Monday, December 04, 2006

My One Pager

Brittany Bergin
ECC301D- Professor Cindy O’Donnell-Allen
Research Questions
How successful is ability grouping for our student’s academic achievement? Are there ways around ability grouping in a classroom full of diverse learners?

As I sit and listen to the teacher talk to her class of enthusiastic 9th graders about a novel they will be reading for the following 8 weeks, frustration begins to overwhelm my thoughts because of what she is telling her students. The routine seems harmless at first, but I notice that as she begins to call the students names out loud she labels them out loud too. She names the students that are in the Pre-AP level first, and says that they can read in the pit (a place with a high reputation to the entire class). She then begins to call students names that are on her list; I asked to see her list after class and it is in order – from the higher reading levels to the lower reading levels. I was astonished. I began to take note on the student reactions after they were assigned to their groups and I noticed that the enthusiasm I noted before had somewhat diminished.

This experience led me to my overall question

Primary Sources

  • Karl Fisch’s blog, “The Fischbowl”This blog introduced me to my topic and later influenced my questions
  • Personal interview with Carron Silva, a 9th grade English teacher at Cache La Poudre Junior High school
  • Observation notes on Carron Silva’s 9th grade class
  • 9th grade CSAP and reading levels scores for the state of Colorado and CLP junior high in 2006

Major Themes
School Influence, Student’s Background, and Heterogeneous Grouping vs. Homogeneous Grouping are the three most significant themes I found in my inquiry.

Future Questions
Learning how to teach to every student’s unique abilities becomes an enduring task. Thinking about this and its possibilities, more questions begin to rise: how do you encourage students of diverse abilities to engage in learning collaboratively? Do students improve their own work by incorporating the work of their peers’? How does this theory play out in writing groups? How does it play out in reading groups?

Secondary Sources
Article by Michael Opitz, “Empowering the Reader in Every Child”
Article by Maureen Hallinan, “The Effects of Ability Grouping in Secondary Schools”

Monday, November 27, 2006

What I learned today in class...

Today, after help from Marina, I learned that I have a lot of work to do. I learned that I have more data that I need to collect. So far, I have one interview that will be very helpful, but that is all I have. I have decided that I will interview a couple of students and maybe a teacher in a different content area. I have also decided that I will incorporate some of my observations in the classroom into this project. Thanks for your help Marina!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ability Grouping in the Classroom

Writing my annotated bibliography influenced my research question in a lot of ways. I have found new terms that will help me to better understand the entire process of ability grouping. One of my sources introduces “flexible-grouping,” this term focuses on an achievement score and not on a “total score.” I found this source helpful because my question is targeted on students’ achievement in ability grouping. I also found information that offered additional ways to teach a class without ability grouping, by incorporating all the needs of my students.

To ability group or not to ability group? I think this is where the gap lies; there are those that oppose it and those that fully support it. I think answering my question will ultimately ease my mind about whether or not I will chose to ability group in my classroom or not. If I choose to do so, I think these sources will guide me to ability group in a proper way – paying attention to all the needs of my students.

Data Collection Plan

Hello all,

For class, we are to write an ethnography learning paper and I am targeting my research on ability grouping in the secondary setting. Ability Grouping can mean many things; however, I want to focus more specifically on the students’ academic achievement in their English classes – whether in reading groups or writing groups. I want to know how successful ability grouping can be for students both with higher abilities and lower abilities. I want to know when it is “appropriate” to divide them based on their abilities and when I should be mixing them together. If these groups are based on the students test taking skills, I want to know what each student of differing abilities has to offer to their peers or differing abilities.

I plan to use my observation notes that I have been keeping of a 9th grade English class I currently volunteer in. I also think incorporating interviews with students as well as interviews with the teacher about their thoughts on ability grouping will be beneficial to my research. In the class I am observing, they are currently reading a novel in their ability grouped groups. Looking at some of their group assignments will show me their group’s level of understanding of the novel. Then I can compare and contrast my findings. I think these artifacts will help add credibility to my research. I also think using the student’s standardized test scores might show me how different their abilities are and then I can come to my own conclusions as to how I would group them if I were the instructor.

Since I am in the classroom at least twice a week, I will be collecting data every chance I get. I am not sure when I will be able to collect the student interviews –because I don’t want to take them away from the classroom. I will plan on asking the teacher I am working with on her planning periods and see when a good time would be to take a couple of students out of class for my interview. I have already started collecting student artifacts, and I will continue to collect.

I think this entire process will be helpful in answering my questions about ability grouping. I think it is important to look at the primary sources (i.e. student interviews, artifacts, and personal opinions of the class procedures) the classroom has to offer.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bob Fecho Article

Bob Fecho is the author of the article, “Critical Inquiries into Language in an Urban Classroom.” I think that Fecho is focusing on not picking a side to agree with (whether Delpit, Gee, Cushman, or Crawford); rather, focusing on unifying the various stances and simultaneously focusing on the strengths and positive implications for language learning.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Influence from classmates

After reading some of the comments about my question, I have found that I am not the only one who thinks school violence is a growing trend in our society. I have found Chase's comment helpful, becuase he offers me the idea of exploring a junior high school in our town. I was unaware that this school experienced such a threat and I plan on finding out more about it. Other comments were in agreement with me and what I thought overall about school violence. I think it was helpful to hear their personal opinions about my question and I plan to find out more about it. Thanks for commenting!

Monday, October 16, 2006

School Violence

I am interested in learning more about school violence. Since this is a topic that is very prominent in our schools today I hope finding information about it will be easier than I think. Since this is a topic that is often brushed under the rug I think it will be difficult to find information about it. I was thinking I could include interviews with people that have experienced school violence -- like the columbine shooting -- and offer a different perspective about such a heavy issue. I know someone who experienced this that I could contact and hopefully it will help me develop this perspective further.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Addressing Violence in the English Classroom

For class we read two articles addressing violence in the classroom. Douglas Fisher wrote "Responding to Students Who Disclose Violence in Their lives" and Tom O'Malley wrote "Teaching English in the World: The Dangerous Profession"

I agree with Fisher’s notions about personal writing in the classroom. I think that it is important to discuss heavy issues in detail with you students as much as you can – without overstepping your professional boundaries as a teacher.
I enjoyed his commentary on Nancy Johnson’s work in her classroom. All of the ways she dealt with violence in her students’ writing seemed very effective. I think the inclusion of her personal poem illustrated a professional and personal relationship she had with her students.
Violence is an important issue that must not be ignored. With positive feedback and overall understanding by the teacher, I think students will have a bright future in their English education.

I liked O’Malley’s notion that “the Socratic method is the ultimate teaching experience because it offers students the freedom to construct knowledge out of their ideas.”

O’Malley’s idea of how the “classroom must be a place of tolerance and respect or nothing else matters” is significant to me. I think it is important to establish limits in the classroom in order for your students to express their voice comfortably.

I also agree with his idea that the “students control the classroom;” we as teachers are there to guide them in their discussions and be there for moral support; because we as teachers have “definite roles.”