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.
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).
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.
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.
Supporting Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
The middle school years are notorious for student behavior challenges and bullying. Even emotionally strong students may find the social world of middle school difficult to manage. It is no surprise then that the middle school years are particularly difficult for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. In their article, “An Examination of School Climate, Victimization, and Mental Health Problems Among Middle School Students Self-Identifying With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders,” authors Tamika La Salle et al. explain that students with disabilities have statistically evident negative experiences in middle school. They constitute 12% of public-school students but are suspended at twice the rate of students without Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). They are also the victims of bullying more often than students without disabilities: “more than half of SWD [students with disabilities] experience peer victimization, in comparison with approximately 32% of students without disabilities” (383).
They’re Being Bullied. But Are They Telling You About It?
Look out at the students in your classroom. Do you know for certain which students are being bullied? Having to deal with bullying is an unfortunate reality for many students. Today, students not only have to face the possibility of being bullied in person (traditional bullying), but also being bullied online (cyberbullying). Yet, authors Ylva Bjereld et al. note that parents and teachers are significant counter-forces to bullying. Not only do teachers and parents help victims cope with bullying, but they can help prevent future incidents and end current behaviors as well (347). Indeed, Bjereld et al. explain that when children communicate their experiences as victims of bullying to adults, especially parents, they are better able to manage the bullying and have fewer negative mental health effects, such as depression (347).
Building Peer Support and Friendships for Autistic Students in General Education Classes
Over the past 15 years, students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have spent increasing amounts of time in general education classrooms. Authors Erik W. Carter et al. explain that between 2001-2012, students with ASD “who spent more than 40% of their school day in general education classrooms increased from 39.6% to 57.6%” (207). Although ASD students are exposed to general ed content alongside their school peers, the general ed environment is socially challenging. Previous studies have documented that students with ASD “have few peer interactions in general education classrooms, spend limited time in close proximity to classmates, and infrequently participate in collaborative work with peers” (207). This relative isolation can be attributed to both the students’ social challenges, as well as instructional formats that limit the number of opportunities ASD students (and students in general) have to interact with peers (208).