“One of the goals of education should be to teach that life is precious”
Maslow, 1987, p187
This dissertation reports on the research project I carried out in a Dutch mainstream primary school, in order to find an answer to the research question: how I could change school reports in order to make them more motivating for children with Special Educational Needs.
Through the process of doing this research, I learned that my concerns about the effect of the report on the motivation of children with SEN were well-founded. But I also realised that it would not be possible to easily reshape the reports. The problems turn out to be the tip of an iceberg and the answer seemed to lie in underlying insights, influences and developments concerning the reports, the school, the education, and even society.
In undertaking this study I had three aims:
To understand the influence of school reports on the motivation of children with SEN.
To reflect on and improve my own skills as a change agent
I used an action research methodology; because I am convinced that educational change is not a question of simple cause and effect, but of patterns in social relations. By means of action research, I was able to improve the understanding of my educational practice, and to develop the situation in which this practice was carried out. Moreover I was able to reflect critically on my own professional and personal development.
In doing the research I developed an improved awareness of the feelings of children with SEN in relation to summative assessment. I came to understand that teachers struggle with the tension between children’s needs and a summative assessment culture.
In the course of the study I developed an understanding of the teacher’s need to reflect critically on educational and personal beliefs, insights and values.
This has implications for the way this study might be continued.
But, above all, I developed a conviction that in order to improve children’s intrinsic motivation our assessment culture needs urgently to become more formative.
It is with sincerest thanks that I wish to acknowledge the following:
My husband, Wim, for his love, patience, and encouragement;
My daughter, Dorien, for her kindness and support;
My son, Luc, for his patience and his help with the computer;
My family and friends, for giving me space and time to go about my work;
My tutors, Dr. Christine Lloyd and Jos Bergkamp MA, for their expert guidance and encouragement;
My MA colleagues, for their company, for their support in difficult times, and for the fun we had learning together;
The parents and colleagues in the pilots, for spending their time and expertise. Especially my critical friends, Anny, Coen, Gerry, Mayke and Nathalie. They made me aware of the value of cooperative learning;
My native speaker, Fionnuala, who helped me to improve my English writing skills;