Midway High School


Enhancing Content and Transforming Understanding Through Technology

Primary Researchers

Gloria Conatser, Intern, Baylor University

Molly Sanders, MSEd, Mentor Teacher, Midway High School, Midway ISD

Neil Shanks, PhD, Intern Supervisor, Baylor University

 

Rationale/Introduction

The existing literature in the field of education states that technological innovation should not simply be used to make traditional instruction digital, but rather used to transform and elevate the content being taught. Additionally, there are many areas of untapped potential for tech use in Social Studies classrooms. In other words, rather than simply giving students a digital copy of a printable assignment, one should design lessons that go one step further and do what paper cannot. I want to explore how the AP Human Geography curriculum could be strengthened given Midway ISD’s one-to-one iPad program. Human Geography is a freshman level class, and the students sometimes must work harder to grasp concepts that would come naturally with more life experience. Students are expected to attain a deeper understanding of people and places all over the world, which can be made uniquely possible with the wealth free content on the internet. I am interested in finding ways to make content more relevant by using what students do have, which is iPads and digital nativity. 

Question/Wondering

How can technology be used to expand Human Geography students’ worldview, thereby enhancing their engagement and understanding of the content?

Methodology/Results

The data from this study was collected from two AP Human Geography class periods. Based on a specific lesson, classroom observations, and survey with free response questions, I analyzed the ways that use of the iPads changed engagement with the material. One of the lessons that I used for this project was on the sectors of the economy. At the beginning of each unit, students receive a “one-pager” and vocabulary sheet that cover the topics that the unit includes. In order to make the content more relevant through technology, I turned to a website I had visited several months prior. NPR has a website dedicated to the making of a t-shirt. The site follows the production process from cotton harvest to delivery. Every student owns a t-shirt, but few had put thought into where they come from. Though the site was not designed for classroom use, it touched on all of the concepts of the unit, with one important distinction: it did not use the terms used by the College Board to describe what was happening. To structure the lesson, and as an assessment, I created guided notes in the Book Creator app. Students were to take different parts of the website and find where the segment fit into the sectors using an organizer that I shared with them. First, I explained the sectors, then we watched all of the videos as a class. Students filled out the guided notes as we went on their iPads. When the videos were done, students went to the website themselves and read the additional information provided and completed their assessment. In the lessons that followed this one, I would ask students, for example, if they remembered Jasmine, the seamstress from Bangladesh who sewed some of the t-shirts in the video, to relate that prior lesson to the current one on stages of development. Overwhelmingly, they knew who I was referring to, and were able to make the connection of how it was relevant. This transformation through technology not only helped the lesson the day of, but had compounding benefits over time. Even months later, the subject of agriculture could be supplemented with the lesson they had early on.

Implications/Recommendations

I will be using my findings to inform my future use of technology, specifically using the instantaneousness of the internet to highlight how current events apply to Human Geography, which is an ideal content area to expand tech use in. An aspect of this study that I will do differently in future action research is more intentional from the beginning, more inclusive of the populations present in my class, my sampling would benefit from more strategic selection on my part. Even after collecting my data, we were teaching the geopolitics unit as Russia invaded Ukraine. Now more than ever the internet can create a level of relevance that has never been possible before.

Reference(s)

Farisi, M. (2016). Developing the 21st-century social studies skills through technology integration. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Learning https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohammad-Farisi

 

 


Assessment Formats and Their Influence on Student Performance and Test Anxiety

Primary Researchers

Hannah Harris, Intern, Baylor University

Beverly Roper, Mentor Teacher, Midway High School, Midway ISD

Ashleigh Maldonado, PhD Candidate, Intern Supervisor, Baylor University

 

Rationale/Introduction

Anxiety among teenagers is higher than ever before. This has become apparent in my own classroom as I have watched my students struggle through their own anxiety about assessments, grades, and the many challenges of being a high schooler in the middle of a global pandemic. I have witnessed students’ frustration before, during, and after taking assessments. I have consoled overwhelmed students who are frustrated that they are not performing to the high standards which they believe they must meet. My reason, or rationale, for choosing to study students' anxiety in correlation with different types of assessments stems not only from my students’ struggles, but also from my own struggle with anxiety. As someone who struggles with severe test anxiety, I have come to the realization that some assessments cause me significantly more anxiety than others. My research explores the effects of different types of assessments on students’ test anxiety in conjunction with students’ academic performance on different types of assessments. The purpose in researching test anxiety and student performance is so that I have a better idea as to how to help my students thrive. According to Fincham and Sanders (1998), it is vital that we examine and attempt to better understand the impact of student test anxiety on academic performance because anxiety affects students' performance on assessments. The article Test Anxiety: Are Students Failing Tests: Or are Tests Failing Students? (2004) explores the dichotomy between the importance of academic standards and holding schools accountable for what they teach, to the struggles of concentrating on the importance of state mandated standardized testing in the classroom and how this impacts students. When researching student test anxiety on different types of assessments, it is important to also examine student performance on these different assessments so that the researcher can make connections between performance and anxiety.  My action research project explores the effectiveness of different forms of assessment and how these different forms accurately display students’ understanding of the material being tested. 

Question/Wondering

How does the use of different forms of assessment reflect students’ content knowledge and affect students’ levels of test anxiety for ninth grade students in an honors English I classroom?

Methodology/Results

To investigate my action research question, I administered different types of assessments to each of my six periods of ninth grade honors English I students. Data collected for this research question includes interview data where students were given surveys and asked to submit reflections on different assessments, observational data which included my observations collected during student assessments, and artifact data which in this case includes students’ grades on writing, multiple choice, matching, and true/ false assessments. The following explanations describe the conclusions I have made based on my different research strategies and data collected.

The surveys and interviews that I have given students prove overwhelmingly that students experience greater anxiety for writing assignments and assessments than any other type of assessment. In my survey titled “Test Anxiety Reflection,” 81.6% of my 136 responses stated that essay writing and written response assessments cause them the most stress and anxiety. Based on my observations and discussions with students, writing causes anxiety because these questions are so broad and open-ended that it can be hard for students to focus enough to make any progress in their writing. It seems overwhelming to students to have no specific starting point like an outline, answer choices, or any specific requirements on their prompts. We have continually reviewed writing strategies, and specifically how to get started, with our students; however, it is still overwhelming and stressful for students to get started with essay writing or short answer response questions. 

Additionally, students claim, and data seems to support this claim, that essay writing is not the best avenue for displaying students’ understanding of specific content. Some students who understand content at a deep level, struggle to express that understanding because their writing skills and abilities are so lacking. My mentor teacher and I realized, from the very beginning of the semester, that this group of students is really lacking the necessary writing skills. 

Students spent five days taking different parts of their practice EOC benchmark. In a reflection on this benchmark, 90.1% of students indicated that they felt the most unconfident on the writing section of the benchmark. Interestingly, the class was split almost in half between students who experienced more stress and anxiety over state/ district mandated assessments versus content assessments in our class.

In my survey given directly after the Pride and Prejudice comprehensive reading and analysis test over Ch. 20-42, 136 of my students reflected on their level of anxiety about this assessment, the data is as follows: 4.4% of students explained that they experienced no anxiety about the test; 36% of students stated that they were nervous about the test; 36% of students stated that they were “quite anxious” about the assessment; 18.4% replied that they were “very anxious” about the test; 5.1% of students responded saying that they “experienced extreme, or crippling anxiety” for this assessment.

Implications/Recommendations

Student test anxiety is typically higher when preparing for and taking written assessments as opposed to other assessments. Although writing causes students to stress, many students also experience anxiety when taking multiple choice, true or false, and matching assessments. A few strategies that decrease students’ test anxiety before and during testing include a brief class review of the material before students begin an assessment, giving students guidelines on what to study the day before the test, and playing quiet and relaxing background music while students are working. My ninth grade honors English I students struggle more with writing this year than any other English content area. Because the majority of my students are struggling writers, they are less confident in their writing abilities and therefore experience greater anxiety about writing assessments. Many students struggle to properly express their thoughts through written responses which means that for many students, writing assessments are not the best way to assess students’ content knowledge. One weakness of this study is that students were not assessed and observed on informal writing. Our classroom does not often ask students to write a response or analysis of a passage or idea without it being in the proper expository essay or short answer response format. It would be informative and interesting to further explore this question by observing and assessing the strongest writers in the class to see how these students respond to informal written analysis assessments. Although written assessments often push students to think critically in a way that is challenging to achieve with a test, many students struggle to appropriately express their ideas on written assessments which hinders them from expressing the extent of their understanding of the content being tested. 

Reference(s)

Fincham, F. D., Hokoda, A., & Sanders, R. (1989). Learned Helplessness, Test Anxiety, and Academic Achievement: A Longitudinal Analysis. Child Development, 60(1), 138–145. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131079

Sadker, D., & Zittleman, K. (2004). Test Anxiety: Are Students Failing Tests: Or Are Tests Failing Students? The Phi Delta Kappan, 85(10), 740–751. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20441673

 

 


Setting Goals and Taking Control 

Primary Researchers

Nichole Olson, Intern, Baylor University

Melissa Walls, MS Ed, Mentor Teacher, Midway High School, Midway ISD

Ashleigh Maldonado, PhD Candidate, Intern Supervisor, Baylor University

 

Rationale/Introduction

While I have been working as an intern in a 9th grade English I classroom, I have witnessed countless instances where students failed to take ownership or responsibility for their own learning. Many students fail to use the resources provided to them, follow repeated directions or complete work while absent, and they rely heavily on the use of technology to do their work for them. In her scholarly journal, Lyn Corno stated, “Students who do well by circumventing learning difficulties… take responsibility for their own learning and performance, use appropriate tools at their disposal, and navigate the storms of school and classroom life” (Corno, 1992, p.69). Although, through observations, I have noticed that many students in my English I classroom do not engage in such activities.  It seems that getting good grades is not good enough for many students in terms of motivating them to complete their work and perform well on assessments. Several studies show that student success can be directly linked to student responsibility. For example, in Nader Ayish’s scholarly journal, he states, “the literature is rich in documenting how individual responsibility contributes to individual students’ academic performance” (Ayish, 2019, p.224). Therefore, I want to conduct a study to test how well the practice of setting goals and being rewarded with incentives works to help students take control of their own learning.

Question/Wondering

In what ways does a goal setting system with incentives help motivate 9th grade ELAR students to take control of their own learning?

Methodology/Results

Over the course of three weeks, I conducted an experiment in three of my six 9th grade, on-level, English I classes that explored the ways a goal setting system with incentives impacted student motivation and personal responsibility. Each class period included a diverse population of students, including several races, both genders, and a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. As the basis of my experiment, I created and implemented a four-by-four “BINGO” game sheet. In every box of the “BINGO” game sheet, I listed different goals for the students to complete. For example, one box contained the goal, “participates in class 3 times” or another said, “no late work for a week”. The thought behind the goals was to list different areas that the students struggled in, focusing specifically on actions students fail to do on a daily basis to improve their learning. Each student’s job was to complete four goals in a row (up, down, or diagonal). Once they did, they were instructed to fill out a “Reflection Chart” that I created. The reflection chart required the student to list specific evidence that proved each goal was completed. Additionally, the student was also required to reflect on the completion of each goal, discussing ideas like whether they thought the specific action was helpful or not and if they would continue doing it. Finally, once a student completed the necessary steps, they were allowed to pick a prize from the “Incentives List” with rewards ranging from an additional bathroom pass to a Baylor T-Shirt. 

Throughout the experiment, I gathered evidence and data in several ways. The first is through observational data. For every day I was present in class, I would write a brief journal entry in a Google Sheets spreadsheet. I would reflect on student engagement/participation, the use of dictionaries, the number of charged iPads, and several other actions listed on the BINGO sheet. Additionally, I administered a student survey at the end of my research to collect each student’s thoughts and feelings about the experiment as a whole. Lastly, I recorded numerical data focusing on the amount of late work, assessment scores, and the completion of quiz corrections over the course of the experiment. To analyze my observational data, I compared what I saw in the classroom, in terms of engagement, participation, etc. throughout the experiment to what I had already witnessed prior to the beginning on the data collection. Additionally, I compared the numerical data from before the experiment to the data during the experiment and identified any increases or decreases in student late work, test scores, and participation in quiz corrections. Lastly, after collecting student surveys, I analyzed how many students found the experiment helpful/beneficial and compared it to those who did not. Then, I cross analyzed the information with the students who have been successful throughout the experiment and those who have not. 

As a result, I have found that a goal setting system with incentives has a positive impact on motivating students to take responsibility for their own learning. Over the course of the experiment, student late work submissions went down while student test scores and quiz corrections went up. Additionally, I continuously observed an increase in participation and engagement throughout each tested class period. Lastly, the students who successfully completed the experiment, or those who were close to completing it, score higher in the classroom compared to those who did not do well or participate. Therefore, there is a direct correlation between the students who set goals and achieved them and the students who have improved grade averages, especially when compared to the students who did were not successful in completing the experiment. 

Implications/Recommendations

After completing this study and observing how much fun my students and I had completing it, I plan to carry this activity with me throughout my career. I believe that this activity would be even more beneficial if it were introduced at the very beginning of the school year. I think this would allow students more time to complete their goals and win prizes multiple times. Another thing I may consider changing about this activity, is having the students create their own goals and fill out the BINGO sheet themselves. I think this would improve the activity tremendously by creating even better results since the students would be able to set goals personal to them and their own learning. This would allow the students to be more invested in the activity and help them complete their goals effectively and efficiently. 

Reference(s)

Ayish, N., & Deveci, T. (2019). Student Perceptions of Responsibility for Their Own Learning and for Supporting Peers’ Learning in a Project-based Learning Environment. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education31(2), 224–237.

Corno, L. (1992). Encouraging Students to Take Responsibility for Learning and Performance. The Elementary School Journal93(1), 69–83. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1002046

 

 


Technology, Collaboration, and Quality: How Technology Affects Student Work 

Primary Researchers

Giselle Peralta, Intern, Baylor University

Sarah Barry, MS Ed, Mentor Teacher, Midway Highschool, Midway ISD

Ashleigh Maldonado, PhD Candidate, Intern Supervisor, Baylor University

 

Rationale/Introduction

Secondary students are frequently instructed to use their iPads and devices to complete assignments and activities in the classroom. With the pandemic hitting schools in 2020, students became accustomed to using technology to complete work virtually. Since then, the use of devices in the classroom has increased. This study compares student reactions to completing creative and collaborative assignments using only their school provided iPads to the same assignments completed using paper and pencils. Student productivity will be measured with collaboration between peers and quality of their work. Ultimately, this study is looking for the difference in student performance when an assignment is completed electronically instead of using class materials. This study seeks to measure the effects of technology on engagement and learning. The setting involves five tenth grade English II Honors class periods. The assignment required students to create an advertisement utilizing one of the logical fallacies from the text covered in class. Students were then required to cite the fallacy in the text and label the application in their advert. Two classes completed this assignment using their iPad, while the other three classes used paper, pencils, and coloring materials. To minimize the effect of the time of day, the materials used alternated after each class period. Students had the flexibility to work with partners or individually in both settings, and all classes had access to the same rubric and materials.

Question/Wondering

In what ways do assignments requiring technology affect my 10th grade students’ collaboration and quality compared to assignments requiring hard materials? 

Methodology/Results

This study was conducted over one school day where 10th grade English II Honor students completed an advertisement utilizing a logical fallacy from the previously read text. Two class periods completed the assignment using iPads, and three classes completed the assignment with hard copy paper and coloring materials in an effort to assess the broad impact of technology on student work. This setup allowed for the comparison of quality of work and collaboration using the same rubric and requirements for each method. Students within these five class periods included both genders, a variety of race and ethnicity, and a variety of income levels. The limit of five honors classes, about 130 students, meant a 40% technology and 60% hard copy ratio. The research was conducted by looking at student surveys, reviewing the submitted student assignments, and observing students having active and on task conversations, dividing work between partners, asking questions relevant to the topic to either their peers or their teachers, and overall collaboration with peers. 

The class period began with reviewing the content, presenting the assignment, going over the specific logical fallacies from the text, and presenting an example to the class before releasing students to complete the assignment individually or with a partner. It is during the time period of students working that observation notes were taken on students collaborating in constructive and on task discussions, asking questions, and contributing evenly between pairs. Students submitted their assignments at the end of class; hard copies were collected and electronic copies were submitted online. These assignments were reviewed for completion, following the rubric, and analyzed for common mistakes. Before students left for their next class period, they were to scan a QR code and fill out a student survey that would ask them to rate their own work and reflect on their preference for or against technology. The survey also asked students to reflect on their collaboration. The survey submissions remained anonymous to encourage students to be honest with their responses. It must be noted that throughout the day, students participating in the survey decreased at the end of each period.

Common mistakes in student products included inadequate citation of the text and a misunderstanding of  the purpose of an advertisement. Many students created a visual example of one of the logical fallacies without advertising a product or service. The latter mistake was far more prevalent in students using iPads, while the lack of proper citation was more evenly distributed between each class period. Observations conducted found that students who used iPads finished the assignment in a shorter amount of time than students using copy paper. Students using copy paper were observed to have longer conversations on the subject matter and spent a longer period of time deciding what to advertise than students utilizing technology. Students in partners were observed to be more likely to pass a hard copy paper back and forth than students using iPads were to pass the tablet back and forth. Some partnerships utilized two iPads with a shared file, however, most partnerships were observed to use one tablet. Overall, students using hard copy paper demonstrated more collaboration than students who used tablets. Despite these observations, student survey responses from both iPad and hard copy classrooms shared a desire for choice between paper and tablet and a preference for technology in the classroom. Student surveys also showed that students using paper felt more pressed for time, and many felt that they could be more creative using an iPad, however, looking at submissions, most students using iPads completed the assignment in as little time as possible.

The combination of student assignments, student surveys, and observations during the class period allow for an overall evaluation of student work with and without technology.

Implications/Recommendations

After completing this study and analyzing the results yielded from one school day, it can be said that this assignment is best completed with pencil and paper. While this particular assignment yielded better results from classes who did not use their iPads, students who utilized technology in compelling and creative ways may pave the road to maximizing the benefits of tech in the classroom. Because students do not need to hand draw each image while using iPads, assignment requirements should be adjusted to fill this gap in time with ways students may further explore concepts in ways they would not be able to have they completed the assignment on paper. This study implies that while students may want a choice between iPad and paper, creating assignments with instructions specific to one of these mediums may direct students to have the most enriching experience they can in the classroom.

In conclusion, assignments requiring technology decrease collaboration and quality, and assignments requiring hard materials are more impactful for students because they require more time and thought due to being more labor intensive for students physically, while technology does not demand students produce their own images by hand and offers quick copy, paste, delete options instead. Additionally, sharing physical materials demands students in partners share a single page, while technology isolates students in partnerships because students are less likely to share their instrument, and students sharing documents online are less inclined to interact with their partner because it is not being demanded of them to complete the assignment. This conclusion, however, is extremely dependent on the circumstances of this study. The division of two classes using technology and three classes using physical materials lends an uneven ratio of data for each side. The instructions for the assignment may also be to the advantage of physical materials. The study focused on one assignment, and would therefore not be conclusive for different assignments assigned in the classroom. The study was also confined to secondary sophomores. While these are weaknesses in the study, strengths include observing the effects of both mediums during different times of the day, offering a wide range of races and demographics, providing equal opportunity for students to succeed, and range of data including observations, final products, and student surveys. 

Reference(s)

Mohammed, S., & Ph.D. (2019, May 8). Is technology good or bad for learning? Brookings. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2019/05/08/is-technology-good-or-bad-for-learning/

8 benefits of technology in the classroom. GCU. (n.d.). Retrieved February 4, 2022, from https://www.gcu.edu/blog/teaching-school-administration/8-benefits-of-classroom-technology

 

 


The Balance of Engagement in Cooperative Learning

Primary Researchers

Reagan Yablon, Intern, Baylor University

Brandy Farquhar, Mentor Teacher, Midway HS, Midway ISD

Tamara Roznos, MS Ed, Intern Supervisor, Baylor University

 

Rationale/Introduction

Oftentimes group activities can be over complicated and result in lower motivation, participation, and overall engagement. Karafil’s (2019) study found that the teacher’s attitude/eagerness, interest-inclusion, student autonomy with teacher support, varied enjoyable texts, and the incorporation of speaking skills are needed for students to be motivated to be engaged. This was done with ELL students, but there is still an overlap. The findings were found through interviews, student surveys, and measuring the work. Because student engagement supports the learning environment, I explored quality engagement during group activities. One strategy is creating a student learner environment through teacher autonomy support. This will lead to an increase in intrinsic motivation (Karafil, 2019). I explored engagement in cooperative work and identified the most effective formula to engage students in a meaningful way. The three strategies I trialed are student autonomy/oral skills through the Jigsaw model, role-based group work with self-reflection, and competition/game-based cooperative learning. There was also a control group. This group work had no specific strategy intended to increase engagement and was not cooperative learning. 

Question/Wondering

Does competition-based, role-based, or Jigsaw puzzle method cooperative learning produce the most effective lesson that is centered around relevant content in a way that does not create more stress and keeps honors English II students engaged?

Methodology/Results

The research was done throughout five periods of Honors English II from February 8th-February 15th. I taught three separate lessons that incorporated each of the three cooperative learning strategies (role-based with reflection, competition/game-based, and student autonomy through Jigsaw). I took observation notes about the negative and positive outcomes of each lesson. Before beginning the study, I had every student fill out a google feedback form. The form asked about learning needs and preferences. I received 107 responses over five periods. I used this data to plan out cooperative learning. I incorporated the students’ desire for the choice of group members and their interest in group work. I used the data on learning by making sure there were kinesthetic, hands-on aspects, as well as visual components (directions and assignments). 

After planning the research and aligning it with the TEKS and lesson objectives, students completed the Google feedback form. I analyzed and reflected on the data to adjust my current lesson plans. Thirdly, I taught each strategy, including the regular group work. During each lesson, I made observation notes about the outcomes. Afterward, I analyzed and reflected on the observation notes. When analyzing the data, I looked at which type of cooperative learning enabled the most engagement and highest quality of work. I also looked at the completed assignments for each group lesson. I made notes about the quality of the work, the estimated completion rate, and how students interacted with one another. Students also took formative assessments through the given cooperative learning assignments. 

Out of the three operative learning activities, the competition/game method yielded the most promising outcomes. There were minimal complaints and confusion when compared to the other two strategies; however, it is easier to target intentional and purposeful learning with Jigsaw and role-based instruction. Unfortunately, these strategies had negative results. The role-based lesson with reflection engaged students, but the students did not take the reflection seriously. Furthermore, the controlled group work resulted in low engagement, negative attitudes, and low-quality work.

Implications/Recommendations

Each strategy had an improvement that could be made in the future. When addressing the game/competition method, the downside is that games are most efficient when used as informal review or formative assessments. For learning, they are mainly effective with reinforcement and solidifying material. For better results for the Jigsaw method, I would explain the purpose and benefit of the Jigsaw puzzle method more in-depth. For better results for the role-based reflection strategy, I would put more emphasis on the reflection and make it a more formal process. The most effective plan is to incorporate all three. The results from the feedback form suggest that the students like many types of group work and like when the lessons are switched up. When planning a unit, teachers could use the Jigsaw puzzle method to introduce the material, the role-based with reflection lesson to expand and deepen understanding of the material, and the competition/game activity to reinforce and review the same material. This gives students varied, purposeful, and engaging instruction that meets the TEKS and the learning needs of all students. This plan also yields a high outcome of engagement, enjoyment, and productivity. By breaking these lessons up throughout the unit, students are less likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed by the work and instructions. 

Moving forward, my study will influence my teaching practices by making me more inclined to incorporate several cooperative learning methods and doing so in a methodical way, not randomly. If I were to repeat this study, I would do so when I am not in full teach or if I have an opportunity to just observe. It is difficult to make meaningful observations while teaching at the same time. I wonder which types of games/competitions are the most beneficial. I also wonder if role-based reflection could be combined with competitions to hold each team player accountable. 

Reference(s)

Kelly. (2008). Race, social class, and student engagement in middle school English classrooms. Social Science Research37(2), 434–448. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2007.08.003

Karafil, & Oguz, A. (2019). Examining Factors Affecting Student Engagement in English Preparatory Classes According to Student Opinions. Üniversitepark Bülten8(2), 117–133. https://doi.org/10.22521/unibulletin.2019.82.2