Better evaluation with spectacles

One way of developing students’ evaluation of research studies is to use the ‘spectacles’ activity. I got it from Geoff Petty’s (2009) ‘Evidence Based Teaching: A Practical Guide’, which I recommend.  It’s a variant of the jigsaw approach. In ‘spectacles’ students are already familiar with the material they are working with (unlike in jigsaw, where they are typically encountering material for the first time). Students are in small groups, each thinking about the material in a different way. Each way is presented as a different pair of spectacles that brings a different aspect of the material into focus. They are then rearranged into mixed groups where they share their insights with each other in a co-constructive manner.

I most commonly use it when students are developing evaluation of research studies, particularly the key ‘classic’/’contemporary’ studies required by Edexcel’s psychology specification. Students are required to read about the studies in advance. The five ‘spectacles’ groups correspond to the GROVE evaluation criteria I use (Generalisability, Reliability, Objectivity, Validity and Ethics). Generally, 10 minutes in ‘spectacles’ groups followed by 15 minutes in ‘sharing’ groups seems to work well for my students but, obviously, YMMV. As a follow-up I often give out an A3 summary sheet where students can compile an overview of the whole study for revision purposes. Here are a couple of these for Raine et al (1997) and Howells et al (2005).

Provided that students remain directed towards developing a shared understanding rather than simply dictating and copying ideas, it’s an approach with few downsides. See my previous post on Jigsaw for more background.

Petty, G. (2009). Evidence-based teaching: A practical approach. Cheltenham: Nelson-Thornes.

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