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Student Engagement and School Community Links. Peter Sullivan Monash University. Overview. Challenges facing educators A theoretical perspective Some implications generally Implications for community partnerships. A disclaimer.

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student engagement and school community links

Student Engagement and School Community Links

Peter Sullivan

Monash University

  • Challenges facing educators
  • A theoretical perspective
  • Some implications generally
  • Implications for community partnerships
a disclaimer
A disclaimer
  • I had originally intended to be more explicit about what I say means for School Community links, but there is not much. I am leaving to you the interpretation for your own context.
especially in the middle years
Especially in the middle years:
  • A decline in school engagement of young adolescents as compared with their engagement in primary school.
  • Increased truancy.
  • Greater incidence of disruptive behaviour, alienation and isolation.
  • The alienation appears to be most acute in the case of disadvantaged students.
  • Note the Prime Minister’s concerns about bullying
pisa has some things to say
PISA has some things to say
  • In 2003, Australia was one of 41 countries that participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
  • Over 12 500 15 year old students, from all schools systems, and from each state and territory, completed a two-hour pen and paper tests in their schools, and answered a 30 minute questionnaire.
  • The focus of the assessment was on how well young people had been prepared to meet challenges, how well they could adapt their learning to the needs of their lives, and to address aspects of school organisation, including factors contributing to disadvantage.
in the australian results
In the Australian results:
  • Australia is characterised as high in quality but low in equity
  • There was a strong relationship between achievement and socioeconomic background
  • Some schools were more effective than others in moderating this effect.
  • Students in metropolitan areas performed better than regional students, who, in turn outperformed rural students.
  • Indigenous students were over-represented in the lower categories of proficiency.
two complementary challenges
Two complementary challenges
  • We need to educate the next generation of inventors, creators, thinkers, advocates, and explorers who will find ways to build a peaceful caring society, tackle major problems (e.g., energy), innovate, entertain, and find ways to build sustainable societies.
  • Given demographic imbalances, the most effective way to ensure that there are working people with the right skills, is to improve the effectiveness of the education of all students, especially those who are currently underperforming
a different take on zpd
A different take on ZPD
  • Vygotsky’s (1978) zone of proximal development (ZPD) … “distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined by problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (p. 86).
  • ZPD defines learning as going beyond tasks or problems that students can solve independently, so that the students are working on challenges for which they need support.
the complexity of challenge
The complexity of challenge
  • Unless the students are challenged they are not learning and growing
  • But what if students resist challenge by giving up, thereby prompting the teacher to reduce the challenge by feeding in information
this resistance has been widely noted
This resistance has been widely noted
  • Pupils misbehave during tasks involving higher order processes
  • Pupils work effectively on tasks requiring only recall of information (Doyle, 1986)
  • Pupils are not interested in each other’s opinions
  • The more unfamiliar the task, the more difficult it is to teach (Desforges & Cockburn, 1987)
perspectives on intelligence
Perspectives on intelligence
  • entity
    • people who believe that their intelligence is genetically predetermined and remains fixed through life.
    • Dweck suggested that students who believe in the entity view require easy successes to maintain motivation, and see challenges as threats.
  • incremental
    • can change their intelligence and/or achievement by manipulating factors over which they have some control.
    • Students with such incremental beliefs often choose to sacrifice opportunities to look smart in favour of learning something new.
the theory dweck
The theory – Dweck
  • Seekers of affirmation (performers), when experiencing difficulties
    • lose confidence in themselves,
    • tend to denigrate their own intelligence,
    • exhibit plunging expectations,
    • develop negative approaches,
    • have lower persistence.
    • seek positive judgements from others and avoid negative ones.
Achievers for its own sake (mastery)
    • do not blame others for threats
    • do not see failure as an indictment on themselves
    • hold learning goals which are to increase their competence when confronted with difficulty
    • do not see success asessential
aspirations and expectations
Aspirations and Expectations
  • Potentially positive influences include the extent to which students’ connect current schooling with future opportunities or their possible selves, which is “the future-oriented component of self-concept” (Oyserman, Terry, & Bybee, 2002, p. 313)
a research study
A research study
  • With year 8 students, in a regional city
  • Asked students, in one on one interviews, to do a series of graduated questions until they could not continue, then we asked them about the experience
data collection

Student surveys

Individual interviews with students

Observation of students’ performance on a range of tasks

Recording of students’ responses to protocol questions

Matching students’ performance and response against background data including teacher achievement and effort rating and gender

Data Collection
the key findings were
The key findings were
  • The students were surprisingly confident in their own ability, they perceived themselves as trying hard, and they saw these as linked.
  • The students seemed aware of the importance of effort.
  • Even though we anticipated that students would give up when posed difficult tasks and this would provide the prompt for our discussions, in both the English and mathematics tasks all students persevered for the whole time.
more results
More results
  • A key finding was that, to an open response item, nearly half of the responses related to the negative influence of classmates. The responses explain a lack of observable effort as being, on one hand, a result of a desire to be popular, and on the other hand, from fear of retribution from peers.
  • Interestingly, many students indicated that they feel that the lack of effort by some students is an issue that should be addressed. These suggestions about how this could be done were extraordinarily insightful, mature, and empathetic.
recommendations for action
Recommendations for action
  • There are five specific implications for educataors. In particular it is recommended that we:
    • work on building an understanding of the nature of community, the world of work, the nature of study pathways and options, and strategies to optimise options so that students can be aware of the relationship between their opportunities at school and the future life choices;
address the relevance of the curriculum and the type of tasks used. If the students do not connect schooling to their future then tasks that are only relevant for students whose goals include higher study may not be attractive to the others. Note that this does not mean basing curriculum on limited student goals, but engaging students in learning activities that are intrinsically engaging;
make students more aware of their actual achievement and effort. This includes usual assessment modes, and also the processes for affirming effort. It is possible that primary and junior secondary teachers give students unrealistically positive evaluations of their achievement and effort. This has dual negative effects of endorsing inadequate effort and achievement, and fostering inappropriate goals of seeking teacher endorsement;
teach self-regulatory behaviours such as cognitive, meta-cognitive, social, and affective awareness. As with other aspects of schooling, these behaviours are able to be learned, and it is lower achieving students that most need specific support in developing such behaviours;
identify interventions that address mismatches between teacher and student expectations for classroom and school-based activities. Schooling processes are compatible with conventional middle class aspirations, but are less obvious for students from families who do not have such familiarity with the ways schools operate.
the tension with learning the disciplines
The tension with learning the disciplines
  • Should we talk about intellectual development? Is it possible that some approaches develop people intellectually and others don’t
  • What are the skills that will allow students to grow to their potential?
what do the disciplines have to offer
What do the “disciplines” have to offer?
  • Learning music, especially where reading and interpreting notes is involved, seems connected with ID
  • Poetry gives insights into language that are not possible through report writing and reading newspapers (also the experience of remembering)
  • Learning the skills of drawing seems to have transfer across domains and are associated with high level performance in many fields
  • Learning to speak a second language (even if this is English) is liberating, builds tolerance and connections, postpones senility, broadens communication genres, …
  • Intense physical activity seems to enhance performance in all fields, and physical skill development augments this
  • There are abstract principles in understanding food preparation that go beyond learning to cook
  • Ditto IT
  • It is not possible to appreciate the environment unless you have words to describe what you see, hear, feel, smell,
Štech (2006) argued that school mathematics has a role in prompting reflection, abstraction and generalisation that is not possible in responding to everyday tasks. Štech was critical of approaches that:
    • localise the dynamic of learning almost exclusively into the world of everyday experience and neglect the importance of activities … directed at reflection and abstraction. Thus they hinder investigations into the differences and tensions between an item of knowledge in its everyday form and one which is formalised – and therefore bypass the decisive moment of cognitive and personal development of the individual. (p. I-39)
basically the argument is
Basically the argument is:
  • Activities in which students engage are the medium through teachers (broadly defined) and students communicate
  • The type of activity determines the type of learning
  • It is better for the student to be engaged by, in, or through the activity rather than through the personality of the teachers, the fear of parent, …
some of the characteristics of appropriate activities are
Some of the characteristics of appropriate activities are
  • a need for variety and diversity,
  • for activities to include meaningful reasons for students to engage in the tasks,
  • ideally for the activities to be personally relevant
  • for there to be challenge, interest and control (see Middleton, 1995)
  • to include a social component (probably not with friends)
in the case of numeracy
In the case of numeracy
  • There were over 600 specific projects in Australia (in 2004) involving parents in numeracy education of their children in some way
  • The workplace demands for numeracy including accuracy, transfer, and adaptable knowledge (data, networks)
some comments offered starting points for some subsequent intervention
Some comments offered starting points for some subsequent intervention
  • “It’s good to be smart because then you know stuff, and if you’re dumb just so your friends like you then it’s really bad. Obviously they’re not your friends if they make you be dumb to be their friend.”
next steps
Next steps?
  • Arrange these cards in order to make a story
  • Write a story about when you have underperformed to be liked by your friends
  • Role play
  • video
  • What would you say to a friend you said that they didn’t try their best because they wanted to be your friend
another one
Another one
  • “…if you’re playing (sport) and you mess up or something and you have a kick and it falls short or it goes out of bounds on the full where it shouldn’t, if you have someone on your team that says, ‘You’ll get the next one,’ you’re more confident to keep playing, but if someone is like, ‘What are you doing?’ …”