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Guest Blog: Using Ketso in research with students who identify as learning differently

Jane Mosco shares her experience of using Ketso in her research in high schools. Jane is studying for a PhD in the Centre for Children and Young People, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Southern Cross University in Australia.

My PhD research explores wellbeing for high school students who self-identify as having challenges with reading and/or spelling, as compared to their other learning skills. As part of this research, I used Ketso to gather perspectives around school experience and wellbeing from students and teachers.

An inclusive and interactive methodology

I wanted to use an inclusive and interactive methodology to understand more fully the experiences of students who identify as learning differently. For me it was important to develop a methodology that would reduce possible power imbalances between myself, as the researcher, and the young people who were participating.

I was impressed with what the kit could achieve and how it met so many of my aims for data collection.

I discovered the Ketso website through various google searches that included: innovative, interactive and inclusive approaches to gathering student voice; dyslexia/learning differences, difficulties; hands on, and mind mapping strategies. I was keen to use a mind-mapping approach, as this is often recommended for students with dyslexia.

I made contact with Joanne Tippett and on a trip to the UK to see family, we met to explore if this methodology was suited to my research. We discussed what the kit could do, and trialled a session using a spare table in the lobby of the University of Manchester SEED building, where Joanne works!

I was impressed with what the kit could achieve and how it met so many of my aims for data collection. It would enable scribing/drawing each individual’s responses, and the colour-coded leaves provided a way to track questions visually. I could also see that it would help the students to track how many responses they had made to each question, helping to build their confidence and see patterns in the ideas they developed.

I found that there were many advantages of using Ketso in this research.

Supporting individual learning differences

Students are able to move their ideas around and look for patterns

From the learners’ perspective, everyone had their say by writing or dictating their individual responses. I observed that it helped students to maintain ownership of their thinking, both in terms of what ideas were being written down and under what heading they wanted them to be placed. Students also felt affirmed about having their contributions seen, whereas their ideas may sometimes feel lost in pure discussion. This was reconfirmed when I explained that the felt would be photographed and their interviews audio-recorded to ensure that all their ideas were collected.

In terms of a learning tool, the Ketso process is hands-on, which many students with dyslexia-type challenges identify as helpful. Using the Ketso materials stimulated discussion about how to enable all voices to have their say, and at the end, to visually reflect on how many ideas they had shared. This discussion helped the students to reflect on their learning process.

In addition, the Ketso materials are attractive and sustainable (as they are re-usable), and thus interesting to the students because of these qualities.

Deepening understanding of students’ experiences

From the teachers’ perspective, they gained a fuller understanding of challenges to wellbeing experienced by students. They commented they had discovered ways that they could adjust their practice to make it easier for students with different learning needs to have an improved experience of school.

The teachers were impressed with the quality of ideas the students were able to develop using the Ketso kit. This contributed to the in-depth reflection seen in the artworks that the students went on to produce. Students were asked to create their artwork based on the message that they most wanted teachers to know.

In terms of the research process, the Ketso kit helped participants focus on the content itself, rather than on the researcher. Using the Ketso leaves to harness ideas helped us to explore the main issue behind the responses and then to summarise them. This analysis was done by participants themselves, instead of by the researcher relying on audio recording and their own biases. Thus, Ketso likely reduced researcher bias.

I was able to start structuring the data and look for patterns in collaboration with the students, with them structuring their ideas by moving them around and highlighting priorities using the icons. The kit was dynamic, with the ability for students to add new branch headings (to the ones that I had developed from the literature review). This collaboration over the content between the researcher and participants pushed our mutual understanding forwards.

A rigorous analysis and broader understanding

The physical nature of the kit allowed for each student group to reflect on which topic headings had most or least responses on their felt, whilst the specially formatted excel spreadsheet provided by Ketso synthesised ideas from across all of the participants’ responses. I was then able to present the students’ most important messages to teachers (as noted by the placement of an icon next to a leaf), as a child-centred stimulus as part of the teacher interviews.

In conclusion, the semi-structured format of Ketso proved a very effective way of facilitating equitable and respectful discussion. It allowed responses to be recorded visually. The Ketso materials made it easy for the students to edit ideas, or put ideas under different headings, enabling them to explore and manipulate ideas more deeply. The students enjoyed using the kit, and this experience has encouraged me to use Ketso in new ways in my wellbeing work in schools.

Try out Ketso to see how it could help in your learning, teaching or research with this special rental offer of our mini kits during this time of lockdown.

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