Glazing is amazing, but the process can be time-consuming and hard to grasp for the beginner. I wanted to make it easier and faster for students to discover the potential decorative intricacies of glazes, and to help them have a sense of satisfaction with their finished work.
This action research arose from the following:
- The nature of the three day taught week and increased demand for autodidactic style learning has given me empathy with the students, for the part time structure that the Foundation course has become.
- The comments of a student in Foundation at Wimbledon who told me that at one of the BA courses she had applied to, the first term was spent doing only tests and experiments. She felt that this must be a good practice as she thought it would help her better understand the very complex nature of the ceramic process and glaze decoration. The student was wondering why we didn’t do more of this at Foundation.
- To prevent wasted resources and the usual accumulation of unglazed work from the taster sessions in the first term referred to in my profile for unit 1.
- My own difficulty with understanding the glaze tiles resource when I first arrived at Wimbledon, and the way I was taught—melting raw ingredients and then trying to figure out why a glaze worked in a particular way, which is analogous to learning how to bake a cake by cooking all the ingredients separately.
The action research question I came up with is as follows:
“If I encourage the use of tests and experiments, will this enhance the learning experience of my students, and if so, how?”
I made a presentation to my tutor group about my idea and I received positive feedback from my peers. In response to the question: “How clearly has the author stated the focus and scope of the project?” one of my colleagues said: “it was specific to lack of tutor contact hours and students’ comments about lack of formal teaching.” When asked about the significant impact on the students’ behaviour, the same colleague said it would “mean that they would take more responsibility for their own learning.”
I would have preferred the intervention to happen in the first term taster sessions, or right at the start of the second term when the students would be starting their main area subject, not in the final term, when the pressures of deadlines were increased.
After analysing the results, I concluded that encouraging tests did help enhance student learning, and during feedback discussions, it had the unintended outcome of also encouraging peer learning. The amount of unglazed work left over at the end of this year was minimal compared to previous years. My understanding of the action research results has boosted my own self-esteem.