Robinson Intermediate


The Impact of Reinforcements on Engagement 

Primary Researchers

Gabriella Severino, Intern, Baylor University

Mary Hockaday, Mentor Teacher, Robinson Intermediate, Robinson ISD

Cindy Barrier, MS Ed, Intern Supervisor, Baylor University 

 

Rationale/Introduction

At Robinson Intermediate, I have noticed an ongoing issue regarding the engagement of two students during math class. They are often fidgeting with items and causing a distraction to themselves and their peers. The students in this study include a fourth-grade boy and girl who are respectively at an average and below average academic achievement level. Since transferring into class, she has had trouble adjusting to the expectations of the classroom. The students’ compliance has been inconsistent. I am hopeful that this behavior plan will allow them to make a permanent change to their behavior and furthermore, their academic achievement.

Question/Wondering

"In what ways does implementing a behavior system involving taking away recess time and providing sticker rewards impact the engagement of a fourth-grade boy and girl during math class?" 

Methodology/Results

Over the past three weeks, I have had the opportunity to implement specific reinforcements with hopes of improving the engagement of a fourth-grade boy and girl during math lessons. The girl in this study is Caucasian and the boy is Hispanic. A recent study showed that behavior problems and lack of engagement can have a direct link to underachievement or even school non-completion (Olivier & Morin, 2020). After reading about this study, I became passionate about seeking out a solution for these two students, as well as the students I will have throughout my career. Another study has shown that distracted learning follows students all the way through their college careers. The study says as educators, we have a golden opportunity to help our students and ourselves to focus in a distracted world (Schmidt, 2020). The students participated in math lessons every day with a duration of approximately 20 minutes. During these math lessons, I monitored the students and watched closely to take note of when they became distracted by playing with items that are not needed in the lesson. If this causes distraction, I take the item from them and take away one minute of recess. For every item that has to be taken away, one minute of recess is revoked. If the student is able to stay engaged throughout the 20-minute lesson, they will receive a sticker which is added to their chart. This sticker chart system is the behavior strategy that the rest of the students use throughout the entire class. They are given certain rewards as they fill out their sticker charts. For example, they get to choose their favorite candy if they fill out one sticker chart. The rewards become bigger if they choose to save their charts and turn in more for a more significant prize. This allows students to have control and the ability to choose in the classroom. I was motivated to include this strategy in my data collection after reading about extrinsic motivation in a study. The study showed that students showed significant improvement in achievement after being given extrinsic rewards along the way (Filsecker & Hickey, 2014). I collected data by keeping tallies on the number of minutes taken away and the number of stickers awarded each day for the past three weeks. I also collected engagement samples, took Kid Watching notes, and documented grades each week. Since implementing these behavior incentives and consequences, the engagement of both students has increased tremendously. During the first week of the study, the students had a total engagement score of 37% on task and 63% off task. At the end of the last week, they had a total engagement score of 90% on task and 10% off task. Both students also had an increase in their academic achievement, scoring greatly higher on their math grades in the third week compared to the first week.

Implications/Recommendations

This study supported the idea that specific consequences and rewards will positively impact the engagement of students. Although the concept of this study was successful, there is an aspect of the study that I would alter. The fourth-grade boy observed in this study had many absences which led to some days not counting towards the data. In the future, I would make the data collection period longer. This would allow for a more accurate understanding of his engagement due to the fact that the behavior of students often fluctuates. 

Reference(s)

Filsecker, M., & Hickey, D. T. (2014, June 6). A multilevel analysis of the effects of external rewards on elementary students' motivation, engagement and learning in an educational game. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://baylor.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/01BUL_INST/122ppak/cdi_gale_infotracacademiconefile_A365387885

Olivier, E., & Morin, A. J. (2020, July 24). Internalizing and Externalizing Behavior Problems and Student Engagement in Elementary and Secondary School Students Internalizing and Externalizing Behavior Problems and Student Engagement in Elementary and Secondary School Students. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://baylor.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/01BUL_INST/122ppak/cdi_proquest_miscellaneous_2427300026

Shmidt, S. J. (2020, September 1). Distracted learning: Big problem ... - Wiley online library. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://ift.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1541-4329.12206

 

 


Weekly Planners Effects on Math Student Averages

Primary Researchers

Scarlett Smith, Intern, Baylor University

Stacy Farris, BS Ed, Mentor Teacher, Robinson Intermediate, Robinson ISD

Cindy Barrier, MS Ed, Intern Supervisor, Baylor University

 

Rationale/Introduction

In my fourth-grade class at Robinson Intermediate, no students use a planner. This disorganization reflects in averages on a classroom tool called Class Dojo. In Class Dojo, students have profiles and are given points based on their behavior and schoolwork. In Math, students are assigned one homework assignment due the next Monday. If a student turns in their homework they receive a positive Dojo point and if it is missing or late, they receive a negative Dojo point. Student Dojo averages determine student choices, rewards, and consequences. Will implementing a daily planner positively improve Dojo averages?

Question/Wondering

What are the effects of the use of a weekly planner (signed once weekly by a parent/guardian), on the number of negative classroom points per student in the subject of Math?  

Methodology/Results

To test my wondering, I implemented a new step in an already established weekly routine for my fourth-grade students. Each week on Monday, students are assigned one math homework assignment that is due the following Monday. If a student turns in their homework, they receive a positive point in Class Dojo. If a student does not turn in their homework and they do not use a homework pass, they receive a negative Dojo point. Student Dojo averages determine student choices, rewards, and consequences. I observed that several students did not complete their homework and had already used their homework passes, therefore they received a negative Dojo point which lowered their average and took away their free time at recess. I decided to test the effects of the implementation of a weekly planner (signed once by a parent/guardian) on the number of negative classroom points per student in the subject of Math. 

First, I surveyed my students through a Google Form (on February 1st, 2022) to gather information about my students, their homework, and their organizational process. My students are in fourth-grade, with 10 boys and 11 girls in the class. They are middle to upper middle-class families with predominately white ethnicity. Through the response percentage breakdown from the Google Form, I learned that 50% of my students had already used their homework pass for the semester and the majority response (26.3%) as to why they used their pass was, “I forgot I had homework.” Another result from the form was the information that the parents of my students know they have homework every week, this was the only 100% unanimous answer of the survey. Also from the Google Form, I learned that 70% of students remind themselves to do their homework, 15% of students’ parents remind them, and 5% forget to do their homework weekly (remaining 10% do it after school at tutoring or on the day it’s received). I determined that if the majority of my students remind themselves or have their parents remind them, the use of a planner could incorporate both of these aspects while also helping remind students that regularly forget to do their homework. Second, I designed and distributed my students planning sheets. The sheet includes a name space, five day-labelled boxes (Monday-Friday), a parent signature space, and an area to indicate whether they did their homework (students circled yes or no). These planners were collected each Monday when students turned in their homework and distributed after students received their new homework. Third, each Monday when students turned in their homework, I recorded which students were missing homework and using a homework pass as well as missing homework and receiving a negative Dojo. I then noted correlations between students who turned in their homework and a planner. 

I collected data for four weeks and analyzed data from a Google Form student survey, collected paper hard-copies of student planners, recorded negative Dojo issues and homework pass use, and noted correlations between a returned student planner and completed homework. All students who turned in a parent-signed planner always turned in their homework, and did not receive a negative Dojo. Students that did not turn in a parent-signed planner did not turn in their homework and decided to use a homework pass, two students ran out of homework passes and had to take negative Dojo points. The week before I implemented the weekly planner (01/31/22), three students received negative Dojo points for missing math homework. The first week of implementation of a planner (02/15/22), I received eight planners back from students with parent signatures and 100% of those students turned in their homework. Also during the first week, five students did not turn in their homework and used their homework passes. None of the five students returned or used their planners. During week two, of planner use, I received eight signed student planners back and 100% of those students turned in their homework. Five students did not turn in their homework and used their homework passes. In week three of planner use, I received six signed planners back with 100% homework turn-in rate. Six students did not turn in their homework and four students used their homework pass, while two students ran out of homework passes and received a negative Dojo. Through this data, I noted there is a direct correlation between turning in a planner and turning in homework as well as not returning a planner and not returning homework. 

The results of my study align with the implications and results of two research studies. Both of these studies centered on the topic of the effects of self-management and direction instruction on the organizational skills of students with ADHD. In my classroom, there are four neurodivergent students presenting with ADD/ADHD. Although I only have four students presenting with ADD/ADHD, I have observed that students lost focus stamina and organizational ownership due to the pandemic. This noticing justified the use of these research findings because although a minor number of students present these diagnosed behaviors, all students can benefit from organizational skills and self-management techniques. In a 2006 study from Lehigh University, three students in a secondary school were reported by their teacher for being insufficiently prepared and inconsistently completing assignments. They were put into an intervention which trained their self-management procedures, specifically focusing on the improvement of classroom preparation skills. After the intervention period, the training was systematically reduced over time and each student’s classroom preparation behaviors showed rapid improvement (Moore, Dupaul, White, 2006). In a 2014 study from a Johns Hopkins PhD candidate, two elementary students with learning disabilities and two elementary students with ADHD participated in scripted lessons about organization and class preparedness (bringing materials, organizing a notebook, organizing a desk). The occurrences of organizational skills being put into practice during this intervention resulted in sustained and maintained use of the taught skills by the four students (Green, 2014). My study supports these research findings because I explicitly taught my students how to use their planner, what they needed to write, and when to turn it in each week. I reviewed this weekly with them and the students that consistently implemented the taught organizational skills did not receive negative Dojo points for missing homework in the subject of math.

Implications/Recommendations

My study will affect my instructional practices through emphasizing and directly instructing students on self-management and organization, and scaffolding these skills so that they achieve mastery and take ownership of organization, just like they would take ownership of learning classroom content. My study had a great concept and idea, but lacked execution of that idea. I think my study would have benefitted from parent knowledge of the study, which could have been a motivating factor for them to sign their student’s planners as well as have the parents act as an organizational promoter for students. Also, I would have narrowed the scope of my study from the whole class to just my students with learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD, in order to work off of research findings in a narrower relation. I wonder if the time frame of my study had been longer and I had informed parents of the study, if the return rate of planners and homework would have increased to a majority of students.

Based on the results of my study, I recommend use of a planner to foster organizational skills and force students to take ownership of their learning. Students would no longer be able to use the excuse of “I forgot” because they would have a written reminder and their parents would have to sign their planner in which that reminder is written.

Reference(s)

Gureasko-Moore, S., Dupaul, G. J., & White, G. P. (2006). The Effects of Self-Management in General Education Classrooms on the Organizational Skills of Adolescents With ADHD. Behavior Modification, 30(2), 159–183. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145445503259387

Green, M. J. (2014, May 1). The Effects of Direct Instruction and Self-Management (DS) on the Organizational Skills of Elementary Students with Organizational Impairments. JScholarship Home. Retrieved March 14, 2022. http://jhir.library.jhu.edu/handle/1774.2/39503