Highcliffe Learning Hub

Masters - Critical Thinking - Stuart Barnes

Assignment 1: An introduction to academic research

Assignment 1 involved two distinct parts:

- A 3,000-word initial review of existing research

- An academic research poster presenting one research article

The written review:

- The initial review of research consisted of an in-depth discussion of the methodology behind four empirical research articles.  I focused primarily on articles that addressed the impact of transition on learners of languages.

- An exploration of positivist (quantitative data analysis), constructivist (qualitative data analysis) and mixed method view points. Comparisons were made between these methods of investigation – looking at the pros and cons of each approach.

The academic research poster:

I used this part of the assignment to concentrate on one article in particular, which looked at the effects transition from primary school to secondary school in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

What did I learn from this?

I discovered that ‘research’ is a much bigger concept than I had previously realised.  It was interesting to me that there were such clear-cut paradigms, yet with elements that could be shared from each.

Assignment 2: Literature Review

This assignment was an 8,000-word review of existing research related to the topic of primary to secondary transition, looking at methods of instilling resilience in learners.

- This assignment was more focused on the findings of a range of published works and serves as a ‘first-phase’ literature review for the forthcoming dissertation.

- I read and reviewed a range of articles in depth, cross-referencing these with further wider reading on the subject.

What did I learn from this?

- This assignment allowed me to investigate in greater depth the variety of methods that have been employed by researchers looking into the development of resilience and independence in learners.

- It highlighted to me that there are a number of different approaches used internationally to ease the transition from one educational phase to another – and pleasingly, we at Highcliffe School use a significant number of them.

- Students will rarely develop their higher-order thinking skills – and therefore resilience and independence – organically, due to cognitive heuristics. To have notable improvements they need to be taught how to think more successfully. Students need to think about their thinking.

Assignment 3: Conducting Initial Research

This more in-depth, 12,000-word assignment will focus on conducting initial research within the school environment.

Focus: This assignment will focus on the work that we do within the Languages faculty, in our Primary outreach programme – and the outcomes for students that have been through the system already. 

What am I trying to find out?

- We tailor our approach to the teaching of languages in our feeder primary schools to the requirements of the primary school themselves.  To what extent do the differing approaches help the transition from primary-level to secondary-level languages learning? 

- Is there any evidence to suggest that our teaching load in primary schools would be better spent on specific year groups, or at a particular rate?

- Is there any evidence that some languages are more beneficial than others, to introduce during this educational phase?

- Am I able to identify whether thinking skills developed within one particular subject area (i.e. Languages) are transferable to others, as some research into Epistemological relativism suggests they are not.

Why just Languages?

- This research conducted within this assignment will serve as a trial for a future, wider investigation across other subject areas.- There is a system already in place within Languages.  Could there be evidence to suggest that other subject areas could benefit from doing a similar thing, to really forge links with our feeder primary schools?

Assignment 4: Final Dissertation

This final 15,000- to 17,000-word dissertation will serve as the final part of the MA course and will involve actual empirical research within the school environment.

This assignment will build on the findings of assignment 3 into a whole school perspective (rather than being faculty-specific).

Full details of this assignment will be developed further as assignment 3 comes to a close. 

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