Midway Middle School


Student Perceptions of Technology in Classrooms

Primary Researchers

Elizabeth Richey, Intern, Baylor University

Jennifer German, BSED, Mentor Teacher, Midway Middle School, Midway ISD

Ashleigh Maldonado, PhD Candidate, Intern Supervisor, Baylor University

 

Rationale/Introduction

Since COVID, it has been discovered that society has had significant increases of “anxiety, depression, and stress, …insomnia, indignation, worries about their own health and family, sensitivity to social risks, life dissatisfaction, phobias, avoidance, compulsive behavior, physical symptoms, and social functioning impairment[s]”(Talevi, 2020). Not only has COVID caused immense emotional distress worldwide, but it has also been influencing student success since the beginning. In a study conducted on 12th-grade STEM teachers, they noted how they “feared that the 2020 examination results are likely to post a drop in overall performance of pupils,” and,”[t]he reason for this expected trend is largely to the loss of contact hours for secondary school students” (Sintema, 2020). Because students' success has been depleting, schools took the initiative to start online schooling. Marlena Minkos, a renowned psychologist states that when COVID started: “districts that utilized electronic devices (i.e., iPads, Chromebooks) to facilitate instruction for all students before the pandemic were able to transition more quickly and fluently to instruction within a virtual environment. In contrast, students in districts that did not have access to electronic devices likely missed weeks of instructional time as schools worked through the logistics of securing and distributing learning materials.” (Minkos, 2021)

These three realities are directly related to one another. When COVID began, districts still needed to educate students, so they began virtual learning. This limits students’ learning styles, and with the noticeable decrease in mental health, of course, student success decreased.

In order to best adhere to our students’ needs, it is important to research their perceptions of educators who rely on technology since the start of COVID. Their perceptions are a direct indicator of their behavior and motivation levels, and if we are able to identify these, educators will be able to improve their pedagogy to best meet their needs. This is something I am passionate about, since I use virtual learning and an abundance of technology in my classroom, and many more districts in the nation also incorporate those on their campuses. Teachers anywhere would benefit from learning their students’ perceptions of technology in the classroom since COVID, because if their perceptions are negative, then educators need to change their instruction. If their perceptions are positive, then we should find ways to integrate more technology in the classroom. No matter what, our students’ perceptions matter because it shapes their learning, and COVID is something that will continue to change their lives, so we should continually try to understand their point of view in order to best meet their needs.

Question/Wondering

What are 8th-grade English students’ perceptions of technology use in the classroom since the start of COVID?

Methodology/Results

For my methodology, I collected 3 types of data from my 6 classes of 8th grade English classrooms. My participants were 137 students. 55 were male, and 82 were female. Participants’ ages were 13-14 years old. 104 participants were White, 14 were Hispanic, 10 were Asian, 6 were African American, and 5 were Other. 3 out of 6 class periods were administered solely online with no in-person instruction, and the remaining 3 out of 6 classes were administered in-person with face-to-face instruction, using a Nearpod. For the timeline, I gave pre-lesson surveys the day before online/in-person lessons, and then the following day I gave the post-lesson surveys. So I was able to collect my surveys outside of the day of the lesson.

My first data collection were pre and post-lesson surveys, taken from Google Forms. My second form of data collection was observational data, following a positive/negative reaction chart where I tracked 6 students in every class period, and detailed their reactions and engagement to the activities. Positive reactions/engagements included positive body language, facial expressions, correct posture, and focus. Negative reactions/engagement included negative body language (such as slouching, holding head in hands, looking around the room, rolling the eyes), the amount that students were off task, and general rejection of the assignments. Lastly, I collected a formative assessment that was given in all class periods.

This methodology relates to my wondering because the surveys collected direct feedback from students, the observational data collected indirect feedback, and the Nearpod collected data that shows how influential the methods of teaching can be on student performance. For the lesson, the first three class periods of the day were online. Students walked into the classroom, and I told them that their lesson will solely be online, and if they have questions, they need to send me an email. During the lesson, I recorded observational data on 6 students’ reactions for each class period. The same was repeated in the last 3 classes of the day, however, these classes were provided in-person instruction, interactions, and face-to-face aid when asked.

The results showed that while students overall prefer in-person or paper instruction, student performance generally stays the same. The surveys provided the same responses between the pre and post-lesson surveys. A large majority of students said they prefer written, on paper, and in-person instruction more than virtual learning and activities. Students feel more connected with teachers when they use less technology. When teachers used too much technology, students feel disconnected and feel like they are not learning much. The students communicated consistent disdain for the dependence on technology, and believe they perform better when there is less technology. The observational data showed that for the virtual learning classes, students rarely showed positive engagement, and largely showed negative reactions and engagement percentages. For the classes that were hybrid, ⅔ classes showed mostly positive reactions and engagements, and less negative ones. ⅓ of the hybrid classes showed nearly equal reactions and engagement percentages. Surprisingly enough, the Nearpod formative assessment showed equal student performance all around. No one group of students performed higher or lower than the other, based on the instruction type.

These results were surprising because, since COVID, schools have started to show an increased rate of dependency on technology. With this, society generally assumes that students would enjoy more technology and would benefit more from it. However, according to this study, students prefer less technology, and it does not make a significant difference in student performance.

Implications/Recommendations

Since student perceptions are a determining factor in behavior and motivation and considering this study’s results that students prefer less technology and more in-person and paper interactions, this study should strive to influence future teachers to be less technology-dependent, or continue being hybrid and use paper instruction. Although student performance generally does not change based on the instruction type, changing the instruction type will help improve student behavior, engagement, and motivation. All of these are characteristics all teachers should desire an increase of in their classrooms.

A weakness of this study is that the survey count was not consistent with the pre and post-surveys. Due to absences, some students were unable to take both surveys or missed the observable lesson completely. The study could also be improved by making the two different scenarios completely their own, in a way that in-person would use no technology, and the virtual one would solely use technology.

Additional wonderings are questions of how can we improve hybrid classrooms when students feel we have become too dependent on technology? How do we make hybrid classes easier for teachers who want to adhere to the needs of students, but want to increase engagement?

Reference(s)

Minkos, M. L., & Gelbar, N. W. (2021). Considerations for educators in supporting student learning in the midst of COVID‐19. Psychology in the Schools, 58(2), 416-426.

Sintema, E. J. (2020). Effect of COVID-19 on the performance of grade 12 students: Implications for STEM education. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 16(7), em1851.

Talevi, D., Socci, V., Carai, M., Carnaghi, G., Faleri, S., Trebbi, E., ... & Pacitti, F. (2020). Mental health outcomes of the CoViD-19 pandemic. Rivista di psichiatria, 55(3), 137-144.

 

 


Teaching Mathematics Through Real-World Context

Primary Researchers

Colby Shoults, Intern, Baylor University

Brittany Rollins, M.S. Ed., Mentor Teacher, Midway Middle, Midway ISD

Rachelle Rogers, Ed.D., Clinical Associate Professor, Baylor University

 

Rationale/Introduction

Walkington, Sherman, & Howell (2014) discuss the importance of connecting classroom mathematics lessons to individual student interests to optimize engagement. They did so by connecting algebra to social media, sports, music, and video games. Through their classroom situations, they identified the value of providing increased opportunity for students to ground the mathematical concepts in their concrete, everyday experiences to stimulate curiosity. Barta & Kyriopoulos (2014) discuss the learnings from their excursion to a rural Guatemalan village where they integrated mathematics into a culturally situated environment by having students construct maps of their village and develop a system for giving addresses to homes and buildings. Students utilized their cultural method of mapping using landmarks and travel time to develop a pattern for defining addresses, which developed a deep understanding of identifying and utilizing patterns. The research highlights the value of making real, culturally relevant connections to help students develop a deep understanding of mathematical concepts. Each of these articles discusses the ways various mathematical connections to the real world can support learning, however, neither discusses students’ ability to translate these concepts into standardized assessments. This study takes the research one step further by examining the effect of real-world connections can have on students’ ability to perform on standardized exams. Teachers across the country have a growing desire to use contextual mathematics to help students make these connections, but in the classroom, students struggle to translate mathematics from the real world into the standardized view of mathematics shown on assessments. While students’ results on exams continue to hold weight in the education system, teachers need to consider how real-world mathematics will translate to standardized questions.

Question/Wondering

How might mathematical connections to students’ real-world experiences impact student performance on assessments designed for standardized methods of teaching?

Methodology/Results

The research was conducted in two eighth-grade mathematics classrooms; one control class and one research class. The research was conducted over a unit that spanned two weeks. On the first day of the unit, students completed the first survey and the pre-assessment. They quizzed at the beginning of the second week and participated in the final survey after the unit exam on the final day of the second week.

The survey asked students to rank, on a defined scale, their confidence in their mathematics as well as their interest in the class. Options were clearly stated and ordered appropriately based on the scale from 1-5, 1 represented no confidence or interest and 5 represented total confidence and interest. Students also described in a free response why they chose their ranking. In addition to the surveys, students were assessed on their understanding by taking a pre-test, quiz, and unit test. The assessments allowed for progress comparison throughout the unit. The unit tests were created from the released STAAR test question banks from previous eighth-grade exams. This meant that all the unit tests were standardized, multiple-choice questions that would display students’ abilities to translate real-world understanding into a standardized context.

The control class took part in the activities that were utilized across all the eighth-grade classes at the middle school while the research class participated in separate plans to address the content through real-world activities. Lessons for the control class included note-taking based on triangles and rectangles and completing examples independently. Lessons created for the research class incorporated movie clips, discussion boards, a coffee shop theme day, and whole-group exploration of the content. Students participated in discussions about real-world situations, connections to mathematics, and methods that could be used to solve the problems. Each activity prompted discussions in which students used previous knowledge to create formal, mathematical arguments about the situations presented. In wondering how these real-world introductions and applications impact student performance on standardized questions, the research lessons focused heavily on utilizing the concepts in the real world.

To analyze the data, survey responses and assessment results were translated into several bar charts. When considering the survey data, the percentages of each ranking before and after the unit can be compared to determine how students' interest levels and confidence were impacted. To determine the impact on performance, the change in averages from the pre-assessment to the unit exam can be compared to show how each class progressed and applied their knowledge by the end of the unit. After comparing averages, individual students’ scores within each class period were observed in their ranked order to consider how various types of students were impacted by learning through real-world contexts.

Overall, the performance of each class on the assessments did not change dramatically, nor did the interest or confidence level of students in either classroom. The research class increased their average performance by 33% while the control class increased their average performance by 30%. This shows a slightly higher improvement by the research class. The interest and confidence levels remained consistent. As the researcher collected data, they also examined the rankings of students within each class based upon their individual scores and compared them to their previous performance on assessments. It was found that within the control class, students’ rankings were as expected based on previous assessments. However, in the research class, several students that typically performed in the low to moderate range, 50% to 70%, achieved a higher percentage within the 80% to 100% range on the unit exam. Additionally, several students that typically made higher percentages dropped to the 50% to 70% range on the exam.

The data collected from the surveys and the assessments provided several avenues to determine the impact of real-world learning on students’ performance. By observing the changes in survey responses in each class, researchers can compare how students developed their mathematical confidence and interest through different types of lessons. By observing the performance on the assessments, researchers can determine the class that experienced the most academic progress.

Implications/Recommendations

While there were slight improvements in interest and performance in the research class, this was not a defining result of the study. The deeper observations of individual student performance showed that within the research class, several students that typically score low to moderate on assessments performed at higher levels, and some of the students that typically performed very high, achieved low to moderate results. This result displays the importance of providing students an opportunity to see concepts in many ways including real-world scenarios. Students require various types of support in the classroom and providing many types of support is necessary for teachers to see the greatest success in their students possible. As long as standardized mathematics assessments continue to hold weight in the education system, teachers need to support their students in mastering the translation of real-world concepts into standardized mathematics.

Providing students with real-world mathematics can meet the needs of more students, specifically the students that do not often connect with typical mathematics classes similar to the control class. The research data shows that several low to moderate performers were able to better apply the content to standardized mathematics after understanding and exploring the content in the real world. Teachers should consider this throughout lesson planning to identify areas in which students could benefit from learning mathematics in real-world scenarios which might allow more students access to the content.

Previous research had not considered the significance of how real-world mathematics learning affects standardized assessments, which is an important consideration in our current education system. While students are required to participate in standardized exams, there need to be opportunities for students to display their understanding of mathematics in various ways that are not standardized. Students should be provided the opportunity to display their knowledge in ways they feel accurately portray their understanding. To better identify the implications of real-world learning on standardized assessments, future research should be conducted over a longer period of time. Research should also have specific limits on the activities allowed for the control class to better control for variables. The research would also benefit from including a third class exposed to both instructional methods.

Reference(s)

Barta, J., & Kyriopoulos, J. (2014). Mapping Our World. Teaching Children Mathematics, 21(3), 162–168. Retrieved from:https://doi.org/10.5951/teacchilmath.21.3.0162

Walkington, C., Sherman, M., & Howell, E. (2014). Personalized Learning in Algebra. The Mathematics Teacher, 108(4), 272–279. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.5951/mathteacher.108.4.0272

 

 


The Effects of Manipulatives on Students’ Confidence

Primary Researchers

Christina Ware, Intern, Baylor University

Amanda Packard, BSEd, Mentor Teacher, Midway Middle School, Midway ISD

Melissa Donham, M.A., Intern Supervisor, Baylor University

 

Rationale/Introduction

While the researcher engaged with students during instruction, she noticed that some students had difficulty in solving problems on their own. This was not due to a lack of understanding, but rather the inability to make sense of a problem and persevere in solving them, which is a mathematical practice students should incorporate into their learning (Principles to Action, 2014). Students often raised their hand asking for help before looking at the question. Adding to this point, the researcher noticed students had a very hard time transferring knowledge due to the inability to form connections.

National Council Teachers of Mathematics (2021) believes that forming mathematical connections are a vital way to support mathematical learning. To form connections in mathematics, it is useful to engage students in the use of multiple representations of the concept being taught, such as visual, physical, symbolic, contextual, and verbal.

On Hand2mind.com researchers detail the expansive support that manipulatives can have on a student’s cognitive processes. Manipulatives have been reported to increase both the interest and enjoyment of mathematics and thus translating into increased mathematical ability (Sutton and Kreuger, 2002). While there has been much to say about the benefits of manipulatives on students’ achievement, whether manipulatives can help increase confidence in students is sparse. Because manipulatives can demystify and help form connections toward abstract mathematical concepts, I wondered how might forming mathematical connections using manipulatives impact students’ sense of ownership and confidence in mathematics.

Question/Wondering

How might forming mathematical connections using manipulatives impact students’ sense of ownership and confidence in mathematics?

Methodology/Results

The participants included twelve 7th grade mathematics students who all qualified for accelerated instruction in accordance with House Bill 4545. There were seven girls and five boys. Eleven of the twelve participants are considered “at-risk.” Five students were classified as Hispanic, one student as African American, one Multi-racial, and three Caucasian. Students’ confidence level was measured using a Likert scale survey. Questions were closed and addressed students comfort level in mathematics class, their comfort and perseverance level in solving a mathematics problem, and their comfortability with using manipulatives in mathematics. Confidence was averaged for each participant using positive response questions. There were six positive response questions, six negative response questions and two neutral questions geared toward understanding students’ preference with using manipulatives.

The researcher split students into two groups based on initial positive response confidence score in mathematics. Student pairs were then separated and placed into one of two groups. One group was given instruction with without manipulatives, and one was given the same instruction with manipulatives. After three weeks of instruction in separate groups, students were given the same confidence survey and response levels were measured. Results varied amongst students. When analyzing positive confidence response levels students who were in classes using manipulatives had a higher overall growth in confidence while those who did not use manipulatives had an overall decrease in in confidence.

Implications/Recommendations

The data suggests that the confidence of those students who had the opportunity to use manipulatives grew. More significant, the negative responses attributed to mathematics lessened significantly for these students who used manipulatives in mathematics. These results are significant as future researchers seek to discover how manipulatives can help increase students’ confidence and reduce negative attitudes associated with math.

Incorporating manipulatives into mathematics class at a young age would be beneficial to help curve these negative responses toward mathematics. In addition, at-risk students typically have a more negative response to mathematics so future research should include how the utilization of manipulatives can aid these students in their mathematics journey.

Limitations of my study varied. First, instruction of two groups varied on capability of instructor. Those students who were in the experimental group with manipulatives were given instruction by a teaching candidate while instruction to those students not using manipulatives was given by an experienced educator. In addition, this study spanned over a period of three weeks. While this was sufficient time for this specific unit of operations with decimals, using manipulatives across multiple units of instruction would have been valuable and would have provided more insight into how and when manipulatives can help students confidence and lower their negative response toward mathematics.

Reference(s)

Principles to actions: Ensuring mathematical success for all. (2014). Reston, VA: NCTM, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Sutton, J., & Krueger, A. (2002). EDThoughts: What we know about mathematics teaching and learning. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED465514

Continuing the journey: mathematics learning 2021 and beyond (2021). National Council Teachers of Mathematics. Pdf.

Hand2mind.com, Why teach mathematics with manipulatives. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.hand2mind.com/resources/why-teach-math-with-manipulatives.