example and indicating that there might be more than one way of planning.
An episode from his teaching is given below to illustrate how he indicated to the students that there was not necessarily a single way of proceeding and implied that they had a choice.
Teacher : Has anyone got another way of planning?
Liz : In History, we make a generalisation, then put it [the ideas] in a logical order in a list.
One student expressed that she found the approach taken by the teacher confusing because he was not telling her what to write in her essay. She thought that the teacher should give her the information she needed and then she would “know”.
Vincy :It probably confuses you a bit more. It wasn't as straightforward as I thought it would be, the whole cancer issue. I thought it was quite muddled up.
Researcher: What was confusing?
Vincy: Just the way he wasn't telling us you need to learn this and this and you need to know all these things about cancer. He kind of said, pick your one, and learn.
Researcher: So why do you think he did it that way? Because he did it purposely.
Vincy: He wants us to go out and do the work and learn. I don't actually know. He wanted us to do it instead of just being fed the information. But I think we are just so used to being fed it that it’s not going to work.
Researcher: So normally people would just give you the information?
Vincy: Yes, but this is like do it yourself. And we’re like, what do we do now? That was quite hard. I found it quite hard actually.
In contrast, other students commented on how they preferred an independent mode of learning. For example,
Lois : I thought it was quite good how it did work like we just basically first of all got ideas, what type of stuff we might research and then we got to research them ourselves. That’s how I like to work anyway. I thought it was quite good.
Teacher as encourager
At each stage of the inquiry process, students were encouraged to ask themselves questions, as recommended for increasing meta-learning by Bakopanos and White (1990). The teacher reminded students to use the bookmarks to help them reflect on and write about what they thought about the issues and what they needed to know.
The teacher encouraged students to use a negotiated marking schedule to check their essays before they handed them in for marking. He had a very positive approach when he gave oral feedback on his assessment of the essays to the whole class, but was adamant that they should use the processes he had been endorsing. His response to the class is given below.
Teacher : Most of you have got far more knowledge than you’re letting on. The essays don’t do you justice. Almost nobody mentioned the word oncogene. Almost nobody, except Ann mentioned the initiation, the latent and the secondary phases – metastasis etc. You’ve got to mention those key words.
The teacher also wrote comments on the draft essays to indicate areas where students had done well and what could be improved.
There were elements of choice given by the teacher throughout the unit of work. Most of the students set their own agendas for planning individual research, choosing the two types of cancer they wanted to investigate and deriving the key words and key questions that would drive their work. They were also free to choose which written resources and other sources to use for their research. The teacher emphasised several times during class work sessions that there were not necessarily right answers, indirectly indicating that it was up to the students as to how and what they wrote in their essays and that the students themselves would have good ideas. This encouraged students’ self-efficacy.
The teacher was known for making the content relevant to the students. He not only made links with previous and future learning experiences but also told stories and tried to help students understand the humanistic perspectives behind the issues. For example when the class was discussing whether it was ethical to provide treatment for people who had cancer as a result of