Aim: To explore students’ experience of the transition from GCSE to A Level in order to provide better preparation and support.
Background: Numerous students struggled with the leap from GCSE to AS Level Mathematics which often led to a poor exam performance or a high dropout rate.
The ever-increasing use of social networking among students was harnessed and a WordPress blog was set up with an A Level Mathematics group of 12 students. WordPress was chosen as it appeared the most user friendly and its format made it ideal for sharing ideas and resources. The students were able to download the WordPress app on their mobile devices which then made it very easy for students to upload photos of their work to the site when asking for specific advice with a question or their method.
The contributions students made to the blog over a six week period were analysed by coding the content. The student posts were categorised into the four main themes of: Student question directly to teacher Student response to peer’s question Administration question by student to peers Mathematics question by student to peers
All students were given a questionnaire to complete and three students were interviewed in order to follow up on relevant and interesting points raised by the questionnaire. Students were chosen who fell into one of the following three categories Frequently posted questions Frequently responded to their peers’ questions Did not post
Evidence: Questionnaires, analysis of blog content, interview transcripts.
Impact: The majority of the students in the questionnaire had found the blog to be a supportive tool, with all of them wishing it to continue beyond the research trial period and many stating they would like a blog to be set up in other subjects too. The study found that initially students’ fear of how they would be judged by their peers was a significant limiting factor on how willing they were to interact on the blog, with many students not wishing to appear ‘stupid’. However, students’ confidence grew as the trial went on, which was reflected in the increased frequency of posts. Several of them also ‘lurked’ on the blog, using what other people posted without actively contributing themselves. One student, who predominately posted answers, found the blog to be a very useful way of revisiting topics and consolidating his learning.
As a result of this research the department has decided to set up a blog for all Sixth Form Mathematics classes to support students in their studies.
Reflections: The class teacher also found the blog an extremely useful tool; it allowed them to answer students’ questions at a convenient time, to upload resources and to see where interventions were needed to tackle key problem areas.
Contact: Louisa Hay, firstname.lastname@example.org