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Discerning ways to better support Hispanic students from low SES backgrounds at Brophy College Preparatory

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ABSTRACT

As a ninth-grade English teacher at Brophy College Preparatory Academy, I always looked toward the end of the school year with a certain amount of anticipation and trepidation. The anticipation celebrated students who had successfully completed their freshman year;

ABSTRACT

As a ninth-grade English teacher at Brophy College Preparatory Academy, I always looked toward the end of the school year with a certain amount of anticipation and trepidation. The anticipation celebrated students who had successfully completed their freshman year; whereas the trepidation resulted from the end-of-year memo indicating which students had chosen not to return to Brophy next year. Unfortunately, the latter group included a disproportionate number of Hispanic students from low-SES backgrounds. Given Brophy valued diversity and the terrific abilities of these students, an innovation was devised to foster development of ‘school-navigation’ skills to assist students in adapting to the social and academic demands of the school.

The intervention was rooted in several theoretical frameworks including Bourdieu’s (1977) Cultural Capital Perspective, McMillan and Chavis’ (1986) Sense of Community Theory, and Duckworth’s (2007) Grit Framework. Sixteen freshmen and four 12th-grade mentors participated in the study. The 12-week innovation incorporated four topics—transitioning to high school, learning about strategies for academic success, becoming involved in school culture and community, and working more effectively with teachers. Each topic was considered in a 3-week cycle. During week 1, students participated in a large group discussion about the topic led by the researcher. Subsequently, they wrote in journals to reflect on the topic. During week 2, four small groups of four freshmen and one senior, mentor met to consider the topics. Mentors led discussions and also shared how they had coped with the topic. Again, freshmen wrote in journals. In week 3, freshmen met in a large group with the researcher and shared their reflections and their experiences. In this context, the freshmen learned from each other and realized they were all experiencing similar challenges that could be overcome with grit and a community to support them.

Qualitative results indicated freshmen developed a sense of community, learned to respond in positive ways to failure, and developed academic and social school-navigation skills. Freshmen and mentors became tightly knit communities, texting each other with questions coming from freshmen and responses from mentors. The discussion focused on how the theoretical frameworks were useful in understanding the results.

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2017

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The power of instructor-student and peer rapport in post-secondary student achievement

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This paper addresses a local problem of practice at Arizona State University regarding the support for potentially underprepared students. The overarching goal of this study was to better understand the role rapport plays in student achievement. This study examines how

This paper addresses a local problem of practice at Arizona State University regarding the support for potentially underprepared students. The overarching goal of this study was to better understand the role rapport plays in student achievement. This study examines how the LEAD Project (Learn, Explore, Advance, Design), in particular student relationships with instructors and their peers, may or may not influence student achievement. LEAD students complete three courses as a group – Introduction to Human Communication (COM 100), Critical Reading and Thinking (UNI 110), and The LEAD Project (ASU 150). The innovation was designed to give students the opportunity to build relationships with their instructors and with each other, so class sizes are limited to 40 students. Additionally, instructors work together outside of class to develop curriculum, instructional plans, and how to best support individual students.

Guiding literature for this study included Self-Determination Theory (SDT) as well as related studies (Deci & Flaste, 1995). This theory describes human motivation as a factor of the extent to which one feels autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Though relevant in many contexts, past researchers used SDT as a tool for understanding students’ motivation to learn (Black & Deci, 2000; Freiberger, Steinmayr, & Spinath, 2012; Reeve & Jang, 2006).

The study used a concurrent mixed-method action research design including interviews, questionnaires, and institutional data. Over 400 first-year students participated in the study. Students shared their perceptions of their rapport with their instructors and peers, and their perceived learning in each of the three LEAD courses.

Data were analyzed using correlation and linear regression approaches. Significant relations occurred between many instructor-student rapport scales, peer rapport, perceived learning, and course grades. Additionally, instructor-student rapport scales significantly predicted perceived learning.

Qualitative and quantitative findings were aligned with each other, and were consistent with previous studies. This study advances the body of knowledge about instructor-student rapport by extending the findings around its role in student achievement. Results also suggested the need to further explore the role of peer rapport and its influence on student achievement. Results from the study show instructor-student rapport was mediators of student achievement.

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Date Created
2018

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Thesis launch: students begin the undergraduate honors thesis process

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Honors colleges have offered an academically rigorous option for growing numbers of diverse students. This study took place at a large, public university that required undergraduate students to complete a thesis to graduate from the honors college. In 2017, 97%

Honors colleges have offered an academically rigorous option for growing numbers of diverse students. This study took place at a large, public university that required undergraduate students to complete a thesis to graduate from the honors college. In 2017, 97% of students who began the honors thesis prior to senior year completed it. Thus, the aim of this study was to help more students begin the honors thesis process early.

Thesis Launch was a six-week intervention that was designed to provide support for students in the critical early steps of thesis work such as brainstorming topics, examining professors’ research interests, reaching out to professors, preparing for meetings with potential thesis committee members, and writing a thesis prospectus. Thesis Launch offered web-based resources, weekly emails and text message reminders, and was supplemented by in-person advising options.

A mixed methods action research study was conducted to examine: (a) students’ perceptions of barriers that prevented beginning thesis work; (b) self-efficacy towards thesis work; (c) how to scale the intervention using technology; and (d) whether participants began the thesis early. Quantitative data was collected via pre- and post-intervention surveys, journals, and prospectus submissions. Qualitative data came from student interviews, journals, and open-ended questions on the surveys.

Quantitative data showed that after students participated in Thesis Launch, they had higher self-efficacy to work with professors, perceived fewer barriers to thesis work, and greater proportions of students began thesis work early. The qualitative data were complementary and showed that participants overcame barriers to thesis initiation, built self-efficacy, preferred an online intervention, and began thesis work early. Findings also showed that a primarily technology-based intervention was preferred by students and showed promise for scaling to a larger audience.

Thesis Launch provided a framework for students to begin work on the honors thesis and have mastery experiences to build self-efficacy. Strategies that fostered “small wins” and reflective efforts also assisted in this aim. Participants accomplished tasks tied to thesis work and customized their personal thesis timelines based on work begun during Thesis Launch. Finally, a discussion of limitations, implications for practice and research, and personal reflection was included.

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Date Created
2019