Method

All the research questions in this project focus on the central question about which methods can be effectively used to increase motivation and thus reduce dropout in vocational training. Currently, in average 27% of vocational school students in Norway quit their education, primarily due to decreased motivation and commitment as well as inadequate follow-up. A part of the reason is that students face a significantly higher proportion of theoretical instruction in their education than expected, which also contributes to the dropout rate. In the island region of Hitra, Frøya and Smøla, the dropout rate after the first 2 years of vocational school (VG1 and VG2) is significantly lower than the national average as practically all students complete these two years. Nevertheless, a significantly large decrease in motivation is visible when vocational students in the island region complete VG2 and become apprentices in the practice-oriented training in companies and organizations. Here we see that only Ørland municipality has a higher dropout rate than Hitra and Frøya (STFK 2011). This process minimizes contact with the school and classmates, and it seems to lead to reduced interest in completing vocational education. In addition, vocational students who become apprentices in enterprises face a working environment that does not match their previous expectations of how the workplace should be, which also reduces the motivation.

Based on existing research results and our experience with it, we can see that there are several factors affecting the dropout rate. Decrease of personal motivation and engagement in schoolwork followed by decreased contact with friends and school are important reasons why the student quits. We therefore propose a project which by using ICT in combination with early intervention and improved interaction between different education levels improves students' interest in learning generally and learning more, which increases motivation and commitment, and which coordinates and develops cooperation in the triangle school-training office-enterprise.

It is also important to study factors such as smart phones having small screens and limited abilities to be used for learning as it is not easy to i.e. read texts or see details on the screen. Nowadays, they are being used to play videos (Podcasting) and to distribute study management information. Small screens are, however, very well suited to collect responses when the user gives feedback by pressing one or more "buttons".

The project has therefore formulated the following specific research questions:

  1. Can the use of response systems lead to increased motivation and commitment?
  2. Can new forms of assessment including immediate feedback bridge the gap between theory and practice, thereby increasing students' interest in learning generally and learning more? This includes interest in theoretical knowledge and how the theory can be linked to improved practice.
  3. Can the use of a new activity-based evaluation methodology, together with the use of modern mobile technology, reduce dropout?
  4. Can the use of response systems lead to improved academic performance in basic subjects such as mathematics?
  5. Is there a difference in the effects of using one response system on different school levels, in different regions/ school environments and in different countries?
  6. Do the effects of using a response system vary between higher grades of elementary school and secondary school?

In order to study the research questions, the project will be divided into a number of phases in the three project years. The quantitative data will be collected with the help of questionnaires addressed to students and teachers in schools and internships places, semi-structured in-depth interviews with a selection of students and teachers as well as test results in schools. In this way we will be able to draw conclusions about both the students’ and the teachers' perception of the applied tools, their impact on motivation, ability to learn, the time one puts into studies, and even quantitative results in form of test results. By using data from reference schools and internship places in three different locations in Norway and one in Sweden, we can even bring up results that show what works well and not so well in various environments/regions; what works in school compared with internship place; on what level/year of studies the methods using of mobile technology seem to work out best. When it comes to subject knowledge, we focus on Mathematics in this study.

In terms of creating a good scientific background, we will also conduct a number of sub-studies to collect comparison/reference materials from schools and internship places that do not apply methods using mobile technology. This work will include monitoring at a grammar school in Sweden which will provide us with additional comparison materials with the basis for the study. The study will include around 10 test classes in Mathematics in higher grades of elementary school over, first grade of secondary vocational education and grammar school over 2 academic years, with about as many reference classes. In addition, two cohorts in the second grade of secondary vocational education in Frøya and Hitra will be used to examine how motivation and dropout changes in students who are already doing their internships.
 

SRS 2.0, PELE 1.5, Eval 1.0 and iLike 1.0 are available for use.