Relevant Student Research

The following research projects are included on the CRC website because they are aligned with CRC goals to bring research into a primary consideration as part of the debate in improving student learning in K-12 classrooms.  Projects are listed in alphabetical order by authors' last names. 

Dissertations

 
The Study of Project-Based Learning in Preservice Teachers
Author:  Ashley Anderson 
Description Project-based learning (PBL) is a teaching approach where students engage in the investigation of real-world problems through their inquiries. Studies found considerable support for PBL on student performance and improvement in grades K-12 and at the collegiate level. However, fewer studies have examined the effects of PBL at the collegiate level in comparison to K-12 education. No studies have examined the effects of PBL with preservice teachers taking educational psychology courses. The purpose of this study was to provide an analysis of PBL with preservice teachers taking educational psychology courses. An experiment was conducted throughout two semesters to evaluate student achievement and satisfaction in an undergraduate educational psychology child development course and in an undergraduate educational psychology assessments course, which included the same students from the first semester. Student achievement was determined using quantitative and qualitative analyses in each semester and longitudinally. Results in semester one indicated that the comparison group outperformed the PBL group. Results in semester two suggested there were no differences in instructional styles between groups. Longitudinal analyses showed that the comparison group declined in performance over time, whereas the PBL group improved over time; although, the comparison group still outperformed the PBL group. Results of this study indicate that PBL was not an influential teaching method for preservice teachers taking educational psychology courses.
 
 
Actions Speak Louder Than Words: How Should Attributional Feedback be Communicated to Students in Classrooms for the Most Achievement Gain in Mathematics? 
Author:  Saeideh Heshmati
Description While the role of attributional feedback on student learning and achievement has been previously studied in laboratory settings, the importance of these types of feedback in real-time classroom settings is yet to be examined. This study attempted at exploring whether attributional feedback is present in interactions between teachers and students in natural classroom settings and how much they contribute to students’ achievement in mathematics. Using an observational coding system, 55 one hour mathematics classrooms were coded for three different types of attributional feedback: direct attributional feedback, indirect attributional feedback, and strategy feedback. Direct attributional feedback consisted of explicit statements that were effort-oriented, ability- oriented, or knowing-oriented. Indirect attributional feedback consisted of teacher behavior that implicitly conveyed attributional messages to students. Behaviors such as unsolicited offers of help, giving credit to students, abandoning students, and calling out student name publicly were coded as indirect attributional behavior in this study. In addition, “why”, “how”, “what” strategy questions and strategy statements were coded as strategy feedback in this study. The results of this study indicated that while both direct and indirect attributional feedback are present in natural classroom settings, there is a significant difference between the number of times each type occurs. Teachers are more likely to convey attributional messages to students through indirect behavior compared to explicit attributional statements. When these types of feedback were examined in a model predicting students’ mathematics achievement scores, the results showed that attributional feedback on their own significantly predicted student achievement but when it was combined with strategy feedback a stronger association with achievement scores occurred. Amazingly, it should be noted that in this model, direct attributional feedback indicated a negative association with mathematics achievement whereas indirect attributional feedback and strategy feedback indicated a positive association. These findings reveal that attributional feedback play an important role in student achievement in mathematics and the most effective way to present students with these types of feedback is to convey them indirectly and in combination with strategy feedback. 
 
 
Teacher Education Students: Their Experience of Mathematics Anxiety, Self-Efficacy, and Teacher Professional Development
Author:  Amy Olson
Description This dissertation adds to the teacher education literature by exploring the experiences education students have of mathematics anxiety and self-efficacy for teaching and learning mathematics.  Further, the utility of a specific in-service teacher professional development project, focused on improving rational number instruction, in pre-service education is evaluated, and the potential impact of professional development experiences on the anxieties and efficacy beliefs of students before they enter the teaching profession is explored.  This study provides evidence of the predictive capacities of teacher efficacy models that incorporate student experiences and feelings of anxiety to better understand task choice.  For example, findings indicate that self-efficacy for teaching mediates the relationship between mathematics teaching anxiety, experience, and mathematics subject area preference for teacher education students.  Further, there are indications of the potential for teacher education coursework and in-service teacher professional development to decrease students’ experience of mathematics teaching anxiety.  Finally, evidence is provided that teacher professional development is not only perceived as useful to teacher educations students, but has potential as an intervention for teacher efficacy and anxiety for teaching.  Given these findings, it makes sense to further evaluate the ways in which the strengths of pre-service coursework and in-service professional development can be leveraged to best prepare future teachers for their professional roles.  Further research is also needed to longitudinally track experiences of anxiety and self-efficacy as students leave teacher education and enter the classroom as professionals.
 
 
The Relationship Between Academic Performance and Elementary Student and Teacher Attitudes Towards Departmentalizing
Author:  Elizabeth Pope 
Description:  This longitudinal, cross-sectional study followed a sample of students and teachers over a two-year period to measure how departmentalizing in the elementary school affected student and teacher perceptions and academic achievement among students. A factor analysis of student survey results with Varimax rotation resulted in ten factors that revealed a consistent pattern of change in student perceptions when correlated. A consistent relationship between students’ academic achievement and perceptions at each grade level was not found. Results did suggested that students who began switching classes in elementary school had positive perceptions of their teachers and of themselves as social beings in school. Perceptions of their academic abilities, however, separated from their perceptions of their teachers over time. In contrast, students with one teacher in self-contained classrooms had positive perceptions of their teachers. These students’ perceptions of their academic abilities and perceptions of themselves as social beings in school were connected to their perceived teacher-student relationships. Elementary teachers expressed concern over meeting their students’ emotional needs, but otherwise reported positive attitudes toward their abilities to teach and meet their students’ academic needs in a departmentalized setting. Teachers at the elementary school and the middle school felt that students who switched classes in elementary school were more prepared when they got to middle school and adjusted more quickly than students who came from self-contained elementary classrooms.
 
 
On Everyday Stress and Coping Among Elementary School Children
Author:  Valerie Sotardi
Description Elementary school students are confronted with a variety of everyday challenges ranging from comprehension obstacles to interpersonal conflict. Learning to cope effectively with these moments of tension is an important part of a child's academic and developmental success. Comprised of three studies, this project examined the kinds of stress that students in middle childhood (grades 3-5) commonly experience at school, how students attempt to cope with these stressors, and what educators might do to help students build more adaptive strategies. Results illustrate the everyday school stress by students, a need for children to learn flexible coping skills when faced with academic and peer problems, and the role of the elementary school teacher in children's coping development.
 
 
The Role of Student Coping in the Socially Shared Regulation of Learning in Small Groups
Author:  Ruby Inez Vega
Description:  Interaction analyses of challenge episodes were used to investigate the role of student coping behavior in their socially shared regulation of learning (SSRL) and emotion during small group activities. Two groups each of third grade and fifth grade students were audio-recorded as they completed three fraction activities during their math class. Initial analysis of group recordings using the Group Behavior Checklist observation system identified points in the group activity were students struggled to complete the task. Next, analyses of group member interactions were completed to (a) determine if challenges were academic or social in nature, (b) identify student challenge management and coping strategies, and (c) determine how these strategies related to group SSRL and academic achievement. Results revealed that the sources of challenge episodes for this sample were academic in nature. However, academic challenges were exacerbated by the social complexities of working with others. Group management and coping strategies that focused members’ attention on either negative academic emotions or avoiding negative academic emotions were related to relatively low group academic achievement. Group management strategies that focused students’ attention on the task and fostered SSRL behaviors such as joint attention, shared problem solving, and positive emotions were related to relatively moderate to high group academic achievement. This study demonstrates the necessity of investigating both academic and affective factors when considering students’ socially shared regulation of learning during small group activities where the expectation is that students will work collaboratively.
 

Theses

 
An Exploration of Self-Concept in the Wake of No Child Left Behind
Author:  Angela Labistre
Description:  Varying explorations have been conducted in the extant literature regarding the construct of self-concept, but few have attempted to investigate this construct in relation to current testing policy in public schools. The present study took a relatively new direction by measuring the self-concept of Arizona ELL students (n=80) in classrooms from a school that had performed highly on recent standardized exams (AIMS), and subsequently received a positive evaluation (e.g. a letter grade of “A”) from the Arizona state department of education using the A-F letter grade system. Results suggested that students who were low in English proficiency also exhibited low self-concept scores in reading and general-school subjects (excluding math). Students who were at an intermediate level of English proficiency or highly proficient exhibited low self-concept scores in non-academic subscales such as parent relations and physical appearance. Over one-half of the students reported feelings of fear associated with AIMS testing as well as reported awareness of the implications of AIMS performance.
 
 
Professional Development for Improving Students’ Knowledge of Rational Numbers in Title I and Non-Title I Elementary Schools
Author:  Christine Vriesema
Description:  This study examined the effectiveness of a professional development project in raising third-, fourth-, and fifth- grade students’ knowledge of fractions, decimals, and percentages.  The primary purpose was to examine effectiveness as it related to Title I and Non-Title I school attendance, with a secondary purpose examining the role of gender.  Effectiveness was determined by percent change scores on a rational numbers achievement measure.  In total, the sample included 800 third-grade students, 854 fourth-grade students, and 944 fifth-grade students.  Regression analyses indicated that school type predicted percent change scores in third grade and fourth grade, with Title I students making fewer gains in percentage points than Non-Title I students.  School type did not predict achievement in fifth grade, with Title I and Non-Title I students making similar gains.  Gender did not predict achievement in third, fourth, or fifth grade.  Despite several school type differences, post hoc effect size analyses indicated that the professional development project was effective in increasing students’ knowledge of rational numbers.