Equipping High School Teachers to Increase Student Motivation and Course Passing Rates
Co-Principal Investigator: Douglas J. Mac Iver
Purpose: In this project, researchers will develop and test a set of professional development (PD) modules and related tools intended to improve high school teachers' attitudes and practices in ways that support and motivate students to work hard in their classes. Increased motivation and effort are predicted to lead to fewer course failures. Whether students pass or fail classes, particularly in ninth grade, is a strong predictor of high school graduation. For many students, course failure results from lack of engagement in course work. Helping teachers change their practice to engage students and meet course requirements is a critical need in high schools.
Project Activities: In the first year, the researchers will work in one high school with teachers and administrators to develop an initial version of the PD modules. In the second year, the PD will be field tested in another high school to determine usability and feasibility. In the third year, the researchers will randomly assign four high schools to implement the PD intervention or to serve as control schools to determine the promise of the PD for changing teacher attitudes and practices, and student effort, motivation, and course pass rates. In the final year, researchers will devote time to data analyses and final modifications to the PD modules.
Products: This project will result in a set of PD modules and supporting materials for high school teachers to use as they seek to motivate and engage students to meet course requirements and put them on a path to high school graduation. Researchers will also produce peer reviewed publications.
Setting: This study will take place in Washington, DC and Maine in urban, low income high schools.
Sample: Teachers and administrators in two high schools will participate in the development and field testing activities. Students, teachers, and administrators in four high schools will participate in the pilot study. Eligible high schools will have at least 30 teachers and 600 students available to participate, and relatively low graduation and course passing rates.
Intervention: The intervention includes PD modules and associated tools for teachers and administrators to help them understand and identify ways to prevent students from failing in high school. The modules will provide strategies for teachers to use to motivate students to work hard to earn course credit. There are eight modules, each delivered in a 2-hour PD session, and supplementary lesson planning and instructional tools that focus on five issues: 1) building consensus among high school teachers regarding the need to intervene to ensure students earn a passing grade in a course the first time they take it; 2) strategies to increase student motivation to exert effort to complete course requirements; 3) strategies to incorporate motivational goals into planning and delivering instruction and student assignments; 4) new approaches for assessing and grading student work that allows students to recover from failure; and 5) collaboration among teachers regarding strategies and practices for improving student motivation, effort, and academic performance.
Research Design and Methods: In the first year, the researchers will work in one high school to develop an initial version of the PD modules. They will use an iterative process involving observations, surveys, focus groups, interviews, and implementation of individual modules to inform revisions. In the second year, researchers will field test the full set of PD modules in another high school to investigate whether the PD modules are usable and feasible. The researchers will develop implementation fidelity measures during field testing. In the third year, the researchers will randomly assign four high schools to implement the PD intervention or to serve as control schools to determine promise for changing teacher attitudes and practices, and student effort, motivation, and course pass rates. In the final year of the project, researchers will conduct data analyses and final revisions to the PD modules.
Control Condition: High schools randomly assigned to the control group will continue to conduct typical practices.
Key Measures: The researchers will use online surveys to measure teachers' attitudes (e.g., teaching efficacy; beliefs about reasons students fail classes) and practices (e.g., being proactive with struggling students; use of grading practices that allow for recovery from failure). Researchers will measure student engagement and achievement motivation using self-report. The researchers will also collect school record data of attendance and grades (pass/fail) to measure effort and achievement.
Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use descriptive analyses to inform the development process. They will use ordinary least-squares regression and hierarchical linear modeling analyses to determine impact of the PD on teacher and student outcomes and whether outcomes differ depending on course content area.