Click for next page ( 61


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 60
Teaching and Learning The nature and context of instruction are what matter most in engaging students in learning. Although policies at the school level and beyond affect what goes on in classrooms, classroom instruction how and what teachers teach is the proximal and most powerful factor in student engagement and learning. In this chapter we discuss what is known about engaging teaching, with special attention to the needs of students in economically disadvantaged urban settings. Teaching at the high school level is challenging in part because students are expected to master discipline-specific knowledge that does not have obvious relevance to real-life settings. What does the reading of a John Donne poem or solving an algebraic equation have to do with adolescents' lives or even their anticipated roles as workers and parents in adulthood? The challenges are particularly daunting in low-income urban communi- ties, where many students enter high school with low skill levels and limited English proficiency, and lack stable resources in the form of family income, housing, or health care. Any of these risk factors can increase the likelihood that students will be unmotivated to engage productively in the intellectual demands of the high school curriculum. Research on teaching is vast, but concentrated on the elementary level. Consequently, although a fair amount is known about effective pedagogy for adolescents, the research base is meager compared to that which is focused on younger children. Concentrating on studies involving students in urban high schools limits the empirical base even further. Despite the relative scarcity of studies on subject-matter teaching at the 60 1 1 1 1 1

OCR for page 60
TEACHING AND LEARNING 6 high school level, there is evidence that can be used to guide instructional planning (Alvermann and Moore, 19911. We discuss in this chapter what is known about effective teaching in literacy and mathematics, focusing espe- cially on research involving urban low-income students and students of color. We selected these two subject areas because they are considered core and they are instrumental to learning other subject matter. In the final section of the chapter we discuss research on school organizational factors and conditions of teaching that best enable the kind of teaching that re- search suggests is most effective. LITERACY The teaching of reading, writing, and speaking at the high school level ideally takes place in every subject matter. Students are expected to read literature and write essays and creative pieces in English-language arts, and to read textbooks and occasionally primary source documents in history, social studies, and science. Although there tends to be little reading in mathematics, mathematical literacy is required to understand and evaluate public arguments (often in newspapers and magazines and on television programming) and forms of advertising where numerical data are used as evidence (Paulos, 1990, 19951. Many students come to high-poverty schools with poor proficiency in reading and writing, and few urban high schools are prepared to address the double challenge of meeting students' basic literacy needs while teaching them to tackle the complex reading and writ- ing tasks of the disciplines (Finders, 1998-1999; Jimerson, Egeland, and Teo, 1999; Roderick and Camburn, 19991. Gains have been made in mathematics achievement over the past de- cade, but not in reading. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 17-year-olds today read no better than their counterparts a decade ago. Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores also have remained flat. Furthermore, huge gaps exist among different ethnic groups. African- American and Latino 17-year-olds taking the NAEP read about as well as and have vocabularies roughly equivalent to those of white 13-year-olds (NCES, l999b; Phillips, Crouse, and Ralph, 19981. Reading problems are particularly pronounced in the high schools of large urban districts in low- income communities (Campbell et al., 2000; Dreeben and Gamoran, 1986; Education Trust, 1999; Guiton and Oakes, 19951. In the 35 largest central cities in the country, more than half of entering 9th-grade students read at the 6th-grade level or below (Grosso de Leon, 20021. The poor progress in developing literacy skills may be explained in part by adolescents' low participation in literacy activities. Based on NAEP survey data, 25 percent of 17-year-olds currently report reading fewer than

OCR for page 60
62 ENGAGING SCHOOLS five pages per day for both schoolwork and homework (see Education Trust, 20011. What Is Involved in Reading?i Reading is a form of problem solving (Olshavsky, 1976-19771.2 When good readers first encounter a text, they search for clues about topic, theme, or perspective. They search their long-term memory for models or explana- tions that can provide a filter for understanding the rest of the text. For example, if the reader sees the word "bat" in the title or first sentence, she searches her prior knowledge and reads on to find out whether this story will be about baseball or animals that fly. An abundance of research in reading documents the powerful role that prior knowledge plays in reading comprehension. For example, if the title of a story has the word "sine," and the reader has no clue what a "sine" is, he will have difficulty making sense of the text. Readers need knowledge of topics, vocabulary, and the structure of words, sentences, paragraphs, and texts (e.g., stories versus expository texts). Stories may be structured as mysteries, science fiction, magical realism, or satire. The structure of ex- pository texts may be extended definition, comparison-contrast, or prob- lem-solution. Consideration of these kinds of prior knowledge that students bring from their lives inside and outside of school is crucial to teaching reading comprehension. Readers must actively construct their understanding of texts from word to word within sentences, from sentence to sentence, from paragraph to paragraph, from section to section, and even across texts. Whereas a liter- ary reading may emphasize searching for multiple, nuanced meanings of words, phrases, and whole texts, reading a scientific report does not involve such degrees of freedom. Knowledge in scientific writing may be communi- cated through words, mathematical formulas, graphs, or illustrations of patterns and cycles. Concepts are often communicated through technical vocabulary that has very specialized meaning in the particular scientific domain. For example, the word force may mean one thing in physics from the perspective of the Theory of Relativity and something qualitatively different from the perspective of Quantum Theory. Reading primary source documents in history requires the reader to question the potential biases of 1In order to address one area with some depth, we have elected to focus on reading, rather than on the challenges of teaching written composition or speaking. 2For thorough reviews of what research says about what is involved in the process of comprehending written texts, see the following: Kamil, Mosenthal, Pearson, and Barr (2000). For more succinct reviews of the research on reading comprehension, see the following: Fielding and Pearson (1994); Pearson and Dole (1987); Pressley (2000).

OCR for page 60
TEACHING AND LEARNING 63 the author and to search across multiple texts to find other perspectives. The structure of sentences in both historical documents (such as the Decla- ration of Independence, the Narrative of Frederick Douglass, the essays of Francis Bacon) and older literary works can be difficult to parse because they are long and complex. Very different evidence is required to make cogent arguments in support of Darwin's theory of evolution in contrast to the claim that the character of Sethe in Toni Morrison's novel Beloved was justified in killing her baby to keep the baby from being taken back into the horrors of the African Holocaust of Enslavement. These are just a few examples to illustrate the complexity of the task of reading in the disci- plines. The extraordinary access to information in this new information age also has important implications for our definition of literacy and the skills that need to be taught. The World Wide Web makes information available, including technical information, that nonspecialists previously could not easily access. But the information available on the Web is often not accurate or objective. More than ever, students need to be taught to critically evalu- ate information, consider its source and possible biases, and compare and contrast claims from various sources. A literate citizen must now have a higher level of critical and analytic skills than was true even a decade ago. These forms of critical evaluation, reasoning, and making sense of different kinds of texts in different subject matters should be the object of literacy study at the high school level. But most secondary teachers, regard- less of subject matter, have little formal training in the teaching of reading, nor specifically in the problems of reading in the subject matters they teach (Anders, Hoffman, and Duffy, 20001. Literacy skills are not taught in part because many teachers believe that they are teachers of subject matter not teachers of reading (Anders et al., 2000; O'Brien, Stewart, and Moje, 1995; Romaine, McKenna, and Robinson, 1996), or they assume that students with poor reading skills cannot tackle difficult texts. Rather than provide instruction on how to develop the skills students need, teachers often give them watered-down textbooks (Alvermann and Moore, 19911. Literacy needs to be taught in urban high schools, both to ensure that students have access to subject matter instruction and to develop their literacy skills in various subject matters. By implementing existing knowI- edge of motivation and effective pedagogy, we can provide instruction that engages students and helps them achieve high levels of literacy (Ol~father and DahI, 1995; father and McLaughlin, 1993; father and Thomas, 1998; Verhoeven and Snow, 20011. We summarize evidence on effective strategies for teaching reading, then illustrate these teaching principles by describing some exemplary programs.

OCR for page 60
64 Effective Pedagogy Literacy Teaching and Student Engagement ENGAGING SCHOOLS Few empirical studies explicitly link particular approaches to literacy instruction with stuclent engagement and even fewer studies inclucle large samples of ethnically diverse, low-income high school students (Verhoeven and Snow, 20011. Consistent with the general principles of motivation cliscusseci in Chapter 2, correlational studies reviewed by Guthrie and Wigfielci (2000) inclicate that students who believe they have some control over achievement outcomes and have a sense of competency are relatively more motivated to react. Furthermore, studies have shown that students who react outside of school become better reaclers (Anclerson, Wilson, and Fielcling, 1988; Fielcling, 1994; Guthrie, Schafer, Wang, and Afflerbach, 19951. Most of the latter studies, however, have been with elementary-ageci children. in one of the few large-scale studies of aclolescents, Cappella and Weinstein (2001) examined reacting resilience, using a cohort of 1,362 students in the National Eclucational Longituclinal Stucly (NELS) of 1988. Resilience was operationally clefineci as turning around low reacting achieve- ment in the 8th gracle by the 12th gracle. They clistinguisheci between distal risk factors (e.g., low socioeconomic status, single-parent househoici) and proximal risk factors (e.g., school environment, curriculum). By the 12th gracle, only 15 percent of the students who haci been at risk for continued low achievement in reacting in the 8th gracle haci acivanceci to intermediate or acivanceci reacting proficiency, so the resilient group was small. As has been founci in the achievement motivation studies cliscusseci in Chapter 2, students' beliefs preclicteci their resilience. Students who believed they haci the power to affect outcomes were more likely to show significant improve- ment in their reacting skills. In a similar vein, eighth-gracle eclucational expectations preclicteci resilience 4 years later, in conjunction with taking rigorous acac emlc courses. In the next section, we will describe the features of literacy instruction that appear to promote learning. Although the studies reviewed clo not assess engagement clirectly, it seems safe to assume that improved achieve- ment involveci increased engagement. The features cliscusseci inclucle forms of task structure, task complexity, grouping practices, evaluation tech- niques, motivational strategies, and quality of stuclent-teacher and stuclent- stuclent relationships. Features of Effective Pedagogies for Literacy The instructional approaches supported by research on literacy learn- ing are dramatically different from what is usually seen in low-performing

OCR for page 60
TEACHING AND LEARNING 65 urban high schools. The high school English-language arts curriculum usu- ally involves disconnected lists of books and readings of the same authors (Alvermann and Moore, 1991; Applebee, 1993,1996; Applebee and Purves, 1992), and teaching remains largely "frontal" lecturing (Applebee, Burroughs, and Stevens, 2000; Hillocks, 19991. Reading in the content areas tends to be limited to textbooks and is not characterized by strategy instruction (Alvermann and Moore, 1991; Bean, 2000~. Although more innovative instructional practices and uses of technology are being imple- mented in many schools, they are less common in urban high schools serving low-income students and students of color (Irvine, 1990; McDermott, 1987; Pillar, 1992~. Based on the accumulated research findings regarding the teaching of reading comprehension (Education Trust, 1999; Moore, Bean, Birdyshaw, and Rycik, 1999; National Reading Panel, 2000; Pressley, 2000; Roehier and Duffy, 1991; Snow, 2002), we abstract the following features of suc- cessful pedagogy in literacy: Personalized relationships Authentic tasks Capitalizing on cultural knowledge Use of multiple resources Rigorous and challenging instruction Explicit instruction Frequent feedback from assessments Integrated curricula We elaborate on each of these features. As discussed in previous chapters, the term personalized relationships refers to the nature of relationships between and among adults and stu- dents. The nature of interpersonal relationships may be socialized through classroom structures such as small-group and whole-class instruction through the norms for who can talk and about what. In addition to facili- tating social connections, researchers have found that providing students with opportunities to interact with each other, such as by debating impor- tant ideas and working in small groups, increased the amount of reading and thinking about texts in which students engaged (Alvermann and Hynd, 1989; Guthrie et al., 19951. The task of creating personalized relationships between adults and adolescents can be more complex in low-income urban schools, where many adolescents carry out adult-like roles (as parents, caregivers for siblings, financial support for families) while expected to fulfill more child-like roles at school, but may be more important for these students than for more affluent students (Burton, Allison, and Obeidallah, 1995~.

OCR for page 60
66 ENGAGING SCHOOLS Authentic tasks involve reading and writing activities that have some meaning in the world outside of school. Students who have been disengaged from academic work often do not see why the reading and writing they are asked to do in school matters for their personal development, for their future adult roles, or for the communities in which they live. Authentic tasks that require the application of complex reasoning in real-worId set- tings are more motivating and produce higher academic achievement (Lee, Smith, and Croninger, 19951. Ideally, authentic tasks also must be funda- mentally linked to problems and modes of reasoning within the academic subject matter. Studies also suggest the value of capitalizing on students' cultural knowledge. All knowledge is cultural. The question is whose cultural knowI- edge is privileged or made accessible in instruction (Moll and Greenberg, 19901. The lack of congruence between students' life experiences and in- struction in most schools has been well documented, especially for low- income students, students of color, and English-language learners (Banks and Banks, 1993; Delpit, 1988; Gay, 1988; Hilliard, 1991-1992; Nieto, 1992; Philips, 19831. We also know that prior knowledge is crucial to all acts of learning and especially to reading. Students sometimes have diffi- culty understanding texts that are not related to their personal experiences and cultures because they lack the appropriate prior knowledge of the topic, or they do not know how to tap into relevant knowledge they do have. Lee (199Sa, l995b, 2001) addresses this challenge in her work with low-income African-American high school students with histories of low achievement in reading. She designed a framework for culturally responsive curriculum and instruction related to literature, although the framework is applicable to other reading and problem solving in other subject matters. Lee's Cultural Modeling Framework for teaching literature identifies cat- egories of problems in the high school literature curriculum that are consid- ered generative. These include recognizing symbolism, irony, satire, using unreliable narrators, and using specific strategies for rejecting a literal inter- pretation and reconstructing a figurative interpretation (Rabinowitz, 1987; Smith and Hillocks, 19881. The approach involves using students' cultural knowledge to learn technical literary concepts. For example, students learn figurative language by analyzing familiar literary forms, such as oral genres of African-American Vernacular English, rap lyrics, and film clips. Lee argues that speakers of African-American Vernacular English already have a tacit understanding of these language forms, but do not activate that knowledge in school-based contexts. Using culturally familiar material and a specially designed curriculum, Lee's intervention was successful in getting students with low standardized reading scores to tackle complex works of literature. The conventions for instructional talk in Cultural Modeling class-

OCR for page 60
TEACHING AND LEARNING 67 rooms included the productive use of African-American Vernacular English discourse norms. Similar approaches to discipline-specific and culturally responsive pedagogies in literacy have been reported elsewhere (Ball, 1992, l995b; Foster, 1987; Mahiri, 1998~. The value of allowing students to use multiple resources or sources of help to gain mastery was discussed recently by Gutierrez, Baquedano-Lopez, and Tejada (1999) and is supported by an abundance of research on learn- ing (see National Research Council, 19991. Such resources may include support from peers, from competencies in languages other than English, and from tools such as computers. Examples of drawing on multiple- language competencies include English-language learners using their knowI- edge of their first language to help them read and write in English, or using skills in African-American Vernacular English to interpret literary problems (Lee, 1993, 1997~. Other resources may include access to multiple modali- ties (reading, writing, speaking, drawing, performing) for problem solving or to represent knowledge (Gardner, 1993~. The value of being able to use a native language is suggested by a study by Timenez, Garcia, and Pearson (1996~. They examined the reading strat- egies of a small sample of sixth- and seventh-grade bilingual students who were successful English readers. These successful bilingual readers demon- strated substantial knowledge about similarities and differences in the struc- ture of English and Spanish. They actively used this knowledge, for ex- ample, in looking for Spanish cognates in English words to help infer word meanings. They also translated across languages as an aid in constructing meaning. Perhaps most importantly, these successful bilingual readers held a different conception of the purposes of reading than their less successful counterparts. Timenez (2000) reports that successful readers saw reading as a process of making sense of text, and they believed they could draw on multiple-language competencies to do this. Less successful bilingual stu- dents saw reading as saying the words correctly in English. Moll, Estrada, Diaz, and Lopes (1980) found that students demon- strated greater levels of participation in instructional talk as well as more complex thinking when the organization of classrooms encouraged stu- dents to draw on their competencies in both English and Spanish. Lucas, Henze, and Donato (1990) identified eight characteristics of high schools that are successful with language-minority students, all focusing on ways that the school systematically structures opportunities to help students use both languages as tools for their learning. A key idea is that what a student can do with support is always greater than what he or she can do alone (Cole, 1996; Rogoff, 1990; Vygotsky, 19811. The goal is to provide students with as many sources of support as possible. In some cases, the task is simply to encourage students to identify and use the resources they have. Students who work through problems of

OCR for page 60
68 ENGAGING SCHOOLS academic reading and writing while drawing on multiple sources of support should also develop confidence in their ability to learn (Alvermann, Hinchman, Moore, Phelps, and Waff, 1998~. The rigor and challenges of the literacy c?~rric?~?~m (across subject mat- ters, not just the English-language arts) refers to whether students are asked to learn new constructs from reading texts and writing about what they read (rather than simply to remember facts), whether they are asked to apply what they learn from reading and writing to novel tasks, and whether they are expected to make connections across bodies of readings. Box 3-1, taken from Applebee et al. (2000), provides an example of a rigorous assignment in English-language arts. The assignment illustrates a rigorous curriculum because: it focuses attention on a portion of text that is central to understand- ing the internal state of a character and by extension to examining the themes of the work as a whole. there are no simple right or wrong answers to the questions, but there are constraints on a warrantable response based on the text itself and the life experiences of the students. it asks students to make connections between their own life experi- ences and those of a key character in ways that help to explicate the themes of the work as a whole. it asks students to read, think critically, and communicate their . . . . reasoning In written form. Explicit attention to strategies for problem solving is another feature of

OCR for page 60
TEACHING AND LEARNING 69 effective literacy pedagogies (National Reading Panel, 2000; Pearson and Dole, 1987; Pressley, 2000; Snow, 20021. Although there is an abundance of research on the effectiveness of explicit teaching of reading comprehen- sion strategies in elementary school, much less attention is paid to this issue at the high school level. Strategies for teaching both reading comprehension and composing need to be different at the high school level from what is effective at the elementary level. In addition to generic reading, high school students need to know discipline-specific strategies for asking questions, making and test- ing predictions, summarizing, drawing inferences, using prior knowledge, and self-monitoring (Beck, McKeown, and Gromoll, 1989; Dole, Duffy, Roehier, and Pearson, 1991; Lemke, 1998; Rabinowitz, 1987; Wineburg, 1991; Wineburg and Wilson, 19911. Examples of discipline-specific reading skills include understanding symbolism in literature, reliability in primary source documents in history, and argumentation in the sciences. In addition to generic reading, most students need explicit instruction to achieve such competencies, as well as to fee! competent, which is a critical factor in engagement. Providing explicit supports for students to engage in complex reasoning that involves reading, writing and speaking, comprehending and critiquing difficult texts, and producing sophisticated texts are more effective than scripted lessons or decontextualized drills. Scripts and drills are useful for memorizing, but not for the complex reasoning required of reading in the content areas (National Research Council, 19991. Strategies for teaching discipline-specific literacy skills, however, have not been well studied. Finally, students need frequent feedback from assessments to be able to observe their progress and to self-correct. Feedback on progress toward mastery can contribute to students' sense of competence and control, and teachers need the feedback from assessments to plan instruction. Assess- ments at the most local level schools and classrooms generally give the most useful information because they are tailored to the curriculum and the skills of the students at hand. Classroom assessments have the power to be diagnostic and to provide students with immediate feedback on what they can do and what they need to learn. Assessments at the departmental or course level in high school provide opportunities for teachers to learn from their practice and to target larger issues of curriculum and instruction. The instructional approaches that teachers use can be facilitated or constrained by the curriculum, which is often defined at the school or even the district level. Applebee and colleagues (2000) describe curricula in which the content (for example, texts selected for reading) is disconnected and unrelated, and the relationships across texts are not well defined (for ex- ample, survey literature or history courses organized solely by chronology).

OCR for page 60
70 ENGAGING SCHOOLS The kinds of instructional strategies described in this chapter are most likely to be found in schools that implement what Applebee and colleagues call "integrated c?~rric?~," in which students continuously revisit the core questions of the discipline across lessons and units of instruction within a year as well as across years. (See Box 3-2 for an example.) We turn now to four studies of literacy instruction at the middle and high school levels to illustrate the implementation of these features of effec- tive literacy pedagogies. The studies were conducted in urban communities where students had very low skills when they entered high school. Three of the four examples examine whole-school approaches to literacy instruction across multiple sites; all four include schools in urban districts with ethni- cally diverse and low-income student populations. Each reflects some na- tional effort, either through an intervention that is national in scope or through analysis by a national or regional research center. Furthermore, all four include a large sample size and provide empirical data regarding stu- dent outcomes in reading (at least) as well as process data regarding how each feature was enacted. The findings of these studies are also corrobo- rated by many smaller studies of individual or small clusters of classrooms or teachers. Although an evaluation of these four programs is limited by possible selection biases (of students, staff, or both), the major finding across these studies is that the implementation of literacy pedagogies can- not be limited to specific instructional activities. Instead, they require a coherent adherence to a core set of principles.

OCR for page 60
86 ENGAGING SCHOOLS students' personal experiences. Therefore, students learn to translate every- day life experiences into the symbolic language of mathematics. Four key components of the curriculum that teachers follow are 1. Physical Events (e.g., students take a trip a ride on a metropolitan transit system, a bus tour, or a walking tour of their community) 2. Pictorial Representation/Modeling (students are asked to draw pic- tures that visually mode! the event) 3. Intuitive Language/"People Talk" (students are asked to discuss and write about the physical event in their own language) 4. Structured Language/"Feature Talk" (students isolate features of the event such as start, finish, direction, distance on which they can build mathematics) The Algebra Project takes seriously the NCTM claim that students need to be able to represent and communicate data in a variety of forms (algebraic/symbolic, graphical, verbal, tabular). Thus, when students are asked to represent the physical trip with a picture, it is similar to graphing. When they are asked to use "people talk," they are being asked for a verbal description of their graph. When they seek features of the event that can be translated into structured mathematics language, they are being encouraged to use mathematics as symbols. Unfortunately this approach has not been rigorously evaluated. The evidence suggests, however, that the approach has some value. The first group of students who graduated from the project enrolled in high school in geometry and many have gone on to medical school and other graduate schools. In Arkansas, 7 out of the 11 cohorts of students that were followed showed at least a 10-point increase in mean scaled scores on the SAT-9 a year after being in the program. In all 12 Arkansas sites, there was a greater than 10 percent increase in the number of students scoring at or above proficiency on the state exam, whereas students at 8 out of the 9 control sites stayed at their previous levels or declined (West and Baumann, 20021. MESA Program A comprehensive outreach program, Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA), has been engaging Latino (primarily Mexican-Ameri- can) and African-American students throughout California since 1970 (Somerton et al., 19941. The program is outside of the students' regular school curriculum, but nevertheless provides evidence of the value of par- ticular approaches to engaging urban youth in mathematics. Students sign up for the program if they are enrolled in or willing to take algebra in 9th grade, and they continue to take rigorous mathematics courses throughout

OCR for page 60
TEACHING AND LEARNING 87 high school. Most students earn average grades when they start, but they . . . . . . cave an Interest In careers In science or engineering. Currently, MESA helps prepare nearly 20,000 students of color each year for mathematics- and science-based careers. More recently expanded to include sites throughout the nation, MESA takes regular mathematics and science teachers and turns them into advisors who offer courses along- side the traditional mathematics/science curriculum offered by schools. In addition, 6-week summer enrichment programs and Saturday academies help students deepen their understanding and prepare for college courses in mathematics and science. MESA is founded on the idea of partnering with parents, business professionals, and community members to provide additional role models and to mentor students. Using hands-on instruction (e.g., where students build models of mathematical structures and processes), adults and older students in the MESA program become resources for adolescents, helping them mode! and visualize mathematics and science in ways that build a solid foundation for college instruction. The MESA curriculum focuses on themes that cut across disciplines (e.g., probability, measurement, matter, environment), with the goal of preparing adolescents for a rapidly changing environment. Students are also given leadership roles to develop their skills in obtaining summer internships and jobs in the field. As an incentive, the program pays a small stipend to students who earn a 3.0 or greater grade point average while in high school. MESA high school students are remarkably successful on traditional measures of achievement, including SAT scores and college attendance (Somerton et al., 1994), although it is not possible to ascertain to what degree these positive outcomes are a result of the program itself. There is clearly a selection bias in who enters the program, and research with an appropriate control group would provide much clearer evidence of the program effects. The achievement of the students in the program, however, is so remarkable that it is highly unlikely that participating students would have done as well without it. Although the program is designed as an adjunct to the regular high school, most components of the program could be implemented in the regular mathematics curriculum. The QUASAR Project The Quantitative Understanding: Amplifying Student Achievement and Reasoning (QUASAR) Project is designed for middle school students. Since the fall of 1989 the QUASAR Project has been implemented in six economi- cally disadvantaged communities in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (Doty, Mercer, and Henningsen, 1999; Silver et al., 19951.

OCR for page 60
88 ENGAGING SCHOOLS Key components of the project are curriculum development and modi- fication (e.g., developing activities for particular classes); staff development and ongoing teacher support (e.g., opportunities for teachers to continue to learn mathematics); classroom and school-based assessment design (e.g., focusing on students' thought processes, not just the answers they produce); and outreach to parents and the school district at large. With respect to pedagogy, a classroom emphasis is placed on building communities of learn- ers (cooperative groups, supporting mathematical thinking and collabora- tion); learning to question and coming to understand others; building com- munities of linguistically diverse learners; and enhancing the relevance of school mathematics (building on students' experiences, relating mathemat- ics to students' interests, and connecting mathematics to students' cultural heritage). To try to connect mathematics to cultural knowledge, for ex- ample, students in the QUASAR Project are encouraged to tell stories that mode! the mathematics they are learning (fitting the oral tradition of some cultural groups). In sites with a substantial African-American population, students have been asked to write essays on Egyptian numerals and the life of Benjamin Banneker. Mathematical discussions are promoted by asking students to debate mathematical assertions and use mathematical argumen- tation to support differing positions. The evidence suggests that these strategies increase student engagement and learning. In schools across the nation, the QUASAR Project has seen significant gains in student engagement in classroom discussions and in standardized achievement scores (tests of basic skills as well as conceptual understanding; Silver and Lane, 19951. As was found for literacy, a fair amount is known about the qualities of instruction that engage high school students, and evidence from a few programs suggests that these strategies might be applied effectively in urban schools. There is still much to learn, particularly about implementing pro- grams at scale in urban high schools. But the existing evidence provides no support for the traditional textbook and worksheet instruction seen in most schools serving low-income students and students of color. SPECIAL NEEDS OF URBAN YOUTH Our conclusions about effective teaching in literacy and mathematics are based in part on studies conducted in urban high school settings, giving us some confidence in their applicability to the students of concern in this volume. There are, however, particular circumstances related to teaching in schools that serve economically disadvantaged students, which need to be considered in any effort to increase students' engagement in learning. We have discussed the importance of connecting new knowledge in literacy and mathematics to students' own interests, experiences, and cul-

OCR for page 60
TEACHING AND LEARNING 89 sure. In urban low-income communities, effective pedagogy also requires attention and sensitivity to the out-of-school challenges that many students face including racism, homelessness, violence, and lack of sufficient re- sources to address mental and physical health problems. (See Chapter 7 for an extended discussion of this topic.) At the core of The Algebra Project (Moses and Cobb, 2001) and Lee's Cultural Modeling (Lee, C.D., 2000) is the goal of attending "holistically to the developmental, cognitive, and emotional needs of students. These models address the complex agenda that Ladson-Billings (1997, 2001) ar- ticulates in her call for culturally responsive pedagogy. They require atten- tion to the very real risks and challenges faced by urban adolescents. In the MESA program, for example, students are given opportunities to develop their skills in dealing with foreign and sometimes hostile environments (e.g., summer jobs in scientific laboratories where personnel are not accus- tomed to people of color). In addition to helping students cope with the challenges they face in urban environments, teachers can empower students by helping them de- velop leadership roles to promote change (Spencer, 1991, 1995, 1999; Spencer, Cross, Harpalani, and Goss, in press; Spencer, Noll, Stoltzfus, and Harpalani, 20011. Ladson-Billings (1994) writes eloquently on the impor- tance of encouraging activism and political awareness in any effort to en- gage low-income urban students in school. What we are recommending expands the role of the teacher substan- tially, from someone who focuses just on subject matter to someone who focuses on students, including the larger context in which they live (Foster, 19941. This requires a commitment to addressing social injustices (Hilliard, 1991, 19951. Teachers' philosophy related to their role may be as impor- tant as their lessons or the curriculum (Bartolome, 1994; Beaubocuf- Lafontant, 1999; Gustein, Lipman, Hernandez, and de los Reyes, 1997; Ladson-Billings, 1995; Lee, 1994; Shujaa, 19941. There is some evidence that teachers who are philosophically committed to equity and racial justice are less likely to have low expectations and more willing to adjust their instruction to meet the needs of their students while maintaining academic rigor (Ball, l995b, 2000a, 2000b; Lightfoot, 1973; Stodolsky and Grossman, 20001. Although no studies have shown the independent effects of a social justice orientation, there is evidence that suggests its possible value. In an evaluation of his National Science Foundation-supported (Mathematics in Context) curriculum supplemented with units on social justice, Gutstein (in press) found that 18 of his 24 7th-grade Latino urban students passed city entrance exams for competitive magnet schools and all went on to take algebra in 9th grade. His students averaged a gain of 1 month's grade equivalent in mathematics for every month they spent in his class. Similar

OCR for page 60
9o ENGAGING SCHOOLS success of students persisting in the mathematics sequence or enjoying math- ematics has been found by mathematics professors who hold a strong social justice stance (Anderson, 1990; Frankenstein, 1990, 19951. Another challenge that is especially prominent in urban schools serv- ing low-income youth is the low level of skills with which many students enter high school. Although there is good evidence that even students who are far behind when they begin high school can master the high school curriculum and achieve high standards, these students are the exception. The programs described in this chapter were all designed for students in schools serving predominantly low-income students and students of color, and they show promise of improving on traditional remedial methods. (See also Chapter 5.) In summary, it is important to acknowledge that teaching in economi- cally disadvantaged urban schools involves special challenges; it is equally important not to fall into a trap of low expectations, which often breed formulaic teaching and restricted conceptions of subject matter (Boater, 2002b). There are far too few examples of urban high schools that hold their students to challenging standards and engage them in mastering diffi- cult disciplinary concepts and strategies, but such schools exist, and provide the proof that schools can become such institutions. Complexity is no excuse for retreat. SUPPORTING TEACHERS Teachers in urban schools face students who are trying to cope with an array of challenges in their lives outside of school and struggling to learn the skills assumed by most high school curricula. These teachers also often face difficult working conditions large class sizes, little preparation time, scarce resources, and now, pressure from high-stakes tests that are often not aligned with their instructional program and goals. Teachers also have to confront their own stereotypes related to race and social class. Given these conditions and challenges, it is not surprising that the kind of ambi- tious pedagogy described in this chapter has not taken root in most urban schools. This kind of teaching requires considerable skill and sustained support. Because of the sheer complexity of teaching and the special chal- lenges of urban schools, the need for strong professional communities of teachers is critical. Indeed, building teacher capacity and providing teachers with ongoing, expert support may be the most critical factor in creating urban high schools that engage all students in learning. The same motivation principles that apply to student engagement are relevant to teachers as well. For example, just as self-efficacy promotes engagement in students, Stodolsky and Grossman (2000) saw relationships between teacher' sense of efficacy and their willingness to adapt to the

OCR for page 60
TEACHING AND LEARNING 9 needs of their students. Ball (199Sa, 2000a, 2000b) has developed an effec- tive program to help groups of teachers grapple with their assumptions about diversity and about what it means to learn. Collaboration and group work are most likely necessary for teachers to develop both the commit- ment and the sense of efficacy to pursue rigorous standards in the often difficult circumstances of urban school teaching. Many studies have shown the value of a culture of collaboration in fostering effective teaching practices (e.g., Coburn, 2001; Desimone, Por- ter, Garet, Yon, and Birman, 2002; Hiebert, Gallimore, and Stigler, 20021. For example, Louis, Marks, and Kruse (1996) found that teachers in schools that had a strong teaching professional community (defined by a shared sense of purpose, collaborative activity, collective focus on student learn- ing, and reflective dialogue) engaged in higher quality teaching, and their students performed higher on NAEP mathematics and reading assessments when compared to teachers in schools with weak professional communi- ties. (See also Louis and Marks, 1998.) Some mathematics experts tout the value of "lesson study," a strategy used in Japan for teacher collaboration. Stigler and Hiebert (1999) suggest that mathematics achievement in the United States might be raised by giv- ing teachers time and support to form teacher workgroups to plan, experi- ment with, analyze, and revise lessons. For example, teachers can videotape and analyze lessons they have planned together. The approach has been introduced in some U.S. elementary and middle schools, and might be adapted to be useful at the high school level as well. In the area of literacy, there are many excellent examples of local professional communities of teachers working in urban districts. Perhaps the longest existing national mode! is the National Writing Project, which promotes collaboration among individual teachers across school sites. Or- ganized, funded projects, such as QUASAR, The Algebra Project, and MESA, provide the practical training and social support required to imple- ment effective and engaging mathematics teaching (Gutierrez, 2000a). There are also many examples of strategies implemented at the city, district, school, and department levels to develop the kind of sustained, professional communities that support effective teaching. Many studies point to the importance of the subject matter department in high school teachers' ability to teach and to adapt to the needs of their students (Gutierrez, 1996; Lieberman and Miller, 2001; Little, 1993; McLaughlin, 1993; McLaughlin and Talbert, 1993, 2001; Siskin, 1994; Talbert and McLaughlin, 1994~. Effective subject matter departments in- volve teachers in collective goal setting; in aligning curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment; in engaging particular students in certain content; and in finding ways of addressing students' overall needs. These collaborative efforts at the department level are associated with positive learning and

OCR for page 60
92 ENGAGING SCHOOLS achievement for students (Ancess, 2000; Freedman, Simons, Kainin, Casareno, and the M-Class Teams, 1999; Greenicaf and Schoenbach, 1999; Lee, 20011. Gutierrez (1996, 1999, 2000b, 2002b) has studied successful urban high school mathematics departments and found that certain forms of struc- tural organization and normative cultures (including beliefs) are associated with teachers' willingness and ability to engage diverse learners. She found that mathematics departments whose teachers did not view mathematics as a static subject, used a rigorous mathematics curriculum, discussed lesson plans and students, rotated course assignments, had a commitment to eq- uity, and observed each other teaching tended to have students who were actively engaged in the mathematics curriculum and scored well on stan- dardized tests. Although they do not report data on student outcomes, Stodolsky and Grossman (2000) likewise found in their survey of teachers in 16 U.S. high schools that mathematics and English teachers who experi- mented with the curriculum in order to engage diverse learners in the classroom tended to work in departments that were collaborative and fo- cused on professional development (see also Coburn, 2001; McLaughlin and Talbert, 20011. A strong sense of community at the department level may also diminish the alienation that teachers often experience in large, urban, bureaucratic schools. Talbert (1995) proposes that collaboration among teachers can serve as a catalyst for increasing a school's commitment to meeting the needs of students who otherwise have low priority (also see Wehiage et al., 19891. Talbert and McLaughlin (1994) found in their analysis of survey data for 253 teachers in 36 academic departments in 8 public high schools that teachers' participation in a collaborative, innovative profes- sional community predicted their expectations for student achievement and their caring for students, controlling for their subject preparation and over- all job satisfaction. Gutierrez (1996, 1999, 2000b, 2002b) and Stodolsky and Grossman (2000) observed further that the teachers who engaged stu- dents best were in professional communities committed to equity. Thus, a teacher's workplace setting is critically important in supporting the kinds of practices that engage students in learning. Practices in schools and the broader community are also important. For example, Valerie Lee (2000) found that high schools that had a communal focus (reformed instruction, shared authority, collective commitment to the personal development of students) produced considerable gains in student achievement and nearly eliminated social class differences between stu- dents. The school community is so critical to successful mathematics teach- ing that in choosing its sites, the QUASAR Project requires a school climate that supports teacher innovation. Schools also have norms regarding what it means to teach and to learn,

OCR for page 60
TEACHING AND LEARNING 93 which can have powerful effects on instruction in classrooms and student engagement. Researchers have examined, for example, norms for instruc- tional conversations: "the kinds of questions to be asked . . ., the concepts to be explored, the vocabulary through which these concepts were ex- pressed, the relevance of personal knowledge and experience, and the na- ture of acceptable argument and evidence" (Applebee et al., 2000, pp.413- 414; see Camden, 1988,2001; Lee, C.D., 2000; Marshall, Smagorinsky, and Smith, 1995; Mehan, 1979; Nystrand and Gamoran, 1991, 1992; Tharp and Gallimore, 19881. These norms often vary for different tracks. Studies show that the students in lower track classes have significantly fewer op- portunities to elaborate on ideas, to weigh evidence from multiple and sometimes conflicting points of view, or to generate propositions (McDermott, 1987; Nystrand and Gamoran, 1997; Oakes, 1985) the kind of active participation in rigorous learning experiences that motivation researchers have found to be most engaging. As Rosa, a 9th-grade student from the Strategic Literacy Project (Greenicaf et al., 2001, p. 101), de- scribes: Um, usually in like a regular history class, like the one I had last year? Which was just pretty much all writing? Okay, "read from page so-n-so to so-n-so, answer the red square questions and the unit questions and turn them in." And he corrects them and says, "You did this wrong, you did this right. Okay, here you go." And that was pretty much the basic way every single day has gone. So, from day one to the end of the year, that's pretty much all we did. Answer the red square questions. And pret- ty much it's been like that since I got to middle school...." Urban schools serving low-income students are capable of much more, as is illustrated in a real instructional dialogue that reflected disciplined norms for reasoning in response to literature (see Box 3-4~. As efforts are made to improve the support and circumstances teachers encounter in urban high schools, parallel efforts need to be made to recruit teachers with expertise in their subject matter. The best of circumstances will not overcome deficiencies in knowledge of subject matter, of how people learn, and of the developmental needs of adolescents. Realistically, the kind of teaching described in this chapter is not likely to be imple- mented on a large scale until teaching is made more attractive in terms of working conditions that support career-long professional development, es- pecially in urban schools. Equally important are improvements in preservice teacher education that address preparation for the quality of teaching that this chapter has described. Teacher training is beyond the scope of this volume, but it is clearly a critical piece of any effort to improve teaching in urban high schools.

OCR for page 60
94 ENGAGING SCHOOLS CONCLUSIONS The findings from research on effective teaching of literacy and math- ematics are strikingly similar. The evidence suggests that the instructional program must be challenging and focused on disciplinary knowledge and conceptual understanding. It needs to be relevant to and build on students' cultural backgrounds and personal experiences, and provide opportunities for students to engage in authentic tasks that have meaning in the world outside of school. Engaging instruction gives students multiple learning

OCR for page 60
TEACHING AND LEARNING 95 modalities to master material and represent their knowledge, and allows them to draw on their native language and other resources. This kind of teaching is not possible if teachers do not have a deep understanding of their subject matter, of how people learn, and of how to address students' developmental needs. In addition, teachers need opportu- nities to collaborate with colleagues, and access to ongoing, expert guid- ance to advance their own knowledge and skills. Effective pedagogy also needs to be supported by a coherent school curriculum and school norms

OCR for page 60
96 ENGAGING SCHOOLS that support student inquiry and active involvement in their learning, inter- est in students as individuals, and respect for their cultural backgrounds. Our intent is not to argue that simply providing "good" pedagogy is sufficient. Our point is that "good" pedagogy is engaging and motivating. We do not assume that if you offer rigor students will come. We are confident, however, that if schools offer rigor and explicit supports for learning that are responsive to the developmental needs and cultural back- grounds of students, the majority of students will enter the academic game.