Research Question and Hypothesis

A 28-year veteran of secondary school history teaching, I am the chair of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart upper school history department wherein he teaches United States History to grade 11 students. I lead the U.S. history oral history project at Stone Ridge which combines my love of history with enthusiasm for the new possibilities presented by rapidly evolving production software. I am also the Executive Producer of Lunch Duty Podcast, a podcast for teachers by teachers. When not immersed in school-related projects, I ride my bicycle and work at a Vermont outdoor adventure camp during summers.

My question was, at first, “How do upper school students experience increasingly frequent break-out group work during classes?”

Over the course of completing the “Defining the Problem” form I arrived at this: “What, in light of student experience and perception, may be best practices for and extent of in-class group work?”

My route to this topic started with an anecdotal sense that my colleagues and I are using in-class group work with increasing frequency. Not surprisingly, students react across a spectrum from skepticism to enthusiasm, but I suspect that more students than we realize may experience group work as tedious or unproductive. This is not to suggest that it is unproductive. Sometimes students have to do things they do not love, but I wonder if teachers are unaware of the complexity of students’ impressions of this approach to teaching. I have also watched colleagues manage group work in a variety of ways that seem to vary in effectiveness. I hope to use surveys of students and teachers to develop and evidence-based sense of how students react to this strategy and to determine some optimal practices for ensuring that time spent on group work is well invested for maximum effect.

I reeled off a list of hypotheses, but the one that may prove most germane is: “Finding the right strategy for in class group work can shift students’ perceptions of such activities in a positive direction.”

My instrument for this investigation will be survey — one for teachers and one for students. If anyone has experience with research survey construction, let me know!