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FY Awards

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A Research Synthesis of the Effects of Classroom Structure on Student Motivation, Engagement, and Achievement

Year: 2016
Name of Institution:
University of Southern California
Goal: Exploration
Principal Investigator:
Patall, Erika
Award Amount: $383,768
Award Period: 2 years (8/1/2016-7/31/2018)
Award Number: R305A160406


Previous Grant Number: R305A160027
Previous Institution: University of Texas, Austin

Co-Principal Investigator: S. Natasha Beretvas

Purpose: The researchers will conduct a research synthesis, including a meta-analysis, focused on the role of classroom structure in students' academic outcomes, including their motivation, engagement, and achievement. Research and theory suggest that teachers who provide structure and organization in the classroom environment support students' academic outcomes by facilitating feelings of competence, keeping students engaged and on task, managing their behavior, and avoiding chaos in the classroom. However, heterogeneity in findings is also evident. This comprehensive, systematic synthesis of the current evidence, including an examination of key moderators, will provide critical information needed in order to make the most accurate recommendations for future research endeavors and teachers' practice.

Project Activities: The researchers will conduct a database search of relevant studies to provide sufficient information to include in this synthesis. The researchers will review the studies to (1) examine what the cumulative experimental, correlational, and observational evidence suggest regarding the extent to which classroom structure is associated with students' academic motivation, engagement, and achievement, (2) examine how these relations vary depending on characteristics of the classroom structure construct or structure intervention, (3) examine the role of characteristics of the setting, students, outcome, and research methods in these relations, and (4) assess the limitations, challenges, and areas still in need of inquiry regarding the links between classroom structure and students' academic outcomes.

Products: Researchers will produce a peer-reviewed synthesis article.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This meta-analysis will include studies that were conducted within a naturalistic school or classroom context and involved the provision of structure by a teacher. Studies can focus on any level from preschool through college and be from any country, provided the results are reported in English. Traditional, inclusive, and special education classrooms will be included.

Sample: Studies included in the synthesis must somehow assess the relation between classroom structure and students' academic motivation, engagement, or achievement outcomes. Researchers will make efforts to gain access to published and unpublished data to minimize potential publication bias.

Intervention: Researchers will review and synthesize evidence focusing on classroom structure. For the purposes of this review, classroom structure is defined as any and all non-instructional practice that is implemented by teachers with the intent to organize and guide students' school-relevant behavior. Classroom structure may be alternatively labeled classroom management, classroom organization, among other terms, and may focus on one or several of a variety of individual teacher practices, in particular the provision of clear expectations, routines, or plans, explicit directions, and appropriate monitoring, guidance, or feedback.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will use three broad strategies to search the published literature on classroom structure and academic motivation, engagement, and achievement outcomes: reference databases, descendant searches, and antecedent references. The databases include ERIC, PsycINFO, Dissertation Abstracts International, and Academic Search Complete. Researchers will examine cited references within articles selected for inclusion through other strategies and will also search Social Sciences Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index Expanded for documents catalogued in any year that made reference to early seminal papers on the topic. Finally, researchers will also use a number of strategies to locate grey (i.e., unpublished or difficult to retrieve) literature.

Control Condition: Due to the study design, there is no control or comparison condition.

Key Measures: Academic outcomes most typically include students' grades, standardized test scores, or other measures of learning (e.g., teacher or researcher designed knowledge or skill tests), behavioral, emotional, or cognitive engagement, on-task behavior or attention (similar to behavioral engagement), regulation of academic behaviors or study strategies, perceptions of academic competence, efficacy, esteem, or control, intrinsic/autonomous motivation or interest, value for tasks, classes, or school, controlled or extrinsic motivation, and academic aspirations or choices. Measures of classroom structure may utilize both observational and survey methods.

Data Analytic Strategy: This research synthesis and meta-analysis will employ state-of-the-art aggregation and moderator analysis methods. These methods involve an approach that views research synthesis as a data gathering exercise and applies criteria similar to those employed to judge the validity of primary research. The approach requires (a) precise problem definition, (b) exhaustive and unbiased gathering of the research evidence, (c) careful examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the included research, (d) appropriate methods for data integration, including meta-analysis, (e) cautious interpretation of the cumulative evidence, and (f) complete reporting of the syntheses' methods and results. Researchers will synthesize results for each type of study design separately.