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Increasing Adolescent Engagement, Motivation, and Achievement: Efficacy of a Web-Based, Teacher Professional Development Model

Year: 2010
Name of Institution:
University of Virginia
Goal: Efficacy and Replication
Principal Investigator:
Allen, Joseph
Award Amount: $2,688,440
Award Period: 4 years
Award Number: R305A100367


Co-Principal Investigators: Anne Gregory (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey), Robert C. Pianta and Amori Mikami (The University of Virginia)

Purpose: By the time adolescents enter high school, more than half report that they do not take school or their studies seriously. Many adolescents also report that their interactions with teachers are not satisfying or motivating, suggesting that teachers may be uniquely positioned to promote student engagement in school. Because disengagement and lack of motivation are often expressed through disruptive and uncooperative classroom behavior, their negative effects on learning are compounded by missed instructional time due to office discipline referrals and in-school suspensions. My Teaching Partner (MTP) is designed to change the quality of teacher-student interactions in ways that enhance student engagement, reduce problematic behaviors, and increase student achievement. At the secondary level, MTP provides on-going, personalized coaching and feedback to support teachers' appropriate responses to adolescents' unique developmental needs. In this efficacy study, the research team will examine the effects of MTP on the academic performance of students in high school and determine the extent to which improved teacher-student interaction increases student behavioral and achievement outcomes via their impact on student engagement and motivation.

Project Activities: The MTP teacher training program for the secondary level focuses on three developmental needs of adolescents: (1) relational support, (2) autonomy and competence, and (3) relevant and meaningful learning. Using videotape review and video-conferencing, a trained consultant provides on-going feedback to teachers on their interactions with students related to these developmental needs. In this efficacy study, high school teachers are randomly assigned within schools to participate in the MTP intervention or a control group. MTP teachers receive a one-day introductory workshop, followed by 16 bi-weekly consultation cycles over the course of the school year—all focused on the same specific classroom of students, their lowest academic level regular class. In the second year, these same teachers participate in a half-day booster workshop, followed by eight consultation cycles spaced monthly, with data collection on a new classroom of students. Control teachers will also provide data on their lowest academic level regular class but otherwise are exposed only to the district's standard in-service training. In the third year, both treatment and control teachers will participate in data collection with a new class, but no intervention will occur in order to assess the generalizability of effects.

Products: The expected products include published reports on the effects of My Teaching Partner on the behavior and academic achievement of high school students and the extent to which student engagement and motivation mediate the relationship between improved teacher-student interactions and students' academic success.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Four high schools in a large urban school district in Virginia.

Population: Study participants are 100 high school teachers and approximately 4,500 students.

Intervention: My Teaching Partner (MTP) is a web-based system of professional development for teachers. At the secondary school level, this program uses a validated observational system, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System-Secondary (CLASS-S), to provide teachers with feedback on the nature and effectiveness of their interactions with adolescent students. The secondary school version is fully developed and manualized, adapting principles of the preschool and elementary school program, but modified to be sensitive to the unique needs of teachers of adolescents. Combining information about adolescent social development and motivation with web- and video-conferencing, MTP is designed to enhance the social and behavioral context for learning at the secondary level. The program is based on a five-stage consultancy cycle that repeats twice per month over the course of the first school year of implementation, with each cycle extending across a two-week period. In the second year of implementation, consultations occur once per month. The school year begins with a one-day workshop in the first year of implementation, and a half-day booster workshop in the second year of implementation. Teachers provide videotapes of their classrooms to the consultant, who then provides feedback about the interactions using the CLASS-S observation system.

Research Design and Methods: In this efficacy study, teachers are randomly assigned to treatment or control group. Treatment teachers will receive the intervention in the first two years of the project. In the third year, no intervention will occur in order to assess the generalizability of effects. Across these three years, all treatment and control teachers provide data on their lowest academic level regular class.

Control Condition: Teachers who are assigned to the control group will receive the district's standard in-service training.

Key Measures: The quality of classroom interactions will be assessed using the CLASS-S and survey responses from teachers and students (e.g., the Student Trust in and Obligation to Teacher Authority scale, the Behavioral Expectations scale, and the Student Reported Engagement scale). Student academic achievement will be measured pre- and post-intervention using the Virginia Standards of Learning test for the relevant course content of the focal classroom. Student behavior will be assessed using the Cheating Behavior scale, the Disruptive Behavior scale, and school records (e.g., attendance, disciplinary referrals).

Data Analytic Strategy: Using data collected throughout the school year, latent growth curve analyses will be used to determine whether MTP produces changes in student engagement, motivation, disruptive behavior, and academic achievement. Exploratory growth curve analyses will be used to identify critical process mediators of intervention effects.

Publications from this project:

Gregory, A., Allen, J.P., Mikami, A., Hafen, C.A., and Pianta, R.C. (forthcoming). The Effectiveness Of A Teacher Professional Development Program In Reducing The Racial Disparity In Classroom Discipline Referrals. In D. Losen (Ed.), Racial Inequity In School Discipline. Los Angeles, CA: Center for civil rights remedy and the Civil rights project, UCLA.

Hafen, C., Allen, J.P., Mikami, A.Y., Gregory, A., Hamre, B.K., and Pianta, R.C. (2012). The Pivotal Role Of Adolescent Autonomy In Secondary Classrooms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41:245–255.

Mikami, A., Gregory, A., Allen, J.P., Pianta, R.C., and Lun, J. (2011). Effects Of A Teacher Professional Development Intervention On Peer Relationships In Secondary Classrooms. School Psychology Review, 40 (3): 367–385.

Pianta, R.C., Hamre, B.K., and Allen, J.P. (2012). Teacher-Student Relationships and Engagement: Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Improving the Capacity of Classroom Interactions. Handbook of Research on Student Engagement, 365–386.