Developing Oracy to Learn Chemistry in the Secondary School Laboratory

Hennah, Naomi L. (2023) Developing Oracy to Learn Chemistry in the Secondary School Laboratory. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Oracy is the ability to express oneself effectively in spoken language, and developing oracy in lessons has been shown to deepen understanding and improve test scores. In schools, students work together in groups to carry out hands-on practical tasks which are introduced, conducted, and reviewed using spoken language. Although practical work is integral to teaching and learning in school chemistry, its efficacy in meeting its intended goals has been contested. Interventions designed to improve student attainment in practical-themed exam style questions, which employ processes for developing oracy as a tool for learning in the laboratory, are discussed.

The publications presented here, document the practice-orientated research conducted by a teacher in response to changes to the English National Curriculum. A PhD by publication thesis includes a critical analysis of the published work, and here both the academic and professional implications are considered alongside the circumstances that prompted the research. With methodologies that draw upon sociocultural theory and cognitivism, this research describes how the intervention activities were organised, student perceptions and quantitative analysis of attainment data.

Paper 1 reports positive affective outcomes from students and teachers employing a digital badge protocol to learn laboratory techniques. Exemplar video provides pre-laboratory preparation before students film each other narrating and demonstrating laboratory techniques, and verbal feedback is provided when the recordings are reviewed and judged against the badge criteria. However, the students were seen to lack the confidence and oracy skills required to coherently articulate what they were doing and why.

Paper 2 employs a quasi-experimental approach to determine the impact of the digital badge protocol on student attainment. This iteration of the digital badge protocol explicitly seeks to develop oracy by including a prompt slide that scaffolds student talk during the practical task. Both positive affective outcomes and a greater retention of procedural information are reported.

Paper 3 describes a modified pre-laboratory preparation video with two voice overs that separates procedural information from the underlying concepts with the aim of reducing the cognitive load of the activity. Through the application of cultural-historical activity theory, division of labour is identified as problematic. So, both Lab Roles and Lab Talk were introduced to scaffold student interactions to facilitate collaboration and the joint construction of knowledge. Positive affective outcomes and increased attainment in practical-themed exam style questions are reported.

A sociocultural linguistic approach is adopted in the case study in Paper 4, which describes the language used to teach and learn about acids and alkalis in a chemistry lesson for students aged 11 and 12 years old. This approach considers learning chemistry to be a discursive process in which knowledge is constructed through social interaction and language. Thus, learning may be identified by attending to the language used in classroom discourse. This approach offers insight into problematic language, recasting a table of results as a talk scaffold, and demonstrates the use of talk moves for the direct assessment of practical task effectiveness.

The critical analysis closes by considering the meta-learning that had occurred as the work progressed and identifies a shift in ontological and epistemological positioning that has occurred in conjunction with the increasing emphasis on developing oracy. The reflection closes with a comparison between the planning and delivery of a practical chemistry lesson before and because of the research process.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Publication
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Chemistry
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2024 10:12
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 10:12


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