Category Archives: Education Research

Gender Bias in High School History

I tried an experiment in my high school World and US History classes that was inspired by Dr. Bob Bain, the highly esteemed professor from the University of Michigan. I have seen Dr. Bain speak several times and was intrigued with an experiment which roughly prompts students with: an alien from another galaxy sits next to you at Starbucks, he/she turns to you and says tell me about the history of your planet.

Since I teach high school sophomores (World History) and juniors (United States History), I couched this approached a little differently because I thought an hour-long writing assignment would be alienating. On the first day of school, I asked my students to draw a map of the World or United States from their memory. On the second day of school, I asked my students to list the Top 10 most important events in World or US History. Interestingly, this resulted in 66 events in WH and 65 events in USH. There were no significant differences between classes.

On the third day of school, I tell students that because they exceeded my expectations with the previous assignment I am doubling what I expect from them. I ask students to write down the Top 20 most important people in World or US History. This causes frenzied discussion, as many students struggle to come up with 20 names. I give my students 10 minutes for this task (2 minutes per name). After they are done with their list, I ask them to count up how many men are on the list and compare it to how many women are on the list.

Image result for gender bias

On average, students in each class period listed 13 men and three women. This generated a nice discussion on the role of gender bias in History. I let my students know that they have a lot of freedom to do inquiry projects and independent investigations in this class, they need to pick the stories they tell carefully. They are responsible for writing history for the next generation. Do they want to continue to under-represent women in high school textbooks?

A 1984 study by M.K Tetrealt of US history textbooks revealed that the text allotted to references to women added up to less than one page. A closer look at another book showed that in more than 1,000 pages, there were four illustrations of men for every one of a woman and that less than three percent of the text was about women (Gospe, 2015). As California adopts new textbooks in 2018, I wonder how much these stats have changed?

Sharing Blended Learning Outcomes

After attending Jay Sorenson‘s Station Rotation presentation yesterday at CUE Rockstar Minarets, I was inspired to take another look at my data from my first year blending in a 1:1 classroom. This post was originally published by my school district in 2013 but has since disappeared from their website. I’m re-posting to help me reflect on which learning variables I should collect data on next year as I continue to shift towards personalized learning and mastery grading.

As I continue to evolve as a blended learning educator, I decided to try and measure some of the effects of blended learning with my students. In a previous post, I documented how incorporating blended learning assignments into my traditional classroom raised my course passage rate by 50%. In this piece, I compare student performance along two, 10-week periods. The first was predominantly blended, or 1:1 iPad-based instruction, the second was predominately textbook-centric, or traditional paper and pencil-based instruction.

Armed with a proliferation of digital instructional resources, high-speed internet and inexpensive devices, many educators are combining online instruction with regular classroom instruction to improve students’ learning experiences. Staker and Horn (2011) classify blended learning as a formal education program where students learn, at least in part, through online delivery of content and instruction. Students have some level of control over time, place, path, and/or pace of instruction. Part or all of the instruction is delivered away from home in a supervised, brick-and-mortar location. This blending of online and face-to-face instruction is expected to be standard practice in the future (Murphy, Snow, Mislevy, et al., 2014). The purpose of this article is to inspire conversation as to how educators can evaluate whether or not blended learning actually improves student outcomes in their classrooms.  What variables should be examined? Can quasi-experimental studies be set up as individual action research projects without disrupting business as usual in the classroom?

It was in this spirit, that I compared my blended classroom to my traditional classroom along four factors: (a) classwork completion; (b) homework completion; (c) assessment scores; and (d) course averages. Five random samples of classwork, homework, and assessments were analyzed for each 10-week period.

Table 1 (N=127) Blended Classroom Traditional Classroom
Classwork Completion Percentage 0.77 0.70
Homework Completion Percentage 0.71 0.63
Assessment Means 50.355 52.565
Course Averages 64.85 67.42

Students in this sample completed more of the blended classwork assignments and more of the blended homework assignments. Assessment scores were similar, however, traditional instruction netted slightly higher means. Course averages were also similar, yet traditional classroom instruction had a slightly larger mean. I am not sure what this finding of higher engagement and participation, yet lower achievement signifies, but I will spend time reflecting on it.

Traditional Learning

The purpose of this post was to provide educators switching from the traditional classroom role to a blended role with some data points for comparing their experiences. These results may not be as valid as those from a large-scale study, however, as more 1:1 educators compare their student outcomes, we will learn what outcomes to expect and gather valuable context to evaluate which practices are the most effective. In order to do that, we need front-line teachers to document their practices, collect data, and disseminate it.

Teaching in a 1:1 environment was novel, challenging, and frustrating at times, but best of all it was fun.  My students loved using technology and I enjoyed experimenting with new tools. Students read more, wrote more, viewed more historical content, and took more field trips to historical sites (even if they were virtual trips). In short, going 1:1 turned my classroom into a student-centered, active learning, historical thinking adventure. The entire experience rejuvenated my teaching. I can’t wait for the next school year. I suppose that’s a significant enough outcome for me.

Improving Inquiry

I’m looking forward to attending Jay Sorenson’s CUE Rockstar presentation on using the Question Formulation Technique. Rothstein & Santana (2011) devised a protocol that helps students improve their questioning skills, something that needs to be explicitly taught before embarking on inquiry projects in Social Studies. In my high school class, I found that my students could generate between 2-13 questions with the average student generating 6 questions in five minutes. These numbers increase over time with consistent practice using the protocol. The QFT can also be done in small groups, which helps students learn to collaborate and build off each other’s ideas.

QFT_NATIONALISM

I experimented with the QFT this summer and was unimpressed by the effort students put forth and the quality of the questions they asked. When I return to school for the fall semester, I am going to begin QFT activities by playing a related story on Listenwise before posing a focus question to the class. I am hopeful that this will help students generate more sophisticated critical thinking and better questions.

Meanwhile, I look forward to hearing how other teachers are developing one-period inquiry projects in their classes.

 

Improving School Culture & Climate

California has been experimenting with an accountability model called the School Quality Improvement Index which uses academic, social-emotional learning, and school culture and climate factors to measure how well public schools are performing.

CORE Model

This new system has an enormous number of variables, which makes it difficult for educational leaders to consistently focus on problem areas where teachers have a direct influence on student performance. As a staff, we examined our culture and climate factors because we felt that our teachers directly support risk-taking and independent thinking while providing multiple measures to show student mastery. Our teachers are also able to directly intervene and help students feel safe on campus.

Climate

Unfortunately, we scored below the District average on items B & F from our 2016 School Climate Survey. The student and staff survey items were developed by WestEd for the California Department of Education. The results from these items were published on our School Accountability Report Card (Goal 4). Our teachers want guidance on how we can improve these scores.

2016 Climate Results

We wondered what do students need to “see” from teachers to improve positive response rates on the following: B) “My teachers work hard to help me with my school work when I need it”; and F) “Teachers go out of their way to help students” How do you think your students would interpret/answer these items?

In order to gain some perspective, I asked my 10th and 11th-grade students the following: Can you tell me a story of a teacher who worked hard to help you with your school work? (Don’t use real names, refer to Mr. Math or Mrs. English instead.) How do you think I could help you do better in this class? Here are the responses from (N=74) students. Four comments that I found insightful are italicized below.

Students value one-on-one assistance

Mrs. English has helped me prepare for tests by giving us easy ways to memorize the things that were going to be on the test in 9th grade. Whenever I didn’t understand something, I would go up to her and ask her for help and she was more than welcome to help me with anything I needed. I think the way you can help me do better in this class is to talk to me 1 on 1 and help me understand the concept better and help me with whatever I need.

Students want more group/collaborative projects

Mrs. Chemistry helped me with her class when I was really struggling. I would go to her class during lunch to get help on my homework so she would give me examples. And when I asked for more work for what I was failing to understand, she gave me another worksheet for practice before the day of my next test. I struggle with tests in history. I try to manage my time with all my other classes, but it is overwhelming sometimes. I would prefer to do more group projects to help each other. If we did group work maybe I might know something my group members don’t and vice versa.

Students want to be challenged by their teachers

I had a teacher that I thought she didn’t like me but she actually did she helped me pass her class with an A. She pushed herself to help me out because I was going to fail her class because I was gone for 3 weeks and I was really behind. I think you can help us by being on top of us when we don’t turn in our work, check in with us why didn’t we do it.

Students want teachers to be more accessible

Most teachers don’t really take time out of their day besides the class period to help their students. You go looking for them at lunch and they aren’t there or they don’t get to school early or when you look for them after school they have already left. This is the case with most teachers, but Ms. English tends to be available whenever you go looking for her and she spends her own time besides class time helping students individually with their work. I think working with students one on one with whatever they are working on will help them do better in this class.

I wish we had the PD time to have the entire faculty read and reflect on these responses. Thirteen pages of student statements are a lot to go through, but each time I re-read them I make more connections that will help me improve my classroom practices. I now have a better understanding of what factors students are thinking about when they address school climate survey items like “Teachers work hard to help me with my school work?” and “Teachers go out of their way to help students?” I hope that each teacher will ask their students these questions and adjust their instruction so that our students will feel as though their voices have been heard over the course of the school year.

Dark Side of Gifted Ed

Teaching gifted and high-achieving students comes with some baggage. Many teachers feel like gifted students are a dream since most have incredible work ethics and plenty of intrinsic motivation. Since I have begun incorporating SEL strategies into my everyday classroom practices, I have learned that there is a dark side to teaching the gifted. A significant population of my students have poor coping skills and do not handle failure well.

I have been taking a playlist approach to my 10th and 11th-grade instructional program this year. Students are given a menu of options and I measure how much they do. This has caused them more stress than I anticipated and I am currently re-thinking this approach. Last year, too many of our students turned work in late. As a faculty, we decided to change the culture by not accepting late work.  As an incentive, we offer a 20% bonus on each assignment that is turned in before the deadline. For the first major project, 72% of my students turned in their work early. Approximately a quarter of my students, 43 out of 167, did not turn their work in at all.

After reading their reflections on the project, I realized that a large percentage of my students need more support in managing their time. I have been using goal-setting strategies with my students for years. This NPR story shows how reflection and goal-setting eliminated the achievement gap in a college composition class. I asked my students to read the story and then answer the following questions. How often do you write down specific goals and strategies that help you organize your time and workload? Could writing down what prevents you from completing work and connecting your daily efforts to goal-setting help you become a better student? What type of anxiety do you feel when dealing with multiple and competing deadlines?

Their answers were startling and shocking. Two-thirds of my “gifted” students rarely or never write a to-do list to manage their workload. They said things like…

I hardly ever write down my goals or strategies I usually just have to remember or I have everything planned in my head which actually gets me more stressed out. I do think if I write out my plans every day I could be less stressed out but I’m a procrastinator and I just can’t manage my time at all. I get crying anxiety when all my emotions overwhelm me at once and I can’t control them at all.

and

I do not write down specific or ANY goals and strategies to help me organize my time and workload. I believe that if I had something that reminded me on the daily about work and due dates my work ethic could improve greatly. Setting goals will make me want to achieve them and do better so that I can be a better not only person but a scholar. When I see that I have work due I stress out a lot. I rush everything and nothing comes out right. I stress about it at school and I get a horrible headache just thinking about how my grade would go down the drain. But when I get home I just forget everything and I never do anything.

and

I usually don’t write down my goals or strategies that help organize my workload because I’m already organized and most of my thoughts on procedures and goals are mental so I do not have to write them down. Yes, I think if I wrote everything down that slows down my work or prevents me from doing better it will help me realize what I need to do so I can work better. I usually feel like I won’t be able to finish anything and I always feel like a failure.

On the bright side, one-third of my students almost always write down what they need to accomplish. They said things like this…

I often write down my specific goals in an agenda and I strategize my workload on what is due the earliest. For example, I would finish my English homework first because it’s my first period. I don’t write down the things that prevent me from working and but I do set goals for myself to become a better student. Sometimes I have a list in my head and I write down what I need to do on a checklist to prioritize my time. When I deal with multiple deadlines, I begin to freak out thinking about what I need to do all at once. I make a list of what I need to do and sometimes do the easiest assignments first to get them out of the way.

and

I write down goals often. Some of these goals include getting my work done and getting my grades up. I have tried writing what keeps me from doing my work down. I believe that you could change your habits and become a better student, but if you don’t want to, nothing is going to change. You have to want everything. You can’t just want to change for yourself. What keeps me going is wanting to change my habits so that I can look into my mom’s eyes and not feel guilty, to not feel like I am letting her down. I give myself time to complete deadlines its when I decide not to do it that it gets me. 

and

I have a big ¨vision board” in my room in which I put my goals, the stuff I want to have, the people I want to meet, the amount of money I want to make, the places I want to travel to, the car I want to have, and pretty much anything. The law of attraction says if you set a goal and remind yourself of it, you will get it. and I think that’s 100% true. My goals are very long term, like going to Harvard or becoming a doctor but in order to achieve that I have to maintain a good grade point average and be a good student. So I try to do my homework and manage my time wisely so homework doesn’t take any more time that it has to. I am a very organized person. I have a daily planner in which I put in all my assignments of the day. When I get home I prioritize and rewrite the assignments in order that I have to do them.

How do I teach the former group of students to be more like the latter?

Teaching Study Skills

Teachers at my school have identified several growth areas in student study skills and we are working collectively to address these deficits. At the beginning of this school year, I gave my students a study skills questionnaire from the University of Central Florida’s student resource center.  This thirty-item survey asks students to report whether they rarely, sometimes, or often use specific strategies in their academic practices. The domains assess student practices when reading textbooks, taking notes, studying, memorizing, preparing for tests, and managing their time.

StudySkillsBasics_800x533

A sample (N=191) of 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12 graders took the survey. The scores ranged from a low of 20 to a high of 270 with a median of 170. The test’s authors suggest that a score of 31-50 in each domain indicates that the study skill area is adequate, whereas a score of 0-30 indicates that this study skills area needs improvement. My students’ average scores are displayed in the table below.

Reading Notes Studying Memorizing Test Prep Time Mgmnt Total
25.64 23.43 30.97 27.40 31.55 25.72 164.70

The items in the survey offer good starting points for student reflections when using exam wrappers or project debriefings.  Each student was given their results and discussed their largest growth area with me in a private conference. After each major academic milestone this year (project, test, paper, speech and etc.) my students will reflect on how the activity helped improve their growth. At the end of the year, they will take the survey again to see how they have improved.

I am interested in learning more about how K-12 educators teach study skills, please join me for a Twitter chat on this topic this Thursday, September 21 at 9pm ET/6pm PT. The questions are below:

Teachers are notorious finger pointers. “You should have memorized your multiplication tables in third grade. You should be taking notes and reviewing for tests by 6th grade. You should know how to read a textbook by 8th grade.” The list goes on. This evening of #sstlap is dedicated to teaching study skills. Regardless of where you students are when you get them, where do you want them to be when they leave you? What study skills should students have improved after a year under your tutelage? Get ready to share the glory and the pain as we try to teach our students study skills that they can take with them on their academic journey.

:07 Q1 What is the most significant skill deficit students have when they arrive in your class? How do you learn about and remediate this skills gap?

:14 Q2 How can we be enthusiastic about teaching study skills to our students when we have so much content to deliver?

:21 Q3 What are the best ways to immerse students into a note-taking lesson?

:28 Q4 How does focusing on reading skills instead of delivering content build rapport with students?

:35 Q5 How can you tie student passions to practicing skills like test prep and time management?

:42 Q6 How can you reframe a memorization lesson to make content aquisition fun?

:48 Q7 What apps/technology tools can help teachers transform skills instruction into fun activities?

:54 Q8 #FLIPGRIDFEVER BONUS QUESTION Click on the link and explain your favorite skill-building tool or lesson in 90 seconds instead of 140 characters.

Resources

Archive of 9/21/2017 #sstlap chat

Six degrees of separation history lesson

https://www.teachbeyondthedesk.com/six-degrees

Quizlet Live gamifies study sessions

https://quizlet.com/blog/how-i-made-learning-fun-in-my-classroom-using-quizlet-live

Daniel Pink – To Rhyme is Sublime

http://www.danpink.com/2013/06/how-to-pitch-better-the-rhyming-pitch/

Timed note-taking drills

https://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/skills-practice-listening-and-taking-notes-via-times-podcasts/?mcubz=3

Using Listening to Improve Historical Understanding

This school year, two colleagues and I have been conducting some research on speaking and listening skills in our classrooms. Part of this work was funded by an ASCD Teacher Impact Grant and will be presented at their Empower 17 conference in Anaheim on March 25, 2017. Thanks to the Constitutional Rights Foundation and WestEd some of this work will continue for the next two years due to an additional grant focused on expanding teacher practice networks.   

As part of this work, we piloted some listening assessments with Listenwise, a company that aligns National Public Radio content with content standards in ELA, Social Studies and Science. I assigned 11 listening quizzes to my students. On average, students were able to answer 72.8% of the questions correctly. This represents a substantial improvement on a Stauffer, Frost & Rybolt (1983) national study, which found that people, on average, only remember 17.2% of what they hear on the TV news. To increase comprehension, Listenwise offers a variety of supports: academic vocabulary, EL scaffolding, transcripts, and the ability to slow down the audio.

After the semester was over, I asked students to voluntarily fill out the following survey. What follows is my brief analysis of the results. Please note, this is not an empirically validated survey. Further, it is a very small (N=35) population of high school students’ opinions to really generalize about. Nonetheless, these students viewed these listening activities in an overwhelmingly positive light. Read on for the actual details and my interpretations.

More than 70% of my students thought the Listenwise content they heard in class increased their understanding of the historical event under study.lw-q1

Approximately two-thirds of my students felt that hearing Listenwise stories before reading the textbook helped them understand the events better. This finding is contradicted by another question where only 8% of students would prefer to use Listenwise as a preview to a new historical unit, as opposed to test review, homework, or classwork. lw-q2

About 53% of my students would prefer to hear Listenwise content during class, so they could discuss the stories with their fellow students. Interestingly, only 30% of students selected this option on a similar question later in the survey. lw-q3

Half of my students felt that Listenwise stories helped them understand academic vocabulary better.lw-q4

Slightly less than half of my students would prefer to hear Listenwise content at home, so they could think about the story before answering questions about it. Only 20% of students selected the Listenwise as homework option on a subsequent survey question.lw-q5

A two-thirds majority of my students felt that Listenwise stories help them understand the importance of historical events. lw-10

More than 60% of my students felt they understand more academic vocabulary from hearing it on Listenwise than they do from reading the academic vocabulary in our textbook. Research by Nonie Lesaux suggests that students need to know 50,000 words before they leave high school to be successful in college.lw-q6

The most popular reasons for hearing Listenwise stories were to review before exams, for classwork, and as homework. I was surprised that using Listenwise to preview a new historical topic was not as popular because that is mainly how I have used the content. I would be interested in learning how other teachers are using Listenwise and look forward to hearing their results from the teachers who took part in their pilot.lw-q7

Almost three-quarters of my students responded that hearing Listenwise stories makes them more confident when speaking about the Social Studies topic. This is consistent with research that suggests students can “hear” 3-4 grades above their reading comprehension levels. lw-q8

About 64% of my students reported that hearing Listenwise stories after reading the textbook gives them a greater understanding or perspective of the historical events. This is consistent with research that suggests students see a vivid, full color picture in their mind when listening versus students note trouble empathizing with what is going on in a grainy, black & white historical video. Please see (Colby, 2010) for more on the importance of using historical empathy to help students contextualize events from the past.

lw-q9

Whenever schools and districts spend money on new programs, there should be some evaluation and cost benefit analysis. Because good listening skills are highly correlated with historical thinking, building empathy, and many other social emotional learning skills, I feel that Listenwise is worth the investment. If you would be interested in seeing how your students perceive their learning with Listenwise, feel free to make a copy of this Google Form and customize it for use in your class. Please post a link to your results in my comments section and let me know what you find out.

Reference

Colby, S. (2010). Contextualization and historical empathy: Seventh-graders’ interpretations of primary documents.Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 12 (1), 71-85.