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UCHICAGO CCSR LITERATURE REVIEW JUNE 2012 Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners 1313 East 60th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 T 773-702-3364 F 773-702-2010 LITERATURE REVIEW JUNE 2012 Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance: A Critical Literature Review OUR MISSION The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Socio-Cultural Context Research (CCSR) conducts research of high technical quality that can School and Classroom Context inform and assess policy and practice in the Chicago Public Schools. We seek to expand communication among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners as we support the search for solutions to the problems of school reform. CCSR encourages the use of research in policy action Academic Mindsets and improvement of practice, but does not argue for particular policies L L Learning earning earning or programs. Rather, we help to build capacity for school reform by A Academic cademic identifying what matters for student success and school improvement, S Str tra at tegies egies Social Skills Social Skills creating critical indicators to chart progress, and conducting theory- P P Perse erse ersev v ver er eranc anc ance e e driven evaluation to identify how programs and policies are working. A Academic Beha cademic Behaviors viors Academic Performance Camille A. Farrington, Melissa Roderick, Elaine Allensworth, Jenny Nagaoka, Tasha Seneca Keyes, David W. Johnson, and Nicole O. BeechumTABLE OF CONTENTS A Note on Terminology Chapter 6 2 Noncognitive Factors 39 Evidence on Learning Strategies Chapter 1 Chapter 7 3 The Promise of Noncognitive Factors 48 Evidence on Social Skills Chapter 2 Chapter 8 8 Five Categories of Noncognitive Factors 54 The Role of Noncognitive Factors in School Transitions Chapter 3 Chapter 9 15 Evidence on Academic Behaviors 72 Interpretive Summary Chapter 4 81 References 20 Evidence on Academic Perseverance 100 Endnotes Chapter 5 28 Evidence on Academic Mindsets 102 Appendix CONSORTIUM ON CHICAGO SCHOOL RESEARCH Directors Steering Committee RUANDA GARTH Individual Members ELAINE M. ALLENSWORTH PETER MARTINEZ ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We would like to recognize the many people who contributed to this review. Our MCCULLOUGH Interim Executive Director University of Illinois research colleagues at the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research and our practitioner VERONICA ANDERSON Co-Chair Consortium on Chicago at Chicago colleagues at the Network for College Success gave critical feedback and helped us think through the implica- Communications Consultant Loyola University School Research tions of the existing literature for both research and practice. We would particularly like to thank Eliza Moeller, GREGORY MICHIE ANDREW BROY MATTHEW STAGNER Faye Kroshinksy, Kersti Azar, Kafi Moragne, Thomas Kelley-Kemple, Mary Ann Pitcher, Sarah Howard, Rito Martinez, JENNY NAGAOKA Concordia University Illinois Network of Co-Chair Deputy Director of Chicago Jackie Lemon, Catherine Whitfield, LaKisha Pittman, Cecily Langford, Michael Kristovic, Sue Sporte, W. David Charter Schools Chapin Hall Center Consortium on Chicago Stevens, Marisa de la Torre, Julia Gwynne, Bronwyn McDaniel, and Penny Bender Sebring for their feedback on our LISA SCRUGGS for Children School Research NOEMI DONOSO model of noncognitive factors and their critical comments on and contributions to the report. We are indebted to Jenner and Block Chicago Public Schools members of the CCSR Steering Committee who provided substantive feedback on our research, particularly MELISSA RODERICK LUIS R. SORIA Lila Leff and Kim Zalent. Angela Duckworth and David Yeager gave us very helpful critical commentary that AMIE GREER Institutional Members Hermon Dunlap Smith Ellen Mitchell strengthened our final product. CCSR Associate Director, Communications, Emily Krone and Communications Vaughn Occupational Professor Elementary School CLARICE BERRY High School-CPS and Research Manager, Bronwyn McDaniel were instrumental in shepherding this through the production process. School of Social Service Chicago Principals and BRIAN SPITTLE Welcome to baby Caroline Mary Phillips, whose conception and birth coincided very closely with the conception Administration RAQUEL FARMER-HINTON Administrators Association DePaul University University of Chicago and delivery of this project. University of Wisconsin, JEAN-CLAUDE BRIZARD This work was supported by Lumina Foundation and Raikes Foundation. We thank them for their support and Milwaukee KATHLEEN ST. LOUIS PENNY BENDER SEBRING Chicago Public Schools close collaboration in this project. Project Exploration Founding Director REYNA HERNANDEZ JENNIFER CHEATHAM Consortium on Chicago Illinois State Board of AMY TREADWELL Chicago Public Schools School Research Education Chicago New Teacher Center CITE AS: CHRISTOPHER KOCH TIMOTHY KNOWLES ARIE J. VAN DER PLOEG Farrington, C.A., Roderick, M., Allensworth, E., Nagaoka, J., Keyes, T.S., Johnson, D.W., & Beechum, N.O. (2012). Illinois State Board of Urban Education Institute American Institutes for Education Teaching adolescents to become learners. The role of noncognitive factors in shaping school performance: Research DENNIS LACEWELL A critical literature review. Chicago: University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. KAREN G.J. LEWIS Urban Prep Charter Academy JOSIE YANGUAS Chicago Teachers Union for Young Men Illinois Resource Center LILA LEFF KIM ZALENT Umoja Student Development Business and Professional Corporation People for the Public Interest This report was produced by UChicago CCSR’s publications Graphic Design by Jeff Hall Design and communications staff: Emily Krone, Associate Director, Editing by Ann Lindner Communications; Bronwyn McDaniel, Communications and Research Manager; and Jessica Puller, Communications Specialist. 02.2014/1000/ 10-12/1000/ The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research created this report in partnership with Lumina Foundation and Raikes Foundation. We gratefully acknowledge their substantive intellectual contributions and financial support. RAIKES FOUNDATION THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO The Raikes Foundation believes the rapidly evolving CONSORTIUM ON CHICAGO SCHOOL demands of life, work and citizenship in the 21st century RESEARCH require a more comprehensive approach to educating young The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School people. Content knowledge remains critical, but a growing Research (CCSR) conducts research of high technical qual- body of research suggests students’ attitudes and beliefs ity that can inform and assess policy and practice in the about their education, and the learning strategies they Chicago Public Schools. CCSR seeks to expand communi- deploy, can have a powerful inu fl ence on their ability to suc - cation among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners ceed. The Raikes Foundation’s Student Agency strategy is as it supports the search for solutions to the problems of exploring ways to help young people develop the academic school reform. CCSR encourages the use of research in pol- mindsets and learning strategies that have been demon- icy action and improvement of practice, but does not argue strated to advance achievement. The Raikes Foundation for particular policies or programs. Rather, CCSR research- is funding research to understand the best practices for ers help to build capacity for school reform by identifying building student agency and fostering awareness and excite- what matters for student success and school improvement, 1 ment about student agency among teachers, administrators creating critical indicators to chart progress, and conduct- and policymakers across the country. Based in Seattle, the ing theory-driven evaluation to identify how programs and Raikes Foundation’s grantmaking strategies also include a policies are working. A number of features distinguish CCSR collaborative effort to prevent and end youth homelessness from more typical research organizations: a comprehensive in King County, and an initiative to improve the quality of data archive, a focus on one place—Chicago, engagement after-school programs across Washington State. with a diverse group of stakeholders, a wide range of methods and multiple investigators, and a commitment to LUMINA FOUNDATION sharing research findings with diverse publics. Lumina Foundation is committed to enrolling and gradu- ating more students from college. It is the nation’s largest BACKGROUND OF THIS REPORT foundation dedicated exclusively to increasing students’ Early in 2011, Program Officers from Lumina Foundation access to and success in postsecondary education. and Raikes Foundation approached researchers at CCSR Lumina’s mission is defined by Goal 2025—to increase the about undertaking a joint project, focused on the role of percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees noncognitive skills in students’ school performance and and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina pursues educational attainment. In addition to their financial support, this goal in three ways: by identifying and supporting Lumina and Raikes brought their respective interests and effective practice, by encouraging effective public policy, expertise in postsecondary attainment and middle grades and by using communications and convening capacity to education. CCSR brought its trademark approach to school build public will for change. Lumina has worked with and reform: using research and data to identify what matters for made grants to many colleges, universities, peer founda- student success and school improvement, creating theory- tions, associations, and other organizations that work to driven frameworks for organizing the research evidence, improve student access and outcomes across the nation. and asking critical questions about the applicability of research to practice.A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY Noncognitive Factors School performance is a complex phenomenon, shaped interaction (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). How by a wide variety of factors intrinsic to students and could one’s study skills, for example, not be part of a cog- in their external environment. In addition to content nitive process? How could one’s intelligence not come knowledge and academic skills, students must develop into play in the exercise of one’s social skills? Alas, the sets of behaviors, skills, attitudes, and strategies that word noncognitive is already deeply embedded in educa- are crucial to academic performance in their classes, tional policy circles, in the economics literature, and in but that may not be reflected in their scores on cog- broader discussions of student achievement. Though we nitive tests. Other researchers have described these agree with others’ objections to this terminology, we feel factors as noncognitive skills; we broaden the term to compelled to use it. To try to substitute in another word noncognitive factors to go beyond a narrow reference to now would likely confuse rather than illuminate our col- skills and include strategies, attitudes, and behaviors. lective understanding of this important area of research. 2 This change in terminology suggests a more expansive One further clarification is in order. Throughout understanding of noncognitive factors, requiring that this review, we use the term cognitive factors to refer we look beyond individual-level skills to consider the generally to the “substance” of what is learned in school, ways students interact with the educational context namely a student’s grasp of content knowledge and within which they are situated and the effects of these academic skills such as writing and problem-solving. interactions on students’ attitudes, motivation, and This is distinct from a student’s capacity to learn. performance. Advances in cognitive science over the last 30 years While we are strongly persuaded by the evidence have highlighted the limitations of the concept of an of the importance of these factors for students’ course individual’s intelligence “quotient” (IQ) as a fixed and performance, we find “noncognitive” to be an unfortu- quantifiable amount of intellectual capacity. Research nate word. It reinforces a false dichotomy between what in human cognition has moved away from the idea comes to be perceived as weightier, more academic of cognition as being isolated within an individual “cognitive” factors and what by comparison becomes brain to depending on the contexts in which it exists, perceived as a separate category of fluffier “noncog- “including the environment, perception, action, affect, nitive” or “soft” skills. As others have pointed out, and sociocultural systems” (Barsalou, 2010, p. 325). contrasting cognitive and noncognitive factors can be Barsalou summarizes 30 years of research in cognitive confusing because “few aspects of human behavior are science by saying that “continuing to study cognition devoid of cognition” (Borghans, Duckworth, Heckman, as an independent isolated module is on the fast track & Weel, 2008, p. 974). In reality, these so-called cogni- to obsolescence.” In our review, then, we work from the tive and noncognitive factors continually interact in idea that learning is an interplay between cognitive and essential ways to create learning, such that changes in noncognitive factors and that intelligence is embedded cognition are unlikely to happen in the absence of this in both the environment and in socio-cultural processes. UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners CHAPTER 1 The Promise of Noncognitive Factors Over the past 20 years, changes in the U.S. economy have prepared for college. But what matters most for college raised the stakes for educational attainment, resulting in graduation is not which courses students take, or what dire economic consequences for workers without a high their test scores are, but how well students perform in school diploma and some college education. American those courses, as measured by their high school course 1 adolescents have responded by dramatically increas- grades. Students’ course grades, grade point average ing their educational aspirations; almost all high school (GPA), or class rank are vastly better predictors of high students in the U.S. now say they expect to go to college school and college performance and graduation, as (Engel, 2007). Education policymakers have attempted well as a host of longer-term life outcomes, than their to ensure students’ qualifications for college by ratchet - standardized test scores or the coursework students ing up academic demands through more rigorous high take in school (Allensworth & Easton, 2005, 2007; school graduation requirements, increasing participa- Camara & Echternacht, 2000; Geiser & Santelices, 2007; tion in advanced coursework, and raising standards Hauser & Palloni, 2011; Hoffman, 2002; Hoffman & 3 within courses. Test-based accountability measures Lowitzki, 2005; Moffat, 1993; Munro, 1981; Tross et al., have been enacted with the intention of holding schools 2000; Zheng et al., 2002). GPA is not only important in accountable for reaching these higher standards. predicting whether a student will complete high school Currently, there is considerable optimism around the or college; it is also the primary driver of differences by new Common Core State Standards, with expectations race/ethnicity and gender in educational attainment that this articulated framework of content knowledge (Allensworth & Easton, 2007; Jacob, 2002; Roderick, and core academic skills will lead to more high school Nagaoka, & Allensworth, 2006). Box 1.1 and the graduates who are ready for college and the workforce. Appendix (p. 102) further illustrate this point. There is also growing consensus that schools need to The findings on the critical importance of GPA for “ramp up” expectations in the middle grades, resulting students’ future outcomes suggest that we need to better in policies to start the study of algebra in eighth grade, understand why they are so predictive of later success. for example. Many states and districts are simultaneous- Grades must capture some other important student ly developing measures of high school and college readi- attributes—over and above the content that test scores ness that rely on specific patterns of coursework (e.g., measure—but what? The prevailing interpretation is AP courses) and standardized test scores as readiness that, in addition to measuring students’ content knowl- benchmarks. These efforts suggest that students’ readi- edge and core academic skills, grades also reflect the ness for high school or college depends almost entirely degree to which students have demonstrated a range of on their mastery of content knowledge and academic academic behaviors, attitudes, and strategies that are skills as developed through the courses they take. critical for success in school and in later life, including Unfortunately, there is little to no rigorous evidence study skills, attendance, work habits, time management, that efforts to increase standards and require higher- help-seeking behaviors, metacognitive strategies, and level coursework—in and of themselves—are likely to social and academic problem-solving skills that allow lead many more students to complete high school and students to successfully manage new environments attain college degrees. Current policy efforts rest on the and meet new academic and social demands (Conley, assumption that a more rigorous high school curricu- 2007; Farkas, 2003; Paris & Winograd, 1990) (see lum will improve student performance on standard- Figure 1.1). To this list of critical success factors, others ized tests, which will reflect that students are better have added students’ attitudes about learning, their Chapter 1 The Promise of Noncognitive Factors FIGURE 1.1 beliefs about their own intelligence, their self-control F Figure 1.1. actors Measur Factors Measured by Test Scores versus Grades ed by Test Scores versus Grades and persistence, and the quality of their relationships with peers and adults (Ames & Archer, 1988; Bandura, Content 1997; Bandura & Schunk, 1981; Keith, Keith, Troutman, Knowledge Bickley, Trivette, & Singh, 1993; Pintrich, 2000; Schunk & Hanson, 1985; Wentzel, 1991; Zimmerman, 1990). Measured by Academic Measured Test Scores Skills by Grades There is a long list of factors—beyond content knowl- edge and academic skills—shown to have an impact Noncognitive Factors on student performance. Economists refer to these factors as “noncognitive” because they are not measured by commonly adminis- school performance as well as future academic out- tered cognitive tests such as IQ tests or academic comes. Economist and Nobel laureate James Heckman examinations. In a wide range of studies, many of (2008) argues that noncognitive factors such as motiva- these noncognitive attributes are shown to have a tion, time management, and self-regulation are critical direct positive relationship to students’ concurrent BOX 1.1 4 Measuring Academic Performance: The Case for Focusing on Grades Despite all the attention to standardized tests, a to take a reasonably good piece of one’s work and growing body of research shows that achievement reject it as not good enough” (p. 124). Ultimately it test scores are not strong predictors of whether is these qualities, more so than content knowledge, students will graduate from high school or col- that signal which students are likely to excel in their lege. Research on early indicators of high school studies and persevere in their schooling. performance finds that passing courses and GPA Furthermore, it is not just course grades and in the middle grades and even earlier in elemen- educational attainment that are better predicted tary school are among the strongest predictors by grades than by tested performance. Miller of high school outcomes (Kurlaender, Reardon, & (1998) found that high school grades had strong, Jackson, 2008; Neild & Balfanz, 2001; Zau & Betts, significant relationships with earnings nine years after 2008). Likewise, high school grades are stronger high school, for both men and women, even after and more consistent predictors of college per- controlling for educational attainment and school sistence and graduation than college entrance effects. Earnings were higher by about 20 percent examination scores or high school coursetaking for each GPA point earned in high school (As versus (Geiser & Santelices, 2007; Roderick, Nagaoka, Bs; Bs versus Cs; Cs versus Ds). Hauser and Palloni & Allensworth, 2006). In a study using data from (2011) found that students’ class rank (as determined the University of California, Geiser and Santelices by their grades) accounted for all of the relationship (2007) found that high school grades were a between IQ and length of life, and suggested this was stronger predictor of both college GPA and due to having established responsible patterns of likelihood of college graduation than students’ behavior during adolescence. 2 SAT scores, class rank, and family background. These findings make sense. Students who come In Crossing the Finish Line, Bowen, Chingos, to class and complete their work are likely to have & McPherson (2009) also found that high school developed the kind of work habits they will need grades were much better predictors of college in college as well as in the workforce. Students graduation than ACT or SAT scores. Like others with who struggle with self-discipline or productivity in similar findings, Bowen and colleagues speculate high school will likely find the challenges of college that, beyond measuring content mastery, grades overwhelming, regardless of their intellectual ability “reveal qualities of motivation and perseverance—as or content knowledge. The finding that course grades well as the presence of good study habits and time matter over and above achievement test scores management skills” and “often reflect the ability to suggests that grades do indeed capture something accept criticism and benefit from it and the capacity important about students that test scores do not. UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners for later life outcomes, including success in the labor academic mindsets, moreover, are being designed and market. Recent research on noncognitive factors has not evaluated as a method to reduce stereotype threat and only suggested their importance for student academic improve the academic performance and educational performance but has also been used to argue that social attainment of racial/ethnic minority students (Aronson, investments in the development of these noncognitive Cohen, & McColskey, 2009). As we review later, much factors would yield high payoffs in improved educational of this work shows promising results. Thus, a collection outcomes as well as reduced racial/ethnic and gender of research suggests not only that noncognitive factors disparities in school performance and educational contribute to students’ academic performance but also attainment. that racial/ethnic and gender differences in school Interest in noncognitive factors has been propelled performance can be reduced by focusing on students’ in recent years, in part, by some compelling results attitudes and behaviors. from a number of psychological studies. This body of Unfortunately, knowing that noncognitive factors work has shown some short-term interventions that matter is not the same as knowing how to develop target students’ psycho-social beliefs—such as interven- them in students. And what exactly is the nature of tions that work to change students’ beliefs about their these noncognitive factors? Are they inherent student intelligence, that promote social belonging, or that characteristics that some students have and others do connect performance to future goals—as having sub- not? Are they fixed traits, or do they change in response stantial effects on school performance that are sustained to context or environment? Can they be taught and 5 over time (e.g., Blackwell et al., 2007; Good, Aronson, learned in a school setting? Are noncognitive factors & Inzlicht, 2003; Oyserman, Terry, & Bybee, 2002; more important—or more problematic—for one race/ Walton & Cohen, 2007). Two widely cited psychologists, ethnicity or gender over another? Many of the big Duckworth and Seligman (2005), suggest that academic claims about noncognitive factors have little clear evi- performance depends in large part on students’ self- dence about their implications for educational practice. control or Conscientiousness, concluding that “a major The suggestion that educators would see big returns reason for students falling short of their intellectual from developing academic mindsets, self-discipline, potential is their failure to exercise self-discipline” and other noncognitive factors rests on the assumption (p. 939). They claim that measures of self-discipline are that these factors are malleable and that educators or far more predictive of positive academic outcomes than researchers have practical knowledge of how to change are measures of IQ. Carol Dweck and her colleagues them. It also requires that educators understand the (2011) conclude in a review of the evidence on academic potential payoffs of different approaches to developing mindsets and what they term “academic tenacity” that student noncognitive factors, that they have concrete “educational interventions and initiatives that target strategies to address their development, and that tools these psychological factors can have transformative exist to reliably measure changes in these factors. effects on students’ experience and achievement in If indeed noncognitive factors are malleable and school, improving core academic outcomes such as are critical to academic performance, a key task for GPA and test scores months and even years later” (p. 3). educators becomes the intentional development of these Just as importantly, researchers are increasingly skills, traits, strategies, and attitudes in conjunction turning to noncognitive factors to explain differences with the development of content knowledge and in school performance by race/ethnicity and gender. academic skills. In essence, teachers would play a Brian Jacob (2002) notes that academic difficulties are vital role in helping students move from being passive often attributed to poor “noncognitive skills” among recipients of academic content to active learners who boys, including “the inability to pay attention in class, can manage their workload, assess their progress and to work with others, to organize and keep track of status, persist in difficult tasks, and develop a reliable homework or class materials and to seek help from set of strategies to master increasingly complex others” (p. 590). Interventions that focus on developing academic content as they proceed through school. Chapter 1 The Promise of Noncognitive Factors While evidence increasingly suggests that college • How is this factor related to academic performance? and career readiness is driven by more than just content • Is this factor malleable? knowledge and core academic skills—that noncognitive • What is the role of classroom context in shaping factors play a key role in student success—it is unclear this factor? how all the different types of noncognitive factors • Are there clear, actionable strategies for classroom interact to shape academic performance or what their practice? implications are for educational practice. Studies of • Would changing this factor significantly narrow exist - noncognitive factors often examine one particular ing gaps in achievement by gender or race/ethnicity? skill, mindset, or behavior in isolation, making it unclear how all of these factors work together to affect Table 9.1 on page 78 summarizes our review of student outcomes. There is, as yet, little coherence evidence on noncognitive factors, organized by these to the broad array of research findings and claims five questions. around the role of noncognitive factors in students’ After reviewing the evidence on the five noncognitive performance in school. In this report, we seek to bring categories, in Chapter 8 we examine the implications of this much-needed coherence as we review the research this work for student learning at three key points in an on noncognitive factors with a focus on students in the adolescent’s educational trajectory: the middle grades, middle grades, in high school, and in the transition to entrance to high school, and the transition to college. We college. We are particularly interested in identifying present case studies on these three periods to shed light 6 which noncognitive factors matter for students’ long- on the role of noncognitive factors in students’ academic term success, clarifying why and how these factors performance across educational transitions. The report matter, determining if these factors are malleable and closes with an interpretive summary and recommenda- responsive to context, determining if they play a role tions for practice, policy, and future research. in persistent racial/ethnic or gender gaps in academic In this work, we try to develop a coherent and achievement, and illuminating how educators might best evidence-based framework for considering the role support the development of important noncognitive of noncognitive factors in academic performance factors within their schools and classrooms. In and to identify critical gaps in the knowledge base reviewing the literature, we use students’ course grades and in the link between research and practice. We see as the outcome of interest. For each noncognitive this as a prerequisite for policymakers, practitioners, factor, then, we examine the research evidence on the and education funders who would wish to assess relationship between that factor and students’ course the potential of noncognitive factors as levers for grades or GPA, which we refer to broadly in this report increasing student educational attainment. In our as “academic performance.” review, we found evidence to suggest that the best In Chapter 2, we bring together the existing literature leverage points for improving student performance into a conceptual framework that organizes the broad are in helping teachers understand the relationship body of research on noncognitive factors. In this frame- between classroom context and student behaviors, work, we identify five general categories of noncognitive providing teachers with clear strategies for creating factors related to academic performance: 1) academic classrooms that promote positive academic mindsets behaviors, 2) academic perseverance, 3) academic in students, and building teacher capacity to help mindsets, 4) learning strategies, and 5) social skills. We students develop strategies that will enhance their evaluate the research evidence behind each of the five learning and understanding of course material. categories in Chapters 3 through 7 in order to identify Our review shows that academic behaviors have gaps in the knowledge base and help policymakers and the most immediate effect on students’ course grades. practitioners judge potential high-leverage points for In relation to behaviors, much of the recent attention improving student achievement. For each category, we to noncognitive factors focuses on the idea of developing review the research evidence, asking: students’ “grit” or perseverance in challenging work. UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners However, despite the intuitive appeal of this idea, there words, the mechanisms through which teachers can is little evidence that working directly on changing lead students to exhibit greater perseverance and students’ grit or perseverance would be an effective better academic behaviors in their classes are through lever for improving their academic performance. While attention to academic mindsets and development of some students are more likely to persist in tasks or students’ metacognitive and self-regulatory skills, rather exhibit self-discipline than others, all students are than trying to change their innate tendency to persevere. more likely to demonstrate perseverance if the school This appears to be particularly true as adolescents move or classroom context helps them develop positive from the middle grades to high school, and it again mindsets and effective learning strategies. In other becomes important in the transition to college. 7 Chapter 1 The Promise of Noncognitive Factors CHAPTER 2 Five Categories of Noncognitive Factors Figure 2.1. Academic Behaviors 1. Academic Behaviors Five General Categories of Noncognitive Factors Related ACADEMIC BEHAVIORS to Academic Performance: Going to Class Doing Homework 1. ACADEMIC BEHAVIORS Organizing Materials Participating, Studying 2. ACADEMIC PERSEVERANCE 3. ACADEMIC MINDSETS 4. LEARNING STRATEGIES 5. SOCIAL SKILLS ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE 8 What does it take for students to graduate from high Academic Behaviors are those behaviors commonly school, go to college, and persist to earn a degree? The associated with being a “good student.” These include list of potential answers to this question is long and regularly attending class, arriving ready to work (with extends far beyond content knowledge and academic necessary supplies and materials), paying attention, skills. The noncognitive factors we considered for participating in instructional activities and class dis- this review included: persistence, resilience, grit, cussions, and devoting out-of-school time to studying goal-setting, help-seeking, cooperation, conscien- and completing homework. It is easy to see how these tiousness, self-efficacy, self-regulation, self-control, behaviors would directly relate to how well one does in self-discipline, motivation, mindsets, effort, work a class. We start here in reviewing the relationship of habits, organization, homework completion, learning noncognitive factors to academic performance because strategies, and study skills, among others. We pushed to academic behaviors are most proximal to one’s perfor- clarify the meanings of a number of loosely defined con- mance in school. Academic behaviors are the visible, cepts and to reconcile disparities between researchers outward signs that a student is engaged and putting from different disciplinary backgrounds (economists, forth effort to learn. Because they are observable psychologists, sociologists) who occasionally used dif- behaviors, they are also relatively easy to describe, ferent terms for similar constructs or the same terms to monitor, and measure. Academic behaviors are quite describe concepts that were measured quite differently. often an outcome of interest in evaluating interventions To synthesize the vast array of research literature on designed to improve students’ school performance. each of these concepts, we organized the wide range of Many programs, policies, and even curricula could traits, skills, behaviors, and attitudes into categories reasonably be considered effective if they lead to an of similar constructs. We then created a conceptual increase in student attendance, homework completion, framework, using empirical research and theory to studying, or class participation. hypothesize the relationships among categories and Academic behaviors are extremely important for the relationship of each category to student academic achievement; we will show that virtually all other non- performance. We describe each of the five categories cognitive factors work through academic behaviors to briefly below, followed by a systematic review in the affect performance. We will return to this point in our subsequent chapters of the quality of the research review of academic perseverance, academic mindsets, evidence in each category. learning strategies, and social skills, but it is hard to UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners Figure 2.3. Academic Mindsets imagine how noncognitive factors could improve student 3. Academic Mindsets performance without working through the classroom ACADEMIC MINDSETS behaviors that directly shape academic performance. I belong in this academic community. Chapter 3 provides a summary of the research on aca- My ability and competence grow with my eort. demic behaviors. I can succeed at this. This work has value for me. Figure 2.2. Academic Perseverance 2. Academic Perseverance ACADEMIC PERSEVERANCE ACADEMIC PERSEVERANCE Grit, Tenacity Delayed Gratification Self-Discipline Self-Control ACADEMIC BEHAVIORS ACADEMIC BEHAVIORS ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE 9 ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE Academic Mindsets are the psycho-social attitudes or beliefs one has about oneself in relation to academic Academic Perseverance describes a set of psychologi- work. Positive academic mindsets motivate students cal concepts with a long research history. Broadly, to persist at schoolwork (i.e., they give rise to academic academic perseverance refers to a student’s tendency perseverance), which manifests itself through better to complete school assignments in a timely and academic behaviors, which lead to improved perfor- thorough manner, to the best of one’s ability, despite mance. There is also a reciprocal relationship among distractions, obstacles, or level of challenge. However, mindsets, perseverance, behaviors, and performance. evaluating the literature on the range of concepts under Strong academic performance “validates” positive our catch-all heading of “academic perseverance” mindsets, increases perseverance, and reinforces strong proved challenging. To persevere academically requires academic behaviors. Note that this reciprocal, self- that students stay focused on a goal despite obstacles perpetuating system also works in a negative loop. (grit or persistence) and forego distractions or tempta- Negative mindsets stifle perseverance and undermine tions to prioritize higher pursuits over lower pleasures academic behaviors, which results in poor academic (delayed gratification, self-discipline, self-control). performance. Poor performance in turn reinforces Academic perseverance is the difference between doing negative mindsets, perpetuating a self-defeating cycle. the minimal amount of work to pass a class and putting A long history of psychological research under- in long hours to truly master course material and excel girds the concept of academic mindsets. This includes in one’s studies. While academic perseverance is—by foundational work in goal theory (Dweck, 1986; Dweck definition—a critical factor for students’ long-term & Leggett, 1988); social learning theory (Bandura, educational attainment and is often the explicit goal 1977; Rotter, 1954); attribution theory (Weiner, 1979); of the growing focus on noncognitive factors, the expectancy-value theory (Eccles, Adler, Futterman, literature that falls under the umbrella of perseverance Goff, Kaczala, Meece, & Midgley, 1983); and the concepts is not conclusive in its implications for educational of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1986) and locus of control practice or its generalizability to a broad range of stu- (Rotter, 1954). Psychology research has also addressed dents. Chapter 4 provides a summary of the research the way context and experience can undermine positive on academic perseverance. academic mindsets, such as the theories of learned Chapter 2 Five Categories of Noncognitive Factors helplessness (Seligman & Maier, 1967) and stereotype Overall, the evidence clearly demonstrates that the threat (Steele, 1997; Steele & Aronson, 1995). In Chapter four academic mindsets outlined above each increase 5 we review the literature on the relationship of four students’ academic perseverance and improve academic academic mindsets to academic performance, as well behaviors, leading to better performance as measured as the effects of learned helplessness and stereotype by higher grades. When a student feels a sense of belong- threat. Each of the four academic mindsets is briefly ing in a classroom community, believes that effort will described here. increase ability and competence, believes that success 1. I belong in this academic community. The first is possible and within his or her control, and sees school mindset involves a sense that one has a rightful place in work as interesting or relevant to his or her life, the a given academic setting and can claim full membership student is much more likely to persist at academic tasks in a classroom community. Educational theorists have despite setbacks and to exhibit the kinds of academic long held that learning is a social activity and that behaviors that lead to learning and school success. understanding is constructed through interaction with Conversely, when students feel as though they do not others (Dewey, 1958; Vygotsky, 1978). Accordingly, belong, are not smart enough, will not be able to succeed, students need to feel as though they belong to a or cannot find relevance in the work at hand, they are community of learners and that their academic self is a much more likely to give up and withdraw from academic “true” self (Harvey & Schroder, 1963; Oyserman, Bybee, work, demonstrating poor academic behaviors which 10 & Terry, 2006). A long line of research evidence shows result in low grades. Concepts such as stereotype threat that having a sense of belonging in a school or classroom and learned helplessness rest upon the same theoretical improves a student’s academic performance. underpinnings and illustrate ways that positive academic 2. My ability and competence grow with my effort. mindsets can be undermined by negative contextual con- The second mindset rests on the belief that one’s aca- ditions or experiences, thus interfering with students’ demic ability can improve in response to one’s efforts, academic performance. Chapter 5 provides a summary of rather than being fixed at a given level and outside of the research on academic mindsets. one’s control. Notably, across the empirical literature, Figure 2.5. Learning Strategies one’s beliefs about intelligence and attributions for 4. Learning Strategies academic success or failure are more strongly associated ACADEMIC with school performance than is one’s actual measured LEARNING STRATEGIES PERSEVERANCE Study Skills ability (i.e., test scores). Metacognitive Strategies 3. I can succeed at this. A third mindset that Self-Regulated Learning impacts the degree to which students persevere in ACADEMIC Goal-Setting BEHAVIORS academic work and exhibit strong academic behaviors relates to beliefs about their abilities to succeed at a given task. Individuals tend to engage in activities ACADEMIC that they feel confident in their ability to complete PERFORMANCE and to avoid those in which they lack such confidence (Bandura, 1986). Learning Strategies are processes and tactics one 4. This work has value for me. A fourth mindset employs to aid in the cognitive work of thinking, involves a student’s sense that the subject matter he remembering, or learning. Effective learning strategies or she is studying is interesting and holds value. Value allow students to leverage academic behaviors to can be variously defined as the importance of doing maximize learning. These include strategies to help well on a task (attainment value); gaining enjoyment one recall facts (e.g., mnemonic devices); strategies for by doing a task (intrinsic value); or serving a useful monitoring one’s own comprehension (such as while purpose or meeting an end goal that is important by reading or doing math problems); and strategies to completing a task (utility value) (Eccles et al., 1983). self-correct when one detects confusion or errors in UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners one’s thinking. Learning strategies may also include in the primary grades, social skills are also logically goal-setting and time management, both of which help related to academic performance. For example, it stands students manage the process of learning. Unlike the to reason that cooperating in groups or participating research on other noncognitive factors, which comes appropriately in class discussions would lead to better primarily from economists, motivation researchers, or academic performance. Perhaps social skills have a weak developmental and social psychologists, the research direct relationship with course grades because many on learning strategies also draws on work in cognitive classrooms—particularly at the high school level—still science. Helping students to learn effectively is an area tend to rely on lecture-style instructional delivery which of research that bridges academic behaviors (e.g., study- minimizes the social and cooperative aspects of learning. ing), subject-specific cognitive domains of learning (e.g., In contexts where individuals must work collaboratively understanding how to divide fractions in mathematics), in problem-solving teams, social skills are likely to be metacognition, and self-regulated learning processes. more directly related to performance. Chapter 6 provides a summary of the research on learn- As with our other noncognitive factors, most of the ing strategies. research and theory behind the development of social skills suggest that their effects on academic performance Figure 2.6. Social Skills 5. Social Skills are largely indirect; they are enacted through students’ behaviors in the classroom. Thus, we conceptualize ACADEMIC SOCIAL SKILLS BEHAVIORS social skills as affecting academic performance primar- 11 Interpersonal Skills, ily by affecting academic behavior. Chapter 7 provides a Empathy, Cooperation, Assertion, and summary of the research on social skills. ACADEMIC Responsibility PERFORMANCE Putting Noncognitive Factors Social Skills are a fifth group of noncognitive factors into One Framework which includes such interpersonal qualities as co- In reviewing the literature on these five noncognitive operation, assertion, responsibility, and empathy. categories, we tried to conceptualize the relationships Social skills are acceptable behaviors that improve among factors as well as the relationship of each factor social interactions, such as those between peers or to academic performance, as measured by grades. Figure between student and teacher. Social skills repeatedly 2.1 illustrates our working understanding of these rela- appear in the literature as important for future work tionships, although, as our review will make clear, much and life outcomes, although their direct relationship more research is needed to test the relative strengths of to academic performance is more tenuous. the paths in this model, the importance of each category Development of students’ social skills has long been controlling for the others, and the ways they interact. We a focus of early childhood and elementary educators. In anticipate that many noncognitive factors are mutually the primary grades, educators aim to develop students’ reinforcing and that relationships are often recipro- social skills to enable them to work with peers and adults cal. We used one-way arrows to illustrate the strongest to accomplish academic goals. More recently, social hypothesized effect of each category on academic skills have gained increasing attention as a critical fac- performance, but we anticipate that students’ aca- tor for adolescents in connection with career readiness. demic performance, in turn, will very likely affect their Research has suggested that employers in the twenty- behaviors, their mindsets, their social interactions, and first century economy need workers with “people skills” perhaps even their use of learning strategies. While the that enable them to communicate effectively, work actual relationships among these factors are no doubt with diverse groups, and solve problems collaboratively messier and more complex than indicated in the illustra- (Casner-Lotto, Barrington, & Wright, 2006; Murnane & tion, our review of the research suggests support for the Levy, 1996). While the development of social skills may ordering displayed in the model. For example, mindsets be an important educational goal in itself, particularly have been shown to affect academic perseverance, which Chapter 2 Five Categories of Noncognitive Factors FIGURE 2.1 A Hypothesized Model of How Five Noncognitive Factors Aect A ff cademic Performance within a Classroom/ Figure 2.6. Socio-Cultural Context School and Larger Socio-Cultural Context SOCIO-CULTURAL CONTEXT SCHOOL AND CLASSROOM CONTEXT ACADEMIC MINDSETS SOCIAL ACADEMIC LEARNING SKILLS PERSEVERANCE STRATEGIES ACADEMIC BEHAVIORS 12 ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE affects academic behaviors (e.g., completing work), individual characteristics are related to other factors, which affects students’ academic performance. but we assume student background would affect virtual- Importantly, as seen in the diagram, we set the non- ly every aspect of the model. Student background would cognitive factors model within a “School and Classroom include all the individual characteristics a student brings Context.” Any given school and classroom context will to a learning situation. These include demographic vari- reflect a wide variety of variables affecting student moti- ables such as race/ethnicity, age, gender, language, and vation and opportunity to learn. For example, how sup- socio-economic status, as well as family and neighbor- ports are made available and to whom, grading structures hood characteristics that might affect academic per- and policies, available course tracks, the ways students formance. A student’s previous academic achievement are assigned to those tracks, the nature of the academic (including both grades and test scores), prior knowledge, tasks students are asked to do, the relationships among past experiences in school, and pre-existing academic student peers and their orientation toward academic mindsets are also part of his or her background charac- work, the level of safety one experiences in school, and teristics. These individual academic characteristics have the availability of adequate resources for learning are likely coalesced in a particular “academic identity” and all important parts of any school and classroom con- degree of self-efficacy within the student, whether these text. Some of these variables—e.g., grading structures, are positively or negatively charged. We would antici- feedback, and norms of behavior—are quite proximal to pate that the student’s previous schooling experiences students’ course performance and have been shown to and existing academic mindsets would affect his or her affect academic mindsets, academic behaviors, and/or interpretation of any new classroom or academic work academic performance. encountered. In this way, student background character- Note that the school and classroom context box istics are very likely to mediate the relationships among also includes the presence of “Student Background the classroom context; the student’s further develop- Characteristics.” For simplicity’s sake, our noncognitive ment or enactment of noncognitive skills, behaviors, factors model does not specifically illustrate how these attitudes, and strategies in that classroom; and academic UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners STUDENT BACKGROUND CHARACTERISTICSperformance. We note too that classrooms consist of between cognitive, psychological, and structural vari- multiple individual students, creating peer effects as ables and school performance are exceedingly com- well as individual student effects. plex. We offer this model as a simplified framework for Finally, we situate the model within a larger conceptualizing the primary relationships among these “Socio-Cultural Context” that shapes the structural factors, for the purpose of framing our discussion. mechanisms of schools and classrooms, as well as the The next five chapters provide more detailed evi- interactions and subjective experiences of the human dence on each of the five noncognitive factors in the beings within schools. Opportunity structures in model. In Chapter 8, we offer three case studies to the larger society; economic conditions that shape illustrate how these noncognitive factors interact to employment opportunities as well as schooling costs; affect students’ success during specific periods of aca- the presence of racism, sexism, and other types of dis- demic development: in the middle grades, the transition crimination that give rise to stereotypes and prejudice; to high school, and the transition to college. The case and stark inequalities in resources across neighborhoods studies underscore the importance of context when and schools all contribute to the larger context in which considering the relationship between noncognitive American students learn. The interrelationships factors and students’ academic performance. BOX 2.1 13 How We Organized Our Review of the Evidence The next five chapters review the research on each A critical tension in research on noncognitive of the five categories of noncognitive factors. For factors is the question of which factors can be each set of factors, we first want to know about intentionally developed and which are traits or its relationship to academic performance (course dispositions that either are not malleable or are not grades). Does the research suggest that having likely to be changed by schools. Even when certain more of a particular factor is related to getting noncognitive factors are shown to be malleable and better grades? If multiple factors affect grades, we are shown to be related to academic performance, want to know which factors are most important it does not necessarily follow that teachers would because we want to know which leverage points be able to change the factor to improve student are likely to have the biggest payo. W ff hat are the performance. Much of the existing research on relative effect sizes, and where are we likely to get noncognitive factors is correlational (merely showing more “bang for the buck” if we want to improve a relationship between two factors) rather than causal; student performance? Therefore, the first and most this makes unclear the extent to which particular obvious criterion for judging the state of research factors can be intentionally developed in classroom knowledge in a field is to evaluate the quality of and school contexts, as well as whether changing the existing research and the strength of effects. them would actually improve student performance. But even if a set of noncognitive factors is clearly For example, evidence that students who report high related to academic performance, that does not mean levels of self-control have higher grades than students that educators or policymakers can do anything to who report lower levels of self-control does not leverage that fact. Validating the claim that schools demonstrate that the latter group of students would would get high payoffs from working on noncognitive start earning higher grades if they were to increase factors requires an evaluation of whether the their self-control. Nor does evidence of a correlation supporting evidence is “actionable” for practitioners. between self-control and course performance provide To evaluate whether the research evidence is any guidance to teachers on how they might improve actionable, we ask whether it is clear that the relevant students’ self-control. noncognitive factor is malleable (i.e., do we know it It is therefore not enough for researchers to merely can be changed), whether it is affected by classroom identify factors associated with better academic context (i.e., do we know that teachers can change it), performance. That is a first step, but teachers and and whether there are research-based strategies for administrators also need clear research evidence developing that factor (i.e., do we know how teachers about how and why various factors influence student can change it through classroom practice). performance. Then they need a set of strategies Chapter 2 Five Categories of Noncognitive Factors HOW WE ORGANIZED... CONTINUED designed for use in a classroom context, aligned with there are specific classroom-based strategies that their regular instructional work, to address these teachers can use to intentionally support students’ factors in ways that are consistent with the research. development of noncognitive factors. For example, Ideally, practitioners would also have a way to track if a high school teacher wants to help her students change or growth in the targeted factor to assess develop learning strategies to use while studying whether their strategies are having an effect. geometry, what ought she to do? How can a middle Experimental studies using randomized trials, when school teacher best develop students’ homework properly designed, can yield data on both malleability habits? What specifically can college instructors do and causality. For instance, researchers might show to help students place a higher value on the work that an intervention is effective both at getting students they do in class? It is not enough to merely know that to increase their effort and at improving their grades classroom contexts have an influence on noncognitive in class. But the mechanism by which these changes factors. Teachers also need to understand how these happen is often unclear. In much of the research we influences work and to have specific strategies to review in this report, the experiments inadvertently develop students’ academic behaviors, perseverance, create a “black box” in which the actual mechanisms mindsets, learning strategies, or social skills directly of change cannot be observed, leaving teachers with as part of their day-to-day work in the classroom. little understanding of why a particular intervention Finally, we also want to examine the evidence on worked and what it implies for their practice. whether attention to any particular set of factors For research on noncognitive factors to be action- could make a difference in reducing educational 14 able for practice, then, we have to go beyond merely inequality. One of the most significant claims of establishing which factors contribute to students’ aca- the research on noncognitive factors is that gaps demic performance. We must also ask questions about in school performance by race/ethnicity or gender malleability, the role of classroom context, and the could be reduced by focusing on certain noncognitive availability of clear strategies that teachers can use to factors. Unfortunately, researchers often ascribe develop important noncognitive factors. By “classroom observed differences in students’ grades and context,” we are referring broadly to everything about educational attainment to gaps in underlying a classroom that might influence student performance. noncognitive factors without actually measuring This includes the teacher, curriculum, instructional these factors or establishing that there are group- practices, materials and resources, classroom policies, based differences in these factors. By accurately grading practices, behavior of peers, and all social and measuring noncognitive factors such as homework academic interactions that take place during a class completion or self-efficacy across race/ethnicity period. All of these factors can influence whether or or gender, researchers can start to pinpoint what not students develop or choose to enact any of the factors might be contributing to existing achievement five categories of noncognitive factors, in addition to gaps. In this report, we examine whether claims that affecting the development of students’ content knowl - certain noncognitive factors could reduce gaps in edge and academic skills. student academic performance are supported by Beyond this attention to classroom context in a evidence that these factors are contributing to the broad sense, we are also interested in whether or not gaps in the first place. To accomplish the goals described above, we structure our review of the research in each chapter to address five key questions: 1. What is the relationship of each factor to student academic performance? 2. Is the factor malleable? 3. What is the role of classroom context in shaping the factor? 4. Are there clear, actionable strategies for developing the factor as part of classroom practice? 5. Is there evidence that attention to the noncognitive factor would address racial/ethnic or gender gaps in student achievement? UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners CHAPTER 3 Evidence on Academic Behaviors Academic Behaviors occupy an important place in our on students’ academic performance, and this relation- consideration of noncognitive factors because virtually ship holds true regardless of students’ test scores. all the ingredients that go into students’ academic per- Moreover, small differences in attendance can have formance, whether cognitive, noncognitive, or metacog- large impacts on students’ grades. The lowest-achieving nitive, are expressed through their academic behaviors. students entering high school in Chicago (those with Academic behaviors such as completing class assign- eighth-grade test scores in the lowest national quar- ments and participating in classroom activities are tile) who had less than a week of absences per semester how students develop and demonstrate their content passed more of their ninth-grade courses than students knowledge and academic skills. Conversely, if a student who entered high school with test scores in the top thoroughly masters the material in a course but does quartile but who missed just one more week of class not turn in homework or does not come to school to take (Allensworth & Easton, 2007). The exact mechanisms 15 a test, the teacher would be unable to judge what the whereby attendance exerts such strong effects on grades student knows or is capable of doing. Behavior acts as are unclear, and it may well be that different mecha- a mediator of other cognitive and noncognitive factors nisms are at work in different cases. Obviously students to affect students’ grades (Conrad, 2006). This is borne who are not in class do not benefit from lesson activities out by evidence as well as by theory. or instruction that they miss; this could create potential “holes” in their understanding that might impact subse- What Is the Relationship quent course grades. Common teacher grading practices Between Academic Behaviors can also deal a strong blow to absent students’ grades by and Academic Performance? disproportionately penalizing missing work. Critics have There is a great deal of evidence that academic behav- long argued for “no zero” policies to lessen the impact of iors play a central role in determining students’ grades. late or missing assignments on students ’course grades, For example, in one CCSR study, Allensworth and and several schools and districts have passed policies Easton (2007) looked closely at academic behaviors to that effect (e.g., Ashland SD, 2012; Dallas ISD, 2008; and their relationship to course grades and course fail- Pittsburgh Public Schools, 2009). Extended or repeated ures for CPS ninth-graders. While students’ prior test absences and truancy can indicate other problems scores and background characteristics, such as gender, interfering in an adolescent’s education that would af- race/ethnicity, economic variables, school mobility, and fect both attendance and course performance. But even age at entry into high school, together only explained where there are no apparent underlying issues, atten- 12 percent of the variation in ninth-grade course fail- dance has a stronger effect on grades and is more predic- ures, students’ absences and self-reported study habits tive of course failure than are students’ test scores. explained an additional 61 percent of the variation in Beyond attending class, spending time on homework ninth-grade failures. In the Chicago study, attendance is another academic behavior shown to have a positive and studying not only strongly predicted course failures effect on students’ grades in both middle school and but also were the strongest predictors for getting high high school (Cooper, 1989; Keith et al., 1993; Peng & grades—more so than test scores or student background Wright, 1994). Using a large, nationally representative characteristics. sample of over 20,000 high school seniors from the High The single most important academic behavior may School and Beyond study, Keith (1982) conducted a path well be attending class. Attendance has a strong effect analysis and found that time spent on homework had a Chapter 3 Evidence on Academic Behaviors significant positive effect on grades across achievement Keith, Diamond-Hallam, & Fine, 2004; Natriello & levels, controlling for race, background, ability, and McDill, 1986). field of study (college preparatory versus vocational). Academic behaviors might also affect students’ Furthermore, Keith demonstrated a compensatory grades indirectly by influencing the nature of student- effect of homework; students who scored in the bottom teacher interactions. Teachers may have preference third on achievement tests and spent one to three hours for students who exhibit positive academic behaviors— per week on homework were able to raise their grades teachers may spend more time helping these students or to Bs and Cs, equivalent to students with test scores in more closely monitor their learning—such that students the middle one-third who did not do homework. If the who demonstrate positive academic behaviors receive students with test scores in the bottom third spent over a differential instructional benefit that improves their 10 hours per week on homework, they could raise their performance in a class. grades to mostly Bs, which was equivalent to the grades While it seems logical that attending class, studying, 3 of top-scoring students who did not do homework. and completing homework will lead to better grades, A meta-analysis (Cooper, 2006) evaluating a range of there are also likely reciprocal effects—where students’ homework studies in different contexts found that success at earning high grades gives them encouragement virtually all demonstrated positive and significant to continue to work hard. As shown by the psychological relationships between homework and grades. research on mindsets, the grades students receive have a 16 Academic behaviors can affect grades both directly marked effect on their attitudes about school and about and indirectly. Directly, virtually all student grades are their own academic identities in ways that strongly based on student work, and completing and submitting influence their subsequent behavior and future school work are academic behaviors. One might argue whether performance. While the nature of the relationships or not the content and substance of the work should and various pathways between academic behaviors and (or does in practice) account for a higher proportion of other noncognitive factors is not yet entirely clear, the a student’s grade than merely the act of submitting the connection between academic behaviors and academic work, but it is important to remember that in the absence performance is strong. of submitting work and attending class, a student will Academic behaviors are so tightly bound up with fail the course. In other words, while good academic each of the other noncognitive factors that they are behaviors might combine with content knowledge and sometimes used by researchers as proxies for these academic skills to earn passing grades, poor academic other factors. No one can directly “see” intangible behaviors all by themselves can earn failing grades. characteristics such as perseverance, motivation, or Academic behaviors can also affect grades directly if a sense of belonging, but one can infer their presence teachers award points to students specifically for the or absence by the way a student behaves toward his acts of completing assignments, participating in activi- or her schoolwork (e.g., through students’ persistent ties, or even attending class. effort at academic tasks, completing homework Academic behaviors can have an indirect influence on assignments, and working well with other students). grades as well if, as a result of engaging in the academic Many of the studies of unobservable noncognitive behaviors, students complete higher-quality work or factors (such as academic perseverance) are actually simply learn more content and develop more skills. based on observable academic behaviors from which Students who attend class regularly and do all of their these unobservable factors are then inferred. For homework are likely to know more or be able to do more example, in a study of predictors of performance in as a result— which would contribute to earning better introductory college-level courses, Kruck and Lending grades. Indeed, across several studies, time spent on (2003) used students’ early homework grades in the homework had a positive effect on learning as measured course as a measure of “student motivation or effort.” by both grades and achievement test scores (Keith, Reasoning that these homework assignments are 1982; Keith & Benson, 1992; Keith & Cool, 1992; often optional, the authors concluded that “the more UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners motivated students will do the earlier homework and What Is the Role of Classroom quizzes and score higher grades than the less motivated Context in Shaping Academic students” (p. 10). Similarly, research shows that Behaviors? academic behaviors are largely interpreted by teachers The evidence is quite clear that classroom context as signs of student “effort.” Where students receive shapes students’ academic behavior. If we keep in a grade for effort, that grade is most often based on mind that academic behaviors are the medium through the teacher’s observation of their academic behaviors which all other cognitive and noncognitive factors are (Brookhart, 1994, 2004; Frary, Cross, & Weber, 1993; expressed, then it stands to reason that any ways in Marzano, 2000; Nava & Loyd, 1992; Robinson & Craver, which classrooms affect any of those cognitive or non- 1989; Stiggins, 1997; Stiggins, Frisbie, & Griswold, 1989). cognitive factors could also shape academic behavior. However, the use of observable behaviors For example, classrooms may affect students’ mindsets like homework completion to infer and measure by creating excitement about an upcoming project. If unobservable noncognitive factors such as motivation that excitement translates to more active engagement or effort conflates what could be very distinct factors in and completion of the project, then the classroom (feeling motivated versus doing homework), making it context will have affected behavior by working through difficult to tease out the relationships between them or mindsets. Likewise, if classroom instructional practice to ascertain the ways one factor might influence another helps students develop learning strategies that allow to shape student academic performance. Conflating them to derive more tangible benefits from the time 17 observable and unobservable factors creates the they spend studying, they may be more likely to study. possibility of misdiagnosing poor academic behaviors If teachers present material in a way that makes it in any given instance (erroneously attributing them to more accessible and students feel like they understand a lack of perseverance, for example) and makes it what is going on, students are more likely to engage difficult to pinpoint the leverage points whereby in classroom discussions. Thus, classroom context teachers, parents, or others might intervene to help shapes academic behavior indirectly through other non- improve student performance. cognitive factors, as well as affecting behavior directly through behavioral expectations and strategies. Are Academic Behaviors Malleable? Human behavior generally is viewed as malleable. Are There Clear, Actionable While it may be difficult to change one’s personality Strategies for Developing or one’s core values, a basic tenet of psychology is that Academic Behaviors as it is almost always possible to change one’s behavior Part of Classroom Practice? (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Skinner, 1953; Staats, 1963). There have always existed a wide range of classroom- Virtually all educational reform efforts rest on this based and school-wide strategies for improving stu- basic assumption. Whether through new policies, dents’ academic behaviors (e.g., increasing attendance, programs, structures, supports, curricular materials, reducing tardiness, bringing materials to class, com- or instructional approaches, the premise underlying pleting homework, promoting active participation in all efforts to improve schools is that students, teachers, discussion). These mostly fall into the category of “local and school leaders can be motivated, mandated, cajoled, practice wisdom,” and surprisingly few of these have or trained to act differently in the classroom. Students’ been empirically studied on a large scale. For example, academic behaviors can change. The important teachers use a range of strategies to support students question is how educators can best facilitate these in completing homework, such as: providing clear and changes in ways that promote student learning and explicit directions and expectations for assignments; course performance. requiring students to write assignments into planners (that schools often provide for this purpose); starting homework assignments in class to “get kids going” Chapter 3 Evidence on Academic Behaviors and to troubleshoot any problems before students get were most responsible for changing student behavior. home; and setting up procedures for students to collect Moreover, short of adopting these models entirely or missed work when they are absent. Unfortunately, few knowing which aspects of the model to replicate, the of these individual teacher-selected strategies have whole school reform research provides little clear direc- been rigorously or systematically studied or evaluated. tion to teachers, other than to emphasize the importance Still, we do have evidence of the effectiveness of some of ongoing monitoring and support—two elements classroom strategies focused on academic behaviors. which are also supported by other studies as important Research suggests that academic behaviors such as to students’ academic behaviors. course attendance and assignment completion can be affected by the degree to which students’ performance Would Changing Academic is closely monitored, with teachers or other adult Behaviors Significantly Narrow advocates intervening when students’ behavior falls Achievement Gaps? below expectations. CCSR’s work in Chicago shows While some researchers have claimed that differences that course attendance and grades are better in schools in academic behaviors contribute to achievement where teachers provide close monitoring and support gaps among different racial and gender groups for students (Allensworth & Easton, 2007; Allensworth, (e.g., Duckworth & Seligman, 2006; Jacob, 2002), Sebastian, Gwynne, & Pareja, 2012; Stevens et al., these differences only account for a limited portion 18 forthcoming). of existing gaps. In Chicago, CCSR researchers looked Several programs external to the classroom that at the extent to which students’ attendance and emphasize monitoring and support also have been shown study habits contributed to differences in students’ to have positive effects on students’ grades and retention grades by race/ethnicity and gender (Allensworth & in school. For example, programs in which teachers or Easton, 2007). The gender gap in GPA decreased by other adult advocates monitor students’ attendance and 21 percent after taking into account students’ course grades to provide support when students start having attendance and study habits, and differences in failure problems have been shown to significantly improve stu- rates decreased by one-third. Attendance and study dents’ academic behaviors and performance. Potentially habits explained none of the racial gap in grades, effective school-wide initiatives include student adviso- when comparing students with similar test scores ries (Galassi, Gulledge, & Cox, 1997; Van Ryzin, 2010) and and economic status. In fact, the racial gap increased programs such as Check & Connect and ALAS (Larson & once students’ study habits were taken into account. Rumberger, 1995; Sinclair, Christenson, Evelo, & Hurley, African American students received lower grades than 1998). Whole school reform approaches such as the White students with similar test scores, attendance, Talent Development High School Model—which houses and study habits. freshmen in a Ninth Grade Success Academy emphasiz- In his analysis of data from over 10,000 students ing closer student-teacher relationships and additional from the National Educational Longitudinal Study supports—have also been shown to improve students’ (NELS) which followed a nationally representative academic behaviors as measured by attendance rates, sample of eighth-graders from 1988 to 1994, Jacob course passing rates, and promotion rates to the next (2002) found a slight gender difference in academic grade level (Kemple, Herlihy, & Smith, 2005). behaviors in eighth grade, when boys reported doing In short, while teachers and schools utilize a wide 5.87 hours of homework per week compared to girls range of home-grown strategies to improve students’ who spent 6.21 hours per week on homework (0.34 academic behaviors, few such individual strategies have hours per week difference). That gender difference in been formally evaluated by outside researchers on any behavior decreased to 0.11 hours per week by twelfth large-scale basis. Some whole school reform models grade, with boys and girls reporting weekly homework show effects on students’ academic behaviors, but it is time of 9.74 hours and 9.85 hours respectively. Jacob unclear which aspects of these comprehensive models did not report homework data by race/ethnicity. UCHICAGO CCSR Literature Review Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners

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