The student sample group of 10 although small, produced encouraging results. The students’ responses to the Action Research Questionnaire can be seen in the appendix. (Appendix 7)
The results indicated that 4 out of 10 had done ceramics prior to the Foundation course. That 8 of the 10 students chose ceramics, as their subject of choice is a fourfold increase from the previous two years. This was one of my goals in my introductory profile.
I concluded that working on Thursdays instead of Fridays has contributed to the increase in uptake of ceramics as a subject.
Six students were continuing onto ceramics BA courses. This is a threefold increase from the previous two years. I regard this as a positive outcome, particularly as many craft-based and ceramic courses, are closing.
All 10 students learnt how to read a glaze test and performed their own glaze test tile during the Foundation course. Seven weighed and mixed raw materials to make glaze. In one student’s words: “doing my own glazes was a wonderful way of learning about glazes.”
“Learning about how to make glazes from scratch I found very important and a huge section of learning about ceramics in general.
I found the tiles available with glazes on them excellent for understanding layers, recipes, and colours achieved. I found wall charts with simple directions helpful to remind me how a sequence of steps is carried out.”
These comments confirm that some students found it helpful to have information at hand in the form of charts and how-to-guides.
Student 7 test tiles and final piece
“Really helpful because I was able to understand how the recipes and chemicals worked and reacted together. And I learnt how a glaze can change dramatically from gram to gram of oxides for example. I made a glaze from scratch but added four different ingredients to each recipe and got four very interesting glazes on test tiles. Had I not been able to test them first I could have ended up with a final project with colours and glazes I didn’t like.”
The information gained by this student, through her tests, and through feedback and discussion, helped to achieve her intended outcome and to meet a deadline, as indicated by her final piece.
Student 4 test pieces and final piece
Although reluctant to do her own tests, Student 4 mentioned that “Normally I rely on the already glaze tests which are kept in the studio. I find they are useful enough for my studies.” This comment indicates the usefulness of having the glaze tiles as a learning resource. She continues, “I have done a few tests myself in the past and they have had interesting outcomes, but to me there isn’t any difference than the ones I have done and ones which already have been done. But I guess they are tests I can keep and record and I get to understand the thickness of it.”
These comments indicate agreement with the action research objective of enhancing learning through performing glaze tests and experiments. One of the unintended outcomes of the research was the interaction between students discussing their glaze test results with each other. 8 out of 10 students said they had discussed their result with fellow students and all 10 said they had shared their thoughts about another student’s work.
In response to the questions about peer-learning, all 10 students said that they found the chart for skill sharing really helpful and 9 said they had learnt a technique from their peers. Half the sample had taught a fellow student a technique. This was a positive result despite a small sample.
All students agreed that had they known beforehand that they were expected to show someone else a technique, they would have “learnt it better.” This illustrates the pedagogic principle as Phil Race (2006) infers, how we can “help students learn more effectively, efficiently and enjoyably. Helping them make sense of what they learn and consolidating what they have learned by helping others learn.”
During the discussions with students about their test results, the two- way feedback helped me take the next intervention, that of the peer- learning/skill-sharing chart.
Peer learning and discussions about one’s work enhances the learning experience as the majority of students indicated.