Digital ensemble: exploring the design of technology-enhanced learning to mobilise and augment students' engagement with English literature
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Students are disengaging from learning and literature learning in post primary education in Ireland due to an over-emphasis on rote learning practices and the constraints of high stakes, summative assessments (Chief Examiner’s Report 2008 and 2013, Hyland 2011, Smyth 2009, Smyth et. al. 2006). Further, the potential of ensemble-based pedagogy, multimodal texts, technology-enhanced learning and digital content creation can render learning experiences more engaging, dynamic and creative (Dowdall 2006, Kress 2003, Livingstone and Haddon 2009, Neelands, 2009, Pahl 2006). Therefore, this research study explores the design, development and evaluation of technology-enhanced and ensemble-based learning in English education at post-primary level to augment students’ engagement with English literature. This thesis refers to such a process as Digital Ensemble. Ensemble pedagogy is the active and collaborative process of employing drama-based teaching and learning strategies to explore and embody key moments in literature. This research considers engagement with literature as an experiential process whereby students are enjoying their literary studies while confidently engaging in expressive, affective, and abstract learning of personal significance to them. This thesis illustrates the development of a cyclical study, undertaken on a longitudinal basis, over four years and three design cycles with two post-primary schools in the West of Ireland. The research was conducted over a total of 15 weeks and 85 teaching hours. 131 senior cycle students, aged between 15 and 17 years participated: 45 students in cycle one, 46 students in cycle two and 45 students in cycle three. Two teachers of English also participated. The theoretically informed design framework, ENaCT, was used to explore systematically the design and implementation of the Digital Ensemble intervention with students. Design-Based Research (DBR) was employed as the principal methodological orientation. The rationale for employing DBR was the requirement to develop scalable and robust design solutions for specific educational contexts through the implementation of a cyclical interventionist process of improving and finessing a learning design. Data collection methods include video recordings, student feedback questionnaires, group interviews, student artefacts, evaluation rubrics and ethnographic observations. Approximately 107 hours of video data were gathered and were the subject of careful analysis, framed by the ENaCT design model and the extant research literature. The findings of this research study illustrate the affordances of Digital Ensemble to encourage students to employ constructionist technology productively and creatively within English education to augment their engagement with literature. A significant contribution of this research is the development of a “short course” for the newly implemented Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA) programme in Ireland. This course enumerates the process of utilising mobile technologies as a constructionist tool to support the creation of digital artefacts that evidence students’ engagement with literature. Further, the ENaCT prototype design model, which emerged from this longitudinal, design-based research, describes four key criteria and their sensitivities and five supporting design informants and resources for designing, implementing and evaluating digital ensemble to augment students’ engagement with literature. This ENaCT design framework is adaptable and adoptable by other educationists and educational researchers, in using technology to enhance ensemble-based English education.