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).
It’s not interesting. It’s not relevant. Too often teachers hear these phrases from students in science and mathematics classes. In their article, “The impact of college- and university-run high school summer programs on students’ end of high school STEM career aspirations,” Joseph A. Kitchen et al. argue that in order to inspire students to not only find interest in STEM content, but to ultimately choose STEM career paths, it is essential for STEM classes and programs to keep content relevant. The authors show that instructors can significantly and positively alter students’ perceptions of STEM subjects by engaging students with real-world applications and actual professionals in STEM fields (13).
The authors note that it is during high school when many students start seriously considering their future career paths. Given that high school students’ aspirations are still malleable, it is also a prime time for STEM instructors to promote not just present understanding of STEM subjects, but students’ future trajectory for STEM career choices (12).
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.
Vocabulary Instruction in High School Social Studies Classes: General Academic Terms are Overlooked
For the last 20 years, there has been almost no change in students’ measured achievement in the area of social studies in grades 4-12 (273). According to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), only 45% of American 12th graders score at or above the basic level for social studies content, as they have for decades (273). In their paper, “An investigation of high school social studies teachers’ understandings of vocabulary teaching and learning,” authors Janis Harmon et al. explain that to address this issue of academic stagnation, education standards—especially Common Core—are now emphasizing “disciplinary literacy, that is a focus on the specific literacy demands unique to the various content areas and the sub disciplines within each area” (272).
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).
What Does “Trustworthy Evidence” Mean to Students?
Facebook. Instagram. 24-hour news. Twitter. Gossip. Newspapers. School. Television. Today students are bombarded with information about the world. As accessing information becomes easier, the task of determining the accuracy of information becomes increasingly difficult. What is fact? What is misleading? What is trustworthy evidence?
In their paper, “Thinking Deeply, Thinking Emotionally: How High School Students Make Sense of Evidence” authors Rebecca Jacobsen et al. explain that teachers are “increasingly being asked to prepare students to both evaluate information critically and use evidence to construct arguments” (2). These education requirements are set in national education standards, including Common Core for English Language Arts, History/Social Science, and Technical Subjects, as well as in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (2). The authors note that in the NGSS, students “engage in arguments from evidence” starting in kindergarten (2).
Jacobsen et al. remark that for these education standards, it is assumed that students know what evidence is and that all students accept and use evidence is similar ways. Previous studies have shown that this is not always the case, however.
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).
Want Students to Memorize Content? Have Them Draw It.
It is typical for a teacher to ask students to write down information so that they can learn and memorize some given content. But authors Frits F.B. Pals et al. question whether writing information is the most effective way for students to memorize class material. In their paper, “Memorisation methods in science education: tactics to improve the teaching and learning practice,” Pals et al. examine the efficacy of writing versus student-created drawings for long-lasting student retention of content. In addition, the authors investigate whether “muttering” during writing or drawing makes a difference for memorization and retention of material, as previous studies have suggested (238). In particular, the study focuses on student memorization of science propositions.
The college years are an exciting time in a student’s life, as they present opportunities for transition, growth, and learning. However, authors Ronny Bruffaerts et al. remark that the college years are also a “peak period for the first onset of a broad range of mental disorders” (97). Indeed, previous studies have revealed that up to 50% of college students may have one or more common mental health problems (97). These students are twice as likely to drop out of college without earning a degree, compared to their peers who do not have mental disorders (97).
In their paper, “Mental health problems in college freshmen: Prevalence and academic functioning,” Bruffaerts et al. examine the pervasiveness of mental health problems in college freshmen and how those mental health problems affect student academic functioning.