Improving opportunities for mathematical learning amongst students identified as having behavioural, emotional and social difficulties within a special school environment

Quigley, Simon Christopher (2017) Improving opportunities for mathematical learning amongst students identified as having behavioural, emotional and social difficulties within a special school environment. Doctoral thesis (EdD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis reports on a small scale action research study conducted within the mathematics classroom of a special school in England, categorized as catering for students with Behavioural, Emotional and Social and Difficulties (BESD). In the UK, more students are identified as having BESD than any other category of Special Educational Need and yet students identified in this way experience some of the poorest educational outcomes. This study sought to explore how one class of six Year 10 students (aged 14 -15) viewed and experienced their learning of mathematics. It aimed to identify whether particular pedagogical approaches could provide improved opportunities for learning. Instead of focusing on strategies and sanctions to manage behaviour, this research concentrated on better understanding the specific learning needs of this small but diverse group of students.
The study was informed by theories of learning that emphasise the importance of social and cognitive processes in the learning of mathematics. In order to encourage peer communication and social interaction, the teacher adopted the role of facilitator, increasing opportunities for students to engage in dialogue and learn from each other. The curriculum area of measurement estimation was chosen as the focus of the intervention. As this is an area of mathematics that does not necessarily lead to a single correct answer, it reduced the risk to students of getting it ‘wrong’ which could further exacerbate issues of low self-esteem and confidence. Data were gathered at each phase of the action research cycle and included: audio recordings made during and after each of the seven learning activities that comprised the intervention; notes from the teacher-researcher’s research journal and copies of students’ work. As the study aimed to capture the students’ perspective of their mathematical learning, they each took part in an individual, semi-structured interview during the reconnaissance phase and a focus group discussion following the intervention stage. Data collected from the reconnaissance stage were analysed using a process of thematic analysis and informed the development of the intervention.
The study poses a number of challenges for those interested in improving the opportunities for mathematical learning amongst students identified as having BESD. Although all six students within this study initially expressed a preference for working alone, pedagogical approaches based on active and participatory learning were found to be motivating and engaging for the majority of learners. Although most students demonstrated an increased capacity to work together cooperatively, some struggled to learn collaboratively. The study highlighted that, in developing social constructivist approaches to learning mathematics, students’ social competence and trust in each other, needs to be nurtured. Finally, the teacher’s role in stimulating ‘talk’ was identified as a key factor in increasing opportunities for students to learn mathematics.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC1390 Education of special classes of persons > LC3950 Exceptional children and youth. Special education
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2017 09:55
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2017 09:55

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