Category Archives: Education Research

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.

Measures of Effective Listening

Thirty-two years ago, Donald E. Powers wrote Considerations for Developing Measures of Speaking & Listening. It was published by the College Board, which expresses how important these measures are to a student’s academic success, particularly in their Advanced Placement programs, yet has not validated any standardized tests to measure these skills. This synthesis on some of the research on listening offers advice to teachers enrolled in our MOOC Teaching Speaking & Listening Skills

Research shows that students can listen 2-3 grade levels above what they can read. Listening while reading helps people have successful reading events, where they read with enjoyment and accuracy. Listening while reading has been shown to help with decoding, a fundamental part of reading. The average person talks at a rate of about 125 to 175 words per minute, while we listen and comprehend up to 450 words per minute (Carver, Johnson, & Friedman, 1970).

Listening has been identified as one of the top skills employers seek in entry-level employees as well as those being promoted. Even though most of us spend the majority of our day listening, it is the communication activity that receives the least instruction in school (Coakley & Wolvin, 1997). On average, viewers who just watched and listened to the evening news can only recall 17.2% of the content.

Listening is critical to academic success. Conaway (1982) examined an entire freshman class of over 400 students. They were given a listening test at the beginning of their first semester. After their first year of college, 49% of students scoring low on the listening test were on academic probation, while only 4.42% of those scoring high on the listening test were on academic probation. On the other hand, 68.5% of those scoring high on the listening test were considered Honors Students after the first year, while only 4.17% of those scoring low attained the same success.

Students do not have a clear concept of listening as an active process that they can control. Students find it easier to criticize the speaker as opposed to the speaker’s message (Imhof, 1998). Students report greater listening comprehension when they use the metacognitive strategies of asking pre-questions, interest management, and elaboration strategies (Imhof, 2001). Listening and nonverbal communication training significantly influences multicultural sensitivity (Timm & Schroeder, 2000).

Understanding is the goal of listening. Our friend Erik Palmer suggests before students engage in purposeful listening, their teachers should tell them what to attend to. We need to teach students what to respond to, how to respond, and when to respond. For example, today we are going to listen to five speeches. For each speech, we are only listening for LIFE. After each speaker finishes, clap, then take a minute to evaluate the level of passion they put into their speech. After that write down three suggestions on how they could improve the LIFE in their speech (i.e., instead of emphasizing: you stole my red hat, try stressing, you stole my red hat).

A classroom teacher who reads Powers (1984) College Board study will understand that speaking, listening, reading and writing are all tightly correlated. Empirically measuring oral communication skills requires many hours of assessment on small, controlled populations. It is the opposite of what we experience in public schools where it is not feasible for us to precisely measure each skill. The important takeaway here is that teachers need to prepare their students to actively listen, avoid distractions, and teach listening and speaking with core academic content by training students to evaluate how well various speaking functions are accomplished by their classmates. While there are reliability issues with classroom peer review models, the benefits of “learning by evaluation” far outweigh the negatives.

References

http://www.listen.org/WhitePaper

http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/listening-skills.html

http://d1025403.site.myhosting.com/files.listen.org/Facts.htm

http://www.csun.edu/~hcpas003/effective.html

Getting Students To Ask Questions

Qs

Researchers understand that student questions can improve instruction and increase achievement, however, students rarely ask their own questions in school. When they do, they ask more memory questions involving knowledge recall than all other question types combined. Asking open-ended questions and research questions can be difficult for students because they don’t always have a large enough knowledge base on a subject to see relationships and big picture issues. My classroom experience has shown that if I use small groups to get students to generate their own questions about a topic, many groups rely on one or two participants and the other students are content to be passive observers. Similarly, when I try to have whole-class, student-led discussions only 38% to 60% of my students participate. This year, I have used Zaption so students view a short, instructional video and then are asked questions that demonstrate their understanding of the content. Zaption Tours are also helpful for helping students develop their own questions, driving independent research projects, and tapping into student motivation. Further, Zaption presents this data in tables or discussion board threads for easy teacher analysis. Discussion data also be download into Excel spreadsheets for further analysis.

Open?

Prior to beginning this unit on the WWII, I asked students two open-ended questions: What do you already know about the Holocaust? What do you want to know about the Holocaust? The Zaption Tour was viewed 287 times and 107 students replied to the question. To make it an easier reading experience, I edited spelling mistakes and typos, but did not edit the “heart” of the student question. I tried to eliminate similar questions.  My next steps will be grouping the questions into themes for additional reflection and analysis. At the very least, these questions indicate that students have thought deeply about the Holocaust and are eager to learn more about it.

  1. I want to know if the Holocaust was necessary and if it was good for the people back then.
  2. I would just like to be more knowledgeable about the Holocaust.
  3. What I’d like to know about the Holocaust was?  Who came up with idea?  What kind of movies there are to watch about the Holocaust?
  4. I want to learn if any groups or people tried to rebel over this power and try to support and help Jews.
  5. I would like to know why Jews didn’t fight back or resist because it seem as if the Germans just killed the Jews with ease.
  6. What I want to know is who put a stop to all Hitler’s terror and how did people just let him do that?
  7. What I would like to know is where did Hitler get all his ideas about a master race?
  8. The thing that I want to know about the Holocaust is why did Hitler believe that Germans were superior than any other race?
  9. I would want to learn how did Hitler persuade Germany’s citizens to use the Jews as scapegoats for their country problems?
  10. I think what I want to know about the Holocaust is why Hitler hated the Jews in the first place?
  11. I would like to know why the Nazis targeted the Jews first? Also what made the Nazis hate the Jews so much and how did they make all of Germany hate them as well?
  12. I would like to know how Hitler convinced Germans to let this happen and why the US didn’t intervene earlier?
  13. I want to know what Hitler thought he was going to get out of this genocide?  I want to know why the people in Germany were following Hitler even though they knew it was wrong?
  14. I want to know why Hitler thought he was going to get away with it?
  15. Why did Hitler feel the need to exterminate the Jews when his own mother was Jewish and he wasn’t an Aryan himself?
  16. Hitler hated the Jews… but why?
  17. I want to know why the US didn’t help.
  18. I would like to know who else was involved with the Holocaust other than Adolf Hitler.
  19. I would like to know why the other countries let this happen to innocent Jewish and other people.
  20. What I would like to learn about the Holocaust is how the public felt about it and how Americans reacted to it?
  21. I want to learn what the Jews did and how they acted in the camps.
  22. I would like to know more about what caused the Holocaust to start.
  23. I would like to know more in depth stories of some of the Jews who survived the Holocaust.
  24. I would like to learn about conspiracy theories and the psychology of why Hitler wanted to kill these people. Was it a mental illness, or was he simply racist?
  25. I would like to learn what went on inside the concentration camps.
  26. I want to know the stories about the Holocaust.
  27. Something I would really like to know about the holocaust is why Hitler wanted to get rid of an entire race, I understand that he detested Jews but why would he go for something like this?
  28. I’d like to know the in-depth stories of the Jews who survived the concentration camps.
  29. I know about the beginning, middle, and D-Day. I want to know about the ending of the war.
  30. I would want to know about how the German people reacted to the concentration camps.
  31. I would like to know why Hitler wanted more land
  32. What I want to know is how it really started and how it ended.
  33. What I want to know is how many survivors were there in total?
  34. I would like to know why Hitler hated them so much and how were people able to survive and I want to learn how it affected others besides the Jewish race.
  35. I would like to know why this event in history happened and why no one took any act on it.
  36. I want to learn more about what really caused everything, how it happened, during the process, just everything, people’s feelings, and etc. Even if it takes 15 video lectures and big projects. 🙂
  37. I’d like to know why kill the Jews if they did nothing to you?
  38. I really want to know why Hitler did it? Why does he hate Jews so much and why were people going along with it?
  39. I want to know why Hitler killed this many Jews and what did he accomplish in killing them?
  40. I want to know how some people around the camps felt, if they felt bad or not about the situation, I don’t know. I heard that some Jews would fight back like setting buildings on fire. I’d like to know more stuff like that.
  41. What I would want to know about the Holocaust is how close does the movie “The Boy In The Stripped Pajamas” come to teaching us the truth about the Holocaust?
  42. I would like to know what had started the hatred. Was it an experience Hitler had or what?
  43. I’d like to know more about peoples’ personal experiences and obviously I’d like to know more and more about this topic. This is a topic that I could love to learn a lot about.
  44. I would like to see inside the mind of the man who ran the terrible atrocity of human action, the Holocaust.
  45. What caused Hitler to decide to kill and torture Jewish people?
  46. I know that a lot of people died I want to know who started it and why
  47. What I’d like to know is why many states or countries tried nothing what so ever to help and why they just let 6 million lives be lost?
  48. I would like to know what would go on with the Germans who disagreed with the Nazis? Were there rebellions and anti-Nazi campaigns?
  49. Was the U.S using spies and if yes what would they do and what were some major accomplishments for them.
  50. I would like to learn new things like how did Hitler die, or why would other countries ignore something so important?
  51. I want to know what Hitler thought he was going to get out of this when it was all over. I want to know why he did it. I want to know way beyond what the book says.
  52. I would like to learn more about things that people or students hardly know. That would be helpful.
  53. What I would like to know about the Holocaust is more about people’s reactions to life in the concentration camps and how people managed to get out. Did they recover and have good times later in life?

To Cool To Try

A primary focus in my class this year has been teaching ninth graders to make deadlines and turn in their assignments on time. The main reason students fail my course is simply they do not turn work in on time, if at all. For example, our study of the Holocaust devoted 30 days to reading The Plot Against America. As a culminating task students created a character evolution timeline, which tracked one character through ten events in the story. The results were knowledgeable, creative and imaginative. Unfortunately, this assignment only had a 51% completion rate, which in turn had a negative impact on 49% of student grades.

End Cool Zone

For their next assignments, students were required to view three survivor testimonies, annotate their notes, then turn each testimony into a poem, piece of art, or an essay that tells the survivor’s story forward. The majority of students did not address the contest’s prompt when creating their work. These projects were graded on student effort, students who read the contest rules and followed the directions were awarded 95 points, those who missed one element got 85 points and those who missed two or more elements got 75 points. Late work was awarded 60 points.

Sixty percent of students turned in poems and received the following grades: 69 Fs (40% incompletion rate), 3 Ds, 24 Cs, 27 Bs, and 48 As. For poems, 89 students turned in video notes, which were worth 50 points and 81 students did not (48% incompletion rate).

Sixty-five percent of students turned in Art entries and received 59 Fs (35% incompletion rate), 2 Ds, 34 Cs, 30 Bs, and 46 As.  Only 88 students chose to turn in their video notes, 83 students (48% incompletion rate) did not turn in the required notes on a Holocaust survivor’s testimony.

Lastly, fifty-eight percent of students turned in Essay entries: 72 Fs (42% incompletion rate), 3 Ds, 18 Cs, 31 Bs, and 46 As. Only 55 students turned in notes from the survivor’s video testimony, while 77 (58% incompletion rate) students did not.

Considering the information above, it is not surprising that in the final grade distribution only 10% were As, 25% were Bs, 27% were Cs, 17% were Ds and 21% were Fs. What is surprising is how these grades cluster period by period. Most comprehensive high schools “track” students with Honors & AP programs. Thus, it is not surprising that the highest percentages of As and Bs occurred in Honors classes. What is particularly dispiriting in looking at the “regular” classes is that two of them contain majorities (66% & 51%) of students who are now ineligible for admission to a University of California.  Further, research from the MRDC indicates that more than 40% of ninth grade students fail to promote to the tenth grade on time and fewer than 20% of those students recover from failure and graduate from high school.

Ninth Grade Academies are designed to support the transition to high school by creating interdisciplinary teacher teams that have students and planning times in common. These teachers work to coordinate their courses to better meet their students’ needs. I wonder if my colleagues have similar work completion and course passage rates. How can our NGA better prepare students to complete their assignments and make deadlines instead of making excuses?

 

Final Grade Distribution by %

  A B C D F
P1 26 40 11 17 6
P2 11 46 32 11 0
P4 3 9 22 28 38
P5 9 9 31 11 40
P6 3 20 37 20 20
 

My overall course passage rate was 79%, which means my course failure rate was 21%. Overall, this isn’t bad, however, my lowest achieving class periods have course failure rates of 62% and 60% respectively. I suspect that these students have been “tracked” and the culture they have developed of not caring about grades is greater than one teacher can overcome. Nevertheless, in the Spring semester, I will double my efforts to engage these students.