My research therefore had two principal aims. First, I wanted to investigate students’ response to learning about Roman civilisation without using the ‘background information’ section of the textbook (or, for that matter, the “Political Life” video available on the CLC e-Learning Resource (CSCP, 2005)), but rather by allowing the issues to arise ‘naturally’ through reading the stories of CLC Stage 11. Second, I wanted to see the extent to which such a reading of Stage 11 could then be used as a springboard to developing students’ understanding of modern politics. On the one hand, therefore, my research contributes to ongoing work on how Classics can best contribute to the teaching of Citizenship; on the other hand, my research also investigates the pedagogy of Classics itself.
In many respects, my research took the form of a case study, in that my aim was partly “to portray, analyse and interpret the uniqueness of real individuals and situations” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 85) by investigating how my class of thirty students responded to our work on politics. Case studies constitute a key method of conducting a “naturalistic enquiry”, that is “an investigation into a specific instance or phenomenon in its real-life context” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 170).
In other respects, however, my research differed from the standard model of a case study. As I had decided deliberately to teach Stage 11 without consulting the ‘background section’ of the textbook, I was altering the way in which students usually encounter the material. That what I was doing differed from the ‘normal practice’ of the school is shown by the experience of the other Year 9 Latin class, which continued to be taught by my mentor, and whose students approached Roman and modern politics through Stage 11 by combining their reading of the Latin stories with study of the ‘background section’ and watching the “Political Life” video from the e-Learning Resource. Since my aim was partly “to plan, implement, review and evaluate an intervention designed to improve practice” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 85), I was conducting a piece of action research alongside the case study.
Due to the interventionist nature of (part of) my research, I needed a way to gauge whether my lessons based around Stage 11 had any effect on the students. I therefore decided to issue a questionnaire to all students at the beginning of my research, and then to issue a second questionnaire to them after the lessons had been completed. In Questionnaire 1 (Appendix 1), I was keen to assess the students’ awareness of modern politics but also their experience of studying Latin and Citizenship prior to my research period. For the former, I presented a series of questions about modern politics, which in some ways resembled a factual test; the content of the questions I based on the material that those seeking British citizenship (or to settle in the UK) must know for the “Life in the UK Test” administered by the Home Office (HMSO, 2003). For the latter, I chiefly asked students to complete rating scales as a means of expressing their views on different aspects of Latin and sources of information used in Latin lessons. For Questionnaire 2 (Appendix 2), I again tested students’ knowledge of modern politics through a series of factual questions, and now added some questions about politics in Pompeii too. I also asked students to complete rating scales to express their views on the different stories in Stage 11 and the sources of information they had used during my research period. In Questionnaire 2 I also gave students the opportunity to write comments in response to certain questions. Once the class had finished the whole of CLC Book 1, I also gave the students a questionnaire drawn up by the CSCP (Appendix 3), which invites comments on which characters and stories in Book 1 students have enjoyed; this questionnaire I hoped would provide additional data relevant to my study.
I decided to use questionnaires as they are a convenient method of collecting data from a whole class; by ensuring the students named their questionnaires (after I had explained to them that their names would not appear in my research), I would also be able to track the development of individuals through analysis of the data collected. Furthermore, by giving a questionnaire to the whole class, I was able to gather data about the ‘whole population’ of my case study, rather than just a sample. Given the small size of that ‘whole population’ (thirty students), I felt that the more data that could be collected, the more reliable my findings would be. Although my research makes no claims to be a comprehensive survey, and did not therefore aim at the “gathering [of] large-scale data in order to make generalizations” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 84), collecting data about thirty student nonetheless also gave scope for some very limited statistics to be compiled. I note the observation that “a sample size of thirty is held by many to be the minimum number of cases if researchers plan to use some form of statistical analysis on their data” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 101) as justification for this.
To improve the sense of the “perceptions and views of participants” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 84) gained from the questionnaires, I also made notes of observations made during the lessons. Observation is recognised as being one of “the main methods for data collection in naturalistic inquiry” (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007, p. 170), and by speaking to students during my lessons, and also just by observing their work and listening to their remarks, I was able to add some flesh to the skeleton provided by the questionnaires. Further flesh was added by conducting careful scrutiny of the students’ exercise books after they had completed their work on Stage 11. Such work constitutes a piece of documentary analysis, a strategy I included in my research as a means of further assessing how students responded to our work on Stage 11 and to investigate whether students had gained an improved understanding of ancient and/or modern politics, even if such an impression had not been shown by their questionnaire answers.
As my research includes an element of action research, I offer an outline of the way in which I taught the lessons on which my research is based. Three one-hour lessons, and one homework slot (after the first lesson), all of which took place within the space of seven days, were available to me (as part of the departmental scheme of learning) to teach Stage 11. In the first lesson, I explained to the students that I was conducting some research and asked them to complete Questionnaire 1. We then looked at the ‘model sentences’ (CSCP, 2002, pp. 146-147) to establish the local election context of Stage 11, and then read the story “Marcus et Quartus” (CSCP, 2002, p. 148), after which we discussed possible reasons why citizens in Pompeii would have supported particular candidates and the concept of (ancient) election slogans. For homework after this lesson, I asked students to look back over the ‘model sentences’ and “Marcus et Quartus” and to make notes in their exercise books on the information those stories contained about elections, and then to compare that information with details of modern elections, which I advised them to find out by talking to an adult (for example, a parent) at home. I was interested to see the outcome of this last stage of the homework given the comments noted above by Brewster and Fager (2000) on the potential for parents to play a role in developing intrinsic motivation for students.
In the second lesson, I began by summarising the content of the story “Sulla” (CSCP, 2002, p. 149), which we did not have time to read as a class. I was content not to read this story fully, as it raises no new concepts about elections, and also because it is not essential to have read this story to follow the storyline of the whole stage. Students then spent a few moments creating their own Pompeii-style electoral slogan in Latin, based on a formula and some suggested Roman names displayed on a PowerPoint slide – an activity designed, in part, to reinforce the idea of verbs that take the dative case, the main grammar point of Stage 11. We then discussed the differences between ancient and modern political advertisements (using PowerPoint slides with pictures of several modern examples), and students added to the notes produced for homework. We then began reading “Lucius Spurius Pomponianus”, focusing on the sections “in villa” and “prope amphitheatrum” (CSCP, 2002, pp. 151-152), and discussing issues as they arose. (The PowerPoint presentation used in this lesson is shown in Appendix 7).
At the start of the third lesson, students made a note about the use of verbs with the dative case. We finished reading “Lucius Spurius Pomponianus”, looking at the “in foro” and “in culina” sections of the story (CSCP, 2002, pp. 152-153) and the issues they raise about the elections. We also discussed more details of politics in Pompeii, using pictures from the textbook as our starting point. As there are some details about politics in Pompeii that are not raised by reading the stories – for example, the titles and duties of Duoviri and Aediles – I wanted to discuss those and, since I did not want to use the text of the ‘background section’, I copied pictures from p. 153 and p. 159 of the textbook (which include abbreviations of the words “Duovir” and “Aedilis”) on to a PowerPoint as a way into a discussion. Although I had to explain details to the students, I felt that approaching it in this way still allowed the “background” information to arise from reading Latin. We then discussed the role of the local council in Pompeii, and compared it to local government in Hertfordshire (where there is a three-tier system of County, District and Town/Parish councils); the students then shared their existing knowledge of the services provided by local councils today to complete a worksheet, based on the “Local Government Activity Sheet” available on the CLC e-Learning Resource (CSCP, 2005). (Resources used in this lesson are collected in Appendix 8). At the end of this third lesson I collected in the students’ exercise books for marking and analysis.
Two-and-a-half weeks after the third lesson, I asked the class to complete Questionnaire 2; I had delayed issuing this second questionnaire to judge the extent to which material from our lessons on Stage 11 had been remembered. A week later, by which point the class had finished Stage 12 and thus the whole of CLC Book 1, the students completed the third, CSCP-produced questionnaire.