Teaching influence

influence of teaching methods on academic performance of students and factors that influence teaching
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The Influence of Teaching Beyond Standardized Test Scores: Engagement, Mindsets, and Agency A Study of 16,000 Sixth through Ninth Grade Classrooms Ronald F. Ferguson with Sarah F. Phillips, Jacob F. S. Rowley, and Jocelyn W. Friedlander October 2015 The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University Excellence with Equity A Letter from the Raikes Foundation The Raikes Foundation was pleased to commission this report from the Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard University. We welcome its release and anticipate a wide readership. The analysis by Ron Ferguson and his colleagues of over 300,000 Tripod surveys across 16,000 sixth and ninth grade classrooms offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn from what’s working in teachers’ classrooms. In their identification of agency dampers and agency boosters, the authors provide a nuanced picture of the balance of challenge and support behaviors teachers can employ to develop agency. The report will inform our work at the Raikes Foundation where we are focused on empowering teachers to help their students develop learning mindsets and skills. This is a priority because research and experience in all kinds of classrooms have shown that empowering students with learning mindsets and skills can unlock their potential to grow in any subject, at any age. The Raikes Foundation is working with educators, parents and leading researchers to develop an evidence-based, teacher-tested toolkit of practical resources to help students cultivate important beliefs and abilities. We are grateful for the Achievement Gap Initiative’s leadership and so pleased that Ron Ferguson is among the 22 researchers participating in the Mindset Scholars Network, www.mindsetscholarsnetwork.org. The Network conducts original interdisciplinary research, builds capacity for high quality mindset scholarship, and disseminates the latest scientific knowledge through outreach to education stakeholders. Thank you for your own commitment to this important work Best, Zoe Stemm-Calderon Director, Education Strategy Raikes Foundation www.raikesfoundation.org CONTENTS Foreword ii Acknowledgments iv Executive Summary 1 Chapter 1: Why Prioritize Agency? 13 Chapter 2: The Tripod 7Cs of Effective Teaching 18 Chapter 3: Agency and Agency-Related Factors 24 Chapter 4: Major Patterns in the Data 39 Chapter 5: Isolating the Influence of Teaching 50 Chapter 6: How Teaching Predicts Agency-Related Factors 56 Chapter 7: Ten Practical Implications for Teaching Agency 82 Appendix 94 References 103 About the Authors 110 This report is available for download at http://www.agi.harvard.edu/publications.php iFOREWORD Three years ago, the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) issued a report entitled, Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners – the Role of Noncognitive factors in Shaping School Performance: 1 A Critical Literature Review. The CCSR report asserted a “need for more research on the role of school and classroom context in students’ development and demonstration of noncognitive factors” (p. 75). Officials at the Raikes Foundation sponsored the CCSR report. They commissioned this report as one response to the CCSR call for more research on how classroom contexts affect noncognitive factors. In June 2015, as the present report was nearing completion, the CCSR issued a new report entitled, Foundations for Young Adult 2 Success: A Developmental Framework . It resulted from an extensive literature review and a great deal of consultation with researchers and expert practitioners. In the new report, the authors describe features of an extensive research agenda focused on how institutions, including schools, foster development. This report presents evidence concerning the influence of teachers on the development of what the first CCSR report called noncognitive factors and what their most recent report calls foundational components and key factors, prominent among which is agency. About Tripod Data from classroom-level Tripod student surveys have made this report possible. The Tripod Project for School Improvement (Tripod) emerged fifteen years ago from the first author’s work with K-12 educators in Cleveland Ohio’s racially diverse eastern suburbs. Since then, Tripod surveys have been continually refined and completed by students and teachers in thousands of schools across the United States. Tripod was the student survey used in the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Tripod data have also been used in U.S. Department of Education sponsored studies conducted by Mathematica, American Institutes for 1 Farrington, Roderick, Allensworth, Nagaoka, Keyes, Johnson, & Beechum, 2012. 2 Nagaoka, Farrington, Ehrlich, & Heath, with Johnson, Dickson, Turner, Mayo, & Hayes, 2015. iiResearch, and Basis Policy Research. School systems commission the surveys and educators receive online reports to help with goal setting and school improvement. The work with school systems is based at Tripod Education Partners, Inc., a research and education firm located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Rob Ramsdell and Ron Ferguson, the first author of this report, are co-founders and co-owners of Tripod. See www.tripoded.com for more information. About The Achievement Gap Initiative The Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard University is a university-wide effort based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Malcom Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Its mission is to bridge research and practice by framing important issues, producing and disseminating new research, and distilling implications for action by decision makers. The AGI promotes excellence with equity as the defining goal. Not only should there be group proportional equality—where group- level characteristics such as race or socioeconomic status do not predict an individual’s achievement—there should also be excellence. Hence, the AGI is focused on scholarship, public education, and outreach activities to support governmental, civic, and private sector mechanisms aimed at raising achievement levels for all children while closing gaps between racial, ethnic, and income groups. Ron Ferguson, the first author of this report, is the AGI faculty co-chair and director. See www.agi.harvard.edu for more information. This is an AGI report, commissioned by the Raikes Foundation. iiiACKNOWLEDGMENTS We express our sincere thanks to the Raikes Foundation and former program officer Craig Wacker for commissioning this report and for ongoing support as we have worked to complete it. In addition, we thank colleagues who invited us to present at seminars and the participants who provided helpful feedback. These include Gordon Berlin and researchers at MDRC in New York City, former Dean Deborah Vandell and faculty at the University of California at Irvine School of Education, and members of the National Mindset Collaborative, convened by Doug Yeager, Carol Dweck, and Greg Walton. Helpful feedback from public school teachers and administrators has come from participants in America Achieves, the Teacher Union Reform Network, and the American Association of School Administrators Collaborative. Educators in Bedford, New York, Ossining, New York, Tarrytown, New York, and Omaha, Nebraska also provided helpful feedback. Julie Hackett, superintendent of the Taunton, Massachusetts Public School District, was especially helpful. In addition, Ann Ballantine provided insightful advice and support on content, editing, and presentation. Finally, we express our gratitude to the thousands of teachers and students whose perspectives and experiences are reflected in the data upon which this report relies. ivEXECUTIVE SUMMARY Today in the United States, producing higher scores on standardized tests of academic skills is the dominant goal of teacher professional development, the primary gauge of teacher productivity, and the almost single-minded focus of educator accountability. Certainly, reading, computing, and reasoning well are critically important to success as parents, citizens, and economic actors. Therefore, testing these skills in elementary and secondary schools to make sure that students learn them is warranted. At the same time, there is growing agreement that scores on standardized tests of academic skills are incomplete measures of the important things that students learn from their teachers. A major challenge facing educators, policy makers, and advocates is to achieve a better balance across the educational goals that we prioritize. We present new evidence in this report that untested learning outcomes are measureable and that specific components of teaching influence them in nuanced and interesting ways. As targets for improved teaching and learning, these outcomes can supplement academic skills and knowledge as intentionally cultivated developmental foundations for school and life success. The report relies upon data from over 300,000 Tripod student surveys administered in more than 16,000 sixth to ninth grade classrooms, 490 schools, 26 districts, 14 states, and in all major regions of the nation during the 2013-14 school year. The Central Question The report concerns the influence of teaching on emotions, motivations, mindsets, and behaviors that we associate with agency. We ask, “How do distinct components of teaching influence the development and expression of agency-related factors in sixth to ninth grade classrooms?” Agency is the capacity and propensity to take purposeful initiative—the opposite of helplessness. Young people with high levels of agency do not respond passively to their circumstances; they tend to seek meaning and act with purpose to achieve the conditions they desire in their own and others’ lives. The development of agency may be as important an outcome of schooling as the skills we measure with standardized testing (Exhibit 1). Page 1Exhibit 1 The Influence of Teaching TESTED OUTCOMES AGENCY-RELATED FACTORS Reading Skills Growth Mindset Math Skills Conscientiousness Reasoning Skills Future Orientation Academic Knowledge Other Skills & Mindsets SCHOOL AND LIFE SUCCESS We examine how seven distinct components of teaching influence a number of agency-related factors, other things equal. Conventional wisdom would predict that the aspects of teaching we feature are positively associated with all types of learning outcomes. The empirical findings are mostly consistent with this prediction. However, there are caveats. For example, some of the ways that teachers strive to be helpful and caring can be agency dampers, serving to reduce rather than bolster agency, other things equal. In addition, some teaching components that tend to be agency boosters have the potential to be stressful in ways that can threaten an otherwise ambitious teacher’s resolve. The report raises issues for teacher training and professional support as well as for individual educators who are striving to be reflective practitioners. Key Concepts The data come from student responses to Tripod surveys. When a student responds to a Tripod survey, his or her responses are Page 2Exhibit 2 Tripod 7Cs Framework S t udent S urvey 7Cs of R es pons e s Effective Teaching 1 Care items Teaching 2. Confer Quality 3. Captivate Indices items 4. Clarify 5. Consolidate items 6. Challenge 7 . Classroom Management focused on one designated classroom. The items that measure teaching are conceptualized using the Tripod 7Cs™ framework as illustrated in Exhibit 2. In this framework, seven research-based components of teaching are represented using multi-item indices. The seven are: 1. Care—Teachers who care are emotionally supportive and interested in students. 2. Confer—Teachers who confer talk with students as well as welcome and respect student perspectives. 3. Captivate—Teachers who captivate make learning interesting and relevant. 4. Clarify—Teachers who clarify explain things clearly, provide informative feedback, and clear up confusion in order to make lessons understandable 5. Consolidate—Teachers who consolidate summarize and integrate learning. Page 36. Challenge—Teachers who challenge students press them to think rigorously and to persist when experiencing difficulty. 7. Classroom Management—Effective classroom management entails developing a respectful, cooperative classroom climate with on-task behavior. In addition, clarify has sub-components pertaining to lucid explanations, informative feedback, and clearing up confusion. Challenge has sub-components associated with requiring rigor and requiring persistence. Each 7Cs component and sub-component is represented by an index composed of multiple survey items. The report examines how 7Cs components of teaching quality predict individual-level behaviors that express agency and a number of emotions, motivations, and mindsets that awaken and support the growth of agency. Most are associated with classroom engagement. Indices for the behavioral expression of agency, illustrated in Exhibit 3, include the following: ► Punctuality—The student tries hard to arrive to class on time. ► Good Conduct—The student is cooperative, respectful, and on task. ► Effort—The student pushes themself to do their best quality work. ► Help Seeking—The student is not shy about asking for help when needed. ► Conscientiousness—The student is developing a commitment to produce quality work. ► Disengagement Behaviors (that are the opposite of agency): ― Faking Effort—The student pretends to be trying hard when they actually are not. ― Generally Not Trying—The student is generally disengaged, exerting little effort. ― Giving Up if Work is Hard—The student fails to persist in the face of difficulty. ― Avoiding Help—The student does not ask for help even when they know they need it. Page 4Exhibit 3 Student Expressions of Agency  Punctuality  Good Conduct Student  Effort Has  Help Seeking Agency  Conscientiousness  Faking Effort Student  Generally Not Trying Lacks Agency  Giving Up if Work is Hard  Help Avoidance All of the above pertain to the specific classrooms in which students complete surveys. It seems likely that each has implications as well for how students express agency in other settings. For conscientiousness, in particular, we address not only whether the student is learning to be more conscientious in the surveyed classroom, but also whether they consider themselves generally to be a conscientious person. We are interested in the degree to which teaching affects both learning of conscientiousness and changes in identity self-perceptions of conscientiousness. Indices representing emotions, motivations, and mindsets that may awaken and support the growth of agency (Exhibit 4) include: ► Happiness—The student regards the classroom as a happy place to be. ► Anger—The student experiences feelings of anger in class (which may boost or dampen agency). Page 5Exhibit 4 Emotions, Motivations, and Mindsets Associated with Agency Happiness Anger Mastery Orientation Sense of Efficacy Satisfaction Growth Mindset Future Orientation ► Mastery Orientation—The student is committed to mastering lessons in the class. ► Sense of Efficacy —The student believes they can be successful in the class. ► Satisfaction—The student is satisfied with what they have achieved in the class. ► Growth Mindset—The student is learning to believe they can get smarter. ► Future Orientation—The student is becoming more focused on future aspirations (e.g., college). The report grounds these concepts in the research literature and embeds them in organizing frameworks. Methodology for Teaching Quality An important methodological feature is in the way we use student responses to represent instructional quality. Each Tripod 7Cs teaching Page 6quality component is measured using a classroom-level average of student responses. However, we make an important adjustment. Specifically, each classroom average for a teaching quality measure excludes the 7Cs teaching quality responses of the individual student whose emotion, motivation, mindset, or behavior is being predicted. This is important because it makes the teaching quality measure for each student more objective. Findings and Interpretations Empirical results show that each agency-related factor is predicted by a distinct pattern of 7Cs components. Furthermore, each 7Cs component and subcomponent plays an interesting role in the total story that emerges. It is a story in which students’ emotions, motivations, mindsets, and agency-expressive behaviors are predicted by what teachers ask of them as well as by what teachers give. In the education research literature, what we call asking is associated with academic and behavioral press, while what we call giving is associated with social and academic support. Agency Dampers and Agency Boosters Our analysis identifies agency dampers as teaching practices that tend to reduce or dampen agency-related factors, and agency boosters as teaching practices that tend to increase them. Agency dampers appear mainly in relationship to care, confer, and the subcomponent of clarify called clear up confusion. Other things equal, the effects of care, confer, and clear up confusion are statistically significant in the undesirable direction for some agency-related variables. The negative findings seem to indicate imbalances between what teachers give students (i.e., supports), on the one hand, versus what they ask of students (i.e., press), on the other hand. Specifically: ► Care may sometimes entail coddling (e.g., in an effort to be emotionally supportive, some teachers may be especially accommodating and this may depress student conduct as well as academic persistence); Page 7► Conferring may sometimes lack clear purposes (e.g., confer may operate primarily as a way of caring, clarifying, and challenging. When all of the other 7Cs components are being held constant, confer cannot be serving as a way of carrying them out and may therefore lack a clear purpose; conversations without clear purposes may undermine student effort and reduce time on task); ► Clearing up confusion may sometimes occur too automatically (e.g., too much teacher problem solving or clearing up confusion can deny students adequate incentive and opportunity to diagnose and correct their own misunderstandings, ultimately diminishing effort and conscientiousness). Each of these agency dampers involves ways that support for students may inadvertently lower levels of press for performance. An important category of agency boosters involves asking students to think more rigorously by striving to understand concepts, not simply memorize facts, or by being able to explain their reasoning. We find that when teachers challenge students to think more rigorously, they show: ► Greater mastery orientation (i.e., personal commitment to learning); ► Increased effort; ► Increased growth mindset (i.e., belief that effort grows ability); ► More conscientiousness; and ► Higher future aspirations (e.g., interest in going to college). In these ways, requiring rigor is an agency booster. However, we find that when teachers insist on rigorous thinking they risk at least slightly diminishing students’ happiness in class, feelings of efficacy, and satisfaction with what they have achieved. These slightly dampened emotions in the short-term seem small prices to pay for the motivational, mindset, and behavioral payoffs we predict to result from requiring rigorous thinking. Combinations of teaching practices—for example, appropriately differentiated assignments, lucid explanations of new material, and curricular Page 8supports to accompany demands for rigor—seem quite relevant in this context. Annual Gains Versus Aspirations An interesting and important contrast concerns the combination of Tripod 7Cs components that most strongly predicts annual learning gains versus an increased interest in going to college. Prior research by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project has shown that annual achievement gains on standardized tests are predicted most strongly by aspects of academic press, specifically the Tripod 7Cs components for challenge 3 and classroom management. The component for challenge, with its subcomponents for require rigor and require persistence, asks students to think hard and work hard. The component for classroom management asks students to behave themselves and stay on task. Thinking rigorously, sustaining effort, and staying on task may be sufficient to produce substantial learning gains, even if the teacher- student relationship is not what it should be and the interest and relevance of the material is relatively low. However, being pressed to learn and experiencing learning growth may not produce a love of learning or a desire to continue learning over a lifetime. We find that the strongest predictors of increased college aspirations (future orientation) are the 7Cs components for care and captivate. When teachers connect with students in personal ways and make lessons fascinating, aspirations for future learning tend to rise. The point is not that there is a trade-off between annual learning gains and higher aspirations. Instead, the point is that the most important agency boosters for each are different. A balanced approach to instructional improvement will prioritize care and captivate to bolster aspirations, and challenge and classroom management to strengthen the skills that standardized tests measure. Certainly, without the skills that tests measure, college aspirations might be futile. But in turn, without college aspirations, the payoffs to those skills may be limited. 3 Visit www.metproject.org to find MET project reports. Page 9Ten Practical Implications for Teaching to Develop Agency Based upon the findings above, we have distilled the following ten implications for teaching list in Exhibit 5 and described below: 1. Care: Be attentive and sensitive but avoid coddling students in ways that hold them to lower standards for effort and performance and may thereby undermine agency. At the same time, express interest in students’ lives, activities, and aspirations so they will feel known and inspired to follow your example. 2. Confer: Encourage and respect students’ perspectives and honor student voice but do so while remaining focused on instructional goals. Avoid extended discussions that have no apparent purpose and thereby fail to model self-discipline and effective agency. 3. Captivate: Strive to make lessons stimulating and relevant to the development of agency. If some students seem unresponsive, do not assume too quickly that they are disinterested. Some students—and especially those who struggle— purposefully hide their interest and their effort. 4. Clarify with lucid explanations : Strive to develop clearer explanations—especially for the material that students find most difficult. Also, related to both clarify and captivate and consistent with the themes in this report, develop lucid explanations of how the skills and knowledge you teach are useful in the exercise of effective agency in real life. 5. Clarify by clearing up confusion: Take regular steps to detect and respond to confusion in class but do so in ways that share responsibility with students. Strike a balance between keeping hope alive for struggling students, on the one hand, versus pressing them to take responsibility for their own learning, on the other hand. Page 10Exhibit 5 Implications for Teaching Across the 7Cs to Develop Agency 1. CARE Be attentive and sensitive, but don't coddle. Encourage and respect students’ perspectives, 2. CONFER but don't waste class time with idle chatter. Make lessons stimulating and relevant while 3. CAPTIVATE knowing that some students may hide their interest. 4. CLARIFY: - Clear up Confusion Take regular steps to detect and respond to - Lucid Explanations confusion, but don’t just tell students the - Instructive Feedback answers. Regularly summarize lessons to help 5. CONSOLIDATE consolidate learning. 6. CHALLENGE: Anticipate some resistance but persist. - Require Rigor - Require Persistence Achieve respectful, orderly, and on task 7. CLASSROOM student behavior by using clarity, captivation, MANAGEMENT and challenge instead of coercion. Page 116. Clarify with instructive feedback: Give instructive feedback in ways that provide scaffolding for students to solve their own problems. Through instructive feedback, you provide the type of support that enables students to develop and express agency by correcting their own work, solving their own problems, and building their own understandings. 7. Consolidate: Regularly summarize lessons to remind students what they have learned and help them encode understanding in memory, even when they seem reticent or disinterested. Consolidation helps to solidify student learning. 8. Challenge by requiring rigor: Press students to think deeply instead of superficially about their lessons. Set and enforce learning goals that require students to use reasoning and exercise agency in solving problems. Expect some pushback from students who might prefer a less stressful approach. Try increasing captivation and care in combination with rigor in order to help mitigate the tension and make the experience more enjoyable. 9. Challenge by requiring persistence: Consistently require students to keep trying and searching for ways to succeed even when work is difficult. Emphasize the importance of giving their best effort to produce their best work as a matter of routine. Be confident that few things could be more important for helping your students to develop agency. 10. Classroom Management: Strive to achieve respectful, orderly, on task student behavior in your class by teaching in ways that clarify, captivate, and challenge instead of merely controlling students through intimidation or coercion. Page 12 CHAPTER 1: WHY PRIORITIZE AGENCY? Success in life requires the capacity and propensity to take 4 purposeful action. In other words, it requires agency. Sociologists identify constraints on agency in the form of structural conditions that 5 limit opportunities. Nonetheless, we all know that agency is critically important. Quoting Albert Bandura: Through agentic action, people devise ways of adapting flexibly to remarkably diverse geographic, climatic and social environments; they figure out ways to circumvent physical and environmental constraints, redesign and construct environments to their liking . . . By these inventive means, people improve their odds in the 6 fitness survival game. Theorists Steven Hitlin and Glen Elder Jr. distinguish four overlapping conceptions of agency. First, there is the general notion that all human beings have free will. This is what Hitlin and Elder call “existential agency.” It is an “existential capacity for exerting influence 7 on our environments.” Second, while much of human behavior involves habits or simply following routines, there are frequently instances in which routine behaviors are inadequate responses to the circumstances that present themselves. Responding involves what Hitlin and Elder call “pragmatic agency.” For example, a student misses the school bus and expresses pragmatic agency to find alternative transportation. Third, humans develop commitments to social identities— constellations of things that we believe or want to believe about ourselves or the ways that we wish to be perceived by others. The actions that we take to maintain, develop, or communicate our identities are expressions of what Hitlin and Elder term “identity agency.” For example, a student receives a bad grade, then tries to influence classmates to believe that the reason was low effort, not low ability. The student is trying to sustain a social identity as smart. And finally, the actions that we take to affect future outcomes are what Hitlin and Elder call “life-course agency.” For example, working 4 Bandura, 2001, p. 2. 5 See references on this point in Hitlin & Elder, 2007. 6 Bandura, 2001, p. 22. 7 Op. cit., p. 175. Page 13

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