The Results of Adult Participation Action Research Project

In this final installment of the action research series for the Master of Art in Education, Adult Education Training degree, the student explored the outcome of the project and offered suggestions for improvement.

The action research project lasted for eight weeks with the acknowledged participation of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Phoenix Stake (diocese) of the Laveen Ward (congregation/parish) in 2011.

Projections

Source

Outcomes and Analysis:

Goals

  1. The students in the Laveen Ward Elders’ Quorum class will actively participate during class time by the end of the eight-week project by bringing proper materials to class. If the students do not have access to the materials, the instructor will provide those materials on loan during class.
  2. The students in the Elders’ Quorum class will also participate in collaborative discussion during class by the end of the eight-week period with the facilitation of the instructor.

Measurable Objectives

Two changes will occur among the students to help in participation. The first change is the access to instructional materials will be more convenient and constant. One hundred percent of those attending class will have access to instructional materials and extra materials will be provided by the instructor. These materials change as the Church Education System’s yearly calendar for the church changes for the year, which it does the first week of January of each new year.

The list of materials:

1. Class Manual

2. Scriptures (The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants, The Holy Bible, and The Pearl of Great Price.

3. Pen or Pencil

4. Notebook or Paper

The items will be available for each class for each student to help promote participate during class.

The second change to occur will be a fifty(50) to eighty(80) percent increase in discussion participation among regular students. The goal to increase participation in class does not have to include 100 percent of the students, but a majority of the students. When the student/writer introduces the program, it will be in full knowledge of all students and leaders.

1. Assignments will be given to members of the class to execute in class.

2. Each class member will be given items to read and/or questions to answer for each class.

3. Attendance rolls containing contact information will be kept to email class members needed material outside of class.

Measurement of Outcomes

One measure of outcome centers on surveys. The instructor administered survey 001 to the students prior to implementing the project to determine what the students expect from the class and if they feel that the class provides satisfactorily.

The survey also asked if the students have opinions for improvements. The writer used qualitative/quantitative surveys that ask for fill-in-the-blank answers because the class as a group is small.

At the close of the eight week period survey 002, similar in style to survey 001, was given to students as an assessment to document change from the student perspective .The surveys provided a before and after approach to the data giving the students the power to determine if improvement occurred. Reviewed, summated and documented at the conclusion of the eight-week period, the survey data appears in the final results.

Another measure of outcome was observation by the instructor. The entire premise of the action research project depends on observation of the participation phenomenon from the student/instructor perspective. The writer documented the increase in participation, as the guarantee that the instructor provided class material for those who had none.

The writer also documented how often students arrived with materials for class and provided an incentive for class members that attended class prepared using the attendance sheet as record keeper.

Analysis of Results

The percentage of students participating in class was computed and increased by observation. The writer expects that participation should increase by as little as 50 % and as much as 80 % giving room for those who simply refuse to answer question or read in class and the outcome was 100% participation.

The data from the student surveys and the instructors’ observations was compared for perspective and correlation. The writer expected an increase in all areas from the student perspective and a close correlation to positive participation with the instructor findings from implementing the action research project and was not disappointed. The writer also includes a trend analysis in discussion responses from the students.

The point of the instruction for the Elders’ Quorum is not to present the “awe-effect” in class but to collaborate and encourage participation.

Solution Strategy

Problem Statement

The problem was that students in the male Sunday school class (Elders Quorum) for the Laveen Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not participate actively in discussion or prepare for class time for the lesson portion of the meeting titled priesthood.

Discussion

With a number of solutions gleaned from the literature to support the effort, the writer intends to introduce encouraging participation in the adult male class of the Laveen Elders Quorum.

The class participation was far below what it is currently and the class members attended the class out of religious obligation. Adults need to understand how the curriculum taught in class accentuates their lives so that they will want to participate because adults tend not to engage in learning that does not have a personal impact on their lives (Andres, & Adamuti-Trache, 2008).

Adults need to feel that they are sharing knowledge rather than being instructed only (Andres, & Adamuti-Trache, 2008). The curriculum from the Church provides instruction to instructors to encourage participation but sometimes the information itself overwhelms the students. In a personal communication with a member of the Laveen Ward, the writer acknowledges the member’s view that information may sometimes cause such an overwhelming awe that participation is impossible.

The point of the instruction for the Elders’ Quorum is not to present the “awe-effect” in class but to collaborate and encourage participation. A large problem in the past for the Elders Quorum class revolved around the instructors not having training to facilitate, but parroted what is in the manuals without helping the students in the class take ownership of the lesson themselves. Instructors will make modifications to the curriculum to accommodate student needs (Haavind, 2007).

To prevent lulls because of the “awe-effect”( perpetuated due to lack of instructional training) to the lesson material the writers goal is that adults will be familiar with the material prior to class time so that nothing said in class may appear as a surprise. The focus of educating adults is to allow the perspective of the students and instructor on generally acquired knowledge to be the focus of the “awe-effect.” Meaning, the perspective of a student about knowledge mutually shared, can be the focus of awe and not the knowledge itself.

An example of this is the belief among all the Latter-day Saints that Jesus Christ is the son of God. The paternal relationship between Jesus and God is not in question and does not provide the “awe-effect” for the other students if proper participation occurs in the class. What do provide the “awe-effect” are the steps the individual took to gain that knowledge of Christ.

Each student came to the same conclusion using a perspective unique and solitary. It is important that the students’ solitary experiences be the focus of the discussion so that others experience will add to or clarify other students experiences in the class. In this way, all students receive edification and learning together outside of class to encourage participation in class.

If teaching is the psychological massaging of another person’s brain then facilitation is the supervision of someone massaging his or her own brain!

Student participation increases in situations where the instructor includes student with positive reinforcement. Adults are more willing to share experiences if the instructor is respectful and encourages participation (Claybaugh, & Dahl, 2001). Avoiding situation where students feel that comments or perspectives suffer ridicule is paramount to facilitating adult class.

The importance of fostering open communication will not usurp correction. Tactfully indicating that a contribution from a student is erroneous through deconstruction is the purpose of an adult class facilitator. Participation increases when the environment is safe of criticism (Claybaugh, & Dahl, 2001). The writer suggests leaving any type of criticism out of discussions. Students must be encouraged also to use deconstruction of differing views so that other students do not feel attacked when sharing in class discussion.

If teaching is the psychological massaging of another person’s brain then facilitation is the supervision of someone massaging his or her own brain! Adults enjoy the idea of gratifying their own pride—and when others do it too. Unconditional positive regard tends to fit the best way an instructor can approach adult learners—no matter what the student appears to be, accept the students and facilitate the class.

Description of Selected Solutions/Calendar Plan

The elders meet twice monthly in class for 35 to 25 minutes for instruction and participation. Over the course of four months, eight classes occurred for basic gospel instructions and multiple approaches to improving the participation among the students commenced.

Attendance was recorded for all students, visitor or not, for an eight-week class period (four months). After the opening exercises in the combined priesthood gathering, an attendance sheet was circulated weekly. The information on the attendance sheet included the name, phone number and email address of each elder in the class. There was also a box to check if the student came prepared to class with materials, or if he needs to borrow materials.

  • Option one, and for each class subsequently, the instructor was a facilitator of discussion by instructing the students to write for five minutes about a topic from the planned lesson that he want to discuss and taught for five minutes. One topic was chosen to begin the lesson.
  • Option two, and for each class subsequently, the instructor facilitated discussion by a student presenting an overview of the lesson, applying the information to his life, and inviting others to add stories related to the lesson. The instructor asked appropriate question to keep the discussion going for the entire 25-minute class.
  • Option three, and for each class subsequently the instructor-facilitated discussion reading sections of the manual in class aloud—inviting all students to participate in the reading. The instructor lectured for five to ten minutes and then called on random students to share thoughts or insights about the material.
  • Option four, and for each class subsequently the instructor will have all the scriptural text for the lesson distributed among the students to read. Each scripture read explained and matched to the topic in the lesson and discussed until the end of class. Each option repeated for the eight weeks taught for the class. Additional options were explored after the project to add to an ongoing teaching objective for directed active participation in the class.

At the end of each class, the instructor provided a brief summary of the lesson and informed the students of the following lesson for the next class reminding the students to attend prepared with materials for participation and discussion. The instructor reminded the students to read the lesson as a scheduled part of their daily religious routine. During the week, the instructor sent a reminder email to each student to prepare for the upcoming class by reviewing the lesson.

Discussion

The writer predicted that the outcome of the surveys would be an increase in enjoyment among the adult students because of the knowledge that the action plan was to make the classes less about instruction and more about facilitation and inclusion.

The results reflect proven strategies in increasing participation among adults by increasing the responsibilities of the students. Adults must understand the value of the instruction and how it applies to their lives. In this research project, allowing the students to own the lesson material by presenting and discussion it in class gave them the power of personal interest in the material.

One of two major challenges for the class was the lack of materials the students had to use during the class. The writer took that issue out of the equation by providing materials at class each time.

During the presentation of the materials to the Elders Quorum Presidency, the leaders expressed a concern about using incentives to bring materials and supported the idea of providing material for the students each class. So, the incentive portion mentioned during the proposal of this research project was not included in the action plan.

The leaders also expressed about some of the teaching format suggestions as the research progressed and changes made to cycle the teaching formats that garnered the most participation.

The instructor also noticed that students who normally participated very little started to increase participation and become more vocal and confident--evidenced in the survey results. Not only did the second major challenge of participation increase but also the number of students increased. There is no direct proof that the numbers increased due to the change in format of the class, but the survey results reflect a very positive experience from all the participants.

By changing the environment of the instructional system in the class, the instructor increased student participation without having to specifically command the students to participate. One counterpoint to the writer’s perspective occurred when the students expressed a desire to have more instruction than just discussion.

The students expressed the idea that instruction is desirable in addition to participation activities—not in place of instruction. The writer had to adjust the teaching format to include more instruction so that the class felt that it was stable and there was a direction with a clear leader. The writer’s assumption in the research project was that adults would prefer more consensuses in education than instruction, but was in error. The students wanted to participate under the guidance of a clear leader of the class who could set the standard. The students were willing to give deference to the instructor.

Recommendations

The writer recommends a study of the psychological reason for the outcome of the research project. It is a matter of proven fact that participation improved in the class when discussion became a greater focus. However, the largest changes that occur did so with the instructor and not the students. Having a planned format allowed the instructor to be free to allow the class to adjust to the students and not the reverse. The class was centered on what the students needed and wanted to help them feel safe to learn and participate in the class. When instructing, teachers should plan the class based on the people in the class.

Results

The first day of the application of the action research project the instructor dispensed a survey for the students to take to determine the level of satisfaction regarding participation labeled survey 001 indicating it was first. Fifteen students were present that day who took part in the survey providing answers both numerically and written. Following are the results of survey 001 prior to implementation of the action research:

Each student rated the questions on a scale of one to five, five being the greatest or most favorable possible answer to the questions. Of the responses to the questions, the majority placed the level of satisfaction and participation in the class as favorable or above. The highest response rate for favorable participation and satisfaction for students at the beginning of the action research project was 12% response rate of five. The lowest level of satisfaction response rate occurred a 1% of a response of one.

The written responses to questions two and five on survey 001 reflected consensus of favorable responses about the class satisfaction and participation, which receives perspective in the discussion in the following section of this chapter. The instructor informed the respondents that the survey would help in the completion of a course related research project and not reflect in any negative light the opinion of their organization or the dogmas it espouses to encourage them to provide as objective a view in responding to the questions in survey 001 as possible.

Survey 002 reflects the response of the students to the post eight-week instruction included more participants in the survey because the numbers increased. The discussion portion of the survey also included more responses than the 001 survey. Of results of the survey, a 36% number of choices reflected a five rating while none reflect one.

The number of extremely positive responses rose in comparison taking into consideration that more students participated. The data for questions two and five also reflected a consensus of satisfaction that far exceeded the data from the previous surveys. The survey 002 also included an additional question eleven for the students to mention any differences noticed after the action research project began. The respondents’ consensus reflected that the class became more interesting and personal.

References

Andres, L., & Adamuti-Trache, M. (2008). Life-course transitions, social class, and gender: a 15-year perspective of the lived lives of Canadian young adults. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(2), 115-145. doi:10.1080/13676260701800753

Claybaugh, J. D., & Dahl, A. B. (2001). Increasing participation in lessons. Ensign, (), . Retrieved from http://lds.org/ensign/2001/03/increasing-participation-in-lessons?lang=eng

Haavind, S. (2007). An interpretative model of key heuristics that promote collaborative dialogue among online learners [1]. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(3), 39-68. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

Survey 002

This survey is for the benefit of an education project. Names are not necessary. Results of the project will be provided upon request at the end of the project. Use the back of the paper if necessary for responses. Please be as thorough with your answers as possible. A box will be provided in which to place your survey.

Student Survey Follow-up for Priesthood Class

1.Rate from 1 to 5, 5 being best, your enjoyment of priesthood class.

1.What do you enjoy about your priesthood Class?

2.Do the lessons relate to you personally from 1 to 5, 5 being best and how?

3.Rate from one to from 1 to 5, 5 being best, and explain how important is this class to your life personally?

4.Why do you attend this class?

5.How would you rate your priesthood instruction over the past eight weeks on a scale from 1 to 5, 5 being best and why that rating

6.How would you rate your priesthood instruction over the past six months prior to today on a scale from 1 to 5, 5 being best and why that rating?

7.Is class participation important from 1 to 5, 5 being best and why?

8.Does the instructor relate the lesson to you properly from 1 to 5, 5 being best? How?

9.Do you feel comfortable participating in class discussions from 1 to 5, 5 being best? Why?

10. Do you feel that your presence in class is valued from 1 to 5, 5 being best? How?

11. What changes have you notice in class?

Survey 001

This survey is for the benefit of an education project. Names are not necessary. Results of the project will be provided upon request at the end of the project. Use the back of the paper if necessary for responses. Please be as thorough with your answers as possible. A box will be provided in which to place your survey.

Student Survey for Priesthood Class

1.Rate from 1 to 5, 5 being best, your enjoyment of priesthood class.

2.What do you enjoy about your priesthood Class?

3.Do the lessons relate to you personally from 1 to 5, 5 being best and how?

4.Rate from one to from 1 to 5, 5 being best, and explain how important is this class to your life personally?

5.Why do you attend this class?

6.How would you rate your priesthood instruction over the past six months prior to today on a scale from 1 to 5, 5 being best and why that rating?

7.Is class participation important from 1 to 5, 5 being best and why?

8.Does the instructor relate the lesson to you properly from 1 to 5, 5 being best? How?

9.Do you feel comfortable participating in class discussions from 1 to 5, 5 being best? Why?

10. Do you feel that your presence in class is valued from 1 to 5, 5 being best? How?

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