Explaining that 'dip'

20th October 2000 at 01:00
The latest reports examined by Reva Klein

study into learning during the middle years (Years 5 to 8) involving a survey of primary and secondary pupils and teachers suggests why children "dip" after moving to secondary school.

The primary pupils involved in the study were mostly positive about themselves as learners and about school as a safe place.

They found most of the work interesting and either very easy or at the right level of difficulty, although 30 per cent said they found school boring and that they had to "think hard" to do the work.

They identified a good lesson as being interactive and they enjoyed working in groups. Teachers' explanations were considered the most helpful aid for learning. Their expectations of secondary school were also generally positive.

Thirty per cent thought it would be a "bit better" and 28 per cent thought it would be "much better" than primary. They particularly anticipated a new environment allowing them a sense of independence and maturity.

But just under a third admitted to being nervous about the move, worried about the size of the new school, losing old friends, finding the work too difficult and bullying.

The pupils in Years 7 and 8 were also positive about themselves. Bt there were some crucial differences in their perceptions of themselves as learners and the way they viewed school.

Only 26 per cent of the Year 5 and 6 group said they gave up trying to do work when it was too hard, but 60 per cent of the secondary school group said they sometimes did.

Fewer of the older children said they enjoyed being at school than the primary children and a worrying 70 per cent thought that teachers repeated things that they had already covered in primary school.

No wonder, then, that 45 per cent said they found school and school work boring most of the time.

Teachers' perceptions were markedly different between the phases in a number of areas. While almost all the primary teachers believed it was important that Year 5 and 6 pupils be treated as responsible people in the school, only four fifths of those teaching Year 7 and 8 pupils agreed. And against 95 per cent of primary teachers who said they had a good knowledge of the backgrounds and abilities of their pupils, only 65 per cent of the secondary teachers agreed.

Learning in the Middle Years by Yolande Muschamp and Louise Stoll of the University of Bath and Munaza Nausheen of the University of Lahore.

Contact: y.m.muschampbath.ac.uk

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