Virtual School Meanderings

April 14, 2018

AERA 2018 – Blended Learning for Math: A Middle School Comparative Study

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the 2018 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association is happening over the next few days. The sixth blog entry related to K-12 online learning session from AERA 2018 that I am posting is:

Blended Learning for Math: A Middle School Comparative Study

In K-12 Perspectives on Technologies + Pedagogies
Sat, April 14, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Westin New York at Times Square, Fifth Floor, Melville Room

Abstract – A quantitative causal comparative study was conducted to investigate the effect of blended learning on math achievement in 413 6th grade students. Scores on the Texas state assessment STAAR, as well as the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) were used. T-test was conducted to determine the differences in the scores of students taught in traditional face to face classroom and those that were taught using blended learning, where at least part of the instruction was provided through online, adaptive, digital content. Findings revealed that students instructed through blended learning scored higher on MAP assessment (p = .003), while students instructed in a face-to-face setting scored higher on STAAR (p= .005). These findings suggest the need to further evaluate blended learning.

Authors
Melanie Bryant, Austin Independent School District
Minaz Fazal, New York Institute of Technology

Does differentiation of instruction, to meet the student at where they are, impact on their learning.  The study focused on sixth grade mathematics in the Austin school district, using the STARR math data (i.e., a criterion-referenced measure) and the growth data on the Measure of Academic Progress (i.e., a norm-referenced measure).  This was a media comparison study, using the traditional face-to-face class as the control and the blended learning classroom being the treatment.

It is a pity that this was a doctoral dissertation, as it was a waste of the student’s time to do yet another meaningless media comparison study.  But I don’t blame the student, I blame the advisor and the committee – as they should have known better and steered the student away from a study that was so full of confounding variables (which is the case with all media comparison studies) that it was a meaningless piece of work.

The student spoke about the theoretical foundations of the study, which included Dewey, Piaget, Bruner, and Vygotsky – and whether instruction should be focused on rote understanding or whether instruction should be differentiated for each student.  I wonder if that had any impact on the results, as opposed to the presence or absence of blended learning?

I cringe to quote the content matter expert on this student’s dissertation committee, when she stated “technology is the best way to scale up differentiation.”

The sample size was 413 – 208 were taught in a blended environment (and blended environment was never defined, but given the fact that 208 students likely means 6-8 classes, I suspect that there would have been six to eight definitions of what constituted a blended learning environment) and 205 students taught in a traditional face-to-face setting.  Two students were dropped from the sample – not sure from which group(s) – as they hadn’t completed both assessments.

The data were analyzed using a two factor t-test.  The meaningless results are below (and the statements underneath each table is funny, given that this is a media comparison study):


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Interestingly, once again I cringed when the faculty member almost sang, “and we all know mixed methods studies are the best.”  The contribution of the faculty member told me a lot more about the inherent limitations of the study than the study itself!

AERA 2018 – Public Educators Under Private Management: Black Teachers’ Experiences in Quasi-Markets of School Choice and Competition

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the 2018 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association is happening over the next few days. The fifth blog entry related to K-12 online learning session from AERA 2018 that I am posting is:

Public Educators Under Private Management: Black Teachers’ Experiences in Quasi-Markets of School Choice and Competition

In Growing and Sustaining Black Teachers: Examining the Intersection of Identity, Professional Development, and School Context
Sat, April 14, 10:35am to 12:05pm, New York Hilton Midtown, Second Floor, Sutton Center

Abstract – Positive school-working conditions—leadership/professional development, academic expectations, teacher relationships, and safety/order—have been found to significantly impact teacher turnover and student achievement (Kraft, Marinell, & Yee, 2016). Attention to working conditions is particularly important for maintaining a racially diverse teacher workforce, as research on the benefits of teacher diversity, including significant gains in academic outcomes for students of color (Dee, 2004; Egalite & Kisida, 2015; Grissom & Redding, 2016; Wright, 2015), are undermined by poor working conditions that lead to teacher turnover, particularly for teachers of color (ToCs; Ingersoll & May, 2011). In light of the salience of working conditions for ToCs, this paper draws attention to education reforms that have radically restructured organizational conditions in which many ToCs work, such as the creation of new schools operated by leaders from the private sector. In several cities across the country, district leaders have sought to dissolve centrally managed public schools, moving from a school system to a system of schools, such as a “portfolio model of management” (PMM) encompassing multiple providers with varying organizational practices (Bulkley, 2010). In PMMs, government contracts with private providers offer autonomy from district rules in exchange for accountability in hopes of fostering innovation and greater academic outcomes (Bulkley, 2010).

Research is unclear, however, about Black teachers’ sorting patterns and employment choices in a changing landscape of school governance. Critical analysts warn, moreover, that experimentation with PMMs has occurred primarily in cities serving sizeable populations of students of color and foster troubling patterns of disruption, such as “school closures, school takeovers/turnarounds, the expansion of charter schools/networks that serve as a replacement for democratically elected boards of education, and the wholesale firing of veteran teachers, most of whom are African American” (Anderson & Dixson, 2016, p. 366). Indeed a major consequence of educational restructuring has included the decline and displacement of Black teachers in large cities (Albert Shanker Institute, 2015; Anderson & Dixson, 2016; Buras, 2015); a noted paradox in light of prominent efforts to reduce racial parity gaps between students and teachers of color (White, 2016b). Nonetheless, as PMMs expand via marketization of public schools, novice and developing educators of color will increasingly choose—or feel “chosen” (see Mary Pattillo’s (2016) ethnography with parents in Chicago’s school choice program)—to work in privately managed public schools.

As such, this paper uses qualitative interviews with 25 Black teachers who work in autonomous/semi-autonomous public schools, including charter, innovation, pilot, and virtual schools. An iterative analysis of themes from interviews are used to understand Black teachers’ professional opportunities and choices, their experiences and relationships with leaders, whether/how autonomy is distributed in new educational contexts as a dimension of working conditions, as well as the role of race in shaping issues of power and control in teachers’ negotiations of classroom practices. A critical study of these issues is significant to enhance retention efforts of ToCs and to broaden discussions about the de/re/professionalization of teachers in market-driven public schools.

Author
Terrenda Corisa White, University of Colorado-Boulder

The reality of many jurisdictions in the United States is that we have moved from a school system to a system of schools.  The main purpose of this study was to explore how are black teachers being sorted or displaced in a competitive education market.  Essentially, does school choice water down efforts to diversify the teaching workforce.

The specific research questions for this study were:

 
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The sociocultural framework through which this research was viewed was described as:


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The participants in this study included:


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Interestingly, the average teacher turnover rate over the previous three years of public schools in the neighborhood was 19%.  The turnover rate at Brighton was 60%, which she characterized as structural changes because they were leaving the charter school that was managed by an educational management organization to some other setting.

The findings that were reported included:


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Interestingly, while the abstract indicated that “this paper uses qualitative interviews with 25 Black teachers who work in autonomous/semi-autonomous public schools, including charter, innovation, pilot, and virtual schools;” there was no data focused on virtual schools presented as a part of the study.

The session was included as part of a panel, that was described as:

Growing and Sustaining Black Teachers: Examining the Intersection of Identity, Professional Development, and School Context

Sat, April 14, 10:35am to 12:05pm, New York Hilton Midtown, Second Floor, Sutton Center

Session Type: Symposium

Abstract

Given the body of research indicating the positive impact Black teachers have on students, there is a need for scholarship highlighting the complex nature of their teaching and learning experiences. Thus, this symposium aims to achieve the following objectives: (a) utilize historical inquiry to explore the Black teacher construct through metaphor and consider implications for addressing their varied and layered professional experiences; (b) examine how Black teachers, at the intersection of various identity markers, confront and overcome systemic challenges in urban school settings; (c) explore professional development supports tailored to, and differentiated based on, Black teachers’ developmental experiences as novice, mid-career, and veteran teachers; and (d) examine how Black teachers experience and navigate a quasi-market of school choice and competition.

These papers form a special issue that will be published in The Urban Review.

I did ask Terrenda following her session, as she had mentioned at the beginning that she had collected data from four schools, but was just presenting on three of them for this session.  The fourth was not a virtual school.  While her IRB allows her to collect data from virtual and cyber programs, she has not been able to recruit one yet.

AERA 2018 – Predicting Online English Language Learning Outcome From Learner-, Instructor-, and Course-Level Factors

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the 2018 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association is happening over the next few days. The fourth blog entry related to K-12 online learning session from AERA 2018 that I am posting is:

Predicting Online English Language Learning Outcome From Learner-, Instructor-, and Course-Level Factors

In Investigating Ways of Evaluating, Measuring, Predicting, and Profiling Online Attitudes and Behaviors
Sat, April 14, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Westin New York at Times Square, Ninth Floor, New Amsterdam Room

Abstract – Online language learning poses great challenges on both learners and instructors. While most studies of online language learning used students’ self-perceived data and focused on higher education, this study provides a comprehensive examination of factors predicting online high-school English language learning outcome from learner, instructor, and course level using data from the learning management system (LMS). Using hierarchical linear modeling with 919 student data nested in 8 course courses taught by 13 instructors, our findings suggested that students’ login times and durations in the LMS significantly predicts their academic achievement. Furthermore, having more project-based assignments and text resources such as instructor guide helped enhance student learning. Implications for online language course design, teaching practices, and research are discussed.

Authors
Binbin Zheng, Michigan State University
Chin-Hsi Lin, The University of Hong Kong
Jemma Bae Kwon, Michigan Virtual

Now even though there are only like 20 or so K-12 online learning presentations scheduled at AERA (out of literally thousands of presentations – I mean for those that don’t attend the program is like an old telephone book, and that’s without abstracts), there are two occurring during the same slot and they are in different hotels that are about a 15-18 minute walk between them.  So I’m in the other session, which is one that I didn’t know much about.

This particular presentation is focused on:

ABSTRACT

Exploring the Impact of Student-, Instructor-, and Course-level Factors on Student Learning in Online English Language and Literature CoursesThe number of K-12 students taking online courses has increased tremendously over the past few years. However, while most current research in online learning focuses either on comparing its overall effectiveness with traditional learning or examining perceptions or interactions using self-reported data, scant research has looked into online design elements and students’ learning outcome in K-12 settings. This report seeks to explore how the combination of three main online education components – student, instructor, and course design – contribute to students’ online learning success in high school English language and literature courses.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

WRITTEN BY
  • BinBin Zheng – Michigan State University
WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW
  • Mixed findings were reported regarding the effectiveness of online language courses.
  • Key obstacles in online language learning include the lack of sufficient interactions, immediate feedback, and technology training.
  • Self-reported online interactions significantly predicted students’ academic achievement.
WHAT THIS REPORT ADDS
  • Project-based assignments were beneficial for all students in online English language courses.
  • Text-based learning resources, such as instructor guides, helped students gain better learning outcomes at the end of the semester.
  • Engaging students in more low-level knowledge activities, such as remembering, had a negative impact on their learning outcomes.
  • Giving students autonomy in their own learning, promoting discussion and feedback exchange, and strengthening students’ sense of audience and authorship were of vital importance to students’ success with online language learning.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE AND/OR POLICY
  • Course designers could consider incorporating project-based assignments in online language courses, which usually involve higher-level knowledge skills (e.g., analyze, evaluate, and create), as it may increase students’ learning outcomes.
  • Online teachers and course designers should not use the online discussion board simply as a platform for submitting written assignments; instead, it should be fully explored to maximize its affordance for interaction and feedback exchange.
  • Online instructors or course designers could consider including more text-mapping or organizers to better scaffold students’ reading comprehension and writing process in English language courses.

 

If anyone happens to be in the room, feel free to post some comments in the notes below.

April 13, 2018

AERA 2018 – The Social Construction of School Knowledge

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the 2018 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association is happening over the next few days. The third blog entry related to K-12 online learning session from AERA 2018 that I am posting is:

The Social Construction of School Knowledge

In Fifty Years of International Curriculum Studies
Fri, April 13, 4:05 to 6:05pm, New York Hilton Midtown, Second Floor, Gramercy Room West

Abstract – My contribution would examine what might be called, after Michel Callon, the ‘pacification’ of the curriculum: its transformation into stable, inalienable forms that can be claimed as possessions by students. I look back to discussions in JCS on the social construction of knowledge (including my own works on making systems and curricular conversions of cultural capital), but focus in particular on the future and the fate of curriculum in virtual schooling regimes and the educational imaginaries of ‘learning technologists`.

Author
Jan K. Nespor, The Ohio State University

This was the third presentation in a symposium that is described as:

Fifty Years of International Curriculum Studies

Abstract

The international Journal of Curriculum Studies turns 50 in 2018. Since then, it has developed into the most widely used and cited international flagship in its field. The aim of the proposed symposium is to look back on those five decades and, more importantly, to ask based on this how the field may develop in the future. To do so, we have invited authors, whose publications in JCS have had a significant international impact, and who represent different strands and approaches to what curriculum studies have been in the past and could be in the future. In line with the history of the Journal, the symposium will focus on the changing content and context of schooling.

The symposium was designed in a panel format, with each of the presenters having only a short presentation, and then the rest of the session largely being a panel with questions from the audience.

Following comments by Michael Apple and James Spillane, both of who spoke about the field in general and the historical trends, Jan Nespor focused on the current situation and the mobile nature of students these days.  This mobility meant that students didn’t engage with “A” curriculum, but fragments of a curriculum.  He used the example from his own state of Ohio, and stated that there were over 26,000 students passed through the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), but it only billed the government for 16,000 some odd students.  This means that between 40%-70% of the students that were associated with ECOT did not stick around long enough for ECOT to actually consider them being formally enrolled for FTE funding purposes.  He also said that it was the fact that ECOT has consistency been a failing school or had this revolving door of students that cause it to shut down, but the fact that it couldn’t document to the state’s liking the enrollments that they were billing for.

He also talked a bit about the compression of the curriculum, following a discussion about the neo-liberal attack on time in school.  In the case of K-12 online learning, he used the example of cyber schools where students can basically do very little of their course curriculum for much of the semester, but in the final few weeks work their way through the manner in which these cyber schools deliver curriculum – and that causes a compression of the curriculum.  We see similar things with online credit recovery courses that can literally be completed in minutes, and ironically the only push back against this has been the NCAA or all organizations, that refused to accept credits from many of these cyber schools.

It was interesting to hear how what has often been described as one of the main advantages of K-12 online learning – i.e., the flexibility of online learning (from model to delivery to content to etc.) – changed or should be changing how we are understanding curriculum today.

I stayed around for about 15-20 minutes after the questions began, but since K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning wasn’t even mentioned once, I decided to duck out and begin my ~90 minute subway and train ride back to the colleague’s home that I am staying while attending AERA.

AERA 2018 – Online Teachers’ and On-Site Facilitators’ Shared Responsibilities at a Supplemental Virtual Secondary School

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the 2018 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association is happening over the next few days. The second blog entry related to K-12 online learning session from AERA 2018 that I am posting is:

Online Teachers’ and On-Site Facilitators’ Shared Responsibilities at a Supplemental Virtual Secondary School

In The Teacher’s Perspective: Exploring Professional Development, Teacher Efficacy, and Responsibilities
Fri, April 13, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Westin New York at Times Square, Fifth Floor, Melville Room

Abstract – Local schools are increasingly providing their students who are enrolled in an online course with an on-site facilitator as a means for increasing online pass rates. However, few studies have examined how online teachers and on-site facilitators work in conjunction to support online students. Using purposeful sampling methods, successful on-site facilitators (n=12) and online teachers (n=12) participated in two one-hour interviews for a total of 48 interviews. Analysis found that while both the teachers and facilitators assumed extensive and complex roles, their responsibilities were overlapping but complementary.

Authors
Jered Borup, George Mason University
Rebecca Stimson, Michigan Virtual University

This session was based on research that Jered has completed with the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute.

He began the session by describing the nature of supplemental K-12 online learning, followed by outlining the Adolescent Community of Engagement framework (see https://sites.google.com/site/jeredborup/research-statement and you’ll get some of the relevant citations).

As Michigan passed a law requiring that schools have a school-based mentor, this study was focused on interviews with 12 mentors at schools that had pass rates higher than the state average.  Interestingly, 11 of the facilitators had daily lab time, and 1 had weekly lab time (and that individual was an Assistant Principal that could pull students in individually) – which was an unofficial important finding in and of itself.

Mentors often spent a lot of time preparing for orienting the students, but students often skipped over these items; which required that the mentors do that with the students individually.  The mentors also had to deal with a lot of technical issues and build relationships at the beginning of each semester.  Once the semester got going, the mentors main role shifted to a monitoring and motivating role (e.g., checking progress in the system and then using school-based carrots and sticks).  While instruction was the primary role of the online teacher, the mentors did indicate that the students would often come to them for tutoring (but these 12 individuals did a good job at re-directing those students back to the online teacher).  At the end of the semester, mentors were often busy proctoring exams, communicating with the parents/guardians to get the student finished, and just being a drill sergeant with the students to complete their course(s).

One of the biggest reasons that these mentors were successful is because they were given the time in their schedule to do their job.  Additionally, while the responsibilities of the online teacher and the mentor often overlapped, there was little communication between the two to coordinate those efforts.

The slides for this session are available at: http://goo.gl/orMgQi

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