ORACLE to MAST: 40 years of observation studies in UK junior school classrooms

Peter Blatchford*, Rob Webster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract

The ORACLE study, first published in 1980, provided much needed systematic descriptive information on the interactions and behaviour of pupils in the upper primary school in the UK, to set against the political rhetoric of the day. Since this pioneering study, there have been several other systematic observation studies of pupils at the same stage, but to date, these results have not been collated in order to provide an historical account of trends over time. This chapter uses data from six large-scale studies (ORACLEs 1 and 2, One in Five, PACE, DISS and MAST) to assess change over time in amounts of interactions with teachers, interactions with peers and independent activities. In addition it addresses two features of mainstream primary schools that have arisen since the ORACLE study: the increase in pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and the huge rise on the numbers of teaching assistants (TAs) working in classrooms. A main result was the doubling of interactions with teachers over the last 35 years, especially interactions as part of the whole class. As a result pupils had a more pronounced passive role. In contrast to pupils without SEN, we found that pupils with SEN had high levels of separation from their peers, either through adult support or because of time spent out of the class. But the main trend over time for pupils with SEN was for them to have far more interactions with TAs, often one-to-one. This has had profound consequences for such pupils’ educational experience and progress.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLife in Schools and Classrooms
Subtitle of host publicationPast, Present and Future
EditorsRupert Maclean
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Pages169-185
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9789811036545
ISBN (Print)9789811036521, 9789811099328
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2017

Publication series

NameEducation in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects
Volume38
ISSN (Print)1573-5397
ISSN (Electronic)2214-9791

Keywords

  • group work
  • paraprofessionals
  • peer interaction
  • special educational needs
  • systematic observations
  • teacher pupil interaction
  • teaching assistants

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