Master of Education: Reading and Literacy

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to describe the effect that providing journal and case study paper examples, more time to observe in the child care center and the use of different teaching methods will have on the improvement of observation journals and case study papers. This action research involved Child Development classes at Deerfield High School during the fall 2008 school year. Students struggle with completing weekly observations and case studies. This paper will share the findings of research that was done to assist students. If students have a better understanding of the observations and case studies, are provided with examples and are given more time to observe, the desired outcome is that their observation journals and case study papers will improve.

Introduction

Background of Problem

I am a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Illinois. Deerfield is a northern suburb of Chicago and the high school has approximately 1,800 students. I have been teaching at Deerfield High School for four years. While I have been at this high school, I have taught Child Development Preschool Lab, Consumer Economics, Freshman Advisory and Contemporary Living. Family and Consumer Science classes were formerly referred to as Home Economics which involved becoming a knowledgeable homemaker. In Child Development classes, proper parenting techniques were emphasized.

Now that Home Economics has evolved into Family and Consumer Sciences, there is an emphasis on preparing students to become well-informed parents as well as preparing them to become educated professionals who may work with children in their careers and their personal lives. Last year I taught two sections of Child Development Preschool Lab, which is the focus of my action research project. My first period class had 11 female 10th-12th grade students and my second period class had 14 female 10th-12th grade students.

Every week in Child Development Preschool Lab, my high school students, referred to as the high school friends, plan and teach lessons to two to five year old children in the on-site child care center, Deer Park Teaching and Learning Center (DPTLC). The students also observe these preschoolers, referred to as Deer Park friends, every week while they are in the child care center. The students typically really enjoy the class; however, they struggle the most with observing the children and creating their observation journals and semester case study papers. Through the use of their journal entries, the high school friends analyze and evaluate one specific Deer Park friend’s physical, intellectual, emotional and social development and write a case study paper to determine how a specific child is developing for their age.

As a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, I believe it is essential for high school students to be able to communicate what they observe or see through detailed written form. Specifically, in Child Development Preschool Lab, this information should later be used to make conclusions about how a preschool aged child is developing physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially. Providing students with life long observation, analytical and written communication skills to be used in their future will benefit the student learner.

Rationale for my Research

The focus of this research study will be helping my students improve their observation journals and case study papers during first semester. Observing, journaling and the semester case study paper are what students struggle with the most all year in this class. It causes frustration and anxiety for the high school students and me. I often find myself wondering how I can make this a more pleasant learning experience for everyone involved (high school friends, Deer Park friends and me.)

In each observation journal, the high school friends are required to record six different observations every week. Each observation should include a factual description of what they see, an educated opinion of how the child is developing, and an assessment of the child’s developmental rate for their age. The students go into the DPTLC on-site child care center to observe children ages two to five years old. After approximately one month of observing a variety of Deer Park friends, high school friends are assigned a specific child to observe for the remainder of the semester.

Students are given 20-25 minutes of class time every week to observe in the child care center to collect their observations. The journal entries collected over the semester are used to assess one Deer Park friend’s developmental rate in the four areas of development. The journal entries act as evidence to support how the high school friend rates the Deer Park friend’s development in the case study paper.

Observing and journaling are taught in two class periods. I spend about 40 minutes initially teaching this assignment the first time. I spend approximately 20 minutes reviewing it the second time a few days later. Observing and journaling are taught during a lecture while students take notes. I provide one or two examples of journal entries on the board and we discuss this as a class. Chapter notes, developmental milestone handouts and the textbook appendix are shown to students as a resource to use when they are assessing how the Deer Park friend is developing for their age.

Feedback is provided to students on their observation journal entry assignments on a bi-weekly basis. I provide comments on their journals and return them to the students within two days of them turning them in. I will occasionally have a one-on-one meeting with students who really struggle with the assignment.

The evidence that supports students struggle with observing, journaling and writing their case study papers includes my observation that students are confused and frustrated with this assignment year after year, low scores on journal assignments, students not completing journal assignments and students struggling with the semester case study paper.

Intervention Planned to Implement

Through my experiences teaching observing and journaling in Child Development Preschool Lab for the past four years, I believe that students struggle with observation journals and their case study papers because they are not given enough time in the child care center to collect sufficient observations. This causes students to feel rushed which increases frustration and anxiety. Additionally, more time should be spent and different teaching methods should be used when teaching observing, journaling and the case study paper. Finally, student work may improve if excellent examples of observation journals and case study papers were given to students.

Focus Statement

The purpose of this study is to describe the effect that providing journal and case study paper examples, more time to observe in the child care center and the use of different teaching methods will have on the improvement of observation journals and case study papers.

Research Questions

Therefore, my research question is: What are the benefits of providing Child Development Preschool Lab high school students with journal and case study paper examples, more time to observe in the child care center and the use of different teaching methods among students to improve observation journals and case study papers in Child Development Preschool Lab during the fall semester?

The questions that I will be exploring include: How will giving more time to observe in the child care center impact the high school students journals and case study papers? What teaching methods should I use to teach observing and journaling? Will spending more time on teaching observing and journaling improve student work? How will providing excellent examples of observation journals and case study papers impact student work? Will student anxiety and frustration levels decrease if more observation time is given?

Key Terms

High School Friends

High school students in the Child Development class who work with the preschoolers in the child care center.

Child Development Preschool Lab

An Applied Arts course that incorporates Child Development curriculum along with a practical lab experience where high school students work with preschoolers in a child care center.

Deer Park Friends

Twoto five year old preschool children that attend the Deerfield High School on sitechild care center.

Case Study Papers

The Child Development Preschool Lab first semester final project where students analyze one preschooler’s rate of development for their age.

Observation Journals

Weekly observations that high school students make about the preschoolers when they are in the child care center interacting with the children.

Deer Park Teaching and Learning Center (DPTLC)

The name of the Deerfield High School on site child care center where two to five year olds come for child care.

Four Areas of Development

Intellectual, social, emotional, physical are the four areas in which children develop.

Literature Review

Students learn in many ways and it is essential that educators meet different student needs by implementing a variety of teaching strategies. Sometimes this involves class discussions, providing examples to guide students, modeling a concept, or encouraging students to learn through hands-on learning experiences. Many high school teachers have said that students respond well when they are motivated to learn and when they are actively engaged in the lesson.

Benefits of Observing Preschoolers

Observing preschoolers is essential for students who are working with young children. The information that is learned through seeing what a young child can do first hand is critical in helping a high school student assess how a child is developing. These observations also act as a credible source to support their evaluation of the preschooler’s developmental rate and provide specific examples to the parents in the high school student’s case study paper.

Through observation, teachers are able to gather valuable information about the preschoolers that may help them in planning and preparing developmentally appropriate lessons (Barbakoff & Yo, 2002). Barbakoff & Yo suggest that teachers use a running record or a checklist to record their observations of a child. Providing teachers with adequate time to collect and record observations of the preschoolers interacting with one another is “time and energy well spent” (Barbakoff & Yo, 22). Perhaps allowing students to spend more time observing the children in the child care center will increase their understanding of how children develop. This may lead to more creative lesson plans and more thorough journals and case study papers.

Teaching Methods and Student Motivation

Research has also shown that several teaching methods have been proven to be more effective than others when motivating students to learn. Lam & Law (2007) examined the relationship between how the use of teaching writing strategies and motivating students affects student writing performance. Students should be challenged and need to understand the importance of the writing assignment they are expected to complete (Lam & Law).

According to Lam & Law, the writing assignment must be related to something they can connect with in their past, present or future. Student writing also improves when students are curious about the topic they are writing about and when they are provided with feedback (Lam & Law). Lam & Law support the idea that when students are motivated and understand “why” they are completing an assignment they are more likely to grasp the idea being taught and are more successful.

Writing Strategies: A Four Step Process

Collins & Collins (1996) have identified a four step process that educators find useful when teaching students to write. These writing strategies include; “identifying a strategy to teach, introducing the strategy by modeling it, allowing students to use it and helping students work toward independent mastery through repetition and practice” (Collins & Collins). Although modeling and practicing new concepts is beneficial, some students are not able to grasp the content being taught through this strategy (Collins & Collins). Collins & Collins have found that some students learn best through the use of concrete visual examples. When teaching students a new idea, educators may find it useful to consider what excites and motivates students to learn and what teaching methods address all student needs.

Providing Examples to Students

Providing students with excellent examples to guide them in their work is a teaching strategy that has been found to be useful for students. In the article, “Students’ Perceptions of Teaching and Learning: The Influence of Students’ Approaches to Learning and Teachers’ Approaches to Teaching, a ninth grade student who was interviewed said,” “the best way of learning is definitely hands on, trying it yourself, I think that is a very good way. And seeing examples of what you’re doing” (Campbell, Smith, Boulton-Lewis, Brownlee, Burnett & Carrington, 2001). Additionally, Day & Elksnin (1994) discovered that the concept being taught should be described, modeled, discussed (talked through aloud) and practiced by the students.

Students may be involved in this process from the very beginning by asking them what they struggle with most and what they think may help (Day & Elksnin). Providing feedback to the students is also effective when students are struggling (Day & Elksnin). Day & Elksnin’s research supports the idea that presenting students with examples and models of previous work will assist them in the understanding of the assignment which will lead to improved grades.

How Students Learn Best

Many students have been interviewed and surveyed on how they learn best. They have become a valuable resource when evaluating how different teaching strategies impact their feelings while they are in the class and their success rate on assignments. Campbell, Smith, Boulton-Lewis, Brownlee, Burnett & Carrington (2001) found that when interviewed, both students who have a deep approach to learning and students who have a surface approach to learning, felt that when being exposed to new concepts, they learned more when they were in a caring, supportive environment and when they were actively engaged in the lessons being taught.

However, when the class was teacher focused and when students were lectured to, both types of students became surface learners and were not as engaged (Campbell et al.). Their perceptions of the class were negative compared to the hands-on, active classes that built the students self-esteem (Campbell et al.). This can be related to students’ anxiety and frustration levels when learning. If students feel they are in a supportive, caring environment that provides hands-on learning experiences, they will approach learning in a deeper way. Child Development students experience hands-on learning on a weekly basis when they are in the child care center teaching and observing the preschool children.

As educators, it is vital that we consider the different needs of our students when teaching a new concept. Our students may be some of our best resources when evaluating the teaching methods we use. Teachers should consider the methods used to teach the lesson, the time period given to teach the new concept, and the amount of frustration or excitement the teaching strategy or assignment brings to students.

Data Collection

Methodology

In this study, which focuses on describing the effect that providing journal and case study paper examples, more time to observe in the child care center and the use of different teaching methods will have on the improvement of observation journals and case study papers, I will primarily be using qualitative data. The form of qualitative research method I plan to use is ethnography. Ethnography is fitting to my research due to the fact that I will be observing my students when they are working in there every day surroundings (Glanz, 2003).

I also found ethnography to be appropriate for my research because I will use observations as a main source of my data collection (Glanz, 2003). The research method I am using is not a case study because I am collecting data that I will interpret and focus on a group rather than an individual (Glanz, 2003). The research questions that guide my data collection are: How will giving more time to observe in the child care center impact the high school students’ journals and case study papers? What teaching methods should I use to teach observing and journaling? Will spending more time on teaching observing and journaling improve student work? How will providing excellent examples of observation journals and case study papers impact student work? Will student anxiety and frustration levels decrease if more observation time is given? (See Appendix A)

When collecting my data, I am interested in comparing my perceptions of what students struggle with when observing, journaling and writing their case study papers to the students’ perceptions of what they struggle with when observing, journaling and writing their case study papers. The data will be collected during the first semester of the 2008-2009 school year. The data I will collect will primarily be qualitative which will include my own observations, colleague interviews and collection of student work. I value how my students are feeling about the projects assigned in my class so I will ask for input from the students as well. This data will be provided through a student focus group and student surveys at the beginning and end of the semester. All of the data collected will assist me in answering the questions I am exploring in this action research project.

Colleague Interviews

There are three teaching professionals I interviewed before the high school students began observing in the child care center. The Deer Park Teaching and Learning child care center Director, another Child Development teacher and an English teacher were asked for input on my topic. When interviewing the child care center Director (See Appendix B) and the Child Development teacher (See Appendix C), I investigated the time spent on teaching journaling and observing and the teaching methods they felt were beneficial to the students. I also wanted to understand their perceptions on how they feel providing students with example journals and case study papers impacts the students understanding of the assignment.

Through these interviews, a qualitative research method, I was able to understand the teachers’ views on providing students with more time in the child care center to observe. When interviewing the English teacher (See Appendix D), I focused on strategies used by this teacher to improve students writing.

It was also beneficial to find out what students in English class struggle with most when they are writing and what the teacher does to address these struggles. I am hoping to apply this information to my class to assist my students when they are writing their case study papers. I asked both the English teacher and the Child Development teacher what type of presentation methods students struggle with and what type of presentation methods get students excited about learning.

Student Focus Group

At the beginning of the semester, I will hold a class discussion regarding the amount of time given to observe in the child care center (See Appendix E). During this class focus group, a qualitative research method, I intend to also get feedback from the students regarding their views on how providing example observation journals will impact their understanding of the observation journal writing process. What I have found in the past is that students have a pretty good gage on what they need to be successful so asking students what their needs are at the beginning of the semester is important.

Student Survey – Questionnaire

Two surveys (See Appendix F) were created to request information from students in the two Child Development classes I teach. The intentions of the surveys, a qualitative research method, were to ask the students for their input to address the following questions: How will providing more time for you to observe in the child care center impact your observation journals and case study papers? What teaching methods do you benefit from most when learning about observing, journaling and writing your case study papers? Will spending more time on teaching observing and journaling improve your journals and papers? How will providing excellent examples of observation journals and case study papers impact affect your understanding of the assignment and your work? Will your anxiety and frustration levels decrease if more observation time in given? The questionnaire will be implemented at the beginning of the semester, before they observe, and at the end of the semester, after their papers are written, to gain a better understanding of the students’ viewpoint on this assignment.

Collecting Artifacts

Another qualitative research method I plan to use is to sporadically collect the students’ observation journal entries throughout the entire semester. My intention is to analyze the improvement of the students’ work as the semester goes along. I will collect the journals after the first time they observe when more time is given in the child care center, more time is spent on teaching observing and journaling and examples are provided to the students. I will compare this to the observations I have made in regards to student work from previous years.

Collecting these artifacts throughout the semester will allow me to evaluate the students’ understanding of observing and journaling as they progress through the semester. It will also provide me the opportunity to give the students feedback so the students will feel guided in this process. At the end of the semester, I will collect the final case study papers and the scores on the journals and papers, which is a quantitative data collection method. This will allow me to analyze student progress throughout the semester. The case study papers will also provide me with an idea of each student’s overall understanding of observing and how they are able to relate the information they have gathered through their observations to how a child is developing.

Observation and Field Notes

While students are using the example observation journals to guide their own journal writing, I will observe and note, qualitatively, the ease at which students do this. I will also note how often the students refer to their examples as the semester progresses. Throughout the semester, during the first ten minutes of class and the last ten minutes of class, I will observe and make notes on the students’ frustration levels related to observing. The beginning and end of class is a time when students talk to each other about a variety of things they are dealing with at the time. This will be an ideal time for me to step back and listen to their discussions between one another in regards to observing, journaling and writing their papers.

Timeline for Collecting Data:

Time of Year

Data Collection Source

Data Collection Source

Data Collection Source

Data Collection Source

Before Semester Begins

3 Colleague Interviews

Beginning of Semester

Student Focus Groups

Collect Artifacts –

Observations Journals & Scores

Student Survey –

Questionnaire

Observation & Field Notes

Middle of Semester

Collect Artifacts –

Observations Journals & Scores

Observation & Field Notes

End of Semester

Collect Artifacts –

Observations Journals & Scores

Student Survey –

Questionnaire

Observation & Field Notes

Data Analysis

Qualitative Data

During my data collection I will obtain data through colleague interviews, student focus groups, student surveys, observations, and artifacts. After my data is collected I will organize the data (Glanz, 2003). In order to organize my data I will read and reread the data to allow myself the ability to distinguish any patterns that are important (Glanz, 2003). Themes that I am prepared to find through my data collection is that students will benefit from examples that are provided.

After analyzing my observations, students surveys, and student focus group notes I predict I will find students will be relieved to have examples of the paper. I find that with provided examples students enjoyment of the project will be much more positive. To analyze my data I will group student in three categories: students that view examples as helpful, students that view examples as no help, and students that view examples as hurting their understanding. I will collect my data and then put each student in one of the three categories in which they fit. After I collect data I will need to code the data and find any themes or patterns that arise (Mills, 2007).

Quantitative Data

The quantitative data that I am collecting in my research is the student’s case study paper scores. I will use the scores to compare if student did better this year than from previous years. I will compare student’s papers to papers from the past two years. I will need to also review students overall scores throughout the year to be sure that the students did better because of the examples provided and my teaching methods but not because of the student’s natural ability.

Call for Action and Predictions

Affected Population The findings of this study will provide valuable information to high school teachers who have students who struggle with or are frustrated by the writing process. English teachers typically are responsible for teaching students the writing process and allowing them to practice that skill in their class. However, writing may be reinforced in all subject areas. The more practice students have with writing, the more likely they will be successful, especially if they are motivated and are writing about something they can connect with or enjoy. Both types of students, students who struggle with writing and those who do not, may benefit from the research found in this study.

I predict that providing examples to students and modeling writing strategies, will allow students to gain a better understanding of the observation journal and case study paper assignments. If students are able to visually see clear examples of what is expected in their writing, they are more likely to succeed and become less frustrated. Specifically, the students who will benefit from this study the most are my current students and future students because I will alter my teaching methods to include examples of previous student work. My colleague’s, Susan Johnson, students will also benefit if she decides to implement similar strategies when teaching observing and journaling.

Importance of ResearchOnce this data is collected and analyzed, it will provide me with the information I need to make changes to the way I teach observing and journaling. At this time, students are very frustrated with observing and writing their papers and I believe the data that I will collect may provide some insight into “what” specifically students are struggling with and “why” they have such a hard time with these assignments. I believe if I can find what is frustrating to students I can help students focus on the importance of the project rather than the difficulty. The data will also allow me to ask other educational professionals and students their opinions on this issue so I can gain multiple perspectives. Hopefully, this will allow me to implement change in my teaching methods, the assignment and the students learning experience.

Hypothesis and Future Outcomes Although I have not collected any data at this time, I expect student frustration levels to decrease and the quality of student work to increase if students are provided more time in the child care center to observe. I anticipate students would not feel as rushed and may be able to gather more thorough descriptions of what they see if they could spend the entire period in the center rather than half of the period. More time in the center may also provide students with an enhanced learning experience because they might be more likely to interact with the preschoolers and become more engaged in what they are observing.

Student’s engagement in observing may motivate them while they are completing their observation journals and writing their case study papers because they will have more experiences with the children to refer to. I foresee the students’ understanding of observing and journaling to improve if more time was spent on teaching these concepts and if a variety of engaging teaching methods were used. It can be frustrating for students when they are not given enough time to learn a new concept. Allowing students time to practice and discuss examples of observing in groups, partners and individually before going into the child care center, will enable students to become more comfortable with the observation process.

Many students get excited about learning new ideas when they are learning through hands on experiences and working with other students. When I am teaching observing and journaling, I will try to provide students more opportunities to do this before expecting them to go into the child care center to observe on their own. I feel this will help motivate students about the observation and case study project.Finally, I anticipate that providing students with examples of observation journals and case study papers will assist them in their understanding of the assignment.

When learning something new it can be helpful for students to see a sample of the assignment so they know what the expectations are. If students know what the expectations are upfront, they are less likely to become confused or frustrated. By reading a previous students paper, students my gain a better idea of what they need to look for while they are observing in the child care center and how they can put these ideas together to analyze the child’s development. I believe that students will have a more enthusiastic perception of observing and journaling if I implement all of these changes.

References

Barbakoff, S., & Yo, Y. P. (2002). Levels of social play: Observing and recording preschoolers.

Campbell, J., Smith, D., Boulton-Lewis, G., Brownlee, J., Burnett, P. C., Carrington, S., et al. (2001). Students' perceptions of teaching and learning: The influence of students' approaches to learning and teachers' approaches to teaching. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 7(2), 173.

Collins, K. M., & Collins, J. L. (1996). Strategic instruction for struggling writers. English Journal, 85(6), 54.

Day, V. P., & Elksnin, L. K. (1994). Promoting strategic learning. Intervention in School and Clinic, 29(5), 262.

Glanz, J. (2003). Action research: An educational leader’s guide to school improvement (2nd ed.). Norwood, Massachusetts: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.

Lam, S., & Law, Y. (2007). The roles of instructional practices and motivation in writing performance. Journal of Experimental Education, 75(2), 145-164.

Mills, G. E. (2007). Action research: A guide for the teacher researcher (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Ink.

Appendix A

Triangulation Matrix

Focus Area Question:

  • What are the benefits of providing Child Development high school students with journal and case study paper examples, more time to observe in the child care center and the use of different teaching methods among students to improve observation journals and case study papers in Child Development Preschool Lab during the 2008 fall semester?

Purpose:

à The purpose of the study is to describe the effect that providing journal and case study paper examples, more time to observe in the child care center and the use of different teaching methods will have on the improvement of observing journals and case study papers.

Research Sub Questions

Data Source 1

Data Source 2

Data Source 3

How will giving more time to observe in the child care center impact their journals and case study papers?

Student Focus Group

Student Survey-Questionnaire

Collect journals & case study papers and the scores

What teaching methods will I use to teach observing and journaling?

Colleague Interview

Student Survey- Questionnaire

Will spending more time on teaching observing and journaling improve student work?

Collect Artifacts

--journals & papers

Student Survey- Questionnaire

Colleague Interview

How will providing excellent examples of observation journals and case study papers impact student work?

Student Survey - Questionnaire

Student Focus Group

Observation

Will student anxiety and frustration levels decrease if more observation time is given?

Teacher Observation

Field Notes

Student Survey -Questionnaire

Appendix B

Interview Questions for KAREN ELLIS

(Deer Park Teaching & Learning Center Director):

July 11, 2008

Do you have any ideas on how to use modeling as a teaching strategy to provide the high school friends with adequate tools when writing papers and essays?

For general writing, I think a lot of our students don’t use Microsoft word properly… even simple tools such as spelling and grammar check. Spending a day familiarizing ourselves with Microsoft Word in a computer lab may be helpful. Once this has been accomplished, it could be a requirement to use these tools for writing. (I know this seems obvious, but a lot of the case study papers have typos and grammar issues that would have been fixed by using these simple functions.) Then, for more specific content to writing child development papers: modeling writing skills can be helpful for students who are unsure about how to record and interpret what they see with our children in the center.

Students could watch a video excerpt of a classroom activity (as opposed to watching live where you can’t stop the action, ask questions, take time to write observations, etc) and then as a class make observations and comments. From the collection of observations and comments, the group can collectively write a paragraph on the overhead or IIS monitor so that everyone can be a part of the idea generating and editing process. Practicing this skill as a group may make it less intimidating. This can also be a time to reinforce the Microsoft tools.

Do you think that providing examples of observation journal entries and case study papers to students will impact their journals and papers?

Yes! Not everyone would choose to read them, but to those students who are struggling, this may be very useful.

How will providing these examples to students impact their journal entries and case study papers?

Examples of journals and case studies could be helpful for some students who are unclear on how to use their observations made in the center. If students are able to read about other children at the same developmental level as the child they are observing, they may gain insight into their child.

When you read the high school friends case study papers at the end of the semester, what parts of writing the paper do students struggle with the most?

Some students struggle with the basic writing/grammatical structure, which doesn’t always negatively impact their observations about the child, but it impacts their ability to communicate what they’ve learned. Others are not sure how to interpret their observations they have collected. Sometimes they draw conclusions about an observed behavior and then contradict that conclusion on the next page. I’m not sure if they realize this has happened, or they know it has happened but aren’t sure how to interpret the range of the child’s behavior. I think both of these issues can be improved by the student spending more time proofreading and editing.

Do you have any suggestions or strategies on how I can help students with the parts of the paper they are struggling with?

I think that the modeling writing and offering writing samples could aid students who are struggling. Also, you can offer using the resources in the school like the WERCS (the writing lab). Also, you can encourage the students to ask the child’s teacher more questions about typical behaviors. It may be helpful to break students into small groups to discuss the child they are observing… if they share with the group some of their observations and the students have an opportunity to ask questions, they may discover more about their child. This may help in interpreting observations that contradict each other or are not in agreement with the developmental milestones.

How much time do you feel the high school friends should have to observe in order to collect thorough observations?

Of course we would all love more time in our days to do everything!!! It would be great if they could use the whole period to do their observations. This does not seem to be realistic based on our schedules at this time. Sometimes behaviors are observed that are a direct result of something that happened earlier, but if the high school student only observes the one behavior, it can seem out of character. Knowing what has happened in the morning before this occurred could be really helpful.

Do you feel that if students were given more time in the center to observe their observation journals would improve and their frustration and anxiety levels would decrease?

I think that having more time to observe would be beneficial, but I don’t know if that would have a direct impact on their frustration and anxiety. It is probable though that the more time you get to practice an art like observing, the easier it would be.

What teaching methods would you use to teach observing and journaling at the beginning of the year? How would you teach the high school friends how to observe and document these observations in their journals?

First, I would start with observing a video, so that the group can pause the tape, ask questions, and make observations. Next, I would lead an observation session either in the corner of the classroom or through the observation window. After observing for a few minutes, you can share some of the observations you made and solicit observations from the students. Next, students can discuss how these observations fit into the developmental milestones they are learning about through the textbook. Splitting into small groups to write a journal entry and then sharing with the class could also be a good way to practice this skill.

How long would you spend on teaching observing and journaling?

I would observe half of the period and then reflect for the second half, using the techniques listed above.

How often would you teach observing and journaling throughout the semester?

I think that this is a skill that grows as the students get more comfortable with observing and getting to know the children. It may be helpful to do an initial teaching for a period and then revisit a few times during the semester. It could also be just a classroom activity for small groups to observe videos of classroom activities and report to the big group. If the students continue to practice the skills of observing with different groups, they may continue to gain observing tips from other students as well as insight on the children.

Do you think there are options other than writing a paper that high school friends could use to present the information from their observation journals to assess how a specific child is developing?

The high school friends could complete a developmental checklist like the form the teachers use in the child care center. This form could be tailored to reflect the experiences the children have with the student. For example, questions could be added which address specifics of SSF, LM and art activities. Also, items that don’t apply to the times high school students are in the center, such as questions about nap time, drop off, pick up, etc., could be eliminated. After each section, (i.e. emotional development, fine motor skills), students could write summative statements on their child’s development in those areas.

Portfolio assessment could also be used to demonstrate progress. Collecting samples of the child’s art projects, videotaped activities, digital pictures, and direct observations throughout the year can also show development. The end project could be like an actual scrapbook of these artifacts, or they could be scanned and compiled into a power point presentation.

Appendix C

Interview Questions for SUSAN JOHNSON

(Deerfield High School Child Development Teacher):

July 11, 2008

What modeling strategies do you provide to your students for writing papers and essays?

Typically I give students a sample of writing as well as offering additional oral examples. In the oral examples I give an outline, but then I also offer specific examples of what the writing would sound like.

How have you found these strategies to be effective?

I think examples are very effective and help all students. The higher performing students might not need as much modeling but all students feel more comfortable with clear expectations.

Has student written work improved when using modeling strategies?

I have never actually recorded data about this but I do believe that the quality of my students work has improved. I do sometimes think that the higher performers are going to do well no matter what, but the middle and bottom kids are doing much better in my opinion. So, I think, all are doing better but I do believe the middle and bottom kids have shown more marked improvement.

Have you provided students with excellent examples of assignments?

As stated earlier with writing, I do offer examples of past excellent student work for current students.

How has providing examples to students impacted student work?

What parts of writing an essay or paper do your students struggle with the most?

I believe students struggle the most with transitions between thoughts and transitions between paragraphs.

How have you addressed this situation to assist students?

To address this I have offered to allow students to meet with me one on one; when explaining the assignment - I call attention to the fact that I know it is an area of difficulty for many writers so they should be aware and pay attention; I encourage them to seek help at our writing lab. I also provide specific examples of work with good transitions included. As a class we also brainstorm typical transition words that would be applicable to the writing piece – although we can never anticipate all of them, there are a number of them related to our content that will work.

How much time do your students have to observe in the child care center every week?

My students are assigned to observe in the child care center once a week. (though they do observe while they are teaching as well, {once a week} but they are not required to produce any observing work related to that time, though they are allowed to use those observations in their journals when relevant.)

How much time do you feel they should have to observe?

I think that once per week is adequate time, though I do value what the students learn from the children while watching them. There is never enough time in the day so I do feel one class period per week is fair.

Do you feel that if students were given more time in the center to observe their observation journals would improve and their frustration and anxiety levels would decrease?

I am not sure what you mean by more time – would they still be required to do the same amount of work but given more time to do it? Or required to do more work? Because more work might help them to get more practice so they reach mastery sooner, but more work might frustrate them for awhile until they feel more comfortable. Because they only observe once a week they do not get consistent feedback to adjust their journals so that is one reason why I think the frustration lasts longer. Would it work better to have them only observe for 2-3 weeks straight and observe every day for 8-12 times (which is typical for a whole quarter)? It would make my life crazy to grading every night and give feedback everyday but I think they would reach a level of mastery sooner, time wise anyway. I believe most reach a mastery level by December, which is really observing for the months of Oct. & Nov.

What teaching methods do you use to teach observing and journaling?

Initially, I use a lecture format to introduce the topic. I mix in brain friendly activities to have the students interact with the type of journaling I expect. I provide examples of excellent journals. We work in small groups at tables to complete sample journals. We observe together through the one way window, together as a class, and orally present what a journal would sound like given a specific behavior or skill they are witnessing. If I am lucky enough to have an independent study student in the section, they sit with the observers the first few times to help, as a peer-coach.

How long do you spend on teaching observing and journaling?

Initially it takes me 2-3 days for them to get the concept, then I continue to work with individuals as we progress and their levels of comfort increase.

How often do you teach observing and journaling?

“Officially” I would say I teach it once, near the beginning of the year. Then we observe changes in 2nd semester so I do need to spend another day in class explaining the differences.

Other than writing a paper, in what ways have students presented information they have collected over a specific time period?

I typically use projects to have students produce something that represents the knowledge they have gained and can apply. For example, my second semester final exam project is a culmination of what we have learned throughout the entire year.

What type of presentation methods (writing papers, PowerPoint presentations, speeches, reflective journals, skits, etc.) have your students struggled with?

I don’t see any one type of assessment as a challenge for all students. At times I think each method of assessment can be a challenge for some of my students – it really depends on their learning styles and can also be impacted by their levels of interest.

What type of presentation methods have your students enjoyed?

I think it depends on the student which is why I try to offer options when I can to tap into their learning style as well as interest. Some students are great writers and are articulate on paper in representing what they have learned; others are visually creative and can represent their knowledge by creating art; others enjoy technology and are creative with PowerPoint presentations, brochures, etc.

This is why journaling does not work for all learners because they are all not good writers.

Why do they enjoy presenting their information in this way?

I think when I can tap into how they learn best and what they like to do, they enjoy the “work”, are more willing to take some risks and tend to be very proud of what they produce.

Do you think this could be an option for students in Child Development to present the information from their observation journals?

I think differentiated instruction and assessment really works well for all students. If I could adjust assessments (journals included) to be interesting and relevant to each individual student, I do think they would learn more. A student that is motivated and invested will learn more effectively and efficiently. When given choices, I think students learn more. So, if there were multiple ways that individuals could represent the content and standards that I think they need to achieve, I think we all would be happy. The challenge is to make all choices equitable and challenging enough for individual students.

Appendix D

Interview Questions for SHARI KELLOGG

(Deerfield HS English Teacher):

July 11, 2008

What modeling strategies do you provide to your students for writing papers and essays?

I show students examples of elements of written work during the writing process (i.e. introductions, thesis statements, paragraph organization, quote integration, etc.). I also show them examples of ones that could improve. We discuss them as a class. I do this for different kinds of written assignments, from persuasive essays to creative poetry.

How have you found these strategies to be effective?

For many students, models help tremendously. I have found that teaching writing is very challenging- the hardest thing I teach- but using models helps students to visualize the lessons I teach.

Has student written work improved when using modeling strategies?

I believe so, but I haven’t done any specific inquiry studies to support my perceptions. I think it helps the most by showing students how to avoid the most common mistakes and pitfalls made in writing.

Have you provided students with excellent examples of assignments?

Yes. I mostly show them examples of good or excellent assignments. When I hand back papers that I have graded, I usually show them examples of their peers work. (I show them work from other class periods with no name on them)

How has providing examples to students impacted student work?

Again, I think it helps many students visualize how to best present their ideas. The best way to become a strong writer is to read quality writing.

What parts of writing an essay or paper do your students struggle with the most?

It really depends on the student. Some struggle with the development of their ideas, others with organization, some with grammar.

How have you addressed this situation to assist students?

I try to assist my students with writing by helping them formulate their own goals. My hope is that this gives them a focus for improving specific elements of their writing that need attention. I give them specific feedback and use rubrics to communicate with students what their strengths and weaknesses are in the various areas of writing. I also try my best to conference individually with students about their writing. I believe this is the most effective way to improve writing. It isn’t always possible though, with class sizes of 26+, so I encourage students to seek me out or see the WERCS for individual attention.

Other than writing a paper, in what ways have students presented information they have collected over a specific time period?

We have frequent class discussions about texts we are reading where students are asked to share their ideas. Sometimes they do informal presentations, based on the objective of the unit. This year, I tried visual journals, where instead of written response journals, students complete visual, artistic responses to the text we were reading.

What type of presentation methods (writing papers, PowerPoint presentations, speeches, reflective journals, skits, etc.) have your students struggled with?

Depends on the student. Some struggle with writing, some with discussion.

What type of presentation methods have your students enjoyed?

More informal and creative presentations where they work in a group.

Why do they enjoy presenting their information in this way?

It is fun and light. Anything that is a break from the routine of writing and discussion is a breath of fresh air for them.

Do you think this could be an option for students in Child Development to present the information from their observation journals?

Currently, students in Child Development present the information they gather on how a specific child develops in a paper.

Yes. Perhaps they could role play and act out some of these developmental milestones. I would be happy to talk to you more about visual journals, too. The students really enjoyed it.

Appendix E

Focus Group Discussion Questions (Casually discussed as a class)

  • How much time will you need each week to observe in the child care center to gather 6 observations?
  • How will you use this time to collect thorough data on the children?
  • What will you do if you finish collecting your data early?
  • Are samples and examples helpful when a new project is assigned?

If students answer YES…

  • What type of examples would be helpful to you while working on this project?
  • How many examples would you like to see?

I will hold a class focus group in both of my classes. Each class will have approximately 12 to 15 students who are in 10th through 12th grade.

Appendix F

Beginning of Semester:

Student Survey Questionnaire

  • How do you learn best when a new concept is introduced?
  • Explain why this teaching technique works best for you?
  • How do you learn best when a new project is introduced?
  • Explain why this teaching technique works best for you?
  • How much time should the teacher spend on explaining observing and journaling?
  • How will this time be beneficial to your learning?
  • Will providing samples or examples of observation journals help you understand the assignment? Explain your answer.

End of Semester:

Student Survey Questionnaire

  • Did the samples and examples of the observation journals help you understand the assignment? Explain your answer.
  • Did the samples and examples of the case study papers help you understand the semester project? Explain your answer.
  • Would you change the way that the observing and journaling was taught? Explain your answer.
  • Do you feel you had enough time in the child care center to collect observations? Explain your answer.
  • How does spending time in the child care center impact the quality of your case study papers? Explain your answer.
  • What are you challenged by when completing your observation journals?
  • What are you challenged by when completing your case study paper?
  • How can the teacher make observation journals a more positive experience?
  • How can the teacher make the case study paper a more positive experience?

10. What suggestions do you have on improving these assignments?

Appendix G

Annotated Bibliography

Barbakoff, S., & Yo, Y. P. (2002). Levels of social play: Observing and recording preschoolers

When teachers observe their preschool students using running records and checklists, it

allows them to prepare and plan thorough lessons. Through observing children doing

different activities, teachers have a better understanding of how children are developing.

Examples of running record logs and checklists are included in this article. This provides

support related to observing preschool children in order to become a better prepared teacher.

Campbell, J., Smith, D., Boulton-Lewis, G., Brownlee, J., Burnett, P. C., Carrington, S., et al. (2001). Students' perceptions of teaching and learning: The influence of students' approaches to learning and teachers' approaches to teaching. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 7(2), 173.

This article compares students who have a deep approach to learning to students who have a surface approach to learning. Both types of students were interviewed and asked what they felt was most beneficial to them when trying to learn concepts in a variety of different classes. What the study found was that when students were in a caring, supportive environment and they were actively engaged in the lessons being taught, both types of learners felt they were learning more.

However, when the class was teacher focused and when students were lectured to, both types of students became surface learners and were not as engaged. Their perceptions of the class were negative compared to the hands on, active classes that built the students self-esteem. This article provides some interesting quotes from a variety of students on how they learn best and the perceptions they have of a class due to the way they are taught when they are in the class.

Collins, K. M., & Collins, J. L. (1996). Strategic instruction for struggling writers. English Journal, 85(6), 54.

There is a four step process when teaching writing strategies to students; “identifying a strategy to teach, introducing the strategy by modeling it, allowing students to use it and helping students work toward independent mastery of the strategy through repetition and practice.” Not all learners grasp the concept being taught from modeling and practicing. Some students learn best through the use of visuals. There are a lot of examples of student writing in this article; however, it is hard to relate these examples to the assignment I am trying to improve in Child Development.

Day, V. P., & Elksnin, L. K. (1994). Promoting strategic learning. Intervention in School and Clinic, 29(5), 262.

Teaching students effective learning strategies will help improve student work. When teaching students a new concept, the concept should be described, modeled, discussed (talked through aloud) and practiced by the students. Students may be involved in this process from the very beginning by asking them what they struggle most with and what they think may help. Providing feedback to the students is also effective when students are struggling. This article supports the idea that presenting students with examples and models of previous work will assist them in the understanding of the assignment which will lead to improved grades.

Lam, S., & Law, Y. (2007). The roles of instructional practices and motivation in writing performance. Journal of Experimental Education, 75(2), 145-164.

This article discusses the relationship between how the use of teaching writing strategies and motivating students affects student writing performance. Students need to be challenged and need to understand the importance of the writing assignment they are expected to complete. They need to understand “why” they are writing this paper and it needs to be related to something they are interested in in the future or something they can connect to in their past or in the present. Student writing also improves when students are curious about the topic they are writing about and when they are provided with feedback. This field study took place in Hong Kong and involved seventh and eighth grade students from four different schools. This article supports the idea that when students are motivated and understand “why” they are completing an assignment they are more likely to earn a better grade.

Appendix I

Discussion Question #2-Week 1

Describe/Model how self-reflection, description and explanation are used to clarify the focus area.

(Mills Pg. 27)

NOTES ON DISCUSSION QUESTION

FOCUS AREA

--“Question or problem to investigate”

--“A situation one wishes to change or improve”

--The teacher needs to define “area of focus” when starting an action research project

Focus Area should: (from Mills Pg. 26)

  • Involve teaching and learning
  • Be within the teachers locus of control
  • Be something the teacher is passionate about
  • Be something the teacher wants to change or improve

RECONNAISSANCE (Mills Pg. 26-28)

--Gathering information on a focus area before beginning your action research.

ANSWER TO DISCUSSION QUESTION

à This allows the teacher to brainstorm all of the background information they have on an area of interest or topic before pinpointing and action research question. Through the self-reflection, description and explanation activities many questions will arise allowing the teacher to look at the “problem” or “issue” they want to tackle from multiple angles. Questions that were not coming up originally may present themselves during this process. Once all the questions have been considered the teacher can narrow down their focus area.

MODEL of RECONNAISSANCE

1.SELF-REFLECTION

à Theories - ?? I’m confused and don’t understand this one

à Educational Value – High school students should be able to communicate what they observe or see through detailed written form. This information should later be used to make conclusions about how a preschool aged child is developing socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically.

à Larger Context – Providing students with life long observation, analytical and communication skills to be used in their future will benefit the student learner.

à Historical Context (schooling) – Family and Consumer Science classes used to be referred to as Home Economics which involved becoming a knowledgeable homemaker. In Child Development classes proper parenting techniques were emphasized. Now that Home Economics has evolved into Family and Consumer Sciences there is an emphasis on preparing students to become well-informed parents as well as preparing them to become educated professionals who may work with children in their careers and their personal lives.

à Historical Context (personal) – Journaling and the semester case study paper is what students struggle with the most all year in this class. It causes frustration for the students and the teacher. How can I make this a more pleasant learning experience for everyone involved? (HS students, preschool children and teacher)

2. DESCRIPTIVE ACTIVITIES – describe situation you want to change

à WHO – HS students in Child Development Preschool Lab class

à WHAT evidence do you have that this (observing/journaling/case study paper) is a problem?

--confused and frustrated students year after year

--low scores on journals

--students not completing journal assignment

--students doing well on all other assignments, lesson planning and teaching, but not doing well on

Journals

--students struggle with the outline and paper for the semester case study

à HOW is journaling and the semester case study paper taught?

--lecture format/note taking

--examples gone over in class together

--use of chapter notes, handouts and textbook appendix to show as a resource

--go over grading assignment sheet for semester paper

à WHO struggles with this assignment the most?

à HOW often is journaling taught to the students?

--1 or 2 class periods for 20-30 minutes each

à WHERE do students go to collect the information for their journals?

--Deerfield HS on-site child care center

--observing children ages 2-5 years old

--assigned a specific child after 1 month of observing

à HOW often do high school students observe and complete their journals?

--assigned time in class is given – 1 day per week for 20-25 minutes

à WHAT is required of students in their journals?

--6 different observations

--each observation should include a description of what they see, an educated opinion of how the child is

Developing, and an assessment of the child’s development socially, emotionally, intellectually or

Physically.

à HOW are the journal entries used to write the case study paper?

--the entries are used to asses one child’s developmental rate in the 4 areas of development

--journal entries act as evidence or support in the paper

--students provide specific examples to parents

à HOW/WHEN is feedback provided to students?

--by teacher only on bi-weekly journal assignment

--written comments

--occasional one-on-one meeting with students who really struggle

3. EXPLANATORY ACTIVITIES – focus on WHY/Develop hypothesis

WHY??

  • Students struggle with observation journals and their case study papers because…

--they are not given enough time in the child care center to collect sufficient observations

--students are rushed which causes anxiety

--not enough time is spent on teaching observing, journaling and the case study paper

--students need excellent examples of observation journals and case study papers to use as a guide

--other teaching methods need to be used when explaining observing and journaling

Hypothesis

If students have a better understanding of the observation journal assignment, examples of journals and papers to guide them and more time to observe the preschool children, their journals and case study papers will improve.

Appendix J

Mills Questions #1 Page 138-Week 3

How will you analyze each data source that you have indicated in your data collection plan? Remember: Don’t collect data when you don’t know what you are going to do with it.

Student Focus Group

At the beginning of the semester, I will hold a class discussion regarding the amount of time given to observe in the child care center. During this class focus group, I intend to also get feedback from the students regarding their views on how providing example observation journals will impact their understanding of the observation journal writing process. What I have found in the past is that students have a pretty good gage on what they need to be successful on assignments so asking students what their needs are at the beginning of the semester is important.

Colleague Interviews

There are three teaching professionals I am planning on interviewing. The Deer Park Teaching and Learning child care center Director, another Child Development teacher and an English teacher will be asked for input on my topic. I will interview these teachers before the semester begins. When interviewing the child care center Director and the Child Development teacher, I will investigate the time spent on teaching journaling and observing and the teaching methods they feel are beneficial to the students. I will also get their perceptions on how they feel providing students with example journals and case study papers impacts the students understanding of the assignment.

Through these interviews, I will also be able to understand these teacher’s views on providing students more time in the child care center to observe. When interviewing the English teacher, I would like to focus on strategies that this teacher uses to improve students writing. It would also be interesting to find out what students in English class struggle with most when they are writing and what the teacher does to address these struggles that students have. I may be able to apply this information to my class to assist my students when they are writing their case study papers. I will ask both the English teacher and the Child Development teacher what type of presentation methods students struggle with and what type of presentation methods get students excited about learning.

Collecting Artifacts

àI will sporadically collect the students’ observation journal entries throughout the entire semester. My intention is to analyze the improvement of the students’ work as the semester goes along. I will collect the journals after the first time they observe when more time is given in the child care center, more time is spent on teaching observing and journaling and examples are provided to the students. I will compare this to the observations I have made in regards to student work from previous years.

Collecting these artifacts throughout the semester will allow me to evaluate the students understanding of observing and journaling as they progress through the semester. It will also provide me the opportunity to give the students feedback so the students will feel guided in this process. At the end of the semester, I will collect the final case study papers and the scores on the journals and papers. This will allow me to analyze student progress throughout the semester. The case study papers will also provide me with an idea of each student’s overall understanding of observing and how they are able to relate it to how a child is developing.

Student Survey – Questionnaire

àI intend on creating a survey to ask the students for their input to address the following questions: How will providing more time for you to observe in the child care center impact your observation journals and case study papers? What teaching methods do you benefit from most when learning about observing, journaling and writing your case study papers? Will spending more time on teaching observing and journaling improve your journals and papers? How will providing excellent examples of observation journals and case study papers impact affect your understanding of the assignment and you work? Will your anxiety and frustration levels decrease if more observation time in given? The questionnaire will be implemented at the beginning of the semester, before they observe, and at the end of the semester, after their papers are written, to gain a better understanding of the students’ viewpoint on this assignment.

Observation and Field Notes

àWhile students are using the example observation journals to guide their own journal writing, I will observe and note the ease at which students do this. I will also note how often the students refer to their examples as the semester progresses. Throughout the semester, during the first ten minutes of class and the last ten minutes of class, I will observe and make notes on the students’ frustration levels related to observing.

The beginning and end of class is a time when students talk to each other about a variety of things they are dealing with at the time. This will be an ideal time for me to step back and listen to their discussions between one another in regards to observing, journaling and writing their papers.

Timeline for Collecting Data:

1. Before Semester Begins:

--Colleague Interviews – Child Care Center Director, Child Development Teacher & English Teacher

2. Beginning of Semester:

--Student Focus Groups

--Collect Artifacts – observation journals and scores

--Student Survey/Questionnaire

--Observation and Field Notes

3. Middle of Semester:

--Collect Artifacts – observation journals and scores

--Observation and Field Notes

4. End of Semester:

--Collect Artifacts – observation journals, case study papers and journal and paper scores

--Student Survey/Questionnaire

--Observation and Field Notes

Appendix K

Possible Interview Questions-

Discussion Question Week 2

Susan Johnson – Susan is a high school teacher at Deerfield High School. She helped open Deer Park Teaching and Learning Center 16 years ago. While she was a director of the center, she became endorsed to teach Family and Consumer Science courses at the high school level. She has made the transition from child care center director to high school Child Development teacher. She has been teaching high school for approximately 10 years. She is a valuable resource because she fully understands the child care center program as well as high school Child Development class. Susan has a Type 75 Master’s Degree.

Karen Ellis - Karen is the current Deer Park Teaching and Learning Center Director at Deerfield High School. She has worked in the center for approximately 10 years and works very closely with Susan and I to coordinate the high school teaching schedule in the child care center. She has a very in depth understanding of the observing that goes on every week in the center. Karen passes on the final case study papers that the high school students write to the parents of the children in the center. She reads each high school students paper before giving it to the parents so she understands the struggles the students have with this assignment.

Shari Kellogg – Shari is an English teacher at Deerfield High School. She has been teaching at Deerfield for approximately 7 years. She has taught Deerprints/Journalism (the school newspaper), Freshman English and Junior English. I thought she would be able to suggest some strategies that work to help students improve their writing skills.

Focus Area Question:

  • What are the benefits of providing Child Development high school students with journal and case study paper examples, more time to observe in the child care center and the use of different teaching methods among students to improve observation journals and case study papers in Child Development Preschool Lab during the 2008 fall semester?
  • What modeling strategies do you provide to your students for writing papers and essays?
  • How have you found these strategies to be effective?
  • Has student written work improved when using modeling strategies?
  • Have you provided students with excellent examples of assignments?
  • How has providing examples to students impacted student work?
  • What parts of writing an essay or paper do your students struggle with the most?
  • How have you addressed this situation to assist students?
  • How much time do your students have to observe in the child care center every week?
  • How much time do you feel they should have to observe?
  • Do you feel that if students were given more time in the center to observe their observation journals would improve and their frustration and anxiety levels would decrease?
  • What teaching methods do you use to teach observing and journaling?
  • How long do you spend on teaching observing and journaling?
  • How often do you teach observing and journaling?

Questions triggered by Penny’s response:

  • What type of presentation methods have your students struggled with?
  • Other than writing a paper, in what ways have students presented information they have collected over a specific time period?
  • What type of presentation methods have your students enjoyed?
  • Why do they enjoy presenting their information in this way?
  • Do you think this could be an option for students in Child Development to present the information from their observation journals?