Student underachievement is a problem in some suburban public schools in North-central Kentucky with a higher than average student gap group. National test scores are more than four points below the national average, and motivation is low. Previous research revealed that infrequent use of methods that prompt students to actively participate in learning, is thought to contribute significantly to this issue. The purpose of this qualitative, multiple-case study was to develop an understanding of the types of teaching methods students these public schools experience, and why their teachers make pedagogical decisions they hope will increase engagement and achievement. Students at the school included in this study were 89% African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, eligible for free/reduced lunch, have limited English proficiency or disabilities. Including a sample of four self-selected experienced educators teaching a variety of subjects. This study, grounded in the theories of Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky, included observations and interviews in multiple classrooms and a review of existing data to provide broader insights into the realities of student experiences. Observation analysis took place through a framework developed by Guthrie and Schweisfurth, permitting a determination that, despite previous findings, most observed students at this low-performing public school experienced learner-centered instruction, though one less-experienced teacher interacted with learners through traditional methods, focusing on teacher control. Other findings detailed the teachers’ belief that absenteeism and low-motivation were problems, and developing relationships with students and those close to them positively impacted attendance, and investment. They said that project-based learning and the use of topics students related to, helped engage learners and gave them confidence. Perhaps more importantly, all but the least-experienced teacher interacted with their students in learner-centered ways. The current researcher recommends supporting less-experienced teachers early in their careers with training strategies so they can better-use learner-centered methods, and training that encourages all teachers to use more project- and inquiry-based lessons, and focus on culturally relevant topics. The most recent test scores showed a narrowing gap for the disadvantaged population at this school, and the actions and beliefs of these teachers suggests they are on track to positively increase student achievement.
|Commitee:||Johnson, John, Shriner, Michael|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 80/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational evaluation, Pedagogy, Secondary education|
|Keywords:||Child centered, Inquiry-based lessons, Learner centered instruction, Project-based learning|
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