Research into wellbeing and learning for high-school students who identify as learning differently
The Centre for Children and Young People at the Southern Cross University in Australia “is internationally recognised for its research focused on advancing the rights, wellbeing and participation of children and young people in their families, schools and communities (SCU website).” As part of her PhD study in the centre, Jane Mosco gathered student and teacher perspectives on school experiences and wellbeing for high-school students with dyslexia-type challenges and those who self-identify as learning differently.
Ketso was used as an interactive way to understand students’ wellbeing experiences at school. A practical aim was for students to come up with messages that they most wanted teachers to know, as well as solutions to some of the barriers to wellbeing at school.
Mind maps are often recommended for students with dyslexia, to help them see the whole picture of a topic or concept. Jane was looking for an approach that was similar to mind-mapping, to give her an opportunity to showcase innovative ways to enhance learning through her research.
She wanted to carry out her research in a way that was respectful of students who experience challenges with processing language, and who may experience working-memory issues. It was important to make sure that the research method she used would reduce possible power inequalities between her, as a researcher, and the students.
She also needed to hear perspectives from all of the students in a short amount of time. This was important ethically, as students were missing class to provide their views, so limited time was an issue.
Ketso seemed the ideal tool to provide an interactive, respectful and inclusive medium to hear from students as well as their teachers.
Ketso gave structure to the sessions with its tree-like structure of branches and the different coloured leaves for gathering people’s ideas. This helped to keep students focussed, whilst allowing the researcher to gather a lot of ideas quickly. As Ketso is very visual, students were able to drill down to the central issues about their school experiences. The creative flow of ideas encouraged by Ketso meant that students developed many ideas to overcome the challenges they identified.
Using Ketso made sure that everyone had a say, including those who felt nervous about speaking, because everyone had their own leaves to develop their ideas. As the leaves were shared onto the felt, there was rich discussion about students’ experience and their different points of view.
Feedback from both teachers and students about using the Ketso kit has been positive. Students commented that they liked seeing their ideas on the coloured leaves building up under the different branch headings. They also liked being able to change their comments, and move them around as the conversation developed.
“This is a great tool to gather individual and group perspectives. Having just one idea per leaf helped participants to clarify their views and summarise key issues. Admirably, the kit is also sustainable, which is important to many young people.
Having seen how well the students responded to Ketso, I have purchased a kit for my other workplace, a K-12 school in Coffs Harbour. I will use it as an inclusive way to hear from young people on different topics, such as wellbeing at school.”
– Jane Mosco, PhD Candidate, Centre for Children and Young People, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Southern Cross University, Australia