Pupils reveal a penchant for rote learning

21st December 2012 at 00:00
Student's survey shows youngsters enjoy school, but opinion split over teaching methods

A survey of pupils' views about school has revealed some surprising results in Curriculum for Excellence's climate of active learning and personalisation - some pupils would rather learn by rote than active learning methods.

Jamie Halvorson, an S6 pupil at Preston Lodge High in Prestonpans, canvassed 226 East Lothian secondary students on aspects of school.

Most enjoy school, he found. It allows one pupil to "achieve things I never thought to be possible"; another describes it as "the only bit of my life that is completely structured". One takes comfort that "whenever I have a problem, I have someone to count on to help me".

But the stress of exams looms large and "makes it difficult to enjoy and to properly learn", as one puts it.

A question on the purpose of school suggests many believe it is about getting the best grades possible, but also "to develop as a person and learn who you want to be"; "to feel safe and worth something"; and "to look back and have good memories".

When asked how they would like to be taught, some responses are at odds with CfE's aspirations to bring about open-ended and personalised learning.

"Personally, I like to be spoonfed," says one pupil. "I learn much better in an environment where teachers offer detailed notes and go over the course very slowly.

"What I've experienced is that teachers prefer independent studying, and it can be very boring and misleading at times."

Another "loves" getting notes and learning them, and says "old-fashioned teaching methods" are "foolproof"; a fellow pupil says: "I prefer to have the exact notes that are needed, and have model answers to exam questions."

But one respondent learns best when the teacher explains something without involving notetaking, and then brings in textbooks: "This double reinforcement helps me to remember things, and the oral discussion to begin with allows me to engage with the topic."

Another dislikes textbooks and prefers to sit beside the teacher and talk through a topic, and there is a call for "more hands-on work and class discussions".

There is a sizeable minority of sceptics about giving schools more freedom on the internet; a third would not use Facebook if, for example, it were used to set up revision pages.

"Enough with the internet stuff," says one pupil. "When I'm in class and learning on the internet, it's easy to get distracted by other things (Facebook, Twitter etc), although such things can be useful at times."

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk

OTHER FINDINGS

Do you enjoy school? YES - 178 NO - 48

Do you get the opportunity to collaborate in lessons? YES - 190 NO - 33 (No answer - 3)

Would you like to bring your own (mobile digital) device into school? YES - 194 NO - 32.

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