How Teacher Beliefs in Their Own Effectiveness Transform the Classroom
Believe in your students and their abilities. Show them that you care. Teachers are often reminded of these cornerstones of teaching practices. Yet, perhaps equally as important, teachers need to believe in themselves and their own abilities to successfully run a classroom. In their recent article, “The effects of teachers’ efficacy beliefs on students’ perceptions of teacher relationship quality,” authors Jessica J. Summers et al. investigate the connections between teachers’ beliefs in their own abilities and students’ views about their student-teacher relationship. They find that when teachers believe that their teaching will have a positive impact on students, they have closer relationships with their students.
For elementary school teachers, developing students’ literacy is a primary goal. It is also no easy task. Studies have shown that helping struggling students become fluent readers becomes increasingly harder as students progress through the primary grades, and “children who do not learn to read effectively in primary grades are less likely to achieve full literacy” (Linder et al. 323). Moreover, in their paper, “Effects of an Animal-Assisted Intervention on Reading Skills and Attitudes in Second Grade Students,” authors Deborah Linder et al. explain that children who struggle with reading “often demonstrate negative feelings about reading at school,” exhibit less motivation to read, have low self-esteem, and often resist participating in classroom reading activities (323-324). In contrast, students with higher reading abilities have higher levels of academic success and more favorable attitudes about school (323).
For their study, Linder et al. investigated how partnering therapy dogs with second grade students affected those students’ literacy levels and attitudes about reading at school. They note that animal-assisted interventions have already been linked to numerous benefits for children, including “reducing anxiety, facilitating coping, and reducing discomfort in stressful situations” (324).
How School Goals Affect Teacher Motivation and Burnout Rates
In the United States, nearly 40 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years (Skaalvik and Skaalvik 154). Research has shown that this high teacher turnover rate is attributable to high levels of stress, time pressure, and discipline problems, among other things (153). In their paper, “Motivated for Teaching? Associations with school goal structure, teacher self-efficacy, job satisfaction, and emotional exhaustion,” Einar M. Skaalvik and Sidsel Skaalvik argue that school-wide goals also play a significant part in influencing teachers’ job satisfaction and motivation to stay in the teaching profession.
Using Humorous Examples During Instruction Hampers Student Learning
During each lesson, teachers face two pressing tasks: (1) teaching students content in a way that will help them best understand and recall that information, and (2) keeping students’ attention. To accomplish this, many teachers may choose to incorporate humor into their lessons, using funny examples to illustrate a point. However, in their paper, “Humor in the classroom: the effects of integrated humor on student learning,” authors San Bolkan et al. argue that using humorous examples to explain content to students actually hampers students’ ability to recall information from the lesson (154).
Classroom remote devices. Smartphones connected to education apps. As clicker technology becomes more widely available, teachers’ use of clickers (devices that can collect student responses in real-time) is becoming increasingly common in both K-12 and university classrooms. While teachers use clickers across a range of subjects, authors Cui Liu et al. argue that there are common themes when it comes to the effectiveness of those clickers on student learning.
For their paper, “The Effects of Clickers with Different Teaching Strategies,” Cui Liu et al. analyzed 128 peer-reviewed articles about the use of clickers in the classroom to gain a better understanding of the types of teaching methods (using clickers) that produced positive outcomes on student learning. The authors note that thus far the majority of research on clickers has been conducted in college classrooms. The 128 papers chosen for their literature review reflect that high number, with 113 of the studies taking place in college classrooms, 6 at the secondary level, 2 at the elementary school and 7 in other types of education environments (607).
In their article, “Honors Students’ Perceptions of Their High School Experiences: The influence of Teachers on Student Motivation,” Del Siegle et al. explore what motivates gifted students in high school. Specifically, the authors investigate teachers’ characteristics and practices that help motivate high-achieving students (36). For this study, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with four separate focus groups, each consisting of between 6-8 freshmen at a top-ranked public university. 71% of the focus group participants were female and every participant graduated in the top 4% of his or her high school class (39). These students were all academically successful and had valuable information to share about how teachers motivated them throughout high school.
And Now Presenting…! How Dramatic Arts Integration Increases EL Students’ Use of Academic Language in the Classroom
Now create a skit!
In their paper, “The Influence of Classroom Drama on English Learners’ Academic Language Use During English Language Arts Lessons,” Alida Anderson and Sandra M. Loughlin investigate the effect of classroom drama (aka dramatic arts integration) on English Language learners’ use of academic language in class.
Anderson and Loughlin note that contextualized language-learning tasks, such as dramatic arts-based activities, have a powerful effect on students’ acquisition of academic language, as these types of activities support “connections between concepts and language expression” (265). However, decontextualized language instruction is often the norm in ELA classrooms, in which “language-learning tasks…are removed from immediate or accessible meaning beyond the language itself” (266). Yet there is a powerful case for contextualized learning environments, given that they “foster academic language proficiency through discovery and experiential approaches that integrate basic communication skills, new information, procedures, tasks, as well as vocabulary, structures, and functions in academic discourse” (267). In this learning environment, teachers would provide “action-based language opportunities” that enable “collaboration, discussion, and planning” (267).
Strong Students Get Stronger and the Struggling Continue to Struggle
The “Matthew”-effect originally described the concept that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” (3). However, since the term’s coining in 1968, it has been applied to the educational phenomenon in which “strong students get stronger and struggling students struggle even more” (3). In their paper, “Is teacher judgment accuracy of students’ characteristics beneficial for verbal teacher-student interactions in classroom?,” authors Maralena Pielmeier et al. explain that students with already high pre-achievement and high levels of confidence in a given subject are more likely to be verbally engaged in class, while students with lower pre-achievement and self-confidence are less engaged. However, if teachers can accurately judge students’ levels of student achievement and confidence, they may be better able to address the needs of lower performing students and help mitigate the “Matthew”-effect.
Instructional Differences in High-Poverty Elementary Schools: High vs. Low Performing
As of the 2013-2014 school year, 25% of U.S. public schools were designated as high poverty (37). The status of these schools not only reflects the economic position of the 20% of American children who live in poverty, but also the ever-widening academic achievement gap (37). In their paper, “Exploring instructional differences and school performance in high-poverty elementary schools,” authors Regina G. Hirn et al. note that there is a well-documented link between socioeconomic status and school achievement (37). They remark that compared to affluent students, poorer students are less likely to “become proficient in reading or math” and tend to have “poor trajectories throughout their lives—including being more likely to be in poor health, to have children with poor health, to have children as teenagers, and to have children who do not do well in school” (37-38). Along with student poverty, Hirn et al. explain that high-poverty schools’ hiring trends also negatively contribute to student achievement. In particular, high-poverty schools “tend to employ teachers with less experience, lower levels of education, and lower retention rates than those in wealthier areas” (38).
For Hirn et al., No Child Left Behind, licensure, and credential requirements have failed to address the achievement gap problem in the United States. They argue that to address the problem of low achieving schools, it is necessary to examine the teaching practices within those schools (38).
Time Spent on Math and Science Homework Linked to Higher Standardized Test Scores, But Not Higher Grades
The homework debate has continued in the United States for well over one hundred years. How much homework should teachers give? How should teachers assess homework (for accuracy or completion)? What is the purpose of homework? In their paper, “When is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating the Association Between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math,” authors Adam V. Maltese et al. remark that over the decades homework has been seen as a way to pull students toward academic mastery, toward educational preparation and competitiveness in increasingly globalized marketplaces. They note that, “After the Russians first sent a mission into space, there was a general feeling in America that students were under-prepared, and homework was seen as a tool to improve the educational preparation of students and ensure America’s safety and development” (53).
Studies about the time that students are required to spend on homework are inconclusive. For example, the authors note that the National Assessment of Educational Progress concluded that as of 2003, only 10-12% of students reported having two or more hours of homework per night. The National Center for Educational Statistics argued that there was an increase of students reporting two or more hours of homework each night from 7% in 1980 to 37% in 2002 (53). Although much media coverage has touted the idea that American high school students are overburdened by homework, the authors of this paper argue that, “statistics do not support the notion that a majority of high school students in the U.S. toil away on homework each evening after school…These data indicate that most of the arguments against homework, which appear in the popular media, may originate from a vocal minority” (53).