of Venice (UNIVE) the few references related to the
Socratic method are found in the book Capire e dissentire, Cicerone e la filosofia di
Epicuro (Maso, 2008), in the course Problemi Particolari di Didattica delle Scienze
Sociali (Gozzo, 2009), in the degree theses Marco Aurelio: filosofia e potere (Dei
Rossi, 2012) and Sviluppo, valutazione ed analisi delle competenze trasversali
nell'high education (Pisanello, 2013) and in the doctoral thesis Platone e la
scrittura di dialoghi socratici: strategie, interlocutori e finalit (Candiotto, 2011). Just
another one of the gaps of a traditional university with a misleading discourse of
modernity and technological security (current policy requires changing
passwords every 180 days), but that hosts its institutional emails on Google
(Roth, 2015c).

Far from being unanimous, the Socratic method has always been a fit topic for
polemics and various speculations, being worshiped by some and hated by
others. Throughout history this approach went through several steps, since a
questionable usage (for its supposed creator), followed by a misinterpretation (of
his detractors) to what we can consider as their redemption and consequent
adoption, in the days of today.
This is not a new discovery, only a rediscovery.

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Many times the secret is in the simplicity. In the movie The Martian (Kinberg &
Scott, 2015), there are moments in which the protagonist seems to be Brazilian,
as he is always taken by that spirit of never give up and lives finding a way for
everything (Zarour, 2015). Should not be this the common place? The spirit
which guides us and keeps us active in the market?
The reversal of discourse on the one hand challenges some created truths, facts,
common sense and ideologies, and on the other offers alternative truths and
facts (Siddiqui, 2008).

We do not need to expose to ridicule any person, much less our students. But the
practice would not all bad if applied to many who consider themselves teachers,
subcelebrities who insist on ascending to the throne or even refuse to come
down from the pedestal, without any right or even personal merit
conquered and not acquired through financial resources or third-party
indications. Help them put on the sandals of humility and to accept that, with
very few exceptions, we are not special and we do not know anything with
Merit should not be something that you can buy through articles for paid
publications, small print runs of books (the unethical side of the Portuguese
knack) through a growing number of vanity publishers that will publish
books for a fee (Altbach, 2014) or even by participation in events industry very
little or no scientific.

As that living a waking dream, in a Matrix outside of reality, we delude

ourselves and we imagine that we know. We think, we feel and even believe we
know, but we do not know It is a dangerous trap thinking that way. In this
sense, Socrates was the truly wise, because he had the full notion of their
learned ignorance (docta ignorantia). Back to the Socratic paradox: ipse se nihil
scire id unum sciat, that is, I know that I know nothing or I know one thing:
that I know nothing

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2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No.6, pp. 33-47, May 2016

Documentary Film: The Next Step in Qualitative

Research to Illuminate Issues of Social Justice in
Urban Education

Jennifer Friend
University of Missouri Kansas City
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Loyce Caruthers
University of Missouri Kansas City
Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Abstract. This conceptual paper explores the unique contribution to

traditional qualitative research methodology and urban educational
renewal that documentary film can achieve through illumination of
issues of social justice and existing inequities in public education in the
United States. Through arts-based inquiry, the authors incorporated
critical race theory with digital video to explore the truths and realities
of schooling for urban students in the Midwestern United States. The
purpose of these two film projects was to help educators and
community members think more deeply about the socialization of
children within institutions, where enduring historical and socio-
cultural ideologies may exist. Friend and Caruthers assert that adopting
documentary film as a research paradigm creates opportunities to share
stories from schools that illuminate diverse perspectives of voice, which
can be used to transform school communities.

Keywords. Qualitative methods; urban education; social justice; video

research; documentary film.

1. Introduction: Documentary Film as Research

This article introduces a specific approach grounded in post-qualitative

inquiry (St. Pierre, 2015) to illuminate issues of social justice and existing
inequities in United States urban public schools using documentary film. St.
Pierre (2015) devised the idea of post qualitative inquiry (p. 75) to challenge
conventional humanist qualitative inquiry, which I argue has become
overdetermined by the publishing industry, university research courses, and
journal and books that detail very carefully what it is and how to do it (p. 75).
As a postmodernist project, film crosses, incorporates or reconstructs borders of

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


different disciplines, research paradigms, geographical locations and cultures

(Gribich, 2013). Film captures authentic voices and lived experiences of students,
educators, and community members with diverse perspectives in order to share
knowledge and experiences that have the potential to contribute to equity and
democracy in education. This research approach began as arts-based inquiry,
wherein the authors produced two documentary short films, What Kids / Teens
Love and Hate about School, featuring interviews with diverse students attending
urban public schools as they shared their stories and experiences. The films and
video excerpts have been screened at professional research conferences and used
as teaching tools within educational preparation programs in diverse regions of
the United States and in the United Kingdom.
Through arts-based inquiry, the purpose of the use of dance, theater,
drama, film, collage, video, photography . . . . when grounded in a critical
performance pedagogy . . . can be used to advance a progressive political
agenda that addresses issues of social inequity (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 642).
We incorporated critical race theory (Ladson-Billings, 2004) with digital video to
share the truths and realities of schooling for urban students and to help
teachers and educational leaders, researchers, policymakers, and community
activists to examine issues of social justice grounded in historical inequities.
Researchers have used digital video as an ethnographic research tool for decades
(Goldman, 2004; Rosenstein, 2002), providing accessibility to a wider audience
than traditional research methods such as publications in research journals.
Video also provides the opportunity for viewers to engage in their own
meaning-making. In this conceptual article, the authors will share the research
methods used to produce documentary films that share stories from schools
with diverse perspectives of voice, which can be used to transform school

2. The Enduring Inequities in Urban Schools

There are many people living in poverty in rural parts of the United
States; however, approximately two-thirds of the poor live in the nations inner
cities or in fiscally stressed suburbs and towns (Anyon, 2014, p. 9). The inner
cities or urban core regions within the U.S. have become places where
disenfranchised groups who cannot escape their impoverished neighborhoods
live amidst a decreasing tax base that cannot adequately support the educational
and service needs of the community. They are often viewed as constructed others,
separated from thriving business and community services, and their
neighborhoods lack the economic support necessary to provide the means to
expand opportunities. Young (1990) explained that otherness develops from the
experience of ways the dominant meanings of a society render the particular
perspective of ones own group invisible at the same time as they stereotype
ones group and mark it out as the other (p. 59). When there are economic
opportunities in the urban core, the others are pushed out of the region to make
room for new inhabitants and visitors. An example of such gentrification can be
seen in inner cities across the United States with the repurposing of old
buildings into loft apartments that are so expensive that rents are in excess of
what most middle class families could afford. By demolishing low income

apartment housing and forcing residents to live elsewhere, new shopping and
dining facilities take over these city blocks. There is still much work that needs
to be done to promote social justice in order to fulfill our nations vision of an
equal chance at life, liberty, and happiness for every citizen.
The same is true when applied to providing every student an equal
chance at a first-class education. In particular, the problem confronting urban
schools serving higher percentages of Black and Latino males is dire in terms of
achievement, assignment to special education, limited participation in gifted
programs, school graduation rates, enrollment and completion of college, and
other factors that reflect their status in American society (Conchas, 2012;
Holzman, 2006; Levin, Belfield, Muennig, & Rouse, 2007; Noguera, 2012; Rios &
Galicia, 2014). Ladson-Billings (2006) posits that even when comparable family
incomes exist there is still a gap in achievement between African Americans and
Latina/os and their white counterparts based on standardized test measures.
The persistent low achievement, labelled the achievement gap, is one of
the most heavily discussed and debated issues in education which has not been
examined contextually to determine broader contributors to inequality. Several
scholars such as Irvine (2010) and Milner (2013) have explained the phenomenon
as an opportunity gap, an issue of deeply-rooted societal biases that have
produced educational disparities among students of color. Irvine (2010) insists
that other gaps must be closed:
Gaps include the teacher-quality gap, the teacher-training gap, the
challenging curriculum gap, the school-funding gap, the digital-
divide gap, the affordable-housing gap, the health care gap, the
employment-opportunity gap, the school-integration gap, and the
quality child-care gap (p. xii).
Recently, the emphasis on the Common Core State Standards Initiative to
improve reading and math achievement has emerged across the United States,
while some states have opted out of this top down approach (The Common
Core State Standards Initiative, 2014). There is more involved in the preparation
of educators and leaders for urban schools than an understanding of statistics
related to student achievement. Investigating schools through the medium of
film, while incorporating critical race theory, yields a key to unlocking the
hidden stories within the diverse students who attend them.

3. Critical Race Theory

Critical race theory (CRT) holds that racism exists within societies as a
social construction that contributes to inequities in the overall society and in
institutions such as schools. The individuals credited with the conception of CRT
applied to critical examination of educational contexts consisted of a number of
scholars of color (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Lynn & Parker, 2006) with an
activist agenda, intended to bring about change and social justice (DeCuir &
Dixson, 2004). Ladson-Billings (2000) notes:
The gift of CRT is that it unapologetically challenges the scholarship that
would dehumanize and depersonalize usIn CRT the researcher makes
a deliberate appearance in his or her work.the deeply personal
rendering of social science that CRT scholars bring to their work helps

break open the mythical hold that traditional work has on

knowledgeCRT helps us to raise some important questions about the
control and production of knowledgeparticularly knowledge about
people and communities of color (p. 272).
Critical Race Theory has been used in education to critique current policies,
curriculum, pedagogical practices, and assessment of learning (Ladson-Billings,
Storytelling, which is central to our use of documentary film to advance
student voice, is used in CRT as a way to express the experiences of ethnically
diverse students (DeCuir & Dixson, 2004; Ladson-Billings, 2009; Parker & Lynn,
2002; Solorzano & Yosso, 2005). Through the lens of CRT as applied to analysis
of interviews and observational data, we were able to apprehend stories of the
lived experiences of students in urban settings. Esteban-Guitart and Moll (2014)
describe lived experience as the result of any transaction between people and
the world, emphasizing the subjective significance of the situation on the
person.the subjective side of culture mediates and organizes behaviours (p.
33). Using documentary film, we were able to capture their meanings of
schooling within urban settings as seen and heard through each students voice
and lived experiences.

4. Meaning-Making and Documentary Films

When creating a documentary project, the filmmaker chooses what to

film, whom to film, where to film, and how to film the participant. Blanc (2014)
stated that, the discourse of the documentary filmmakers focuses particularly
on the transformation of the person filmed into a characterit should facilitate
the introduction of recognizable features to the viewer, i.e. representations of the
Other both near and different from ourselves (p. 127). A definition of
documentary film provided by Cantine, Howard, and Lewis (2000) stated that:
In its most basic sense a documentary is a film in which the filmmaker
allows the action or events to unfold naturally with minimal
interference The very process involved in making a film requires that
the artist manipulate the subject material to some extent. Differences in
documentary style are often a matter of the degree of manipulation the
filmmaker chooses to impose (p. 14).
A filmmaker may choose to appear in the documentary film, and to embrace
persuasive techniques as evident in the work of Michael Moore, seeking to
influence the audience to address social issues ranging from gun control to
health care reform. Griffiths (2013) stated that, the subjective presence of the
filmmaker in the frame emphasizes how reality and representation are
indivisible, mutually imbricated, and subjectively grounded (p. 41).
In order to explore the meanings communicated to the audience through
the narrative of a documentary film, one can use qualitative or interpretive
techniques such as semiotics or ideological analysis (Berger, 2000, p. 15). In
addition to film analysis through theories and techniques associated with media
studies, documentary films are accessible to and interpreted by a wide audience.
The viewer sees images and listens to the voices of documentary film
participants, filtering this through prior knowledge, beliefs, and experiences.

The documentary work produced by the co-authors of this article has been
centered on the voices of students in urban public schools. Voice may be
defined as meaning that resides in the individual and enables that individual to
participate in a community. . . . Voice suggests relationships: the individuals
relationship to the meaning of his/her experience (Britzman, 1990, p. 14). This
definition focuses on an individuals meanings, relationships, and experiences
within the larger community. While the authors documentary film work has
served to amplify students voices as part of a research agenda, other education-
related documentary films have been created with different purposes.

4.1 Davis Guggenheims Waiting for Superman.

An example of the different ways of making meaning from a

documentary film focused on U.S. education can be seen in Waiting for Superman,
released in 2010. An article published in the popular U.S. magazine
Entertainment Weekly referred to Guggenheims documentary film as This Falls
MUST-SEE Documentary, describing the feature-length movie focused on
public schooling and charter schools as a penetrating, moving documentary
(Sperling, 2010, p. 49). Another review described the film as a moving but
vastly oversimplified brief on American educational inequality (Goldstein,
2010, p. 20), criticizing Guggenheims one-sided portrayal of teachers unions as
the villains in the struggle to close the achievement gap, despite their long
history of advocating for more school funding, smaller class sizes and better
school resources and facilities (p. 21).
In addition to the debate in the popular press related to the accuracy of
claims in the film, meaning-making is impacted by whether a viewer had prior
experience as a student, parent, or educator. One U.S. teacher preparation
program designed a viewing experience for the film where candidates were also
provided with a detournementi.e., a countertextthat challenged the main
arguments of the documentary (p. 69). According to Trier (2013), the project
clearly caused several students to reconsider their initial agreements with some
of the more problematic claims, assertions, and arguments made by Waiting for
Superman (p. 71). Many possible meanings are determined by the film itself and
the possible meanings of the social and world context outside the film.

5. Documentary Film: Visual Qualitative Research Methodology

The authors claim our work as an arts-based practice that grew out of
advances in theory, including feminism, postmodernism, poststructuralism,
postcolonialism, critical race theory, queer theory, and other theoretical
perspectives (Leavy, 2015). According to Grbich (2013), The impact and sensory
experience of the image on the viewer rather than an emphasis on the artists
meaning or someone elses interpretation provides the postmodern focus in art
(p. 109). The therapeutic nature of the arts and their healing powers stimulated
the current practice of arts-based research practices (Leavy, 2015, p. 11). We
viewed documentary film as an opportunity to step outside the formalized
methods of the interpretive turn forged in the 1980s (St. Pierre, 2015) which tend
to block new ways of thinking. St. Pierre (2015) stated, In fact, the new
empiricist might well argue that attempting to follow a given research method

will likely foreclose possibilities for the new. The new empiricist researcher,
then, is on her own, inventing inquiry in the doing (p. 81). Finley (2011) makes
the distinction between traditional qualitative research and arts-based inquiry:
Communicating the ordinary extraordinary (Dissanayake, 1997)
through vernacular expressions in the context of mass media popular
cultureradio, television, filmdoes more than introduce dialogues that
automatically contain, constrain, or even liberate us, writes Joli Jensen
(2002, p. 198). Instead these cultural forms are part of an ongoing,
humanly constructed conversation about the reality we are shaping as
we participate in it (p. 198) (p. 443).
In translating traditional methods used in qualitative investigations to
collect and analyze data, such as facilitating interviews or focus groups and then
transcribing the data, the following procedures are applied to planning an
investigation using documentary film as research:
Site selection The researcher determines where to position the camera to
explore the bounds of space and place where the human body is a tool for
gathering and exploring meaning in experience (Finley, 2011, p. 444).
Participant selection and informed consent The researcher applies
sampling procedures to identify a community of learners for engaging a
political project to promote social justice using film and obtains consent
using a Media Release form. Participant selection might be based on
intensity sampling defined by Patton (2015) as information-rich cases that
manifest the phenomenon intensely, but not extremely (p. 267).
Inquiry Phase The researcher acquires the necessary equipment and
production crew expertise to record high-quality video and audio, and plans
filming schedule and protocols (e.g. semi-structured questions that will
explore meaning in experience (Finley, 2011, p. 444) in a videotaped
interview session). Semi-structured interviews, typically organized around a
set of predetermined, open-ended questions, allow the researcher to ask all
participants the same questions and to contextualize the interview process
according to the unique experiences of each participant, which produces a
unique set of questions for each participant (DiCicco-Bloom & Crabtree,
2006; Merriam, 2009).
Making Meaning The researcher makes meaning of the video images and
context to select the clips that best represent theory and concepts engaging
in conceptual practices (p. 91), which St. Pierre (2015) suggests lead the
researcher to identify those theories and concepts to think about whatever
she wants to think about . . . when confused . . . go back to the texts and
reread the theory, to plunge into the words of scholars who inspire (p. 90).
Sharing results The researcher sequences the video clips and completes a
post-production process (e.g. recording narration, adding title cards, etc.) to
create the documentary film, then seeks venues to share the results with an
According to Friend and Militello (2015), Video as a research instrument
has the potential to transform research from something we do to subjects to
something we do with participantsco-generation of knowledge through
inclusion of authentic voices that can be shared with a wide audience (p. 91).
Smith (2009) cautions filmmakers setting out to support concepts of social justice

through their work; Despite the intention of the filmmakers, their position of
privilege does not consistently provide a perspective from which the
representation of the other is acknowledged or challenged (p. 159). For this
reason, seeking to move the research from the interpretive turn forged in the
1980s is warranted for a new empiricism that will challenge the viewers of
documentary films generated using these methods to re-examine their own
beliefs and understandings about issues of race, class, gender, and other social
constructions that support inequities within schools and societies.

5.1. Two documentary film examples: What Kids and Teens Love and Hate
about School.

These qualitative research methods were applied to the production of

two documentary short films, whose purpose was two-fold: (1) to use critical
race theory to help educational leadership candidates and community members
think more deeply about the educational experiences of elementary and
secondary students within urban educational institutions, where enduring deficit
orientations are likely to exist, and (2) to enable the film viewers to engage in
their own meaning-making of students voices leading to school renewal based
on what students want from their urban schools. According to Creswell (2007),
The focus of all qualitative research needs to be an understanding of the
phenomenon being explored rather than solely on the reader, the researcher, or
the participants (p. 3). The phenomena of inquiry for these projects included the
experiences of students within both traditional district and charter public urban
Three elementary schools and two high schools located in the urban core
of a Midwestern city agreed to participate in the documentary film projects. All
students were invited to participate in a videotaped interview using a letter and a
media release form that was signed by parents or guardians of the students who
wanted to be interviewed. There were 144 students in grades 1 through 8
interviewed for the What Kids love and Hate about School documentary short film,
and 28 high school students interviewed for the Teens project. Questions guiding
the interviews were crafted based upon language that could be readily
comprehended by students, using semi-structured questioning techniques that
What are things you like about school?
What are the things you hate about school
Tell us what would you change about school?
If you could talk to teachers, what would you say to them?
During the semi-structured interviews, when we asked about what things they
liked about schools, contextualized questions often included: What was it that
you like about? How did it make you feel? How did other students respond?
Interviews ranged from 25 to 30 minutes with elementary participants and 30 to
40 minutes with high school students. Time was spent at the beginning of the
interview to establish trust and rapport with participants.
We listened to students voices as a critical component for supporting
urban school renewal and used a deconstruction process, exposing a concept as
ideological or culturally constructed rather than as natural or a simple reflection

of reality (Alcoff cited in Collins, 1990, p. 4). As we interacted with their

stories, a deconstruction process was used tha aligned with Clandinin and
Connellys (1994) methods for the study of personal experiences:
. . . simultaneously focused in four directions: inward and outward,
backward and forward. By inward we mean the internal conditions of
feelings, hopes, aesthetic reactions, moral dispositions, and so on. By
outward we mean existential conditions, that is, the environment or
what E. M. Bruner (1986) calls reality. By backward and forward we are
referring to temporality, past, present, and future. To experience an
experience is to experience it simultaneously in these four ways and to
ask questions pointing each way (p. 417).
Making meaning began with theory and concepts, as St. Pierre (2015)
suggested and much of our theorizing was guided by Foucaults (1978; 1980)
notions of dangerous memories and the capillary function of power; . . . the
point where power reaches into the very grain of individuals, touches their
bodies and inserts itself into their actions and attitudes, their discourses,
learning processes and everyday lives (p. 39).
Following theorizing about the experiences expressed in students voices,
we sought to identify themes in the video recording through enumerative and
thematic coding (Grbich, 2013; Miles, Huberman, & Saldana, 2013) guided by a
sociocultural approach coupled with the use of interpretive frameworks aligned
to the elements of race, class, gender, ability, language, disabilities, sexual
orientation, and expectations. We listened for these elements in the voices of
students and how the elements were connected to dangerous memories
connected to curriculum, instruction, and assessment; with attention to issues of
power and privilege. As we proceeded with analysis, other meanings were
illuminated in the data. Coding enabled us to retrieve and categorize similar
data chunks so [we could] quickly find, pull out and cluster the segments
relating to a particular research questionor theme (Miles, Huberman &
Saldana, 2013, p. 72). Making meaning of the video images and context
supported the selection of clips that best represent theory and concepts.
The stories of students in our arts-based inquiry through the lens of CRT
revealed their experiences in curriculum, instruction, and assessment; exposing a
racialized form of teaching (Ladson-Billings, 2004) that is performed in spaces
populated by poor students and students of color to ensure a diet of poor skills
that prepare students to be cogs in the wheel of labor while their more affluent
peers are trained to be leaders. Students hated worksheets and felt diminished
by low level skills; they wanted more hands-on learning, project-based learning,
and more choice. Thematic analysis led to an understanding of the students
stories within the context of urban schooling, demonstrating a broader
interpretive framework that people use to make sense of everyday
happenings/episodes, usually involving past-present-future linking (Grbich,
2013, p. 221).
While theorizing about the meanings that may be apparent in the video
clips, it is important for the filmmaker to realize that each viewer of the
documentary film makes their own meaning after listening to the stories of
participants. The two documentary films produced by the co-authors have been

shared at professional organization conferences such as the American

Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Educational Studies
Association (AESA). The stories included in the What Kids Love and Hate about
School (Friend & Caruthers, 2007) documentary film have been used as an
instructional tool by educational leadership and teacher preparation faculty
within higher education institutions, and as a professional development resource
in school districts. After viewing the film and discussing the value of listening to
students as part of a school leadership preparation program, one elementary
school teacher described her response to the students talking about bullying:
I know bullying is a problem in most schools; however, I have made it my goal to
create a ridicule-free classroom. After viewing the video, I went to school and
brought it up with my students during morning meeting. I told them about the
video I watched and asked them if they ever feel this way at our school, even
though we have talked about how to avoid it. I was shocked by the students
answers. They told me that bullying was not a problem in the classroom, but the
playground, lunchroom, and bus was another story.
This teacher told her college classmates that she talked with a bus driver
regarding a particular bullying situation, and realized that a school leader needs
to be responsible for involving all members of the school community to create a
positive and safe learning environment. This belief and intervention on behalf of
her students was informed by creating a space within her classroom to listen to
the students talk about their experiences with bullying, sparked by the meaning
that she had formed after viewing the documentary film.

6. Ethical Considerations

In the United States there are protections in place to safeguard human

subjects who participate in research investigations. Social Sciences Institutional
Review Boards (SSIRBs) housed within higher education institutions have the
authority to approve research study proposals. As scholars in the academy who
embraced the opportunity to engage in documentary film as research, we
initially presented our plans for the What Kids Love and Hate about School project
to our universitys SSIRB. The innovative nature of our methods was debated
among SSIRB members, and after a face-to-face questioning session with us, the
SSIRB determined that our project did not conform to their definition of
research. Instead of the Informed Consent procedures, we were directed to use a
Media Release form that was approved by the legal department of our
university. The SSIRB decision was that documentary filmmaking did not fall
under their authority to approve human subjects research, therefore we have
proceeded in our work by obtaining informed consent using the Media Release
form with students who are over the age of 18, or with the parents or legal
guardians of students who are under the age of 18, provided in the participants
native language.
Technologies for video production now provide individuals who have
little or no professional experience or educational preparation with the
opportunity to create films that may or may not adhere to ethical standards.
Popular platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo enable amateur and professional
filmmakers alike to share their work with a global audience. The Internet also
allows researchers engaged in documentary film production to communicate

with the general public, thus making research more attainable to the public
(Gadanidis & Borba, 2013). Currently, viewers can choose from a plethora of
web-based videos, reality television programs, and cable channels dedicated to
broadcasting documentary films. According to Ellis (2012), This increase in the
general level of appreciation of how documentary works has also led to sharply
different judgements about its ethics. One persons acceptable technique is
another persons unacceptable exploitation (pp. 155-156).
The researcher who engages in documentary film methods must
question her own subjectivity and the choices that are made in each stage of the
production process, as described by Friend and Militello (2015):
The choices are seemingly infinite when determining points of entry
during the pre-production phase of the project. Who will be filmed?
Where will the filming take place, keeping in mind that the space needs
to be large enough to provide depth of frame, and quiet enough to record
high-quality audio. What questions will be asked during the interview?
Will the researcher appear in front of the camera? Will the interview
participant be filmed in a wide shot to include more context, a close-up
to capture minute facial expressions, or both? (p. 92).
Schenkel (2014) examined the notion of truth and reality in documentary
filmmaking, including the ways in which techniques associated with fictional
filmmaking [music, voiceover narration, etc.] can enhance a documentarys
ability to present truth (p. 70).
Just as peer-reviewed journals publish text-based scholarship that meets
a set of criteria that include ethical standards of research, there is a need for
documentary filmmakers working in the field of education to adhere to rigorous
standards of practice that protect participants in the filming. The Journal of Video
Ethnography, a juried publication that began in the fall of 2014 title, is one
example of a process for refereed publication of films. Similar to methods that
gauge the impact of scholarly work published in journals, further work is
needed to determine the impact of documentary films intended to illuminate
issues of social justice in urban education. Portello (2014) posed the following
Awards, audience demographics, social media activity, word-of-mouth
feedback, legislation or policy change, rallies and other organized events,
media appearances, donations to related charities, ubiquity on class
syllabiwhat data spells out a film's role in social change most clearly?
(p. 56).
As seen with the film, Waiting for Superman, despite its media attention there was
no impact in terms of new policies or equity of educational opportunities for
youth attending urban schools. In order for positive and sustainable change to
occur, filmmakers must address the intersections of race and poverty within
urban educational settings in the United States.

7. Conclusion: Documentary Film as a Post-Modernist Project

Positioning this project within a postmodernist perspective supports the

premise that, language inevitably and inherently is built on the assumptions
and worldview of the social group that has constructed it and the culture of

which it is a part (Patton, 2015, p. 125). Deconstructionism is a postmodernist

task, whereby one takes a text apart through deconstruction to reveal its critical
assumptions and the ideologies it serves. Power and privilege are maintained
through the control of the language, and those who have the most power decide
what counts as knowledge. Amplifying the voices of those who are silenced and
less powerful begins to erase powerful texts of deficit theories and stereotyping.
Storytelling provide educators and students opportunities to collaboratively talk
about difficult issues and things that matter. Underneath all stories is the
paradigm of the personal for illuminating and understanding the perspectives of
voice which can be used to liberate ourselves and others or to silence more
vulnerable individuals. Bells (2009) types of stories are theories about how
people construct the genealogy of race and transmit the stories to others.
Bell (2009) theorized that stories have individual and collective purposes
giving us the chance to talk about issues that are usually seen as out there and
separate from us, or that we are afraid to see as part of our lives, such as racism
(p. 109). Through working with a team of individuals wishing to explore how
stories about racism are transmitted, Bell and team interviewed administrators,
teachers, and individuals who worked in social service type careers. They
collected 106 transcripts of the stories about race and theorized about four
different story types contained in the data. The stories that White people told
were generally about being color blind or not being racist; in contrast, the stories
people of color told described how racism affected their lives. The teams
analyses of the stories led to four different types of stories; stock stories,
concealed stories, resistance stories, and counter stories (Bell, 2009, p. 108).
Stock stories are hegemonic narratives that preserve the status quo. Bell
(2009) states, I also think of stock stories as owning stock. That is, hegemonic
stories are stock stories that give White people stock in society in terms of
privilege and advantage --- stock that is not available to other folks (p. 109). The
second type of stories Bell (2009) describes as underneath the stock stories (p.
112) are concealed stories that talk back to the stock stories. These stories are told
from those on the margin, groups of people who live outside the dominant
society. To hear the stories about racism from the margins means people must be
invited to the center of mainstream conversations (Bell, 2009). The third type
acknowledges that there are countless stories of individuals who have fought for
decades to counter the stock stories and to promote equality. Many of these
stories are grounded in local communities and have not received much attention
in history books. Lastly, counter stories (Bell, 2009) drew on critical race theory
(DeCuir & Dixson, 2004; Lynn & Parker, 2006) which aims to help others
understand instances of racial inequity by listening to the stories shared by the
people who experienced oppression (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Parker &
Lynn, 2002). Through listening to counter stories those at the center learn about
the experiences of people at the margins of the society telling the story of those
experiences that have not been told . . . and used [as] a tool for analyzing and
challenging the stories of those in power and whose story is a natural part of the
dominant discourse (Solorzano & Yosso, 2005, p. 72).
Documentary film is not without tensions in the academy where
quantitative methods still remain the dominant mode of research, and qualitative
research often plays a secondary role to quantitative; even in mixed methods

designs, qualitative research is often viewed as an add-on. According to Haw

and Hadfield (2011), The current discourses tend to position video in either
purely a data collection tool or a methodological novelty capable of serving
almost any purpose, the Swiss Army knife of qualitative research (p. 2). Woo
(2008) also suggests that just as documentary film may not be seen as
scientific enough, it is often viewed as not meeting the requirements of artistic
expression by arts practitioners. Perhaps, what Woo (2008) has to say about
making our work public for audiences is a much more moralistic responsibility
of researchers toward their audiences:
Whether we are researchers experimenting with different forms or
acting as mentors to such researchers, we should not be paralyzed by
prevailing notions of quality. Rather we should take the heat when our
work does not find an appreciative audience and assess for ourselves
whether the criticism can fuel better in the future (p. 326).
The audience that Woo references is an audience that is beyond the academic
community which requires creating forms of work that others are enticed to
engage with and learn from.
As Petrarca and Hughes (2014) contend, the audience should extend
beyond the academic community and clarify abstractions and complexities that
are often difficult to derive from text. One such example from our documentary
film involved a fourth-grade student who wanted to transform the basement of
the school into a roller skating rink where students could go after they finished
their work. While this wish could not be fulfilled, her desire to be more engaged
in learning through an activity called rocket math was communicated to the
teachers to reinforce pedagogical practices that many students found motivating
and that were correlated to improved mathematics achievement results. This
same school also had an anti-bullying policy that was not working, according to
the stories shared by students, which led to transformative conversations among
students and educators to address pervasive bullying issues in their elementary
Petrarca and Hughes (2014) argue that the academy ought to consider
documentary film as an alternative form of scholarly work and knowledge
outside the wall of the university (p. 575). They suggest that one way to do this
is to align film work with traditional research as a way to support its claim as
scholarly work; in other words, film work should be framed within a research
context (p. 576). They ask, Again, how do we deal with the traditionalists?
How do we convince them that this is research? (p. 577). More befitting is St.
Pierres (2015) criticism, introduced earlier in the paper, that we have
overworked qualitative research to the extent that it blocks our thinking and we
cant see the new. She insists that in conventional humanist qualitative
methodology, to be is to know (p. 77); and while this work is not new,
ontological issues were captured earlier in the work of poststructural theorists
such as Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, and others. The current work
has been termed as affect theory (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010), thing theory
(Brown, 2001), actor network theory (Latour, 2005), assemblage theory (De
Landa, 2006) . . . , the new empiricism, and the posthuman (Braidotti, 2013) (St.
Pierre, 2015, p. 77). An urgent question, according to Woo (2008) is, How can
education research (whether arts-based or science-based) be sufficiently

persuasive to stand on its own outside traditional research venues? (p 326). We

contend that adopting the new empiricism is one way of moving documentary
film to a home of its own.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 48-60, May 2016

Teachers Professional Knowledge:

The case of Variability

Sylvain Vermette
Universit du Qubec Trois-Rivires
Trois-Rivires, Qubec, Canada

Abstract. In this research, we explore teachers statistical knowledge in

relation with variability. Several high school mathematics teachers were
presented with situations describing how students dealt with tasks based
on the concept of variability. The teachers responses primarily helped us
to analyze their comprehension and practices associated with the
concept of variability and also to gain insight on how to teach this
concept. Secondly, the study shows that students and high school
teachers share the same conceptions on this subject.
Keywords: teaching statistics; variability; professional knowledge;
conceptions of variability.

The importance of statistics in our lives is such that data management has
become a major key in the education of responsible citizens (Konold and
Higgins, 2003). The abundance of statistical data available on the internet, the
studies reported on the T.V. news, or the studies and survey results published in
newspapers and magazines all show that nowadays, citizens must have
analytical skills in order to develop critical judgement and a personal assessment
of the data they are confronted with daily.
The high amount of statistics in our society leads us to consider teaching this
discipline in order to train our so-called citizens of tomorrow. If the goal is to
encourage statistical thinking in students as future citizens, then not only do we
need to teach basic statistical data interpretation skills, but it is also essential to
teach variability. This is the foundation or statistical thinking if statistics are
defined as the variability of natural and social events in our surrounding world
(Wozniak, 2005).


We live in a world characterized by variability. Lets take the example of a
business that manages an urban public transit system. It may announce that its
trains will arrive at the different stations every ten minutes. However, any

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


regular transit user knows that in reality, arrival times vary and schedules are
not always strictly respected. The time intervals are unequal and this lack of
uniformity is the manifestation of variability. Moreover, the variable amount of
travellers must also be considered. This variable reflects more or less predictable
changes of schedules, seasons and the random daily variability for a given hour.
In short, as shown in this example among others, variability is reflected by the
absence of determinism. The complexity of the phenomena, due to the number
of variables involved, is the source of this variability and of the observed
variations. In the public transit example, studying the phenomenon in all its
variability ensures a generally satisfying and consistent service by planning the
required trains capacity and a variable but reasonable delay between train runs.
Recognizing the variable nature of an event is also acknowledging that the
results may fluctuate and be unpredictable according to sample variations. It
means leaving the world of certainty and thus being able to use statistical
methods to somewhat control certainty to estimate, predict and decide within
and acceptable risk margin. This is often considered the main issue of statistical
reasoning (Allmond and Makar, 2014; Gonzlez, 2014; Vergne, 2004). A better
understanding of variability helps to identify the exceptional or, conversely, to
avoid false interpretations of two different results possibly based on the same
law of probability. The concept of variability is also essential to hypothesis tests
and statistic inference; it distinguishes statistical reasoning from reasoning
associated with other areas of academic mathematics (Gattuso, 2011). Inferential
statistics or statistical inference helps make general observations and draw
conclusions on a given population based on random sample data collected
within this same population.
The difficulty in this process is finding out to what extent the sample accurately
represents the population it was collected from. In other words, how can we
identify the unknown values or population parameters from the sample data? In
order to illustrate this difficulty, lets imagine all possible size n samples drawn
from a given population. It would be possible to calculate different varying
statistics for each sample (average, variance, etc.). Therefore, any inference from
a single sample necessarily comes with a probabilistic uncertainty due to sample
fluctuations. The concept of variability refers to these sample fluctuations which
generally decrease as the sample size increases. For example, by trying to
estimate the average distance between school and the home of 30 students in a
classroom from a sample of 5 people, the estimate would depend on the identity
of the 5 sampled students. If 15 out of the 30 students were sampled, there
would probably not be as much variation between samples as if the sample had
been 5 out of the 30 possible students. In short the concept of statistical
variability refers both to sample fluctuations shown in the differences between
samples drawn from one population and to the statistical data dispersion which
can be evaluated, among other ways, with the use of dispersion measures which
show data variation in a distribution.
Based on the foregoing, it is essential to teach the concept of variability in order
to develop students statistical thinking. It is also appropriate to study teachers
knowledge of this concept as they support students and organize teaching by
creating environments conducive to learning (Snchez, da Silva and Coutinho,

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


2012). Nowadays, statistical training for teachers is one of the most important
research fields in mathematics didactics. The ICOTS (International Conference
on Teaching Statistics) is exclusively dedicated to teaching statistics. They have
developed studies on the growing interest for training primary and secondary
school teacher with respect to understanding the statistical concepts they teach.
This purpose would allow to further develop what Skemp (1978) identifies as a
relational comprehension of mathematics which can be translated into the how-
to and why knowledge. These results raise important questions regarding the
nature of statistical experiments which teachers may encounter during their
professional training. However, before developing and offering beneficial
training opportunities for teachers, it is necessary to understand how teachers
comprehend statistics. Therefore, we decided to present an exploratory answer
to the following question: what professional knowledge do high school
mathematics teacher have about the concept of variability?


Recent development on teachers professional knowledge shows that this
knowledge is based on the practice of teaching and is therefore related to
situations from the teaching/learning context (Bednarz and Proulx, 2009; Davis
and Simmt, 2006; Gonzlez, 2014). Based on the works of Shulman (1988) and
Ball and colleagues (Ball, Thames and Phelps, 2008; Hill, Ball and Schilling,
2008), we need to address the content and pedagogical aspects of teachers
knowledge. Content knowledge is how a specialist understands a specific fields
subject matter. Pedagogical content knowledge is the ability to introduce and
explain a subject going beyond content knowledge and focusing on a different
dimension; understanding for teaching (Clivaz, 2014; Depaepe, Verschaffel, and
Kelchtermans, 2013; Holm and Kajander, 2012; Proulx, 2008). Pedagogical
content knowledge helps teachers understand what makes it easy or difficult for
students to learn specific content and they rely on their own experience to help
students with misconceptions and difficulties. Pedagogical content knowledge
reflects the ability to organize and manage students activities in the classroom
so they may be introduced to the elements of a targeted mathematical
knowledge (Bloch, 2009; Hauk, Toney, Jackson, Nair and Tsay, 2013, 2014).
In view of the above, it is possible to separate these two types of knowledge;
however, in practice, they are interrelated and very hard to distinguish (Even
and Tirosh, 1995). This perspective is in line with the conceptualization of
professional mathematics based on the works of Moreira and David (2005),
Proulx and Bednarz (2011), who differentiate academic and school mathematics
as two separate knowledge fields. For example, in teaching/learning
mathematical concepts, several events occur such as reasoning and
understanding the concept, dealing with difficulties and errors, using problem
solving strategies, encountering various representations (standardized or not) to
express solutions, exploring new questions and avenues etc. These mathematical
occurrences not only refer to current concepts in curricular documents, which
dictate what must be taught, but also refer to mathematical elements that are

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


part of teaching/learning mathematics which the teacher must use in class

(Hauk & al., 2013, 2014). The teachers professional mathematics knowledge
refers to a body of knowledge and mathematical practices built on
teaching/learning mathematics issues (Bednarz and Proulx, 2010; Gonzlez,
2014). This mathematical orientation based on practice, where we dont seek to
distinguish content knowledge from pedagogical content knowledge, is the
essence of the present research.

This study adopts the exploratory research focused on issues related to teaching
statistics. Case studies (Yin, 2003) were developed to help answer the research
question. Interviews and previously prepared questions based on specific tasks
accomplishment were used as methods to collect data from teachers answers
and to better understand their ability to teach this concept. Twelve Quebec high
school mathematic teachers were interviewed. The interviews were conducted at
the end of the school year so these teachers had already seen a statistics module
with their students. It was a two-step experiment. First, each teacher had to read
an information letter inviting them to participate in the research project. It also
briefly introduced the concept of variability and the purpose of the study.
Introducing the concept of variability was necessary since it is not expressly
defined in the Quebec school curriculum. The following definitions were
-- The aim of the study is to explore how the concept of variability is taken into
account while teaching.
-- The concept of variability refers, among other things, to the dispersion of data
in a distribution and to sample fluctuations.
-- The possibility to quantify a distributions variability by using dispersion
measures such as the range, interquartile range and standard deviation.
This resulted in an interview where teachers were presented with cases
involving the concept of variability. These consisted in analyzing the teaching
curricula, reflecting on the learners appropriation of the content by analyzing
students solutions and reasoning, and consequently to propose possible
interventions to improve mathematical reasoning and understanding. These
terms provided information on the teachers professional knowledge which is
directly related to mathematics teaching and learning and to their classroom
As an illustration, the following two cases show examples of teachers faced with
a students answer and reasoning. These were built upon the analyses of
statistical contents related to the concept of variability (didactical, conceptual
and epistemological analysis; Brousseau, 1998) and inspired by analyses
performed in this field (Reading and Shaughnessy, 2004; Delmas and Liu, 2005;
Meletiou-Mavrotheris and Lee, 2005; Cooper and Shore, 2008).

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Case example1
Students are each presented with a wheel as in Figure 1 below. The teacher asks
them to do 5 series of 50 spins counting the number of times the arrow stops in
the shaded area for each series. One student, finding this too long, decides to
turn the wheel five times and multiply the result by 10 for each series. What is
your opinion on this strategy and how would you respond?

Figure1: Counting Wheel

This case shows variability in a probabilistic sampling context. Teachers were

presented with a situation based on a students misconception which was to not
consider the sample size as if it had no impact on the results variability. The
student thought that the results would be the same for all 10 repetitions. By the
end of high school, some students use this proportional reasoning to link
samples sizes to the populations proportion (Reading and Shaughnessy, 2004).
In this case, after getting 4 shaded areas after 5 rotations, a student may deduct
that he or she could also get 40 shaded areas after 50 rotations. However, as the
sample size increases, the features of a random sample resemble the statistical
features of the population. Therefore, the variability of a size 5 sample is greater
than a size 50 sample. It is also important to note that by using this strategy, it is
impossible for the student to obtain the value corresponding to the theoretical
probability (50% of the shaded areas). The students approach doesnt allow for
more precision because it is possible to obtain, at best, two shaded areas for
three unshaded areas or vice versa.

1 Adapted from Watson, Kelly, Callingham & Shaughnessy, 2003.

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Case example 22
The charts below show the height of 7th grade students from two different
schools of 93 students each. Which chart shows the greatest variability in
students height?
Reasoning differently, two students offer the same conclusion: school Bs
chart shows a greater variability. The first student uses the fact that school Bs
bar chart has an oscillating pattern. The second student thinks school As bar
chart almost symmetrical and concludes that school Bs chart shows greater
variability. Tell us what you think of the students answers? Which reasoning
do you prefer? How would you respond to each student?

School A
Number of Students




Student's Height (in cm)

Chart 1: School A's representation of students' height.

School B
Number of Students





Student's Height (in cm)

Chart 2: School B's representation of students' height.

2 Adapted from Canada, 2004.

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Here, data dispersion in both charts highlights the concept of variability. Both
students reasoning (for a task based on students misconceptions) seen in this
case are based on the works of Cooper and Shore (2008), Delmas and Liu (2005)
and Meletiou-Mavrotheris and Lee (2005). These authors indicated that some
students are influenced by the distributions shape when interpreting the
variability of data distribution on a bar chart or histogram. The first student was
influenced by the variation in school Bs bar heights. This refers more to the
frequency variability rather than the variability of the subjects height. The
second student was influenced by the symmetry shown in school As chart. The
distributions symmetry is not in indicator of variability.
Both cases aimed at seeing how the teachers dealt with the students conception
of variability in order to better understand the type of interventions they would
choose. Depending on the teachers answers, further questioning occurred
during the interview in order to obtain clarifications and a deeper
understanding of the professional statistical knowledge that teachers used in
relation with the concept of variability. However, the interviewers position
differed from the teachers; therefore no explanation was offered during the
interview. Finally, the interviews were taped and the teachers and interviewers
comments were transcribed before being analyzed. An inductive analysis
process was favoured in order to identify categories from procedures identified
by the researcher during the analytical process (Blais and Martineau, 2006).


Two types of interventions resulted from the research; explanation and
confrontation. The first one, explanation, involves reasoning to clarify concepts
while answering questions. Here, students dont reflect, research or validate
their knowledge. The second one, confrontation, highlights students wrong
reasoning and forces them to review and correct their conceptions. Nowadays,
the cognitive conflict contribution in teaching mathematics is obvious, several
authors have demonstrated the interest to challenge students perceptions to
improve their comprehension (e.g. Behr and Harel, 1990; Pratt, 1998; Steffe, 1990;
Watson, 2007). The following illustrates this type of intervention base on the
previous study cases.

Case example 1
Here, eight teachers responded to the issue of sample size.
One teacher explained how the sampling size affected the sampling fluctuations.
This teacher expressed knowledge related to conceptual issues and translated
into an explanation to the student.
Two teachers proposed that in order to preserve reality, the students should
experiment with different size series and compare the results. These teachers
showed experimentation based knowledge by exploring the impact of the
sample size on the results variability.

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Three other teachers showed students an extreme result (associating two results
of zero shaded areas obtained after turning the wheel five or fifty times). One
more teacher responded by exaggerating the students reasoning. This teacher
had the student use the same method but turning the wheel three times instead
of five. The shaded areas percentage will move away from the theoretical
probability of 50% as the student is only able to obtain one out of two shaded
area or vice-versa. One teacher suggested a different context to avoid results
being transferred from a small sample to a larger one by proportional reasoning:
By rolling a six-sided dice 5 times I would not obtain the six possible results, but if I
multiply my results by 10, I could only get five different results. While this is not
impossible it is highly improbable i.e. 50 rolls would produce each possible result at least
To confront the student, these teachers used their knowledge of counter-
examples and the variables used to build it; the results of an experiment the
number of experimentations and the context.
In this situation, some teachers were not able to see the sample size issue. Of the
four teachers, three accepted the students reasoning while the fourth one
refused it by pointing out that the directions had not been observed.
Case example 2
Seven out of twelve teachers responded to students mistakes.
Four teachers explained the problem needed to be solved horizontally and not
vertically. They showed this by opposing the variability in sizes and frequencies.
One teacher thought the distribution shape may influence the students and so
suggested to tabulate the values differently. Two teachers used counter
examples suggesting a symmetrical distribution to show a low variability even
though the bars varied greatly in height: With 14 students 153 cm tall, another 14
students 155 cm tall and 2 students 154 cm tall, the graph show a symmetrical
distribution with high and low bars. Is there a big height difference? No as all students
almost measure the same.
For this task, some teachers expressed knowledge of the conceptual issue by
identifying the disruptive role of the graphic aspect. This knowledge was
translated into explanations to students either by an alternative presentation of
the problem (transition to numbers) or by giving them a counter example.
Obviously, as it happened in the first case, some teachers were unable to identify
the error, or at least recognize that the students reasoning was mistaken. Five
teachers accepted the students wrong reasoning. One teacher valued the first
reasoning more because of the greater variation of school Bs bars heights. He
associated the height of the bars with the height of students instead of with the
frequency, thus focusing on the variability of the frequencies rather than on the
variability of the variable which in this case was the students heights. Two other
teachers valued the second reasoning pretexting that school Bs graphic
representation looked like a bell shape associated with the regular law thus to an
almost symmetrical distribution. According to them, a large variability is

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associated with a distribution shape which deviates from normalcy. As for the
remainder, they simply noted that they couldnt disagree as they were confused
by the reasoning.
It is fascinating to see the variety of interventions brought forward by the
teachers and even more interesting to notice that when interpreting variability,
conceptions previously observed in pupils and university students are also
shared by high school teachers. In a sampling context, some teachers confirmed
the use of proportional reasoning to link the sample proportions to the
population proportions, as if the sample sizes did not impact the results
variability, and by the same token, disregarded the samples variations.
It seems reasonable to believe that the difficulty in acknowledging variability
may be due, in part, to school books which contain very few questions leading to
the analysis of sample fluctuations and to the interpretation of uncertainty in
favor of exercises of a more determinist nature with a focus, for example, on
calculating the different statistical measures. When asked to interpret the
distribution of variability from a graphic representation, some teachers were
influenced by aspects associated to the distribution shape:
Variability as a variation of the bars heights: The variation of the bar
heights in a bar chart or in a histogram become an indicator of the
distributions variability; the more the bars heights vary, the greater the
variability. This is a misconception of variability.
Variability as a deviation from normalcy: The variability of a distribution
is determined by its resemblance or not to the Gauss curve, the Normal; a
low variability is associated to the normal shape. This is a misconception
of variability.
Variability as an asymmetrical distribution: The variability of a
distribution is determined by its symmetry which in turn is associated to
a low variability. This is a misconception of variability.
The resemblance in students and teachers errors is surprising. It shows a
complex phenomenon related to statistics which we must understand. Common
conceptions of variability seem to interfere with the notion of concept statistics.
For example, it may be conceivable to associate uniformity to what varies little.
This justification refers to a common language meaning and differs from the
idea of statistical concept.

Although statistics is increasingly present in school programs, teacher training
programs in universities give it very little attention. For example, in Quebec
universities teacher training programs, no class is generally and exclusively
dedicated to teaching statistics, which is not the case, notably, for geometry or
algebra. This leads us to believe that mathematics teacher training regarding
statistical concepts is minimal. This raises important questions on the nature of
statistical experiments which teachers must perform during their professional
training; the same questions apply to students. At the same time, we see a
growing awareness that teachers use specific forms of knowledge, other than the

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standard ones learned in their university mathematics classes (Moreira and

David, 2005; Proulx and Bednarz, 2010, 2011). This interaction between statistics
training and classroom practice is at the core of the research project presented in
this article.
This research is based on teachers comprehension and practices in a statistical
context through the exploration of various cases rooted in their practice context
and by calling upon the concept of variability which is at the heart of statistical
thinking. In the proposed cases, teachers were faced with students answers and
reasoning which highlighted variability related concepts. It is believed that
concepts knowledge related to a particular notion helps teachers to plan their
work well to organize and manage students activity in the classroom in order
for these students to learn the elements of a targeted mathematical knowledge.
Results gave way to considerations for future teacher training. Of course, the
variety of interventions brought forward by these results is a starting point for
ideas that could be used in class and also for future teachers training. Some
interventions were proven more creative, while establishing good conditions for
students to identify their errors. More importantly is the realization that some
teachers could readily react to students answers and thinking by suggesting
appropriate interventions whereas others couldnt.
This context raises concerns and highlights the need to improve teaching
statistics to teachers in order to continually improve their ability to intervene in
the classroom in a statistical context and to develop students statistical thinking.
The interest to focus on teachers professional knowledge in a statistical context
and on the way they use it in class is even more important as we notice that, in
their practice, teachers recognize more and more knowledge forms that are
different from the standard ones they learned in math class in university. It is
necessary to expand this knowledge so it can be remembered and used by the
teachers at the appropriate moment in their practice. Research on student
learning is obviously necessary for creating learning situations built on a
teaching/learning context. It would allow teachers to become comfortable with
how students reason in a statistical context. Teachers would learn how to
intervene to improve students reasoning and mathematical knowledge.
This mathematics orientation based on the practice of statistics is at the heart of
our research on teaching statistics. It does not refer to mathematics per say
which are disconnected and not set in a practice context.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 61-77, May 2016

Can the Clubs finally lift the rock? Assessing

the Sustainability of Reform in Greek Education
Konstantinos Karampelas
University of the Aegean
Rhodes, Greece

Abstract. This study focuses on a new institution implemented in the

Greek education system. Known as clubs, this innovation addresses
pupils who have a talent and special interest in a particular subject. The
research context is a primary school in Greece, where clubs were run
during the last three years. The literature shows, however, that reforms
are not easily implemented in established educational contexts and the
Greek education system is no exception. The main barriers to reform are
school structure and culture. Through a qualitative approach, the study
explores whether this innovation can be sustainable in this particular
context, by answering three basic research questions: 1) Is there
acceptance of the need for the clubs by the members of the education
community?, 2) Are the school structures assisting in the
implementation of the reform?, 3) Is the existing evaluation procedure
adequate to support educators in their efforts to improve the clubs
function in future? The findings show that the reform can be
implemented despite the challenges presented by the school context.

Key words: Gifted and Talented Education, Innovation, Evaluation,

This study focuses on a reform, a new institution implemented in Greek schools.
According to previous research, the implementation of reforms in the Greek
education system is not generally successful. Kazamias et al. (2002) compared
the effort involved in reforming the Greek education system to the mythical task
of Sisyphus, who tried desperately to push a rock to the top of a hill, only to find
that it would roll down to the bottom again, requiring him to begin his task

The subject of this study, namely the description of perspectives on an

innovation and its evaluation, can be related to the possibility of the
implementers finally being able to lift the rock to the top, in other words to
create a sustainable reform. The concept of sustainability reflects the level of
implementation needed to ensure the survival of this innovation in a specific
educational system, thereby helping to improve its function. The evaluation of
sustainability is based on current theories of education management (Foskett &
Lumby, 2003; Kelly, 2004; Fullan, 2007; Gilad-Hai & Somech, 2016).

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According to current approaches to school management and also to current

learning theories, an educational organization is an open system that interacts
continuously with the wider complex environment. Any suggestion for
improvement that refers to a specific educational context aims to improve the
organizations ability to promote useful knowledge. It also aims at the long
lasting development of a flexible educational environment, lending it the ability
to improve in an ongoing sense (Everard et al, 2004; Holmen & Lyngsnes, 2015).

Any school organization that can respond effectively to suggestions for reform is
by definition a flexible and creative learning community. Cooperative
relationships that develop between its members, human interactions within its
internal structures, the new knowledge constructed, and the experience
transmitted within its context, constitute the intellectual capital of this
community (Kelly, 2004). Through these processes the school administration can
effectively manage reform and use it as an opportunity to promote new values,
in other words to innovate (Drucker, 1999). In any learning community,
teachers, as the human intellectual capital and as moral agents of reform
(Fullan, 2007), should be able to act, through the use of skills, knowledge and
experience, on the improvement of the school and the wider learning
environment (Everard et al., 2004; Holmen & Lyngsnes, 2015).

It was within this framework that the clubs were planned. The clubs were
instituted in Greeces Experimental Primary Schools. These are state schools that
differ from mainstream states as they aim to promote research and serve as pilot
context for innovative teaching practices. Even though, these characteristics are
apparent to every school in Greece, Experimental schools are expected to focus
on these more. In fact, teachers who desire to work in experimental schools are
evaluated according to their academic criteria, such as studies, research
experience, whereas in mainstream schools it is social criteria that matter most
such as family status and years of experience.

Additionally, experimental schools are supervised and linked, in terms of

function, research and teaching with specific University Departments, mainly of
Education Studies. Specifically, all experimental schools are managed by a
council, the head of which is an academic from these departments. This council
evaluates the implementation of innovative practices, such as the Clubs, which
were introduced during the school year 2012-2013, according to Law 3966/2011,
with the aim of promoting pupils particular skills and talents in specific areas of
study. The clubs also represent an effort to adjust school functions to the needs
and particularities of the local community, by providing educators with the
flexibility to choose teaching units, learning materials, and educational
approaches. They provide further opportunities for local authorities and
organizations to be involved in the work of the school. Selection of subject areas
for the clubs, as well as deciding which pupils participate, takes place at school
level, as the legislation requires.

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The sustainability of the clubs, as well as any new institution in an educational

context, is defined and described through the continuous evaluation of the
institution (Fullan, 2007). The aim of the current study is to assess this
sustainability. Moreover, evaluation of the clubs is required by law; to be
effective and accurate, it must examine three main parameters:
The theories around educational innovation.
The theories around gifted and talented education children, within the
context of a learning organization.
The research context.

Innovation in Education: Applicability and Sustainability of New


The Challenge of Reform in Educational Realities

In common with any effort to introduce new institutions and educational
perspectives in a school context, reform is a complex phenomenon. Schools
adopt a series of aims and goals in order to meet the demands of modern
society. Such aims require the adoption of new educational institutions,
activities and approaches and their adaptation to the knowledge society (Foskett
& Lumby, 2003). A common element is the formation of new teaching models
that empathize the importance of cultural context, differentiation, personal
choice, interaction, uncertainty, and knowledge construction, based on the
principles of authentic pedagogy (Roelofs & Terwel 1999). There is a flow of new
learning theories based on cooperative and experiential teaching strategies and
the principle of the connection of new knowledge with previous experience
(Foskett & Lumby, 2003).

Criticism of traditional practices leads to continuous transformation of the

relationships between members of the educational community. The relationship
between educators and learners changes. The educator is no longer considered
to transmit knowledge but rather to coordinate and assist pupils in their efforts
to construct knowledge and develop socially.

The approach of learning as a result of experience, information, and interaction,

affects teaching just as it affects any general activity in the educational
environment (Roelofs & Terwel, 1999). The perception that knowledge is
constructed by educators is based on a model of the learning community
(Fullan, 2007) within which learners act, teachers support and help, and head-
teachers become pedagogical leaders, so that knowledge will be constructed as a
product of continuous interaction.

Members of the educational community therefore seek opportunities to improve

school functions. Reform is the sum of all the planned actions through which
these desired improvements are achieved. Reform can be considered a chaotic
phenomenon, with unpredictable results in educational structures. However,
any proposed reform goes through four different stages: a) initiation, which
includes the decision to reform, b) implementation, which includes application
in the reality of the school, c) the institutionalization of the reform and its

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establishment as a significant part of the educational system, and d) the

evaluation of its results. The sustainability of reform depends on its capacity to
improve the quality of the education. Through the prism of the current
theoretical approach, this is analyzed in relation to its limitations and especially
in regard to its impact on the learning environment, its impact on the roles of
agents, and finally its impact on learning outcomes (Fullan 2007; Holmen &
Lyngsnes, 2015; Gilad-Hai & Somech, 2016).

Gradual Transformation in the Educational Environment

The impact of reform in the educational environment depends on the extent of
the reform, itself an intriguing field of research. On the one hand, large-scale
reforms, known as systemic reforms, aim to improve educational institutions
and hence their function (O Day & Smith, 1991). Systemic reform is based on the
assumption that knowledge gained at school has long-lasting effects, from
which the whole community expects multiple benefits (Foskett & Lumby, 2003).
Systemic reform relates school knowledge to social and cultural development
and to the experience, skills and attitudes of individuals.

On the other hand, smaller-scale more limited reform is also possible. In this
case the aim is not necessarily significantly socio-economic and there is no
suggestion of radical reform of the system and its structures. The value of such
reform rests firstly on the fact that it promises to improve relatively easily minor
deficiencies in the educational system, and secondly on the fact that it might
serve as a stimulus for greater reform later on.

Both paradigms of education reform have been observed in practice. Because the
effectiveness of a reform is identified through its impact on the educator and the
wider social environment, its extent remains a subject of considerable debate
(Foskett & Lumby, 2003; Fullan, 2007).

Teachers as Change Agents

Teachers have an important role to play in educational change. They are in
particular central to any reform that emphasizes the improvement and
enrichment of a schools functioning and hence the educating role of the school.
Ideally, they should share the vision inspiring the reform and therefore
understand its necessity. Implementation of innovation in the everyday reality
of a school is more effective in a flexible learning environment where educators
can have training and opportunities to enhance their technical knowledge
(Fullan, 2007; Conway & Andrews, 2016).

By participating in knowledge production, educators have the opportunity to

influence reform and related decision-making. By taking advantage of all the
opportunities that the environment offers them, they should be able to find
information and coaching on teaching interventions. This should allow them to
work though the challenges that accompany the implementation of reform such
as limited time, equipment, financial support and training, so that they can
implement the reform successfully (Everard et al, 2004; Gilad-Hai & Somech,

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Teachers can also draw on their experience and share knowledge about the
reform with other members of the educational community. In such a way they
can assist in initiatives that improve school climate. The improvement of school
management and the learning environment is a complex process that demands
continuous interactions, not only between educators, but also between members
of the broader educational community that take part in decision-making
including defining the principles behind planned reforms. Since educators know
perhaps better than anyone the reality of the school and classroom, they have
not only the right but also the obligation to cooperate in processes of curriculum
reform and related decision-making (Taba, 1962; Foskett & Lumby, 2003; Fullan,

All these processes, training opportunities, and exchanges of ideas and

experiences to inform the planning of reforms, connect to the flow of
information and constitute the communication that develops within a learning
community (Kelly, 2004; Fullan, 2007; Earl & Timperley, 2015; Holmen &
Lyngsnes, 2015).

Evaluation of Structure and Process

According to Fullan (2007), applications of an educational reform, no matter
what the type, extent or the education system in which they are applied, should
have a deep impact on the educational system including at the classroom level
and on the educational culture if the reform is to be systemic and sustainable.
Similarly, Hargreaves and Fink (2000) agree that a systemic reform should
include the following three dimensions:
1. It needs to have depth, which means it should change ideas and
perceptions about the role of the schools at a fundamental level, or be
compatible with existing deeply held views.
2. It needs to have width, which means it needs to influence all the
structures of school organization, or be compatible with existing
3. Finally, it needs to have length, which implies an aspiration to long-
lasting goals and aims.

The foregoing conceptual framework makes the evaluation of educational

reform a necessary task in order to draw conclusions about its effectiveness and
to generalize about the need for such reform (Earl & Timperley, 2015; Gilad-Hai
& Somech, 2016). Evaluation is, however, important for the educator as it is not
only a form of assessment but also an opportunity to present his or her
experience about the implementation of new structures and processes in
education and thus influence future action (Fullan, 2007). Although self-
evaluation is often preferred it should be borne in mind that basic criteria
affecting the evaluation design are the initial goal and the legal context of the
innovation. Alongside these are also the criteria of the education outcome,
learners attendance rates, learning tasks and teaching and learning strategies.

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Education of Gifted and Talented Children within an Existing

Mainstream Educational Organization

Research on the education of gifted and talented children has a history dating
back more than 100 years. Many theories have been proposed regarding the
appropriate way to teach children that demonstrate talents or gifts in particular
subjects. However, there is limited knowledge about the applicability of these
theories (Ziegler et al, 2012).

First it is important to define giftedness. According to Subotnik et al. (2011,


Giftedness is the manifestation of performance or production that is clearly at the upper

end of the distribution in a talent domain even relative to that of other high-functioning
individuals in that domain. Further, giftedness can be viewed as developmental, in that
in the beginning stages, potential is the key variable; in later stages, achievement is the
measure of giftedness; and in fully developed talents, eminence is the basis on which this
label is granted. Psychosocial variables play an essential role in the manifestation of
giftedness at every developmental stage. Both cognitive and psychosocial variables are
malleable and need to be deliberately cultivated.

The uniqueness of this approach to giftedness lies in the emphasis placed on

psychological and social factors, which have enjoyed less importance in other

In addition to this approach, the American Union of Research on Gifted

Children states that such children can have skill in a variety of domains, such as
intellectual ability, artistic ability, leadership skills, creativity, and inventiveness
in certain scientific-cognitive areas (National Association for Gifted Children,

The point of agreement among all the groups that have tried to define giftedness
is that it defines and is defined through three basic characteristics. These are
General knowledge and skills higher than average.
Creativity, and
Ability to execute complex tasks effectively.

Rinn (2012), bearing the above in mind, identifies three main questions. The first
has to do with the dimensions of giftedness that are linked with teaching of
gifted and talented children. The second has to do with the possibility of
quantifying these, and the third is connected with the suggested relevant
teaching interventions.

With regard to the first question, the main parameters suggested are motivation,
persistence, effort, and intention for deeper study, general interest, social
relationships, intention to experiment, and the ability to overcome complex
challenges. All these parameters, according to Rinn (2012), should be evaluated
in relation to academic ability.

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There is no clearly generalizable answer to the second question, which regards

the ability to quantify these parameters. It is likely to depend on each case and
its particular characteristics.

Lastly, with regard to the third question on the most appropriate teaching
interventions, there is general agreement that teaching talented children is
achieved in three phases. The first includes identification of the talents and
interests of learners by teachers. The second phase includes the promotion and
development of relevant knowledge and skills. The third phase includes the
motivation of the learners to develop their own approach, theory, and method in
the field in which they are talented. The school also needs to be in continuous
cooperation with parents or any other group or organization that specializes in
different fields and can assist with the learning (Kelly, 2004; Rinn, 2012).

The Research Context

Clubs as an Innovation in Greek Elementary Education

In a model experimental primary school in Greece there are clubs running in
various fields. Some can be linked to science, such as the Maths Club, the Science
Club, the Geography Club, the Environmental Club and the ICT (information
and communications technology) Club. Others can be linked to arts such as the
Reading Club, the Arts Club, the Local History Club, the English Club and the
Cinema Club. There is also a Dance Club and a Volleyball Club.

The establishment of the Clubs began in accordance with the relevant law, after
the teachers board had agreed to it at the end of the academic year 2011-2012.
The initial plan included details about the subjects of the clubs, the timetables,
the educators involved, the syllabus and the learning activities.

This initial plan was approved, as required, by the Central Council of Model
Experimental Schools of Greece, which is based in Athens. The approval was
followed by a dissemination of information about the clubs to parents and
learners through the schools website and during parents evenings. At the same
time, the innovation was promoted through the local authorities so that parents
and learners from other schools who might also be interested would be
informed and able to apply and participate in Clubs of their interest. As soon as
applications from learners to join the clubs had been submitted these were
reviewed and learners were selected for the clubs.

Pupil selection, as suggested in the literature (Cropley, 1993; Subotnik et al, 1996;
Rin, 2012) and required by the law 3966/2011, was based on mostly testing. The
test included questions based on pupils knowledge, skills and general ideas. All
these were linked to the topics that the Club would emphasize on. Parents also
cooperated, as they expressed their opinions about which club could be suitable
for their children and they filled in the forms for their childrens participation.
The same law states that each pupil can participate in a maximum of two clubs.
During the first year, 76 pupils participated in at least one club. During the

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second year, when more clubs where run, 89 pupils participated. During the
third year, 78 pupils took part. Finally, during the fourth year, 92 pupils
attended clubs. Overall, 212 pupils were members of a club (many pupils
participated in clubs for more than one year).

It was a legal requirement that the teachers in charge of the clubs submitted an
evaluation report at the end of the first and second semester. These reports
normally contained an assessment of the clubs, the lesson plans, data from all
the activities that took place, or even interviews with parents and pupils based
on their impressions of the clubs.

Processes of Educational Change in Greece: The Myth of Sisyphus

The myth of Sisyphus comes from Greek mythology. As Homer in describes,
Sisyphus, was a wise and prudent king who was condemned to roll a heavy
rock to the top of a hill ceaselessly for having stolen the secrets of the gods.
When reaching the top of the hill, the rock would roll down and Sisyphus would
have to start pushing it up again. The tragic element of this myth is that its hero
is a conscious human, exerting much effort but accomplishing nothing.

According to Andreas Kazamias et al (2002), a challenge similar to the

punishment of Sisyphus, is apparent in every attempt for educational reform in
Greece, as all such attempts end up being long, unsuccessful and incomplete.
Even though there is a recognized need for change, the Greek educational
system, has a way of returning to the past, again and again. This metaphor has a
political dimension, which addresses to the bureaucratic and centralized nature
of the Greek state. It also has a cultural dimension which addresses to a schools
autonomy, and the socio-economic dimension. Over the years several forces for
change have arisen in Greek society. Examples of such are globalization,
advances in information and communications technology, research findings,
new learning paradigms, and the influence of the European Community. The
need for innovation is recognized, but the education system resists change.

Most European Educational systems provide a variety of paths offering progress

from one level of education to the next. In the Greek educational system,
however, this process generally follows a vertical one-way process, where each
educational level serves as a preparatory stage for the next. Educational
achievements are highly desired by the Greek family. Parents tend to motivate
children to achieve the highest possible education level.

Reforms focusing on modern learning approaches and pedagogies do not seem

to be of much interest unless they are associated with the intensive preparation
of learners to face a highly competitive environment at the secondary level. No
matter how useful the reform might be, it is expected to fail if the system
orientation remains exam-centred, centrally designed, and based on traditional
ways of transferring rather than constructing knowledge (Kazamias et al, 2002).

This resistance to change is likely to emerge in the case of the Clubs as well. The
reform of the Clubs aims to provide and institutionalize opportunities for gifted

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and talented pupils to develop their talents. It does not expand to change aspects
of the Greek Education system, such as the competitive exam-designed and
exam-oriented culture of the school. Moreover, it does not provide any means or
equipment for schools. Additionally, there seems to be no change concerning the
legal conditions under which the teachers work (Law 3966/2011). The reform of
the clubs is expected to be implemented within the existing context of schools in
Greece. Bearing these factors in mind, it is uncertain whether the clubs for gifted
and talented children can in fact lift the rock, in other words achieve
sustainability as a reform (Fullan, 2007; Gilad-Hai & Somech, 2016).

Research Methodology

The Research Questions

This particular research study focuses on the sustainability of an innovation. The
clubs for gifted and talented children represent an effort to improve the
education system. Initially, this seems to be a reform of limited extent in that it
could be seen as simply aiming to fill in some gaps in teaching. However, it
may represent an initiative with more fundamental significance, as the principle
of the clubs, the advancement of gifted and talented learners, is something new
to the education system of Greece.

Teachers have a significant role in the case of education reforms (Fullan, 2007;
Conway & Andrews, 2016). This is the case in the clubs as well. Teachers need to
organize the concept and content of the clubs, which means naming the subject
of the Club, arranging a syllabus, selecting the appropriate approach, inviting
learners, identifying the ones appropriate, implementing and evaluating the
effectiveness (Cropley, 1993; Subotnik et al, 1996; Law 3966/2011; Rin, 2012).

The effectiveness and sustainability of such a reform demands that educators,

along with members of the wider community, understand, accept, share and
support its mission. It also demands that the structures of the school and the
wider education system, its functions and infrastructure, present no obstacles or
restrictions either to its initiation or to overcoming any challenges that may
emerge during implementation. Finally, it is important that there are
opportunities for accurate evaluation of the new institution. This evaluation will
assist in locating the strengths of the reform implementation as well as the
weaknesses and ways of addressing these (Fullan, 2007; Earl & Timperley, 2015;
Holmen & Lyngsnes, 2015).

Bearing in mind the above, in benchmark with the conditions for sustainable
reform as described by Hargraves and Fink (2000), the questions that the
research has to answer in order to assess the sustainability of the reform are as
1) Is there acceptance of the need for the clubs by members of the educational
community? (depth)
2) Are the school structures assisting in the implementation of the reform?

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3) Is the existing evaluation procedure adequate to support educators in their

efforts to improve the clubs in future? (length)

Research Methods
There are a wide variety of approaches to educational research. The selection of
the appropriate research approach depends on the context of the research and
the research questions to be answered.

The initial stage of the selection is the choice between quantitative and
qualitative research approaches. The former approach uses scientific and
experimental methods to predict human behaviours and attitudes, along with
quantitative measurements to examine the validity of hypotheses (Kerlinger,
1970). On the other hand, qualitative research aims to investigate human
attitudes and behaviours within a social context (Patton, 1990).

Strauss and Corbin, (1997) define qualitative research as any kind of research
activity that leads to conclusions not drawn from statistical processes or other
means of quantification. Those involved in qualitative research aim to
illuminate, understand and investigate specific contexts. In contrast those
involved in quantitative research aim to generalize in order to be able to make

This particular study, because of its nature and its research questions, fits more
within the qualitative research paradigm; it focuses on analyzing human
attitudes in a particular educational and social context. Because there are no
specified parameters for defining the effectiveness of a specific educational
intervention for gifted and talented learners (Rinn, 2012), the use of quantitative
data analysis for the research would have been difficult.

This research involves cooperation, dialogue, and revision as elements of the

empirical work (Cohen et al., 2011). Data can be collected through interviews,
questionnaires, biographies, notes, and documents of any kind, or by
observation (Bell, 2001). For this particular research, the most appropriate data
collection methods were semi-structured group interviews with educators and
parents and observation.

The use of interview and observation, as data collection methods, gives

opportunity to compare data and reinforce the accuracy of the findings. In other
words, data from interviews were benchmarked to those of the observation.
Benchmarking with documents, such as the Law of the function of Clubs also
took place. This approach, known as triangulation, is often suggested and used
in qualitative research studies in order to enhance credibility (Cohen et al, 2011).

All teachers who have undertaken the responsibilities of Clubs were interviewed
in groups, at the end of each trimester. Therefore a total of 33 group interviews
have taken place, among which 21 were interviews of teachers and 12 of parents.
Observations were carried out throughout the year. 21 observations of Club
sessions or preparation of sessions have taken place.

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The interview questions were split into three groups depending on the wider
research questions with which they were associated (Cohen et al., 2011). More
specifically, there were questions about the impressions and expectations of the
clubs, at the beginning, middle and end of the school year. These questions were
linked to the first research question. A group of questions was concerned with
ideas and opinions about the ways the school could assist in or benefit from the
establishment of the clubs. These questions addressed the second research
question. Finally, there was a group of questions that concerned the general
approach to evaluation and feedback in the clubs. These addressed the third
research question.

Data Analysis
In qualitative research data analysis involves organizing, explaining and
interpreting the data. Using codes is suggested to assist strongly. Codes are
labels attributed to responses, information or data, usually named after the
topics or themes that the research questions negotiate, which assist in grouping
and managing the data in order to analyse and draw conclusions. The codes are
grouped into nodes or categories (Cohen et al, 2011).

Following the model of Hargreaves and Fink (2000), the codes referring to the
first research question where grouped under the node depth. Those codes
where named acceptance, necessity and agreement. Those codes referring to
the second research question, where grouped under the node width. Those
codes were infrastructure, equipment, school culture and school functions.
Finally, the codes referring to the third research question were grouped under
the node length. Those codes were assessment practices, formal assessment
and adequacy.

All interviews and observation records were transcribed and then analyzed. The
responses were coded. As soon as the coding is completed, tabulation of the
responses will take place, core categories of them are identified, in order to draw
the conclusions, by relating them to the relevant literature (Cohen et al, 2011).

Through this approach, it was intended to explore the possibility that the
institution of the clubs is an example of systemic and sustainable reform and
innovation, something that could significantly improve the school context and
culture (Fullan, 2007; Gilad-Hai & Somech, 2016).


1st Research Question: Is There Acceptance of the Need for the Clubs
by the Members of the Education Community?
In relation to the first research question, the acceptance of an institution such as
the clubs in the school was apparent. Teachers were positive about promoting
the implementation of the clubs. All teachers who took the responsibility for
planning and organizing a club explain that others were willing to support the

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clubs by assisting in teaching activities or by encouraging learners to participate

in them.

Clubs should be Other teachers parents are local
implemented - assist in that - helping - organizations
necessity agreement assistance assist- assistance

Figure 1: Coded Teachers responses in interviews for research question 1 (Node


Many parents expressed interest in having their children take part in the clubs as
soon as they were informed about this innovation. As they explained, they
found the clubs interesting for three reasons. Firstly, all of them considered them
part of an important effort to enrich the program of the school with innovative
actions that corresponded to the interests and talents of various children.
Secondly, many of their responses (78%) express the thought that through the
clubs the school could gain stronger ties with the local community because there
were opportunities for the school to develop its cooperation with the local
authorities, enterprises or organizations involved in environmental or cultural
topics. Thirdly, in the responses of many parents (67%), there is the
consideration that the clubs provide opportunities to promote learning tasks that
involved group work aiming not only at promoting cognitive goals but also at
the development of other skills and attitudes.

Clubs should be Bring new opportunities Provide grounds for new
implemented - necessity for school - agreement teaching activities -

Figure 2: Coded Parents responses in interviews for research question 1 (Node


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Local organizations supported the establishment of the clubs as well. As many

teachers (77%) explained, and as seen from the observations, they agreed to
cooperate with the school in many ways. They provided the school with
teaching materials, they sent their members to the school to teach the children
about their work, or they accepted educational visits from the children.

These findings reveal that members of the school and wider community
appreciated the necessity of an institution such as the clubs at school. At the
same time, it was widely recognized that educating talented or gifted learners
requires the cooperation of different groups of people as well as the
development of knowledge, skills and attitudes. In short, there was agreement
about the need for clubs and the way they should be implemented. These are
basic conditions for the institution to be systemic and sustainable (Fullan, 2007;
Kelly, 2004; Rinn, 2012; Holmen & Lyngsnes, 2015; Conway & Andrews, 2016).

2nd Research Question: Are the School Structures Assisting in the

Implementation of the Reform?
In relation to the second research question, the findings show that while it is
possible for school structures to support innovations such as the clubs, some
challenges were also apparent.

Teachers in the interviews (89%) explained that the law suggests (Law
3966/2011), the clubs were planned to respond to the particularities and the
special characteristics of the school, the pupils and the local community. This
helped greatly in the organization and implementation of the clubs, especially in
terms of teaching. Their responses (77%) also show that thanks to this approach,
there was no problem gaining access to any means or materials or the rooms
required, since planning was based on the materials and accommodation
facilities that were already available at school, as well as the general program
and operation of the school. Only few teachers expressed challenge facing due to
poor school equipment (73%). this shows that there is a level of compatibility
between the school structures and the clubs establishment.

There were, however, also challenges that emerged, mainly of a bureaucratic

nature (64%). More specifically, the process of justifying the pedagogic benefits
of teaching interventions that included school visits or visits of members of local
organizations to the school. Similar responses addressed specifically to legal
challenges in using ex-curricular strategies and materials in teaching (55%). For
example, using ICT, video-conferencing software or showing a film movie was
thought to need to be accompanied by a formal written justification of the need
for such an activity, including a reassurance that there would be no unwelcome
side effects for the learners.

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Carefull design The school had The school Legal Beaurocratical
was necessary - the appropriate lacked all the impediments - impediments -
school means for the necessary school school
functions clubs designed - equipment - functions functions
infrastructure equipment

Figure 3: Coded Teachers responses in interviews for research question 2 (Node


As can be concluded from the above, the functioning of the clubs, within the
specific school context and culture, does not seem to meet any barriers.
However, with regard to pedagogic and teaching functions, such as the use of
ICT that could enhance the work of the clubs, the present legal context is not
sufficiently flexible. This limits the possibilities and options for the teacher in
sustaining the straightforward operation of an institution such as the clubs
(Kazamias et al; 2002; Foskett & Lumby, 2003; Kelly, 2004; Fullan, 2007; NAGC,
2008; Rin, 2012; Gilad-Hai & Somech, 2016).

3rd Research Question: Is the Existing Evaluation Procedure Adequate

to Support Educators in their Efforts to Improve the Clubs Function in
As far as the third research question is concerned, on the efficacy of the
evaluation processes and structures to contribute to the sustainability and
effectiveness of the institution, the evaluation reports required by law can give a
picture of the function of the clubs, according to many teachers responses (82%).
Indeed, evaluating parameters, such as learner attendance rates, the content of
the learning tasks, teaching approaches, and achievement of the goals set,
provide adequate information about the implementation.

However, there are important aspects of the implementation that are expressed
(62%) to be omitted in this kind of evaluation. More specifically, the weakness of
this kind of evaluation lies in the fact that it is based only on opinion and
judgment from the perspective of the educator and pays no attention to other
aspects that can constitute the effectiveness of the clubs, such as the opinions of
other people involved, including parents and pupils. As teachers (58%)
responded this retrains the accuracy of the evaluation, which ends being less
broad. The current evaluation context does not assist in the triangulation of

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information, which would give a clearer picture of the progress of the clubs
(Fullan, 2007; Cohen et al., 2011).

Teachers added that the law certainly provides the school with the necessary
flexibility to help in taking the initiative to organize school-based evaluation
techniques. Examples of this are the meetings with parents and discussion
through research groups that give information and ideas on improvement and
feedback, which would help educators to organize tasks more effectively and to
revise the goals of the clubs. This solution, however, meets two challenges. The
first is linked to the fact that the particular field of study, the education of gifted
and talented children, has no specific parameters for giving generally accepted
measurements to evaluate teaching interventions (NAGC, 2008; Subotnik et al,
2011; Rin, 2012). The second is linked to the fact that the arrangement of such
meetings is not supported directly by law. Even though the law does not
prohibit these meetings, there is concern (72%) that holding such meetings might
give the opportunity for reaction and complaint.

In short, the evaluation of the progress of the clubs is forced to adapt to the
existing context which addresses to evaluations of schools and education
institutions, no matter if they undergo reform. The lack of elements to justify the
validity and accuracy of the existing methods, in combination with their limited
flexibility to promote new institutions, limits the expectation of their effective
implementation, which would help them to be systemic and sustainable as
reforms (Fullan, 2007; Gilad-Hai & Somech, 2016).

Evaluation reports Evaluation is not Opinions of other Teachers are
required assist - sufficient as it is not members of the resistent to take
formal assessment broad - adequacy education initiatives for
community is evaluation -
ommited - assessment
adequacy practices - adequacy

Figure 4: Coded Teachers responses in interviews for research question 3 (Node


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This project concerned the possibility of an institution implemented in a primary

school in Greece becoming a systemic and sustainable reform. This institution of
clubs is innovative in that it represents for the first time in Greek schools an
organized attempt to educate gifted and talented children. The project has
examined the legal context, the literature around the education of gifted and
talented learners as well as the literature around educational reform and
innovation and has allowed specific conclusions to be drawn (Subotnik et al,
2011; Rinn, 2012).

The new institution was welcomed by the members of the school and the wider
community. The existing structures support the new institution to an extent.
Evaluation of the implementation progress cannot be restricted to the present
evaluation processes, but calls for new ones, which depend on the initiative of
the educator and the school (Conway & Andrews, 2016).

Following the model of three dimensions of Hargreaves and Fink (2000), it is

concluded that the extent of the reform is satisfactorily deep, but that there is
room for improvement in its width and length.

Overall the findings show that there is a possibility for the clubs to be a systemic
and sustainable innovation and achieve the desired lift of the Sisyphus rock
(Kazamias et al, 2002). However, there are some challenges that must still be
dealt with. The school context and culture, in which the Clubs are implemented,
is not compatible with the requirements of the Clubs (Fullan, 2007; Holmen &
Lyngsnes, 2015; Gilad-Hai & Somech, 2016).

At this final stage, it is important to point out the limitations to the

generalization of these findings. The study examined data collected during a
particular period in a specific school in Greece, which could serve as a stimulus
for more research studies of a wider extent (Cohen et al., 2011).


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No.6, pp. 78-92, May 2016

Legal Aspects in the Collaborative Production of

Open Digital Resources
Everton Knihs
Mackenzie Presbyterian University and
Anhembi Morumbi University
So Paulo, SP, Brazil

Nizam Omar
Mackenzie Presbyterian University
So Paulo, SP, Brazil

Ismar Frango Silveira

Mackenzie Presbyterian University
So Paulo, SP, Brazil

Abstract. The production of intellectual content using computer systems

is a topic of general interest that has no precise or agreed definitions on
issues of open resources, open licensing, open educational resources,
open books, and collaborative authorship. When the creation of
collaborative works is investigated, the discussion evolves to questions
about the concept of authorship itself and the absence of a clear
regulatory framework to serve as a support for computer architecture.
The study of open licenses and intellectual property intends to enable
the creation, edition, reuse, modification, and dissemination of open
collaborative works. Collaborative authorial production in
computational resources refers to a comprehensive study of the concepts
of authorship, original work and its versioning, free licenses, free
software, and openness. This paper presents the legal dimension and
its related aspects established in the legal concept of authorship and
licenses as a guide for the creation, publication, and sharing of open
digital resources.

Keywords: Open digital resources; concept of authorship; openness;

property and moral rights.

Technological innovations favor the creation of collaborative and open
intellectual works. The communication and interaction between different
authors involved in the creation of a work establish a conducive environment for
the development of multicultural resources (Ladson-Billings, G., 2004). The
creation of a modern work allows an author to become also the producer of the

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


created resource, which may be digital, cultural, or educational, reflecting a

cultural adjustment regarding the creation of works (Amiel, T., Orey, M., & and
West, R., 2010).
To develop the arguments in this work, it is necessary to present here
some guiding concepts regarding the creation of intellectual works. This
includes an approach to the relevant scientific literature on the process of
development of open resources. One of the concepts studied here is Openness,
as its literal translation into Portuguese, "Opening", which means to widen,
covering the characteristics of Open Resources, which include the possibility to
reuse, redistribute, revise, remix, and retain a work, shaping the concept of the
5Rs (Wiley, D., 2014).
The combination of local features and extensive global interaction
determines the human capacity to fill gaps and overcome obstacles, creating
new social needs such as requirements for desirable resources, financial capital,
human capital, organizational capital, and cultural capital (Wellman, B., 2002).
These capitals are available in a network and include the individuals ability to
provide information and knowledge, as well as material, financial, and
emotional support (Anastasiou, D., & Schler, R., 2010). Thereby, initiatives to
create and produce open digital resources may be considered as alternatives to
different strategies favoring social diffusion of the access to innovations and
content. The creation and production of open digital resources, based on the
principles of open educational resources (Wiley, D., 2014) available to all
individuals, has inherent issues that must be considered, such as legal aspects,
cultural differences, specific technological considerations, and strategies that
support the premise of Openness of developed resources.
An analysis of the scientific literature relevant to the process of
development of open digital resources is helpful in the evaluation of the process
of intellectual production, a common process that consists of a set of procedures
including the creation, edition, and publication of a work (Paesani, L.M., 2012).
Writers, for example, write, edit, and publish their books, and the final product
of this process is a textbook in an indivisible form. This model of intellectual
production is based on historical practices of authorial rights and writing tools.
However, in the context of open digital resources, the distribution in this model
finds barriers due to lack of specialized publishers in the concept of authorship
in multinational, open, and collaborative creation of open textbooks (Silveira, I.F.
et al., 2013).
The creation and sharing of open digital resources undergo a specific
adaptation process (Lemos, R., & Branco Jnior, S., 2009) in order to become
suitable to the regional reality. In order for sharing to occur, the production of
intellectual works encounters some barriers, such as lack of regulatory guides,
forms of distribution, and high costs. The distribution (Otsuka et al., 2015) of
intellectual property is associated with high costs (Rodes, V. et al., 2012),
derived from legal aspects intrinsic to the work and involving the authors
economic and moral rights, such as authorship (Paranagu, P., & Branco, S.,
The process of adaptation takes place during the localization of a created
work. This is a necessary step when the objectives of such work include access
by individuals inserted in different cultures or regions and by existing

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


technologies in these individuals regional context, characterizing the cultural

and technological aspects of a work, respectively. Thus, the transformation of
local or regional phenomena to global phenomena is known as globalization
(Anastasiou, D., & Schler, R., 2010), which determines the coexistence of
integration and local identity (Wiegerling, K., 2004). Therefore, the creation and
sharing of open digital resources focus on the process of adaptation of a work,
taking into account and integrating multicultural and technological features.
A problem in the creation of an intellectual work, discussed herein,
relates to intellectual property rights (Paranagu, P., & Branco, S., 2009)
involving authorship when such work is characterized as an open resource
(Wiley, D., 2014). Another challenge concerns the management of the work, such
as monitoring of versioning and amount of shared resources (Silveira, I.F. et al.,
2013). An environment that takes care of the distribution and monitors the
development of content from the original work and the amount of shared
resources is a solution to the lack of specialized publishers, as well as to
challenges found in the legal aspects involved in multicultural collaborative
authorships of open digital resources.
To contextualize the issues listed in this paper, it is necessary to question
which legal aspects involved in building and sharing open digital resources
should be considered in the preparation of such initiatives. The legal dimension
defines the limits of the strategies for adoption, creation, and distribution,
providing a framework for sharing the collaborative work as an open digital
resource in a multicultural, multinational, and global context (Amiel, T., Orey,
M., & and West, R., 2010).
The process of creation and use of open digital resources addresses
cultural, legal, and technological aspects, and this work details the legal aspects
of this process. Within this context, the issues of authorship and intellectual
property are presented as a cross-sectional and procedural factor, i.e., if on one
hand these issues are based on rights and licensing, on the other hand, their
definition is essential in computer specifications and adoption strategies.
The following section presents a study of the legal dimensions involving the
creation and production of collaborative works, encompassing the concept of
Openness, aspects of moral and economic rights regarding authorship, and the
concept of authorship in the creation of open digital resources. These topics
delineate the purpose of this work.

I. Legal Dimension of Openness

The creation of a work requires new approaches when analyzed within the
concept of Openness, according to Wiley, D. (2014) who describes issues related
to the cost and licensing of the authors copyrights. To this author, the term
"open" means that a resource is available at no cost and attends five principles
known as "5Rs": reuse, redistribute, revise, remix, and retain. These new forms
of creation of works also emerge when it comes to the concession of licenses and
content exchange. Also, new collaboration tools have been opening up
opportunities for new ways to produce open resources, such as open books,
including textbooks and collaborative strategies, specifically created with a
didactic purpose to be used as textbooks for educational support (Henderson, S.,
& Nelson, D., 2011).

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The collaborative aspect of the creation of a work involves intellectual

production from several authors, a process facilitated by a possibility of these
authors to communicate using computer systems and the development of such
systems. This collaboration is the result of an authoring process carried out by
several participants. Therefore, the final product generates a debate and requires
the definition of specific criteria regarding the production of open digital
resources developed collaboratively.
The study on intellectual property emerges due to a formalization of the
law intended to protect intellectual property derived from copyright, industrial
property, and sui generis intellectual rights. The protection of these rights
positive rights refers not only to the field of property law, but also to the rights
attached to the work, including its creation, novelty, and originality, as well as
the author's moral rights (WIPO, 1979).
Intellectual property refers to the area of knowledge that involves
patents, industrial designs, author's rights, trademarks, and others (Paesani,
L.M., 2012). Similarly, the new forms of communication stimulate the
development and legal adaptation, expanding the interpretation and edition of
the legislation, intervening, for example, on the rights of the authors,
programmers, and musicians. Intellectual property demands legal protection,
which in a domestic context is established by national legislation and in an
international context by international conventions.
Intellectual property is divided into the study of authors rights,
industrial property, and sui generis intellectual rights. Copyright encompasses
moral and economic rights but also recognizes the economic use of the author's
work by artists, performers, phonogram producers, or radio broadcasting
companies (Brazil, 1998), known as related rights. Industrial property relates to
the study of industrial creations, patents, trademarks, and industrial design
rights. Sui generis intellectual rights constitute the legal study of computer
software, integrated circuit topography, and cultivars. A computer software has
a distinctive authorial treatment that includes, in addition to aspects of authors
rights, other particularities since they are commercial products situated between
authors rights and industrial property (Paesani, L.M., 2012). The study related
to integrated circuit topology refers to miniature electronic circuits known as
chips, which allow essential technical results such as operating and energetic
efficiency or optimization of consumption and heating. These characteristics
relate to the topography of the chips and introduce particularities to their legal
treatment within the industrial property. Finally, cultivar (or cultivars) refers to
genetic improvements of vegetal species obtained by genetic crossing over, a
branch of the biotechnology industry, and recognized as intellectual goods,
requiring distinctness, uniformity, and stability as necessary requirements for
legal protection of the cultivar (Paesani, L.M., 2012).
In this manner, intellectual property would be genre, whereas
copyright, industrial property, and sui generis intellectual right would be
On an international level, the World Intellectual Property Organization
(WIPO) is responsible for the administration of international treaties and related
issues. Other international treaties and conventions related to intellectual
property include the Paris Convention, Berne Convention, Rome Convention,

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Stockholm Conference, and the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property

Rights. The latter, known as the TRIPS Agreement, established the legal basis for
intellectual property rights related to commerce such as the promotion and
dissemination of technological innovations, setting a direction to meet the
interests of the producers and users in a balanced way. The Berne Convention,
the main international treaty for recognition of authors rights, is an attempt to
harmonize different conceptions about authors' rights in the laws of the
signatory nations of this international treaty. The Paris Convention was
established as an international treaty to recognize the rights of inventors of
models, industrial designs, and trademarks configured in the field of intellectual
property. The Rome Convention was established as a source of law for related
rights. The international organization responsible for the administration of
international treaties on this issue, WIPO, has been part of the United Nations
since 1974. The international treaties and conventions, along with the internal
laws of each of their signatory countries, provide protection of copyrights,
delimiting that the authors have the exclusive rights to use, publish and
reproduce their works, which are transmissible to their heirs, to ensure the
protection of individual participation in collective works.
The rights over intellectual property are exclusive rights, i.e., rights to
exclude third parties other than the holder from the economic enjoyment of the
property. These rights clarify that an intervention by the State is required to curb
copying, restrict unfair competition, and protect innovations and new
intellectual works (Paesani, L.M., 2012). This author also states that intellectual
property arises from the law, therefore, is not a natural right, and reflects the
cultural heritage of a people.
The first aspect to be considered in intellectual property is the legal
context in the authorial production initiative. The copyright system based on the
legal tradition of Roman law, unlike Anglo-Saxon systems, considers the work
as emanating from the author's personality, establishing a distinction between
economic rights, also known as property rights, and moral rights (Garca, J.J.G.,
2013). In Anglo-Saxon systems, moral rights remain outside the laws known as
"copyright laws." Mainly because the moral rights in Anglo-Saxon systems deal
with the economic rights of a work, they include trading of consumer goods
with very similar characteristics as those of properties applicable to physical
goods. In the Anglo-American legal system, which is derived from the Anglo-
Saxon system (Lemos, R., & Branco Jnior, S., 2009), the rights are considered
"copyrights" in which the work is the object in property rights, based on
common law, in which the fundamental scope is to protect the work, i.e., the
emphasis is on the economic part through reproductive rights. This scheme
differs from that of Roman-Germanic origin, in which the author holds the
property and the moral rights.
Traditional Latin systems of protection of moral rights have mechanisms
that often prevent initiatives of access to intangible assets.
Based on the rights established as copyright emerges copyleft, which is
considered a legal mechanism to guarantee that the creators of works are
entitled, while still supported, to license the use of such works beyond the limits
of the law. Lemos and Branco Junior (2009) report that through licenses inspired
by copyleft, the licensee would be granted guarantee, in a generic way, to resort

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to third-party works under the terms of a granted public license. Copyright,

according to the creators of copyleft, restricts the rights to copy and distribute a
given work. Thus, a copyleft license uses copyright laws to ensure that everyone
who receives a version of the work is allowed to use, modify, and distribute the
work along with its derived versions. Based on that, copyleft can be said to be
the opposite of copyright (Lemos, R., & Branco Jnior, S., 2009).
Copyleft licenses certify the rights under copyright, but require all
licensees to make reference to the author of the work and to use the same
licensing model when redistributing the original work, copies of the work, or
derived versions of the work (Moniz, P.P, & Cerdeira, P.C., 2004). In Brazil, for
example, copyleft contracts have the concept of the moral rights of the creator of
the work, aiming to establish concepts of freedom and restriction within the
copyright system, as already occurring in the Brazilian legal system. As a
conclusion, Brazil is already inserted in this concept since the country has legal
provisions related to the author's moral rights.
The study of authorship and licenses in open cultural and educational
resources lacks formalization regarding the criteria for authorship and
derivative works. In order to study the set of rights involved in this issue and
allow solutions or development of new technologies, one must analyze the
problem from a multidisciplinary perspective.
Authorial rights are aspects of the legal context that involve a work, and
in the case of authors located in different countries, an open resource must be
constructed based on different legal systems, since these contexts delimit the
authorial production. The legal training in a given country, or in different
countries, is influenced by the cultural context in which the people of the
country are inserted. Influences from international treaties can originate laws or
different interpretations of the law, which can be internal or external such as
laws created within a territory or adopted by international treaties and
conventions, respectively. These differences can lead to legal or cultural
differences due to each States sovereignty, resulting in an individual legal
training at each country.
Configured as personality rights and human rights in Latin legal
systems, authors rights have a more complex legal protection since only the
author of the work can exercise them. In legal systems of common law, moral
rights inserted in authors rights laws are not taken into consideration, and only
economic rights are highlighted, characterizing moral rights as physical assets
and transforming them into marketable consumption goods.
The legal dimension of cultural and educational open resources in terms
of intellectual property directs the understanding of blockage or restriction of
the economic rights included in the copyright, through the adoption of flexible
licenses that incorporate the 5Rs principle (Wiley, D., 2014). These licenses
help the way in which a work is incorporated into the legal system and how the
users of such work are able to use it. In addition to the adoption of a license in
the creation of open cultural and educational resources, it becomes necessary to
observe eventual boundaries and differences in legal interpretations. This
observation leads to a broader interpretation, with the adoption of international
treaties and conventions by each country, as well as a consensus on as well as a
consensus on the application of these treaties and conventions to the case. This

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consensus may take place in the form of an authorship contract or agreement in

the case of collaborative or derivative works, depending on the domestic laws of
each country or based on international standards, thus configuring an
orientation in the legal dimension for the creation of open resources.
The following section addresses the legal concepts related to moral and
property rights involved in the concept of authorship and elaborates on a study
and discussion centered on the author centered on the author, including
definitions, forms, and copyrights associated with the author, applying these
processes to computer systems and cultural and educational open resources.

II. Moral rights and property rights involved in the concept of

The moral rights of an author are considered personality rights; therefore, they
are inalienable and non-transferable. Based on that, the creation of a work
emanates from the author's personality, granting the author moral rights, which
are the components that unite the author to his work, producing effects
throughout his existence, even after his death.
Under Brazilian laws, for example, when an author dies, the author's
rights are passed to his successors (Brazil, 1998), including paternity claims, the
inclusion of the author's name in the work, and the right to prohibit the
publication and alteration of the work. Thus, even if the economic rights in a
work are transferred, the moral rights of the author are unavailable. The moral
rights of the author can be presented in a list (Brazil, 1998), part of which is
presented below:
Claim, at any time, the authorship of the work;
Have his name, pseudonym, or conventional sign indicated or
announced as the author in the use of his work;
Maintain the work unpublished;
Ensure the integrity of the work, opposing to any changes or acts that
may harm in any way the work or affect him, the author, in his
reputation or honor;
Modify the work, before or after its use;
Withdraw the work from circulation or suspend any form of use already
authorized when the circulation or use dishonor his reputation and
Have access to a unique and rare copy of the work when it is legitimately
in the hands of others, in order to preserve memory of this work with a
photographic (or similar) or audiovisual process, causing the least
possible inconvenience to the holder, who will be, in any case,
indemnified for any caused damage or injury.
Thus, the author's moral rights, which refer to legally protected interests,
are incorporeal, immaterial and ntellectual, preserving the integrity of the work.
The moral rights of the author are personal rights and have the purpose of
protecting the creator of the work. These rights reflect the author's personality
and, thus, are protected by the intrinsic characteristics of personality rights, such
as being imprescriptible, not attachable, irrevocable, and inalienable. Moral
rights relate to a works development, dissemination, and titling. This opposes to

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property rights, which involve the economic exploitation of protected works

(Paranagu, P., & Branco, S., 2009).
In addition to the moral concept, the creation of a work also involves the
economic concept, here named economic rights, one that authorizes its holder to
exploit the work economically. Any goods economically significant in a trade or
liable to be alienated or appropriated are considered property rights (Paesani,
L.M., 2012). The patrimonial rights of the author arise when he discloses the
work by communicating it to the public. By law, these rights are considered as
movable, assignable, transferable, and temporary goods. These goods are
transferable after death or during life.
The following section addresses the legal concepts that permeate cultural
and educational open resources, such as the concept of author, collaborative
authorship, moral and property rights, authorship processes, versioning, and
open licenses. These concepts involve both legal characteristics and influences
regarding new ways to frame technological advances.

III. Concepts of authorship

The Brazilian Copyright Law (Brazil, 1998) states that an "author is an individual
who creates a literary, artistic, or scientific" work. It also states that "to identify
the author, the creator of a literary, artistic, or scientific work may use his civil
name in full or abbreviated with his initials, pseudonym, or any other
conventional sign." This law also considers the author of an intellectual work,
when no evidence to the contrary exists, that who by one of the identification
methods mentioned above according to the use, indicated and announced this
quality in such use and "the protection granted to the author can be applied to
legal persons, with companies, as provided in this Act".
Based on that, a distinction can be established between author and
holder, in which only an individual can be an author, but he may transfer the
ownership of his rights to any third party, person or entity. In this case, even
though the individual is always the author of the work, the legal holder to
exercise the rights over the work can be a legal entity or an individual other than
the author (Paranagu, P., & Branco, S., 2009).
The propagation of the work refers to the authors power to maintain the
work unpublished at his will. The recognition of an authors rights over his text,
for example, is justified by the intrinsic link that exists between him and his
work (Longo, M., & Magnolo, S., 2009). More than a legal right, the authorship is
above all a moral right, an intangible good, as well as an economic right to
exploitation by those who produced the work. This splits the concept of the
authorship of a work into a moral part and an economic part.
Personality rights in the field of intellectual law (Paranagu, P., &
Branco, S., 2009) consider the study of the moral rights of the author and state
that they are closely linked to the author's relationship with and development,
propagation, and titling of his work. Copyrights are characterized as inalienable
and imprescriptible and because they are human rights, they are considered in a
way that only the author can exercise them.
Concerning moral rights, there is no consensus in the understanding of
the laws in different countries, that is, the paternity right of authorship and the
work claim. Therefore, the integrity rights of the author are respected, and he

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may object to any distortion, mutilation, or other modification of his work that
could harm his honor or reputation. Another understanding is the authors right
to withdraw, in which case he may suspend any form of use of his work and be
compensated for losses and damages, if appropriate.
The creation of a work requires attention to its authorial context, and
based on this discussion about copyright, new forms of authorship emerge, as
presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Concept of Authorship

The principles of the different forms of authorship are established on the

concept of authorship, along with the legal dimension established according to
the new forms of creation of a work. Based on that, the new forms of authorship
presented in Figure 1 are discussed below.
Coauthorship: Coauthorship exists when two or more persons are authors of the
same work (Paranagu, P., & Branco, S., 2009). However, the Brazilian
Copyright Law (Brazil, 1998) states that coauthorship of a work is attributed to
those whose name, pseudonym, or conventional sign is used in the work. It is
not considered a coauthor one who simply assisted the author in producing the
literary, artistic, or scientific work, revising it, updating it, as well as supervising
or directing its publication or presentation by any medium. The law also
establishes that to the coauthor, whose contribution can be used separately, are
guaranteed all faculties inherent to the creation of an individual work; however,
it prohibits use that may be harmful to the exploitation of the common work. It
is noteworthy that regarding collective works, the ownership of the property
rights is attributed to the organizer. Also, protection is provided to the
individual participations of the author in a divisible or indivisible work.
Collaborative Authorship: Collaborators are individuals who work together
during a project or a considerable part of it (Katz, S. J., & Martin, B.R., 1997). In
scientific production, coauthorship or collaboration occurs when two or more
scientists, working together on a research project, share intellectual, economic, or
physical resources. However, the type of contribution from each coauthor to the
production of the work may be different (Vanz, S.A.S, 2009). A collaboration
encompasses different actions, such as expressing an opinion, sharing ideas and
data, working together during the course of a project or separately in different
parts of a project aiming final integration. Thus, a coauthorship work is an

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interactive work that changes through collaboration and with characteristics

attributed to a joint work.
Authorship Process: Some innovative processes in the concept of authorship
are presented below, with suggestions for issues involving the solution to
conflicting laws in the collaborative production of open resources. The solutions
map out some choices for the formalization of an authorship, adoption of criteria
pre-established by the authors in creating a collaborative work which may be an
original or a versioned/derived work. This way, the original works and
derivative works must be observed in order to fit in an Authorship Contract or
Agreement. All agreements among the coauthors of a work or even agreements
in works with a single author must adopt specific licenses that incorporate the
principles of Openness. For the exercise of the rights, these Authorship Contracts
or Agreements require a record of what the work will provide to the
collaborating authors, presented as a set of criteria such as guidelines or
suggestions. According to the purpose or planning, it is possible to have a work
project, contract, or agreement whose assignment refers to the classification
agreed between the authors, providing a solution to be included in different
multinational laws.
Versioning or Derived Creations: A work can be classified in two ways, as an
original work or a derivative work. Both have inherent copyrights according to
their origin. An original work is defined as the first creation (Brazil, 1998), i.e.,
the first or the original, whereas derivative or versioned works are those that
constitute a new intellectual creation resulting from a transformation of the
original work. Original works are the innovative works, that is, underived
works. Derivative works are altered works that evolve from or complement an
original work; a derivative work incorporates the original work and transforms
it into a new work.
License: A license is a contract that expresses an authorization for use, or use
and enjoyment of intellectual property rights, which can be issued at a cost or for
free, or be exclusive or limited. If issued at a cost, it acquires the caracteristic of a
lease, and if for free, the characteristics of lending. The financial compensation is
known as royalty, which is calculated as a percentage of any economic gain
obtained with the intellectual property (Pimental, L.O., 2010). The license is the
instrument that regulates how the movement of the copyrights will occur. This
way, some author's rights may be transferred to third parties, which is a form of
continuity and movement established previously according to the desire and
prior authorization from the author of the original work, which will occur with
the choice of a specific license. The license is an authorization given by the
author to a third party who may use the work, exclusively or not, under the
terms of the granted authorization, similarly to a lease, if issued at a cost, or
lending, if issued for free (Paranagu, P., & Branco, S., 2009).
Open Licenses: Open licenses emerge as a legal ground expressed by the
creators themselves, holders of the authorial rights of a work. These productions
allow social movement around the work, formalizing its legal protection and
authorizing previously and expressly the conditions of use of such work. These
licenses are alternatives to preserving the authorial rights according to the
criteria for use and derivation chosen by the author of the original work, based
on the adoption of the license that will govern the work. As a result of copyleft,

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Creative Commons (CC) licenses have been introduced, which are general
public licenses specific to each authoring work (Amiel & Soares, 2016), designed
to facilitate the free redistribution of phonographic, scientific, and literary works
according to the owners will (Paesani, L.M., 2012). Other legal contracts with
open characteristics are GNU-GPL and GNU-LGPL. In English, GNU is an
acronym for General Public License, which is characterized by respect for the
freedom of the users, who are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change, and
improve a software. This license, often known by its abbreviation, GNU-GPL,
aims at establishing licensing network contracts. The person who enjoys this
license (Paesani, L.M., 2012) must allow the use of his eventual improvements
and modifications to the work. The terms of the license related to copyright are
interpreted as an authorization for reuse, adaptation and redefinition of the
work, as long as the derivative work maintains the same license. The
fundamental difference between "renouncement" and "authorization" is the
authors possibility to withdraw the license. This occurs because the terms of the
chosen license include aspects related to moral rights, and in the associated legal
system, such rights are inalienable. Open licenses allow the use of "separability"
clauses, i.e., in the case of incompatibility of some of their terms with the laws of
any country, any provision deemed unenforceable in other existing provisions
can be eliminated. The revocation of a license is not retroactive, in order to
prevent the revocation from affecting those works or copies of the work that are
already circulating and existing in a derivative form.
Figure 2, below, shows a conceptual flow of the authors rights in the
creation of open digital resources, which may be cultural or educational,
contained in the legal dimension of Openness.

Figure 2. Conceptual flow diagram of the legal aspects involved in the collaborative
creation of Open Digital Resources

The conceptual flow of collaborative development of open digital

resources (Figure 2) parts from the broader concept of intellectual property,
passes through copyright, forms of authorship, agreements and open licenses,
thereby generating the open digital resources following all these previous
definitions. An analysis of Figure 2 allows the understanding of the
understanding of the steps in collaborative authoring of open digital resources,
according to its legal aspects, summarized below:
Intellectual Property: A comprehensive specialty of the law that
formalizes the protection of intellectual property derived from copyright,
industrial property, and sui generis intellectual rights. It establishes legal
protection from other countries with national legislations on a domestic
level and with international conventions on an external level.

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Sui Generis Rights: Legal study and provisions pertaining to computer

software, integrated circuit topography, and cultivars.
Industrial Property: Study and provisions of laws related to the rights of
industrial designs, patents, trademarks, and industrial designs.
Authors Rights: Provisions of authors rights that involve moral rights
and inherent economic rights to the creation of an Open Digital Resource.
Moral rights are part of the author's personality and are inalienable and
non-transferable. Economic rights are those that authorize the holder to
exploit economically the Open Digital Resource.
Author: The creator and owner of the copyright to an Open Digital
Coauthors: Two or more creators and copyright holders of the same
Open Digital Resource.
Authorship Agreements: Contract or authorship agreements on an Open
Digital Resource, whose assignment refers to the classification agreed
between the coauthors, providing a solution to their inclusion in different
multinational laws.
Open Licenses: Legal protection and prior express authorization
regarding the conditions of use of an Open Digital Resource that
authorizes reuse, redistribution, revision, remix, and retention of such
Open Digital Resource. It allows clauses of "separability", which in the
case of incompatibility of some of their terms with the laws of a given
country can eliminate any provision considered inapplicable to the
existing ones.
Open Digital Resources: Works created by an author or coauthors who
are copyright holders with an authorship agreement and who adopt an
open license, determining the possibility of reuse, redistribution,
revision, remix, and retention of such work.
Open digital resources, when developed as an objective of multicultural
access, can be considered an alternative to the traditional publishing of digital
materials. Since these resources have different forms of creation and legal
characteristics, intellectual property rights reframe and reorganize their social,
educational, and accessibility outreach (Ladson-Billings, G., 2004). In authorship,
observation of multinational and multicultural characteristics, such as the place
of creation of the work and particularities determined by this location
(Anastasiou, D., & Schler, R., 2010) with adaptation of these particularities
when conflicts or disagreements arise, enable implementation of initiatives to
allow the creation of reusable open resources in extraterritorial contexts. In
addition to the cultural aspect, the development of open digital resources is
directly linked to copyright and economic issues (Paranagu, P., & Branco, S.,
2009), conceptually oriented toward forms of creation and innovation. The
characteristics of this product as an open resource can suppress the economic
aspect of diffusion, but the moral copyright aspect of the creators of a work
remains established (Garca, J.J.G., 2013), now without the intrinsic economic
Open digital resources, either cultural or educational, are published and
distributed by electronic means with the intent of facilitating the access to
knowledge. For a collaborative production of these resources, the authors must

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


adopt a license upon the creation of an original work, determining the way in
which the original work and the derivative works will be released and treated
when the work is shared (Lemos, R., & Branco Jnior, S., 2009). These open
digital resources must follow a license, which should be based not on copyright
rules which prohibit copies of any part of a work, favoring the patrimonial
aspect but on open licenses, such as CC, which allow reuse and adaptation of a
work in whole or in part (Lemos, R., & Branco Jnior, S., 2009). A resource based
on an open license can be reused and modified, and new authors are not
required to have an authorization to change derivative works, only to assign to
the derivative works the same license of the original work (CC).

Collaboration is an important characteristic in the development and derivation
of a work as part of the process of creation and use of open digital resources.
Collaboration offers a range of new possibilities for the creation and reuse of
materials and contents, resulting in a series of discussions over the creation of
original or derivative works, ranging from legal issues to those related to
implementation, adoption, and propagation strategies.
Authors rights are considered fundamental rights. Due to the constant
development of technological resources, the protection of the authors rights
undergoes some relativization pertaining to the unfolding of the legal and
technological aspects involved in the process. The construction of mechanisms
protecting the authors rights is constantly evolving. Although the legislation on
this subject differs in different parts of the world, they have been adapted to the
technological advances, redefining the legal multinational and multicultural
characteristics of the creation of open digital resources.
Open digital resources should be both instrument and support for the
development of knowledge, and are characterized as a type of innovation for the
production of intellectual contents across computational resources. The study of
specific licenses for the contemplation of the open aspect and the creation of
collaborative authoring works through computational resources lack clear
definitions in computer architecture; therefore, new approaches to licensing and
exchange of content, as well as new collaborative tools open up opportunities for
new forms of production of open digital resources. The creation of these
resources involves the intellectual production of one or several authors in which
the creation of a work by different authors is considered a collaborative
The final product generates debate and requires the definition of specific
criteria for the various forms of authorship and production developed
collaboratively and involved in the context of a multinational work. Thus,
careful strategic planning should be considered in the creation of open digital
resources, taking into account the established legal dimension involving this
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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 93-101, May 2016

Paparazzi and Self-Awareness: Reflective

Practice Using Digital Technology

Catherine Caldwell
Illini Bluffs CUSD #327
Glasford, Illinois, USA

Helj Antola Crowe and Robert Davison Avils

Bradley University
Peoria, IL, USA

Abstract. In the era of selfies, photo-bombs and Facebook, candid

captures of interactions with others in the classroom have taken on new
meanings. Seeing ourselves in moments when unaware of our
professional demeanor, pictures can become a powerful tool for
professional development. An evidence-based reflective Insight into
Interactions workshop was developed based on observations made
through university and elementary classroom activities with teacher
education candidates and professionals from two disciplines, teacher
education and school counseling. This professional development session
created by an academic peer focused on analyzing both lived experiences
and candid pictures through the eyes of professionals and students.
These reflective debriefings resulted in more articulate self-awareness,
perspective taking, and non-verbal communication skills.

Keywords: Professional Development; perspective-taking; self-

awareness; reflective

Reflective practice is a powerful idea in education. The act of paying attention to
oneself while engaged in professional practice is critical to good teaching and
good counseling. Teaching teacher candidates and school counseling interns to
self-supervise, is an essential part of what professors do in teacher education and
school counseling programs. Through a series of serendipitous experiences and
relationship building, a graduate student and two professors partnered in
creating workshops, conference proposals, and a journal article in order to
promote professional development through reflective practice and photography.
In this article, the evidence-based reflective professional development workshop
Insight into Interactions is highlighted. After viewing pictures, providing

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constructive feedback, and professional experiences, teacher candidates learned

about others perceptions of themselves as educators. Pictures at an exhibition is a
mixed metaphor underlying how paparazzi capture peoples images when they
are unaware. If a person becomes aware of the multiple images of self he/she
presents this becomes an opportunity to stroll through pictures at an exhibition,
with the intent to reflect, gain insight, articulate and improve professional

Literature Review and Workshop Description

The university course teacher candidates take is a methods course in English
Language Learning. Teacher candidates learn theoretical ideas and strategies,
which they have a chance to try out in the context of real elementary classrooms
(kindergarten and second grade) with English Language Learners. This
pedagogy is anchored in Kolbs (1984) experiential learning cycle where a
concrete learning experience is followed by reflective observation (reflecting on
the experience) which leads to abstract conceptualization (learning from the
experience) and active experimentation where learners are planning or trying
out what was learned in the experience and reflecting on it. Experiences are
crucial because many teacher candidates had never experienced linguistic
diversity or realized that in their future they would be teaching children who are
just learning to understand and converse in English. Respect for learners and
their culture is a big part of this course.

One of the most perceptive and respected tools for teacher development is
Schns idea of reflective practice (1987). Reflection-in-action is when teachers
think about what they are doing as they interact with their students or their
colleagues. Reflection-on-action occurs after the educational event has passed
and teachers think back to what they learned (notice the parallel with Kolbs
experiential learning).

Rolfe (2014) suggested that: the primary task of reflective educators is

therefore to form partnerships with their students in order to identify
what they see as their learning needs and problems; to try out and
appraise novel and individualised responses aimed at meeting those
needs, and to arrive at a mutual agreement about what might constitute a
resolution. Rather than regarding education as a technological
intervention based on the technicalrational model, with learning
outcomes, teaching methods and assessment schemes laid out in
advance, learning becomes a joint enterprise which requires a personal
and individual partnership between tutor and student (p. 1181).

Thus, reflective practice activities were sprinkled throughout the semester and
self-perception became more articulate as the semester progressed as evidenced
by student feedback and classroom interactions.

In preparation for school visits the teacher candidates had a nonverbal

communication workshop in the university class to understand how important
communication is and what the effects of non-verbal interactions are with

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children. Teacher candidates participated in exercises and dialogue about

proximity, gestures, facial expressions, posture, and prosodic features of
language (intonation, stress, tone of voice, pitch, pace, volume) (Okon, 2011).
There were discussions, demonstrations and role-play about posture and
matching messages, and the importance of purposeful interactions.

The impetus for the evidence-based workshop using digital technology started
as a pilot project when Catherine (School Counseling Graduate Student and
Graduate Assistant) received direct and non-complimentary feedback on a
classroom presentation in her first year as a graduate student from Beto (School
Counseling Professor) that caused her to reflect on self-awareness and
presentation skills. The feedback was critical in her development as a counselor.
Catherine started working as a Graduate Assistant in 2012 with Helj (Professor
in Teacher Education) with the focus on assisting with research and teaching-
related activities. Over the first year, Catherine had a professional awakening
where she discovered new ways of engaging with students and professionals.
Catherine shared these experiences with Helj and the growth experienced
since she had been given the feedback from Beto.

In the fall of 2013, Catherine was asked to partner in one of Heljs classes to a
local elementary school providing transportation for teacher candidates as a van
driver. The practical portions of the English Language Learners course was
taught at the Professional Development School. Helj and Catherine interacted
informally discussing details of the interactions going on between the children in
the school and the teacher candidates interacting with them during the learning
activities they had designed in the bilingual classrooms. Catherine took pictures
during the visits while observing the collaboration between the adult partners
with their kindergarten and second grade classes with the intention of sharing a
gift with the teachers and children at the end of the semester.

The insights gained from revisiting these pictures and the conversations before,
during and after the van trips, the Insight To Interactions Professional
Development Workshop was created. Some pictures taken without the
awareness of teacher candidates, showed an interesting spectrum of
observations; a continuum of facial expressions ranging from excitement to
boredom, social engagement and disengagement, undesirable attire, frustration,
and discomfort but also encouragement and joy in interactions with the English
Language Learners. After Helj and Catherine viewed and discussed the
benefits of viewing the pictures in class and peers giving and receiving feedback,
an evidence-based (through photographs) reflective professional development
workshop was created using the Johari window as a framework for the

The Johari Window (Halpern, 2009) is a self-awareness tool developed by Joseph

Luft and Harry Ingham. The Johari Window has four quadrants. Those
quadrants are: open, blind, hidden, and not known. The open quadrant is
behavior that is known to the individual and to others. The blind quadrant is
behavior that is known to others but not the individual. The hidden quadrant is

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behavior that is known to the individual, but not others. Lastly, the unknown
quadrant is unknown to both others and the individual. These quadrants were
explored throughout the workshop by asking questions such as:

How and what do we communicate to others?

What are our beliefs about ourselves?
How do other people perceive us?
What can we do about it?
What do you view as your strengths as a leader/educator?
Where are your areas of improvement?

Teacher candidates shared their observations and insights in pairs and in small
groups with their peers. While Catherine and Helj observed these interactions
and discussions, it became apparent that the teacher candidates had built
valuable relationships with one another through their experiences in the class
and they were comfortable in providing constructive feedback and observations
with one another. But what leads to such value in relationships? Carthy and
McGilloway (2015) suggested that promoting social and emotional development
is associated with both increased learning and positive academic achievement
(Carthy & McGilloway, 2015). Therefore teacher candidates must be self-aware
in order to teach their students similar social emotional competencies, which are
often required by state standards (ISBE, n.d.)

The quality of teacher presence

Purkey (2002) is known for invitational theory that supported the
conceptualizing Insight to Interactions workshop created by Catherine and
prompted by interactions between three university colleagues (Catherine, Helj
and Beto). In invitational theory (Purkey & Novak, 1993, Purkey & Schmidt,
1996, Haigh 2011) there are four anchoring principles: optimism, respect, trust
and intentionality. A person can be unintentionally inviting or disinviting or
intentionally inviting or disinviting in interactions with others in relation to the
anchoring principles. Throughout the semester class meetings the intentionality
of ones persona and behavior was the topic of discussions, which Helj
purposefully brought up in relation to class activities.

When looking at the Johari window, many times the quadrants are not equal or
the same for every individual. It is through self-awareness and professional
development experiences that the quadrant boundaries shift (Halpern, 2009).
During the evidence-based professional development workshop, it was
particularly important to assist teacher candidates in discovering some of their
blind spots. Therefore, feedback was one of the most crucial elements of the
workshop. Without feedback from peers and analysis of the photographs,
teacher candidates may not have been aware of their behaviors, verbal and
nonverbal. After the analysis, teacher candidates were then asked to compare
both the feedback they received from their peers, to the beliefs and views they
had about themselves. Purkey and Novak (1993) emphasize that positive self-
image creates a success identity that our teacher candidates were articulating
while learning to analyze their own behavior, relationships and how those came

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out to look in pictures taken by Catherine. Reviewing pictures assisted teacher

candidates in expanding their own self-awareness. Through the process of
constructive feedback, students were able to reflect and grow in their leadership
skills and teaching styles by helping each other explore the behavior and plan
for future interactions and professional demeanor.

Pictures were used with teacher candidates as an important part in analyzing

intentionally invitational attitudes (Purkey & Schmidt, 1996). Teacher candidates
were creating big books to take to the children as a thank you for collaborating
with them during the semester. When choosing pictures for the big books a
thought emerged: what can we learn from these pictures? Teacher candidates
decided that not all pictures were eligible to be chosen for the big books and
shown to the children due to the messages they carried; boredom, uninviting
facial expressions, postures that communicated disconnected attitudes etc.
Throughout the semester Heljs class came back to the Johari window as a way
to compare the personal journeys of teacher candidates to what was going on in
the classroom with the kindergarten and second grade children.

Evidence-based Reflection; Insight into Interactions Workshop

The evidence-based reflective workshop was borne organically out of
interactions both at the university and the elementary classroom. Outcomes
were both predictable results of carefully designed activities but also
serendipitously occurring intuitive lessons that went far beyond the initial
intentions of the university professor.

Meaningful and personal feedback is powerful in creating growth as in the case

of Catherines professional awakening that she was able to pass on to teacher
candidates who were also learning to become professionals, albeit in a different
field. Teacher candidates were able to be more honest with each other because
Catherine first told her story of professional growth from blind-spots and
challenges to overcoming personal challenges in the public sphere. Her honest
narrative cultivated an atmosphere of free sharing among the students and their
own narratives and individual experiences in the classroom.

Intentional actions resulted in a variety of reflection-based benefits:

Active Interactions in the university classrooms were urged by many exercises,
concrete activities both in modeling strategies for the ELL classroom and
learning to know each other better as colleagues. These interactions became
more comfortable, humorous and informal as teacher candidates rode to the
elementary school together in university vans in teams driven by Catherine and
Helj. This also allowed for natural debriefing sessions that prepared teacher
candidates for the elementary school visits and a discussion about the successes
during each visit.

Collaboration was emphasized by having the two teams going to the different
classrooms to work together in designing the activities for the day prompted by
the classroom teachers and related to their curriculum goals. Teacher candidates

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continued to collaborate with one another as they reflected on their experiences

in the classrooms. This collaboration resulted in the awareness teacher
candidates discovered through group discussions facilitated during workshops
and van rides.

Connections were made between what was learned in the university classroom
and the elementary classrooms. Everything we learned in theory, we got to try
out in interactions with children and discuss the approaches with peers.
Connections were made between the native language sensibility with that of a
child who is learning a second language. Knowing how to use grammar based
on your own native ability is not the same as being able to articulate and help
another language learner to learn English grammar.

Modeling self-reflection and asking for feedback were tools that both Catherine
and Helj used in their interactions with the teacher candidates. Courage to
interact, to take risks and to openly discuss personal growth became the norm
rather than an anomaly. Part of modeling self-reflection was made overt by
discussing the perspectives of children in the classroom, teacher candidates,
classroom teachers and the university personnel. Teacher candidates started to
become more self-aware of how they intentionally and unintentionally present
themselves when working with students and were able to set goals for future
presentations and classroom time with young students. Hearing their peers
viewpoint and feedback was imperative to changes seen in teacher candidates as
they set goals for themselves for ongoing student interactions.

Process-nature of learning is another aspect of this workshop. A string of

individual events (including the Insight to Interactions workshop) both at the
university, the trips in the vans and the visits to the classrooms provided
continuous reflection opportunities with peers. Throughout this process
relationships were built and as a class they discovered the importance of helping
each other grow in a supportive environment. Everyone is in the process of
learning and becoming a teacher and finding out what that might mean for each
individual; how to give feedback morphed from critical, sharp and awkward
feedback to more constructive, supportive and helpful by the end of the
semester. Despite learning many tools and tricks for classroom experiences,
teacher candidates discovered that teaching is much more of an art than a recipe
from a cookbook.

Professional Growth-Teacher Candidate Feedback

Professional growth was articulated both orally in class discussions and in
written reflections. After the Insight to Interaction workshop, teacher candidates
reflected on the entire semesters experiences. Narratives from teacher
candidates reflected growth in areas of perspective-taking, body language,
professionalism and interactions in general. One candidate mentioned that the
workshop helped me look beyond how I was being as an educator to how my
students were reacting to how I taught or acted. She continued: I think
working with students that are ELL has helped me with a student that was
originally a Spanish speaker in my classroom. I can gauge when she is getting

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frustrated or confused and I know how to break things apart better to make
more connections to the concept before moving on (Teacher Candidate). This
excerpt shows how teacher candidates are becoming more aware of the students
emotional landscapes besides their own.

By analyzing pictures in small groups, teacher candidates noticed a poor

posture, unprofessional attire, blue hair, inappropriate skin display,
disengagement (facial expressions, body postures), and proximity. These
observations were articulated as intentionally disinviting (Purkey, 2002)
demeanor and actions. After the workshop and school visits teacher candidates
wrote: I enjoyed looking at the pictures of my classmates and myself... I liked
the look on the childrens faces when we came to the classroom... It was not only
the [primary] students that were learning in the room, but my Bradley
classmates and I who were learning, too.

The workshop also prepared teacher candidates for their student teaching
experience following this course. A teacher candidate wrote: I feel like I will
continue to have people observe my teaching because I have trouble making
conclusions or understanding my strengths and weaknesses if I don't see
something. If I'm focused on a lesson, I might not notice the one student wedged
in between the two strong students who doesn't understand a concept, so I need
to practice becoming more aware of every child instead of just the whole group.
This shifting between individual children and the whole group is an important
part of learning group management and group dynamics. Withitness (Charles,
2011) is the term used in classroom management literature for the awareness of
being able to do what needs to be done. Perspective-taking developed through
the reflective analyses during the workshop.

The evidence-based reflective workshop also benefited in allowing for teacher

candidates to see their self-identity as a success identity (Purkey & Novak, 1993).
After the workshops, I take my role as an educator more seriously; dressing
and acting like I know what I am doing. As a compliment to this; one of the
Bradley students thought that I was a professor at the University during the
Literacy Fiesta (Teacher Candidate).

Honest feedback was crucial in allowing for the growth to occur. The four
anchors of invitational theory (Purkey & Schmidt, 1996); optimism, respect, trust
and intentionality were seen both in interactions between teacher candidates
during the photograph analysis but also in their written reflections: The
problem was that no one had pointed this out before. Now that the problem is in
the light, something can be done about the defect. I think that videotaping
myself teaching will be a great experience. I will be my worst critic and I might
over-think my defects more than there actually are, but I am looking forward to
the practice (Teacher Candidate).

This excerpt demonstrated Teacher Candidates changed perspective on

receiving professional feedback as an important tool they can employ in their
own career. Internal dialogue, the courage to ponder on the quality of

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interactions and self-identity became valuable tools not to be feared but to

appreciate. Invitational theory (Purkey & Schmidt, 1990) emphasizes
understanding things from an internal point of view --- this becomes reflective
when imagining the photographer is in the mirror taking pictures of us looking
at ourselves, a valuable tool for awareness in how we talk to ourselves in our
professional realms. Because of a trusting atmosphere and enough time spent to
learn to know each other, in terms of the Johari window (Halpern, 2009), our
open selves expanded and interactions flowed more easily as the semester

We have shared the evidence-based reflective Insight into Interactions
professional development workshop with professionals across our region in
conferences. Professional discussions brought up insights of how culture-bound
some of our reactions and interpretations might have been (for example body
language). Similar to Thomas and Seely Browns (2011) viewpoint: The new
culture of learning, where they discuss the one person cannot create a culture
but in interaction with others we become transformed. What is interesting, is the
process itself and moving and developing along with the organic culture the
interactions invite. This does take courage and involves trust. Besides articulate
learning goals, being open and intentionally invitational we often
serendipitously learn more than we had hoped for. Thomas and Seely Brown
(2011) suggest that we embrace what we dont know, come up with better
questions about it, and continue asking those questions in order to learn more,
both incrementally and exponentially ( p. 38).

In our work we found self-awareness enlarging the public space of the Johari
window within ourselves, and observed it in our teacher candidates as well as in
discussions with the classroom teachers. Trusting the process gave unexpectedly
positive results in learning and pointed to paths otherwise unseen. The
serendipitous coming together of the writers allowed for perspectives to be
developed that used both experiential and disciplinary experiences previously
hidden in the academic context we inhabited. The collaboration among the three
university professionals pleasantly surprised us as far as how beneficial it really
is to work across disciplinary lines although there are other examples that show
the power of working with professionals outside of our own fields (Antola
Crowe, Brandes, Davison Avils, Erickson & Hall, 2013).

Prompted by our successful experiences, Helj continues to use the idea of

picture taking, analysis and reflection in the course for teacher candidates to
articulate their learning and their progress in learning to become their best
professional selves. Although teacher candidates were the primary focus in this
instance, this process and workshop could be useful in any field where people
interact with each other. Serendipity in our emerging project was marked by the
confluence of spontaneity and intentionality---using language as a professional
tool. As professionals we are on our feet all the time so we have to use our

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


intuition and the urge and the courage to act on it. Intuition springs from our
past experiences and the strength found in our professional competencies.
Intuitions are more than just hunches. They are reflective practice operating
within a cognitive feedback loop that is sometimes not apparent to us.

Intentionality in professional articulation reaps both a joyful sharing and a deep

learning within groups of colleagues. Both students and community cultures
benefit from such positive action because we reflect on how all of us, regardless
of our roles in learning, become a success identity that we can use as stepping
stones in our future professional growth. In preparation of professionals,
colleagues are mirrors who can support, encourage and critique us. In reality,
we need the capacity to self-supervise and to have an invitational inner dialogue
when no-one is witnessing, not even the paparazzi.


Antola Crowe, H., Brandes, K., Davison Avils, B., Erickson, D., Hall, D. (2013).
Transdisciplinary teaching: Professionalism across cultures. International
Journal of Humanities and Social Science 3(13), July 2013.
Carthy, A. & McGilloway, S. (2015, June 2). Thinking outside the box: Promoting
learning through emotional and social skills development. Procedia - Social and
Behavioral Sciences 191, 2655 2660. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.04.647
Charles, C. M. (2011). Building classroom discipline. New York: Allyn & Bacon.
Haigh, M. (2011). Invitational Education: Theory, Research and Practice. Journal of
Geography in Higher Education, 35(2), 299-309.
Halpern, H. (2009). Supervision and the Johari Window: A framework for asking
questions. Education for Primary Care, 20, 10-14.
ISBE (n.d.). Illinois learning standards: Social/emotional learning standards. Retrieved
on April 28, 2016. http://www.isbe.net/ils/social_emotional/standards.htm
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experiences as the source of learning and
Okon, J. (2011). Role of Non-Verbal Communication in Education. Mediterranean Journal
of Social Sciences, 2(5), 35-40.
Purkey, W. (2002). Foreword. In Schmidt, J. J. Intentional helping: A philosophy for proficient
caring relationships (pp. V-VI). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill, Prentice Hall.
Purkey, W. W., & Schmidt, J. J. (1996). Invitational counseling; A self-concept approach to
professional practice. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Purkey, W. & Novak, J. (1993). The Invitational helix: A systemic guide for individual
and organizational. Development Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice, 1993,
Vo. 2, No. 2)
Rolfe, G. (2014). Rethinking reflective education: What would Dewey have done? Nurse
Education Today. 34(8), 1179-1183
Schn, Donald A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for
teaching and learning in the professions. Jossey-Bass Higher Education series. San
Francisco, CA, US: Jossey-Bass.
Thomas, D. & Seely Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning. Cultivating the imagination
for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: Create Space.

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 102-113, May 2016

Examining the Effect of Playing an Arithmetic-

based Game- Chopsticks on the Arithmetical
Competencies of 5-year-old Children in

Marcruz Yew.Lee. Ong

Graduate School of Education, Hokkaido University,
Sapporo, Japan

Manabu Kawata, PhD

Research and Clinical Center for Child Development, Hokkaido University,
Sapporo, Japan.

Abstract. In this study, the authors examined the effect of playing an

arithmetic-based game- Chopsticks has on young childrens
arithmetical competencies. A total of 21 young children (Mean age: 4
years 11 months) from two typical early childhood settings in Singapore
were randomized to an experimental group (n=10) and a control group
(n=11). Those in the experimental group attended the learning and
playing sessions of Chopsticks for a 4-week period, while those in the
control group did not attend. All participants were administered with a
Pre-test and post-test, which comprised 10 simple addition items each.
The statistical results revealed that both groups of children performed at
the same level in the pre-test. However, after the 4-week playing session
of Chopsticks, children in the experimental group managed to solve
more items and utilize a shorter time to solve the items than children in
the control group. Therefore, the authors suggested that playing
Chopsticks enhances young childrens arithmetical competencies.

Keywords: Chopsticks; arithmetical competencies; learning; early

childhood settings

1. Introduction
In recent years, the issues involving the relation between childrens early
mathematics skills and their later mathematical competencies have been studied
extensively by numerous researchers (Chu, vanMarie and Geary, 2015 ;Classens
and Engel, 2013; Duncan et al., 2007; Franzen, 2015; Jacobi-Vessels, Todd Brown,
Molfese and Do, 2016; Manfra, Dinehart and Sembiante, 2014). For instance, in
Duncan et al (2007)s study, 6 longitudinal data sets were used and analysed to
determine the relationship between school readiness (academic, attention and
socioemotional skills), and childrens school reading and mathematical
competencies in their later stage. All 6 studies revealed that the early

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mathematics skills (one of the studied academic skills) emerged as one of the
strongest predictor of young childrens mathematical competencies in their later
stage. Similarly, Manfra, Dinehart and Sembiante (2014) also stressed the
importance of early mathematics skills as their study revealed that there is a
strong link between childrens early mathematics skills and their achievements
in mathematics in later stage.

Together, all these studies have yielded convincing insights for us to believe
how crucial the early mathematics skills has on childrens mathematical
development. Therefore, it is an aspect that we should not fail to take into
consideration in any form of research involving mathematical development or
cognition. As we can now understand the importance of early mathematics
skills, this leads us to another important issue on how young children acquire
and develop their mathematics skills during this crucial period.

As a matter of fact, children are innately endowed with a certain level of

mathematics skills (Antell and Keating, 1983; Wynn, 1996), and these skills are
usually enhanced and developed as the children are participating in different
forms of activities with other individuals in their communities (Guberman, 2004;
Ong, in press; Rogoff, 2003; Sakakibara, 2014; Saxe, 1991). Among these
activities, young children spend a considerable amount of time playing various
types of games, such as board games, card games and sports games, with their
parents at home and their teachers and peers in early childhood settings.
Though playing games is often perceived as a leisure or recreational activity
(Ajzen and Driver 1991; Shawn and Dawson 2001), the past studies had reported
that children tend to acquire and develop different types of mathematics skills
from games which often contain some forms of mathematics (Early et al. 2010;
Gerdes, 2001; Ramani and Sielger 2008). Considering such, having young
children engaged in games plays a much more vital role in young childrens
mathematical development than we thought to be.

2. Playing games and mathematical development

Over the years, researchers have been investigating on how playing games
benefits young childrens development, especially in the area of mathematics
(Barta and Schaelling, 1998; Bragg, 2003; Cutler et al. 2003; Gerdes, 2001; Ramani
and Sielger, 2008). For example, Peters (1998) reported that 5-year-old children
who played mathematics games with parental supervision, improved more than
their counterparts who did not play the games, in the areas of number sequence,
number patterns, and enumeration. Furthermore, Ainley (1990) and Bragg (2003)
pointed that games often occur in a more meaningful context, thus they are more
likely to attract the attention of the children. For this reason, the learning of
mathematics through games tends to be a better and more effective mean in
motivating children as compared to other means of learnings, such as rote
learning or practising mathematics worksheets.

Despite there being large literatures that examine the benefits of playing games
have on the young childrens basic numerical skills, such as numeral
identification, counting, and estimation (Barta and Schaelling, 1998; Cutler et al,

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


2003; Gerdes, 2001; Ramani and Sielger, 2008), arithmetic skills has seldom been
the issue of similar investigation. It should not be overlooked as it serves as a
foundation for the development of addition and subtraction, which is one of the
most essential and important skills required when children proceed to
elementary schools (Jordan, Kaplan, Ramineni, and Locuniak, 2009).
Furthermore, the skill is also very important to young children as they often use
it to solve different problems in their everyday lives (Bjorklund & Rosenblum,
2001; Sakakibara 2008).

Yet, to our knowledge, a dearth of studies, that centred on young childrens

arithmetic skills in the context of playing games, only examined the
developmental and contextual effects on young childrens addition strategies in
playing board games (Bjorklund and Rosenblum, 2001; Bjorklund, Hubertz and
Reubens 2004). However, these studies rarely examined the effect of playing
games has on young childrens arithmetic skills empirically, especially their
arithmetical competencies, and this can be a piece of vital information for the
educators when they design the curriculum for young children in the early
childhood settings. Therefore, this is an area that we should not overlook and it
is worth investigating.

In view of these considerations, the purpose of this study is to explore whether

by playing an arithmetic-based game - Chopsticks will improve the
arithmetical competencies of young children in Singapore.

3. Chopsticks
In our pilot work for this study, we found that Chopsticks is one of the most
popular games in Singapore as young children are often seen playing the game
with their peers during their play time, meal times and even during the intervals
between lessons in many early childhood settings.

Chopsticks is basically a hand game which is commonly played by two

players, and each player has to use both hands. It requires the players to possess
at least some arithmetic skills in order to play the game. The number of extended
fingers on each hand will represent the number of points the hand has. The hand
with all five fingers extended will be considered as a dead hand. Therefore, a
player who has extended all fingers on his both hands loses the game.

Both players start the game with one extended finger on each of their both hands
which resemble a pair of chopsticks. The players take turns to tap their
opponents hand. The number of points on the tapping hand will be added to
the points on the tapped hand, and the tapped player will extend the added
points to show the new score. The tapping hand remains at the same points. The
player can transfer points from one hand to the other by tapping his own hand.
For example, if he has one point on his left hand and three points on his right
hand, he can tap his own hands to rearrange the points into two points on each
hand, this is also known as splitting.

As we have explained the method of playing chopsticks, it is clear that the

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players have to calculate and monitor the points on their own and opponents
hands continuously to avoid the dead hand. For this reason, children playing
Chopsticks are likely to use more arithmetic skills than that of other
extensively studied games such as, Chutes and Ladders, and Checkers. This
can also suggest that playing Chopsticks may have a greater effect in
enhancing the arithmetical competencies of those young children who play it on
a regular basis. This also explains why we have selected Chopsticks in our
study. In order to establish the effect on young childrens arithmetical
competencies, we will be comparing the test results and the time taken to solve
problem of those 5-year-old Singaporean children from the experimental and
control groups in their pre-test and post-test. The details of the study will be
discussed in our next section.

4. Methodology

4.1 Participants
A total of 21 young children (10 girls, 11 boys), who were ranging from 4 years 9
months to 5 years 3 months in age, and had no knowledge of Chopsticks from
two typical early childhood settings in Singapore were selected as participants.
They were randomly assigned to two different groups: experimental and control
groups. These children were selected instead of those who already knew the
game, as it would be difficult to determine the effects of playing Chopsticks
had on those who know the game since they had different levels of exposure to
the game prior to the study. For this reason, we only selected those who had no
knowledge of Chopsticks.

10 Children in the experimental group were taught how to play Chopsticks

while the remaining 11 children were in the control group. In other words, only
the children in the experimental group learnt and played Chopsticks in this

Before the study, all participants were tested to ensure that they had the ability
to count to 10 and performed simple addition problems. 25 children were tested,
and 23 met the criteria. We had further removed two children from the control
group as we discovered that they had learnt to play Chopsticks from their
peers during the course of our 4-week study. Therefore, we had 21 children
participated in this study.

The researchers had obtained both informed consent from parents and assent
from children prior to the study. These were voluntarily provided by parents
and children without feeling any pressure to accede to be involved in this study.
Procedures and items in the study were slightly modified to eliminate any
potential stress in children. In addition, all children were given the opportunity
to withdraw from the study at any time, and all their information are treated

4.2 Instruments
Individual addition-based tasks were used to assess the childrens arithmetical

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competencies before and after playing Chopsticks, namely the pre-test and
post-test, respectively. The similar tasks were also administered to the children
in the control group.

The pre-test included 10 addition items with sums less than 10, and consisted of
only addends 1 to 4, which corresponded to the possible addends during the
game. The items in post-test were identical to those in pre-test, however the
items were arranged in different sequence. Details of the pre-test and post-test
items are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Descriptions of the Pre-test and Post-test items

Pre-test Post-test

1+1 2+1

2+1 2+4

1+4 1+4

3+3 2+2

2+4 3+3

3+1 3+1

2+2 4+3

4+3 1+1

4+4 3+2

4.3 Procedures

4.3.1 Pre-test and post-test

Pre-test was administered prior to the learning session and playing session, and
post-test was administered at the end of the 4-week playing session.

The children were seated at a low-lying table directly facing the researcher and
were tested individually in a quiet study room. All the 10 pre-test items and 10
post-test items were read out one at a time to the children, and they were told to
verbalise their answers to the researcher. After the test, the children were asked

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to wait in another room till all the children had finished the tests. By doing so,
we can ensure that those children who had finished the test will not have the
chance to discuss the problems with those who had yet to do the test.

4.3.2 Learning session

10 children in the experimental group first attended three learning sessions to
learn how to play Chopsticks in two groups. In each 15-min session, the
children sat on the floor facing the researcher as he explained the rules and ways
of playing Chopsticks to the children. All children had a chance to practise
playing Chopsticks with the researcher. In order to ensure that all children
were able to play the game, the researcher played the game with each child for 5
minutes after the three learning sessions. All 10 children did not have difficulty
in comprehending and playing the game, and proceeded to the playing session.

4.3.3 Playing session

All children in the experimental group attended the playing session in pairs for
15 minutes thrice per week over a 4-week period. In order to make the playing
session similar to the natural setting of playing games in the early childhood
setting, the children played Chopsticks with their peers instead of with the
researcher. However, they played the game in the presence of the researcher in a
quiet room, while the researcher sat beside each pair ensuring that they played
only Chopsticks and guided them if need arose, during each 15 minutes
session. The children attended the playing session in a pair at a time.

4.3.4 Control group

11 children in the control group were excluded from the both learning and
playing session. The researcher had also conducted weekly individual interview
session with each child to ensure that they did not get to learn Chopsticks
during the course of the 4-week study. During the weekly interviews, the
researcher asked these children questions such as had they heard of the game
Chopsticks, did they know how to play the game, and did anyone teach them
how to play the game recently. Through the interviews, two children revealed
that they had recently learnt Chopsticks from their peers and they were
removed from the control group.

4.4 Independent variables

The arithmetical competencies of the children were determined by the two
independent variables- childrens test scores (pre-test and post-test), and their
time taken to solve problem in this study.

Firstly, the total scores of pre-test and post-test items for each child were
measured. One point was awarded for each correctly solved item, with a
maximum of 10 points.

Secondly, the time taken to solve each item correctly was measured in seconds
by the researcher. He started the stopwatch when he presented an item and
stopped it when the children answered. According to Bull and Johnston (1997),
one is likely to take a shorter time to solve easy arithmetic problems.

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We expected that, due to the effects of playing Chopsticks have on the

childrens arithmetical competencies, the children in the experimental group will
tend to achieve a higher score and require a shorter time to solve the items in
their post-test than in their pre-test. We also expect this group of children will
perform better in the 2 variables than the children in the control group in the

5. Findings

5.1 Test Scores

The control groups children scored an average of 6.18 out of a total of 10 for pre-
test items, and an average of 6.27 out of a total of 10 for post-test items.
Conversely, experimental groups children performed better in post-test items
than pre-test items, with an average score of 7.40 and 6.20, respectively (Figure
1). Two way factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA)s results showed that there
was a significant Groups test scores Test types interaction, F (1, 19) = 6.61, p<
.05. In addition, simple main effect tests were also performed to determine
statistically whether the test scores of experimental groups children and control
groups children differed across the test types. The statistical analysis revealed
that the effect of the test types for the experimental group is significant, F (1, 19)
= 14.78, p< .001. However, the effect of the test types for the control group is not
significant, F (1, 19) = 0.09, n.s.

Control Group
8 Experimental Group
Test scores

Pre-test Post-test
Test Types

Figure 1. Test scores over the test types

In view of these results, it is evident that playing Chopsticks had resulted the
children in the experimental group to solve more items correctly in the post-test
than in the pre-test. In contrast, children in the control group, who did not play
the game, had similar pre-test and post-test result.

5.2 Problem Solving Time

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Control groups children took an average of 3.12 seconds and 3.30 seconds to
solve pre-test and post-test items, respectively. In contrast, experimental groups
childrens solving time for pre-test and post-test items were 3.23 seconds, and
2.00 seconds, respectively (Figure 2). Two-way factorial analysis of variance
(ANOVA) was conducted, and there was a significant Groups solving time
Test types interaction, F (1, 19) = 15.97, p< .001. In order to statistically determine
whether both groups childrens solving time differed across the types of tests,
simple main effect tests were also conducted. The statistical analysis revealed
that the effect of the test types for the experimental group is significant, F (1, 19)
= 23.28, p= .001. In contrast, the effect of the test types for the control group is
not significant, F (1, 19) = 0.53, n.s.

Problem Solving Time(Seconds)

Control Group
Experimental Group

Pre-test Post-test
Test Types

Figure 2. Solving time over the test types

In view of these results, there are good grounds to believe that playing the
chopsticks games had resulted children in the experimental group to solve
items faster in the post-test than in the pre-test. On other hand, there was not
much difference in the problem solving time between the pre-test and post-test
of the control groups children.

6. Discussion
This study is the first to examine whether playing the arithmetic-based game-
Chopsticks will enhance the arithmetical competencies of young children. Our
findings add to the existing literatures, that support playing games has positive
impacts on the development of childrens early mathematical achievement
(Cutler et al, 2003; Griffin, 2004; Klein and Starkey, 2004), by revealing the
improvement of young childrens arithmetical competencies when they played
the Chopsticks on a regular basis during our 4-week study.

In fact, before the Chopsticks was introduced to the children in the

experimental group, they performed almost on par with those in the control

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group, in terms of average test scores and problem solving time in the pre-test.
In other words, children in both groups, on average, had near identical level of
arithmetical competencies at the beginning of the study. However, the distinct
differences between the two groups set in during the post-test stage, when the
experimental groups children who learnt and played Chopsticks in this study
tend to solve more addition items and solve the items faster as compared to their
own pre-tests results and their counterparts in the control group. Taking into
consideration all the data from both groups children, there are good grounds to
believe that playing Chopsticks have yielded improvement in young
childrens arithmetical competencies. However, how does playing Chopsticks
enhance young childrens arithmetical competencies?

As mentioned earlier, compared to other popular games such as, Chutes and
Ladders, and Checkers (Ramani & Siegler, 2008), Chopsticks requires the
players to possess not only a higher level of arithmetic skills but also use more
arithmetic skills. This is especially true because the players in each pair need to
calculate and monitor the points on their own and opponents hands
continuously, as the points will change after each tap during the playing session.
In other words, each player has to solve addition problems, with addends
between 1 and 4, in a relatively fast speed, in order to keep up with the pace of
their opponent and continue the game. Therefore, having to learn and play
Chopsticks over the period of 4 weeks had led the children in the
experimental group to develop the ability to solve more addition problems and
at a faster speed which were reflected in our findings. Conversely, the
arithmetical competencies of those children in the control group remained
unchanged throughout our study.

7. Implications
These findings are beneficial for Singapores early childhood educators and
parents by providing insights into the effect of playing Chopsticks has on the
development of arithmetical competencies in Singapore young children. Based
on the findings, it has become more apparent for parents and early childhood
educators in both Singapore and other countries which place strong educational
emphasis on the assessment of learning and formal lessons (Ong, Kawata and
Takahashi, in press) to understand that playing games does also play a vital role
in the development of young childrens arithmetical competencies besides
academic based activities. In addition, playing games has also been reported to
be more effective than other means of learning as games often occur in a more
meaningful context, which in turn motivates children to learn (Ainley 1990;
Bragg, 2003; Cutler et al, 2003). This may also help to raise an even higher
awareness among early childhood educators about the importance of including
more arithmetic-based games in their early childhood curriculum to make
learning mathematics more interesting and easier for the children.

Further, apart from other popular board games, such as Chutes and Ladder
and Checkers, the Chopsticks can be an alternative game which early
childhood educators may be suggested to add into their curriculum for
mathematics learning. The Chopsticks tends to have greater advantages over

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most of the other games as it only involves the use of hands. Thus, educators can
teach the young children arithmetic with this game easily and conveniently
without the use of any other material besides their hands.

8. Limitations and Future Research Directions

Similar to other studies, this study also has some limitations. For instance, this
study only examined a relatively small number of young children in Singapore,
and this might not generalise the results. Therefore, a larger sample size of
children is required for future studies. In addition, this larger sample size shall
comprise children of different age groups, since previous studies, which centred
on other games, such as Chutes and Ladder, have reported that due to the
process of mathematical development, children across age groups tend to play
the game differently. For instance the use of different types of addition strategies
(Bjorklund & Rosenblum, 2001). Therefore, by examining children in the
different age groups playing Chopsticks may unfold other issues relating to
the effects of playing games have on the development of young childrens
arithmetical competencies.

Next, the players only deal with addends from 1 to 4 in the existing
Chopsticks. However, young children deal with more than just addends
ranging from 1 to 4 in their everyday lives. For this reason, future studies may
want to modify the game of Chopsticks in such a way that more and higher-
digit numbers can be included into this game. And by doing so, the benefits of
playing Chopsticks will be even more applicable to the everyday lives of
young children.

As mentioned earlier, this is the first study to examine the effect of playing
Chopsticks has on young childrens arithmetic skills, especially in the area of
competencies. Therefore, it lays a foundation for other future studies not only
investigate deeper into the relation between playing chopsticks and young
childrens arithmetical competencies, but also uncover other potential issues
involving the development of young childrens arithmetic skills, which remain
to be unanswered by other previous studies that centered on those extensively
studied games. Hence, this is may be another area which is worth investigating
in future studies.

9. Acknowledgements

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Dr. Kawata Manabu, who has
been my advisor and mentor since my Masters degree course.. He has been
giving me valuable support, encouragement, and steering me in the right
direction whenever he thought I needed it.
In addition, I would also like to thank all the early childhood settings teachers
and children who participated in this work.

Last but not least, I also express my sincere appreciation to my brother, Mr.
Youxiang Wang, who assisted in the proof-reading of this work.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 114-126, May 2016

Modelling in Vietnamese School Mathematics

Danh Nam Nguyen

Thai Nguyen University of Education
Thai Nguyen, Vietnam

Abstract. This paper presents empirical research about

implementing mathematical modelling in the secondary schools
in Vietnam. The data from experiments have shown that there
were some cognitive barriers in introducing modelling to the
classroom and designing real world models for teaching.
However, we have concluded that modelling is one of the active
teaching methods and the teachers can provide their students
with appropriate interventions to support them interpreting
about the role of mathematics in reality. Furthermore, by
participating in modelling activities, the students would develop
their problem solving skills and regularly adjust their thinking.
Keywords. mathematical modelling; modelling teaching;
modelling method; modelling process.

In the last few decades, a lot of researchers have dealt with the problem of
how to use mathematical modelling and its application in teaching
mathematics at all levels in schools (Blum & Lei, 2007; Maa, 2007). In
recent years, modelling has been considered as a new trend for research
on problem solving in mathematics education (Lesh & Zawojewski, 2007;
Kaiser, 2014). The results of this empirical research provided a new
approach in teaching applied to mathematics and opened new ways of
thinking about integrating real world situations in the process of learning
and teaching school mathematics. Mathematical modelling is a process of
applying mathematical concepts to new and unfamiliar situations. It
relates to discovering a real situation, collecting data, making a
hypothesis, building a model (equations, functions, symbolic structures,
etc.), representing the model, interpreting the results, improving/revising
the model, and answering the questions about real-world situations (Dan
& Xie, 2011; Lingefjrd, 2006; Swetz & Hartler, 1991). A mathematical
model is the product of the modelling process. It is created using suitable
mathematical tools and methods. It can be expressed through a set of
symbols, notations, graphs of data, geometric figures, tables, formulae,

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functions, equations, and systems of equations that describe complex

relationships among real world situations or phenomena. Hence,
mathematical modelling is an effective strategy to apply mathematics in
interpreting various areas of life such as medicine, engineering, finance,
economics, weather forecasting, ecology, sports, arts and computer
science. More specifically, these phenomena can be described by laws of
nature and mathematical modelling makes the laws predictable. For
example, a graph of a parabola presents the motion of an object dropped
from a height above the ground; a graph of exponential functions shows
the population growth. Similarly, populations of predator and prey in an
ecosystem, the unemployment rate, a risk factor for a disease, the
effectiveness of a medical treatment, population growth, etc. can be
represented by graphs of different functions that students are taught in
schools (Biembengut & Hein, 2010; Blum & Ferri, 2009; Frejd & Bergsten,
2016). Hence, it could be said that mathematical modelling connects
students real life experiences with mathematics knowledge at schools. A
modelling task engages students in solving a mathematically rich
problem and developing mathematical thinking. It is a tool that helps
students to understand about application of the mathematical concepts
because it requires students to apply mathematical knowledge into real
life and to extend the concepts beyond rote learning (Dan & Xie, 2011;
Galbraith, Stillman & Brown, 2010; Lesh & Zawojewski, 2007; Kaiser &
Stillman, 2015). Students should be provided an opportunity to build,
determine and look for the best fitting model for real world data by
sketching graphs of functions that represent important mathematical
ideas and methods (NCTM, 2000). In the last few decades, curricula
reforms in many developed countries have concentrated on mathematical
modelling in their revised school curricula and textbooks.

Students are encouraged to look for situations in their real life and to pose
the problems by making questions and formulating conjectures (Brown &
Walter, 2005; Kang & Noh, 2012). Students need to understand the real
world applications of mathematics so that they can solve problems both
in everyday life and in the sciences. To solve mathematical modelling
problems successfully, the teacher should teach their students how to do a
realistic project, to collaborate with others and to create open discussion
among members of the group. The teacher should also encourage
students to use the functions of computers or calculators in modelling real
life phenomena such as graphing tools, dynamic geometry environment,
computer algebra system, simulations, dynamic spreadsheets, statistical
packages, etc. In particular, during the teaching process, the teacher
should encourage their students to use multi-representations of collected
data (e.g., graphs, tables, equations, diagrams, pictures, etc.), and to

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choose and utilize appropriate mathematical methods and tools in solving

non-routine problems.

In recent years, radical and comprehensive renovation of education and

training at all levels has been a significant focus in Vietnam. This reform
aims to meet the requirements of industrialization and modernization,
dynamic systems of information in a knowledge-based economy, and
international integration. In this renovation, there will be fundamental
changes in curricula design and textbook compilation. The new curricula
will be highly integrated in lower levels and highly selective and
specialized in higher levels. By the end of the junior secondary education,
students have acquired sufficient knowledge, virtue and necessary skills
for vocational training and capability of new labourers. In the previous
educational reform, modelling activities were under-emphasized in
Vietnamese mathematics curricula and textbooks (Nguyen & Tran, 2013).
However, the newly revised mathematics curricula have focused on
important mathematical ideas and processes that promote students
working with complex systems, such as investigating, conjecturing,
justifying, representing, and explaining together with real life data and
phenomena. As a result, modelling and problem solving have become
core parts of the process of teaching mathematics at all educational levels.
In other words, in new mathematics curricula, modelling and its
application are important features. Students use modelling to get insight
into mathematical concepts and understand about the applications of
these concepts to students life experiences. Mathematical modelling is
also a compulsory competency within the national standards from
primary to secondary school and students competency profile.


Modelling as a Teaching Method
In this research, we consider modelling as a method of teaching
mathematics aimed at providing students with an opportunity to read, to
interpret, to formulate and to solve specific real world problems. This
approach helps the students to use mathematical concepts to solve
realistic problems that they may encounter in life. By using this method,
students are able to look at the world through a mathematical lens and
develop better comprehension of the world. Especially, as the students
work with data from real life, they need to find mathematical ideas to
understand the data and validate their conjectures. In primary education,
teachers use figures, shapes, concrete materials, drawings, diagrams, and
pictures to present arithmetic operations (e.g., addition, subtraction,
multiplication, and division). In secondary education, teachers could
guide students to use graphs and symbolic equations to represent

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relationships among quantities. In particular, in high school the students

are taught about linear, quadratic, exponential, trigonometric, and
polynomial functions as algebraic models. These models represent
complex situations or phenomena around students lives.

Throughout our study, we have concentrated on the feasibility of

mathematical modelling activities in the classroom. We suggested that
teachers provide their students with supporting questions or hints during
tackling modelling tasks. In our point of view, this approach would train
the following students modelling skills: simplifying hypotheses;
clarifying the goal; determining variables and parameters; formulating
mathematical problems; selecting or building a mathematical model;
graphical representations; and relating back to the real context. The
context must be provided by the teachers. Therefore, the teachers need to
look for real world situations or models and bring them to the classroom
with the aim of helping their students to interpret the nature of a
mathematical concept as well as its applications in real life. In other
words, the teachers should identify the situations which link to students
everyday life or to other fields like finance, bank, medicine, sports, arts,
and so on. The teachers can also facilitate their students activities by
giving them simple modelling situations at the beginning stage and more
complex modelling tasks at the next stage.
The Modelling Process
There are many variations of the modelling processes; however, most of
them are basically similar. Many researchers considered modelling as a
multi-step process (Blum & Ferri, 2009; Galbraith, Stillman & Brown,
2010; Swetz & Hartzler, 1991). The process started with a real life situation
or a problem that stems from other fields such as biology or physics by
posing/asking a question or situation. The process continues with
formulating conjectures and developing a model in mathematical terms
and simplifications are made if necessary. In other words, the students
need to calculate the measurement of given objects to identify the
relationships among quantities and establish a function, an equation or
system of equations. We call this phase of process mathematisation. Then
the mathematical problem can be solved (solving an equation, graphing
data, etc.). We call this step working with the model. Finally the results of
the original problem must to be interpreted, validated, disseminated, and
revised in a real context.

In Vietnamese mathematics classrooms, we applied the following seven-

stage modelling process: (1) real-world problem; (2) make assumptions;
(3) formulate mathematical problem; (4) solve the mathematical problem;
(5) interpret the solution; (6) verify the model; (7) report, explain, predict.
During the modelling process, the students must transfer among these

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steps such as understanding the realistic task, simplifying the task,

mathematising, solving mathematical problems, interpreting results, and
revising the model (Blum & Ferri, 2009; Kang &Noh, 2012). However,
during the experimental teaching period, we also realized that different
classrooms may have implemented the modelling process in a very
different way.

1. Specify the real 2. Define a 3. Formulate a

world problem mathematical model mathematical problem

6. Validate the 5. Interpret the solution 4. Solve the

model mathematical problem

7. Use the model to

explain, predict or

Figure 1: Main stages in modelling (adapted from Mason, 1988)

In figure 1, the teachers started the modelling process with a real world
situation. Then the situation is re-structured and simplified in order to
build a mathematical model. Then the students used mathematical
languages to convert the model to a mathematical problem. Mathematical
tools and methods are applied to attempt the problem. The result is
reflected with the initial problem. The appropriate results are tested and
verified. Finally, the model can be improved so that it can represent the
situation better. Therefore, we used modelling in the classroom with the
purpose of applying mathematics to: (1) understand observed
phenomena in real life (e.g., engineering, physics, physiology, ecology,
chemistry, economics, sports, music); (2) examine related questions about
the phenomena; (3) clarify the phenomena in real context; (4) test
hypotheses; and (5) predict about the real world.

Example 1. Teacher gave students a photograph showing the motion of water

spouting out from Merlion (a Singapore landmark). Then the teacher asked the
students to use GeoGebra software to determine the model that represents the
trajectory of the water.

In this example, firstly the students chose the origin of the Cartesian
coordinate system such that it coincided with the starting point of the
water. The students predicted the shape of the motion (quadratic
function) and created new value of parameter m using the slider of the

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software. Secondly, they typed the equation of the quadratic function in

the form y = mx2 in the input field. Thirdly, they moved the point on the
slider (the parameter m) until the graph of the quadratic function
overlapping the trajectory of the water. Finally, the students wrote down
the found quadratic equation. Through these activities, the students could
see the moving path of the water is a parabola that has the equation y = -
0.1x2. As a result, they get more understanding about some kinds of
motions such as water spouting out from a high location or the falling of a
ball. Parabolas also represented some types of building such as an arch
bridge, the motion of some planets around the sun, etc.

Figure 2: Modelling the trajectory of the water from Merlion using GeoGebra

Example 2. The number of human population was calculated by the formula S =

AerN, where A is the population of the starting year, S is the population after N
years, r is the annual population growth rate of the year. We know that in the
year 2001, the population in Vietnam was S = 78.685.800 and the growth rate
was r = 1.7% in that year. When will the population of Vietnam reach the
number of 100 million people if the growth rate does not change?

This modelling task was used to help the students get more
understanding about the applications of exponential growth in real life. In
lower grades, students were taught about linear and quadratic growth.
The purpose of this example is to provide the students with an insight
into the distinction among graphs of linear, quadratic and exponential
functions that are representing growth rates. In this problem, the students
could realize that at the beginning stage of time the graphs linear and
exponential functions are nearly similar. In other words, there is no
difference between linear and exponential models. Nevertheless, at the
later stage of time (after 10 years), there is an enormous dissimilarity
between the graph of linear and exponential function.

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Figure 3: Modelling exponential growth of Vietnamese population

Stage 1 (Real world problem): The problem was stated very explicitly with
the mathematical model S = AerN. As a result, students did not need to
collect data of population in some years in order to formulate a model.
However, the students understood that this problem is very close to their
real life.

Stage 2 (Make assumptions): Based upon the model, some students made
conjectures about the growth of population by drawing a graph of the
exponential function. They knew that the number of populations would
increase very quickly and reach the number of 100 million in a short time.

Stage 3 (Formulate mathematical problem): Most of students could write the

exponential equation with one variable N: 78685800. e0.017N = 100000000.
The problem now is to solve the equation to find the value of N.

Stage 4 (Solve the mathematical problem): By solving the equation, the

students found that N 14. The solution was presented as follows:

Figure 4: The solution of the exponential equation illustrating population growth

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Stage 5 (Interpret the solution): From the result N = 14, the students derived
that the Vietnamese population will reach the number of 100 million in
2015. Most of students could get this answer but there were some
students who did not comment more about the final result and compare
the result with the real data about the population.

Stage 6 (Verify the model): There were only some students who showed a
good connection between the solution and the real situation. They said
that the initial model was not suitable: The population in Vietnam in 2015
is about 90 million people. This number was not equal to the result of the
calculated model. This error stems from growth rate ... In fact, growth rate also
depends upon variety of factors such as immigration and emigration rate, war,
population policy, etc. However, I can realize that the population policies in
Vietnam were implemented successfully in the past decade..... It means that
some students were able to verify the accuracy of the model in the real
situation and realized that it is necessary to revise the model of
exponential function.

Stage 7 (Report, explain, predict): Some students explained the difference

between the solution and real life data because of the changing growth
rate in every year. They predicted that this rate will be decreased in the
next few years and then warned about some disadvantages of this falling
trend to the state of national economics.

To sum up, modelling approaches provide students with a learning

environment where they are invited to investigate, by means of
mathematics, situations arising in other areas of knowledge. In particular,
by designing mathematical models, the teachers can integrate the
knowledge of mathematics in tackling important social issues such as
population rate growth, environment protection, climate change, disease
spread, etc.
Collecting the Data
In sum 180 students from different high schools participated in this
research. Students were asked to work with some real-life modelling
problems with restricted teacher support. Teachers gave only strategic
interventions by using some kinds of requests like: Make a sketch or
diagram; Which data do you need? Which information do you need to collect?
What does this model describe in the real life? The teachers have designed
supporting questions so that the students could solve the problem based
upon seven steps of the modelling cycle. We divided each class into
different groups and allowed them to discuss the problems with a system
of focusing questions from the teachers. After school each group
continued to solve other similar problems (normally project-based work)

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independently with the assistance of prospective teachers from a faculty

of education. The groups also were allowed to choose an interest project
topic to investigate by means of mathematics. It took several days, weeks
or even months to complete are modelling projects. Data were collected
through audio-recordings of group discussion and then were transcribed.
Students written protocols were also analyzed based on the seven-step
modelling process. Finally, we conducted a semi-interview individually
after each test aimed at getting more information about students thinking
and strategies during the process of solving the modelling problems.
Teachers took notes which were also used to record the students
difficulties during modelling process.

All 180 students participated in the all tests which include modelling
problems and the results have shown that only 34% out of all of the
students created correct mathematical models. In particular, 49% of the
participants created incorrect models or solved the problem wrongly. The
rest of them did not deal with it at all or were not able to create any
mathematical model. They have met difficulties in transiting from real
world problems into mathematics problems and finding a suitable model
for the situation. We also realized that during every phase in the
modelling process, the students had potential cognitive barriers. For
example, in step 1, many students get stuck in interpreting the real life
problem, translating into mathematical problem and building a suitable
model. By interviewing, we realized that the students difficulties stem
from their lack of life experiences, especially students who lived in rural
and mountainous areas. In step 2, the students were afraid of making
assumptions by themselves; consequently they had difficulties in
simplifying, structuring, and mathematising the problem. In particular,
most of the students did not present any comments about validating the
created model in real life. Through the interview, 61% of students said
that they have learned brilliant strategies through the activities in which
mathematics is currently being applied outside the classroom although
22% of them believed that the activities were boring and 6% said that
mathematical modelling is very time-consuming because they have not
encountered such a problem before. Until students are accustomed to this
type of problem, they would not take the time to complete all seven steps
in the modelling process. By analyzing students written protocols, we
have concluded that the modelling process is not linear and also not cyclic
because the students can jump between the different stages in an
unsystematic manner. In other words, it can be said that students
individual modelling tracks depended upon their individual preferences
or problem solving strategies.

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Through the interview, most of the teachers said that they met great
difficulty in managing the classroom using a modelling teaching method,
and the teachers have actually changed their role in the classroom from
instructors to guiders and advisors. The teachers have also confirmed that
a modelling activity should be based on an open, complex, realistic
problem/situation. It should challenge the students curiosity, encourage
a deeper understanding of important mathematical ideas, and enhance
individual thinking as well as group discussion. As a result, this approach
develops the ability of inductive and deductive students thinking and
competencies like problems solving, formulating and testing of
conjectures, revealing of causal relations and connections between related
features. Teachers skill of applying information and communication
technologies in teaching mathematics (e.g., simulation, graphing, data
analyses, etc.) was also a technical barrier in representing the modelling
process. Finally, the teachers argued that they did not often use this
method in teaching mathematics because they did not have any kind of
book guide about this issue at all and they also were not able to realize
modelling problems from real life situations.

In general, we have revealed that some barriers in applying this
modelling method in the classroom linked to teachers teaching styles,
beliefs and teaching skills. Most teachers in Vietnam have little or no
experience in mathematical modelling. They met difficulties in selecting
and designing tasks that are open-ended, realistic and competency-based.
They did not use this approach often because the modelling activity
normally has time constraints in comparison to a traditional approach. It
was also not easy to show students what to do and then guide them
through practice. In particular, modelling requires the teachers to prepare
a careful lesson plan and design a system of questions aimed to
evaluating the students model. All of the teachers agreed that this
modelling approach would provide an opportunity for students to
understand about the developing process of the mathematical concepts.
By working with modelling tasks, the students could develop their
mathematical skills, deepen their understanding of mathematical
concepts and make a connection between mathematics and other areas,
especially very near to reality situations that allowed interdisciplinary
insights. The main difficulty with implementation of modelling in the
curricula is that most of teachers are lacking experience of modelling both
at the secondary school and at the teacher training university.

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In conclusion, this modelling approach would provide students with a
potential opportunity to connect mathematics knowledge in the
classroom to their real life, school and society. The teachers should allow
the students to analyze realistic situations, formulate and test the
conjectures, choose and use appropriate mathematics tools and methods,
build and interpret the mathematical model, reflect to real life and then to
adjust their thinking. As a result, the students would utilize the created
model to interpret the real world phenomena, make conjecture, produce
arguments, and forecast about situations in the future. Therefore, we
could consider mathematical modelling in the classroom as an active
learning method and the students could learn mathematics in a
meaningful way if this model was applied universally.

The following conclusions can be drawn from empirical findings that

small group work on modelling problems may provide opportunities to
introduce mathematical modelling and control students activities in the
classroom. However, the teachers must offer their students suggestions
and private supports during the modelling process by giving the students
proper guidance and scaffolding questions. In particular, the teachers
need to design lessons that use both skill standards and modelling
process practices. We also found that it takes a long time from empirical
research to application in the classroom. Hence, the role of the modelling
approach and its feasibility is an on-going discussion in the mathematics
classroom. The results of this research also would make a contribution to
modernizing the mathematics curricula and textbooks in Vietnam in
which mathematical modelling as well as problem solving will be
considered as students core competencies.

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Informations of the Author:

Nguyen Danh Nam, Ph.D
Thai Nguyen University of Education
20, Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Thai Nguyen City, Vietnam
E-mail: danhnam.nguyen@dhsptn.edu.vn

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 127-144, May 2016

Negotiating Accountability and Integrated

Curriculum from a Global Perspective

Susan M. Drake and Michael J. Savage

Brock University
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Abstract. In an age of educational accountability there is tension

between the pressure for success in large-scale testing and the need to
develop students 21st century competencies such as communication and
creative problem solving to prepare them for the complex global world.
Integrated curriculum is a popular way to develop these skills yet it is
often dismissed because of accountability issues. This article explores
the policy directions of several educational jurisdictions around the
world to provide a deeper understanding of the relationship between
the two positions. The analysis concludes that integrated curriculum
approaches do not seem to have a negative impact on large-scale testing

Keywords: Integrated curriculum; accountability; educational policy;

standardized testing; 21st century competencies

Acknowledgements: This research was supported by a grant from the

International Baccalaureate Organization.

The tension between the need for accountability and the need to create an
educational system that works in the 21st Century permeates educational
jurisdictions around the world. Curriculum integration is often seen as a way
to effectively approach 21st century learning. The thinking seems to be,
however, that in order to do better on accountability measures there is no room
for integrated approaches. For example, there was a strong interest in
curriculum integration in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the United States
and Canada but the push toward standardization and large-scale testing,
methods designed to increase accountability, muted that interest (March &
Willis, 2007). In contrast, since 2000, the jurisdictions in East Asia have been
attracted to integration as a means of developing generic skills, expanding
international awareness and preparing students for a global economy (Lam,
Alviar-Martin, Adler, & Sim, 2013). Yet, the stereotype of East Asian countries
is that the students study endlessly in a highly competitive, ruthless, exam-
driven environment to obtain the top spots at the next level of schooling.

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Although there are many ways to define accountability, from a teachers

personal sense of responsibility to system accountability, the concept has
generally come to mean the effectiveness of educational jurisdictions as
measured through large-scale testing (Figlio & Loeb, 2011). Recently this
definition of accountability has shifted from a local context to a globalized one
that is rooted in an economic rationale. Success is determined by measuring
students on international tests with context-free specific needs and
competencies; much of contemporary reform is based on this rationale
intended to further the global economic agenda (Mayer, Trohler, Labaree, &
Hutt, 2014). Organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) have played a central role in this shift with its
Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests having a far-
reaching impact as educational policy is strongly influenced by results on these
tests. Although there are other significant international tests and some
dissension around OECD as the arbitrator of educational excellence (Meyer,
2014), we use PISA tests as the marker of the most successful educational
systems in the world.

Why are educators reluctant to consider integrated or interdisciplinary

curriculum? Unfortunately, part of the reason is that definitions of integrated
curriculum can be confusing ranging from multidisciplinary to
transdisciplinary (Drake, Reid, & Kolohon, 2014). Here we interpret integrated
curriculum to mean when two or more subject areas are connected in some
way. The research on the effectiveness of such approaches has been largely
anecdotal (Applebee et al., 2007; Czerniak, 1999) or worse, have designs that
are flawed (Brewer, 2002; Pang & Good, 2000). There is, however, some strong
new empirical research emerging to support such approaches that cut across
subject areas such as project-based learning, socio-emotional learning and arts-
based learning (see, for example, Vega, 2013). Nevertheless, integrated
curriculum seems like a perfect fit for developing generic 21st Century
competencies such as collaboration, creativity, communication, character
education, civic literacy and critical thinking (see, for example, Brooks &
Holmes, 2014; Fullan, 2013; Hargreaves & Shirley, 2012). More importantly,
students are more engaged in school when they are learning in an
interdisciplinary environment (Hinde, 2005; Holm, 2011).

The purpose of this paper is to explore whether students can succeed at large-
scale testing and also learn through an integrated curriculum. Are
accountability measures and curriculum integration incompatible? Or can
students do well in large-scale tests and also learn through integrated
approaches? The significance is that educators may consider integrated
approaches to teaching and learning that will engage students, facilitate
learning the 21st Century competencies and will also lead to success on large-
scale tests. This paper examines the relationship between curriculum policy on
integrated learning and countries that consistently do well on international
accountability measures specifically PISA. The hypothesis being that if
countries that do well on PISA also include integrated learning, then this
should be an endorsement for integrated learning. Although it is obviously

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simplistic to consider testing as the only measure of the success of an education

system, we explore here how jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Shanghai,
Singapore, Korea, and Japan, all countries that repeatedly top the OECD charts,
are balancing accountability with curriculum integration. We then look at
Finland, the province of Quebec in Canada, and the International Baccalaureate
schools, all of which are known for their commitment to integrated approaches
to learning. This is followed by a brief discussion of educational policy in the
United States and Ontario, Canada in the hope of gaining a deeper
understanding of the issue.

This paper is a conceptual analysis of curriculum policies in several
educational jurisdictions as exemplified in their published curriculum
documents available on the internet. It includes appropriate literature and
correspondence with knowledgeable individuals in these jurisdictions to help
deepen understanding of what these policies look like in practice. As well,
figures have been added that are adaptations of key graphics describing
curriculum policy. Our organizing lens has been to look at curriculum policy to
see if there is a unifying framework with goals that cut across subject areas or if
the curriculum is presented in subject-specific silos. Our deductive
categorization of integrated curriculum is rooted in what students are required
to know (disciplinary or interdisciplinary content, facts or big ideas), do (low
level skills or 21st century competencies) and be (discipline specific values,
attitudes and behaviors or interdisciplinary values, attitudes and behaviors;
Drake et al., 2014). We also examine educational policy in each jurisdiction that
incorporates integrated approaches.

Publicly available curriculum documents from several educational jurisdictions
from around the world are analysed below. The analysis focuses on the
presence, or absence, of integrative curriculum approaches in the curriculum
documents. Policy documents that explicitly mention or mandate integrated
approaches are also mentioned where appropriate.

1. East Asia
Educational jurisdictions in East Asia are examined first due to their success on
the OECD tests.

1.1 China. China as represented by Shanghai and Hong Kong has continually
topped the charts in international testing. Indeed, in 2015, OECD education
director Andreas Schleicher commented that Shanghai pupils performance in
the basic skills is now so good that it is beyond comparison with any other
country (Garner, 2015). It is important to note that these two cities, while useful
to examine, are not necessarily representative of all parts of such a diverse
country. Indeed, Shanghai and Hong Kong are both different in their
approaches given their very different histories.

In both metropolises there is a forward thinking mindset with a clear

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awareness that education needs to transform to keep pace with the rate of
change in society and not just current change, but a conscious effort has been
made to take into account the future of society, the economy, and education
(Singmaster, n.d.). A brief look at their policies sheds some light on integrated

Hong Kong offered a unifying framework K to 12 that called for integration in

2001. Both integrated learning experiences and discipline-based studies are
valuable for students. Therefore, students should be given opportunities to
study both (Curriculum Development Council Hong Kong, 2001, p.26). This
framework is presented as a graphic in Figure 1. In 2001, The Key Learning
Areas (KLA) replaced subject areas. PSHE refers to Personal, Social and
Humanities Education. Cutting across those key areas are generic skills. Hong
Kong explicitly states that values and attitudes also cut across all subject areas.

Figure 1: Hong Kong Unifying Framework (Adapted from CDC, Hong Kong, 2001)
[English Version]

The essence of this unifying framework is still evident in the 2014 document that
has been released for primary grades (CDC Hong Kong, 2014). Today, there are
seven interdisciplinary learning goals that cut across key learning areas and act
as an umbrella (see Figure 2). Embedded in the seven learning goals are generic
skills, values and attitudes.

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Figure 2: Key Learning Goals (Adapted from CDC, Hong Kong, 2014)

Three Cross-Key Learning Areas offer opportunities to learn the generic skills.
The Cross-Key Learning Areas are 1) general studies for primary, 2) liberal
studies for senior secondary levels and 3) applied learning (CDC Hong Kong,
2014). For example, about 15% of a students time is spent in the general studies
of the primary program. Here students integrate across all subject areas what
they know and can do with their values and attitudes. A goal is for students to
be able to demonstrate critical and creative thinking, information management,
numeracy and self-management.

Liberal studies (for senior secondary students) is a timetabled class with broad
topics and no syllabus. The assessment is flexible. Students take charge of their
own learning and use sources outside of textbooks for information. Liberal
studies is considered for university entrance along with Chinese, English and
mathematics. Students develop high-order or critical thinking. This includes
asking sensible questions; finding directions for analysis, synthesis and
conceptualization; and proposing hypotheses or theories (OECD, 2015, p. 103).
This curriculum design sets a good example for grounding curriculum in
student-directed learning. Teachers are encouraged to plan collaboratively, use
technology to enhance learning and to implement hands-on learning, project-
based approaches (CDC Hong Kong, 2014).

How do teachers approach teaching within this unifying framework? Four key
tasks are identified in the curriculum. Moral and Civic Education is the core task
that interconnects the other three tasks which include Interactive Technology,
Reading to Learn and Project Learning (CDC Hong Kong, 2014). The intent of
the Project Learning is be cross-curricular although teachers can choose how
they wish to implement it. Project Learning in schools is a key element of the
curriculum platform.

In 2014 Shanghai was the largest city in China with a population of over 24
million people. It has a different education system than Hong Kong and the rest

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of China. In 1985 they shifted from an exam-based culture that focused on

multiple-choice tests to one that emphasized applied knowledge and skills. It is
the first Chinese city to achieve 100% enrolment in both primary and junior high
school. This includes 6 million students from the migrant worker population.
Additionally, all students in Shanghai have access to postsecondary education.
In spite of this, exams still exist and students study long hours beyond the
school day, often in cram schools. The reform, however, is still ongoing.

An OECD article describes the Shanghai landscape in 2010 (OECD 2010a). In

2008, to move away from examinations and memorization, all schools
implemented eight learning domains which included areas previously
marginalized such as arts and physical education. Schools were required to
locally develop their curriculum. Students were able to take elective courses.
Inquiry-based education was emphasized. As well, students could do
independent courses where they explored research topics of personal interest.
This innovation was intended to increase social well-being, critical and creative
problem solving, and metacognition.

Teacher education and professional development shifted to accommodate this

new vision. Shifts in pedagogy also were implemented. Popular slogans were
return class time to students and for every question there should be more
than one answer. Teachers would not lecture as often and were no longer the
sole authority; they were encouraged to allow class time for student activities
and not just have presentations and lectures.

1.2 Singapore. The progressive policies in Singapore can lead to different models
of integration (Lam et al., 2013). Singapore offers a framework that illustrates
the relationship of 21st Century competencies and student outcomes (See Figure

Figure 3: Framework for 21st Century Competencies and Student Outcomes (Adapted
from Ministry of Education Singapore, n.d.a)

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The inner circle represents core values that underpin knowledge and skills and
shape beliefs, attitudes and actions. The middles ring revolves around Social
and Emotional Competencies. The outer ring represents the 21st Century
competencies. Presumably all content knowledge is embedded in this
framework. The Ministry of Education offers key outcomes for students at the
end of school (See Table 1).

Table 1: Key Outcomes for Education (Adapted from Ministry of Education

Singapore, n.d.b)
The key stage outcomes of education

At the end of Primary At the end of secondary At the end of post-

students will be able to school students will be secondary school students
able to will be able to

Distinguish right from Demonstrate moral Display moral courage and

wrong integrity stand up for what is right

Identify their strengths and Believe in their abilities and Be resilient in the face of
areas for growth adapt to change adversity

Cooperate, share and care Work in teams and show Collaborate across cultures
for others empathy and be socially responsible

Display lively curiosity Be creative and Be enterprising and

demonstrate an inquiring innovative

Think and express Appreciate diverse views Think critically and

themselves confidently and communicate communicate persuasively

Take pride in their work Take responsibility for their Pursue excellence
own learning purposefully

Demonstrate healthy habits Enjoy physical activities Live a healthy lifestyle and
and awareness of the arts and appreciate the arts have aesthetic appreciation

Know and love Singapore Believe in Singapore and Be a proud Singaporean

know what is important for who is aware of
the country Singapores position in the

Singapore has also developed courses that seem to lend themselves to an

integrated approach. All secondary schools need to develop two new learning
programs to complement their academic and student development by 2017
(Ministry of Education Singapore, n.d.b). These courses can revolve around
student interests. A description follows:
The Applied Learning programme will serve to connect academic
knowledge and skills with the real world. The emphasis is on the
application of thinking skills, connecting knowledge across subject
disciplines, stretching the imagination and applying these in authentic

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settings in society and industries. The intent is to help students

appreciate the relevance and value of what they are learning in the
academic curriculum and develop stronger motivation and purpose to
acquire knowledge and skills. The Applied Learning programme may be
developed in areas such as business and entrepreneurship, design,
engineering and robotics, environmental science and technology, health
services, heritage, journalism and broadcasting, literary arts, simulation
and modelling.
The Learning for Life programme will provide students with real-life
experiential learning to develop their character and values, cultivate
positive attitudes, self-expression and strengthen their people skills. This
will be an integral aspect and a distinctive signature approach of
Character and Citizenship Education (CCE). The intent is to instil in our
students a sense of rootedness and responsibility for their community
and fellow Singaporeans. Areas can include, among others, outdoor
adventure learning, sports, student leadership development, uniformed
groups, performing and visual arts. (Ministry of Education Singapore,
2013, p. 7).

Through the adoption of the Learning for Life and Applied Learning programs
Singapore is committing itself to developing integrated curriculum that has
authentic connections to the world outside of the schools. The Ministry of
Education in Singapore hopes these initiatives will not only strengthen students
academic skills but also help develop their students character, attitude, and self-
expression skills in addition to strengthening their ties to their communities.

1.3 Korea. Korea has been interested in an integrated approach for many years.
The Ministry supports increasing autonomy curricula can be designed locally
to fit the environment. Twenty-five percent of elementary, middle and
secondary schools are connected to the creative management school program
that promotes creativity and character education. The Ministry website features
a nod to STEAM which is the integration of science, math, engineering, arts and
technology (Ministry of Education Republic of Korea, n.d.)

Kwangsoon Jeong, a professor at the Korean National University of Education in

personal communication (May 27, 2015) summarizes recent changes being made
to the Korean curriculum. According to her:
We are working on revision of the national curriculum called 2015
revised curriculum. General competency and subject-specific competency
will be included in the achievement standards. In elementary school,
integrated subjects for the 1st and 2nd graders provided in the 2009
revised curriculum will be maintained in the 2015 version. Students
study core subjects of Korean language arts, mathematics, ethics, wise
living and pleasant living. There is time for independent activity and
special activities. This policy lends itself to an integrated approach.
Students in higher primary grades go to school longer and study core
traditional subjects, but there is still time for independent and special
activities. The basic instruction is supposed to instil in the students basic

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life habits, problem-solving abilities, a love for the country and an

appreciation of culture and tradition (http://www.ncee.org/programs-
systems/ ).
In middle school, which is three years in length, a free semester system
is being implemented. The free semester is similar to the Transitional
Year' in Ireland. During one semester in the 2nd grade of junior high
school, students will be study in 'general' subjects, such as Korean,
English, math in the morning. In the afternoon, they will participate in
club activities and career education. Given the reduction time for 'general
subjects' and some recognition of advantages of this reduction,
curriculum integration - especially interdisciplinary approaches are
starting to be implemented in junior high schools.
In high school, there will be common core subjects, such as integrated
social study, and integrated science study curriculum. Integrated social
study includes history, economics, and geography and integrated science
study includes physics, chemistry, earth science and biology. The slogan
of the 2015 revised curriculum is integrated curriculum of social and
natural science. The main purpose is for students to develop the basic
competencies of humanistic imagination and scientific creativity.

1.4 Japan. In Japan, the education reform called Zest for Living was passed in
the Fundamental Education Law in 2006. This reform institutionalized the
Period for Integrated Studies that had been introduced in 2000 and implemented
into all elementary schools in 2002. The aim of this course was to foster
independent work and to increase creativity and problem solving abilities.
Teachers had the autonomy to develop the course with the local context and
students interests in mind. Experiential learning was encouraged in nature,
social life, field study, experiments, observations, field studies and observation.
Issues to be explored were not discipline-based but were concepts such as
environment, health and welfare and issues relevant to students.

MacDonald (2006) investigated the impact of integrated courses in Japan from

the perspective of diversity. He discovered three different approaches to
diversity. One approach was to study human rights where the goal of the
teacher was to increase students self-esteem, to strengthen their ability to deal
with bullying and interpersonal aggression and to teach students about the
rights of widely-defined minority groups (e.g. the homeless, the physically
disabled population, etc.). A second approach was to look at cultural co-
existence. The third approach was international education. MacDonald claims
that students increased self-esteem, respect for the thought and feelings of
others, learned attitudes of tolerance for others and could take a global
perspective of themselves as global citizens and the responsibilities that entailed.

Still Japan is not immune to the accountability culture and concerns related to
international testing (MacDonald, 2006). In 2011, the government increased the
hours in subject-based curriculum and reduced the number in integrated

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studies. Although there has been tension around the integrated studies
programme, Japan has held on to its top rankings in the OECD tests.

Inquiry-based learning and project learning still exist in Japan, and overlap with
integrated studies (personal correspondence, Yoshiharu Nakagawa, June 17,
2015). Inquiry is used in high school science. There are Super Science High
Schools that are selected for advanced science studies. For example, Horikawa
Senior Science School in Kyoto has Basic Inquiry and Integrated Inquiry. These
sessions are done in association with Integrated Studies. In 2020 the government
will include policy on active learning.

Interestingly all of these East Asian systems have the capacity to deliver an
integrated curriculum at the national level. Singapore and Hong Kong offer a
conceptual framework that clearly illustrates that generic skills and values are to
be taught across all subject areas at every grade level. This is what is most
important to know, be able to do and be. Singapore, Japan, Korea and Hong
Kong also have general courses that specifically target skills and
attitudes/values rather than a specific subject area. They also all do well on the
OECD literacy, numeracy and science tests.

One might argue that it is the hard work and no play ethic in the East Asian
countries that accounts for their success. But the stereotype does not always fit.
A 2010 OECD report (OECD, 2010b) describes the Japanese education culture.
Education is highly valued and there are high expectations of all students. All
students can succeed and success is determined by hard work and not by innate
intelligence. A classroom holds between 35 to 45 students and all classrooms are
heterogeneous. No student is held back and students are not differentiated by
ability groupings. Instead, the Japanese teacher focuses on engaging the
students. Teachers thoughtfully plan their lessosns and often begin with a
problem that students help to solve. Mistakes are valued and learned from. The
Japanese classroom can be noisy and seemingly unruly at times. Although
Japanese students spend a long day in school, they have frequent breaks.
Indeed, from our perspective, the OECD description seems like an ideal
constructivist classroom anywhere in the world.

Going beyond the obstacles of standardized testing, Finland, Quebec, Canada

and the IB schools offer instructive examples for a global perspective on
curriculum integration.

2. Finland
Finland has also done remarkably well in OECD testing, making it a focus of
interest for other jurisdictions. How does Finland do it? Hancock (2011) reports
for the Smithsonian Magazine that education is highly valued and teachers have a
Masters degree and are respected and admired on an equal status with doctors
and lawyers. Their attitudes are whatever it takes to help all students succeed.
They prepare students how to learn rather than to take tests. There is no sorting
into ability groups. Finland does not participate in large-scale national testing,
although students do take one exit exam to determine their next step. There is

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little homework and students spend a lot of time learning outside of class.
Teachers value play as learning. The national curriculum has broad guidelines
rather than a multitude of standards. There are lots of special education teachers
who will help students in need. Almost all students enter Grade 9, even the most
severely disabled ones. Contrary to stereotypes, Finland is not a homogeneous
population but has many immigrants from Iraq, Russia, Somalia, Estonia and
Ethiopia among other nations.

In 2015, Finland announced a new policy for 2016 implementation (Finnish

National Board of Education, n.d.). Initial headlines announced that Finland
had abandoned subject areas but in reality it had only reduced the time spent
studying them explicitly. Key pieces in Finlands reform include the following:
emphasis on seven generic competencies that cut across subject areas
inclusion of the seven competencies in learning objectives in subject
assessment of competencies in the subject areas
multi-disciplinary, phenomenon- and project-based studies (at least
one a year)
topics that reflect student interest
a collaborative atmosphere, student autonomy, joy of learning, school
as a learning community.
teacher autonomy to decide how to implement this new vision
(Halinen, 2015)

Halinen (2015) claims that teachers can immediately implement this new
curriculum as they already have the basics of it in place.

3. Quebec, Canada
Quebec, Canada has its own policy of education since there is no national
policy of education in Canada. Today in every province except Quebec, most
curriculum documents encourage some form of integration but there is not a
specific policy around this (Drake, Reid, & Kolohon, 2014). The policy in
Quebec, on the other hand, favours integrated curriculum explicitly. The
philosophy undergirding this curriculum is constructivist. The learning is to be
active, hands-on, connected to the real world, with an emphasis on
collaborative learning. There is a well-thought out unifying framework that is
applicable to both primary and secondary schools (and to both French speaking
and English speaking schools). These broad areas of learning together with
cross-curricular competencies are the frame of reference for educational
activities K to 12.

The broad areas that cut across subject areas are Health and Well-Being,
Personal and Career Planning, Environmental Awareness and Consumer
Rights and Responsibilities, Media Literacy and Citizenship and Community
Life (Quebec Ministere de lEducation, 2004).

The competencies are complex, broad-based and progressive in nature. Nine

cross-curricular competencies are organized into 4 categories:

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Intellectual: Uses information, solves problems, exercise critical

judgement, uses creativity
Methodological: Adopts effective work methods, uses information and
communications technology
Personal and Social: Achieves potential, cooperates with others.
Communications: Communicates appropriately
(Quebec Ministere de lEducation, 2004)

The five subject areas (languages, math, science and technology, social sciences,
arts education and personal development) are each accompanied with a chart
that shows how the different subjects within the subject areas connect (Quebec
Ministere de lEducation, 2004). As well, there is 25% of the time for teachers to
develop course material that is local in nature and connects to student interests
(shades of the East Asian countries). Each competency is richly defined and
examples are given for what it looks like developmentally and suggestions are
offered for how to assess it. In secondary school, students are required to
complete a final integrating project.

From an accountability standpoint, there are provincial examinations in French,

English, physical science and history twice in secondary education. Students
must pass both English and French to graduate. Provincial examinations account
for 50% of the students final grade (Volante, 2007).

Over the years, participating provinces in Canada have done well in PISA
testing. In 2012, Quebecs math scores ranked just below the highest-ranking
East Asian countries and above the other Canadian provinces whose scores fell
(except Saskatchewan who maintained its ranking). In reading, Canadians did
well including Quebec. Only in science was Quebec struggling somewhat. In a
Pan Canadian assessment program of 32,000 Grade 8 students, Quebec students
were number one in math, fell in the mid-range for science and were second in
language (Hammer & Alphonso, 2014).

In explaining why Quebec did so well in math, researchers say it is because of

intensive teacher training in math and a curriculum that balances both drills and
problem solving (Hammer & Alphonso, 2014). But little has been said about
whether this province did so well because of an integrated approach to

4. The International Baccalaureate (IB) Schools

The IB schools offer an interesting insight into integrated learning. More than
4000 schools around the world have chosen to embrace this model of education
for students aged three to 19. These schools are located in different jurisdictions
and often need to honour the standards and expectations of the country they are
in while following the IB framework. Thus, curriculum design can become a
complicated process that seems to be clarified by the framework itself.

The IB is a unique approach focusing on academic rigour, well-trained teachers

and motivated students (International Baccalaureate Organization [IBO], 2014).

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These schools are interested in developing inquiring, knowledgeable and

caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world
through intercultural understanding and respect (IBO, 2009).

IB schools may be public or private, but are guided by the same unifying
framework. That framework includes integrated approaches to learning
especially at the primary level where transdisciplinary learning is policy. The IB
Learner Profile cuts across all subject areas at all grades. This profile embodies
the kind of person the IB student should be. Generic skills also cut across subject
areas: thinking, social, communication, self-management and research skills are
emphasized. As well, attitudes such as appreciation, commitment, confidence,
cooperation, and creativity are considered essential. This framework of skills
and values cutting across disciplines at all grade levels is similar to the Hong
Kong, Singapore and Quebec frameworks.

The IB programmes go one step further and focus on conceptual learning in

content areas. Students learn transdisciplinary concepts and central ideas that go
beyond the scope of the disciplines and reflect the real world. Finally, the
schools are concerned with action. In the PYP, for example, successful inquiry
will lead to responsible action, initiated by the student as a result of the learning
process (IBO, 2009, p.25). This action can be service learning and can occur both
in and outside of school. In this way the student demonstrates the attributes of
the IB Learner Profile.

Various studies indicate that IB students perform very well academically in

relation to non-IB students. A study undertaken by Tan and Bibby (2010)
compared the performance on the International Schools Assessment (ISA) of
23,575 IB students to 14,317 non-IB students across the world. The study found
that generally, IB students performed better than their non-IB peers on the ISA
in terms of numeracy and traditional literacy at most grade levels. In a follow-up
study, Tan and Bibbys analysis (2012) of IB students performance on the ISA
came up with similar results. In a case study set in Texas, USA (Sillisano et al.,
2010), 43 IB schools were matched to non-IB schools in order to compare
performance on standardized state reading and math tests. The study
concluded that IB schools performed as well as their comparison schools on the
Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam

5. Further examples for a global perspective

Two aspects stand out in jurisdictions that were successful in OECD testing and
the IB schools. One aspect is the presence of a unifying framework.
Interdisciplinary outcomes/competencies that are skill and value-based cut
across the content areas and are made explicit. The second aspect is that time is
specifically allocated for locally-based curriculum; the content of this
curriculum is left to the discretion of the teacher and is intended to connect to
students interests. In some countries this time is designated to work toward
developing students generic competencies. These common factors seem to be
success factors. We wonder how essential these factors are to the successful
negotiation of accountability and integrated approaches. We look at Ontario

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and United States for further illumination.

5.1 United States. In contrast to the systems already presented, the United States
has not excelled in the international tests consistently, falling midway in the
ranks most years. The United States recently adopted a Common Core State
Standards (CCSS) curriculum in 43 states and 4 territories (Common Core State
Standards Initiative, 2016). This adoption has not been without controversy and
there are still many issues around interpretation and evaluation. It would be
hard to describe the Common Core State Standards as a unifying framework
for this large country at this time. It includes only traditional literacy and
numeracy learning goals that students should attain by the end of each grade.

Some American educators, however, are seeing the promise of literacy across
the curriculum and more integrated approaches (see, for example, Drake, 2012).
Beginning in grade 6, the Common Core State Standards literacy standards
allow teachers of English language arts, technical subjects, science, and
history/social studies to use their content area for teaching reading, writing,
speaking, listening, and language in their respective fields, which some
teachers are experimenting with.

Although it is rarely policy, there are many examples of integrated curriculum

and project-based learning dotted across the country. Much of the literature on
the need for curriculum integration and for teaching 21st Century skills
originated in the United States. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills
(www.P21.org ) and other organizations like it encourage the same types of
generic skills, or 21st Century competencies, as the East Asian countries,
Finland and the IB schools described above.

5.2 Ontario, Canada. Ontario is different from the United States. It has done well
in OECD testing even though its math scores have fallen in the last PISA
testing. Here, there is a long history of government supported integrated
approaches that have come in and out of favour (Clausen & Drake, 2010). The
latest iteration was in 1993 with The Common Curriculum: Grades 1-9 (Ontario
Ministry of Education and Training, 1993a). This working document
introduced curriculum integration and out-come based education to the
province. It emphasized accountability, equity and excellence for students. The
curriculum offered 10 essential learning outcomes across subjects that students
needed to master by the end of Grade 9. The curriculum integrated the
traditional subjects into four core areas Language; The Arts; Mathematics,
Science, and Technology; and Self and Society. Documents outlined outcomes
that students were expected to attain by Grades 3 and 6 in each core area. A
more polished version of this curriculum was released two years later (Ontario
Ministry of Education and Training, 1995).

In looking at this venture in the light of todays curriculum, the Common

Curriculum had much to commend it and may contain hints for successful
policies in 2016 and beyond. The 10 Essential Learning Goals acted as a
unifying framework for all subject areas. The goals included a focus on literacy,
numeracy and scientific literacy as well as technological, historical and

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geographic literacy. Students were also to interact effectively with others,

demonstrate respect for human rights and be motivated to fulfil the
responsibilities of citizens of in a democratic society and exercise aesthetic
judgement and be motivated to build healthy lifestyles and relationships
(Ontario Ministry of Education and Training, 1993a, p. 11). There were general
principles of teaching, learning and assessment particularly performance
assessment. At the same time there was government support for this
curriculum implementation. A resource document, Towards an Integrated
Curriculum (Ontario Ministry of Education and Training, 1993b) was released
alongside the primary curriculum documents. This document offered a
continuum for integration perspectives and tried to deal with issues around
definition. There was a lot of provincially supported professional development.
At this time the EQAO was established this organization would administer
large-scale testing at grade 3, 6, 9 and 10 to determine student success and
system accountability.

This curriculum was a radical departure from the recent past in Ontario.
Unfortunately, just as educators were beginning to understand how to
implement this program, the government of the day, the New Democratic Party
(NDP), lost to the Conservatives who quickly replaced the policies with
traditional ones. Outcomes were gone, replaced by expectations and large-scale
testing became mandated. There was no unifying framework and learning was
largely discipline-based. Ontario has worked from this premise since this time.

One document still remains from the Common Curriculum era and is currently
being revised. The Ontario Curriculum Interdisciplinary Grades 11 and 12 (Ontario
Ministry of Education, 2002) outlines how to create interdisciplinary courses by
combining credits for different subject areas. What subjects to integrate is up to
the creativity of the teachers involved. There are many innovative
interdisciplinary courses across the province and each one is unique. Some
teachers integrate four courses and students spend all day for a semester in that
course. What ties the courses together is a set of interdisciplinary expectations
that all students must meet. They act as a unifying framework of sorts. The
expectations revolve around interdisciplinary foundations, research and

Admittedly this analysis is brief and a snapshot in time. It is difficult, if not
impossible, to know how policy is being enacted in real classrooms. The culture
in these examples is also an important part that we havent explored. The
information here belies the myth that a student who succeeds in math, science
and language studies must be in a strictly, discipline-based program with rote
learning exercises.

There is a clear direction/pattern in policy in these successful examples that

may be considered:
1) Develop a unifying framework that addresses what is important for
students to know, do and be that cuts across all subjects for all

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grades. This provides a big picture and identifies wat the essential
goals of the curriculum are.
2) Provide a period of time that is not subject-based but is devoted to
inquiry and building generic skills and cultural values.
3) Consider adopting constructivist philosophy, fewer exams, inquiry
learning, project-based learning and integrating subjects to teach 21st
Century competencies and generic values and attitudes.

After reviewing these curricula it seems safe to conjecture that students who
excel in math, language and science in OECD testing are not effected negatively
by ventures into integrated programming. In fact, one might surmise that they
do better because of these programs.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 145-155, May 2016

Perceptions of Teacher Counsellors on

Assessment of Guidance and Counselling in
Secondary Schools
Bakadzi Moeti
University of Botswana
Gaborone, Botswana

Abstract. The need to examine Guidance and Counselling is very

significant in schools. This study sought to solicit for teacher
counsellors perceptions on the examination of Guidance and
Counselling. The reasons why it should be examined is outlined.Thus,
this qualitative study sought to investigate the views of ten teacher
counsellors in secondary schools on the examination of Guidance and
Counselling. In-depth-interviews were used to collect data from ten
teacher counsellors who were purposively selected from various
secondary schools in Botswana to take part in the study. The study
revealed that 90% teacher counsellors require Guidance and Counselling
to be an examinable subject like other subjects. The study concludes that
if it can be examined it can improve students and teachers attitudes,
students will take the subject seriously and it will also encourage
behaviour change among learners.

Keywords: Guidance and Counselling; assessment; examining;

secondary schools

Guidance and Counselling is a specialized field that has a wide array of
undertakings and services intended to help people to know themselves, their
challenges and the environment around them (Egbochuku, 2008; Oniye&
Alawane, 2008). Its introduction in schools was to inculcate accountable
behaviour amongst students (Chireshe &Mapfumo, 2005). The same sentiments
are echoed by Chireshe (2014) and Gudyanya et al. (2015) who noted that
Guidance and Counselling came into existence in schools to help students deal
with various problems related to academic, career, social and personal issues as
they grow up (Gudyanya et al. 2015), with which if ignored can affect their
academic performance. These problems are mostly prevalent when students are
in their teenage years normally when they are in high school. Teenage years
according to Wotuka (2002) is categorised by extreme developmental changes
which commonly cause confusion and restlessness; ultimately leading to
unacceptable behaviour (Wotuka, 2002). Mutie and Ndambuki (1999) listed the
disturbing behaviours as drug and alcohol abuse, indiscipline as well as
engagement in crime related activities. Therefore acknowledging Guidance and

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Counselling in Education is a very necessary element that every child need as

they grow up (Nyamwaka et al., 2013).

The importance of Guidance and Counselling in schools has caught attention of

several scholars across the worlds who have written extensively on it. Literature
confirms the availability of the Guidance and Counselling programs in many
countries around the world (Gudyanya et al., 2015; Nyamwaka et al., 2013;
Paisley& McMahon, 2001; Maluwa- Banda, 1998). The concept of Guidance and
Counselling even though it is a comparatively new issue in the education
structures, has found its existence in most countries of Africa (UNESCO, 2001).
In Malawi, Guidance services were introduced to deal with personal, social,
educational and career problems that young people were facing (Maluwa-
Banda,1998) . Around the 1980s, it was embraced in Zimbabwe (Gudyanya et
al., 2015).

In Botswanas education system its introduction dates back to 1985 when

selected secondary school teachers were trained to provide career information to
students (Stockton & Bhusumane, 2010; Kandjii-Murangi cited in Abosi and
Kandjii-Murangi, 1996; Navin, 1989). However, this arrangement changed over
time as a recommendation was made to include other components such as
educational, personal and social guidance due to problems faced by the youth at
the time as well as HIV pandemic in the country. Consequently, the provision of
guidance services in counselling centres, agencies, churches, prisons, non-
governmental organisations was introduced (Wankiri, 1994). At the moment,
Guidance and Counselling is taught and timetabled like any other subject to
nurture students growth and acquiring of skills that promote problem solving
skills (Stockton & Bhusumane, 2010; Ministry of Education, 1996). It is offered
as an affectively focused subject as stipulated by the Botswana Ministry of
Education while other examinable subjects are cognitively focused (Botswana
Government, 1994).

Although a lot has been written about Guidance and Counselling, the researcher
is not aware of any study on the assessment of Guidance and Counselling. Many
researchers have conducted studies on the effectiveness of Guidance and
Counselling in different countries. In this study the words examine and
assessment will be used interchangeably. Assessment or examination is an
important component of the curriculum package. It provides information that is
very significant and useful in improving instruction with regard to assessing
students ability to learn numerous ideas and use their own experiences in their
daily lives. Simply put, assessment is good because it improves both teaching
and learning. It creates a platform where feedback will be given (Cross, 1990). In
this case, if the students are assessed then they will acquire more knowledge and
ultimately this will impact on their overall behaviour change.

Statement of the Problem

The researcher has observed that Guidance and Counselling is a very vital
programme that was established to help students deal with personal, social,
academic and career issues. It is not an examinable subject in Botswana schools.
As a result, it may possibly mean that since it is not examinable, students will

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


not take it seriously like other examinable subjects in the school. For example,
despite teacher counsellors tireless efforts of teaching the subject there is lack of
change of behaviour amongst students. Therefore this study investigated the
views of teacher counsellors on the examination of Guidance and Counselling in
secondary schools. Literature on the examination or assessment of Guidance and
Counselling is very limited as most of the research focused more on Guidance
and Counselling generally ( Chireshe, 2014), the need for Guidance and
Counselling in schools (Lai-Yeung, 2014 ) , attitudes of headmasters towards
Guidance and Counselling (Chireshe & Mapfumo, 2005) and challenges faced in
the implementation of Guidance and Counselling in schools ( Shumba et al.,
2011). This background signifies that there is a gap to be filled by this study. On
the basis of the foregoing, there is need to find out whether examining Guidance
and Counselling will have any impact on teachers and students attitudes as well
as students overall behaviour change.

Purpose of the Study

The study aimed at investigating teacher counsellors views on whether
Guidance and Counselling should be assessed in secondary schools.

Objectives of the study

The study was guided by the following objectives:
To investigate teacher counsellors perceptions on the assessment of
Guidance and Counselling.
To establish the impact that examination of Guidance and Counselling
has on students overall behaviour change and both teachers and students

Significance of study
It is believed that the study will possibly help the school community, students,
teachers, school management, policy makers and the Ministry of Education
Officers realise the need to examine the Guidance and Counselling subject. Such
a move will likely motivate students to realise its importance and hence take it
serious like other subjects. The results of its examination can also help enlighten
teachers in general to support teacher counsellors as they establish that it is as
necessary as any other subject in the school. Furthermore, the findings should
add to the limited literature on the subject.

Research Design
In this study the Qualitative approach was employed to explore the views of
teacher counsellors on the examination of Guidance and Counselling in
secondary schools. This approach provided in-depth understanding of the
participants views on assessment of Guidance and Counselling. The qualitative
research made it possible for the researcher to ask for in-depth descriptions,
explanations, narratives, meanings and better understanding of the
phenomenon under study (Losido, Spandling & Voegtle, 2006). The use of in-
depth interviews made it possible for the teacher counsellors to share their views
on the examination of Guidance and Counselling.

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Population and Sampling

A total of ten teacher counsellors from secondary schools in Botswana were
purposively selected to take part in the study. Purposive sampling according to
Polit and Beck (2012) is sometimes used when researchers decide to make
sample of experts who are best informed about the topic that is being studied. In
this case, the teacher counsellors were relevant to share their experiences since
they were responsible for teaching and coordinating the Guidance and
Counselling department. It also allowed the researcher to gather rich data from
the participants. The sample was made up of three male and seven female
teachers. The participants were all senior teacher Guidance and Counselling
except one who was acting for that position. Only three of them were trained
and qualified to teach Guidance and Counselling.

Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data. The interviews were
chosen because they enabled the researcher to probe for more clarity from the
participants (Kvale, 1996) about their views concerning the assessment of
Guidance and counselling. As such, the researcher was able to understand a
phenomenon from the participant point of view (Kvale, 1996). Since semi-
structured interview questions do not follow a specific layout, it created easiness
for the researcher to be able to include other questions raised during the
interview. This permitted asking questions to investigate the perceptions of
teacher counsellors about assessment of Guidance and Counselling. In addition,
the interviews were audio-recorded by use of a tape recorder. This was
necessary because it allowed the researcher to get accurate information from
what the participants were saying and therefore not waste time taking notes
(Wayner, 2005).

Data collection
The main data collection process began between the months of June and August
2015. In the interest of the participants comfort, they indicated the time for the
interviews and most of the interviews were done in the Guidance and
Counselling office. The duration of the interviews was between 50 minutes and
1 hour 20 minutes. Pseudonyms such as STR1, STR2 and STR3 were used to refer
to the participants.

Data Analysis
Data collected was transcribed, coded and analysed.

Ethical issues
Permission was sought from the School Heads to interview the teacher
counsellors. The researcher explained the purpose of the study and sought for
informed consent from the participants verbally. Permission to record the
interview was also obtained from the participants (Strydom et al., 2005). The
participants were also advised that they are free to withdraw any time during
the study if they so wish. Confidentiality was emphasised (Du Preez, 2005).

Findings and discussion

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Perceptions of teacher counsellors on assessment of Guidance and


Majority of the participants expressed their desire for Guidance and

Counselling to be examined. They emphasised the need because of the current
situation of how Guidance and Counselling is perceived in schools so they felt
that maybe if it can be examined it will be embraced like other examinable
subjects. They indicated that how people respond to the subject has an impact on
the attainment of the desired goals, which are behaviour change and life skills.
This is what some participants said it should be examined because maybe the
negative attitudes that teachers and students have about the subject will come to an end
(STR1, male). Some subject teachers take it for granted. They think it is waste of time
and hence use G&C lesson to cover their material (STR4, female).

The participants described how the subject should be examined but they had
differing views on the implementation part. Some felt that the examination
should focus mostly on mastery of life skills through the use of questionnaires.
Some highlighted that the habit of awarding certificates to best performers could
also be used as a motivation element. STR6 said that even if the grading part is
not similar to other examinable subjects but Guidance and Counselling mark
should be part of the final mark in the certificate, as explained by this
participant: It shouldnt be graded like core subject but it should be part of the overall
mark in the certificate (STR6, female). STR2 concurred with STR6 that assessment
should not be like other subjects but further stressed that emphasis should be on
attainment and acquisition of life skills as Gudyanya et al. (2015) asserted that
the skills acquired are very important as they help students face future life
complexities, and this can be effective if they know how to apply them in their
lives (Onyewadume (2008). Participants reflected similar sentiment: I think it
should be examined, even if it cannot be assessed like other subjects but there should be
an exam where emphasis is on life skills (STR2, male) .
Based on my experiences, I would say yes it should be examined but the assessment
should be in a form of questionnaires to assess the skills that the students have learnt in
class (STR3, male).

On the contrary, only 20% of the participants reported that since Guidance and
Counselling is a service it cannot be examined. However, only one reason was
given to support that there is no need to incorporate the assessment component.
The participants stressed that testing a service can always be a challenge because
most of the topics in the syllabus were drawn to allow discussions. This
supports the findings of Onyewadumes (2008) that the preferred methods that
teacher counsellors normally use in their guidance lessons are class
presentations and discussions. This finding may possibly mean that examining
the subject could not be so easy.

Furthermore, the participants also associated lack of recognition of Guidance in

schools with it not being examinable. This implies that if it is examined it will
help students appreciate and realize the necessity to take it seriously like other

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


examined subjects. This is what STR6 noted:Yes it should be examined. The fact
that it is not examined allows students to ignore it and hence fail to give it priority it
deserves (STR6, female)

Impact of assessment of Guidance and Counselling

With regard to this question four themes emerged from the data namely: it
improves attitude, students will take the subject seriously, teacher counsellors
will be supported and encourage behaviour change among learners.

It can improve attitudes

An attitude according to Wade and Tarvis (1993) is a justly steady view
concerning a person, object or activity comprising of both the cognitive
component as well as an emotional component. With regard to this theme, the
percentage of teachers who admitted that assessing Guidance and Counselling
will change the overall student and teachers attitudes towards the subject was
very high. 85% of the participants said it will change students and teachers
view of the subject. Students find a difficulty to perceive Guidance and
Counselling as a subject in the same way they do with other academic subjects.
The assumption is that since it is not an examinable subject students tend to
develop negative attitudes towards it and as such give it less attention. Similarly,
some teachers feel Guidance and Counselling is a waste of time. Gerler Jnr
(1992) posits that school supervisors on the other hand disregard Guidance and
Counselling because its results are not clearly specified so their focus is more on
examinable subjects where the results are relatively clear such as high
performance rate as well as low dropout rate. From this view one can argue that
if Guidance and Counselling is examined it will attract students and teachers
attention to embrace and take it seriously. Showing how Guidance and
Counselling continues to be stigmatised in the schools, the following was stated:
both teachers and students have a negative attitude on this subject. They feel its waste of
time so if it is examined it will be accorded the same respect as other subjects in school
(STR1, female).

In other schools there are cases where some teachers are allowed to help the
teacher counsellors teach Guidance and Counselling lessons. Unfortunately, the
teachers instead of teaching Guidance and Counselling material they teach their
examinable subjects in which they specialise on in order to push the syllabus.
Participants further stressed that if this habit goes on unchecked, the students
may spend the whole term without being taught Guidance and Counselling
lesson and ascribed this to lack of thorough supervision and training .Thus,
impacts negatively on the overall behaviour and growth of the students as they
are denied the opportunity to cover Guidance and Counselling material. It
makes sense that Yuen (2002) supported training for all teachers as it makes
sense in such instances. It may be implied that the bad student behaviour
rampant in schools maybe a result of this trend as students would not have had
the opportunity to be guided well during a Guidance and Counselling lesson.
To emphasise this point one participant noted that teachers feel that it is a waste of
time that is why some of them use the guidance lessons to cover the material of their
subject areas (STR3, male). Similarly, STR9 explained that the fact that it is not

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


examined like other subjects, students take that guidance lesson is a free period to play,
to visit the toilet or finish assignments given by other subject teachers (STR9,

The participants emphasised that lack of training or skills by some of the teacher
counsellors may be the reason why students end up disliking the subject. This is
supported by what Stockton et al., (1994) had found out that some of the teacher
counsellors in schools are not trained and hence this adversely affects their
Guidance and Counselling delivery (Lai-Yeung, 2014). From the study 30%of the
participants who stated that they were trained were the ones who confessed that
students had interest in their lessons and were always looking forward for a
guidance lesson. Therefore this may suggest that the untrained teachers because
of their lack of training encounter challenges to handle the lessons as compared
to their counterparts who are trained. This makes sense because Shumba et al.
(2011) in their study found that 50% of the teachers who were not trained in
Guidance and Counselling had difficulties to deliver mainly because of lack of
competence. This report is similar to Lombos (1993) view that lack of training
among school counsellors can make teachers and students have negative
attitudes towards Guidance and Counselling. It may not be wrong to conclude
that some students out of desperation find themselves idling and hence
ultimately use the guidance lesson to engage in unwanted behaviour.

The impression given was the fact that Guidance and Counselling has no value
hence why it is not given much attention in schools. It is clear that the above
sentiments signify that if Guidance and Counselling could be examined the
attitudes of both teachers and the students would change for the better. The
participants illustrated that Guidance and Counselling is not given the necessary
respect it deserves. This finding is similar to Huis (2002) finding in China that
teachers and students attitudes have on the subject affect the efficiency of
Guidance and Counselling services. Similarly, Reynolds and Cheek (2002) also
found that negative attitudes of the students and school administrators affect the
usefulness of Guidance and Counselling services. Therefore, if this is the case its
effectiveness is compromised because of the attitude from both the teachers and
the students. Thus, it is very necessary to fight the negativity and aim for the
best in schools.

Students will take the subject seriously

Taking the subject seriously in this context means putting effort and working
hard in all Guidance and Counselling lessons and activities. The participants
emphasised that if the subject is examined students will always prepare for it
and enable them to be more active during Guidance lessons. However, they
indicated that this subject is very different from other subjects where students
have to master content, but that they need skills such as problem solving skills
and decision making skills to help them in their behaviour change. Since it
positively moulds behaviour this may ultimately help the subject to find its way
in being recognised in schools. About 75% of the participants asserted that if it
is examined things will change.
If it is examined the students will treat it like any other subject (STR5, female)

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the students will take it more serious (STR6, female)

It can help improve learners overall academic performance (STR7, female)

Teacher counsellors will be supported

To support means to offer assistance to someone. The outcomes of giving
support are most of the times positive. The participants asserted that examining
Guidance and Counselling will lead it to be recognised like other examinable
subjects. They further stressed that lack of support is bound to be there if
teachers still feel that Guidance and Counselling is just a waste of time. Teachers
in schools need to know and acknowledge the role of Guidance and Counselling
in moulding students behaviour. This knowledge and appreciation demands a
collective support from the school management and teachers. Research has
shown that lack of support for Guidance and Counselling is common in most
countries mostly by school supervisors (Lombo, 1993; Maluwa- Banda, 1998).
Noticeably, failure to support Guidance and Counselling teachers in schools
exacerbates students negative attitudes and in the process frustrates the teacher
counsellors who have been subjected to unfair treatment of not being recognised
and assisted (Maluwa- Banda, 1998). Similarly, Shumba and his colleagues also
found that lack of support by the school management hinders Guidance and
Counselling to generate a positive impact in schools (Shumba et al., 2011). The
expressions above echo this reality that teacher counsellors are not supported by
the management of the school.

Encourage behaviour change among learners

Most of the participants expressed that since Guidance and Counselling put
emphasis on behaviour change, then if it is examined, it will motivate students
to strive for the best behaviour in order to gain certificates. This is in line with
Dixon (2008) view that motivation is a determinant of change of behaviour. In
this sense certificates will be used to motivate change of behaviour among
students. Some participants highlighted that this will cultivate the spirit of
competition among the students as they will work harder to improve their moral
behaviour. This is in line with Okumus view that Guidance and Counselling is
all about change (p, 4) and if this change is evident ultimately, there will be
peace and harmony in schools.

Given these sentiments, two major conclusions emerged from the findings:

The majority of the participants, 90% were of the view that G & C should be
made an examinable subject. If it were made so, the following benefits would be

The researcher has observed that assessing Guidance and Counselling according
to the data obtained would possibly change the negative attitudes that teachers
and students have about the subject. Students might take Guidance and

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Counselling seriously, while on the other hand teachers will not feel it is as a
waste of time. Students behaviour is likely to change as well.

Only trained teachers should teach Guidance and Counselling because lack of
training contributes to lack of recognition of its significance as well as struggling
to know what to do in a guidance lesson. As a consequence, the Guidance and
Counselling overall delivery of the material is affected.

The author therefore concludes that until Guidance and Counselling is regarded
fundamental like other examinable subject the expected behaviour change
among learners and negative attitudes of both teachers and students will
possibly not come any time soon in schools. As a result, examining the
subject can act as a stepping stone in the realisation of its significance in


Based on the finding of this study, the following recommendations are made:

Guidance and Counselling should be an examinable subject.

All teacher counsellors should be trained for the subject.

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 156-174, May 2016

The Effects of an Engineering Design Module on

Student Learning in a Middle School Science
Nigel Standish
University of Virginia
Virginia, United States

Rhonda Christensen and Gerald Knezek

University of North Texas
Texas, United States

Willy Kjellstrom and Eric Bredder

Albemarle County Public Schools
Virginia, United States

Abstract. Eighth grade students often experience difficulty concretely

representing learning objectives in a physical science course. In order to
determine the effect of engineering design modules, advanced
manufacturing machines were employed including 2D and 3D
fabricators to create tangible objects from computer-aided designs.
Students completed the Waves and Sound Assessment prior to
participating in the digital fabrication activities, and again after the
hands-on activities. We also aimed to examine differences in learning
based on sex. Major findings for the 13 males and 8 females were that
both males (p < .01) and females (p < .01) gained a large amount of
knowledge over the course of the two week-long unit on waves and
sound. Large effect sizes for the open-ended questions and multiple-
choice questions were found in both males (d = .83) and females (d =
1.48). There were no significant differences in scores between sexes at
either the pretest or the posttest time period for the open-ended or
multiple-choice questions. Findings indicate advanced manufacturing
activities were effective for both boys and girls in fostering gains in
science content knowledge related to waves and sound concepts.

Keywords: digital fabrication; advanced manufacturing; physical

science; middle school

The need to improve K12 education in science, technology, engineering,
and mathematics (STEM) subjects has been generally agreed upon for several
years (National Research Council (NRC), 2009). Groups and agencies calling for
improvements and changes include the U.S. Department of Education, the
National Science Board, and the National Academies (Livingston, 2008; NSB,

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2007; NAS, NAE, 2011). Generally, the goal is to improve STEM education
programs so that future generations are more qualified for employment in the
rapidly growing technology fields.
The U.S. National Assessment of Education Progress reports roughly
75% of U.S. eighth graders are not proficient in mathematics or science when
they complete 8th grade (Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and
Technology (PCAST), 2010). Employers report job applicants lack needed skills
in these subject areas to succeed in the work place (National Governors
Association (NGA), 2007). The problem is not just a lack of proficiency but also a
lack of interest among American students in STEM content areas and careers
(PCAST, 2010). STEM education is seen as a key component to overcoming the
challenges facing this nation in an increasingly interconnected and competitive
world (NGA, 2007). The general consensus is that an improvement in K12
STEM education will help meet these needs.
The skills acquired in STEM content areas during the middle school years
lay the foundation for a successful career in the STEM workforce (Woolley,
Strutchens, Gilbert, & Martin, 2010) as many STEM occupations require
competencies in science, mathematics, technology, and problem solving. Because
the future is changing at such a rapid pace, it is crucial to focus on the
development of middle school students (George, Stevenson, Thomason, &
Beane, 1992). Without the proper scaffolding, more advanced study is
The presence of engineering in K12 classrooms is important because of
the implications engineering education has on the future of STEM education
(Brophy, Klein, Portsmore, & Rogers 2008). Implementing engineering education
in K-12 schools may improve student learning and achievement in STEM
subjects; increase student awareness of engineering and the work of engineers;
boost youth interest in pursuing engineering as a career; and increase the
technological literacy of all students (Brophy et al., 2008). Advancement in
engineering education may even be a key for a more coalesced and effective K
12 STEM education system in the United States (NRC, 2009).

Literature Review
Using design-based learning experiences in middle school STEM
classrooms can provide real-world context to otherwise abstract and difficult
STEM concepts, potentially helping students retain what they learn more
effectively (NRC, 2009). Current research studies regarding hands-on learning
experiences have shown improvement in student learning and achievement in
mathematics and science (Akinoglu & Tandogan, 2007. Design-based learning
has also proven to enhance students' interest in STEM subjects (NRC, 2009).
Educators and administrators are interested in this hypothesis because of the
lack of significant improvements from other means to improve STEM
achievement and interest in K-12 education (NRC, 2009).
Engineering Design. Engineering design is an open-ended problem-
solving process with specific constraints and goals. Over several iterations,
students create, test and refine solutions until they have satisfactorily met the
required specifications. This process provides key relevance because most real-
world problems are not well defined (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005).

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The ratification of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is

indicative of the emerging view of national education leaders that engineering
design is an integral and complementary part of scientific literacy (Cajas, 2001).
In fact, the NGSS place engineering design on the same level as scientific
inquiry. The rationale emphasizes the value of engineering in solving
meaningful problems and providing opportunities for students to deepen their
understanding of science by applying the knowledge they gain in a real-world
context (NGSS, 2013). These national standards indicate teaching science
through engineering design may be a worthwhile endeavor.
Enabling students to reason scientifically is one of the key elements in
successful science teaching (Chinn & Malhotra, 2002). Traditionally however,
science teaching has used pedagogical methods such as lectures, readings,
worksheets, and demonstrations to impart facts and rudimentary skills to the
science student (Silk, Schunn, & Cary, 2009).
Theoretical knowledge alone does not provide students with the skills
necessary to translate that knowledge into solving real-world problems
(Horwitz, 1995). High school students who scored well on question-and-answer
tests of electrical circuits could not build or troubleshoot physical circuit models.
Building, testing, and refining real models can close the gap between theoretical
and applied knowledge and increase scientific understanding. The National
Research Council (2009) purports that a classroom should be an environment in
which more emphasis is given to knowledge that is useful. Engineering design is
an approach that offers the ability for teachers to implement the NRCs
recommendation. It provides students the opportunity to explore science
concepts through the construction of models in a relevant context (Silk et al.,
Engineering design curricula may have several benefits including
engaging students in science reasoning. Using engineering design may help
students better realize the usefulness of scientific knowledge in solving real-
world problems (Fortus, 2005). When students participate in problem-solving in
a relevant context they are more likely to engage and question the results of the
experiment, rather than accepting what the books says even if their data results
are contrary to the book (Benenson, 2001). Engineering design activities also
provide opportunities to model difficult concepts with physical representations.
This requires students to take into account physical limitations that may not be
apparent with images in a book and providing a real-world representation of the
concept being learned so that other students can learn from and critique the
model (Roth, 2001). This model requires teachers to allow students to direct their
own experimentation. It also requires that both teachers and students be willing
to accept and even embrace failures during the iterative process (Smith, 2015).
Digital Fabrication. The rapid development of low cost, easy to use
digital fabricators has allowed schools to adopt these advanced manufacturing
machines in many classrooms (Bull & Groves, 2009). Digital fabrication is being
used to promote higher order thinking and problem solving skills in middle
school students by allowing students to conceptualize an idea and then realize
the idea in a physical form (Bull & Groves, 2009).
Digital fabrication involves automated conversion of a digital design into
a physical object through a computer-controlled fabrication system. The Society

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of Manufacturing Engineering (SME) concludes that personal digital fabrication

will offer revolutionary changes for both manufacturers and the everyday
consumer. The Society lists personal fabrication as one of the key Innovations
that Could Change Engineering, noting that the U.S. Department of Education has
identified innovations of this kind as vital to future prosperity.
Other findings have shown that by fabricating artifact based on scientific
concepts, students can demonstrate a fuller understanding of the science
principles being studied (Hmelo, Holton, & Kolodner, 2000). For high-risk urban
middle school classrooms implementing the engineering design process
significant content gains were reported in the science classroom (Silk et al.,
Achievement Gap. It is often assumed that girls are less likely than boys
to perform well in mathematics and science classes and are more likely to lose
interest in STEM subjects in the middle grades (Kahle, Meece, & Scantlebury,
2000). In many cases, though, empirical research is not definitive and in some
cases no differences are observed (e.g., Pine et al. 2006). Furthermore, the gender
gap may not involve the same causation among different ethnicities (Kahle et al.,
The gap in STEM interest and achievement between boys and girls has
been the subject of several research studies (Choi & Chang, 2009). Although
previous studies have demonstrated that male students perform better in STEM
areas than female students, Choi and Chang (2009) reported that recent studies
have shown mixed results. As Knezek, Christensen & Tyler-Wood (2011)
argued, the gender gap is less of an ability gap than a gap in perceptions of
science careers.
While girls often score higher on math achievement in the classroom than
boys, it is the opposite for standardized math scores (Liu, 2008). These gender
differences related to math types of scores have been attributed to females
thriving in the social aspect of the classroom while standardized tests are
typically given in a more impersonal environment. Including social aspects in
science and mathematics activities may be a more effective learning
environment for girls. Fewer than 10% of engineers in the United States are
female (Hirsch, Carpinelli, Kimmel, Rockland, & Bloom, 2007).
Many women are relatively uninformed about STEM fields and many are
thought to have a higher attraction to career fields perceived as being of service
to society (Hirsch et al., 2007). Other studies have found that traditional
technology and engineering courses are not taught in a style that will appeal to
females (Weber, 2012) yet when these types of courses incorporate engaging,
real-world activities, both males and females are engaged (Mitts & Haynie, 2010;
Weber & Custer, 2005).
Challenges Faced. Despite the national and international focus on STEM
education, our understanding of how K-12 students learn science through
engineering design is still limited. Engineering design is difficult to learn, teach,
and assess, and there is not yet a large body of studies that have explored this
topic (Katehi, Pearson, & Feder, 2009). The National Academy of Engineering
report, Engineering in K-12 Education, concludes that existing science curricula do
not fully take advantage of the connections between engineering and the other
STEM subjects (Katehi et al., 2009).

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The difference in the results and time constraints of implementing an

engineering design in a diverse population can be significant (Kuhn & Dean,
2008). Li, Klahr, and Siler (2006) found that students from affluent homes could
design an experiment within two days while students from less affluent homes
could take up to three weeks depending upon the classroom and school. The
population in which research is conducted must be accounted for when
determining the effectiveness of the intervention (Lee, Deaktor, Hart, Cueva, &
Enders, 2005).
With these challenges in mind, Fortus, Dershimer, Marx, Krajcik, and
Mamlok-Naaman (2004) found significant gains in students who engaged in
design-based learning in science classrooms. These students constructed
scientific knowledge through hands-on activities that encouraged them to
problem solve and demonstrate their knowledge gains. Other findings have
shown that by fabricating models of a scientific concept, students demonstrate a
deeper understanding of the science being studied (Hmelo, Holton, & Kolodner,
Research Questions. The relatively recent emergence of the importance
of engineering education in K-12 has exposed several key questions for
educators, policy makers, and researchers to consider. How should engineering
be taught in K12 schools? What instructional materials, curricula, and
instructional methods are currently being used to teach engineering education?
Has current implementation of engineering in K-12 schools improved student
achievement in STEM subjects or increased interest and awareness in STEM
careers (NRC, 2009)?
This study builds upon previous research which indicates engineering
design projects may reduce the achievement gap among students while boosting
standardized test scores in science subjects (Cantrell, Pekcan, Itani, & Velasquez-
Bryant, 2006) by testing the following questions:
1. What effect does participation in an engineering design module on
waves and sound have on middle school students content knowledge of
science, mathematics and engineering concepts?
a. Do male and female students differ in their levels of competence
gained in science, mathematics and engineering content after
participation in an engineering design module?
b. Do students in separate classes differ in their levels of competence
gained in mathematics and engineering content after
participation in an engineering design module?

This study executed a quasi-experimental design with a one group
pretest-posttest design (Campbell & Stanley, 1966). Quantitative research
methods were used to measure and examine data to explore the research
Participants. This study was conducted as a pilot in a middle school
located in a mid-Atlantic state. The population was comprised of 48.4% African
American, 40.9% White, 6.7% Hispanic, and 4% Asian/Pacific Islander students.
Fifteen percent of students speak English as a second language. Twenty-nine
percent of the students have been identified as gifted and 14.7% are classified as

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special education students. Students in three eighth grade science classes served
as participants for this study.
A total of 54 students in three different classrooms participated in this
engineering design module. However, due to absence caused by a multitude of
reasons including sickness, discipline, and familial circumstances, only 21 were
present for each day of instruction and completed the pretest and posttest (13
males and 8 females).
The teacher for each of the three sections is a veteran public school
teacher with 27 years of experience that includes teaching physical science at the
middle and high school levels. His philosophy of teaching embraced project-
based learning, and he is an advocate of STEM initiatives that encouraged
students of all backgrounds to become involved in STEM subject areas.

Overview. The engineering design module was comprised of five 90
minute block classes in an eighth grade physical science course over the span of
two weeks. Teams of students were given the task of building two speakers. One
speaker was to be designed to play low frequencies, referred to as the
subwoofer. The second speaker was to be designed to play higher frequencies
and was called the tweeter.
Students learned progressively more about the behavior and
manipulation of waves throughout the five lessons. Each of these lessons
included hands-on activities utilizing several advanced manufacturing machines
such as 2D and 3D fabricators to create tangible objects from computer-aided
design software. Using advanced manufacturing tools allowed students to test
their designs and make the necessary changes to create more effective models. In
building, testing, and refining the speakers, the students engaged in the
engineering design process.
Digital fabrication. Digital fabrication is a process that creates tangible
physical objects from digital designs. The digital design can be created on a
tablet or computer using a myriad of software-based solutions. Digital
fabrication offers many options for the classroom educator to implement project-
based learning while building skills in subject areas such as mathematics,
science, and engineering.
Advanced manufacturing machines such as 3D printers and die cutters
can be coupled with technology such as 3-dimensional computer design
software, computers and tablets and sound level meters. The die cutters us a
small razor to automatically cut out shapes of all kinds on 2-dimensional
materials such as paper and cardstock.
The CAD (computer aided design) software allowed students to design
and draw objects on the computer using real dimensions and preview their
object before fabrication. This provided the students with the opportunity to use
real software to design something that would come to life, just like an engineer
would. The students then used this model on the software and sent it to the die
cutter so that it could cut it out to the correct specifications set by the students so
that they were ready to fabricate a working model.
An example of digital fabrication in this experiment was when students
created the cone for their speakers. They began by drafting rough design

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dimensions onto paper before using the FabLab Model Maker software to draw
the cone on the speaker. The digital design was exported to the Silhouette
CAMEO which cut the cone from cardstock paper.
Software and hardware. FabLab Model Maker (Aspex, London) was the
primary computer aided design (CAD) software program students used to
design the speakers. This particular software was chosen because of the built in
hardware support for 2D and 3D fabricators. Microsoft Excel was used to
develop the frequency response graphs which students used to measure the
efficacy of each subwoofer and tweeter.
The 2D fabricator employed was the Silhouette CAMEO die cutter.
Generic decibel meters were utilized by students while creating frequency
response curves. AFINIA 3D printers were also introduced to the students.
However, incorporating the 3D printer into the five lessons became non-viable
due to time constraints. Students utilized the 3D printer later in the semester to
improve their speaker design but data and observations from that extension are
not included in this paper.
The students also used a sound level meter to test the loudness or
amplitude of their speaker. This allowed the students to capture an intangible
concept and map it in relation to their speaker design. The sound level meter
brought a reality to the idea of volume so that they could see what their speaker
could do.
Curriculum. The learning objectives of this unit included learning the
properties of soundwaves while building, testing and refining a set of working
speakers using advanced manufacturing technologies.
Day one. Students created a pre-designed paper speaker using the FabLab
Model Maker software to test and compare with commercial speakers using low,
mid, and high tones to enhance their understanding that different speaker
designs are used to functionally play different tones more efficiently. This
speaker became the base design from which changes, modifications, and
adaptations were made to fulfill the design specifications for the subwoofer and
tweeter speakers.
Day two. Students explored some of the properties of waves including
wavelength, amplitude, frequency and period using various commercial and
improvised tuning forks. Students further studied this phenomenon by building
a pendulum dispensing paint mechanism. By pulling paper underneath the
paint dripping pendulum as it swung, students created sine waves from which
they identified the properties of a wave.
Day three. Students, on day three, explored the features of the FabLab
Model Maker software. They practiced making different shapes and cutting
them using the Silhouette CAMEO.
Day four. Refinement began in earnest on day four. Students used pencil
and paper to draw, document, and justify planned changes. The designs created
included metric measurements for each speaker part to be fabricated. Teams
then created digital designs using the FabLab Model Maker software and
fabricated their designs using the Silouette CAMEOs.
Day five. Upon completion of the construction of the speakers, students
began testing their designs. Using an online tone generator, students would play
specific pre-determined frequencies through each speaker. Students would

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record the loudness of the speaker at each frequency using a decibel meter.
These measurements were entered into an Excel spreadsheet and a graph was
created to display the frequency response for the speaker. By combining the
frequency response graph for a tweet and a subwoofer, teams were able to
determine the range and peak frequencies for their speaker pair.

Eighth grade students in three different classes of a physical science
course took the Waves and Sound Assessment prior to participating in the unit. The
assessment consisted of multiple-choice and open-ended questions designed to
evaluate participants understanding of sound and sound waves. Included items
were retrieved from the following sources:
The International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS);
Prentice Hall Physical Science Concepts in Action (Wysession, Frank, &
Yancopoulos, 2011) by Pearson Education;
The physical science curriculum framework (8th grade) published by the
Virginia Department of Education;
Albemarle County Public Schools Physical Science Matrix; and
STEM educators affiliated with the University of Virginia.
The assessment was not validated through formal measurement testing;
however content area experts in science, mathematics, and instructional
technology provided iterative feedback during the development of the
assessment tool.
Two blinded raters scored all of the pre-assessments. One rater was a
former high school technology educator with knowledge of the core scientific
principles associated with sound waves and sound. The other rater was a former
high school science teacher. Participants responses received a correct or
incorrect notation for all of the multiple-choice items (0 = Incorrect, 1 =
Correct). Open-ended questions were rated according to a general rubric that
evaluated the presence or absence of scientific understanding of sound and
sound waves. The ordinal scale for evaluating open-ended items included the
following levels:
5 Points: All items are addressed. Full inclusion of science principles.
Explanations include proper terms and usage throughout response.
4 Points: Response is thorough, missing one element to response to
provide complete understanding of science concepts.
3 Points: General conceptual understanding. Missing elements to
providing a full response that addresses all science principles.
Misconceptions may still exist.
2 Points: Response is vague and addresses a common understanding,
while providing some instances of misconceptions.
1 Point: Blank response or no relation to the question asked. Full
misconception in response.
The pre-assessments were scored by the two raters and the average measure
intraclass correlation coefficent was .903 with a 95% confidence interval from
.847 to .938, p < .001. A post hoc power analysis was conducted using the
software package, GPower (Faul, Erdfelder, Buchner, & Lang, 2009). The sample
size of 20 was used for the statistical power analyses and the alpha level used for

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this analysis was p < .05. The post hoc analyses revealed the statistical power for
this study exceeded .99. Thus, there was more than adequate power.
The same assessment was re-administered after the 5-day unit. Pre to
post knowledge gains were compared using paired t test; students were then
grouped by sex for pre-post knowledge gain comparisons. Finally, the
knowledge gains were compared between the sexes. All alpha levels were set a
priori at 0.05. Cohens d was used for effect size calculation (Cohen, 1988) and
were interpreted as small = .2, moderate = .5, or large > .8.

The multiple-choice items that were scored as 0 for incorrect and 1 for
correct were totaled for the TotMC label (possible range of 0 13). The open-
ended rated items were averaged for a label of OpenAvg (possible range of 9
45). The participants were paired and a paired t-test was run on the means and
sums pre-post. As shown in Table 1, both indicators of content knowledge
showed significant gains (p < .01) with large effect sizes.

Table 1: Paired Sample Analysis of Content Knowledge Gains, Pre to Post

Mean N Std. Dev. Sig. Effect
Pair 1 Pre OpenAvg 19.50 20 4.199
PostOpenAvg 29.75 20 9.640 .0005 1.38
Pair 2 PreTotMC 6.05 20 2.625
PostTotMC 8.65 20 2.641 .0005 0.99

Gender Comparisons. Independent sample t-tests were used to compare

the mean scores of the 13 males to those of the 8 females in this group of
students, as shown in Tables 2 and 3, no significant (p < .05) differences in scores
by gender for the open-ended questions or the multiple-choice questions, at the
pretest or the posttest time period, were found. Gender-specific analyses of the
indices confirmed that both males and females gained a large amount of
knowledge over the course of the week-long unit on waves and motions. The
effect size for males from pre to post on the open-ended questions was ES = 1.28
(Cohens d = 29.4-18.8/Pooled SD) while the effect size for females pre to post
was ES = 1.48 (30.4-21.5/Pooled SD). With regard to multiple-choice questions,
the effect size for males pre to post was ES = .83, while for females the pre to
post gain was ES = 1.45. All would be considered large gains according to
guidelines provided by Cohen (1988). The similar pre-post gains in content
knowledge by males and females are graphically illustrated in Figure 1 and
Figure 2.

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Table 2: Analysis of Open-ended Content Scores by Gender

N Mean Std. Sig
Male 13 18.77 4.531
PreOpenAvg Female 8 21.50 3.625
Total 21 19.81 4.332 .166
Male 13 29.38 10.813
PostOpenAvg Female 7 30.43 7.721
Total 20 29.75 9.640 .824

Male female Male female

PreOpenAvg PostOpenAvg

Figure 1: Pre and post comparisons by gender for open-ended content scores.

Table 3: Gender Comparisons for Multiple Choice Content Scores

N Mean Std. Sig
Male 13 5.69 2.983
PreTotMC Female 8 6.88 1.727
Total 21 6.14 2.594 .323

Male 13 8.08 2.783

PostTotMC Female 7 9.71 2.138
Total 20 8.65 2.641 .194

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Male female Male female

PreTotMC PostTotMC

Figure 2: Pre and post comparisons by gender for multiple-choice question scores.

These findings led to the following conclusion regarding research

question 2: Both male and female middle school students completing a digital
fabrication unit exhibited large gains in content knowledge. No conclusive (p <
.05) evidence was found to indicate that males versus females began at differing
levels of content knowledge, nor that they differed in the extent of knowledge
Comparisons Among Classes. A one-way analysis of variance by class
was completed for the three eighth grade classes on their open-ended questions
at pretest and at posttest times (see Table 4). There were small numbers of
fabrication activity participants in each group but the differences between
classes was found to be significant (p < .05) at the pretest and at the post test
times. With regard to gains, Class 2 gained approximately five points from pre
to post, while Class 1 and Class 3 each gained approximately 8 content points.
The pre to post effect sizes were: ES = 1.27 for Class 1; ES = .54 for Class 2; and
ES = 2.50 for Class 3. Class 2 exhibited a moderate gain (Cohen, 1988) while for
Class 1 and Class 3 the gains were very large (Cohen, 1988). These and other
trends are graphically displayed in Figure 3.

Table 4: One-way Analysis by Class on Open-Ended Questions

N Mean Std. Dev. Sig.

Class 1 8 20.00 3.59

Class 2 3 13.67 3.22
Class 3 10 21.50 3.69 .014
Total 21 19.81 4.33
Class 1 8 28.75 9.00
Class 2 3 18.33 11.85
Class 3 9 34.44 6.33
Total 20 29.75 9.64 .030

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Class1 Class2 Class3
Figure 3: Pre-post open-ended questions by class.

One-way analysis of variance by class was also completed for the three
eighth grade classes on their multiple choice questions at pretest and at posttest
times (see Table 5). There were small numbers of fabrication activity participants
in each group but the differences between classes were found to be significant (p
< .05) at the pretest and at the post test times. With regard to gains, the pre to
post effect sizes were: ES = 1.06 for Class 1; ES = 2.90 for Class 2; and ES = 1.49
for Class 3. Class 2 exhibited an extremely large gain (Cohen, 1988) from its
pretest low starting point (1.67) while for Class 1 and Class 3 the gains were very
large (Cohen, 1988). These and other trends are graphically displayed in Figure
4. Note that the effect size for class 2 could have been somewhat inflated by the
very small sample size of n = 3. However, it is also possible that Class 2 truly
had lower content knowledge at the pretest time, and that this class exhibited
higher gains in basic knowledge commonly assessed by multiple choice

Table 5: Oneway Analysis by Class for Multiple-Choice Questions

N Mean Std. Dev. Sig.

Class 1 8 6.75 1.83

Class 2 3 1.67 .58
Class 3 10 7.00 2.11
Total 21 6.14 2.59 .001
Class 1 8 9.13 2.59
Class 2 3 4.33 1.16
Class 3 9 9.67 1.41
Total 20 8.65 2.64 .003

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Class1 Class2 Class3

Figure 4: Pre-post multiple-choice items by class.

These findings led to the following conclusion regarding research

question 3: There were significant (p < .05) differences among middle school
students in three classes completing digital fabrication units in their levels of
competency in content knowledge of mathematics and engineering. These
differences existed at pre-test time, posttest time, and in the extent of gain. In
particular, Class 2 began with scores much lower than Class 1 or Class 3 on
open-ended and multiple-choice tests, and remained in that relative position at
the post test time. However, while Class 2 exhibited the smallest gain among the
three (ES = .54) on the open-ended questions, it exhibited the highest gain
among the three (ES = 2.90) on the multiple-choice questions. This may be a
reflection of the lower versus higher cognitive skills commonly assessed by
multiple-choice items versus open-ended items, respectively.

The dual methods employed for assessing content gain in this study
generally reinforced each other, resulting in similar conclusions regarding the
significance (p < .05) and magnitude (moderate to large effect) of the gain. Effect
size indices are especially important in examining the data from this study as all
pre-post measures resulted in effect size gains (Cohens d) greater than ES > .3,
the point at which gains would normally be considered educationally
meaningful (Bialo & Sivin - Kachala, 1996). These findings have cross-validated
the multiple choice test item portion of the study with the much more time-
consuming human-rater scoring of open-ended questions, implying that future
studies without extensive human-rater resources might be able to rely on well-
formulated multiple choice tests alone.
Student participation in activities that promote engineering design
principles while teaching science and mathematics concepts may improve both
achievement as well as interest in a STEM career. The students in this study
gained a significant (p < .05) amount in their content knowledge related to the
waves and sound curriculum. On site observations indicated that this activity
enhanced student enthusiasm for and engagement in learning. In future studies

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direct measurement of attitude change as well as gains in content knowledge

might be warranted to address the issues regarding the lack of proficiency and
interest among American students reported by PCAST (2010).
Findings from this study are consistent with previous research indicating
that fabrication coupled with engineering design projects may reduce the
achievement gap among students in science subjects (Cantrell et al., 2006).
Fortus, Dershimer, Marx, Krajcik, and Mamlok-Naaman (2004) found significant
gains in students who engaged in design-based learning in science classrooms.
Similar to findings from previous research (Fortus, et al., 2004) these students
constructed scientific knowledge through hands-on activities that encouraged
them to problem solve and demonstrate their knowledge gains.
Although the educationally meaningful (ES > .3) content gains found in
each of three classrooms provides evidence of the ability to replicate the positive
impact of the Waves and Sound curricular unit, the possibility still remains that
students without these activities might have exhibited similar gains. Replication
of this study with suitable comparison group data such as pre- and posttest
data from comparable students who did not experience digital fabrication
activities is warranted.

K12 engineering education may improve student learning and
achievement in science and mathematics; increase awareness of engineering and
the work of engineers; boost youth interest in pursuing engineering as a career;
and increase the technological literacy of all students (Brophy et al., 2008).
Advancement in engineering education may even be a key for a more coalesced
and effective K12 STEM education system in the United States (NRC, 2009)
Eighth grade students involved in an engineering design unit using
advanced manufacturing tools were found to have measurably large content
gains (p < .01, ES > .8) (Cohen, 1988) on multiple-choice test items and open-
ended test questions featuring waves and motion, the focus of their intervention
curricular unit. No significant (p < .05) differences were found by gender. Some
differences (p < .05) were indicated among the three treatment classes.
Additional research is needed to isolate the reasons for these differences.
Replication studies are warranted to reconfirm these findings in the context of a
strong comparison group.
These collective findings led to the following conclusion regarding
research question 1: Middle school students completing a digital fabrication unit
focused on waves and sounds do indeed gain in content knowledge of science,
mathematics and engineering concepts.

This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation
(NSF) Innovative Technology Experience for Students and Teachers (ITEST)
Grant #1030865.

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Sound Unit Assessment. Instructions: The following assessment is designed to
find out what you know about waves and sound. Do not worry if you do not
know all of the answers. If you do not know or cannot guess, leave choices blank
or write "I don't know" on the lines. Please try to choose the best answer from
the choices, and write what you do know about waves and sound on the lines.

Use the diagram of the wave below to answer questions 1-3.y

1. The wavelength is best described as the horizontal distance between:

a. points 1 and 2.
b. points 1 and 4.
c. points 2 and 3.
d. points 2 and 4.
How confident are you in your response to question 1?
1-not confident (a guess), 2-pretty confident, 3-very confident
2. The amplitude of the wave is best described as:
a. the vertical distance between points 0 and 1.
b. the vertical distance between points 1 and 2.
c. the horizontal distance between points 2 and 3.
d. the horizontal distance between points 2 and 4.
How confident are you in your response to question 2?
1-not confident (a guess), 2-pretty confident, 3-very confident
Use the wave below to answer questions 4-6.

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3. The wavelength is depicted by

a. A
b. B
c. C
How confident are you in your response to question 3?
1-not confident (a guess), 2-pretty confident, 3-very confident
4. Circle an area where the amplitude is highest.
How confident are you in your response to question 4?
1-not confident (a guess), 2-pretty confident, 3-very confident
5. a. List three similarities between longitudinal (compression) waves and
transverse waves.
b. List two differences between these two types of waves.
6. Which of the waves below has the higher frequency? Need to know
what the axis and scale.
a. A
b. B

Explain why you selected the wave

B you selected.

7. How are the frequency and wavelength of a wave related?

Explain your thinking.

8. A sound that you hear is caused by an object vibrating, which then

causes: Could swap with bell jar question.
particles to move to your ear through material (a medium).
b. particles to move to your ear through material (a medium) or
through nothing (a vacuum, such as outer space).
c. energy to move to your ear through material (a medium).
d. energy to move to your ear through material (a medium) or
through nothing (a vacuum, such as outer space).
How confident are you in your response to question 10?
1-not confident (a guess), 2-pretty confident, 3-very confident

9. A sound wave is transmitted through air, glass, and water. If the

vibration starting the sound wave begins at the same instant for all three
materials, rank the order in which the sound would travel fastest (from 1-
fastest sound to 3- slowest sound).
___ Air
___ Glass
___ Water
Explain your thinking.

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10. Your science teacher challenges you to design a speaker cone that
transmits sound at specific pitch (frequency).
a. What effect, if any, will increasing the size of a speaker cone
have on the sound you hear? (Consider whether the sound
will be louder or softer, higher or lower pitch, etc.)
Why do you think so?
b. What effect, if any, will increasing the size of a speaker cone
have on the wavelength of the sound produced? Why do you
think so?
c. How would you design the speaker cone? (Describe the steps
you would take or the process you would use.) Why would
you do it this way?
d. How will you know if your design is successful? Explain your

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