Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Utilizing Modality Theory to Achieve Academic Success

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Utilizing Modality Theory to Achieve Academic Success

Article excerpt

Education accompanied by social mobility is the cornerstone of the American dream. Yet, each year scores of children, especially those from the underprivileged class, fail to meet even the most modest academic expectations and subsequently never reach their academic potential. This research rejects earlier explanations of academic failure and suggests that Modality theory, the idea that students differ in their ability to learn new and difficult material depending on the manner in which it is presented, may offer a viable strategy for facilitating academic success. Some research suggests that one specific form of modality- tactual/ kinesthetic presentations, demonstrates, promise for improving academic achievement especially when employed with underachieves. This research explores the use of tactual/ kinesthetic teaching strategies with a group of underachieving 6th grade Bermudian children. It reveals that underachievers do, in fact, learn differently than other students and that the tactual / kinesthetic resources may promote a more positive attitude among the students leading to greater engagement with their education and subsequently improved cognitive achievement.


Well over 20 years ago, a blue-ribbon presidential panel warned of a "rising tide of mediocrity" in education that threatened the very future of our nation. The study, A Nation at Risk, revealed that verbal and math scores were on a dramatic decline and that functional illiteracy, the inability to engage in everyday reading and writing was increasing dramatically [National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983]. Almost two and a half decades later, these same scores remain lower than they were ihiriy years ago, while, seven out of ten fourth graders in disadvantaged neighborhoods cannot read a simple children's book The situation remains equally dismal on an international basis when we learn that our nation's 12 graders rank last in science [Ravitch, 2001]. Over the years, a number of interesting explanations have evolved which attempt to explain the apparent failure of the schools to promote excellence and equity in the educational experience.

Explaining School Failure

The anthropologist Oscar Lewis was one of the first to explain this discouraging failure by means of a " culture of poverty". His approach focuses on the sub- cultural values attributed to the poor and the manner in which they are socialized by their parents. It suggests that lower-class homes are both materially and culturally deprived and that children growing up in these homes lack the intellectual stimulation required for the development of intelligence and creativity [Lewis, 1966]. More recently, this cultural deprivation argument has been advanced to explain the " rising tide of mediocrity' in the schools by asserting that more economically disadvantaged children are remaining in school longer and that their presence has diluted overall assessment test scores [Sowell, 1993]. Others suggest that scores continue to decline because of limited school resources, especially in disadvantaged areas, as well an accompanying "dummying down" of the curriculum that continues to pervade the education [Kozol, 1991], Proponents of this perspective insist that an overall lack of resources, and the lowering of standards are essentially responsible for much of the negative outcomes in schools.

Still others suggest that educational structures operating within the schools are at least partially responsible for this negative outcome. Tracking, the practice of separating students according to ability and curriculum, has often been identified as one such structure '.vhich provides differentia! learning experiences for underachieving students most of whom are in lower tracks [Ansaione, 2000; Hoffcr, 1992; Gamoran & Mare, 1989]. Research has uncovered that tacking denies lower track students the benefit of high quality instruction [Oakes, 1985; Page, 1991], a limited curriculum and less positive teacher expectations for students in the lower track [Ansalone, 2000; Rist, 1979]. …

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