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A Quantitative Study of Student Success With Reflection in Critiques, Essay Example

Pages: 15

Words: 4067

Essay

Modern standards require teachers to have well-honed skills that are diverse so they can accommodate the dynamic cultural backgrounds of their students. A wide range of factors directly and indirectly affect the measurable success of student achievement in United States public schools. Elevated public awareness about the perceptions of underperforming educational institutions overwhelmed Americans in 1983 with the release of A Nation at Risk, depicting a failing school system that was graduating youth that did not have the minimum skills necessary to survive in the real world (Sadker & Zittleman, 2009).

Factors such as the increasing levels of student diversity, the mutating roles of the teacher, and the integration of technology have facilitated the pursuit of better instructional methods into the instructional designs. One reason for lack of educational progress is the fact that progress cannot merely be externally imposed on schools. American policymakers and educational stakeholders clearly understand the complex nature, structure, and functions of instructional designs (Brewer, 2008). The learning process is multi-dimensional and is influenced by a number of factors. Acquisition of knowledge depends on capacity to achieve learning objectives.  An effective instructional design should provide the opportunity for the learner to gain experience in employing, elaborating, and constructing knowledge, skills, and strategies (Boettcher, 2013).

The highly technological standards common to 21st century education requires educators to not only be knowledgeable, but to also hold all students to high standards, differentiate instruction, and teachers are held responsible for the success of their students.  In today’s society, a huge amount of accountability is placed on educators to have the capability to teach a wide variety of students from diverse cultures, family backgrounds, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

There are many challenges that educators face while working to meet the individual and personal needs of all of their students on a daily basis. Added challenges to the teaching profession include state standards and testing requirements. Students today are very different than those who were in high school even just ten years ago. Technology has been one of the major factors precipitating global change over this last decade and, given this, the educational profession needs to continually transform to meet the changing needs of their students. For teachers to be able to offer their students the highest quality of instruction, they must be given technology and training to use and implement within the classroom.

Staff development is a part of every educator’s professional practice and two or three days are built into the school calendar each year and many educators go above and beyond to take classes and workshops on their own time. Financial resources must be allocated by the school district to conduct professional staff development. At the high school level in the Norwalk Public School system, staff development topics are many times created with a general topic to address the entire staff. It is difficult to know if this approach to staff development is a success when the main goal of staff development is to reach students and to encourage their achievement. The teachers who are most successful with their students are ones who know their subjects and how to teach it (Haycock & Robinson, 2001).

Given this information it is important to understand what teachers’ perceptions of the support they are provided with and whether these factors have an impact on teaching and student learning. When teachers are given the tools and training to support them in the classroom, students will gain the benefit with academic advances. We need to determine not only if teachers are being provided enough technology to support teaching in the 21st century, but also if they are being given enough training to support the use of this new technology.

Research Concept

Some studies suggest that schools are enhancing student success by emphasizing the use of high-quality instruction, data analysis, and integrated general and special education systemic procedures to increase student success (Sansosti & Noltemeyer, 2008).  Some of the dynamic changes occurring in educational methodologies implemented in modern schools include the exclusion of vital music and artistic instruction, which are considered ancillary to other subjects like math, science, and history (Kettle, 2011).  The focus of this research is to measure how students critique their art, reflect on their work, and use the creative process to strengthen their overall academic abilities, which can help strengthen arguments regarding the necessity for the inclusion of artistic instruction in scholastic programs.  This can aid in convincing the federal government to mandate school district leaders implement academic interventions to close the achievement gap and increase student success (Reeves, Bishop, & Filce, 2010).

Statement of the Problem

The role of federal government in public education shifted in 2002 when the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act went into effect. NCLB has created additional challenges for public school educators, especially given that each school has no control over the diversity of their population. Student’s backgrounds, ability, parent involvement are just a few factors that play into a schools culture. Additionally, Dusseau, Hurst, & Bitter (2003) state that teachers must, “plan and implement interventions to address the needs, evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions, institutionalize those interventions that improve student performance”(p.3).

Most schools employ thematic instruction in fine arts programs because of advantages including enhancement of the extension and expansion of the curriculum (Holdren, 2009). Thematic instruction emphasizes individuals’ multiple intelligences in creative and supportive learning environments. Sims and Jones (2003) claimed this approach focuses on the process, rather than the product. Therefore, the focus is misplaced, as outcomes of instruction are as valuable as the processes involved during teaching. According to Tomei (2003), roles of the new media and technology-based instruction in teaching fine arts have not been harnessed fully. Many areas of a K-12 students’ life are technology focused, except when it comes to their educational experiences (NCTI, 2010; Prensky, 2008).

Integrating technology does not mean the same thing to all teachers. Additionally, the content that is taught and each teacher’s pedagogical style, the students, technology available, are all factors that must be taken into consideration when making decisions (Chai, Koh, & Tsai, 2010; Cox & Graham, 2009; DePlatchett, 2008; Graham et al., 2009; Harris, 2008; Kelly, 2008; Koehler & Mishra, 2008; Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Nelson, Christopher, & Mims, 2009; Neiss, 2008; Schmidt et al., 2009). This study will be conducted in the state of Connecticut and will survey art educators teaching at the secondary level.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this proposed qualitative study is to examine the use of technology in a fine arts program in the Norwalk Public School system in Norwalk, Connecticut within the three high schools that are located here. Norwalk is a city located in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States. The 2010 census puts the population at 85,603, giving Norwalk the 6th highest population in Connecticut. The city is considered part of the New York Metropolitan area and due to this fact, gives the city diversity both demographically and socioeconomically. Given that Norwalk is composed of such a heterogeneous population, it is of interest to investigate the various factors that could affect the art teacher’s ability to provide quality education. It is of high priority to gain an understanding of whether or not these educators are being given adequate professional development opportunities with regard to using technology into the classroom. The qualitative research method works best for this type of study because it will use interviews and open-ended surveys to gain a depth of understanding into the art educator’s personal experiences with regard to the professional development opportunities they are provided with and how informative those opportunities are to their practice. This study will include five art instructors from three high schools in Norwalk Connecticut. There are ten art teachers who teach at the high school level in this district and teachers will be selected from each school. It is crucial to find out whether or not art teachers being provided with enough technology to support the art curriculum and 21st century learning skills, are art teachers being provided with enough professional development, and is the professional development meaningful to their teaching practice. The researcher will first need to establish the types of technology teachers have access to as well as what the professional development opportunities are for these art educators. Once this is learned, the randomly selected teachers will be surveyed to gain and understanding of their perceptions of whether or not they are provided with enough technology in the classroom and professional development to support the implementation of technology. Teachers will also be surveyed to determine if teachers perceive they are being provided enough professional development to make an impact on students.

Research Questions

The continuous assessment of relevance and validity of instructional methods have strengthened the integration of a variety of tools and systems in effort to ensure effective delivery of classroom content. Despite the past and current gains, gaps still exist in literatures, especially on how to develop effective instructional designs that take cognizance of learning experiences and learning environments. Based on the above limitations in the application and knowledge of factors that contribute to better instructional methods by combining a wide range of factors pointed above, the current research seeks to examine key characteristics of an effective and comprehensive instructional design for fine arts program.

An analysis of instructional designs for fine arts programs reveals several grey areas that call for further research. It remains uncertain, which are the best instructional designs for use in fine arts instruction and why they are the best. The role of technology and new media in fine arts are also unclear because there is ambiguous information about them with regard to their functionalities, advantages and disadvantages. Art is believed to assist children create social scripts since arts cognition and emotion has strong bearings on children. This being said, the research questions that will guide this study are:

  • What are teachers’ perceptions of the amount of technology that they are provided within three high schools in Norwalk Connecticut?
  • What are teachers’ perceptions regarding whether or not, or the degree to which, current staff development programs provide support for the implementation of technology?
  • What are teachers’ perceptions with regard to whether or not the school system is providing adequate staff development that supports teachers and positively impact students?

Definition of Key Terms

Discussion of the subject of education requires the use of specific terminologies relative to the profession.  Professional jargon will be used in this research to help answer the research question, and the definition of these terms, as used in this paper, are presented in Table 1.

Term Definition
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act A reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, which requires all public schools receiving federal funding to administer a state-wide standardized test annually to all students. This means that all students take the same test under the same conditions.
Motivation to integrate technology in the classroom  Motivation to integrate technology in the classroom is defined as teachers being eager and interested in implementing strategies involving technology into their teaching practice. Motivation to integrate technology in the classroom will be extracted from primary sources, meaning participants will be directly surveyed; data is not archival.
Sense of self-efficacy Sense of self-efficacy is defined as people’s perception of their own ability to cause an effect. Sense of self-efficacy will be extracted from primary sources, meaning participants will be directly surveyed; data is not archival.
Age Age is defined as the current age of each participant. Age describes the chronological number given to a person.  For this research, it will be scaled at the ratio level, and categorized ≤40 and ≥40.  Age will be extracted from primary sources, meaning participants will be directly surveyed; data is not archival.
Technology training Technology training is defined as the amount of years they have taught and their level of education. For this research, technology training is scaled at the ratio level, and categorized as ≤5 years, 6-10 years, and ≥10 years.  Technology training will be extracted from primary sources, meaning participants will be directly surveyed; data is not archival.
Instructional design The process of combining information into a logical sequence or flow for an engaging learning experience. Instructional design is what ensures order in any information chaos. This ensures the information obtained by learners is not given in a mishmash manner. Additionally, instructional design tailors content to the affective and psychological needs of the learners.
Instructional theory Instructional Theory is a theory offering explicit guidance on how to help people learn and develop (Gagné & Briggs, 1979). This theory is designed not just to be prescriptive, but also to encourage appealing, effective, and efficient instruction. As a departure from other theories specific in nature, the instructional theory is designed to accommodate most, if not all instructional state.
Learning theory Conceptual framework that describes how information is absorbed, processed, and retained during learning (Brewer, 2008).
Behaviorism Learning theory focusing on objectively observable behaviors and discounts any independent activities of the mind (Gagné & Briggs, 1979). This approach to psychology tends to combine elements of theory, philosophy, and methodology. Its basic principal is psychology should focus on animal and peoples behaviors observable, as compared to their imaginative behaviors that occur in their minds.  Meaning, this school of thought vouches for a description of behavior without recourse to hypothetical construct of beliefs and thoughts or internal psychological occurrences.
Cognition The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses (Hope, 2004). The term learning environment connotes a space or place yet in today’s interconnected world, a learning environment can be online, virtual or remote due to technological innovations. A learning environment consists of communities, structures and tools that inspire educators and students to attain their skills and knowledge.
Social scripts Interactions such as joke-telling, sharing life stories, and general conversations (Hope, 2004). They tend to assist people who use alternative and augmentative kind of communication. They go beyond the use of needs and wants to the use of real communication for the sake of making conversations. They thus help students to learn to maintain, claim and start turns in a conversation.
Shared understanding Cooperative problem solving that rely on shared knowledge bases that contain knowledge of a problem or domain (Thompson, 2009). Shared understanding is a derived state of being which is not abandoned to wishful or accidental thinking. It is all about alignment and renewal. The creation of shared understanding is as a result of not doing what has always been done due to not being in the environment that persons have always been.
Technology fluency Technology fluency is defined as knowing when and how to use technology tools such as desktop computers, laptops, mobile carts, digital projectors, digital cameras, smart boards, clickers, etc., to enhance learning (Plair, 2008, p. 71).
Technology integration Technology integration is defined as “Technology integration is thus viewed as the use of computing devices such as desktop computers, laptops, handheld computers, software, or Internet in K-12 schools for instructional purposes” (Hew & Brush, 2007, p. 225).

Table 1: Definition of Terms

Summary

Theoretical Framework

The purpose of this research is to determine what teachers’ perceptions are of professional development and technology support in three Norwalk, Connecticut Public High Schools. The major variables that affect this study are to determine what technology is provided to teachers, what training and professional development is provided to teachers, and how students’ learning is affected by each factor. Dependent variables for this study include; self-efficacy, socio- economic class, ethnicity, race, teaching philosophies, teaching techniques, and age. Independent variables include being part of the same school system.

In order to meet these challenges, organizations may combine conventional human resource practices with effective online academic programs, which is believed to enhance the involvement and performance of employees (Parsons, 2009).   Additional researchers note that organizations that use such a combination enhance employee motivation, competencies and performances (Datta, Guthrie, & Wright, 2005).  Consequently, the employees record lower turnover rates, higher productivity, and better overall performance within the organization.   Online education is a major beneficiary of high performance work systems as shown by corporate growth (Kim & Bonk, 2005).

The Impact of Teacher Evaluations on Student Outcomes

Teacher evaluation methods can consist of informal classroom observations, lesson plan evaluation, faculty interactions, student performance ratings, administrator interactions self-reflection exercises, and other formal and informal observations (Marshall, 2009).  Most states and districts across the country have implemented various evaluation procedures and evaluations, carried out in both public and private schools.

The purpose of the teacher evaluation process is to ensure that teachers meet the set standards of education and bring about high performance and achievement amongst students.  Additionally, the teacher evaluation process is meant to improve teacher professional learning and growth (Peterson, 2000).  However empirical investigations assessing the efficacy of evaluation on student outcomes reveal mixed results.

The teacher evaluation process has been associated with a general improvement in some schools’ performance (Parsons, 2009).  Although some researchers demonstrate that teacher evaluation is associated with minimal improvement, other researchers indicate that evaluation does not result in significant improvement (Peterson, 2000).  There has been disagreement within the field, and some researchers are calling for the improvement of the existing teacher evaluation systems (Peterson, 2000).

Additional research presents the assertion that there is need for high quality and useful teacher evaluations to support and improve the quality of teaching; however, the existing evaluation protocol is often failing to meet the expected standards (Tucker & Stronge, 2005).  In professional contexts, too frequently, the process of teacher evaluation has been viewed as a formality rather than a vehicle for professional growth and development (Stronge & Tucker, 2003). Furthermore, “principals and other evaluators approach the evaluation process as a mechanical exercise in which teachers view it as an exercise that must be endured” (Stronge & Tucker, 2003, p. 6).

Some researchers maintain that the mixed efficacy results of teacher evaluation systems, and the different evaluation systems used across different schools indicate a need for evaluation reform (Peterson, 2000). As an alternative to reform, Danielson and McGreal (2000) maintain that there is no need for teacher evaluation, since the current systems in use are outdated and limited, and do not contribute to professional learning and growth.  Still other researchers maintain that there is no relationship between evaluation and outcome and indicate that most teachers who are evaluated as “excellent” have students who exhibit low performance levels (Marshall, 2009).  Due to the debate within the field concerning the efficacy and importance of evaluation, and the status of current evaluation protocol, further research on this topic is warranted.

Negative impact of evaluations on student outcomes

The initial purpose of implementing teacher evaluations was to facilitate the professional growth of teachers, and positively impact student achievement (O’Sullivan, 2004). Peine (2007) maintains however, that the teacher evaluation processes have not resulted in an increase in professional growth and as a result, student achievement has declined.

As a consequence of declining student achievement, recent research has been conducted to determine factors contributing to the decline in student achievement in spite of continued teacher evaluations (Marshall, 2009; Peterson, 2000). Some researchers have attributed the problem to the systems of evaluations (Danielson & McGreal, 200; Peterson, 2000), whereas others have blamed the evaluators (Marshall, 2009). Still, others maintain that the evaluation system does not provide room to enhance professional growth and learning.

When teacher evaluation in many schools did not realize the goal of improving student achievement, through teacher professional growth, this resulted in the implementation of a different professional growth plan instead. Furthermore, the teacher evaluation process did not result in the appropriate compensation of competent teachers.  Some maintain that teacher evaluations, which are designed to foster professional growth and the eventual improved achievement of students, have instead contributed to academic failure.

According to this body of research, these cases of academic failure occurred because of the application of inappropriate processes of teacher evaluation which in turn impacted professional learning negatively. The application of incorrect teacher evaluation tools and strategies towards the professional learning process therefore made the process not only ineffective but inefficient as well. Teacher evaluation and professional learning can only succeed when the correct mechanisms, tools and strategies have been applied (Sartain, Stoelinga & Krone, 2010; Toch, 2008).

Additional inconsistencies have been identified demonstrating declining performance of students in many schools where teachers have been rated as excellent. Such cases serve as examples of the failure of the teacher evaluation processes in addressing the challenges facing the education sector in fostering professional learning. Instead of continuing to use inappropriate evaluation methods, stakeholders should investigate why teachers who have been rated to be excellent continued to yield poor academic results (Kressler, 2003; Sartain, Stoelinga & Krone, 2010).  Further research needs to be conducted to reconcile these discrepancies and to better understand teacher evaluation process better.

Peterson (2000) maintains that evaluation plays as much a role in recognizing existing values and qualities of teachers as it does in providing information to them to improve teaching outcomes. As a consequence, it is important to incorporate the perception of teachers in the analysis and evaluation of their work performance. Peterson (2000) argues that instead of relying on evaluation tools from areas other than the learning fields, teacher-related evaluation instruments may be more effective. Indeed, Peterson has suggested that past studies on teacher evaluation, utilizing inappropriate instruments, have no foundation or basis for policy or practice at the school, district, state, or national levels.

The appropriate utilization of the teacher evaluation processes to foster professional growth and student achievement outcomes is of utmost importance and additional research on this topic needs to be conducted.  Donaldson (2009) maintains that, “a fine-designed and executed assessment scheme may be the most efficient means to raise student achievement” (Donaldson, 2009).  Research on teacher perceptions of the evaluation process and their perceived understanding of evaluation will assist the evaluation reform process.

References

Boettcher, M. L. (2013). Professor camp: A phenomenological study of the origin and persistence of the wakonse conference on college teaching and learning. Iowa State University ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Danielson, C., & McGreal, L. T. (2000). Teacher evaluation to enhance professional practice. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Datta, D., Guthrie, J., & Wright, P. (2005). Human resource management and labor productivity: Does industry matter? Academy of Management Journal, 48(1), 135-145. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

Fairbanks, C., Duffy, G. G., Faircloth, B., He, Y., Levin, B. B., Rohr, J., & Stein, C. (2010, January). Beyond knowledge: Exploring why some teachers are more thoughtfully adaptive than others. Journal of Teacher Education, 61, 161-171.

Kettle, D. (2011, April ). Musicians and teachers urged to fight the cuts. Strad, 122 (1452), 23.

Kim, K. J., & Bonk, C. (2005). The future of online teaching in higher education: The survey says…. Literature Review. Retrieved from EbscoHost

Marshall, K. (2009). Rethinking Teacher Supervision and evaluation: How to work smart, build collaboration, and close the achievement gap. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons.

Mtega, W. P., Bernard, R., Msungu, A. C., & Sanare, R. (2012). Using mobile phones for teaching and learning purposes in higher learning institutions: The case of Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania. Proceedings of the 5th UbuntuNet Alliance Annual Conference (pp. 118-129). Morogoro, Tanzania: UbuntuNet Alliance for Research and Education Networking. Retrieved from http://www.ubuntunet.net/sites/default/files/mtegaw.pdf

Parsons, A. (2009). A study of critical experiences within small business development. International Journal of Business and Management, 1(2), 1-18. Retrieved from EbscoHost

Peterson, K. (2000). Teacher evaluation: A comprehensive guide to new directions and practices. London: Corwin Press.

Piraino Jr., G. R. (2006, April 19). A qualitative study of differentiated teacher supervision’s impact on classroom instruction and pedagogy. Retrieved from University of Pittsburgh: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/6847/

Reeves, S., Bishop, J., & Filce, H. G. (2010, Summer). Response to Intervention (Rtl) and tier systems: Questions remain as educators challenging decisions. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 76(4), 30-35.

Sadker, D. M., & Zittleman, K. R. (2009). Teachers, schools, and society: A brief introduction to education [with CD and Reader] (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Sansosti, F. J., & Noltemeyer, A. (2008). Viewing Response-to-Intervention through an Educational Change Paradigm: What Can We Learn? California School Psychologist, 13, 55-66. Retrieved from ERIC database

Stronge, J. H. (2007). Qualities of effective teachers. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Sybing, R. (2011). Assessing perspectives on culture in EFL education. ELT Journal: English Language Teachers Journal, 65(4), 467-469.

Tucker, P. D., & Stronge, J. H. (2005). Linking teacher evaluation and student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Usher, L., Usher, M., & Usher, D. (2003, November 20-21). Nurturing five dispositions for effective teachers. 2nd National Symposium on Educator Dispositions: Session P. Richard, KY: Eastern Kentucky University. Retrieved from http://www.emich.edu/dartep/handouts/Dispositionsproceedingssession_P.pdf

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