ID Case Analysis: Maya Thomas: Implementing Instructional Approaches in a K-12 Setting
In selecting this case study, I am able to relate personal experience to that of Ruth Ann. Finding innovative ways to motivate students who display a sense of apathy can be trying at times.
Needs Assessment Condition:
The current situation at Middle City Middle School would be assessed using problem/crisis model. Anytime teachers are faced with students who are unwilling to learn due to various reasons, immediate intervention must take place. The apathy exhibited is reflective of several factors, which will be discussed in the following paragraphs.
- Determine whether there really is a problem.
- Following up on an email received from a 7th grade math teacher, Maya Thomas, a staff development and instructional consultant began to follow up on the teacher’s request for assistance. Ruth Ann, a veteran teacher, was faced with a group of students did not care about their education and were disruptive during class.
- Some of the noted behaviors noted by Ruth Ann included students not completing homework, poor attitudes toward school, distracting mannerisms, many lacking in basic math skills.
- Ruth Ann teaches in a traditional manner, that being from the front of the room, assigning homework with numerous questions and requiring memorization of formulas.
- Determine whether the cause of the problem is related to learners’ achievement in educational environments.
- Middle City Middle School is undergoing a transition and has experienced an increase of students coming from single parent, low- income homes where there have been numerous relocations. These students lack continuity in any one learning institution for any length of time.
- This lack of continuity has resulted in a deficiency of math skills among other academic skills.
- Ruth Ann assumes that a large number of these students lack parental supervision or receive support at home.
Located in a transitioning community, Middle City has gone from small farming families and working-class to one populated by professionals seeking the tranquility of rural America. With the influx of new community members, attitudes and expectations toward education were also changing. Moving from a traditional approach in learning, new ideas and expectations were arising. These changes were both exciting and frightening at the same time for teachers such as Ruth Ann.
Students enrolled at the school, particularly those in in Ruth Ann’s class, come from a wide range of backgrounds. Those displaying behaviors non-conducive to learning were mainly from homes of single parents, low income, and where they spent large amounts of time without parental supervision. Traits such of these lend themselves to a negative influence on the students. Rarely did students whose families were farmers or professionals demonstrate disruptive mannerisms or unresponsive attitudes.
In assessing learner characteristics, several factors stood out. Cognitively speaking, there are a large number of students in Ruth Ann’s class who lack motivation to succeed. This lack of motivation can be linked to not only their learning environment but the home environment also. These students are also deficient in basic math skills, making learning new algorithms difficult if not impossible. Without a foundation to build upon, these students are like a sand castle with the incoming tide.
Ruth Ann acknowledges the fact that there must be a change and she mentioned that she was “open to trying anything” but does not know what direction to go. It is her hope to provide the students with a more authentic, hands-on approach to math. She realizes the traditional approach to teaching is not working and firmly believes the students would learn more in a “real world” situation. The only problem is that she does not have any direction to implement these changes for the students.
Preliminary Analysis Questions:
1. Critique the steps Maya took to identify the needs in the case, including the collection and analysis of data.
Maya initiated her investigation after carefully listening to Ruth Ann. During the conversation, Maya was sympathetic to Ruth Ann’s situation but also objective. Thinking methodically, she began by creating a plan to identify students who had previously taken seventh-grade pre-algebra, sixth-grade students currently enrolled, and teachers who teach that subject. This was a positive step, but Maya could have gone one step further and interviewed students and teachers from surrounding schools. The decision to divide students into three subcategories helped Maya to strategically separate her findings. The subcategories were: students who did well, students who struggled, and those likely to be defined as “at risk.” Following the identification process, Maya looked through the state and national math standards, comparing those to the current textbook being used finding discrepancies between the two. By identifying an issue between standards and text currently being used, Maya could help Ruth Ann find a curriculum that did meet standards along with those of the students. Once these two steps were complete, she proceeded to analyze the information collected. Unfortunately she was faced with issues above and beyond students merely lacking math skills. Maya had identified another glaring problem needing to be addressed, resistance to education. Many students interviews expressed a negative viewpoint of math, excessive homework, lack of support at home, and most disturbingly, the belief that math does not matter. Due to the depth of the investigation, Maya was able to hopefully get to the root of problems.
2. What are some of the options Maya can explore to support the learning environment Ruth Ann requested?
Maya can begin by visiting other sixth and seventh grade classrooms in other schools and districts. By widening her horizons, she may come upon teachers who have already encountered situations such as these and may have found a viable solution. She may also see techniques that she realizes will not work in Ruth Ann’s classroom or school. Since Ruth Ann would like to incorporate more “real world problems” and technology in the classroom, Maya should provide examples of schools where this is employed. Before Ruth Ann gets to heavily invested in incorporating technology in the classroom, Maya must ensure she has the skills and support necessary to be successful. There is nothing worse than getting in a bind in front of a classroom. This would completely undermine what confidence the students have in Ruth Ann. Many resources are available online such as blogs, webinars, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) to help teachers improve their skills.
3. What are some of the critical factors Maya needs to attend to if this effort is to be successful?
First and foremost, Maya must follow up, maintaining an open line of communication with all parties involved. This is not a situation of pressing the send button and walking away. Ruth Ann is going to need continued support along with evaluations of how the new approach is working. Student work needs to be assessed to ensure new curriculum is meeting the learning objectives set forth by state and national standards. Students must also know what is expected of them. They must be assured that they can be successful with hard work and dedication. Maya must help Ruth Ann confront not only academic issues but also cultural. By working together, they will become life coaches, demonstrating the need for students to have math skills in order be positive contributing members of society. In order to achieve this, Maya will need to draft both short and long range plans, outlining clearly defined goals for Ruth Ann and the students.
4. Consider how the work with Ruth Ann could be used as a starting place for school wide mathematics reform. Does that change the way Maya should work with Ruth Ann and the other math teachers? Does it change the options they should consider?
Once Maya has drafted the short and long range plans, these can be used in other classrooms or schools experiencing similar situations. Whereas the main problem identified was a deficiency in math skills, Maya discovered something much deeper. She found that students possessed a very negative attitude toward math, feeling it was not necessary later in life. This attitude was a direct reflection of how many of the parents viewed math. The options available to Ruth Ann and other math teachers must meet the needs of the students. Recognizing learner characteristics is essential in delivering authentic, high quality lessons. The teachers are going to have to become flexible in their delivery methods. Maya will be able to assist them with ways in adapting various teaching styles.
5. How might the community and parents influence the success of this effort?
The community and parents can influence the success of this effort through one simple step, be there for the students. Community leaders can provide job-shadowing opportunities for the students so they can witness first hand the importance of a solid education and an understanding of basic math skills. This group can also support after school math and technology programs targeting not the students but the parents. By showing the parents what their children are capable of, maybe they will become inspired to improve their situation. Parents can truly influence this success of this effort by taking an active interest in their children. Children learn by example and if their parents can change their outlook on education, the children hopefully will soon mirror that change in attitude.