I have found that processing my data has been quite a journey! At first I was really overwhelmed with the amount of numbers I had collected but it was interesting to watch it gradually come together. Overall my research was not as successful as I would have liked, but my data did still offer some interesting conclusions about my research topic. As a part of my study I administered a content based pre and post test, which did show improvement over the course of the study. My students also took a pre and post self-assessment survey which addressed their enjoyment of school as well as how capable they perceived themselves to be. This showed no statistical shift. My study also included a daily engagement survey with an open-ended question which asked students to reflect on their engagement and motivation for the day. This showed that student engagement and motivation started high, then decreased towards the middle of the study, and then increased again at the end of the study.
I used a variety of different data because I felt that engagement and its contributing factors was a very complex thing to assess. Obviously I chose the content based pre and post test to represent what my students had learned as a part of the study. The pre and post self-assessment survey was used to measure a shift in the students enjoyment of school as well as how talented their perceived themselves to be. The daily engagement survey was designed to measure how their engagement shifted throughout the study in response to being provided with student choice.
I have loved this class! While I understand the value in conducting a research project, this class has been the part of a masters program that I have been most excited for. I love being able to discuss all sorts of different teaching beliefs, inspirations, methodologies, and strategies. Because of this class I am more willing to take risks in the classroom, especially regarding technology. To be honest, before this class I didn't really see why using technology is so important in the classroom. Now I understand that not only do we need to teach students how to use technology wisely and responsibly, but that there is a lot out there that can make me a better teacher.
Something I realized in this class that I will take with me forever is that if I want my students to take risks and be willing to fail, then I need to do so as well. I constantly strive to be the best teacher possible, and this has meant that I have hidden my trial and error processes from my students for the sake of saving time, or having smooth classroom management. But this meant that my students never saw me fail, and therefore felt uncomfortable failing themselves. By showing my students how I figure things out through trial and error, or practice, I can model for them the learning I want them to engage in.
I have a tough class this year in terms of academic level, focus, and motivation. I am excited to see how my research on engagement strategies will come together, and I am excited to learn more about how to make school and learning more meaningful for my students.
Not going to lie, I have had a tough time finding research that I felt was relevant and adequate, but I am excited about the three new research articles I found this week. The first is called Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation Orientations in the Classroom: Age Differences and Academic Correlates. In this paper researchers found that intrinsic motivation is highest in third graders and then decreases steadily to eighth graders. They also found that intrinsic motivation correlates with academic success. This is great for my research because it shows that students my age are more likely to benefit from activities which are intrinsically motivating, such as providing them with more meaningful opportunities to make choices. The second article I found this week is called Enhancing Students' Engagement by Increasing Teachers' Autonomy Support. The researchers in this article found that when teachers moved from being controlling to supporting student autonomy, student engagement greatly increased. This means that allowing students to feel more autonomous and that they have control over their learning increases their engagement. Again this is great news for my research because student choice is an autonomy-support strategy, Finally, the last article I found this week is called Effect of Choice on Cognitive and Affective Engagement. In this article the researchers studied if providing students with a choice of assignment increased their effective engagement, relating to how successful they were in learning the material, and their affective engagement, relating to how much they enjoyed completing the assignments. They found, surprisingly that student choice has no effect on effective engagement, but had a positive effect on affective engagement. This meant that students enjoyed completing the assignment more when they were given a choice, but they did not learn the material better. This is surprising because many other studies have found affective and effective engagement being highly correlated. I believe that the reason the researchers got these results is because they were not providing students with a meaningful choice. Self-determination theory states that people work harder for something that is meaningful to them. I think that when providing students with choice in the classroom, it is important that we provide them with a meaningful choice.
The four videos for today all stressed the growing importance of fostering creativity. John Sealy Brown pointed out that our world is changing at an exponential pace. This means that teaching students skills can't possible prepare them for the future, because new skills are constantly being created. In order to prepare our students for the future, we need to foster a creative spirit in them. Howard Gardner expanded on this idea pointing out that every person has multiple intelligences. Every person has something to offer, and has an intelligence that can be fostered. From Ken Robinson and Daniel Pink I learned how to begin to think about fostering creativity in my own classroom. I need to allow time and a secure environment to let my students be creative. To choose to learn about what interests them and to feel unbound by can't or don'ts.
In terms of my own teaching context, I have found it hard to implement opportunities for creativity in the classroom. I think I need to be creative in thinking of providing small opportunities for creativity throughout the day. Working at a Title 1 school means that the days are pretty regimented and most of our time is devoted to, Ken Robinson would be mad, Language Arts and Math. I hope that my research about providing students with more opportunities to choose what they study in a way is giving them space to be creative. A main point I took away from the content this week is that allowing children to be themselves is highly correlated with their creativity. I can encourage my students to be themselves every day and try to embrace that side of creativity as well.
I think that one of the best ways to implement Mobley's 6 keys to creativity is through Problem/Project Based Learning. Working in groups on a project is a non-linear form of learning. It is an environment where learning is a process and being wrong is a necessary part of that process. It also gives students the opportunity to be around, and working with, their other creative classmates. When students are working together to solve a problem they turn the impossible to possible and are encouraged to think of creative solutions. I hope to use this teaching strategy soon!
Both of these instructional models are new, and not new at the same time. I was talking to some friends of mine about education and we decided that no matter how you dress it up or rename it, there are some teaching practices which are just good teaching practices. "Flipping" your classroom refers to a teaching model where students learn content at home from online vides, which allows class time to be devoted to projects and answering questions. This is beneficial to students because it allows for more individualized instruction which is more meaningful to each student. This leads to students being more engaged and embracing new technology. The "Pre-Training Flip" especially spoke to me in terms of applicability to my classroom because it moves the instructional videos to a schema building role. This works better for my teaching context because few of my students have computers with internet in their homes. I would, however, like to introduce more instructional videos into my class time to serve as front loading resources. The Challenge Based Learning instructional model groups students and presents them with real life challenges to solve. This allows students to be creative and demonstrate their curiosity in a way that actually has real world value. I was excited to hear about this instructional model because I can apply it in a way to my research project. My project involves allowing students to choose their own topics for short research reports. I could easily shift the assignment to allowing students to choose a problem to solve related to the content I am teaching at the time. I think this would increase their engagement to the content because it would give them a tangible reason for learning it.
Once I began researching more about student choice in the classroom, I realized I was not only diving into a rich educational topic, but a psychological topic as well. Providing students with more opportunities for choice in the classroom falls within the umbrella movement of student-centered learning. Student-centered learning is a way of conducting and thinking about teaching where the students are part of each step of the education process, including planning, implementing and assessing. The psychological theory that supports this way of teaching is called self-determination theory. Self-determination theory, recently expanded on by psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard Ryan essentially states that people are willing to work harder when they feel that they are a meaningful part of what they are working for. This all falls rather neatly under Piaget's constructivism approach, which states that students must have a meaningful interaction and relationship with their own learning experience in order to be successful. So there is a huge amount of historical context leading to the student-centered teaching approach that is becoming very popular today. These days teachers and education systems all over the world are experimenting with providing students with more meaningful learning experiences. From project-based learning to flexible seating, students today are being provided with more choice than ever.
I think something that spoke to me the most in the key elements for changing education listed by Darling-Hammond and in the rest of her book is the overall understanding that we need to recognize the disparities that exist between low and high income students. All of the key elements that Hammond list would really work towards making education in this country more equitable. Teaching low-income students it quickly becomes obvious that they need more support, not because there is anything wrong or deficient about them, but simply because they do not have nearly as many opportunities to access learning outside of school. We need to re-alocate our funds and resources towards the students who need them the most.
I also thought Darling-Hammonds focus on accountability and goals was really meaningful for myself and my own teaching. I think "teacher accountability" has been a dirty term since the rise of standardized testing, but I think we need to step back from defensiveness and really consider our objectives. My objective as a teacher is to educate my students as best I can with the time I have with them. I think the nation's education goal should be pretty similar, and we do need a way to assess teachers. Many young teachers today are struggling and without assessment there is no way to help them. But our assessment should be geared towards our objectives. If we want our students to be good test-takers then we should keep the standards-based teacher assessments we have now, but if we want our students to be intelligent, complex, and compassionate people then we need to find a way to hold teachers accountable to that objective.
Overall I believe that if the key elements Darling-Hammond lists were implemented in an intelligent way, the United States would begin to see inequalities decrease and the American education system rapidly improve, especially when compared to other students. The students in Singapore and Finland are doing so well because they are taught how to think. That is what we need to be doing more of here.
This study is contextualized in the ever changing landscape of education. Our current times have brought changes that are not only happening faster and with greater importance, but are impacting the futures of our students. Commonly discussed amongst educators dedicated to providing students with a 21st century education is the fact that we need to be preparing our students today for the unknown possibilities of tomorrow. According to Linda Darling-Hammond in The Flat World and Education the school system established at the dawn of the industrial revolution, which is designed to provide the knowledge needed to work in factories, is now antiquated and unable to provide students with the skills they need in order to be successful in the modern world. While other countries, such as Singapore and Finland, have made substantial changes to their education systems in order to better serve their student, the United States continues to use an old system that no longer works. According to The Nation’s Report Card students in 4th grade scored lower on national standardized tests in 2013 than they did in 1990. Students did score 4 points higher in Science in 2015 than they did in 2009, but were unfortunately still on average below proficient. Part of the reasons students are struggling is because there is a nationwide epidemic of disengagement. According the the National Center for Education Statistics in 2015 6.3% of males and 5.4% of females dropped out of high school. These figures become even more alarming when you consider that 9.9 % of males and 8.4% of females who are hispanic dropped out of high school in 2015. This variance between the national average and the performance of hispanic students is perhaps part of why California, which proudly has very high populations of hispanic students, continues to lag behind the rest of the country on standardized tests. On Math standardized tests in 2015 the national average had 19% of students testing at below basic, compared to 28% of students in California. The national average showed 39% of students as testing at proficient or above, where only 30% of Californian students tested at proficient or above. In Science the national average demonstrated that 37% of students were testing at proficient or above, and 63% of students were testing at basic or below. In California students demonstrated that 24% were proficient, while 76% had a basic or below basic understanding of grade appropriate science standards. Finally California also has higher high school dropout rates than the national average. According to the California Department of Education 11.5% of Californian students drop out of highschool, and 12.6% of hispanic or latino Californian students drop out of high school. In light of all this data I believe that California, as well as the United States needs to find a way to simultaneously re-engage the student population in school and learning, and find new strategies of teaching that better prepare our students for their futures.