Action Research: Are matching games effective at improving learner motivation and engagement in literacy lessons? Issue:
I have found my students exhibit a lack of motivation when starting a new topic; which appears to lead to disengagement from the litera¬cy session and behavioural problems during the lesson. The students are (E3) literacy students who find it hard to motivate themselves when learning a new topic. I am worried that my lessons starters may be too “passive” to motivate my current learners. Intervention
I have decided to use an “active” matching cards resource, relating to the new topics, in order to try and increase my students’ motivation levels, and subsequently, their engagement with the topic. I have observed their individual levels of motivation and engagement against predefined criteria, and recorded their progress as a class while using the resource. My intention was to increase student motivation and engagement with literacy. Literature Review
The purpose of this research project is to find out whether matching games can improve student behaviour, motivation and engagement within literacy lessons. In order to do this I will be defining what a matching game is, what motivation and engagement are and how to realistically measure them. I also wish to explore whether the constructivists’ concept of active/experiential learning is a valuable tool for teaching and learning in my context, and the effect that these theories have had on the use of student centred games within the classroom. For my literature review I will be investigating constructivist theories, the use of games in education and student motivation & engagement. The constructivist theory of knowledge provides the bedrock for active learning’s student centred approach to teaching, games are relevant to the resource I will be using, and researching student motivation is crucial to understanding how these games will affect the students. Jean Piaget’s “The Language and Thought of the Child” (1923) laid the foundation for constructivism as an educational theory.
In short, Piaget’s theory of cognitive constructivism asserts that children cannot be directly given knowledge; they must construct their own understanding of it. This justification for experiential learning had a effect on educators in the 20th century, Maria Montessori being among the most notable proponent of Piaget’s constructivism. Building upon Piaget’s Cognitive constructivism Vygotsky added his theory of social constructivism with “Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes.” (1978). In this work he asserts that the self-discovery found in group interaction and play are fundamental for childrens’ emotional and educational development. This theory of social constructivism has proven influential in the development of active learning strategies and resources, especially games which allow for group interaction. Although the subjects of my study are young adults (16-19 years) I believe that these theories are still relevant to their age group. A contemporary advocate of active learning is the teacher and education theorist Geoff Petty. Petty is a staunch advocate of using games to learn within the classroom. (Petty 2009:249)
In his book “Teaching today: A Practical Guide” (2009) Geoff Petty endorses a combination of Constructivist, behaviourist and humanist theories of learning. For the purpose of this literature review I will focus on his review of using games as a teaching tool. Petty believes that using active learning strategies such as matching games can generate “Positive feelings toward a subject that last for weeks” (Petty 2009:249). According to petty, this is because playing games boosts student interest and motivation in a subject. (Petty 2009:249). He refers to passive learning teaching styles as ‘folk pedagogy’ which he believes many teachers suffer from. Petty describes ‘folk pedagogy’ as a nostalgic crutch that many teachers who employ passive learning styles rely on: “The facts are that though your teachers might have been inspiring and effective in many ways, you are unlikely to have been taught as well as you could now teach. We know more about how to teach now”. (Petty 2009:21) Ellington et al point out that games are important in the classroom because encourage “pupil centred learning”, making the teacher the facilitator rather than the leader of the activity. (Ellington et al 1988;7)
I have chosen to use matching games in my lessons in order to try to better engage my learners; matching games are simple, do not require a lot of expository information about their rules and can be played cooperatively by groups of learners or individuals. The activities will be cooperative rather than competitive because of the danger of involving too many extrinsic motivators. Fontana points out that extrinsic motivators, such as competition, can have harmful side effects for some students; These can distract them from the real learning experience and lead to behaviours which undermine the game, such as cheating. (1988:151). In their paper “Investigating the Impact of using games in teaching children English“ Ying Juang, Hui Shang and Paul Briody use Jacob’s games’ 9 categories to describe the variety of games available to literacy teachers. Amongst these are 2 categories that relate specifically to the matching activity I will be using: “5. Matching games.
As the name implies, participants need to find a match for a word, picture, or card. 6. Labelling games. These are a form of matching game. The only difference is that the participants match labels and pictures.” (Jacobs in Shang et al 2011:129) These type of matching games are important because they provide the students with all the relevant components to complete the task. The matching game activities used are simple enough in their rules to be accessible to any student, but they provide a challenge through their changing content. “Eckblad reports that spontaneous involvement in a range of different activities appears greatest when around 95% of the task can be coped with. When the figure is higher the task becomes boring; when it is lower, the task is too difficult for people to want to be involved” (Long,2000: 125) In this extract, Eckblad is building upon Piaget’s theory of “equilibriation”.