Masterscriptie Orthopedagogiek Pedagogische en onderwijskundige wetenschappen Universiteit van Amsterdam Karlijn Martens Studentnummer: 11880457 Eerste begeleider: Prof. Dr. X.M.H. Moonen Tweede begeleider: Dr. E. Brummelman Amsterdam (Mei, 2021)
White Water Writers Project in the Netherlands Publishing a book in 5 days
Masterscriptie Orthopedagogiek Pedagogische en onderwijskundige wetenschappen Universiteit van Amsterdam Karlijn Martens Studentnummer: 11880457 Eerste begeleider: Prof. Dr. X.M.H. Moonen Tweede begeleider: Dr. E. Brummelman Amsterdam (Mei, 2021)
The White Water Writers Project has become a renowned collaborative learning approach in the United Kingdom. Participants write a book together that is published as a result. In this research, a pilot study assessing the effects of collaborative learning during the writing project in a Dutch primary school setting is presented. The nine participating students were motivated to write a book in 5 days. The projects' 5-day writers' guide was used to guide the students through the writing process. Student observations, questionnaires, and interviews were used to triangulate the information assessed in the study, thus improving validity and reliability. A pre-posttest assessment was done to observe differences between student outcomes before and after participating in the writing project. The interviews show that the participating students experienced the positive effects of cooperative learning. Used questionnaires show that most participants saw a positive behavioral change after the project; on the other hand, teachers saw no behavioral changes. The last questionnaire demonstrated a positive difference or no change for most of the student competencies. The research results lead to the conclusion that collaborative learning in the White Water Writers Project has a positive impact on Dutch students. As the research was limited by time constraints and involved a small group of participants, results are not conclusive yet and results have to be treated with caution. Nonetheless, the project is promising and the participation of other schools should be encouraged.
Keywords: White Water Writers Project, writing project, collaborative learning
Het White Water Writers Project is ontwikkeld in het Verenigd Koninkrijk en is gericht op samenwerkend leren, waarbij kinderen samen een boek schrijven en publiceren. In dit onderzoek wordt een pilotstudie gepresenteerd waarin de effecten van samenwerkend leren tijdens het schrijfproject op een Nederlandse basisschool worden beoordeeld. De negen deelnemende studenten werden gestimuleerd om in 5 dagen een boek te schrijven. De 5-daagse schrijversgids van het project werd gebruikt om de studenten door het te begeleiden. Observaties, vragenlijsten en interviews van studenten werden gebruikt om de zoveel mogelijk informatie te verzamelen, en daarmee de validiteit en betrouwbaarheid te vergroten. Er werd een voor- en nameting gedaan om verschillen voor en na deelname aan het schrijfproject te kunnen beschrijven. Uit de interviews blijkt dat de deelnemende studenten de positieve effecten van samenwerkend leren hebben ervaren.
Uit gebruikte vragenlijsten blijkt dat de meeste deelnemers een positieve gedragsverandering zagen na het project, aan de andere kant zagen docenten geen gedragsverandering. De laatste vragenlijst toonde een positief verschil of geen verandering aan in het gevoel van competentie bij de deelnemende studenten. De resultaten van het onderzoek leiden tot de conclusie dat samenwerkend leren in het White Water Writers Project een positieve impact heeft op Nederlandse studenten. Omdat het onderzoek beperkt werd door tijd en de onderzoeksgroep klein was, zijn de resultaten nog niet sluitend en moeten de resultaten met de nodige voorzichtigheid worden geïnterpreteerd. Desalniettemin is het project veelbelovend en moet de deelname van andere scholen worden aangemoedigd.
Sleutelwoorden: White Water Writers Programma, Schrijf project, Samenwerkend leren
Table of Contents
Abstract ... 3
Samenvatting ... 4
Table of Contents ... 5
White Water Writers Project in the Netherlands ... 7
Method ... 12
Participants ... 12
Procedure ... 13
Measurements ... 14
Results ... 17
Descriptive statistics ... 17
Results per participant ... 18
Student 1... 19
Student 2... 19
Student 3... 20
Student 4... 21
Student 5... 22
Student 6... 22
Student 7... 23
Student 8... 24
Student 9... 24
Experiences ... 25
Behavior ... 26
Sense of Competence ... 26
Experience ... 27
Behavior ... 30
Sense of competence ... 32
Limitations ... 33
Recommendations ... 34
Acknowledgment ... 36
References ... 38
Appendix A ... 42
Schedule during the week ... 42
Appendix B ... 45
Tables ... 45
White Water Writers Project in the Netherlands
Within the pedagogical sciences, cooperative learning is a thoroughly researched theme.
Several researchers have defined collaborative learning. The most commonly used definition comes from Johnson and Johnson (1991). They describe collaborative learning as a construct in which students work together to achieve a common goal. To make this possible, five basic elements must be met: positive interdependence, face-to-face promotional interaction, individual accountability and personal responsibility, frequent use of interpersonal and small group social skills, and frequent, regular group processing of current functioning. Another definition of collaborative learning has been given by Cohen (1994). He defines collaborative learning as the collaboration of students in a small group for everyone towards a common task. Tasks are expected to be completed without the direct supervision of a teacher. Slavin (1987) also mentions the absence of an information-providing teacher or tutor in collaborative learning. Instead, information is shared as much as possible within the group of students. In his definition of collaborative learning, Slavin (1987) states that learning goals are not clearly defined. Each student could have a different task, and each student could learn something different when completing this task.
Sharan and Sharan (1987) describe collaborative learning as the construction of student contributions. Various instructional methods are used to encourage students to collaborate on academic tasks.
In previous research on school effectiveness and effective instruction, the teacher's role was emphasized. The central focus of this research was on monitoring adequate learning time, providing goal-oriented instruction and feedback, conducting frequent evaluation and ensuring differentiation and good class management (Driessen & Claassen, 1996). This research supported individual learning in which a student received direct instruction from a teacher and then worked
independently. Teachers focused on individual learning strategies, such as substantial experience, contemplative observation, formation of abstract understanding and active experimentation.
According to Scheerens (2007), successful education resulted from adequate learning time, a high- quality curriculum, challenging and activating education, learning strategies, high expectations and an orderly climate. This research did not favor cooperative learning.
Today there is more interest in cooperative learning. Cooperative learning fits into many contemporary ideas of learning as a social, cultural and interpersonal constructive process (Krol, Janssen, Veenman & van der Linden, 2004). Cooperative learning has been shown to positively affect the social development of students (Veenman, Kenter & Post, 2000). These positive effects of cooperative learning have garnered new interest in this method. Nevertheless, cooperative learning as a strategy is still rarely used in the Netherlands' primary school system. Veenman et al.
(2000) have found that students in primary schools most often work in a group and not as a group.
This tendency towards individual learning may occur because, in many primary schools, learning is still seen as an individual practice. Teachers have little interest in forms of instruction in which students can regulate their learning. Moreover, teachers have limited experience with cooperative learning. Teacher education and refresher courses do not emphasize the possibilities of cooperative learning (Veenman, Van Benthum, Bootsma, Van Dieren, & Van der Kemp, 2002).
This thesis implemented the White Water Writers Project for the first time in the Netherlands. In this project, cooperative learning is necessary for the outcome to succeed.
Academics established the White Water Writers Project at Royal Holloway, the University of London, in collaboration with Keele University. The project connects young adults, teenagers, or children from different systems, including schools, universities, prisons and foster homes, to collaborate on creative writing. The project allows groups of eight to ten students to collaborate to
write and publish a novel in roughly one week. The age of the authors ranges from eight-year-old children and university students. The voices of these writers are incorporated into their stories, which are heavily influenced by personal experience. After five days of writing and composing, students publish their manuscript and the content becomes available for online purchase. The process involves skills such as brainstorming, writing, proofreading and giving feedback. The project's goal is to increase the social competence, self-confidence and cooperation of the young writers involved. Dr. Joe Reddington suggested the White Water Project as an experimental approach for creative writing among peers. Reddington was curious about whether people could write books like the way programmers write code. Usually, a software program is built by several developers who together write many lines of code while individually contributing their ideas (Grossman, 2018). For software to be successful, individual contributions must fit together and ultimately form the complete program. A combination of leadership, planning and a systems approach is required for successful and effective collaboration within a software project.
Reddington worked alongside Dr. Douglas Cowie, an author and English professor, to design a program and process that would facilitate a system of collaborative storytelling. Professor Patrick Leman and Dr. Yvonne Skipper later joined the group as researchers and psychologists.
Together this team developed the empowerment project, which unleashed the successful authorship approach. Since the inception of the project, over 1,000 young people have become published authors (Grossman, 2018). In this thesis, the White Water Writers Project is used as a case study to research the individual advantages for students participating in the project. This qualitative research explores the experiences of nine primary school students who participated in this study. Although the White Water Writers gained momentum in the United Kingdom and has
since been adopted in multiple European countries, the nine students surveyed in this study were the first in the Netherlands to participate.
Because this is the first Dutch research on the White Water Writers Project, qualitative research is being given preference over a quantitative study to provide an in-depth exploration of how the participants experience the project. Qualitative methods are best suited to this research because it is a pilot study to determine whether the White Water Writers Project can be implemented in the Netherlands; this study aims to explore and test the project before it is brought to this country. Qualitative research methods should maximize the information that can be collected about the experiences of the participating students. Moreover, qualitative research can help solve unforeseen problems and determine whether the research project is viable in the Netherlands.
Collaborative writing can be seen as a form of cooperative learning. Research on collaborative writing as a concept began in the 1980s (Jaeger, 2019). Much early research focused on side-by-side composing, where authors worked on individual pieces and discussed them with others as needed. Other research studied co-composing, where multiple authors crafted a single text (Jaeger, 2019). Often, research on co-composing described different aspects of writer collaboration and their constraints and advantages. However, limited research has investigated children spontaneously undertaking co-composing activities (Jaeger, 2019). This absence of research about children in collaborative writing projects is a shortcoming in contemporary research. A study into collaboration, close relationships, and children's cognitive development has indicated that texts written by pairs are richer than individually written texts (Hartup, 1996). This study describes how the benefits of co-writing extended to subsequent individual writing
assignments. Research has also been conducted on the relationship between children who write together (Jones, 1998), but the role of the writing process itself has not been examined.
Moreover, previous research on children's collaborative writing is about writing in pairs, but not about writing in groups. This absence of research about children in collaborative writing projects is a shortcoming in contemporary research. This thesis explores collaborative writing by primary school students in a small group. Therefore, this research addresses the gaps mentioned above in the collaborative writing literature.
Additionally, the potential benefits of the White Water Writers Project for young students with learning disabilities cannot be ignored. Children with special needs often benefit more from proactive learning material than from regular listening and talking exercises. Moreover, the White Water Writers Project structure is alluring, as the project is divided into small and well-ordered steps directed towards the end goal. This structure is effective for young people with learning disabilities, as they can experience success more frequently and in different phases of the project (Lankhorst, Bosman, & Didden, 2008). In the United Kingdom, published authors from the White Water Writers Project already include children living with disabilities, children in the foster care system, young offenders and children whose siblings live with life-limiting conditions. The White Water Project has fostered inspiring stories from children in special needs schools and young offenders' institutions. Because of these possibilities, the project has already received funding to continue reaching these children. However, because this was the first time this project has been executed in the Netherlands, logistical challenges may have limited its benefit to students with special needs. Therefore, students with specials needs could join this project, but this project does not focus on the services for this group. The respondents in this study are students participating in
"regular" primary education in the Netherlands. Still, information gained from this study can be
used to make the project suitable for children with learning disabilities. Some recommended changes are provided at the end of this thesis.
The research question of this thesis is as follows:
Did the participating students benefit from the White Water Writers Project in the Netherlands?
Sub-questions have also been developed for each of the nine participating students:
1. How did each student experience the White Water Writers Project?
2. Did the White Water Writers Project affect the classroom behavior of each student?
3. Did the White Water Writers Project influence each student's sense of competence?
1. The majority of the students have a positive experience with the project.
2. The majority of students and teachers see a change in student behavior upon completing the project.
3. The majority of the students feel more competent after completing the project.
To answer the research questions, we first look at the research method. In the method section, information is provided about the participants, procedure and measurements. In the third chapter the results are discussed, starting with the descriptive statistics, followed by the student experience, behavior and sense of competence for each participant. At last, we look at the discussion, limitations and recommendations for further research.
The project was permitted by the ethical committee of the University of Amsterdam. The sample population comprised students from a primary school in the Netherlands. Students from the school were engaged in the project for five days. Students could join the project voluntarily
but could only participate with written consent from a parent or legal guardian. The project leader asked teachers to inform students of the project and recruit students interested in joining. There were no exclusion criteria, as the site provided access to the sample population. Since the target population was young writers, teachers and other support staff were not welcome to join or influence the creative process.
The project was the first collaborative writing program in the Netherlands. As such, the project was co-coordinated by a project leader engaged in the United Kingdom program. The project leader was a master's student at the University of Amsterdam. A 5-day schedule was developed to guide students throughout the learning process, as described in appendix A. The supervisor of this project, Professor X. Moonen, can provide a complete description of this 5-day guideline for further research. During the 5-day writing process, the collaborative learning approach was implemented and observed among the students. For the Dutch version of the White Water Writers Project, there was a collaboration with an art project called Mish Mash. It is the first time an art project has been used to design the book cover. Mish Mash is an art project by Doron Hirsch (https://www.doronhirsch.com/mish-mash). Mish Mash is a tool used to create art; it is an experimental mobile game for creating large, surrealistic collaborative drawings.
In addition to helping students create a novel in five days, this Dutch project included assessing the nine participating students' psychological features and their interactions during the week. Classroom observations, student interviews, questionnaires and co-composing sessions were collected as data for this study.
As mentioned in the first chapter, this study uses qualitative data. This choice was made because this study involved the first implementation of the White Water Writers in the Netherlands.
In this pilot study, the goal was to obtain as much information as possible for future projects. The findings from the participating students are described as a case study. A case study is advantageous as it involves the collection of a high volume of information. The existing theory about collaborative learning can be supported with practical knowledge.
Observations, interviews and standardized questionnaires were used to gather a large amount of information. Conducting a pilot study will allow the researcher to develop and enhance any skills needed to commence more extensive research.
The first research question, "How did each student experience the White Water Writers Project?" was answered using interviews. To answer the second question, "Did the White Water Writers Project affect the classroom behavior of each student?" and the third question, "Did the White Water Writers Project influence each student's sense of competence?" a pretest-posttest approach was chosen. A pretest-posttest construction makes it possible to observe differences in student outcomes before and after the 5-day writing period was completed. Data were collected a month before and immediately after the completion of the project. The aim was to compare and contrast the parameters before and after the project.
To address the first research question. ("How did each student experience the White Water Writers Project?"), interviews were used to provide conclusive and explorative data on how the study impacted the psychological makeup of the students. A semi-structured interview was chosen because this type of interview is well-suited to exploring attitudes, values, beliefs and motives (Brophy, 1999). This kind of interview also provides more detailed information about student perspectives on the learning process, including its strengths; about perceived challenges during the learning process, and advantages of the collaborative writing and learning approach. The
interviews contained several questions in a fixed order. When necessary, students could be asked follow-up questions to gather more detail. The data collected were used to analyze the students' perception of and personal experiences related to the study. Student interviews were conducted one-on-one before, during and after the writing exercise.
To answer the second question ("Did the White Water Writers Project affect the classroom behavior of each student?"), two questionnaires were used, namely a Dutch translation of the Youth Self Report (YSR) for learners and the Teachers Report Form (TRF) for teachers. These questionnaires were chosen because the YRS and the TRF are screening instruments that provide insight into students' behavior experienced by students and teachers.
The YRS and TRF questionnaires are proven to be effective for this kind of research. The Dutch Test Affairs Committee (COTAN) scored the YRS on the following criteria: construct validity (sufficient), criterion validity (sufficient) and reliability (good). The COTAN scored the TRF as follows: construct validity (sufficient), criterion validity (sufficient) and reliability (good).
The TRF is also an efficient screening instrument and takes relatively little time to complete. The decision to use this short questionnaire was partly due to its efficiency, considering the already high workload of the students and teachers. The questionnaire consists of 113 questions that can be answered using three answers: "not true = 0," "a little bit true = 1," and "definitely true = 2."
The TRF and YRS questionnaires were used to measure hyperactivity-inattention, emotional symptoms, peer problems, conduct problems, and prosocial behavior. The questionnaires were issued to the teachers and students to conduct a multi-faceted analysis of the project's effects.
The YRS questionnaire was administered to students in a classroom setting while students sat at different tables. Students could ask the test leader any questions to clarify anything they did not understand. The pretest questionnaire was administered a month before the project, whereas
the post-test questionnaire was issued on the final day of the project. The TRF questionnaire was administered to teachers, and responses for all participating students were collected. This questionnaire was also first issued a month before the project, and the post-test survey was conducted a week after the project. Teachers were instructed not to discuss their responses with students and to return answers scaled in an envelope to the researcher.
For the third research question ("Did the White Water Writers Project influence each student's sense of competence?"), the Dutch translation of the Self-Perception Profile for Children (Competentie-Belevingsschaal voor Kinderen; CBSK) was used. The CBSK assesses what children think about themselves and how they estimate their competence and adequacy in relevant areas of life. This questionnaire was chosen because it sets students' perception of their competencies. Pretest and post-test assessments enabled the comparison of students' self-image before and after the White Water Writers Project
The Dutch version of the CBSK has high validity and reliability (Muris, Meesters, & van den Berg, 2003; Veerman, Straathof, Treffers, Van den Bergh, & Ten Brink, 1997). This test has already been used widely in research to assess academic outcomes among elementary and primary school-going students in Finland (Koskelainen, Sourander, & Kaljonen, 2000), Spain (Rodríguez- Hernández et al., 2012), Italy (Di Riso et al., 2010). The COTAN scored the CBSK on the following criteria: construct validity (sufficient), criterion validity (insufficient) and reliability (sufficient).
The CBSK questionnaires were used to measure six variables: scholastic competence, social acceptance, athletic competence, physical appearance, behavioral conduct and global self- worth. These variables were considered equally important in measuring the perceived effects of the study on the participating children.
a. Scholastic competence: how smart does the child think he or she is? What does the child think about his or her school performance?
b. Social acceptance: does the child think he or she is part of the group? Does he or she believe he or she has enough friends, and does he or she think it is easy to make new friends? Does the child think he or she is loved?
c. Athletic competence: does the child think he or she is skilled in sports, physical education and outside games?
d. Physical appearance: what does the child think about his or her appearance? How does he or she think they look?
e. Behavioral conduct: does the child think his or her behavior is good? Does the child do things that are not allowed? Does the child act as expected?
f. Global self-worth: how does the child appreciate himself or herself as a person? How is his or her self-esteem?
The questionnaire was administered in the classroom a month before the writing project started and on the last day of the writing project. The students answered the questionnaire independently but were allowed to ask questions to clarify anything they did not understand.
Parents received the CBSK questionnaire in the form of a closed envelope with instructions one month before the project began. The enclosed instructions requested that parents not discuss questionnaire answers with their children and return answers sealed in an envelope.
Results Descriptive statistics
The writing group consisted of nine primary school students aged 10–12 years. Most of the students were eleven years old (5), a couple of students were twelve years old (3) and one student
was ten years old. Six girls and three boys were participating. Two students with a learning disability (specifically, dyslexia) joined the study. The student tracking system used by the primary school captured the children's abilities in reading comprehension, technical reading, spelling and vocabulary. Table 1 (Appendix B) indicates that participants' scores in language skills varied widely.
Results per participant
Research question 1: How did each student experience the White Water Writers Project?
Students provided their perspectives on the learning process, including their perceived strengths and challenges. They also discussed the pros and cons of collaborative learning. The student interviews elicited different responses on a wide range of learning-related topics. Reading and writing in class were compared to reading and writing during this project. In the following sections, every student interview is first summarized. Secondly, students' ratings on four topics are provided:
(1) reading and writing in the classroom, (2) reading and writing in this project, (3) collaboration in class and (4) collaboration in this project. For an overview of students' ratings, see Table 2 (Appendix B). Thirdly, students' favorite parts of the project are listed.
Research question 2: Did the White Water Writers Project affect the classroom behavior of
each student? The students assessed their classroom behavior before and after the project; see Table 3 (Appendix B). Their teachers answered the same questions about the students to determine whether teachers observed the same behavioral changes, see Table 4 (Appendix B). A distinction has been made between internalizing behavior, externalizing behavior and a total score.
Research question 3: Did the White Water Writers Project influence each student's sense of competence? The students rated their sense of competence before and after the project to assess whether improvement, an impairment, or no difference. The scales used were scholastic
competence, social acceptance, athletic competence, physical appearance, behavioral conduct and global self-worth. See Table 5 (Appendix B).
Experience. Student 1 described the reading and writing education he receives at school as annoying because he gets bad grades in these subjects. Student 1 did experience reading and writing within this project as positive. In this project, this student appreciated the freedom of choice he had when choosing subjects and storylines. He found reading and writing within this project more fun than in the regular curriculum. Student 1 prefers working independently, but he liked this project due to its small group size. In this student's typical learning experience, a classroom explanation is followed by independent work. Student 1 was enthusiastic about his learning process during the White Water Writers Project. His favorite part of the project was brainstorming about the storyline and the characters.
Behavior. Student 1 noticed no difference in his internalizing behavior between pre-and post-test surveys, nor did the teacher. Both teacher and student did observe a slight improvement in externalizing behavior after the project. Only the student himself saw an improvement in the total score. All scores fell within the normal range, indicating no behavioral problems before or after the project.
Competence. Student 1 saw improvements in his academic competence and behavioral conduct. However, there were no changes in his pre-post test scores for social acceptance, athletic competence, physical appearance, nor global self-worth. Student 1 had no impairment in any metric.
Experience. Student 2 expressed that he enjoys reading and writing in the classroom. He would like to choose a topic he is interested in when reading and writing in class, but this is usually impossible. Student 2 likes to work with others. When he has to work for himself in the classroom, he is unable to concentrate. He dislikes spelling. In this project, he appreciated that other students could help him with spelling. He was able to help other students generate ideas, so everyone was able to contribute their strengths to the project. He also enjoyed giving and receiving compliments.
Student 2 enjoyed working in pairs or triplets. His favorite part of the project was drawing the cover of the book.
Behavior. According to his teacher, the internalizing behavior of Student 2 did not change after the project. However, Student 2 noted a positive change in his internalizing behavior after the project. The same was true of externalizing behavior. The teacher saw no change, but Student 2 indicated an improvement. This difference between the teacher and student's perception remained the same in the total score. The teacher did not see a pre-posttest difference, while Student 2 saw an improvement.
Competence. Student 2 saw no change in any of the items on the questionnaire. His perceived competence in scholastic competence, social acceptance, athletic competence, physical appearance, behavioral conduct, and global self-worth remained the same.
Experience. Student 3 likes reading in class, but she does not like the writing exercises.
This contrasts with her experience in the project, in which she liked writing because it alternated with reading. She enjoyed working in short blocks with high task variety. She also liked the variety of working alone, working in pairs and working as a group. This structure allowed students to
complement each other. Student 2 enjoyed the last day of the project the most. She was happy with the result.
Behavior. The teacher noticed no change in Student 3's internalizing behavior after the project; however, the student noticed an improvement. For externalizing behavior, the opposite applied. The teacher saw an improvement, but Student 3 noticed no differences. For the total score, the teacher did not observe any change in Student 3, but the student noted an overall improvement in behavior.
Competence. Student 3 saw no change in social acceptance. She saw an impairment in academic competence and behavioral conduct, but she noticed an improvement in athletic competence, physical appearance and global self-worth.
Experience. Student 4 finds reading and writing in the classroom fun, but the tasks are often too easy. In this project, Student 4 could read and write at his level and also help other children. In class, Student 4 prefers to work alone, but he is often distracted by other students. In this project, Student 4 enjoyed working as a group because he could help other students and sometimes work alone. It was also nice that it was a small group, so the room was less busy.
Student 4 identified the design of the book cover as the most fun part of the project.
Behavior. According to his teacher, there was no difference in the internalizing behavior of Student 4 before and after the project. On the other hand, Student 4 saw a positive change in his internalizing behavior after the project. The same applied to externalizing behavior. The teacher did not see any change, while Student 4 indicated an improvement. The difference between the teacher and student's perception remained the same in the total score. The teacher did not see a pre-posttest difference, while Student 4 saw an improvement.
Competence. Student 4 noticed an impairment in behavioral conduct. He saw no change in global self-worth, but he saw a post-test improvement in scholastic competence, social acceptance, athletic competence and physical appearance.
Experience. Student 5 likes to write stories. She does not enjoy writing in class because the subjects are chosen; it is more fun to select topics herself. She does not like reading in class, but she enjoys reading in her spare time. In this project, Student 5 was very enthusiastic about writing the book. She liked the freedom of choice. In class, Student 5 likes to work with other students. She finds time passes more quickly when she works with others. In this project, she was enthusiastic about collaborating with the other students. Student 5 thinks working in a small group is better than working in a regular large group. Her favorite part of the project was writing the biography because she was able to write about herself.
Behavior. The teacher noticed no differences in the internalizing behavior of Student 5.
Student 5 saw an impairment in her internalizing behavior. For externalizing behavior, no change was caught by the teacher, but the student saw an improvement. The same applied to the total score. The teacher did not notice any difference in Student 5's behavior after the project. However, Student 5 noticed an improvement.
Competence. Student 5 saw changes in every component of the CBSK. She noticed an impairment in scholastic competence, athletic competence, physical appearance and behavioral conduct. However, for social acceptance and global self-worth, she saw an improvement.
Experience. Student 6 finds reading and writing at school either fun and boring, depending on the subject. Sometimes, these skills are complicated; other times, they are effortless. In this
project, reading and writing did not feel like an obligation. The activities were fun and felt like free time instead of learning. The student enjoyed inventing her character. In terms of collaboration, Student 6 deemed the project successful. She enjoyed helping the other students.
Student 6 remarked that working together is also possible in the classroom, but assignments are generally completed alone. Collaboration ensures that a group can achieve more together. Student 6 was most enthusiastic about Mish Mash.
Behavior. Neither Student 6 nor the teacher observed any behavior change. This applied to externalizing behavior, internalizing behavior and the total score.
Competence. For most of the components of the CSBK, Student 6 noticed no changes.
She saw an impairment in athletic competence, but she saw an improvement in academic competence.
Experience. Student 7 has dyslexia. She finds it challenging to engage in reading and writing in a classroom setting. She describes normal learning activities as boring because they lack variety or students do not participate in decision-making. She found this project engaging. She was enthusiastic about choosing her character and about this character's role in the storyline. Student 7 expressed appreciation for the teamwork and all of its benefits. The only downside to working was the slow nature of the collaboration. She said that she could work faster on her own. However, working in a small group was faster than working in a regular class setting. Her favorite activity was the brainstorming session on the first day of the project because everything was still possible.
Behavior. According to her teacher, there was no difference in the internalizing behavior of Student 7 before and after the project. Student 7 noticed a positive change in her internalizing behavior after the project. The same applied to externalizing behavior. The teacher did not see any
change, while Student 7 indicated an improvement. The difference between the teacher and student's perception remained the same in the total score. The teacher did not see a pre-posttest difference, while Student 7 saw an improvement.
Competence. Student 7 indicated no change in several components of the CBSK: athletic competence, physical appearance and global self-worth. She felt less competent in social acceptance but more competent in scholastic competence and behavioral conduct.
Experience. Student 8 likes to read and write. She likes when she is allowed to read and write in class. She also enjoys reading in her spare time. She was very enthusiastic about reading and writing in this project. Sometimes it was difficult when she was stuck on an idea, but often other students could help her. She was pleased that the group wrote a book. Collaborating on this project was more fun than collaborating in class because it was quieter in the room and fewer students. She enjoyed frequently switching between working alone and working together. Her favorite part of the week was setting up the storyline on Day 1.
Behavior. The teacher noticed no improvement in Student 8's internalizing behavior.
However, the student saw an improvement. For externalizing behavior, the opposite applied. The teacher saw an improvement, but Student 8 observed no change. In the total score, the teacher noticed no difference, but Student 8 noticed an improvement.
Competence. Student 8 observed no changes in athletic competence. She noticed an impairment in behavioral conduct. She saw improvement in the following areas: scholastic competence, social acceptance, physical appearance and global self-worth.
Experience. Student 9 often finds reading and writing boring, either because these activities lack variety or because she cannot participate in decision-making. She finds a lack of choice boring because she does not have a sense of autonomy. Student 9 likes to work alone because she can work much faster. She also enjoys working with others, but it takes longer to complete a task in a group. In this project, Student 9 enjoyed working alone just as much as working together. The variety was pleasant. Her favorite part of the project was the book presentation and the drawing of the book cover.
Behavior. According to her teacher, there was no difference in the internalizing behavior of Student 9 after the project. Student 9 noticed a positive change in her internalizing behavior after the project. The same applied to externalizing behavior: the teacher did not see any change, while Student 9 indicated an improvement. The teacher and student's perception was consistent in the total score: the teacher did not see a pre-posttest difference, while Student 9 saw an improvement.
Competence. Student 9 observed impairment in her social acceptance. There was no change in athletic competence or behavioral conduct. She noticed an improvement in scholastic competence, physical appearance and global self-worth.
The participating students compared their pleasure and attitude while reading and writing in class to their pleasure and attitude while reading and writing throughout the project. Students 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9 indicated that they enjoyed reading and writing during the project more than reading and writing in the classroom. Student 8 noted that she had no preference for reading and writing in class over reading and writing in the project. The students were asked about their experiences with collaboration in the classroom compared to collaboration during the project.
Students 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 indicated that they experienced collaboration during the project more positively than during collaboration in the classroom. Students 3 and 5 stated that they saw no difference in classroom collaboration than collaboration during the project.
For an overview of behavioral changes seen by students, see Table 6 (Appendix B). Most students saw an improvement in their externalizing behavior in the classroom after completing the project. Specifically, Students 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 9 saw progress in this area. No students saw a deterioration in externalizing behavior. Students 3, 6, and 8 saw no difference. A similar pattern was observed for internalizing behavior. Most students saw an improvement, namely Students 2, 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9. Students 1 and 6 saw no difference. Only Student 5 reported a deterioration in behavior after the project. When the total score is considered, most students saw an improvement in their behavior (specifically, Students 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9). No student saw a deterioration in his or her behavior. For students 5 and 6, there was no difference after the project.
Unlike the students, the teachers observed little change in classroom behavior after the project. The changes in behavior seen by the teachers are shown in Table 7 (Appendix B). Teachers saw an improvement in three students, namely Students 1, 3 and 8. Teachers saw no deterioration in behavior. They saw no difference in students 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9. For internalizing behavior, the teachers observed no difference in behavior for any of the students after the project. In the total score, the teachers also observed no difference in the behavior of the participating students.
Sense of Competence
For an overview of changes in the sense of competence seen by students, see Table 8 (Appendix B). On the scholastic competence scale, most students noticed an improvement, namely Students 1, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Two students experienced a decline in their sense of scholastic
competence (Students 3 and 5). Student 2 did not see any difference after the project. Students 1, 2, 3 and 6 saw no difference on the social acceptance scale after completing the project. Three students saw an improvement, namely Students 4, 5 and 8. Two students found that their sense of social acceptance deteriorated. Students 3 and 4 saw progress and Students 5 and 6 saw a decline in their athletic competence. Students 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9 saw no difference in this area. Concerning physical appearance, only Student 5 saw a decline. The majority of the students experienced either no change or an improvement in this area. Four students reported no difference (Students 1, 2, 6 and 7), and four students saw an improvement (Students 3, 4, 8 and 9). The majority see no change in behavioral conduct (specifically Students 2, 4, 6 and 9). Students 3, 5 and 8 experienced a deterioration in this area, while students 1 and 7 saw an improvement. All students saw no difference for global self-worth (Students 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7) or an improvement (Students 3, 5, 8 and 9).
In this study, the effect of the White Water Writers Project was tested by assessing the collaborative learning experiences of participants in a primary school in the Netherlands. Three topics were discussed, namely the students' experiences, changes in students' behavior, and their sense of competence. In this section, the results of this research are discussed and compared with findings in the literature.
Qualitative interviews were held during and after the project to show how the students experienced the White Water Writers Project. Results indicate that the experiences of the students were mainly positive.
Data related to the first research question demonstrate that participating students experienced the positive effects of cooperative learning. A majority of the students reported a more positive experience participating in the writing project than during a conventional learning experience; most students considered traditional learning boring. Students described the cooperative learning approach as successful and creative. To create a cooperative learning environment, the project complied with the five basic elements of cooperative learning. There was a combination of individual and group work, and the group worked together on a composition.
Suitable research instruments were used to explore the cooperative learning environment.
The positive results are consistent with findings in the literature. The five basic elements of cooperative learning were confirmed. These elements are positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, individual accountability and personal responsibility, frequent use of interpersonal and small group social skills, and frequent, regular group processing of current functioning (Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1991). Positive interdependence was achieved as the students collaborated to create a storyline. The students supported each other by providing information about the characters and feedback on the written chapters. Face-to-face promotive interaction was achieved by moments of group consultation and by working together in pairs.
Individual accountability and personal responsibility were achieved by giving students responsibility for a character. By writing biographies and organizing a book presentation, all students could take credit for their contributions to the book. Frequent use of social skills was also a significant aspect of the project. Days 1, 2 and 5, in particular, focused on working in groups and pairs. The students were challenged to brainstorm, discuss, give presentations and provide feedback. According to the students, this project placed more emphasis on social skills than standard classroom lessons did. A daily group discussion about progress achieved regular group
processing of current functioning made that day. On Day 5, there was time for students to celebrate and evaluate the project. Filling in the questionnaires was also part of assessing the project. Thus, the findings in this research confirm the theory of Johnson, Johnson and Smith (1991). The students experienced positive effects of a cooperative learning environment, which complied with the five basic elements of cooperative learning.
A meta-analysis by Slavin (1996) has indicated that cooperative learning is most effective when students receive an individual reward in addition to a group reward. In this project, there was a balance between individual and group work. As suggested by the five basic elements of cooperative learning, the students wrote alone, but there was plenty of time to discuss ideas, give feedback and help each other. The majority of the students mentioned this combination of individual and group work because it differs from a regular class setting. Thus, this research shows the positive effect of cooperative learning with attention for both individual and group reward; this confirms the theory of Slavin (1996).
In this research, the students were of different ages, genders and school levels. Previous research has emphasized heterogeneous group composition as a condition for the efficacy of cooperative learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1994; Slavin, 1995). The students mentioned the positive effect of feedback because other students may have had different perspectives so that these peers could offer further contributions. For students to complement one another's strengths, the group composition needs to be as heterogeneous as possible. Students of different educational levels benefit from working with students at another level because learning is, besides an individual process, also a social process, where students of varying school levels can learn from each other (Johnson & Johnson, 1994).
This research shows that positive effects of cooperative learning can be reached by heterogeneous group composition, as stated by Johnson and Johnson (1994) and Slavin (1995).
Pre- and post-test results of two standardized questionnaires, the TRF and YRS, were used to show if the White Water Writers Project affects the students' classroom behavior. The results indicated that all the student scores fell within the normal range for these tests. Improvements in students' prosocial behavior, peer relations, attention levels, conduct problems and emotional symptoms were observed. Looking at the students' perception of their behavior, the students experienced a positive change in classroom behavior in the days that followed the cooperative learning project.
Previous research supports the positive effect of cooperative learning on the social development of students (Veenman, Kenter, & Post, 2000). Nevertheless, cooperative learning is still rarely used in the Netherlands, where learning is mainly seen as an individual matter. This is explained by Veenman et al. (2000), who note that Dutch primary schools often work in a group and not as a group. The positive change in classroom behavior perceived by students could result from the social development they experienced during the project. However, behavioral changes were only noticed by the participating students; the teachers did not notice a difference in student behavior after the project. The difference in perception of the classroom behavior between students and teachers is striking. This discrepancy can be explained by the role of the feedback structure in cooperative learning. The teacher plays a vital role in cooperative learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1994). They provide feedback and demonstrate and explain how something is done, and in this way, they allow students to provide constructive feedback to each other. In this project, the teacher's role was filled by the project leaders. The teachers were not in the classroom during the
project, so they were not part of the feedback structure. Johnson and Johnson (1994) mentioned that being a part of the cooperative learning process is essential to observe behavioral differences.
The students, however, were part of the feedback structure and, therefore, part of the cooperative learning process. This inconsistency could be why the students notice more changes in classroom behavior after the project than the teachers did.
Thus, this research shows that a behavioral change is possible when the essential elements of cooperative learning are fulfilled, as explained by Veenman et al. (2000). But this research clarifies it’s necessary to be part of the cooperative learning structure to see changes, as stated by Johnson and Johnson (1994).
Self-report questionnaires are often used to evaluate treatment programs. Several internal and external factors can influence the completion of self-report questionnaires. Internal factors are socially desirable responses, insight into one's behavior and moral awareness. Respondents may tend to portray themselves in a favorable manner (Paulhus, 2002). This tendency seems to be related to the importance the respondent attaches to the outcome and the theme of the questionnaire. In this study, an attempt was made to reduce socially desirable behavior by comforting the respondents. The results of the questionnaires were only viewed by the researcher and were processed anonymously, as recommended by Drenth and Sijtsma (2006). External factors are the presence or absence of the researcher, the format of the questionnaires and the test settings.
In this research, a standardized test was chosen. The researcher was not present while the test was administered, and the test took place in a classroom setting to make the respondents feel more comfortable.
Sense of competence
The CBSK pre-test and post-test results were used to show if the White Water Writers Project influenced the students' sense of competence. Results demonstrated a positive difference or no change for most of the student competencies.
There are many differences between each scale and student. In general, students were more likely to see no change or an improvement than a decline in their sense of competence. A positive change in feeling competent could be a result of the cooperative learning strategy. De Bie (2002) has found that cooperative learning has had a positive effect on feeling competent. In a learning environment with a focus on competencies, students are better prepared for professional practice later in life. Cooperative learning allows students to practice these competencies. Cooperative learning offers didactic possibilities. For example, students need to explain concepts to each other, demonstrate their skills and constructively criticize each other. In this project, the competencies of individual students were emphasized by focusing more on students' practical ability than on their theoretical knowledge. Theoretical knowledge was not neglected, but more emphasis was placed on practical ability.
Cooperative learning can increase academic motivation and achievement. Research has indicated that cooperative learning enhances students' learning achievements and social development (Fredricks, Blumenfeld & Paris, 2004). The positive effects of cooperative learning have garnered new interest in this method. Cooperative learning incorporates modern ideas of learning as a social, cultural and interpersonal constructive process (Krol, Janssen, Veenman, &
van der Linden, 2004). Thus, this research shows a change in feeling competent by using a cooperative learning strategy, as De Bie (2002) explained. The White Water Writers Project is
appropriate when the focus lies on learning as a social, cultural, and interpersonal constructive process, as Krol et al. (2004) mentioned.
The third research question was answered using a self-report questionnaire. This instrument was chosen for the same reason self-report questionnaires were used for the second research question. Self-report questionnaires allow a researcher to explore internal factors, such as one's sense of competence—the respondents filled in the different questionnaires simultaneously, under the same circumstances. However, the students' tendency to provide socially acceptable answers may have influenced the study's outcome.
The study has several shortcomings. One of the limitations is the relatively small sample size. A larger sample size would increase the validity and reliability of the collected information and represent the broader student population in the Netherlands.
The second limitation of this research was the language differences between the project leader and the participating students. The project leader spoke English, whereas the native language of the students was Dutch. Most of the students indicated that they understood most of the information given in English, but there were some moments of confusion during the communication process. The second project leader operated as a translator, but providing all instructions in the same language could have made the project easier for the young participants.
Another limitation of this research was the time pressure identified by the participating teachers. The teachers were already experiencing a heavy workload, and filling in the questionnaires was a source of increased pressure. This pressure could have influenced the teachers' ratings
Furthermore, the classroom schedule of the students was a limitation in this research.
According to the manual of this project used in the United Kingdom, this project required five full school days. However, in the Netherlands, primary schools have shorter class schedules than primary schools in the United Kingdom. The project consequently had to be completed in less time. Furthermore, students were occasionally removed from the project room to perform a regular school task. To prevent this interruption, better agreements between the project leaders and teachers should be present in any future project. In future research, it would also be helpful to standardize the observation methods applied in the current study and to include a second observer.
Finally, the project lacked a follow-up assessment. The pretest took place a month before the project started and the post-test took place directly after the project was finished. Shortly after the project's completion, the participants went on summer holidays. Additional post-tests could have provided more information about the long-term effects of this project.
This research indicated that the White Water Writers Project positively affected cooperative learning, student outcomes, and student competencies. More schools should be encouraged to participate in the White Water Writers Project. This project could benefit primary school students and other groups of young students or young adults.
As mentioned in the introduction of this research, after conducting this pilot project and observing how typically developing students participated, it can be concluded that the White Water Writers Project could be relevant for Dutch children with learning disabilities. This recommendation is made with some reserves because benefits to these students have not yet been specifically assessed. To maximally benefit students with learning disabilities, some aspects of the project should be reconsidered. To acquire new skills, children need to find solutions
independently and reflect on outcomes. However, children with learning disabilities often seem to experience difficulties reflecting on their behavior, thoughts and feelings (Zisimopoulos &
Galanaki, 2009). Therefore, a stricter degree of control could be necessary when children with learning disabilities complete this project. An additional structure may benefit these participants.
A White Water Writers Project for children with learning disabilities could be completed with a smaller group of participants to reach this goal. This smaller group size would give the project leader more time for individual coaching and guidance. It is easier for an instructor to address diverse levels of cognitive skills and capabilities in a small group. A positive approach is considered essential for these students because they may experience anxiety if faced with failure.
A study by de Wit, Moonen and Douma (2011) can provide a guideline for effective interventions for juveniles with a mild intellectual disability (MID). These guidelines identify six essential aspects. The following elements could be incorporated to render the project more suitable for juveniles with a MID: more extensive diagnostics to match participants, coordination of communication, concrete exercise material, pre-structuring and simplifying tasks, involving existing social networks to ensure generalization of learned competencies and creating a safe and positive learning environment. Applying these guidelines could make the White Water Writers Project more suitable for students with MID.
It was an honor to be part of the first White Water Writers Project in the Netherlands. I am very proud of our collective accomplishments and my learning experience while writing my thesis.
Simply said, I could not have done it alone.
First of all, I would like to thank my supervisor, Professor Xavier Moonen. His enthusiasm about the project was inspiring and his feedback illuminating. I want to thank you for the opportunity to participate in such a fun project. My thesis would not have been written in proper English without your grammatical insights.
I would like to express my gratitude to the students, teachers and the school principal, Ad Jeurissen for the warm welcome and the excellent collaboration. I am proud of the nine participating students. They have shown endless enthusiasm and perseverance. And it turned out so well! You did write a book in a week. Really cool!
I also sincerely thank the very experienced project leader, Daniel Boatwright. The language barrier did not stop you from coming to the Netherlands. Your experience has resolved into a successful and exciting project.
Next, I would like to thank Doron Hirsch. With your enthusiastic support, the students designed the most fantastic book covers. The Mish Mash project is an excellent addition to the White Water Writers Project. Thank you for your invested time.
Furthermore, Yvonne Skipper and Richard Seymour, many thanks for answering all my questions about the project. I felt at ease to ask anything I needed to know.
Finally, my thanks go to the National Knowledge Centre LVG. Without their support, it would have been impossible to bring the White Water Writers Project to the Netherlands.
Last but not least, I would like to thank my roommates for their unconditional love and support. Thanks for being there during this ongoing writing process. I could not have done it without all your coffee, food, comfort and activities to clear my mind.
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