Assessing Student Motivation, Performance, and Engagement with an Action Research Project

By Hoppe, Kathy | Science Scope, September 2010 | Go to article overview

Assessing Student Motivation, Performance, and Engagement with an Action Research Project


Hoppe, Kathy, Science Scope


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The Monroe 2-Orleans BOC- ? ES is an organization that serves nine school districts west of Rochester, New York. One of the many programs provided by Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES is a regional summer school program that allows students to recover credit during the summer. In the past, the grade 7 and 8 summer program was very traditional. It involved direct instruction that was developed by individual science and math teachers with no integration of subject matter. During the past three years, an innovative new program that is interdisciplinary, integrated, case based, and problem based has been developed and implemented.

As the curriculum developer of this regional summer school program, it is my goal to provide students with an engaging program and an environment where they will not only have the greatest opportunity for success in summer school but also become engaged in content with which they had previously struggled. To achieve this, the program where I work recently introduced new intermediate-level curricula in science and math developed to address student engagement and motivation, as well as increase the percentage of students passing. This paper describes the new curricula and an action-research project that was implemented to gain an understanding of the effectiveness of the new curricula on student motivation, attendance, and passing rates in the intermediate-level summer school. During the first year of the new summer school program it appeared that there were significant differences in the number of students passing, disciplinary referral rate, and absenteeism versus the more traditional program.

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The curricula

The program in grade 7, "Math of Homeostasis," is an interdisciplinary, problem-based math/science approach that integrates literacy strategies. The problem-based program in grade 8, "Forces, Motion, and Math," integrates an engineering and design program from resources provided by NASA. To provide a cooperative atmosphere and true integration of math and science, each classroom is led by a certified math and certified science teacher.

In both curricula, a conceptual approach to instruction is emphasized in each of the co-taught math/science classrooms. Generalizations and essential questions are the focus for the grade 7 and 8 classrooms. There is a maximum enrollment of 24 students, some of whom were previously unsuccessful in math or science during the regular school year. The summer school program meets two hours per day for 15 days.

Math of Homeostasis

Math of Homeostasis is the seventh-grade interdisciplinary program and is based on the story of a young man who is a competitive skateboarder with a health problem (Figure 1). The purpose of the story is to connect students to an experience or person their own age with whom they can relate while they research math and science in context of the character's physiological issues. There is progressive disclosure of information and students interact in depth with math and science concepts that are directly correlated to the seventh-grade standards and the problem solving that involves diagnosing the patient, which is built into the story.

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Each day, students read and participate in problem-based learning (PBL) groups. Teachers have the flexibility to keep PBL groups the same or change them throughout the summer school session. Once assigned into groups, students are given role cards that include a description of the recorder, subject, heart rate tech, and respiration tech roles (see Figure 2). Students read the role cards and agree to perform one of the roles "within their PBL group. They brainstorm and record facts and questions from the story on large poster paper, and the spokesperson in the group is asked to report to the larger group or class. This process continues throughout the summer school program as students discover more information needed to diagnose the character of the story. …

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