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Running Head: CASE STUDY: NEGATIVE ATTITUDES AND SCHOOL

SUCCESS
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Negative Attitudes and Success in School


Jessica Stec
Completed in Partial Fulfillment for EDUC 532
Concordia University, October 24, 2014

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Abstract
It is often understood that negative attitudes in anything done,
can play an important, yet negative part in whatever the task at hand
is. Struggling students often develop negative attitudes about
themselves due to their lack of success in the classroom after few
years. These students are often referred for Special Education testing;
while some may qualify for a learning disability, others do not, and fall
into the category of being a low student, without having anyone fully
recognize their needs. Therefore, they continue through the public
education system struggling and continue to have a low self-esteem
because of where they are at, and how they are not achieving as well
as their classmates. Teachers have a responsibility to recognize this
and find out about the students, and learn more about them by
developing a relationship and working towards helping them succeed.
The following case study is a look into the life of one such
struggling student. Her attitude about her education and also the
attitudes of instrumental people in her life is what this study is looking
at. What does this student believe she is capable of doing? What does
this student need in order to help her succeed? How can the people
around her, including teachers and family, help her in order to succeed
and learn? What skills and strategies do struggling students use or feel
they can use or need in order to be successful in the regular education
program? These are a few of the questions being asked in this study.

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The case study design is being used with a specific look at the
students attitude, and attitudes of those around her, and the
environment in which she learns.
The Student:
The student that this case study was done over is a twelve - year
- old seventh grader that attends a rural school in northern Nebraska.
For the purpose of privacy, she will be referred to as Amy throughout
the study. Amy is the youngest child of three biological girls, and the
youngest combined in the home of five girls. Amys parents were
divorced when she was barely four or five. Her dad has custody of her
and her other two sisters. The divorce was difficult on all three of the
girls; there was some physical abuse, and some substance abuse by
the mother. Her dad later remarried adding two stepsisters in the
home, both older than the oldest of the three girls. Her oldest
biological sister graduated high school last year and moved to Kearney
at the beginning of the 2014 fall semester to attend beauty college.
The other biological sister also attends Rock County Public Schools as a
freshman.
Amys parents have often used her and her sisters as a power
struggle back and forth. With her being the youngest child, mom has
often spoiled her with material things, and babies her when she has
her for visitation. Amy has been diagnosed as ADD and also as having
separation anxiety disorder. For her, the separation anxiety presents

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itself around those she is regularly around. When she goes to visit her
mother for visitation, she has separation issues when the weekend or
extended stay is over. Her mother often uses this as leverage against
her father and siblings. Her mom does not have a close relationship
with the other two daughters; therefore Amy is the last child she can
continue this with.
Amys stepmother has two daughters who excel and do very
well in school. Since Amy has been struggling, she has contacted the
school several times about fixing Amy because they do not know
what to do with her. Stepmom is very hard on her and blames the
school for the reason she struggles and is behind. She has been tested
for special education services on two separate occasions. The first
time was when Amy was in third grade, and the second time, last year,
when she was in sixth grade. According to her testing results, Amy is
performing somewhat higher that what the ability test showed,
therefore she did not qualify for special education services in the state
of Nebraska. She has since been referred to the Student Assistance
Team in the district, upon parents request.
Amy is somewhat slow developmentally and in maturity; she
often does not even realize when she is doing things incorrectly. She is
very concerned of what others think, and wants to do well, but simply
does not know how. She tries very hard, and is willing to work hard,
but comprehension does not come easily for her. The district provides

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certain modifications and accommodations to help her achieve success
and learn in a way that suits her best.
Discussion of Ethics:
The reason for the case study is to determine the effects of
negative attitudes on a specific student, and the role it plays on her
educational success. In gathering information and conducting the
research, Amy was aware of the intentions of the process. I approached
her and her parents before observations and the interview was
conducted and informed them I was looking to gather information from
her perspective. I shared with them I would be observing her in two
separate settings, in order to see how she works independently.
Interview questions were also shared with her parents in order to keep
them fully informed as to what I would discuss with her. They gave
their permission for her to be the subject of the case study, and Amy
also agreed.
Observation:
Amy was observed in both her science class and study hall
classroom. I was able to speak with both teachers prior, and informed
them I would be observing a student. During Science, I was in the
classroom before the students entered in. When students came in, I
was seated at a desk in the back of the classroom. Students were
looking at me, and it was apparent they wondered what I was doing in
there and what was going on.

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Amy took her seat, which is the second seat in the second row of
the classroom. When Amy entered she noticed me and sat at her seat
quietly. Several times she looked back at me to see what I was doing
or looking at. Students were to turn in review packet at the beginning
of class per the teachers instructions. Amy looked confused, she
wasnt quite sure what the assignment was or where she had put it.
She asked another student, who then told her, and she flipped through
her textbook and found the assignment. The class was then instructed
to begin the book review while waiting for other students to arrive from
a previous classroom activity. She did not begin working immediately,
but was quietly doing housekeeping things at her desk.
Amy got out her paper, labeled it with name, date, and
assignment. She then proceeded. She then proceeded to tear the
edges off and throw them away in the trashcan. Next, she got out her
assignment planner and put the assignment in her planner; before
putting that away, she flipped through it randomly looking at pictures
or reading things. She then, finally decides to being working on the
assignment. She reads the question, looks around the room at the
others, and then flips through the chapter looking at headings to help
her find what she needs. After all students arrived, teacher begins
talking and student looks aloof and not really listening or paying
attention.

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In study hall, Amy starts with her planner on the desk and looks
at what she needs to work on. She begins the assignment and looks
through the chapter to find what information she is looking for. She
asked the study hall teacher a question when she did not understand
the wording of a question or was confused where to find something.
During this observation, Amy was in the class before I arrived. I was a
few minutes after the bell had rung. When I walked in and took a seat
at a chair that was closest to her table, she watched me and then had
a look of concern or confusion as to why I was in the room. She
continued to work quietly asking questions when she was unsure of
what she was doing.
Interview:
I had spoke with Amy prior to interviewing her, and discussed
with her about how I was wanting to help her and in order to figure out
what she needed, I would like to interview her. She seemed confused
as to what that meant, but I explained I would just be asking her some
questions about school and she needed to answer honestly so I could
figure out what she needs.
The interview was conducted in my classroom, after school had
been dismissed for the day. Amy came in, took a seat, and sat
nervously while I gathered my questions and notes. She fidgeted with
her hands and was patient before we began. She had a look of
concern on her face. I explained to her there were no right or wrong

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answers; I was just gathering information from her point of view, so
that I may be of more assistance to her in the classroom and learning
process.
Me: What subject in school is most difficult for you?
Amy: I dont know. I have trouble with reading; and science, and social
studies I have to read too. I really have trouble understanding what I
read, I dont know, I dont really like to read.
Me: Do you read at home on your own?
Amy: Shannon (stepmom) tells me I have to read at home because Im
not very good at it, so I need to practice all the time.
Me: Why do you think you struggle?
Amy: I dont know, Shannon (stepmom) tells me its because the
teachers didnt teach me right before when I was little. Its hard for me
to pay attention, and I dont always know whats going on. I want to,
but have trouble following and paying attention.
Me: How does this make you feel about yourself?
Amy: I get really upset. I dont want my friends to know, and its
embarrassing. I want to be smart, but I feel bad because its not like I
dont care. I just think Im not smart and there is nothing to make it
better.
Me: What strategies do you use to work through this?
Amy: I try to ask my friends questions, or ask the teacher if I dont
understand something. I try to follow along and pay attention, but

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really its not always that interesting. Shannon tries to help me with
homework, and Lexi (sister) helps too.
Me: What could the classroom teacher do to help you?
Amy: Maybe explain things better for me, or give me notes that make
it easier for me to follow what we are talking about or reading. Tell me
what I need to do to get better.
Me: What is the biggest struggle in dealing with school and class
work?
Amy: Not understanding and getting lost later on. I want to know what
Im doing, and just because my friends know doesnt mean I will get it.
I dont like to ask questions because I dont want people to think Im
stupid.
Me: Do you have a negative view of yourself?
Amy: I dont think Im good at school, Shannon says Im not smart, but
she blames it on the school. She gets tired of helping me and gets
mad at me if I cant do something. I have trouble and it makes her
mad, even when I am trying. Yeah, I dont think me and school go
great together.
What the Research Says:
This case study was conducted through observation and
conversation with the student. Students start school at a young age,
and are very impressionable by their progress and classmates
progress as well. As Oyserman, Brickman, and Rhodes state,

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Succeeding in school is a central life task of adolescence, and school
failure can seriously limit future possibilities (p. 479). Amy has had a
rough life in dealing with the struggles between both biological
parents, and then also has to deal with her stepmoms frustration
because of her difficulty in school. Amy shared in her interview how
her stepmother gets mad at her because she cant do something,
either because she is lost, or is just plain confused by the task at hand.
Oyserman, Brickman, and Rhodes (2007) also mention, parent school
involvement improves school outcomes in part because it signals to
youth that school success is a self-relevant and attainable possible self,
and that negative off track possible selves such as delinquent
involvement or early pregnancy can be avoided through engagement
with school (p. 480). As for her parents being involved in her
education, their participation is limited. At night when she works on
homework, frustration becomes an issue, and she is sent to her room
to just read, so she can get better.

Hashimoto, Onuoha, Isaka, and

Higuchi (2011) comment, Parents are arguably one of the most


fundamental agents of social stabilization in the lives of young
children (p. 186). Amys negative experience with her stepmom has a
huge impact on her developmental performance in the classroom.
Amy mentions how she is not proud of herself, is embarrassed around
other students, and overall has a negative view of her school/self
relationship. Niditch and Varela (2012) also point out, It has been

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theorized that controlling parenting leads to anxiety by reducing the
childs experience of mastery of challenges in his or her environment.
If the child is prevented from facing problems without parental
intervention, he or she is unable to learn adaptive coping skills or
develop reality-based expectancies of situational outcomes (p.22).
Shannon, Amys stepmom, tries to control the situation, and place
blame on others, without helping her, or allowing her to solve her own
problems and determine what works best in order to learn. Amy
mentions how she doesnt really feel like she is capable, and her
demeanor when being observed shows her lack of confidence in the
classroom. She is expecting someone else to be in control at all times,
when she mentions she asks other students or teachers for help. This
is not a bad thing, but she hasnt learned self-reliance because of the
constant pressure and negative attitude from her stepmother. Amy
has had negative experiences with family members, and a negative
experience in the classroom. The relationship between the two is
strong due to her attitude and recent experience. She continues to
struggle because she does not get the support she needs.
Conclusion:
Amy wants to do well in school, but does not have the resources
necessary in order to succeed. Israel, Maynard, and Williamson (2013)
have commented on STEM instruction in the classroom, STEM
education and reading instruction should be considered closely related

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in supporting content-related literacy, defined as the techniques that a
novice reader can use to make sense of a disciplinary text (p. 3). Amy
struggles with reading comprehension. Comprehending what you read
is vital for success in the classroom, as it encompasses all subject
matter. Teaching practices that Israel, Maynard, and Williamson shared
are, 1. Get to Know Your Students, 2. Explicitly Teach and Embed
Reading Strategies Into STEM Inquiries, 3. Integrate Instructional
Technologies Into STEM Inquiries, 4. Build on Authentic Learning
Processes, and 5. Promote Collaborative Planning and Teaching to
Promote Literacy-Supported Interdisciplinary STEM Instruction (p. 4-9).
These strategies need to be implemented to help Amy benefit as a
whole child in each of her classrooms, being that reading plays an
important part.
Motivation is also a key factor when working with struggling
students who have low self-esteem about themselves. Wery and
Thomson (2013) discuss how to motivate reluctant learners and the
importance on their overall education; For example, poor readers who
are given appropriate remedial instruction begin to be successful and
become more motivated to read; in turn they begin to develop a new
belief about their potential for success (p. 106). When these
situations continue, the student has a glimpse of a positive experience,
and gradually changes are made in their overall self-view. Amy needs

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the extra instruction and this will in turn help her to develop into a
fluent and comprehending student in order to succeed.
If Amys teachers can use these strategies, the negative selfimage she has will improve dramatically, and in turn lead her stepmom
to change her attitude. She will then be able to work independently
and see success.

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References
Oyserman, D., Brickman, D., & Rhodes, M. (2007). School success,
possible selves,
and parent school involvement. Family Relations, 56(5), 479-489.

Hashimoto, S., Onuoha, F., Isaka, M., & Higuchi, N., (2011). The effect
of adolescents
image of parents on childrens self-image and mental health.
Child &
Adolescent Mental Health, 16(4), 186-192.

Niditch, L., & Varela, R. R. (2012). Perceptions of Parenting, Emotional


Self-Efficacy,
and Anxiety in Youth: Test of a Mediational Model. Child and
Youth Care
Forum, 41(1), 21-35.

Israel, M., Maynard, K., & Williamson, P., (2013). Promoting Literacy
Embedded,
Authentic STEM Instruction for Students with Disabilities and
Other
Struggling Learners. Teaching Exceptional Children, 45(4), 18-25.

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Wery, J., & Thomson, M., (2013). Motivational strategies to enhance
effective
learning in teaching struggling students. Support For Learning,
28(3),
103-108.