Primary School Education: Action Research Plan

In nowadays’ rapidly developing world, primary school education becomes a subject of continuous improvement in order to establish the basis for a balanced development of children. As reported by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (2014), constant evaluation and enhancement of teaching programs is assigned a top priority (3.3.6). In primary education, the pivotal attention is paid to literacy and numeracy that are regarded as the key subjects (Loughran, 2007).

Many primary education teachers note that the mentioned subjects prevail in the timetable, while Personal Development Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) programs are given minimal time. More to the point, numeracy and literacy are put at the beginning of the day due to the common belief that children better concentrate in this period of time. However, the evidence shows that children encounter challenges because of the morning block (Barron, Henderson, & Spurgeon, 1994). The lack of physical activity also leads to insufficient attention and difficulties with learning new material.

This research focuses on the hypothesis that physical education contributes to the development of teamwork skills, communication, subject retention, and alertness. Hill, Williams, Aucott, Thomson, and Mon-Williams (2011) consider that the implementation of physical education into the primary school curriculum improves the overall learning performance of students. Based on the mentioned principle of constant improvement, it becomes evident that there is a need to re-evaluate the existing guidelines that identify timetabling and subject allocation in the curriculum.

Hansen and Morgan (2008) promote the idea that primary school teachers should provide physical education (PE) as it adds more experience and allows teaching children more effectively, thus accomplishing the goal of optimum learning. Consistent with Casillio, Desmond, Dimon, Everhart, and Stone (2012), the study by Dollman, Boshoff, and Dodd (2006) pinpoints the beneficial role of positive attitudes towards PE in improved learning outcomes in the main learning areas.

Quality primary education programs should be based on the balance between the key subjects and PE as their combination is proposed to be the foundation for students’ versatile development. The common belief of teachers that literacy and numeracy should be given more time than other subjects is challenged in this action research plan. While elaborating on quality programs, it is essential to align timetable to age and educational stage in order to make sure that students are motivated to participate in activities since the learning process is engaging (Hansen & Morgan, 2008). Such an approach seems to be relevant since children of different ages and learning abilities should receive specific learning materials, tools, communication, et cetera.

The connection between the academic performance of students and physical education may also be traced in a reverse order. The study conducted by Chan, Chen, Hau, Sung, and Yu (2006) illustrates that the latter is likely to affect the former optimistically by creating motivation to become active physically. Similar results are revealed by Casilio et al. (2012), who emphasize the benefits of introducing more PE lessons for students with a high performance.

The evidence review shows the discrepancy between the theoretical suggestion and practice. Therefore, further studies should be conducted to provide students with the opportunity to learn in maximally convenient and effective environment. With regard to the existing literature, a researcher aims at examining the role of PE in academic learning, namely, numeracy and literacy. The following research questions will be answered:

  • RQ 1: Can a continuous PE program improve primary school students’ learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy?
  • RQ 2: Can a regular PE program enhance students’ concentration in a class?

Proposed Intervention

The intervention of this action research plan will be focused on the requirement of the NSW Board of Studies (2014) to offer at least two hours of physical activity weekly for primary students. The intervention will be designed in such a manner as to assist teachers in meeting the mentioned requirement. At the same time, the target intervention will not reduce learning time allocated for other subjects.

The paramount goal is to provide a regular physical education activity program for a balanced development of children through the integration of PE and key subjects. The physical activity exercises will be introduced during the morning block with the aim of allowing students to start their daily routine learning more consciously. The sequence of exercises called “Sunrise Sports Session” will take approximately 15-20 minutes daily within the third and fourth terms for second year students (see Appendix 1). First, a teacher will demonstrate an exercise, and students will repeat it along with the teacher. The detailed explanation of the task will be accompanied by feedback to students’ performance.

The literature presented in the previous section of this paper shows that there is a correlation between the academic achievement and physical activity. In many respects, it is the responsibility of teachers to ensure that children are engaged in PE at school. Therefore, they should prepare well-organized programs that will fit the Australian curriculum and help students to combine key subjects with PDHPE. It is expected that the propose intervention will be beneficial in improving students’ academic performance and attentiveness. In addition, it is possible to suggest that PE will increase their motivation and outcomes in all learning areas.

Research Procedures

Ethics

The informed consent forms will be utilized as the main tool to notify various stakeholders about the proposed study. First of all, the target school’s principal will be contacted and presented the summary and the outline of the proposal. Second, the copies of the informed consent will also be sent to teachers so that they may assist in providing the intervention and assessing its results. In addition, parents will be given the same informed consent form to decide on the participation of their children in the future study. The following elements will be included in the mentioned form: summary of the proposed research, data collection methods and procedures, and confidentiality terms. With respect to the latter, it is important to note that all personal data shared through video records and survey responses will be kept confidential.

Several ethical concerns that may occur should be clarified in order to prevent them or, at least, take them into account. Some parents may reject the participation of their children in the study since everyday physical activity may seem to be excessive to them. For children having a disability, it may be too difficult to perform physical activities prepared without the focus on their special needs. It should also be noted that some parents may oppose such a situation when their children will be recorded on video. The fact that some parents may fail to sign or return the informed consent forms is an issue as well.

Research Design

For the proposed study, a cohort study with a correlational research design based on observation was selected. One group of primary school students will be viewed before and after the intervention implementation. A mixed method data collection will be collected through both qualitative and quantitative tools. As a framework, it seems useful to consider the action plan assumed by Calhoun (1994). This plan implies the following five stages: choosing an area, collecting data, organizing data, analyzing and interpreting, and taking action. One of the key advantages of using the mentioned method is its systematic and consistent focus on the course of the study. The implementation of the identified framework will contribute to a logical organization of the research and appropriate results.

Research School

Catholic Primary School located in the south-west of Sydney will be used to provide the study. This two-streamed organization allows collecting extensive data regarding students’ academic performance along with their physical activity. It should be stressed that the abovementioned issues will be gathered both during lessons and leisure time spent in playground. The students of the second year of education will be involved in the study. Their achievements will be measured during two terms in order to compare and contrast findings with the previous educational year. In other words, such timeframe will ensure validity of the proposed study. The researcher will be responsible for the intervention introduction, monitoring of the appropriate course of data collection and analysis, as well as the presentation of conclusions.

Procedures

Approximately 60 students from two classes will take part in the study that will last within two terms. This category of students was selected as year two students are likely to provide honest and non-biased answers compared to older students. In this connection, their assessments seem to provide the most transparent and reliable conclusion. It is also possible to achieve greater engagement of these students as their behaviour shows that they are interested in new learning tasks. All these factors promote more accurate conclusions within a relatively small period of time.

Data Collection

Speaking of data collection strategies, one should specify that both quantitative and qualitative approaches will be utilized in terms of the mixed method design. Since the proper identification of data collection tools is critical to obtain necessary data, it seems essential to pinpoint each of the strategies that will be used. The first strategy implies monitoring report marks of students to understand their academic performance level. This quantitative approach will be applied before and after the intervention to measure any changes in key learning areas.

Observation and survey, two qualitative strategies, will be used to collect students’ behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions. In particular, the survey will be applied to gain information about students’ views on their literacy and numeracy as well as understand their progress before and after the program implementation (Appendix 3). It will also be useful to obtain knowledge about their feelings regarding the program and how it may be improved to fit their needs. Video recordings will be beneficial to document some lessons and physical activity in class and playground, which will provide the opportunity to review them and make relevant conclusions (Appendix 4). Notes will be made to ensure a thorough analysis that will be combined with consideration of the current scholarly literature.

By utilizing various data collection methods, the researcher will make sure that information will be obtained in a full manner, and no significant detail will be missed. The triangulation will allow eliminating disadvantages of some methods at the expense of benefits provided by others. For instance, report marks will present more accurate findings that cannot be received through qualitative observations or surveys. More to the point, a third year school teacher from referred to as a critical friend will be invited to participate in the study with the aim of controlling its trustworthiness and correctness.

Data Analysis

Prior to the proposed program implementation, all available data on students’ academic performance will be collected via all three strategies described in the previous section. It will be recorded and analyze to form the basis for further comparisons. For video records, several questions will be used to receive corresponding answers. Namely, the number of students’ disruptions, concentration level in the morning, and the presence of constant reminders from teachers will be analyzed.

As for the survey, a statistics program will be accessed to calculate the mode, mean, and median for each of the questions. As a result, it will be possible to find the common answers and identify those that are not characteristic of the study participants. For post-intervention data analysis, the same questions will be used for comparing and contrasting the answers with pre-intervention findings. The results of each of the students as well as common data will be analyzed and interpreted to come to relevant conclusions. It is expected to either verify or reject the hypothesis regarding the positive role of physical activity before traditional lessons in primary schools.

Evaluation Plan

This action research plan results will be presented at the meeting after the intervention completion and analysis. The tendencies discovered by the researcher will be explained to the principal and the staff so that they can understand them in detail. Any ideas and notes will be taken into account and implemented in the future. The main goal is to clarify whether the hypothesis was correct, and whether research questions were answered or not.

In case the results are optimistic, other teachers will receive the opportunity to introduce the mentioned intervention in their practice. At a larger scale, the findings will be published on educational websites, so that interested users may comment them and promote a constructive discussion. The critical evaluation criteria will contain reliability, validity, and transparency, which can be noted by all interested stakeholders.

Timeline

Two terms, the third and the fourth, were selected for the intervention implementation along with data collection and analysis (see Appendix 5 for details). Within this timeline, the researcher will conduct the necessary procedures, systematically focusing on the key milestones of the study. In the view of the mentioned information, proper recording of all stages and their further interpretation will be finished to the end of the term four.

Conclusion

To conclude, the recent scholarly literature demonstrates that primary school teachers encounter the need to improve students’ academic performance in such areas as literacy and numeracy, while PDHPE is given insufficient attention. In case the results of the proposed study will be positive, it will prove that adequate PE in the morning increases students’ learning abilities through better motivation, concentration, and behaviors. The results of this study may be used by teachers to create effective learning environments and develop children as balanced personalities.

References

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2014). Standards. Web.

Barron, B., Henderson, M., & Spurgeon, R. (1994). Effects of time of day instruction on reading achievement of below grade readers. Reading Improvement, 31(1), 59-60.

Calhoun, E. F. (1994). How to use action research in the self-renewing school. Web.

Casillio, M., Desmond, D., Dimon, C., Everhart, B., & Stone, D. (2012). The influence of daily structured physical activity on academic progress of elementary students with intellectual disabilities. Education Around the World, 133(2), 298-312.

Chan, S., Cheng, F., Hau, K., Sung, R. Y. T., & Yu, C. C. W. (2006). Are physical activity and academic performance compatible? Academic achievement, conduct, physical activity, and self esteem of Hong Kong Chinese primary school children. Educational Studies, 32(4), 331-341. Web.

Dollman, J., Boshoff, K., & Dodd, G. (2006). The relationship between curriculum time for physical education and literacy and numeracy standards in South Australian primary schools. European Physical Education Review, 12(2), 151-163. Web.

Hansen, V., & Morgan, P. J. (2008). Physical education in primary schools: Classroom teachers’ perceptions of benefits and outcomes. Health Education Journal, 67(3), 196-207. Web.

Hill, L. J., Williams, J. H., Aucott, L., Thomson, J., & Mon-Williams, M. (2011). How does exercise benefit performance on cognitive tests in primary school pupils? Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 53(7), 630-635. Web.

Loughran, J. (2007). Researching teacher education practices: Responding to the challenges, demands and expectations of self-study. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1), 12-20. Web.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Scheduling

Daily Pre-Intervention Schedule

This timetable shows the allocation of learning subjects prior to the intervention, namely, during the first and second terms. As it can be observed on the table, the physical activity is timetabled on Monday and Wednesday afternoon. Such a situation is caused by the assumptions that for students, it is easier to concentrate in the morning, and afternoon is perfect for physical activity. The hypothesis is that morning PDHPE and fitness are likely to improve children’s concentration.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Numeracy
Literacy
Block
Literacy
Numeracy
Block
Numeracy
Literacy
Block
Numeracy
Literacy
Block
Literacy
Numeracy
Block
RECESS RECESS RECESS RECESS RECESS
Religion Literacy RFF Numeracy History/Geography
Science Library Religion Science Assembly
LUNCH LUNCH LUNCH LUNCH LUNCH
PDHPE History/Geography Fitness Arts Science

Daily Post-Intervention Schedule

This new timetable illustrates that students will receive short physical activity exercises guided by a teacher. The special fitness program will be created in consistency with students’ needs so that it would be comfortable to perform the given exercises. It is expected that the mentioned program will stimulate children to learn more actively compared to the traditional approach. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are marked as fitness days, which provides the time for one additional catch up lesson. It will allow teachers to focus on the learning areas that require additional assistance or cause difficulties for students. In addition, numeracy and literacy blocks were improved – the order of these subjects was adjusted to make learning more creative for students.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Fitness Literacy
Numeracy
Block
Fitness Numeracy
Literacy
Block
Fitness
Numeracy
Literacy
Block
Numeracy
Literacy
Block
Literacy
Numeracy
Block
RECESS RECESS RECESS RECESS RECESS
Religion Literacy RFF Numeracy History/Geography
Science Library Religion Science Assembly
LUNCH LUNCH LUNCH LUNCH LUNCH
PDHPE History/Geography Science Arts Catch up lesson

Parent/Caregiver Information

Information Sheet

The information letter will be send to caregivers and parents in order to present the background of the study and allow them to decide regarding the participation of their child. The key aspects of the class-wide study will be clarified and any questions will be welcome.

Monday 2nd November, 2018

Conducting a Class-Wide Study

Dear Caregivers/Parents,

In order to determine the impact of physical activity on students’ academic performance in the key learning areas, a class-wide study will be conducted. Two year students will be involved in the proposed study within the third and fourth terms. Therefore, your child was chosen to participate in this health intervention. During the first two terms, students received physical activity lesson every Wednesday for one hour.

The new physical activity program will take three days per week, including Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. While receiving consistent physical activity within 15-20 minutes in the morning, students will improve their concentration. In particular, the program will be performed before a numeracy and literacy block. This is supported by the idea that exercises will increase students’ alertness and participation. In addition, it is likely to contribute to collaboration and better communication between students as well as subject matter retention and eagerness to learn.

In the course of the study, students will complete the survey questions before and after the program to identify the progress. In the same manner, their literacy and numeracy knowledge and skills will be evaluated as the target subjects. The results will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted to identify any improvements and other related issues. Literacy and numeracy lessons will be video recorded for the research purposes only. Thus, only the classroom teacher will have access to the collected videos. Even though the given study will involve the whole class, the participation is optional. In case you do not want your child to participate, he or she will be engaged in everyday routines yet will not be recorded and given the survey. Please, do not hesitate to contact me in case of any questions and suggestions. Below you will find the permission slip form that should be completed and returned to me until 28 June, 2018.

Best regards,

Permission Slip

This permission slip distributed during the terms 1 and 2, should be completed by parents and caregivers by 28th June, 2018.

Monday 21th June, 2018

I (insert name of parent/guardian) have understood all information about the performance of the class-wide study action plan. I fully comprehend the aim of this study and how my child will participate in this research. It is clear to me that my child will be anonymous during the course of this study. I am also aware that the participation is voluntary.

Please, choose the applicable box:

  • I would like my child to take part in the research and, thus, give my consent for my child to complete surveys and be recorded in the video
  • I would not like my child to take part in this study

(if possible, clarify the reason)

NAME OF CHILD CONTRIBUTOR:

SIGNATURE:

DATE:

Appendix 3: Data Collection

Pre-Intervention and Post-Intervention Survey Questions

Key
  • ★Strongly Disagree
  • ★★Disagree
  • ★★★Undecided
  • ★★★★ Agree
  • ★★★★★ strongly Agree

The presented questions are to be completed by year 2 students in an anonymous manner. The participants will be asked to complete it before and after the described health intervention.

Please, circle the most suitable response to the statements below:

  1. In the mornings, I typically feel tired before starting my learning
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★
  1. The morning Literacy lessons require significant efforts to concentrate on
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★
  1. I like to study topics related to Literacy
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★
  1. The morning Maths lessons require significant efforts to concentrate on
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★
  1. I like to study topics related to Maths
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★
  1. I notice that I get easily unfocused while practicing Guided Reading independently
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★
  1. I enjoy various types of sports
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★
  1. After physical activity, I understood that I can better concentrate on learning
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★
  1. After physical activity, I consider that I can get through more work
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★
  1. I believe that our class has insufficient fitness time
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★

Appendix 4: Data Collection Tool and Process

Video Recording

This type of data collection during Literacy and Numeracy lessons is the most appropriate as it allows gathering relevant data without distracting from the process of education. It should be emphasized that only those students the parents of which signed the consent forms will be recorded. Once the data is collected, the teacher will analyze and collectively interpret it, comparing the results of all participants. The identified data collection tool will be used during the whole study with the aim of eliminating any bias and research errors. The following table will be completed for each of the study participants.

Student Behaviour Saying something inappropriate / interrupting others
Number of times
Student Behaviour Distracting classmates
Number of times
Student Behaviour Iterating questions that were already asked
Number of times
Student Behaviour Off task
Number of times

Appendix 5: Timeline

Pre-Intervention (Term 2)

This table presents a detailed timeframe for the pre-intervention activities that will be performed during the second-term. They will provide important background information for the study, promoting the researcher’s awareness of students’ academic performance level and their attitudes towards physical education, Literacy, and Numeracy. At the same time, the teacher will acquire some knowledge of how students act during lessons, including such issues as concentration, cooperation, and communication. In other others, the classroom dynamics will be clarified before starting the experiment.

Term Week Research Procedures
2 2 Preliminary data collection.The study participants will be asked to complete the survey guided by the teacher’s explanations. During this stage, video recording will not be performed to allow students to familiarize with it and be accustomed with it. The video recorder will be utilized starting from the next week.
3-10 Standardtimetable and recording of Literacy and Numeracy lessons. The key area lessons will be recorded, while the teacher will be required to monitor the intervention and complete the journal (see Appendix 4 for details).
10 Term 3 planning. The principal and the teacher will discusstimetable adjustments with the aim of catering for RFF. The teacher will also ask for the approval of the intervention for terms 3 and 4 (Appendix 1).

Intervention (Terms 3 and 4)

In this table, the timeline shows how the target intervention will be implemented in the third and fourth terms. It should be stressed that the procedure will be repeated in the fourth term in order to provide study reliability and credibility. One more year three teacher will be invited to control the intervention implementation, thus ensuring that the study will be conducted accurately and comprehensibly. In particular, data collection and analysis will be performed by two qualified teachers.

Term Week Research Procedures
3 2 -10 Data collection. Students will be offered physical activity before the block of Numeracy and Literacy. The teacher will collect data by using the video recorder.
10 Data analysis.The teacher will start analysing data obtained during terms 2 and 3. The collected information will be arranged in graphs and tables to visualize it and conduct proper data analysis.
11 Data Finalising and Conclusion. The teacher will finalise information collected from the participants upon the completion of the term 4. The principal will review the findings that then will be presented to other staff members. The important changes will be considered, and results will be assessed one more time for the next term.
Term Week Research Procedures
4 2 -9 Data collection. Students will continue practicing daily fitness before the key area subjects. The teacher will review video recordings, thus contrasting and comparing findings.
9 Data analysis. The teacher will analyse data obtained through terms 2 and 4 by graphing findings from video records, making sure that information will be easy to understand.
10 Finalising and Conclusion. The teacher will finalise information and present it to the principal. After that, staff members will also receive access to the results of the study. In case the results are positive, and the hypothesis is verified, the study will be published on educational blogs for the interested stakeholders.