Lesson Planning to Support Students’ Argumentation Skills and Learning Outcomes
We want students to participate in class. We want students to share their ideas and opinions. We want students to be able to justify their viewpoints with credible supporting evidence. We want students to engage in meaningful argumentation. To help students do this, authors Antonia Larrain et al. find that it is not enough to simply have class discussions. The design of the lesson plan matters.
How Controlling Teaching Styles Affect Student Motivation and Sense of Self-Worth
Enter middle school. New teachers. New peers. New pressures. New challenges. In middle school, students experience numerous intellectual challenges and changes. And academic motivation is one of them. Many students who were motivated and curious during elementary school may find themselves less engaged as middle school progresses. Researchers Kimberley J. Bartholomew et al. note that for many students, “the adolescent years mark the beginning of a downward spiral in school-related motivation and engagement that often leads to academic underachievement” (50). While student family-life and physical changes may play a part in students’ changes in motivation during these years, Bartholomew et al. argue that teachers’ instructional styles also significantly influence student motivation and behavior. In particular, their paper, “Beware of your teaching style: A school-year long investigation of controlling teaching and student motivational experiences,” examines how students’ perceptions of controlling teaching styles is linked to not only a decrease in student intrinsic motivation, but also to student behaviors that hurt their academic performance.
In many traditional classrooms, teachers deliver lectures and students then work on problems or skill-building outside of school. The idea of flipping the classroom turns this structure around. In a flipped classroom, students watch lectures outside of the classroom and then engage in collaborative problem solving or critical thinking in the classroom. In their paper, “Applying ‘First Principles of Instruction’ as a Design Theory of the Flipped Classroom: Findings from a Collective Study of Four Secondary School Subjects,” authors Chung Kwan Lo et al. present empirically tested design methods for running a successful flipped classroom.
They look like pens. They look like USB drives. Some even look like small, slick classroom remote devices. But they’re not used to record or transmit information. These devices are used for vaping.
Over the past five years, vaping—using e-cigarettes—has become increasingly prevalent among both teens and adults, and teachers have no doubt heard students discuss the topic, either in their classrooms or in the hallways at school. But many teachers may be unaware of the statistics about teen vaping and vaping’s link to future marijuana use.
Developing Students’ Intrinsic Motivation to Write
Today, the Common Core standards in the United States call for an increased emphasis on student writing in multiple subject areas. Some students may welcome more writing opportunities at school, while other students may dismiss writing as frustrating and burdensome. In their article, “The Bright and Dark Side of Writing Motivation: Effects of Explicit Instruction and Peer Assistance,” authors Fien de Smedt et al. explain that student motivation to write plays an important part in students’ actual writing performance. Previous studies have shown that students who have stronger beliefs in their own writing abilities and who are motivated to write actually have better writing performance (1). In contrast, students who have weaker beliefs in their own writing abilities and who are less motivated to write often display a dislike of writing in school (1). The question for De Smedt et al., then, is: How do we increase students’ motivation to write, and thus help them become more willing and better writers?
How Mentors Help At-Risk Students Find Confidence in Themselves and in School
Every school has some population of at-risk students. These students often struggle to maintain passing grades, have truancy records and discipline problems, and are indeed at-risk of losing enrollment in their current schools. Importantly, at-risk students also often have difficult home lives and may experience one-parent households, difficulties associated with poverty, inconsistent adult role models, and insufficient quality time and care from adults.
In their paper, “Making a difference with at-risk students: The benefits of a mentoring program in middle school,” authors Suzanne F. Lindt and Cody Blair note that over the past 20 years, mentoring programs have been increasingly used as a way to support at-risk students. Mentoring programs such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters, TEAMmates, Study Buddies, and The Mentoring Project have been shown to not only support students’ socio-emotional wellbeing, but also their academic standing. Lindt and Blair remark, for example, that previous studies have shown that mentored students felt more confident about schoolwork and were significantly less likely to be truant compared to their non-mentored peers (35).
Increasing Student Engagement in Small Groups: The Role of Knowledge Diversity
When it comes to small group work, teachers approach grouping students differently at different times. Sometimes students may choose their own groups. Sometimes students are randomly assigned to groups. And sometimes teachers carefully choose group members. For authors Jian Zhao et al., an important aspect for teachers to consider when designing groups is the distribution of prior knowledge among students. In their paper, “Students’ engagement in a science classroom: Does knowledge diversity matter?,” Zhao et al. investigate how mixed-prior-knowledge grouping affects student engagement and group performance. They find that when a group has even one knowledgeable student, group members are more behaviorally and emotionally engaged in the task (6).
Reducing Test Anxiety in Elementary School Children: Coloring Before a Test
Today, test anxiety is the most prevalent form of anxiety among K-12 students. Researchers Dana Carsley and Nancy L. Heath note that even one third of elementary school students experience test anxiety (1). Test anxiety has been linked to lower grades in school, grade retention, dropout, and mental health problems in students. Moreover, “effects of test anxiety can increase in severity if not treated at a young age” (1). In response to the increasing prevalence of test anxiety among students, school administrations and teachers have incorporated anxiety-reducing measures into schools and classrooms. However, Carsley and Heath remark that “these programs are typically lengthy and include several sessions that span over multiple weeks” (1). They argue that given the extent of test anxiety, it is essential that teachers are aware of effective, easy-to-implement anxiety-reducing strategies that require “no additional teacher training and minimal class time” (1).
Who Do You Eat Lunch With?: Cross-Ethnic Interactions and Student Academic Achievement
Who do you eat lunch with? This seemingly simple question leads to much information about students: their shared values and interests, their friendships and peer supports, and even their academic achievement. In their paper, “Early Adolescents’ Peer Experiences with Ethnic Diversity in Middle School: Implications for Academic Outcomes,” authors Jakeem Amir Lewis et al. investigate the correlations between students’ interactions with cross-ethnic peers and student academic achievement. Their research reveals that students who eat lunch routinely with peers who have different ethnic backgrounds than their own (cross-ethnic peers) have higher academic achievement than students who eat less frequently with cross-ethnic peers or who eat with only students of the same ethnic background.
Emphasizing Concepts vs. Procedures in Math: Student Achievement and Social Justice
Over the past few decades, teachers in the United States have faced increasing pressure to boost American students’ mathematics achievement. Comparisons with other countries have revealed that American students lag behind in math achievement, especially when compared to student performance in Japan and Singapore. Thus, American education leaders and policymakers have prioritized mathematics achievement in part to secure America as a globally competitive and innovative nation (Yu 82).
In their paper, “Teacher support, instructional practices, student motivation, and mathematics achievement in high school,” authors Rongrong Yu and Kusum Singh explain that for the past 20 years, mathematics educators and administrators have been engaged in “mathematics wars,” heated debates that have pitted those who favor procedural teaching against those who favor conceptual teaching (81).
Previous studies have shown that students in high-achieving countries like Japan and Singapore “spend more time on inventing, analyzing, and proving, with less time on routine procedures, but U.S. students spend almost all their time on routine procedures” (83).