Instructional Design Case Study

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.

 Learning Environment:

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.

Learner Characteristics:

 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.

Case study presentation.

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Digital Divide

Definition: 

Technology is an amazing tool used in all aspects of our daily lives; however as with anything “new”, resistance arises. Digital divide is defined as “an economic inequality between groups, broadly construed, in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies” according to Wikipedia.

Problem and Solution:

Many factors contribute to digital divide, those being primarily economics and education.  As I was reading various articles during this project, I was immediately inundated with statistics.  Children whose family income is under $20,000 are less likely to have access to technology outside of school.  Those children who are from homes where the annual income is greater than $75,000 have a distinct advantage over those with less.  Regardless of the economic status of their families, students who are provided with real-world learning situations will benefit from the integration of technology in school.  So where does the real problem arise?  Maybe we should look within ourselves.

Being an educator is not an easy job.  The stresses of daily classroom life can quickly overwhelm even the most seasoned teacher.  The children in our schools are often victims of circumstance, but we must ask ourselves, “What can I do to make a difference?”  First off do not be afraid to take learning to the next level.  Learning never stops.  The next level is simple, actively participate.  Yes, stepping out of the box is spooky but just take that step.  Start small by learning how to integrate text, photos, video, and audio into daily lessons.  Will there be speed bumps?  Absolutely!  Some of the best lessons learned are from mistakes.

As educators do we always continue to better ourselves for the benefit of our students or do we become complacent?  Ask yourself, “Am I an integral part of the digital divide?”  Find ways to break this trend.  Teaching is a consuming occupation both physically and mentally.  Exercise is the answer.  By continuing to improve our skills through professional development we will slowly begin to fill the divide and even out the inequality.  On-line classes provide one solution.  Readily available and usually adaptable to any schedule, the only barrier is the individual.  Once skills have been mastered, share the knowledge with other teachers and staff.  One of them may be inspired to follow in your footsteps.  Collaboration is a valuable tool to diminishing our contribution to this issue.  Will it completely solve the problem?  Probably not, however if educators do not actively engage themselves in finding a solution it will only fester.

Are teachers the only catalyst in digital divide?  No, many other factors weigh in.  Household demographics, geographic location, race, physical and mental disabilities are also major parts of this equation.  Challenge yourself to become part of the solution and not another wedge in the divide.  Don’t resist change.

Reflection:

I honestly did not know where to begin with this project.  After reading numerous articles and journal entries, my head was spinning with statistics.  Narrowing my focus down was difficult since I could go in many different directions.  I actually drafted and smoothed up two presentations and then after a rather difficult and frustrating staff meeting, created a third.  The first two were filled with statistics and solutions that I really had very little control over.  The third and one listed above however is a different story.

Nothing frustrates me more than those who will find fault with every new idea presented.  I understand that not everything is perfect but if you allow yourself to get stuck in a rut, life will pass you by. The same goes for education.  Technology is happening now!  We must educate ourselves in order to educate our students.  If one is unable or unwilling to authentically utilize technology in the classroom, then what good are we doing our students?  We become part of the divide and help facilitate the inequality.  Aren’t the other contributing factors enough?  I quit and I can’t are two of the easiest phrases to use.  I challenge my students to say “I won’t quit” and “I can”, shouldn’t we do the same?

As you can probably tell, I get angry with people who find fault with everything and do nothing to find a solution.  So, I will continue to learn, share with my colleagues, and keep my comments to myself.  I will integrate as much as possible into my classes being careful to not step over the line.  My students deserve every opportunity I can provide them with and that includes taking them into the 21st century, not living in the past.

Annotated Bibliography: 

Gibbs, M., Dosen, A., & Guerrero, R. (2009). Bridging the digital divide. Urban Education, 44, 1, 11-29.  doi: 10.1177/0042085908318528

I was fortunate to locate an article that reflects what I have witnessed during the past five years I have been teaching.  Coming from a twenty-two year career in the Navy, I am very familiar with training and the importance of it in the daily performance of a job.  I have been more than a little frustrated at the lack of professional development.  This article confirms the importance of professional development and the effect it has on students.  Training must be made available for educators of all levels of experience.  Schools where technology is not readily available and maintained are contributing to the digital divide.  The purpose of Bridging the Digital Divide Programs is to help begin to fill in the gap that exists in our schools.  By increasing both teacher and student access to the internet, all will benefit greatly.  Teachers must take the time to attend workshops in order to gain necessary knowledge to share with the students.

Livingstone, S., & Helsper, E. (2007). Gradations in digital inclusion: children, young people and the digital divide. New Media & Society, 9, 4, 671-696.  doi:  10.1177/1461444807080335

Focusing on internet access, both in the classroom and at home, this article states that middle-class children have obviously more access than their less fortunate peers.  Limited access accounts for the major factor in lack of use. Another factor to consider is that many parents are concerned with internet safety and impose strict parental controls.  Many parents are also deficient in the skills necessary to assist their children with internet usage.   In order for children to become proficient users of the internet, it is important for them to have authentic access.  The classroom provides an equal opportunity for students of all socio-economic groups’ access to technology.

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