Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Engagement, power, and learning in a high school English classroom: An exploratory study
by Saltz, Ronald Irwin, Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2011, 254; 3484377
Abstract (Summary)

Engagement in high-level, critical thinking is widely seen as a means to preparing students for their lives ahead of them; however, numerous studies find that it is often alarmingly low in American high schools. This study focused on seven students' engagement in a video/English class in a NYC public high school, exploring the following questions: 1) Under what circumstances do students show high levels of engagement? 2) What power relationships are evident when students show high engagement? 3) What did the students learn with respect to the NYS critical thinking standards through their work in their broadcast journalism class? 4) What are the relationships between students' engagement, power relationships, and learning?

The data consisted of transcripts from audio-recorded interviews of students and their teacher, field notes, and student portfolios. Findings showed that there were particular situations that promoted high engagement, high value situations, which were characterized by intrinsically motivating qualities of feelings of relatedness, control, and autonomy. A key factor in determining which students obtained access to these situations was the students' power relationships. Students who held more social power secured a disproportionate share of the high value situations. A related outcome was that there was wide disparity in the levels of NYS ELA standards-based learning shown by the more and less engaged students. In their writing, more highly engaged students demonstrated greater progress in the skills of developing an argument. In their video production work, they showed greater development in their broadcasting skills.

Participation in high value situations had the effect of forming a generative cycle in which higher engagement led to increased power and learning, which led to higher engagement, creating a tale of two classrooms: one in which a group of students were highly engaged and one in which a larger group was not. The findings underscore the importance of relationships between students as a factor mitigating student engagement and raise questions about how to reorganize classrooms to help build relationships among students that facilitate engagement in critical thinking.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hatch, Thomas
Commitee:
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Language arts, Curriculum development
Keywords: Critical thinking, Engagement, English, Learning, Motivation, Power, Standards
Publication Number: 3484377
ISBN: 978-1-267-00819-0
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