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 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.
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).