Monday, May 26, 2008

Of Bibliographies and Annotations

1) Murray, Christopher and Naranjo, Jason. “Black, Learning Disabled, and Graduating: An Investigation of Factors and Processes Associated with School Completion Among High-Risk Urban Youth”. Hammill Institute on Disabilities Remedial and Special Education. (May/June 2008) 29: pages 145-160.

Eleven graduating African American high school seniors of low income backgrounds are interviewed in this study that examines what factors come into play as having an influence on whether or not a student graduates from high school. The setting is a high-risk urban location and individual, family, peer and teacher factors are explored for their influence on student graduation. Several themes are explored, from parental involvement and structure to the degree of teacher demanding; and students provide personal insights of what is helpful/not helpful. The article stresses that it is important to bolster families, communities, and schools with strong support systems for our youth; as well as to work on the elimination of the social and structural chasms of inequality. I strongly agree with this, however the “how” this will happen is a question that remains.

2) Muller, Patricia A.; Stage, Francis K.; and Kinzie, Jillian.
“Science Achievement Growth Trajectories: Understanding Factors Related to Gender and Racial-Ethnic Differences in Precollege Science Achievement”. American Educational Research Association, American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Winter, 2001), pages 981-1012.

Different racial-ethnic and gender groups were compared in studies of pre-college science achievement and growth rates. It was found that socio-economic status and previous grades were strongly correlated to 8th grade achievement in science; and that the amount of science taken in high school was the best indicator of science growth, across all racial-ethnic by gender sub-groups. Women and students of color are less academically prepared in science, and research points out that the time to catch them is before college. The study utilized hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) and longitudinal data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS: 88). Since individual-level factors and associated science growth rates and other individual-level variables were quite disparate, we need additional research.

3) Towns, Donna Penn; Cole-Henderson, Beverly; and Serpell, Zewelanji. “The Journey to Urban School Success: Going the Extra Mile”. The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 70, No. 1/2, Samplings from Howard University CRESPAR (Winter - Spring, 2001), pages 4-18.

Four urban schools (all of different size, structure and finances) are studied in depth to determine why they succeed in rendering quality education effectively while others do not. The common thread found amongst all is a shared vision by all stakeholders involved, and effort beyond standard expectations to ensure success; including the efforts of administrators, teachers, parents, and students. What I appreciate very much about this study is that it does not use solely test scores to gage student performance to indicate quality education but examines cognitive, affective, and behavioral effects. It also recognizes that past “effective” school studies have not focused on those serving minority students.

4) Lee, Okhee and Anderson, Charles W. “Task Engagement and Conceptual Change in Middle School Science Classrooms”. American Educational Research Association, American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 585-610.

Twelve 6th grade students in two classrooms were provided with adequate instruction and extensive support to understand science better, in order to study task engagement of students in two areas of research: research related to their science knowledge and learning; and motivation research. I believe the observation and study of these two areas in concert to be vital in order to steer clear of a one-sided argument that bypasses other variables. It seems that the declining levels of student achievement in science can be linked to both a lack of understanding of the content as well as lack of desire or motivation to learn it, so I like that this article takes a look at both. The studies found that an interplay of several factors

5) Article in Review: “Educative experiences and early childhood science education: A Deweyan perspective on learning to observe” by Elaine V. Howes. Teaching and Teacher Education: Volume 24, Issue 3, (April 2008), pages 536-549.

This article details a study on the teaching of science at the elementary school level utilizing some of John Dewey’s ideals of education. The data was gathered at Monarca Elementary School, an urban public school in a poor to working class immigrant neighborhood with predominantly Latino students. More than 60% of students are ESL learners and more then 90% qualify for free lunch.

The author, formerly a secondary school and college-level science teacher, functioned as a participant observer and offered routine consultation to the teacher study group developed from a set of instructors at the school. She also made observations in the classrooms and participated in co-teaching experiences in after-school science programs. She related Dewey’s take on education and how these views manifested within this urban school study; what was effective and what was not.

One of Dewey’s arguments involves “educative” processes functioning to promote and develop a learner’s desire to pursue further learning experiences related to the current experiences at hand, and that these experiences engage children on intellectual, emotional and social levels. This study showed that having small animals (such as slugs, ants, butterflies, a mini-ecosystem) in the classroom helped to provide an “impulse” in children to examine and question, leading to a potential educative experience. It was found that it was not only the animals themselves but that the teacher guidance that mattered as well. Mis-educative experiences, such as bringing a hamster into a classroom and not caring for it well or bringing animals in just for ‘fun’ and not connecting the children’s experience more than sheer entertainment, can happen and I see how these do not provide quality learning experiences.

He also emphasized the value of children’s connectedness of presented material with previous and future life and learning experiences. I agree that we cannot just bring in super engaging science experiences and expect that students will maintain an interest beyond those first brief moments of excitement at seeing a wall of ants crawling about in a terrarium but need to connect it to their current knowledge base, their past experiences, and what we hope they will be learning in the future. We also need to instill in them more questions to will push them to want to explore and learn more.

Dewey, as well as the study, also maintain that it is not really the activity itself that is so important as the student – teacher interactions. Observations in the classroom, followed by a free-choice activity of taking notes and creating diagrams to record, incorporating whole class discussion and creation of original texts as well as discussing ideas with a classmate (such as ‘think-pair-share’), and using student questions to guides the direction of the learning, were all methods that were found to be effective in these classrooms in accordance with Dewey’s ideology.

There is so much more to this, but I will finish with a conclusive thought: that it is not one of these methods alone that will do the trick to create a powerful ‘hands-on’ or ‘real-world’ learning experience that Dewey visualizes but the combination of factors and practices.

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