20 March 2017
The research findings highlight visibility, inclusivity and efficiency as major contributing factors.

During the school year 2015-16, Professor Don Passey undertook a study exploring how interactive whiteboards can be used to support collaborative learning in secondary school classrooms. The case study, of a school in Germany, highlighted how the curriculum in Germany encourages and requires teachers and learners to be involved actively in collaborative learning. The interactive whiteboards in this school, provided by SMART Technologies, were widely used with classes from 10 to 18 years of age, in English and mathematics lessons particularly.

Teachers involved reported that “use of the SMART boards led to greater collaborative discussion, which helped understanding of texts and grammar in English, and specific topics in mathematics. As a result, pupils were awarded better oral marks for their work”. Pupils reported that “the pace of lessons was increased, which aided their learning and engagement, and resources posted on a virtual learning environment allowed them to revise and review what had been covered in lessons.” It should be noted that in German subjects, 50% of marks awarded are given for oral work; written tests do not have a monopoly when it comes to assessment of the curriculum.

When learners used interactive whiteboards for collaboration, their focus of attention was different from when they were collaborating at a desk. When using an interactive whiteboard, their realm of collaborative influence was much wider; the realm of influence could span the entire class, as pupils could easily see what was on the board, and they could easily discuss and collaborate so that they could contribute to and develop ideas that were built on the board. Pupil descriptions suggested that they saw and used the SMART boards more as ‘pupil territories’, whereas chalkboards were regarded more as ‘teacher territories’. Teachers reported that pupils wanted to come to the board more, to share their ideas and to contribute to learning endeavour and activities.

The report is publicly accessible: Passey, D. (2016). Collaboration, visibility, inclusivity and efficiencies: A case study of a secondary school in Germany using interactive whiteboards. Lancaster: Lancaster University. http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/83695/1/German_School_Report_Final.pdf

Don was asked by SMART Technologies to contribute to a panel discussion at the BETT 2017 Event, where he shared research outcomes with some 50 invited educationalists from around the world. More recently, the lead teacher in the school in Germany was invited to present her experiences and the findings from the research at a SMART Exemplary Educators event in Cologne, Germany, to some 35 lead teachers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and to SMART Technologies personnel involved in supporting and working with teachers in those countries.