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Article

Matching Performance Assessment to Teacher Capabilities: The Bridge Between Teacher Performance/Evaluation and Student Learning  

Robert Morris

America’s public educational system is under constant scrutiny concerning student performance on standardized tests. Some blame the teachers, others blame the students, and recently many have begun to blame the test. A clearer picture of the issues is important and by reviewing the traditional aspects for evaluating teachers and then analyzing how contemporary testing methods in today’s classrooms has evolved a clearer perspective can be accomplished. The advent of newer models and methods of teacher assessment that focus on the classroom performance of teachers and based on observable assessments, along with a more authentic measure of student capabilities, are central. Although many researchers praise this movement, others have found many pitfalls in the attempt to standardize performance assessments. Many critics advocate the use of performance assessments in the classroom but remain loyal to the multiple-choice assessment as the more reliable and valid measure for comparative standardized testing. All aspects of this debate are important however. Given the increasing usage of performance assessment in today’s classrooms, many believe and advocate the development of newer assessments to replace the more traditional assessments. Understanding the roles evaluation and assessment play in reforming teacher evaluation is vital. Different data sources, new social power relations, and new ways of thinking about teacher evaluation are all important. The link between these developments in teacher evaluation and school reform is hoped to bring about an increased focus on the most important resource for change: the best practices of current teachers.

Article

Education Research on Developmental Social Cognition in Children and Adolescence  

Sandra Bosacki

Educational research on how children and adolescents make sense of the social world and how this social–cognitive ability develops across time and cultural contexts remains in its infancy. An important question for psychoeducators and developmentalists is how to best measure the diverse multidimensional and interconnected social–cognitive skills among children and youth. Research that explores social–cognitive skills such as theory of mind (ToM), self-regulation, and moral reasoning such as deception within the context of education explores this question. ToM refers to the ability to understand others’ mental states to explain behavior, and self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate or control one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. The measurement of multidimensional topics such as self-regulation and ToM is important for educators to help students learn important life skills such as perspective-taking and empathy. Such social reasoning skills will help students navigate the complex social landscape of the school. Multidisciplinary, transcultural, and mixed-method longitudinal studies provide fruitful investigations into the development of social–cognitive abilities and how this plays a role in children and adolescents developing a sense of self, relationships, and their understanding of others as intentional beings. Further systematic research is needed to explore the role of social–cognitive and metacognitive processes within young people’s personal, social, and educational worlds. In summary, future research needs to explore new interdisciplinary and dynamic developmental frameworks that aim to ignite new theories and empirical tests that build on extant models of neurobiological susceptibility and child and adolescent brain development. To advance research in applied developmental social neuroscience, interdisciplinary collaboration among developmental cognitive neuroscientists, educators, and clinicians must increase. For example, developmental scientists who work with cross-cultural, longitudinal samples could be recruited for scanning, whereas neuroscientists’ extant data sets could be made accessible to developmental scientists and educators. Such shared research could then be applied to the educational setting and provide opportunities for prevention and intervention models and assessment tools aimed to foster young people’s social–cognitive development.

Article

Elite School Education Group Policy and Low-Performing Schools in China  

Yu Zhang and Xuan Qi

Education inequality has been a challenging issue worldwide, and disparity across schools constitutes a significant proportion of total inequality. Effective policies to turn around low-performing schools (LPS) are therefore of great importance to both governments and students. The Elite School Education Group (ESEG) policy is an emerging one, and it has quickly become very influential in China, a country with one of the largest and most diversified education systems in the world. Under this policy, elite public schools (EPS), which have exceptionally enriched educational resources (i.e., high-quality teachers, strong principal leadership, excellent school cultures, etc.), are encouraged by the government to build school groups with LPS. Within the school group under the elite school brand, branch schools (i.e., the previous LPS) can share all kinds of resources from the EPS (including teachers and principals), and they may even utilize the prestige of the brand itself as a means to attract high-performing students. The ESEG policy enables the delivery of multiple turnaround interventions to LPS in an autonomous way, through building partnerships between EPS and LPS. While some LPS are successfully turned around, some are not. It depends on the effectiveness of the reforms undertaken in the branch schools. Of particular importance is the access to strong principal leadership, excellent teachers, and the school cultures from EPS. Incentives for EPS to participate in this reform include obtaining flexibility in personnel management, expanding school scale and influence, and mobilizing other resources. Despite the potential positive influence on the branch schools, the ESEG policy may have a more complex influence on the entire education ecology than initially expected. Indeed, there are now some concerns that the ESEG is creating new LPS, because more and more high-performing students are drawn out of normal schools and attracted to the ESEG-partnered schools during admission. Thus, the effectiveness of the ESEG policy should not be solely based on attracting high-performing students, but on improving overall education quality.

Article

Ecologically Sustaining Research Partnerships  

Melissa M. Jozwiak and Karen L. B. Burgard

It is essential that universities and local or government agencies begin to work together to do unconventional and impactful research that is mutually sustaining to both partners. When done well, the partnerships will strengthen the positions of each institution to continue to do their work and create new opportunities for equity and advancement. The challenges associated with building these types of partnerships are numerous, but even more challenges exist when the partnerships are committed to working in solidarity. To create partnerships that are examples of solidarity leading to mutual sustainability, partners must be intentional about using an ecological-systems model to shape the decision-making process. In doing so, the partners enact an Ecologically Sustaining Research Partnership (ESRP), which ensures that both partners are strengthened by and exist beyond the life of the partnership. Importantly, ESRPs are committed to equity and empowerment and use the ecological-systems model to shift the basis of power in favor of commonly oppressed groups. This emancipatory approach to research is essential for the field of early childhood, but it can also be expanded to guide partnerships between universities and communities across disciplines.

Article

Utilizing Participatory Action Research to Build an Inclusive Classroom Community in France  

Nicole Eilers

Inclusive education is increasingly prioritized in legislation and policy across the globe. Historically, the concept of inclusion within educational contexts refers primarily to the placement of students with disabilities in general education classrooms. More recent descriptions of inclusive education focus on ensuring that all children can access and participate in physical, social, and academic aspects of the classroom. However, a growing body of research suggests that students continue to experience exclusion even within educational contexts that express a commitment to inclusion. In France, a growing number of private, independent schools seek to create the inclusive environments that, despite the ministry of education’s initiatives focused on inclusion, the public school system does not yet provide. One such school engaged in a participatory action research project to create an inclusive classroom that responded to the evolving needs and interests of the community, resulting in a sense of belonging for all members. As all classroom community members (students, families, and teachers) participated in the project of creating an inclusive classroom, the elements of participatory action research allowed inclusion to become a flexible, ongoing, and reflexive practice of identifying and responding to contextually specific needs of classroom members. Approaching inclusion as a participatory action research project in the classroom offers a promising approach to moving beyond interpretations of inclusion that fail to actively address pervasive inequalities and their impact on classroom experiences.

Article

Parental Involvement  

Barbara Otto and Julia Karbach

In the recent years, parental involvement in a child’s academic development has been of great scientific interest. As parental involvement is a broad term it encompasses many parental activities that need to be further specified. In line with this, no widely accepted theoretical framework of parental involvement exists so far. Moreover, in terms of assessment of parental involvement a large variety of instruments have been applied: Parental involvement has been assessed by behavioral observations, self-reports, or reports by others. In spite of a missing definition and widely accepted theoretical framework, a myriad of research has been conducted to identify determinants and correlates of parental involvement. In this context, several empirical studies have revealed that the way parents get involved in their children’s schooling depends on a diverse set of variables, which refer not only to the parents themselves, but also to the family setting and the school context. However, the main body of research has focused on the effects of parental involvement. Although it has been found to be a significant predictor for children’s academic success parental involvement also seems to show changes related to the child’s age and grade level. Moreover, the different dimensions of parental involvement seem to have differential predictive value for students’ academic outcomes. Less empirical studies have been done referring to the associations of parental involvement with academic outcomes other than performance. Moreover, the very few intercultural studies conducted in this field suggest there might be similarities but also differences between Western and Eastern parents in the way how they get involved with their children’s education. Based on the presented aspects, future research should aim at developing a consistent definition and widely accepted theoretical framework of parental involvement as well as further investigate underlying determinants and mechanisms.

Article

Comparison in Qualitative Research  

Lesley Bartlett and Frances Vavrus

Comparison is a valuable and widely touted analytical technique in social research, but different disciplines and fields have markedly different notions of comparison. There are at least two important logics for comparison. The first, the logic of juxtaposition, is guided by a neopositivist orientation. It uses a regularity theory of causation; it structures the study by defining cases, variables, and units of analysis a priori; and it decontextualizes knowledge. The second, the logic of tracing, engages a realist theory of causation and examines how processes unfold, influenced by actors and the meanings they make, over time, in different locations, and at different scales. These two logics of comparison lead to distinct methodological techniques. However, with either logic of comparison, three dangers merit attention: decontextualization, commensurability, and ethnocentrism. One promising research heuristic that attends to different logics of comparison while avoiding these dangers is the comparative case study (CCS) approach. CCS entails three axes of comparison. The horizontal axis encourages comparison of how similar policies and practices unfold across sites at roughly the same level or scale, for example across a set of schools or across home, school, religious institution, and community organization. The vertical axis urges comparison across micro-, meso-, and macro-levels or scales. For example, a study of bilingual education in the United States should attend not only to homes, communities, classroom, and school dynamics (the micro-level), but also to meso-level district, state, and federal policies, as well as to factors influencing international mobility at the macro-level. Finally, the transversal axis, which emphasizes change over time, urges scholars to situate historically the processes or relations under consideration.

Article

Academic Coping  

Ellen Skinner and Emily Saxton

Academic coping describes the profile of responses children and adolescents utilize when they encounter challenges, obstacles, setbacks, and failures in their scholastic work. Coping is one of multiple strands of research from a variety of subareas within educational and developmental science that share a common interest in this topic, including work on academic resilience, buoyancy, mastery versus helplessness, tenacity, perseverance, and productive persistence, as well as adaptive help seeking, self-regulated learning, and emotion regulation. These approaches focus on the responses (including emotions and goal-directed behaviors) students actually undertake on the ground when they encounter academic difficulties in their daily lives; patterns of action can be contrasted with the belief systems, motivations, or skill sets that underlie these responses. Since the mid 1980s, several dozen studies have examined academic coping in children and youth from 2nd to 12th grade (ages 7–18), including samples from 29 countries (Skinner & Saxton, 2019). These studies have identified multiple adaptive ways of dealing with academic stress, including problem solving, help seeking, and comfort seeking. These responses are considered productive because they allow students to gather resources and strategies, and so re-engage in demanding tasks with renewed purpose, vigor, and effectiveness. Multiple maladaptive ways of coping have also been identified, such as escape, rumination, or blaming others. These are considered unproductive because when enacted in response to academic demands, they are more likely to trigger disaffection, amplify distress, or provoke negative reactions from social partners. In general, research indicates that students normatively show a profile of coping that is high in adaptive strategies (especially problem solving, help seeking, and support seeking) and low in maladaptive responses. Studies find that students’ adaptive coping is linked to their academic functioning and success, including their educational performance, engagement, persistence, and adjustment to school transitions. In contrast, maladaptive coping is linked to a pattern of poor academic performance, disengagement, and school-related burnout. Students cope more adaptively when they possess motivational assets (such as self-efficacy, relative autonomy, or sense of belonging) and experience interpersonal supports from their parents, teachers, and peers. Studies documenting developmental trends suggest normative improvements in the coping repertoire during elementary school. However, over the transition to middle school in early adolescence, many adaptive ways of coping decline while reliance on maladaptive responses generally increases. Starting in middle adolescence, these problematic trends stabilize, and some studies indicate renewed improvement in coping, especially problem solving. Current research on academic coping faces theoretical, methodological, and applied challenges: (a) theoretically, more comprehensive conceptualizations are needed that integrate coping perspectives with social contextual, motivational, and developmental approaches; (b) methodologically, standard measures are needed that focus on core categories of academic coping, and that utilize allocation scoring; and (c) to further applied work, additional studies are needed that describe and explain normative and differential age-graded changes in adaptive and maladaptive coping across childhood and adolescence. Researchers who study academic coping believe that this work has much to offer educational theories, research, and interventions aimed at understanding how to help children and adolescents develop the capacity to deal constructively with the obstacles and problems they will inevitably encounter during their educational careers.

Article

Attitudes and Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs in Regular Schools  

Elias Avramidis and Anastasia Toulia

There has been a proliferation of studies examining attitudes toward the inclusion of students with special educational needs (SEN) in regular education settings. Most studies to date have focused on examining the attitudes regular teachers hold toward inclusion on the assumption that their acceptance of the policy of inclusion is likely to affect their commitment to implementing it. Other researchers have directed their attention to the attitudes held by typically developing children toward their peers with SEN and, to a lesser extent, to the attitudes of parents toward the inclusion of students with SEN in their children’s classroom. Teachers have been found to generally hold positive attitudes toward the notion of inclusion, which are largely affected by the severity of the child’s disability, the level of in-service training received, the degree of prior teaching experience with students with SEN, and other environment-related factors. Typically developing students have been found to hold neutral attitudes toward their peers with SEN. Age, prior experience of studying in inclusive settings, and parental influence seem to influence their attitudes. Studies on parents’ attitudes have revealed neutral-to-positive attitudes toward the general notion of inclusion. Several factors were found to influence parental attitudes, such as their socio-economic status and education level along with their child’s type of disability. Most attitudinal research to date has described static situations through the employment of single methodological research designs. Consequently, there is a need for mixed-method studies that employ coherent and, wherever possible, longitudinal research designs.

Article

Comparative Case Study Methodology and Teacher Education  

Meera Pathmarajah

Case study researchers have traditionally focused on micro-level analysis of a “bounded” case, yet this approach has come under methodological scrutiny in a world where phenomena are rarely isolated from globalization’s expansive reach. Social science and policy-oriented research in particular are nearly always subject to local and global histories as well as socio-cultural, political, and economic trends. Furthermore, the experience of individuals, organizations, and institutions are often tangled in interconnected webs of influence, such that a case study that does not trace these underlying relationships is likely to be analyzing only the tip of a phenomenological iceberg. Hence critical scholars call for the need to repurpose traditional case study research methods to embrace shifting contextual factors that surround a research project at multiple levels. Comparative case study methods answer this call by making socio-cultural and political analysis an explicit part of the research process. They expand the researcher’s methodological lens by advancing the analysis of processes across three axes: the horizontal (through distinct research sites), the vertical (through scales; e.g., local vs national) and the transversal (over time; e.g., historically). The methodology is particularly useful for social science research and policy studies, where complex interactions between actors and institutions are tied to socio-cultural, political, and economic contexts. Teacher education research is an area where comparative case studies can potentially contribute to policy formulation. Using the example of case study research on teacher education in India, the comparative case study methodology is shown to be an effective research tool. Through insights into the socio-cultural and political context surrounding pedagogical reform, case study research can generate corrective measures to improve policy effectiveness.