A small interactive science centre as a learning environment for students with severe learning difficulties: an exploration of pedagogy

Brooke, Helen (2006). A small interactive science centre as a learning environment for students with severe learning difficulties: an exploration of pedagogy. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e8c4

Abstract

This study explores the use of a small interactive science centre as a learning environment for students with severe learning difficulties and is based on extensive video footage of nine students between the ages of six and nineteen. Participants were filmed across two academic years during visits to the science centre, and in their school or college, both in their usual classes and in follow-up sessions designed by the researcher. All participants were from educational provisions designated as being for students with severe learning difficulties.

Analysis based on grounded theory strategy (Glaser and Strauss 1967, Strauss and Corbin 1998) was used to explore the complexities of a learning situation that did not appear to have been studied in this way before. Systematic coding and categorisation of video data was supplemented by semi-structured interviews with the students' teachers, using video material to stimulate recall. These interviews provided a separate viewpoint for triangulation purposes and, with the video analysis, suggested an unusually high degree of independent and focused activity on the part of the students during visits to the science centre.

Results have confirmed the very high level of engagement and independent activity remarked on by the teachers, both in the science centre and when a similar environment was created in school or college. The use of grounded theory techniques has permitted the formation of hypotheses, grounded in the data, and small-scale sequential and quantitative analysis has made it possible to further explore a number of these relating to pedagogical factors within the environment; notably input mode (whether this was language-based or multi-sensory) and the importance of choice and control. Implications for debates concerning teaching methods and learning environments and indirectly for those concerning the provision of more inclusive environments are discussed.

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