Will Cooperative Learning Have a Significantly Positive Impact on Smaller or Larger Classes?
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Table of Contents
I. Action Research Question..?????????.??..page
II. Abstract ???????????????????page
Research Rationale ??????????????.. page
Importance of Study.?????????????? page
Definition of Terms ??????????????. page
Statement of Problem ?????????????.. page
IV. Review of Literature????????????.?... page
VI. References?????????????????? page
Action Research Question
Will cooperative learning have a significantly positive impact on smaller or larger classes?
The purpose of this study was to investigate if cooperative learning will have a significantly positive impact on smaller or larger classes. In order to have valid results, I used both my largest and smallest classes as my sampling. I also incorporated a variety of teaching styles with cooperative learning to promote student participation and achievement. Results will be based on quiz and test scores, as well as cooperative assignments.
Introduction Research Rationale
As educators in middle school and high school classrooms, content specialty teachers often work with a variety of class sizes. Yet, with such an assortment of class sizes, there are also extraneous variables that each teacher must consider in order to foster individual achievement. Participation and achievement are variables of the individual students that weigh heavily on class success and are affected by class size. Educational mandates, as well as individual school district policies and requirements, are also influencing the class size and affecting individual achievement. The middle school and high school content specialty teachers are frequently searching for new ways to prevent individual achievement and participation from falling when class sizes rise. The varying number of students that content specialty teachers see from class to class, they are driven to seek out alternative methods to meet the needs of their learners in order to maintain individual success and achievement while promoting participation. Therefore, smaller class sizes may be an effective way to encourage students to participate and promote individual achievement.
For the past two years, class sizes have gradually climbed within the school district in which I am currently working. The Long Island school district primarily includes students from low socio-economic backgrounds. Like many similar urban schools, my school district suffers from poverty, a large minority population, low test scores, a high number of discipline referrals, and many students who aren?t learning to read. Union contracts often stipulated maximum class sizes; however, even before the expansion of collective bargaining took place, there was wide spread agreement that having more than thirty students in a class is a heavy burden for a conscientious teacher - especially for a middle or high school teacher who has five or six classes. This is the first year that my district has no cap size on the number of students permitted in a classroom each period. Because of this new guideline, I see as many as thirty-two students one period and as few as twenty-one another period. Such numbers present difficulty in maintaining classroom management, teaching style, assessment, classroom configuration, and materials. But by far with classes as large as thirty-two students, a teacher?s concern is participation and individual achievement. The challenge is to hold the interest and promote achievement of thirty-two students in a classroom that is overcrowded at times and lacks sufficient seating.
Introduction Importance of Study
It is essential that all students receive individualized attention in some form. Whether it is via participating and sharing ideas, positive reinforcement, a conference, or working one-on-one, none of these are easily acplished within a large or oversized class. It is essential for successful learning to maintain small class sizes in order to achieve individual student participation.
Introduction Definition of Terms
Cooperative learning is a term for representing a variety of interactive groups working toward a mon goal. Each student in a cooperative group is individually accountable for the entire group?s success. Cooperative learning groups contain students of mixed abilities, different genders, as well as different cultural backgrounds.
The average class size within this particular school is 27 students. For research purposes within this study, a small class will consist of less than 25 students and a large class will consist of more than 30 students. Classes are heterogeneously mixed, containing students of mixed learning abilities, different genders, and cultural backgrounds.
Introduction Statement of Problem
This action research project investigates the influence of cooperative learning on class size. This study examines how cooperative learning impacts smaller and larger class sizes.
Review of Literature
The purpose of class size reduction is to raise student achievement. Classes of varying sizes have presented teachers with the challenge of providing appropriate opportunities for participation while attempting to maintain achievement.
A reduction in class size alone does not always lead to high student performance because the teacher is an essential part of the puzzle and he or she must practice effective teaching strategies.
There are three factors that determine teacher effectiveness and qualities of a less effective teacher: Instructional orientation, management style, and individualized focus. Instructional orientation includes the type of content that the teacher emphasized in his or her lessons and how they are taught. Management style enpasses how the teachers disciplined their students and organized their lessons.
The final factor, individualization, is prised of how much time and energy the teachers spend on individual, one-to-one instruction. There are many research experiments nationally known for supporting a reduction in class size. The federal government and 20 states within the United States have launched programs to lower the average class size (Zahorik, Halbach, Ehrle, and Molnar 2003).
One well-known research project is Project STAR-Student Teacher Achievement Ratio was a controlled experiment done in Tennessee, and has been widely recognized and acknowledged by a variety of educational researchers, economists, and statisticians. It is assumed that small class sizes are more effective because there is an improvement in morale and enjoyment of teaching shared by teachers of small classes (Finn 2002). Project STAR has been used as a model by groups such as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education as it was conducted in a plex setting represented by public schools.
SAGE, Wisconsin?s Student Achievement Guarantee in Education, is another well-recognized research project regarding class size. The SAGE findings are reviewed over a period of five years: Overall, SAGE students scored higher than did the parison group on the reading, language arts, and mathematics subtests. These results showed a 25-30 percent higher level of academic achievement than their counterparts in larger classes, which were maintained for three years or the length of the program.
A few major questions were raised, regardless of the fact that an overall pattern of research points to the positive effects of class-size reduction on student learning and on teaching behaviors. These questions include: 1) How big is the SAGE effect on achievement? 2) Does SAGE reduce the achievement gap between African Americans and whites? 3) Are the benefits of SAGE limited to disadvantaged students? 4) How much does SAGE benefit students with poor attendance? (Smith, Molnar, and Zahorik 2003).
SAGE affects student achievement. On the basis of the norm groups? predicted performance, the difference translates into a 25-30 percent of a year?s growth, a significant gain that supports SAGE?s claim to improving student achievement.
Class size reduction benefits all students, but its effects are especially powerful for African Americans. African Americans entering small classes had lower reading and math scores than African Americans entering larger classes in parison schools. But by the end of the school year, their achievement scores were significantly higher than those of the African American students in larger classes. African American students seem to profit more from the SAGE experience than white students when pared with non-SAGE students. The achievement gap between African Americans and white students widens each year (Smith, et.al. 2003).
It has been noted that class size initiatives have enjoyed wide spread support from parents, teachers, and the general public. People will still believe that smaller class sizes are a good idea and teachers report experiencing lower levels of stress and job dissatisfaction with smaller classes. This is primarily because they are better engaged with each student, and therefore, student motivation increases and discipline problems decrease. Parents believe that a teacher?s individualized instruction leads to improvements in a child?s academic performance. This is apparent because teachers with smaller classes have more time to interact with parents, and their knowledge of their students strengthens within those interactions (Gilman and Kiger 2003). In some districts, the economy is the deciding factor in maintaining the status quo or increasing class size. The cost is often too high for school districts struggling with budget cuts, although the research supports reducing class size.
The decision to reduce class size does not assure that qualified teachers and appropriate classrooms will be available. Policymakers face serious challenges presented by America?s out-of-date school buildings and the growing shortage of superior teachers. State officials from California to New York have been threatening to cut back their substantial class size reduction programs in the face of declining state revenues. The National Governors Association (NGA) estimates that approximately 44 states currently face revenue deficits. In the past, declining revenues for elementary and secondary education certainly lead to fewer fully qualified teachers and larger class sizes. Congress weighed in on the issue of reducing class size in 1998 when it funded a down payment on a Class Size Reduction program that would reduce class size by hiring 100,000 new and qualified teachers over seven years. Calculating the cost of a statewide Class Size Reduction program involves considering a number of ingredients. Initial average class size needs to be considered. The larger the drop to ?small? classes, the greater the cost will be. Whether or not there is a rigid cap or flexibility in the number of students per teacher. A rigid cap will increase the cost by decreasing the final average class size. Schools will keep numbers down to ensure staying below the cap. Also to be considered in a budget for a CSR program is the cost of teachers hired. This depends on the salary scale of each district and the experience level of teachers hired. Teacher costs will increase with time as teachers move up the salary ladder. The costs of teacher support may also need to be factored in. In addition to these ingredients, in planning and creating a budget for a CSR program, one needs to consider the cost of facilities for providing new classrooms. The National Education Association currently supports a class size of 15 students in regular education programs and even smaller in programs for students with special needs. Teachers with small classes can spend time and energy helping each child succeed. Smaller classes also enhance safety, discipline and order within the classroom.
The American Federation of Teachers cites four necessary steps in order for class size reduction to be effective. The AFT suggests that the most effective classes should be between 15 and 19 students. Particular schools, especially those with low-achieving and low-ine students, should be targeted. In order for class reduction to be most effective, it is essential that there is an adequate supply of qualified teachers and classroom supplies. In addition to increasing student achievement, the AFT remends that smaller classes improve the classroom atmosphere so that students receive more individualized attention and teachers have flexibility to use different instructional approaches. With fewer students in a classroom, students are less probable to distract each other and there will be a lower level of noise. In addition to increasing student achievement, smaller classes enable teachers to know the students better and offer more extra help; recognizing learning problems, special educational needs and achievements. Smaller classes facilitate an increase in student achievement with fewer discipline problems. According to the American Federation of Teachers, by spending less time on discipline, teachers report spending more time on instruction.
The benefits of class reduction in the early grades last throughout a student?s educational career. In 4th, 6th, and 8th grade, students who attended small classes in the early grades were significantly ahead of their regular-class peers in all subjects. By 8th grade, they were still ahead almost a full year ahead of their peers. The Class Size Matters Organization believes that smaller classes are a very cost-effective strategy to lower the number of students who have to repeat grades. In the Tennessee STAR study, only 15 inner-city students placed in small classes in early grades were retained through the 9th grade, pared to 44% of those from similar backgrounds in regular size classes. In high school, students who had been in smaller classes in the early grades had significantly lower dropout rates, higher grades, and received higher scores on their college entrance
The Class Size Matters Organization reiterates what many other studies have also stated: with smaller class sizes, behavior problems are significantly reduced. In New York City, a principal in East Harlem reported that disciplinary referrals dropped 60% in her school one year when they instituted smaller classes. In Burke County, North Carolina, disciplinary problems and interruptions declined by more than 25% after class sizes were reduced. Lower rates of disruption and behavior problems have also been reported in Indiana and California. A survey by Public Agenda shows that among teachers themselves, smaller class sizes are seen as the most effective way to increase the quality of instruction, far above raising salaries or providing more professional development. The Class Size Matters Organization mentions that reducing class size improves teacher morale because less time is spent on discipline and classroom management. This enables the teachers to focus more on learning and individualized instruction. Smaller classes also lead to improved teacher retention. However, smaller classes have been shown to have benefits that go far beyond higher test scores. Reduced class size also leads to more parent volunteers in the classroom, and more parent involvement overall. Teachers explain that with smaller classes they have the ability to get to know both their students and their parents. Also possible with small classes, teachers are able to keep closer munication with parents about their children?s
The setting for this action research is a public middle school in Nassau County, New York. This is a suburban school, which educates grades five through eight. This researcher has been employed within the district for four years and presently holds the position of a seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher, for both regular and inclusion classes. This researcher?s class sizes range from twenty-one to thirty-two students. It is this researcher?s objective to find out if class size has a significant effect on cooperative learning.
This study will incorporate two social studies classes, the largest and the smallest, and pare/contrast their results. The class will be using a cooperative learning model to engage student learning. Each member in the expert and home groups will be given assigned jobs to aid in the preparation and clean up. These jobs will be rotated daily. This teaching style will be done in an on/off rotation: Cooperative learning will take place on each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the ten-week cycle; the ?off? cycle days will be designated to other forms of learning such as technology based and teacher-centered. The students will be divided using the Jigsaw model of cooperative learning in which each cooperative group is divided into two groups: ?home? and ?expert,? both grouped heterogeneously by ability level and gender. Each home group will be given an assignment. All members of the home group are also being assigned a specific task; Students in the class with the same task will meet in their expert groups. When pleted, the experts will return to their home group to share information. Members will be evaluated on the bined knowledge of expert and home groups.
Forms of assessment will include daily assignments as well as a weekly quiz/test given on Friday. The researcher will use varied types of questioning to elicit participation using Bloom?s Taxonomy during both ?on? and ?off? cycle days. During each day of cooperative learning, students will be responsible for handing in an independent assignment as well as a group assignment. These will be checked and graded for participation and assessment of material. Students will be responsible for pleting weekly assignments and will be assessed in the form of a quiz or test each Friday.
This data will be collected and analyzed to create a graph demonstrating the participation and achievement levels of each class. The researcher will develop a rubric, which can then be used for future reference. As a teacher, class size usually has a great effect on teaching. By using the data analysis as a tool, it can not only help prepare one for classes to e, but perhaps also show others the positive and negative outes that class size has.
As pared to students in large classes, students in small classes are more engaged and experience more participatory, enriched, and hands-on work. Within smaller classes, teachers interact more with individual students, are able to give more feedback, spend more time instructing rather than disciplining, and enjoy higher morale (Deutsch, 2003). In order to bring this environment, I have chosen to implement a cooperative learning model.
Cooperative Learning Rules
1. Successful students oute depends on other members of the group.
2. Students will show respect for individual differences (culture, academic ability, gender, etc.).
3. Individual students are responsible for a portion of the group?s task.
4. The teacher and student will evaluate accountability.
*Student?s will adhere to general classroom rules: staying on task, talking in indoor voices, raising their hands to get the teacher?s attention, etc.
Students will be able to acplish the following:
? Form groups quietly
? Stay in groups
? Use quiet voices
? Speak clearly
? Listen actively
? Ask for help
? Address others by appropriate names
? Encouraging statements
? Praise others
? Be able to paraphrase
? Criticize ideas, not people
? Extend answers
? Check answers
? Ask questions
Roles of the Teacher
The teacher will do the following:
? Allow time for non-academic group activity
? Teach and model group skills
? Select content
? Plan and discuss rubrics for grading
? Assign the students groups and roles
? Facilitate, not dominate
? Plan learning environment
Student Jobs While in Cooperative Learning Groups
RECORDER = Will write down the group?s responses
RESEARCHER = Will research material via handouts, the Internet, and other available resources
MATERIALS COORDINATOR = Will gathers and return appropriate materials to and from the materials table
LEADER = Will read directions to the group and make sure that everyone is on task
?Missing the Mark? by Jeremy D. Finn; available in Phi Delta Kappan. November 2002: v.84, no.3
?Class Size Reduction: A Fresh Look at the Data? by Phil Smith, Alex Molnar and John Zahorik; available in Educational Leadership September 2003: v. 61, no.1
?Teaching Practices for Smaller Classes? by John Zahorik, Anke Halbach, Karen Ehrle, and Alex Molnar; available in Educational Leadership September 2003: v.61, no. 7
?Should We Try to Keep Class Sizes Small?? by David Alan Gilman and Susan Kiger; available in Educational Leadership April 2003: v.60, no.7
?How Small Classes Benefit High School Students? by Francine M. Deutsch; available in National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin June 2003: v.87
?Class Size Matters? available at www.picket./class/research.htm
?Class Size Reduction: Success Stories Noted in New Report? available at www.education-world./a_issues/issues067.shtml
?Does Class Size Matter in Public Schools?? available at www.psparents.net/Class%20Size.htm
?Smaller Class Sizes Help Blacks More, Study Says? available at www.findarticles./cf_dls/m1355/15_99/72610378/p1/article.jhtml
?Class Size Reduction? available at www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/ClassSize/myths.html
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