Summary in English
Within the frame of the research project ARK&APP (2013–2015) two quantitative surveys and 12 qualitative case studies are conducted. The present case study is the second of three case studies in social science (history, geography and social science). Three research questions have guided the study:
- How are educational resources used in teaching practices?
- How do educational resources foster engagement and learning among students?
- What role do various educational resources play in interactions between students and their teacher?
In this study we observed two teachers and their two history classes in upper secondary school during a period of 4 weeks in spring 2014. The classes consisted of 56 students, all attending the Supplementary programme for general university and college admission (A one-year programme for students who have completed vocational studies). The teaching took place in separate classrooms, furnished similarly with both regular and interactive whiteboards. All of the students had personal laptops. The topic of the learning period was the Interwar Period, with emphasis on the two key concepts source criticism and the understanding of ideology. Two classroom activities dominated the period: whole-class teaching and individual work. The students were each assigned an ideology and instructed to find two sources representing a topic related to the interwar period. Next, they were to discuss how ‘their’ ideology was expressed in the sources, as well as whether or not they found the sources reliable as representations of the specific ideology.
Our analyses reflect differences in terms of how the teachers integrated and structured whole-class teaching during the period, and how they utilised the whiteboards. One of the teachers structured the whole-class teaching in such a way that is was building on the students’ participation in collective dialogues and problem solving. This teacher would ask his/her students to shut their laptops, before handing out questions that the students worked with in groups and in subsequent whole-class discussions. During these sessions, the interactive whiteboard was used to display student tasks, and to illustrate links between topics and the texts or pictures that were central to the discussion. Here, the interactive whiteboard worked as a collective point of reference when presenting resources (In PowerPoint or Word) that the teacher had prepared for the lesson.
In the other classroom, the teacher used the traditional whiteboard as a shared reference. This teacher was very knowledgeable, but in spite of good lectures, some students were constantly distracted by their laptops, which they were not instructed to put away. The design of the present study makes it possible to track and describe differences in terms of time spent on tasks, types of interaction, and different uses of learning resources. The design also includes pre- and posttests that show significant increase in learning outcome in both classes. These do, however, not show significant differences between the two classes.
Understanding ideology and evaluating sources are considered challenging topics in the History curriculum. Students in both classes found the task challenging to comprehend, and therefore struggled with starting their papers. Our analyses show how the teachers, in their different ways, supported students in their learning processes, and it illuminates the role of the learning resources – especially the textbook and the Internet – during the writing process. The students expressed ambivalence in relation to the textbook – they find it difficult. Even though many students considered it as a trustworthy source, it seems that it was at the same time quite challenging to read, and quite compact in terms of information density.
Working with information search online, many students struggled with finding sources that are apt for the assignment. When facing the vast amount of information on the internet, the students’ lack of content knowledge was a great obstacle. They did not know what to search for (what are relevant key words), and they struggled to identify and select content (what is relevant, what is not). Guidance from teachers was central to their progress. The teachers switched between scaffolding students’ understandings of the subject content, supporting the students in developing work strategies, and helping them divide the assignment in to smaller, more achievable tasks. Most of the time, the guidance revolved around problems in selecting content and interpreting sources. During these conversations, the teachers provided the knowledge that helped the student interpret the source, and they posed knowledge oriented questions to make the student reflect upon the source at hand.
Selecting and integrating information successfully demands knowledge about the topic. The teacher possessed the content knowledge that the students needed in order to select and understand the historical sources. Our analyses show how the teachers strived to provide the right amount of help to take the student further in their learning process, at the same time as they refrained from giving too much instruction, or doing the work for the students. Even though the students found the process of writing the essay challenging, and despite the observed difference in learning activities, the results from the pre- and posttests indicate that students in both classes increased their knowledge of ideologies and source criticism. The analyses of data showed no significant differences between the two classes.