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HIGH QUALITY TEACHING STRATEGIES AND ITS EFFECTS ON STUDENT MOTIVATION

TABLE OF CONTENTS 1 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 2 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.03 3 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 Chapter 1 Introduction 9 9 9 9 10 11 11 11 12

Statement of Problem Purpose of the Study Research Question Rationale Assumptions Definition of Terms Limitations Delimitations Summary Chapter 2 Literature Review

Motivation in the Classroom Instructional Strategies to Motivate Students Alternative Assessment and Motivation Summary Chapter 3 Methods and Procedures

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Statement of the Problem Purpose of the Study Research Question Participants Criteria for the Selection of the Participants Methodology Rationale for the Methodology 3.08 Procedures Used for the Data Gathering and Analysis Timeline Data Management Procedures Data Analysis Data Management and Validity Role of the Researcher Reliability Trustworthiness and Credibility of Analysis Audit Trail Confounding Issues

30 30 30 30 32 32 33 33 35 38 39 39 40 40 40 41 41

4 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 5 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 6

Chapter 4

Results 42 46 49 52 54 54 57 62 65 67 68 72 73 77 78

Field Site 1: Introduction of Case Study Participants Field Site 1: Classroom Atmosphere Field Site 1: Activity in the Classroom Field Site 1: Connecting Material Field Site 1: Humor in the Classroom Field Site 2: Introduction of Case Study Participants Field Site 2: Classroom Atmosphere Field Site 2: Activity in the Classroom Field Site 2: Connecting Material Field Site 2: Humor in the Classroom Field Site 3: Introduction of Case Study Participants Field Site 3: Classroom Atmosphere Field Site 3: Activity in the Classroom Field Site 3: Connecting Material Field Site 3: Humor in the Classroom Chapter 5 Interpretation of Data

Purpose of the Study Summary of Findings Applications Conclusion References

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CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION Statement of the Problem To some students, the classroom is an exciting and meaningful place where success and effort are enjoyable. In other students we see a lack of interest, lack of pride and lack of desire to learn; regardless of content area, grade level or district. These students are not interested and therefore fail to find motivation to learn. We want to know how the instructional techniques of the teacher and the class curriculum affect the motivation of students. Purpose of the Study The purpose of the study is to identify if instructional techniques that have been deemed influential positively influence student motivation. We will examine already existing research in this area and make observations of K-12 classrooms. Using this information we will look for similarities between teaching strategies and student motivation levels. The results of this study will be used to develop more effective strategies in a classroom setting. Research Question The following research question will guide the study: Is there a positive correlation between teaching strategies and student motivation? Rationale At the present time, it seems that student involvement, creativity, and enjoyment is at a low. Individual researchers have seen that students are not doing homework, not staying on task, and are not actively participating in classes. This lack of student motivation been noted by other researchers as well.

5 Others have cited student work habits, especially lack of effort, as a major motivational problem. Lack of effort was identified as the primary motivational problem by Glasser. He described school as a place where students are not only trying to do their best, but are expending much of their energy avoiding work. He contended that much of the widely reported school failure is a result of students failing to expend the effort to do highquality work (Alderman, 1999, p. 5). Teachers are in need of finding effective strategies for activating students motivation levels to improve student achievement and cultivate life-long learners. We feel that this is an issue of great importance to the future and improvement of education. Maehr and Midgley (1991) state that, [No school] in America will improve unless its teachers want to improve and its students want to learn. That is why the question of teacher, student and parent motivation is one of the single most important questions we face (p. 400). Assumptions This study will be based on the following assumptions: 1. There is a lack of motivation in todays students. 2. Teachers need more information about motivation. 3. This study will improve the instructional strategies of the teacher. 4. Motivation ultimately affects student achievement.

Definition of Terms Motivation: the reason for the action, the desire to complete a task. Intrinsic Motivation: when people engage in an activity for their own sake, not for obvious external incentives.

6 Instructional Strategies: The different methods utilized by a teacher to deliver the instruction. Learning Styles: the approaches to learning that work best for the individual Alternative Assessment: authentic assessment, portfolio assessment, performance-based assessment, alternate assessment, and project based learning. Limitations This study will be limited by the following limitations: 1. The researchers are the research instrument and will be limited by their personal biases. Every effort will be made to remain objective in the analysis. 2. The knowledge, skills and abilities of the researchers. 3. Research performed about motivation will be limited to the observations of the researchers. Delimitations This study will be further defined by the following delimitations: 1. Three schools in Northern New York will be the setting of our research: Hidden Glen Central School, Ontario Lake Central School, and Maple Valley Central School. 2. Research is written through the expressed opinions of teachers and students of K-12 public schools. 3. 4. Research will be conducted by the use of observations, interviews and questionnaires. The works of William Glasser will be referenced in this study.

Summary This study will focus on grades K-12 in three counties of New York. The purpose of this study is to identify whether or not there is a positive correlation between student motivation and instructional techniques. We believe this study is necessary because student motivation

7 ultimately affects student achievement. It is assumed that teachers will be interested in the study and the information gained will be useful to them.

8 CHAPTER TWO REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE The following review of the literature will examine student motivation in classroom, instruction strategies and alternative assessment promoting motivation. In many places and classrooms, students appear to be unmotivated and unwilling to learn. The motivation of students may be related to the strategies used by their teachers in the classroom. This literature review will show the importance of student motivation in a successful educational environment. Various classroom and instructional techniques along with alternative assessment practices that have been shown to improve motivational levels will also be examined. Motivation in the Classroom One concern of many teachers is the motivation of their students. In an ideal classroom, students are interested in what is being taught and they have a desire to learn. While some students possess these qualities, others do not. Student achievement levels, student enjoyment and creativity will all suffer from a lack of interest and desire. Ruthunde and Csikszentmihalyi (2005) state, during the precarious transition from the elementary school years, young adolescents may begin to doubt the value of their academic work and their abilities to succeed (p. 341). A central concern for many educators is motivation, more specifically, declining levels in students intrinsic motivation to learn. There are classrooms that radiate success and teachers who inspire. Downward trends in motivation are not inevitable. Curriculum and instructional strategies can improve a students intrinsic motivation to learn. Childrens lives are complicated, many forces shape success in school, including, intergenerational education, family values, peer culture, the media, expectations for

9 childrens success, teacher effectiveness, parental involvement in childrens learning, and childrens own natural competencies and motivation to do well (Ramey, 2004, p. 1). With so many uncontrollable variables to student success, educators need to take control of the ones they can. Teachers can strengthen a students motivation to do well. School environments that provide more relevant tasks, student directed learning, less of an emphasis on grades and competition, and more collaboration have been shown to enhance students intrinsic, task motivation (Rathunde & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005, p. 341). Classrooms need to teach a curriculum that students can relate to their own lives. If the material has no purpose, a students motivation to learn it is low. Student directed learning allows a child to have power and responsibility in their education. Lowering the levels of competition will improve levels of cooperation among the individuals of a classroom. Competition may undermine motivation for learning and enhancing motivation is key in fostering student achievement and success. Baloche (1998) states, competition has the potential to undermine motivation for learning---especially intrinsic motivation. Competition tends to create more interest in how ones performance compares to others than interest in the task itself (p. 5). Making motivational change at the classroom level is sometimes undermined by school wide policies and procedures. Maehr and Midgley (1991) state, a teachers effort to evaluate students on the basis of progress and improvement can be subverted by a school wide honor roll system based on relative ability (p. 405). Schools have a tremendous influence over students. Rathunde and Csikszentmihalyi (2005) also state, students have difficulty finding meaning and intrinsic motivation in their schoolwork (p. 343). It may be possible that teachers are having difficulty creating meaning and establishing a purpose to what is being taught. Approaches

10 involving work-based learning set in the real-world context of work not only make learning more accessible to many students but also increase their engagement in schooling (Wonacott, 2002, p. 2). Motivation is needed at any level of education. Maehr and Midgley (1991) explain how motivation can be improved in the classroom and what educators should focus on: First, create an intrinsic value of learning by reducing the reliance on extrinsic incentives and designing a program that challenges all students. Second, increase student participation in learning and school decisions by providing opportunities to develop responsibility, independence and leadership skills. Third, provide opportunities for all students to be recognized. Fourth, focus on student interaction, social skills and values by building an environment of acceptance and appreciation of all students. Fifth, redesign the nature and use of evaluation and assessment procedures to increase a students sense of competence and self-efficacy (p. 410-411). Specific strategies to achieve the previous foci will be discussed later in this chapter. Issues of motivation, student engagement and participation can be heard from many educators. While a select few shine with these qualities, many students show the exact opposite. Embarrassment, fear and frustration are all emotions that can be seen in disengaged students. Children who are engaged show enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity and interest. The opposite of engagement is disaffection. Disaffected children are passive, do not try hard, and give up easily in the fact of challenges [they can] be bored, depressed, anxious or even angry about their presence in the classroom; they can be withdrawn from learning opportunities or even rebellious towards teachers and classmates (Champman, 2003, p. 2).

11 Classrooms are composed of both engaged and disaffected students. The focus of an educator needs be in shifting the negative attitudes and behaviors of their students to ones that are more intrinsically motivated and engaged. Instructional Strategies to Motivate Students According to Margolis and McCabe (2003), It is widely believed that without sufficiently high self-efficacy, or the belief that they can succeed on specific academic tasks such as home work, many struggling learners will not make the effort needed to master academics (p. 162). Those students who have high self-efficacy participate more in class, persist through difficulties, and ultimately reach higher achievement. On the reverse side, students with low self-efficacy will not be motivated. Margolis and McCabe (2003) state that students with low self-efficiency will give up or avoid tasks similar to those previously failed (p. 162). Therefore, teachers should not give tasks to the students that could promote anxiety of frustration. Teachers should be aware of their proper instructional and independent levels to make sure tasks are appropriate. Research suggests that teachers can strengthen learners self-efficacy by teaching needed learning strategies, reinforcing effort and persistence, stressing peer modeling, teaching struggling learners to make facilitative attributions, and helping them identify personally important goals (Margolis & McCabe, 2003, p. 162). Motivating learning strategies could include cooperative learning activities where students perform tasks well within their ability level, modeling, and sequencing tasks according to difficulty. Teachers may need to use reinforcers to initially motivate students. The teacher should use varying, small, natural reinforcers combined with common social and verbal reinforcers (e.g., smiles, specific praise). In order for the student to cultivate self-efficiency, they need to be in a nurturing, safe environment. A teacher can create such an environment by treating students with respect,

12 showing interest in the students, and giving the students choices. The students will feel better about themselves and build self-efficacy when the teacher provides frequent, immediate, taskspecific feedback, challenge rather than frustrate students, stress cooperation, not competition, make expectations clear and realistic. The students will then become engaged and thus be motivated by relating the curriculum to students interests, using a variety of teaching approaches to engage every student, stimulating curiosity, and engaging students in collaborative learning activities (Margolis & McCabe, 2003). In addition to all of the environmental factors that can enhance motivation, it must essentially come from within the learner. It has been proven that intrinsically motivated students will persist through failure, take on more challenging tasks, use the creative process, and remain in tasks longer than those students with extrinsic motivation (Pederson, 2003). Pederson (2003) found that students who participated in problem-based learning demonstrated higher rates of intrinsic motivation than during their regular classroom activities. The study researched sixth graders who used Alien Rescue, a computer-based problem based learning program. The students motivation levels were compared during regular instruction and a computer-based problem-based learning unit. The study began with a teacher interview. The scale of Intrinsic verses Extrinsic Orientation in the Classroom which included five subscales was administered to the students before and after they used the computer program. The subscales included Preference for easy vs. challenging work, personal interest vs. pleasing the teacher, Dependent vs. independent mastery, and Reliance on teacher vs. independent judgment. In problem-based learning (PBL), all of the learning comes from trying to solve a complex, authentic problem. The problems usually relate to everyday life and thus can produce student interest. During the solving process, students often collaborate with peers. The teacher

13 acts as a facilitator who helps to examine the students thinking and does not tell the student how to solve the problem. With the same emphasis on student direction as problem-based learning, inquiry-focused learning is a process that cultivates in depth thinking, exploration, and enhanced student motivation (Harada & Yoshina, 2004). Inquiry-focused learning is outlined as follows: 1. Connect-connect to self and previous knowledge, gain background knowledge, observe and experience to gain an overview 2. Wonder-develop questions, make predictions and hypothesis Investigate-find and evaluate information to answer questions and test hypotheses, think about the information to illuminate new questions and hypothesis 3. Construct-build new understandings, draw conclusions about questions and hypothesis 4. Express-communicate new ideas, apply understandings to a new context or situation 5. Reflect-reflect on ones own process of learning and new understandings gained from inquiry, pose new questions (Harada & Yoshina, 2004, p. 23). According to Harada and Yoshina (2004), questioning should be at the center of the learning experience to provoke the students own curiosity and wonder should provide the seeds for meaningful learning (p. 22). Learning should be authentic so that it is relevant to the students and provokes interest. The students should help to negotiate the direction of what will be learned. By becoming part of the process, the students will become more engaged and motivated. Learning should also be social and interactive, Students should also learn by doing,

14 and solving problems should be an integral part of the learning process. Cooperative learning and project-based activities will stimulate and engage the students to ultimately strengthen motivation. Along with a greater motivation towards learning, students also benefit through this type of learning in higher levels of understanding, increased self-direction, and stronger social skills. According to Mendler (2000), Fast and Easy has replaced work and earn as a motto that guides many of our youth (p. 1). Students are missing the idea that it is their responsibility to work hard in their education and motivation levels are down. When teachers find tools to increase motivation, they will also find solutions to behavior problems. Mendler provides strategies to motivate students under the assumptions that every student is capable of learning, inherently motivated to learn, and will be motivated when adults treat them with care and respect. Mendler (2000) explains that a teacher can motivate students who dont care by applying four key aspects: emphasizing effort, creating hope, respecting power, building relationships, and expressing enthusiasm (p. 8). Emphasizing effort shows the students a strong connection between achievement and effort. Teachers should give the students a reason for what they are learning and show them the relevancy. Students may see themselves as incapable of achieving therefore do not have motivation towards their class work. Teachers should look at the positive and build off mistakes. Revising and retaking should be an essential factor in the curriculum so that students are not afraid to make mistakes and take risks. Thoughtfulness can be a major tool in both inspiring and sustaining motivation of others. The teacher can encourage students to improve one little thing about themselves a day and promote courtesy so that thoughtfulness is spread throughout the classroom.

15 Creating hope involves creating mountains that students believe they can climb (Mendler, 2000, p. 21). The curriculum should be challenging enough to engage students yet not too challenging to promote frustration. Teachers should focus on the positive aspects of the students work. Even criticism should be accompanied with a comment of approval. Many books and other data show the connection between how we think of ourselves and how we behave. Positive affirmation is extremely important for students to be motivated learners. Teachers should also use the conventional method of showing students how achievement will benefit their lives. Teachers should emphasize being organized and incorporate goal setting. Rader (2005) also agrees with the importance of goal setting as a teaching strategy that can strengthen student motivation. Rader states theories of self-esteem and motivation as a well as research on resilience emphasize the importance of reinforcing the belief that students have some control over what is occurring in their lives(p. 123). Goal setting can be used to motivate students in all aspects of their lives. Students can develop academic goals, physical goals, or social goals. Students can develop individual goals or classes can develop goals as a group. Problem solving and decision-making skills are also reinforced through goal setting. Rader (2005) outlined six steps to make goal setting successful. (1) It starts with choosing a certain goal and documenting it. (2) The next step involves deciding a time when the goal will be reached. Setting a time ignites the energy needed to reach the goal. (3) A plan is then developed to reach the goal. Students identify their obstacles; recognize specific things they need to achieve, and helpful resources. (4) The student then visualizes accomplishing the goal. Visualization can be powerful in producing positive outlooks for the students. (5) The student should then work hard and the teacher must provide positive feedback and encouragement so that

16 students feel a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. (6) The final step is self-evaluation. Critical inquiry allows students to identify effective practices of their experiences. Mendler (2000) states the beliefs that we have about our own competence, autonomy, and power influence our motivation (p. 35). Therefore, respecting power is an integral key to motivate students. Students should be involved in deciding rules and procedures. Suggestion boxes could also used in the classroom so that the students can express their opinions. Allowing the students to teach certain skills, give demonstrations, and give directions also enables students to feel empowered and strengthens their own comprehension. It is essential for teachers to build positive and involved relationships with students in order to promote motivation. The student has to know that the teacher cares in order for it to be effective. The teacher can show that they care through listening to student feedback and making appropriate accommodations. The teacher can give genuine compliments and take time to get to know the students interests, concerns, and situations. Mendler suggests that if a teacher invests two minutes a day for ten days, just trying to get to know the student, they will form a more successful relationship with the student. Expressing enthusiasm is the last key aspect for strengthening student motivation. People genuinely enjoy being around people who are uplifting, lively, and energetic. A teacher should carry these traits to captivate their students. Teachers should express and share their love for the subject to captures the students interest. In a way, a teacher has to be a salesperson. Humor can also engage students. Mendler (2000) states that research on learning styles, multiple intelligences, and preferred learning activities tell us that there is no one size fits all when it comes to how students learn, consolidate, and use information (p. 61). Therefore, a teacher needs to capture all types of learners through drama, music, art projects, teaching through food,

17 and theme days. When a student is engaged and interested, they become naturally more motivated in learning. Alternative Assessments and Motivation Erwins (2004) interpretation of the work of William Glasser points us to the concept that all people have the same basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun. The behavior of all people is purposeful in attempting to meet the needs in whatever way is available at the time. Students in a classroom have these needs, but often find them frustrated. This frustration can be expressed in misbehavior as well as a substantial decline in student motivation. Strategies that can help students meet these needs can also be used to improve student motivation in the classroom. Traditional forms of assessment have repeatedly led to the frustration of the power needs for students. High stakes testing have led to teachers taking more control of the learning process and providing students with less opportunity to exercise control over their own learning (Amrein & Berliner, 2003). Lack of control specifically frustrates the power needs of the students and results in a build up of animosity and distrust of the assessment process. Often, standardized testing is used in concert with a series of motivation reducing rewards or punishments that are determined by student performance. The punishments all too often include retention of students and graduation restrictions placed on students. It has been shown that in schools where high stakes testing is used to determine student progression, students are more likely to drop out (Amrein & Berliner, 2003). State standardized testing limits the abilities of teachers to be flexible and original with their curriculum. As a result, teachers begin to focus on the basic skills and vocabulary, narrowing the curriculum and avoiding enrichment activities that take time away from the essential elements.

18 This type of curriculum change will obviously have an effect on lower achieving students and their own perception of their abilities. What can be more surprising, however, is the fact that these changes can also have a detrimental effect on the gifted and talented students (Moon, Brighton & Callahan, 2003). The needs of these students can often be overlooked when teachers are concerned about meeting performance standards. The feeling of powerlessness to change their own learning can lead to a decrease in the students intrinsic motivation. In order to offset some of the negative effects of high stakes, large-scale assessment, teachers can try to develop and utilize some alternative assessment techniques. When properly used, these assessments can allow students to better meet their power and freedom needs, decrease their frustration with school in general and improve their overall motivation to learn. As a science teacher, I have seen first hand the improvement in student motivation that can come about with assessments that are more performance based and more relevant not only to the students learning but also to their own lives. Science as a subject loans itself to this form of assessment and has been enjoying its benefits for many years both in the classroom and, to a lesser extent, on the state assessments. While the presence of these assessment strategies is obvious and beneficial in science, it has come to light that many alternative assessments can be effectively used in other subject areas. Some of these assessments that are available for teacher use are: portfolios, projects, performance testing and student initiated rubric scoring. Research in assessment forms yields a major idea. One of the major factors in engaging student motivation is the involvement of the students in the assessment process itself. According to Erwin (2004), allowing students to participate in this process give students the opportunity to fulfill their power need by taking control of their own learning.

19 As previously stated, high stakes testing, including standardized tests that are used for evaluative purposes can be damaging to the motivation of the students. While testing with openended performance tasks can be more effective and focus on higher-level skills, students are often uncomfortable with the change from traditional pencil and paper tests. This can be attributed to the comfort level and familiarity that students have with traditional testing formats. When the students are familiar with the test, they feel as though they have a better chance of getting high marks on the assessment (Stefanou & Parkes, 2003). In non-traditional situations, such as where no grades are being assigned, students have indicated more comfort with and even a preference for more challenging and open-ended tasks (Stefanou & Parkes, 2003). In order to overcome this difficulty, the classroom teacher must initiate the change in assessment styles. If the students have more positive assessment experiences that are out of the traditional testing model, they will be more comfortable and trusting of new assessment situations. Successful student-involved assessment must meet certain conditions. First, the assessment must be driven by a clear purpose. This includes the identification of whether the assessment is for learning or of learning. Assessments that are designated as being for learning are intended to engage students and allow them to take charge of their own learning. These are more effective in motivating students that traditional of learning assessments like those that are used by most states and schools (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005). Secondly, the assessment must be derived from achievement expectations that have been clearly defined. The assessment methods must also be able to accurately reflect the prescribed targets so that the results can be used as tools to reach proficiency. Finally, the assessment must have usable communication systems to deliver the results to the intended users. This communication will only be useful to the users if it has more detail included than a grade (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005).

20 One of the largest concerns, especially with large-scale assessment, is the large gap in achievement. The involvement of students in the assessment process can help to close this gap in a positive way through the engagement of the students and providing them with academic successes. With more success, students will be more likely to improve their effort and stay in school. Providing this success will have more of an impact on lower achieving students than on currently high achieving students, thus closing the achievement gaps (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005). Involving students in the assessment process itself can take several different forms. One of these is the use of student-designed rubrics. Rubrics, in general, help to improve student motivation by making the expectations for achievement clear upfront and eliminating surprises for the students. The use of rubrics has been a growing trend in education and involving students in the creation of the rubrics is a relatively small step with tremendous possible benefits. When students are engaged in the creations of the rubrics, they feel empowered in their learning because they get to make the decision as to what was important in their learning. This process will also improve the students learning process in general by teaching critical thinking skills through self-reflection and self-evaluation (Skillings & Ferrell, 2000). The involvement of students can also be established in areas such as record keeping where students are given the opportunity and responsibility to monitor their own learning and keep track of their improvements over time. This gives the students a sense of control over their

learning as well as needed practice in self-reflection. Lastly, students can be deeply involved in the process of communicating assessment results. This, when combined and inspired by successes gained over the long term will encourage the students to take pride in and share their self-assessment with others (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005).

21 Along with the power need, comes the need for love and belonging (Erwin, 2004). This need can also be addressed, at least in part by the use of alternative assessment techniques. Students feel tremendous pressure from high stakes testing. This pressure, over time, leads to resentment from students toward not only the assessment process itself, but also towards the institutions that utilize these assessments. Developing a sense of community with students as partners in the assessment process helps to create a low anxiety environment in which the students can feel more comfortable and successful (Skillings & Ferrell, 2000). Often overlooked in the analysis of assessments are the conclusions that students will draw about themselves based on information concerning their success or failure on the tests. In order to promote students achievement, especially in lower achieving students, they must feel our belief that they are capable of doing well. Rekindling the hope of students and preventing them from giving up in hopelessness is the key to engaging student motivation and keeping them in school (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005). Engaging motivation in students with alternative assessment can be accomplished with meaningful, challenging tasks that involve novelty and give students some control and encourage self-management and monitoring skills. When students have real choices and input in their own learning and assessment, they will experience more motivation and will strive toward mastery in school (Stefanou & Parkes, 2003). Summary With the No Child Left Behind legislation in full effect, schools are becoming increasingly pressured to produce high scores on standardized tests. Unfortunately, an over reliance on traditional testing is causing students to become mentally, emotionally and academically restricted, as well as discouraged in and resentful of schools. Our zeal to encourage students to achieve is actually forcing many students to meet their own personal needs in less positive ways,

22 often resulting in flat out refusal to try or even in dropping out of school all together. Teachers have the power to engage student motivation with innovative alternative assessment strategies that involve the students in the decision making process. For the students, this provides opportunity to meet their power needs in positive fashion. For teachers and administrators, this will improve student attitude toward learning and result in higher levels of achievement overall.

23 CHAPTER THREE METHODS AND PROCEDURES Statement of the Problem To some students, the classroom is an exciting and meaningful place where success and effort are enjoyable. In other students we see a lack of interest, lack of pride and lack of desire to learn; regardless of content area, grade level or district. These students are not interested and therefore fail to find motivation to learn. We want to know how the instructional techniques of the teacher and the class curriculum affect the motivation of students. Purpose of the Study The purpose of the study was to identify if instructional techniques that have been deemed influential positively influence student motivation. We examined already existing research in this area and make observations of K-12 classrooms. Using this information we looked for similarities between teaching strategies and student motivation levels. The results of this study will be used to develop more effective strategies in a classroom setting. Research Question The following research question guided the study: Is there a positive correlation between teaching strategies and student motivation? Participants The participants in the study were from three different school districts in Northern New York. The participants in the Hidden Glen Middle school were in two categories: middle school students and middle school teachers. The middle school students were in grade levels six, seven and eight. The students varied in ages between 11 and 15 years old. In the sixth grade, there were approximately 90 students. In the seventh grade, there will be approximately 110 students.

24 In the eighth grade, there were approximately 96 students. The distribution of male and female students was approximately 50% male and 50% female throughout the school. The school was rated as a low-income rural school, but has, at present a variety of socioeconomic levels represented. The student body also has a significant number of children with military families (between 5% and 15%). There were two middle school teachers participating in the study. At the time of the study all of the teachers will have tenure from the school district. The participants in the Ontario Lake Central School were in two categories: high school students and high school teachers. The high school students were in grades nine, ten, eleven and twelve. The students varied in ages of 14-19. In ninth grade, there was approximately 160 students, in tenth grade, 128 students, in eleventh grade, 98 students and in twelfth grade, 114 students. At the present time, the school is rated as a rural school with high student needs. There were two high school teachers participating in the study. At the time of the study all of the teachers had tenure from the school district. The participants in the Maple Valley Central School were in two categories: students and teachers. The Maple Valley Central School was composed of approximately 418 students and 51 professional staff. There were two teachers total participating in this study. The participants will represent the K-12 school district and were composed of elementary, intermediate and secondary teachers. At the time of study all of the teachers had tenure from the school district. Criteria for Selection of the Participants The participants in the this study were in the Thousand Islands Middle School, the Hannibal Central High School and the Harrisville Central School District. The participants were chosen on the basis of the following criteria: agreement to participate in the study, provision of

25 all necessary consent forms from participants and parents as needed. The participants were either students or teachers at one of the three previously stated school districts. Teachers in these school districts were selected based on recommendation from administration and their willingness to participate. Methodology Teacher action research can be completed by anyone in the educational system. It is done by the teacher, for the teacher. Educators may conduct teacher action research for a variety of reasons: they may want to improve the school environment, learning environment, curriculum or the lives of the students. Mills (2003) states action research engages teachers in a four-step process: identify an area of focus, collect data, analyze and interpret data and develop an action plan (p. 5). Allowing teachers to research their own area of focus will allow them to complete a systematic inquiry into something of interest to them. With teacher-action research no actions will be forced upon them. Teachers will also have the freedom to collect and analyze the data as they see fit. Teacher action research will give educators an opportunity to improve their classrooms, curriculum and instructional techniques by developing and possibly implementing an action plan. Education is an ever-changing profession and action research is an opportunity for educators to say current in their field. Rationale for the Methodology According to Mills (2003), the information gathered in teacher action research enables educators to gain insights, develop reflective practices, effect positive change in the school environment and improve student outcomes and the lives of those involved. Not only can an educator have an impact in the school environment with teacher action research, but with their professional life as well. Teacher action research is an opportunity for growth, improvement and learning of an

26 educator. Teacher action research takes an educator out of their comfort zone of their classroom or school system and allows them to obtain information about other districts and classrooms. The collaboration can also be acquired and will enrich ones professional development. Procedure Used for Data Gathering and Analysis The first procedure of data collection was a pre-observation interview with the participating teachers. Next a classroom observation occurred, and then a follow up interview was conducted. During the classroom observation, students that did not wish to participate in the study were seated out of the field of view of the observer or they will be provided with an alternative activity designed by the classroom teacher that would provide the student with equivalent instruction as the classroom activity. There were five observations of approximately 45 minutes made of each of the selected classroom teachers. During the observations, teaching strategies and student engagement were being noted on an observation form. (see Appendix F) The interview procedure consisted of two types of interviews. First, an open interview was conducted. This interview will be a one-on-one interview with a teacher selected by the researcher. The interview took place either during the teachers planning period, lunch period or immediately after school hours. The teacher was given a copy of the basic interview questions before the time of the interview in order to give them time to review the topic being discussed (see Appendix G). The interview questions focused on the aspect of student motivation in the teachers classroom, but they were open ended so that the teacher can express their opinion fully and clearly. Although the interview questions were scripted, the researchers deviated from the list in order to pursue an unforeseen topic of opportunity during the interview. A tape recorder was used, with the permission of the interviewee, in order to minimize the amount of writing needed during the interview as well as to preserve the reliability of the interview.

27 A post observation was conducted. This interview was conducted in the same manner as the interview style stated above with exception of the scheduling and the questions to be asked. This interview was scheduled for immediately after school on the day of the interview and utilized questions designed to go with the observation, but with a similar amount of flexibility for the researcher. Once again, the teachers interviewed were given the basic list of questions in advance of the interview. In order to gain information about student perspectives on their own motivation and the perceived effectiveness of the teaching strategies used in their classroom, students in the classes selected for teacher observation were given a survey to complete before the classroom observations are made. (see Appendix E) The survey took approximately ten minutes to complete in class and was administered and collected by the classroom teacher. These surveys were collected, but were not analyzed until after the classroom observations are completed. The completion of the surveys also contributed to the researchers ability to present reliable data. The data collected during the study was be analyzed by the researchers, in hopes of finding a connection between instructional strategies and curriculum of a teacher and student motivation. After the data was collected and analyzed, an action plan was created. In completion of this study, the researches hope to enhance the engagement of their students and improve motivation levels of their classes. Timeline: Phase I In the first phase of the timeline an area of focus will be identified. Student motivation will be the focus for this study. Next, a literature review was completed. Current literature on motivation in the classroom, motivational strategies and alternative motivational assessment techniques were researched and reviewed. Upon review of current literature, a research question

28 was developed: how does classroom instruction techniques and curriculum affect student motivation will be the research question for this study. The last step in phase one was reconnaissance, or preliminary information gathering (Mills, 2003). To gain insight into the area of focus, the researches identified theories that impacted the practice, the educational values they hold and these historical contexts of their schooling to determine how they got to be the way they are. A descriptive to our area of focus is the students and improving their levels of engagement in a classroom by providing a curriculum that is thought provoking and instructional strategies that grasp the attention of the students. Most important is why the area of focus was chosen. In many students a lack of interest in class, a lack of pride in their work and a lack of desire to learn can be observed. Low levels of student involvement, student creativity and enjoyment may be caused by the curriculum and instructional strategies utilized by the teacher. Timeline: Phase II Process for Data Collection Stage 1 Securing required permission from participants, parents and school 1. Obtained written permission for the study from the building principal and the school superintendent (see appendix A). 2. Sent home informational letter with the students for their parents about the purpose and procedures for the study 3. Sent home informed consent and confidentiality forms with the students for both parents and students to sign and return to researcher (see appendix B & C) 4. Spoke directly with each teacher to inform him or her about the purpose and procedure for the study.

29 5. Had the teachers sign the informed consent and confidentiality forms (see appendix D). Stage 2 Student Surveys 1. Distributed student surveys to teachers of each grade level 2. Had the teachers give the surveys to the students in class so that the students would take the surveys by themselves without influence of their peers (see appendix E). 3. Had the teachers collect the surveys and return them to the researcher for analysis. Stage 3 Classroom Observations 1. Scheduled with each of the two selected classroom teachers five, 45 minute observations of one or more of his or her classes. 2. Students that do not wish to be observed were moved to an area out of the field of view of the observer. Students that do not wish to participate in the observed class were provided with a separate location and an alternative activity that will be designed by the classroom teacher to deliver equivalent instruction as the classroom activity being observed. 3. The researchers observed the class for 40 minutes using the observation checklist (see appendix F) 4. Conducted a post-observation interview with the classroom teacher (see appendix G) Stage 4 Teacher Interviews 1. Scheduled interview time with each teacher 2. Used the interview form, completed each interview (see appendix G).

30 3. Taped the interview with the permission of the interviewee and transcribed at a later time for analysis

Timeline: Phase III We analyzed our data and generate our findings. The analysis consisted of finding relationships within the data collected based on our already identified categories. Similarities were grouped and measurements will be taken. The use of note cards and color-coding were used to organize the findings and emerging themes. Comparative analysis was ongoing throughout this process. Timeline: Phase IV The development of an action plan based on our findings Data Management Procedure The data collected in this study were in three different formats: 1. Student Surveys: The answers provided by the students were organized into tables based on the following categories: topic, question and student response. 2. Classroom Observations: The checklist observations were collated and organized by either teacher or student observations into a table based on previously determined categories such as topic or behavior. Open ended observations were organized by teacher or students observation and will be grouped into topic lists. For each observation, a notation was made to describe in what time period the observation occurred during the class 3. Teacher Interviews: The teacher interview answers that were direct responses to the basic questions were grouped according to question posed. Questions that were

31 posed as a result of a topic of opportunity were grouped separately and organized by topic as appropriate.

Data Analysis The analysis began with inductive analysis. In this step, the researchers compared all sources of data as individual units and sorted the data into categories and themes based on patterns that emerge for each source. The categorization of the data provided the researchers with the opportunity to interpret the data using personal experiences, educational theory and literature references. If any themes are recognized, they will be recorded for use in the second stage of the analysis. The next step in the analysis was the constant comparative. In this process, the researchers looked for large, recurring themes in the data that can be seen by looking across the various sources of data. The final step in the data interpretation was the listing of the information that the data either did not provide or provided unexpectedly; whether it was expected information to questions that were left unanswered or a theme that emerged during the analysis that provided unexpected insights. Data Management and Validity In order to preserve the validity of the data that was collected, the researchers took certain precautions. Firstly, the researchers utilized data triangulation to establish the credibility of the information gathered and the thematic nature of the analysis. The triangulation of the data occurred with the four sources of information. Using the different perspectives from the students, teachers and observers, the questions addressed in this study had the validity required for proper analysis.

32 The researchers ensured the validity of the results by avoiding interference with the information being gathered. The questionnaires were given to the teachers and the surveys were given to the students to complete without interference from the researcher. The information that is gathered was shared with the teachers, students and parents ensured unbiased reporting of the data, but only after the information had been categorized to remove any personal identification of the responders. The taping and the transcription of the interviews likewise helped to preserve the validity of the data. Along with these strategies, the researchers maintained an audit trail to record their daily research procedures, utilized peer review techniques and provided opportunities for member checks so that the study participants had an opportunity to identify misinterpretations or mistakes in the data. Role of the Researcher The researchers were the research instrument and were influenced by personal bias. The researcher gathered data, interpreted data and determined outcomes of the research pertaining to the three school districts examined. Reliability Our data was reliable due to the use of multiple data sources. Triangulation was used to assure reliability through the use of four sources. Our data was consistent throughout time and similar results were expected in related research. Trustworthiness and Credibility of Analysis We used an audit trail and triangulation to assure credibility. We collected data with persistent observation. We conducted peer debriefing and member checks before submitting the research to the public. Audit Trail

33 An audit trail was completed so that an outside auditor will have available to them the researchers data, analysis, and interpretation of the material collected. The material available included written descriptions of the process completed and all paperwork completed throughout the study. .

34 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS Field Site 1: Ontario Lake High School Introduction of Case Study Participants At the Ontario Lake Central School in central New York, participants in this study were two high school teachers and eighteen students. The participants were chosen on the following criteria: agreement to participate in the study, provision of all necessary consent forms from participants and parents as needed. Teachers in the school district were selected based on recommendation from local school administrators, teachers, and school superintendents that I, the researcher, sought out. Description of Field Site Ontario Lake High School is located in a city in central New York. Ontario Lake accommodates approximately five hundred students. At the present time, the school is labeled as a needs improvement rural school with high student needs. Matthew Matthew is a psychology teacher at Ontario Lake High School. He teaches a psychology course that is designed for twelfth grade students at the district. Psychology is an elective that the students may take and is not required for graduation. Matthew is a highly motivated teacher who believes that each one of his students walks through the door with differing levels of interest and motivation. I feel that I do have the ability to foster student motivation. I believe that not only style of instruction, but also methods of assessment and feedback can enhance students levels

35 of intrinsic motivation. I observe the students level of active involvement. I also pay attention to how students will go beyond the textbook to seek answers. Physical Description of Classroom Matthew does not have a classroom of his own; instead, he uses one of the foreign language classrooms for his psychology class. The minute the students enter the room they move the desks into a semi-circle. Upon entering the classroom, one notices a comfortable environment start to form. Desk are being moved, students are conversing about the days events. Feet got put up and for some shoes were taken off. I observed this class for five days and everyday the same routine could be seen. Matthews desk is located in the front of the classroom but he rarely stays there. The teacher will move next to the student when they talk or will sit with a group of students at eye level to discuss topics or concerns. My initial impression of the classroom is one that is pretty bleak. There were no posters on the walls, no supplies on the front desk and no color in the room. I would assume that it is due to the multiple use of the classroom by various teachers. It appears that this had no effect on the student levels of motivation. Throughout the observations, the students were like sponges, soaking up every word the teacher said. Without any distractions in the room around them, the students only had each other and Matthew to focus on. Personality Characteristics Matthew is a very energetic person who seems passionate about teaching. During my observations, I continuously noted how his energy level remained high throughout the lesson. Numerous times during the observations I saw Matthew run from one side of the room to the other, or from one student to another. The class was always energetic and lively. When I asked Matthew about this he replied by saying, I drink 16 Red Bull energy drinks prior to class so that

36 I appear as excited about the lesson as Id like my students to be. Matthew has a sense of humor that comes though continuously throughout the class. Laughter is a common sound in Matthews class. Diane Diane is an art teacher at the Ontario Lake High School. She teaches three photography courses for the district. Photography is an elective that the students may take during any year and is not required for graduation. Dianes classes are always full, are eager to take one of her photography course prior to graduation. Diane came highly recommended by administration and faculty as someone who is highly motivating. Diane replied with the following comment: I define motivation as an internal driving force. I want my students to have a reason to learn. I want them to have a strong work ethic. I feel frustrated though; I try to help them [my students] find individual, personal reasons to succeed in my class but this strategy is not working to the extent I would like. I feel frustrated. Physical Description of Classroom Dianes classroom is split up into four sections; in the back left quadrant is a work area. Six tables with twelve stools are set up so that students can work. In the back right quadrant are three computers, a scanner and a printer. In the front of the room, you will find a u-shaped table arrangement used for classroom discussion and to your left, an entrance to the photography dark room. Initial Impression of Classroom The minute you walk into Dianes classroom you would either feel right to home or over stimulated. There are flowers in the room, which brought in a nice element of nature. There is music on. Everything is painted. The chairs have vines of flowers painted on the legs, the stool

37 seats have been hand painted with custom designs. The walls have murals painted on them. In one section of the room the murals are all superheroes. The ceiling is painted and also contained many poster-sized artwork. Photographs are pinned, or taped on to most cabinet surfaces. Supplies are everywhere. The sink is full of photography equipment and countertops are stacked with paper, pencils, and art supplies. I observed this class for five days and everyday I saw students and teachers come and go as they pleased in this free environment. Dianes desk is located in the middle of the classroom but she is rarely there. I, like most of her students, enjoyed being in Dianes classroom. It was colorful, energetic and comfortable. Personality Characteristics Diane is a nurturing and caring teacher who seems compassionate and concerned about each one of her students. She was always very kind and respectful. Diane is very accommodating. She is an endless supply of information, time or supplies. I also found Diane to be very encouraging and optimistic. As an observer, I heard encouraging words from Diane continuously throughout the lessons. At one point in the observation a student said that she was not intelligent enough to do shading. Diane replied by saying, take your time, it takes practice, you are doing a beautiful job. Diane is very energetic. She has an endless supply of energy to keep up with the students. She gets pulled in many different directions and keeps up with the pace. At one point in the observation, Diane had a line of five students behind her all needing something different fixed. One by one, she got through the line. Classroom Atmosphere During observations, a unique classroom atmosphere could be seen. The classrooms were safe and very open. The students were respected, and felt comfortable to be honest. In Matthews

38 psychology class true confessions could be heard from the students during class discussion. The two major categories of behavior that demonstrated a unique atmosphere were (a) focus on student comfort and (b) personal connections to the students. Focus on student comfort In Matthews classroom, students would come in, move their desks into a semi-circle and for some shoes would come off and feet would go up. In one particular lesson taught by Matthew, a female student was sitting on the countertop instead of in a desk. The students seemed very relaxed and comfortable in Matthews classroom. In the middle of the lesson, students were given a break. This, I believe, improved student comfort in the classroom. Students were allowed to get up, stretch, use the restroom, or get something to eat or drink. This occurred everyday while observing Matthews classroom. The same focus on student comfort was observed in Dianes classroom. Freedom is a main component to Dianes class. Students have the freedom to use their class time to fit their needs. If they are hungry, they may go to lunch. If they need to work on other classes or have personal projects they would like to complete, they may do so. If they do not feel like working on art that day, they do not have to. Diane does not worry about the students getting off task as long as they work hard the majority of the time. The classroom atmosphere also plays an important role in the comfort of Dianes students. The different work areas of the classroom help to foster student comfort. Students may use any part of the classroom to complete their work. There is an area for group discussion, one for individual work and multiple hands on work areas. Music can be heard playing from a corner of the room. Each of these elements creates a very comfortable and welcoming environment in the school.

39 Personal Connections to the Students In Matthews classroom, a great relationship can be seen between him and his students. Matthew moves next to the students when they talk to him or have a comment to say. Matthew will also sit with the students to discuss topics at eye level. By constantly moving around the room, Matthews connects on a personal level with each of his students. Matthew has created a very safe and controlled environment in which the students feel very comfortable. The students are honest and open during discussion. During his set break time for the students, many will stay back and share comments they have or ask questions to clarify. For some, a large group discussion is intimidating to them; Matthew allows each student to connect to him and the material in their own way at their own time. One other factor I observed that aided Matthew in connecting personally to his students is that Matthew has nicknames for his students. The students seemed to be proud of their names and laughter and smiles can be observed when Matthews called on the students by these names. The same focus on personal connection with her students could be seen in Dianes classroom. Diane would sit with the students and help them to work on material. The students showed that same comfort level with her: they would sit next to her, work and joke along side of her. I also observed mutual respect between Diane and her students. The students would periodically crack jokes at Dianes but always they were respectful and did so in a kind and considerate way. I still love ya is all Diane would say after someone joked around with her. Diane has a lot of respect for her students. She is concerned about how they are doing in other classes and in other aspects of life. The teacher is very interested in anything the students are doing, whether it be art related or not. I observed the students fighting for Dianes attention. Dianes energy always kept up with the demand of attention wanted and needed by her students.

40 There is a lot of trust in Dianes classes. Diane gives the students her personal supplies, and trusts them with it. One day I observed Diane giving out personal cameras, flashes, and art supplies to the students for use on their projects. They were to return them the next day. Dianes classroom was a great environment to spend time in, as an observer, I heard laughter, excitement and student pride in their work. When their film negatives got developed or their pictures got printed, the levels of excitement rose in the class. I observed no jealously or negative emotions between the students. They were happy for one another when success occurred. Activity in the Classroom During all the observations, classroom activity emerged as a major theme. The three major categories that demonstrated this were (a) focus on pacing, (b) use of multiple activities and (c) random selection. Focus on Pacing In Matthews classes, students have the freedom to jump into the discussion whenever they would like. The teacher will stop, and let the students share their comments or concerns. Never did Matthew rush through this when it occurred. If no one has responded in awhile, Matthew will stop and survey the class to get their opinions on the topic of discussion. Matthew acts as a facilitator to his class. He keeps it organized and going. I found his class to be very fast-paced. He switched between mediums very quickly; while most students kept up with the transitions I observed a few that did not. Many times throughout the observations, the student comments went astray. Every time this occurred Matthew was able to regroup and refocus them back on task.

41 A very different, yet effective, method of pacing occurred in Dianes classroom. She allows her students to work at their own pace. Students have the freedom to go to lunch, go take pictures, work in the dark room or on the computers, or they can choose not to work on art that day. Every student does something different, it depends on what direction the students would like to take. The students in Dianes classes plan their own class, the teacher facilitates. During one particular observation, Diane let the class in a group discussion. There were no limits placed on it though, students were free to take the discussion in any direction they would like and Diane expanded on her students comments throughout the activity. Time was not an issue. Diane devotes as much time that is need to the task at hand. Use of Multiple Activities Differentiated learning was observed in both Matthews and Dianes classrooms. During my time spent in Matthewss class, I observed discussion lessons, note taking, lecture groups, personal reflection opportunities and visualizing activities. Because of numerous authentic assessments that Matthew stopped and took, whenever confusion arose, Matthew took the time to further explain his point. Matthew has the ability to take very complicated material and break it down into simplistic terms. He did this many times by using great vivid examples to get his point across. In Dianes classroom, the lesson usually began with a recap discussion. Students would share stories, ideas or concerns that they may have. Questions were asked about the previous day. I found it interesting that during this discussion time, Diane switched focal points. She would stand in the back of the classroom instead of the front. Dianes classroom is the perfect exemplar of multiple activities. Organized chaos is how she described it. Every student is doing something different. On one particular day, I observed students in the dark room, developing

42 film, getting cameras ready and/or fixed, working on projects/portfolios, and getting film ready. While her students were busy completing these tasks, Diane was fixing cameras, checking film/flashes, helping students get organized and installing software programs on the classroom computers. Teacher demonstrations occurred periodically throughout the class. During one observation, the teacher compared using the art utensil to holding chopsticks. I observed that the material was always broken down into simplistic forms so that student could better understand it. Even with the fast-pasted environment and use of multiple activities, the students still seemed impatient. On two different occasions, I heard these comments, lets go, next, its been fifteen minutes (It was only eight). Differentiated learning was also observed in Dianes classes. There were discussions, small group workstations, independent study opportunities and computer technology integration lessons. A portfolio project is used as the evaluation tool for the course. Random Selection In both Matthews and Dianes classroom, hand were not raised. Student spoke out when they had a question, comment or concern. When these teachers asked a question, they tried to pull the answers from the students. Both teachers tried for 100% participation from their students, they want everyone involved. Students are held responsible in these classrooms, the teacher just calls on them.

Connecting Material In all the classrooms that were observed, the teacher connects the lesson to the lives of the students, and to previous material in the curriculum. Personal stories were heard from the

43 students and the teachers. The teachers used the personal experiences of the students to expand the lesson and make connections and correlations in class. Connections in the Curriculum In Matthews classroom, he starts every lesson by pulling out background knowledge from his students. He makes a point each day to show the students that there is a connection between what is being taught that day in class, and what they already know or have experienced in life. He expands on student examples and stories when appropriate. Whenever possible, Matthew relates the comment to previous material that was learned. In every lesson I observed students repeatedly asked clarifying questions. Students were making their own connections in the curriculum and asking for clarification when they needed it. Every day Diane discussed how the students could use the class material at home in real life. Diane also continuously reminded her students that they could work on any project, even if it was for personal use, as long as they can relate it to the class and the curriculum. During one class discussion that occurred, I heard the teacher relates the assignment to real-life commercials. Students were asking clarifying questions and pointing out real life examples that they have seen.

Discussion during class In both Matthews and Dianes classroom, personal discussion occurred. At the start of every class he relates the topic to the students lives. The students felt comfortable enough in this class to tell personal stories, the teacher respond in many times by telling one of his own. In one particular lesson, I learned that Matthew was Italian and had grown up in New York City. The lesson for that day was on ethnicity and stereotypes. Any comment that was made from the

44 students during this discussion was used as a teachable moment. The examples and comments were used to lead the discussion, and connections were constantly made to what was previously taught. Diane is a perfect example of what she would like to see in her students. Throughout the observations, Diane made numerous connections between class material and personal life. One day she showed a painting her sister had done from a photograph she had taken. She explained how her husband asked her to take down the picture because wherever he traveled in the room the pictures eyes seemed to follow him. Earlier in the lesson, they class had discussed how taking a photograph with the subject looking straight at the camera will give the illusion that there eyes can move. Diane also showed many personal projects/photographs she had taken. The beginning classroom discussion allowed her to do this. The students followed her lead everyday. They too, shared personal stories and projects during this discussion time.

Humor in the classroom Both Matthew and Diane have a great personality and incorporate humor into their classes. As an observer, I heard laughter in each of their classroom everyday. Both teachers had the ability to make jokes when the situation called for it, or lighten the mood of the class when needed. Field Site 2: Hidden Glen Middle School Introduction of Case Study Participants At Hidden Glen Middle School, the participants involved in the study were two classroom teachers, a resource teacher and two classes of students. The participants were chosen on the following criteria: agreement to participate in the study, provision of all necessary consent forms

45 from participants and parents as needed. Teachers in the school were selected based on recommendations from local school administrators, teachers, and school superintendents that I, the researcher, sought out. Description of Field Site Hidden Glen Middle School is a rural school in Northern New York. Each of the three grade levels (6, 7 and 8) taught in the school have approximately 100 students. Within the student body is a mix of sexes, races and religions typical to rural areas in Northern New York. Tony Tony Stark is a tall, imposing man with thick, wavy black hair. It is easy to assume that the sixth grade students that Tony teaches would be intimidated by a science teacher that towers over and dwarfs them, but Tonys soft spoken manner and witty sense of humor quickly set students at ease. Tony has teaching experiences in a wide variety of situations and this experience shows in his easy manner and flexibility. When talking with Tony, I learned that he has a passion for teaching as well as for science. He is always excited about giving students opportunities to learn and enjoy science and this excitement comes through in his bubbly and exuberant manner. Tonys Classroom Description Tonys classroom, being a science room, has countertops and tables instead of desks. The room is spacious and well organized. The student tables are organized in two long rows with the students facing the front of the room. Unlike many science teachers with whom I am acquainted, Tony is very organized and his room is neat as a pin. Walking into the room, one is struck by a sense of order. Tony believes that this order is crucial to providing his students with a sound learning experience in their first year in the middle school.

46 Tonys Class Description Tonys class consists of 22 sixth grade students. This group has, according to Tony, both gifted and talented students as well as special education students. While the students with IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) have not been determined to have severe learning impairments, there is a large range of ability levels within the class. Wanda Wanda Farr, the seventh grade English teacher, is a motherly, caring presence. With children of her own and strong opinions about what is right and wrong, Wanda is known by her colleagues as someone who will always stand firm when it comes to the rights and proper care of the students in her care. Wanda has been teaching English for five years and it clear that she loves her job. Her manner with the students is loving but firm, providing guidance for matters ranging from the proper use of a comma to dealing with difficult emotional issues in the lives of the students. Wandas Classroom Description Wandas room reflects much of her personality. It is warm and inviting with carpeting on the floor and posters and student work on the walls. The desks are set up in an extended U shape that allows the students to see each other as well as the teacher. The warmth of the room also reflects Wandas teaching style. The room is organized, but busy. The shelves are lined with books as are the tables, making it clear as soon as you enter that reading is a priority in this room. Wandas Class Description The composition of Wandas class is much the same as Tonys. The group of 16 seventh grade students is a mixture of ability levels. There are several students that Wanda indirectly identified as gifted in her subject area as well as several students that have IEPs for learning disabilities in

47 English skill areas. To provide assistance to the IEP students, the seventh grade resource teacher, Mary, has been assigned to Wandas room during this class period. Mary is a terrific addition to the classroom. The two teachers work together to provide a sound experience for all of the students in the class.

Classroom Atmosphere In each of the two classes that were studied at Hidden Glen, the students responded to the classroom atmosphere that was set up by the teachers. The teachers involved in the study had different styles and personalities that allowed them to influence the atmosphere and establish ways in which to awaken the latent motivation of their students. The two major sub-themes that have been identified as areas on which the teachers placed their focus are: (a) focus on student comfort and (b) personal connections to the students. Focus on Student Comfort Tony believes that the experiences of the students, both at home and with previous teachers will have a very powerful influence on their motivation to learn. He also knows that as sixth graders, the experiences of the students in his classroom will affect their motivation throughout their middle school years. As a result of his philosophy, Tony has developed a very structured classroom. While an outside observer may initially see the structure of the class as boring or tedious, it is a very carefully crafted atmosphere to address the needs of the sixth grade students. The students in his class, from the very beginning of the school year, learn what Tony expects from them and how they should go about learning. During the observations, I noted that the students

48 appeared very comfortable and relaxed with the class and the routines. Having a class that meets your expectations and limits unpleasant surprises reduces the amount of stress being placed on students. Tonys students remain in their seats during much of his lessons, but are free to meet their classroom needs. Students do not need to ask permission to get a tissue or to sharpen their pencil. They also appear to be very comfortable with asking the teacher if they can use the restroom or get a drink. While the students do have to ask permission to leave the classroom, Tony is very willing to allow them to do so. This again reduces the stress levels on students and allows them to focus their attention on the lesson. Tony continues to focus on student comfort levels during his lessons. He is very quick to help students with difficult pronunciations and he goes out of his way to explain concepts to improve student understanding. As Tony circulates through the class, he addresses student concerns and redirects off task behavior. The end result of his efforts can be seen in the students raising their hands during lessons, offering their opinions during discussions and the fact that seven of the eight students from Tonys class that were surveyed indicated that they enjoy coming to class. Wandas classroom is altogether different than Tonys. According to Wanda, Its very hard to motivate people that feel unsafe. This attitude is paramount in both her teaching style and her classroom. She makes sure that the classroom has a warm, caring atmosphere that will allow the students to feel safe coming to class and learning. Wanda first focuses on taking care of student needs. Students can get tissues, sharpen pencils and address other in class needs without asking for permission to do so. In order to leave the room, student must ask permission, by Wanda is very accommodating and will allow them to get a drink, visit the restroom or go to the school nurse whenever necessary.

49 The warm atmosphere in the classroom continues with Wandas ability to reduce student stress levels even when dealing with complicated material or subject matter. When giving notes on the overhead projector, she will provide an up close copy for students that are having difficulty seeing the screen. When giving a spelling test, she would provide the students with ample time as well as encouragements and warnings about often missed words. She was often heard telling students, Be careful, when working on a difficult spelling word or, take a careful look at your homework to be sure, or, this way, if you do your homework wrong, you can redo it and get full credit. Encouragement plays a major role in her overall teaching strategies. She will not only tell the students when they do a well in answering a question or on an assignment, but she will make a special point of posting student work on her doors and cupboards. Wanda says, Students like to see their work published. Taking a careful look at her doors, however, you not only see student work with high grades, but also student pictures, drawings and poems that were given to Wanda separate from the classroom assignments or events. Wanda takes obvious, almost motherly, pride in her students and it seems to have an impact on their comfort level. She also provides students to show off their successes in quick, low impact ways, such as asking for a show of hands after grading a quiz, Who got a 105, a 100, 95, 90? Encouraging statements such as, perfect or my man are also small, informal ways for Wanda to encourage her students. The warmth of Wandas room is also extended with her congenial work with the resource teacher that pushes in to her room during the class period that was observed. The resource teacher, Mary, is involved in the class to a degree where the students, both special needs and general education, are comfortable asking either teacher for help or direction. The working

50 relationship between the two women is friendly and helpful. Students seem to recognize the fact that extra help is always available for them and they do not hesitate to raise their hands to ask for it. Wandas classroom atmosphere is based on being nurturing and warm. She has high expectations for her students and is very straightforward when she needs to address problems, but her goals are long term and her view of student success is not always based strictly on academic standards. In fact, Wanda even expressed during her interview a concern about attempting to motivate students which neatly captures her philosophy. I disapprove of many of the pop-culture references that tend to be used to motivate students. I want my students to be motivated, but I refuse to use techniques that I believe are harmful in the long run. Wandas emphasis in creating a safe and warm learning environment can be see in student responses on the survey. While all of the students surveyed indicated that they enjoyed coming to class, only half of them indicated that their reasons for enjoying the class would be related to the activities done in the class. This could be seen equally in the observations of the classes. While there were moments of typical groaning at the mention of some class activities, the students responded with a smile when greeted with a good morning from the teacher and were seen smiling and laughing on the way in to class as well as on the way out.

Personal Connections to Students Tony stresses the organizational aspect of his classroom, but there is little doubt that there are some personal connections that have been made between him and the students that are looking for that connection. Students feel comfortable enough with Tony to ask questions about things

51 that have happened at home or that they have noticed in their lives to which they believe Tony will be able to provide an answer. He uses personal stories from his past as well as the students own experiences in the lessons which allow the students to feel more personally connected, not only to what they are learning, but also to Tony and the school. Small, personal conversations do not tend to happen between Tony and his students during class, given the structure and his focus on the material, but it was noted that the times before or in between classes in which I was present, the students would talk to him in the hallway and share jokes about some experience or prior conversation. In Wandas classroom, personal connections to the students can be found everywhere, both during class and in between classes. To begin with, Wanda lives in the village with many of the students and will mention seeing them or their families out of school. Small, personal conversations during transition times in the class are the norm with Wanda. She does not wait for the students to initiate the conversations, either. It is not uncommon for the students to be taking notes or getting out materials and for Wanda to talk to one student about their birthday party or their sister or some other topic that is seemingly completely unrelated to her class. Wanda regularly uses her own family as the example for writing lessons or in stories. She openly encourages students to ask her about personal issues and she does not shy away from topics that she feels the students will have an interest in or questions about. She is often seen sharing jokes with individual students, but she is careful to spread around her attention as well as responding to students that are trying to get her attention in positive ways and at appropriate times. Students in Wandas class are also exposed to friendly, personal connections that can be formed between adults, such as Wanda and Mary. The two teachers will have side conversations

52 between themselves or with the students, but they are careful to keep the conversations positive, productive and appropriate for the classroom. Activity in the Classroom In each of the classrooms that were observed, there was an obvious effort by the teacher to influence the activity in the classroom and use it for motivational purposes. Three sub-themes have emerged in the analysis of the observations: (a) focus on pacing, (b) use of multiple activities and (c) random selection of student participants. Focus on Pacing In Tonys classroom, as previously stated, the students tend to sit in their seats throughout the duration of most lessons. Most of the student learning in the class is accomplished through reading from the text and class discussions. This being said, however, Tony uses changes of activity often throughout the class. While the students may participate in an average of four different activities throughout the class, they average seven changes of activity. Tony will shift his class from one activity to another quickly and regularly. Students have an opportunity to move their materials around and shift from reading to discussing to writing about the information. It provides the class with a fast paced feel that keeps students from losing their attention. Of the eight students surveyed from Tonys class, seven of them indicated that they enjoy coming to class because they do many different activities. Wandas class is slower paced than Tonys. By nature this class, as an English class, is focused on reading and writing. Wanda is more concerned with allowing students the necessary time to complete the tasks at their own pace. This leads to two of nine students surveyed to indicate that all I do is sit and listen. While most students do not feel this way, only four students indicated

53 that they enjoy the class because they feel that they do many different activities. Wanda knows of this reality and even stresses the fact in class that, we are not going to rush through this. Wanda does make special efforts to utilize the time in her class wisely. She sets time limits for the students during certain activities that will be timed on the state tests. She will also have the students multitask in certain situations, such as providing an activity or question for the students if they finish with their current assignment. She will pass out papers or books while the students are reading or writing so as not to waste class time, or have students take out their materials when finished so that the transitions from one activity to another go very smoothly. Wandas class may not seem fast paced to some of the students, but the time is used well in every case. Multiple Activities Tonys class is structured around the reading and discussion of the textbook; however, there are many different activities that Tony will use to reinforce the material that he is teaching. This fact is not lost on his students. Of the eight students surveyed in Tonys class, seven of them stated that they enjoy coming to class because they do many different activities while none of them said that all they do is sit and listen. Of the activities used by Tony during the observations were reading, discussion, writing definitions, diagrams on the board, stories, demonstrations of balloons growing and shrinking with heat, and a lab activity using colored ice cubes, water and thermometers. Tony said in his interview that he also likes to use review games and activities like labs and experiments to help motivate his students. According to Tony, anything that will help to make the material fun and interesting for the students is an important teaching strategy for him to use. Wanda uses several different activities to help her students learn as well. While the students may not see the activities as being different, it may be a result of them all being centered on reading

54 and writing. Of the nine students surveyed in Wandas class, only four indicated that they enjoyed coming to class because they do many different activities and two indicated that they felt that all they do is sit and listen. Wanda does utilize many different reading and writing activities in her class including reading from the book, listening to audio tapes of books, completing writing assignments, taking notes, and class discussions. She also uses small activities like bell-ringers at the start of class, keeping the agenda on the board each day and providing opportunities to work on homework in class as ways to keep the class moving. Wanda did indicate in her interview that she is aware of other techniques of kinesthetic learning to provide opportunities for the students to move around and learn, but she is as yet unconvinced of their effectiveness for as class such as hers and she is waiting for more information before she uses them. Random Selection of Students Tony does not use a system of random selection of students to participate in his class. He is more likely to call on students that are raising their hands to volunteer their participation, but he will occasionally call on students that are off task in order to bring them back into the discussion. Tony did indicate in his interview that he uses the volunteering of students as a way to informally measure class motivation. Of the eight students that were surveyed from his class, six of them indicated that they participate often in class. Wanda uses a system of popsicle sticks with the students names on them in order to randomly call on the students during class. The students were made aware of this system at the beginning of the year and they seem very comfortable with it. Of the nine students that were surveyed in Wandas class, six of them said that they participate often in class. Wanda does use some student volunteers for activities like reading out loud, but typically uses the sticks for answering

55 questions. One additional thing that Wanda does to make the students more comfortable with this system is to pick the stick and give the students warning before they are required to answer before the class. Connecting Material to the Lives of Students In each class that was observed, the teachers made an effort to allow the students to see connections between their lives and the material that is being taught. This would presumably help the students motivate themselves to learn. The teachers did this in two ways: (a) forming connections between the curriculum and the lives of students and (b) using topics in class discussion and student questions to connect the material to personal experiences of the students. Connections in the Curriculum Tony stresses the fact in his interview that one of the main techniques he uses to motivate his students is to try to make the material relevant to them. This includes making sure that the students are aware of how the subject matter will impact their lives. The students, for the most part are aware of these connections. Of the eight students that were surveyed in Tonys class, five of them said that they can use the material in real life situations and six of them said that they can relate the material to their own life. Tony makes certain to utilize real world examples with his lessons. This ensures that the concepts being taught can be associated with practical, concrete applications to the real world. Wandas class, it could be argued, is more practical in the real world than any other. This being said, it is clear that, despite Wandas efforts, students have a difficult time seeing the practicality of the rules and practice with which they are presented. Of the nine students that were surveyed in Wandas class, six of them indicated that they could relate the information that they were learning to their own lives, but only three students said that they could use the material in real

56 life situations. Wanda does make sure that the examples used in her class have real world significance, but the practice in an English class seems to be difficult for students to relate. Class Discussion Tonys class revolves primarily around two activities. First is the reading of the text which provides students with their primary information. Second, and equally as important, according to Tony, is the discussion of the information. It is during the discussions that Tony can take the material and connect it directly to student ideas and personal experiences. In order to do this, one of the techniques he uses is to tell the students a personal story showing how the information affected him personally. Tony will then answers student questions and allow the students to contribute their own experiences. Occasionally, students will have the wrong idea and this provides a chance to adjust and teach the topic over again. Wandas class is again difficult for the students to see connections. However, Wanda does use the opportunity to teach the students how to form opinions about the story and back them up with solid reasoning. This can prompt discussion about how a story may relate to the live of students and how the characters in the stories can be dealing with many of the same issues as the students themselves. Wanda believes that this has an effect on the students and can provide them with some important guidance with which to make critical decisions later in their lives. Humor in the Classroom Throughout the observations in the classrooms, it was noted that the teachers use humor both in their lessons and in the general conversations with the students. The students have been observed responding to this and they show enjoyment and a lessening of stress as the laughter progresses. Of the 17 students surveyed in the Hidden Glen school, between both Tonys and

57 Wandas classes, 10 of them indicated that the teachers make the class fun and that they have fun in class. Tonys philosophy for using humor in the classroom is not only to make the class more fun for the students but also to help motivate different groups of students. In his interview, Tony indicated: Not everyone will comprehend the humor that is used in class. I found that using humor is a good way to help keep gifted and talented students engaged in class. Wanda has a slightly different perspective on using humor to motivate the students in her class. She is more concerned with encouraging students to participate and feel like they can make an important contribution to class. In her interview she indicated how she prefers to use humor: I think it makes the IEP students feel more comfortable and allows them to participate on some level. You may not learn English, but at least you know that your teacher thought of you as a good person. Field Site 3: Maple Valley Central School Introduction of Case Study Participants At Maple Valley Central School, the participants included two teachers and thirty students. All of the participants volunteered to participate and signed consent forms prior to the start of the study. The two teachers included in this study teach at the elementary level. The teachers were chosen based on the administrations recommendation of teachers who successful used a variety of instructional techniques to motivate students. Description of Field Site Maple Valley Central School is composed of approximately 418 students and 51 professional staff. The school district holds elementary, middle, and high school levels all under

58 the same roof. Maple Valley is considered to be a Title I school. The community is considered a low-income area and is currently utilizing New Yorks 21st century grant. Dan Dan teaches third grade at Maple Valley Central School. He teaches all subjects to his students except for their Specials which include Art, Music, Library, and Physical Education. Dan has taught for eight years at Maple Valley. In that time he has taught at the third grade and sixth grade level. Dan is an energetic teacher who makes a continuous effort to keep his students motivated. He wants the students to enjoy learning and he tries to build personal relationships with all of his students. Physical Description of Classroom Dans classroom is not filled with color or a lot of images. It is decorated very simply. In the front of the room, there is an entire bulletin board filled with extensively mapped out procedures from how to line up to sitting at your seat properly. Each procedure has step-bystep directions intended for the students to follow. At the back of the classroom, there is a flip chart that includes the daily schedule. At first, one would think this is a highly rigid classroom where fun and enjoyment is never found. That is not the case. There are some hints of a comfortable environment. There is a lounging corner that holds two beanbags. The desks are set up in groups of three in a V formation contrary to the traditional row set up. Personality Characteristics Dan is a young hearted teacher who is truly involved and cares about his students and his school district. He is actively involved in the teachers union and runs an after school mentoring program for middle school students. It is hard to believe that Dan has the time to create personal relationships with his students, but he does. That is very important to him. He also feels that it

59 is his responsibility to make sure that the students in his class are motivated where other teachers tend to blame it on the students having a bad day. Leslie Leslie teaches a class of sixteen forth graders as well as teaches both sections of fourth grade science at Maple Valley. Leslie refers to herself as an experienced teacher, yet will not reveal exactly how many years shes been at Maple Valley. Even with all the years behind her, she still approaches teaching with a fresh outlook. She considers herself a lifelong learner. She has welcomed new ideas for instruction into her classroom throughout the years and admits that there probably are some improvements that could be made to her current instructional techniques. She has also included new technology into her classroom like the use of power point and interactive computer systems to keep up with our ever-changing society. Physical Description of Classroom Leslies choice of dcor in her classroom is very intentional. Her goal is to create a friendly and safe environment. She stated that she does not want the institutional look because the children and she spend most of their time in the classroom. Leslie has created an inviting and cozy space. There are curtains over the windows and dollies on tables to soften the hard surfaces of the classroom. There are plants, an aquarium, and even a guinea pig in the corner to add live to the room. The aquarium is an actual replica of a riverbed, so when the students are quiet they can hear the peaceful sounds of a babbling brook. Personality Characteristics You can tell that Leslie has high standards for her students. She facilitates class with a stern voice and holds a strong presence in the room. She combines that aura with smiles and praise that show her students that she cares about them. One can also see that the students respect her

60 for that and feel comfortable with her. All of her students stated that they enjoy coming to class, most said that the teacher makes it fun and interesting, and the majority of the students feel comfortable coming to her with questions. Through my interview with Leslie, it is clear that she wants to create a friendly, safe environment where students can strengthen their self-confidence as well as become risk takers. She believes that many factors can influence students motivation including their innate abilities, disruption in the classroom, distractions, their interest in the subject, and peer interaction. Leslie uses this basis to provide an effectively paced learning environment full of multiple activities. You can also see Leslies commitment to teaching in her time dedicated to our 21st century after school program where she teaches sewing, quilting, and candle making classes.

Classroom Atmosphere Focus on Student Comfort One of Dans goals is to provide a sense of safety in his classroom. His classroom is a place where students can share without feeling embarrassed. This is evident by the number of hands that are raised when a question is asked and by the amount of stories that are shared throughout the lessons. In a survey, eleven out of thirteen students said that they are not afraid to ask questions when they dont understand the material. The students most likely get this since of openness from watching Dan. Dan shares a lot with his students. He is comfortable to admit his mistakes in front of them. He even lets them know when hes having a bad day. This shows

the students that he is human just like them, which increase the students respect for him. One of Leslies goals is to build her students self-confidence. This can only be done in an environment where the students feel comfortable enough to take risks and engage in the learning

61 process. Leslie tries to achieve this by applying positive reinforcements within the lessons that come from her or from the students peers. These reinforcements include words of encouragement, compliments, and smiles of accomplishment. Leslie allows the students a chance to shine by making the tasks obtainable yet still challenging. While observing Leslies classroom, I not only noted her eye contact and specific praise for each student, but I also noticed students giving each other, Nice Try and Good Job. The whole class supported each other and a since of family was evident.

Personal Connections to the Students Dan believes that he has a close relationship with all of his students and this relationship helps to keep motivation levels high. In an interview, Dan stated, I dont care what other teachers say, you should be friends with your students. Of course, the respect level also needs to be there. He says that his relationship with his students is based on trust, fairness, and mutual respect. He would say that he treats his third graders much like the way he treats adults. Dans close connection with his students allows him to recognize outside factors that influence low motivation levels. Dan believes that what a child brings from home can highly influence their motivation level in the classroom. A teacher can help or hinder the situation by unfairly disciplining the child or taking the time to discuss the issues at hand. Dan tries to always take the time to talk with the students. In order for Leslie to make every student feel comfortable, she has to recognize his or her individual needs and abilities. She believes in ensuring that every student feels good about himself or herself and that they contribute to the classroom society. Personal connections must

62 be made to allow this to happen. The students encourage each other as well as challenge each other, which make it a very stimulating learning environment. Activity in the Classroom Focus on Pacing Dan recognizes the importance of keeping the attention of his students. In a forty-minute lesson, Dan used at least four different activities that smoothly transitioned into one another. Most of the transitions were planned yet some were spontaneous reactions to the mood of the classroom. Dan believes that the key to keeping students involved is being flexible. He says, If something is not working, it is time to switch it up. When Dan notices the students drifting, instead of punishing them, he changes the way he is instructing. Sometimes he will start to dance or sing in front of the class; other times he will let them work in pairs instead because maybe they will not get what they need from him right at that moment. During an ELA lesson, I noticed one of these moments of flexibility. The students were in the middle of reviewing singular and plural nouns. Dan noticed some students had their heads on their desks. He stopped the lesson and said, I want everyone to go to the board and write one singular noun. Alright, go! The students rushed to the board and wrote as fast as they could. They then did the same thing with turning their singulars into plurals. When they were done, Dan said, self-control, 5,4,3,2,1 and the class was collected again and refreshed for the rest of the lesson. A simple act of allowing the students to move around will help them to stay motivated. Leslie also holds this philosophy in her classroom. There is very little down time in her lessons. Leslie let the students correct their own papers and also used row checkers to keep the lesson moving along. A row checker is the first student in each row to get the correct answers.

63 After the teacher checks their paper, they have to correct every other students answers in their row by comparing it to their own work. By keeping the lesson moving along, the students are less apt to get distracted or disengaged. Leslie also recognizes and caters to students who seem to be losing their motivation by simply moving closer to them or calling on them to answer a question. Use of Multiple Activities Twelve out of Dans thirteen students admitted that they do a lot of different activities in the classroom. In one science lesson, Dan turned reading from the textbook into something more. Students took turns reading to begin the lesson. Then Dan created a giant vend diagram on the board to illustrate the similarities and differences between insects and spiders. The students filled in the chart by reading by themselves and then sharing their findings. The third section of the text was read a loud by Dan, but with a twist. He would leave out words and the students would shout them out as they went along. Every student was shouting out the words, which meant they were engaged and following along with him. In another lesson, Dan used a koosh ball to incorporate studying for a test into a game. The simple act of throwing a ball into the question- answer format increased the motivation level tremendously. All of the students were making eye contact and sharing information. Dan would throw the ball to one student who would say a vocabulary word. That student would throw the ball to another to give the definition and the next person to have the ball would repeat the definition. This activity lasted about fifteen minutes and students were engaged the entire time. Differentiated learning is a priority for Leslie. Leslie chooses which activities to use based on the individuals in the class and the overall group dynamics. In a 50-minute math class I observed, there was six shifts of activities. The variety of activities hit upon all learning styles.

64 This lesson began with drill facts. This is where Leslie would randomly choose a name from the fair cards and ask them to recite the threes timetable in under one minute. Each student got a chance to shine in this activity. At first, I thought this would make the students feel pressured, but I was completely wrong. They were up to the challenge and felt full of pride when they finished. I also noticed peers encouraging each other during this activity. The lesson then shifted to problems on the board completed by randomly selected students. Once again the instruction shifted to a paired group activity where students rolled a giant dice and wrote multiplication problems in their notebooks. Pair share learning is the most prominent instructional tool used in Leslies classroom, which allows for movement and interaction of the students. After the paired group activity, students engaged in Around the World with multiplication flashcards. The students were very excited during this game and became enthusiastic about the review. The lesson concluded with silent bookwork at their seats with time to start homework at the end. Each activity did not take more than ten minutes and the shifting catered to the fourth graders attention span. In addition to the Around the World I observed in this math lesson, another game was used to motivate students. Leslie refers to the Educational Computer System as clickers. It is used for review before tests. As the students participate in this game, they can use their notebook to find answers. Leslie imports the specific questions that are usually actual test questions. The students move through a series of multiple-choice questions and each student gets to click in with an answer. The computer calculates the percentage of correct answers and the whole class works together to reach a certain percentage. Every student was engaged during this activity and seemed to be motivated in finding the correct answers in their notebooks. There was very little distracting behavior from any of the students.

65 Random Selection Dan uses random selection whenever they are engaged in class discussion. He has a Popsicle stick for every student with his or her name on it. When he pulls someones name, he sets it on the front table. I think Dan uses the Popsicle stick more for fairness than for the students to keep paying attention, but the students seem engaged through this process anyway. Leslie also uses random selection in her classroom to not only make sure everyone participate, but also to make sure everyone is paying attention. She uses her fair cards for everything from choosing who will answer a question to the selection of pairs or groups. Connecting Material Connections in the Curriculum In every lesson I observed, Dan connected the material the students were learning to their personal lives. When addressing an issue with a small group and their inability to get along, Dan used a metaphor involving football. He explained how the quarterback throws the ball and everyone always looks at the quarterback as the most important player, yet the whole team is responsible for a touchdown. He compared the quarterback to the person who is writing in a group project. Leslie starts every lesson with facts or materials that the students already know. This gives them a confidence boast as well as gives them a base in which to find connections to the new material. In an interview, Leslie stated motivation of the students is evident when they can connect and share the knowledge they have obtained. I did not see Leslie connect the lessons to the students life outside of the room much, but I did notice connections across subject areas. In math, she presented a word problem involving the number of body parts, which tied in nicely with what they were learning in science.

66 Discussion During Class Dan tries to open most of his lessons with storytelling time. This is an opportunity for every student to contribute to the topic at hand and connect it to their lives. Dan also likes to share his own stories with the students who seem to really appreciate hearing a bit of their teachers personal life. An example would be asking the students if they collect anything before they discuss a reading story about a girl who collects seashells. Once I observed Dan start a lesson by asking the students, Who likes insects? just asking their opinion and having them raise their hand got them engaged. Dan states, as soon as you open up storytelling time, you have them. When they share stories from their real world, what is personal to them, youve engaged them and you have their focus. Humor in the Classroom Dan summed up his success as a teacher in Im a goof ball. Dan has a baldhead that is the perfect backdrop for overhead projections that leads the class into giggles. He loves to dance and sing and perform random acts that catch the students off guard. Dans humor and entertainment as a teacher allows the students to enjoy the learning process and coming to class that leads to higher motivation levels. In a survey taken, twelve out of Dans thirteen students said they have fun in class and that the teacher makes it that way.

CHAPTER 5 INTERPRETATION OF DATA Purpose of the Study The purpose of the study was to identify instructional techniques that were deemed to have a positive influence on student motivation in the classroom. After making observations,

67 conducting interviews and surveying students and teachers, we have noted that four major themes emerged across the spectrum of data that connect teaching strategies to student motivation (a) classroom atmosphere, (b) activity in the classroom, (c) connection of material to lives of students and (d) humor in the classroom. Summary of Findings Throughout the course of the investigation, four major themes and several sub-themes emerged. The first theme was classroom atmosphere. Within this theme were two sub-themes of (a) focusing on student comfort in the classroom and (b) forging personal connections to the students. The second major theme was activity in the classroom. Within this theme were the subthemes (a) focus on the pacing of the class, (b) use of multiple activities in the class and (c) use of random selection in the classroom for selecting student participants. The third major theme was connecting the material to the lives of the students. Within this theme are the sub-themes of (a) making connections in the curriculum to the lives of the students and (b) using discussions during class to make connections to student lives.

68 The fourth major theme was the use of humor in the classroom to help provide opportunities for student motivation.
Connections in the Curr iculum

Personal Connections

Student Comfor t

Classroom Atmosphere

Connecting Material to Liv es of the Students

Discussions During Class

Teaching Strategies and Student Motivation

Focus on Paci ng

Activ ity in the Classroom

Humor in the Classroom

Use of Multiple Activities

Figure 1: Concept Map of Major Themes and sub-themes


Random Selection

Classroom Atmosphere All of the teachers that participated in this study strived to create an atmosphere in their classrooms that was conducive to fostering student motivation. Each of the teachers had their own personal style and methods for accomplishing this goal. Within these methods we were able to find connections to previously stated research. Diane is a teacher who strives to raise student levels of self-esteem. She is very enthusiastic and optimistic to all of her students. Ruthunde & Csikszentmihalyi (2005) state,

69 during the precarious transition from the elementary school years, young adolescents may begin to doubt the value of their academic work and their abilities to succeed (p. 341). Diane encourages her students, during the observation I heard numerous encouraging words given by her. A central concern for many educators is motivation, more specifically, declining levels in students intrinsic motivation to learn. During the interview with Matthew he commented on his duty to improve student levels of intrinsic motivation to learn. He stated, although I recognize that each of my students walks through the door with differing levels of interest and motivation, I feel that I do have the ability to foster student motivation. I believe that not only style of instruction, but also methods of assessment and feedback can enhance students levels of intrinsic motivation. Children who are engaged show enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity and interest (Champman, 2003, p. 2). These qualities could be seen from the students of the teachers that were observed. As a kind, caring teacher that goes out of her way to show the students that she wants to be involved in their lives, Wanda develops an atmosphere of trust and belonging in her classroom. According to Maehr and Midgley (1991), building this type of atmosphere is very important to the motivation of a student. Erwin (2004) also pointed out that Glasser believed that students had a very strong need for love and belonging. Wandas development of her teaching style and the positive, welcoming atmosphere of her classroom help to fulfill some of the basic needs of her students before the class even begins. This allows her students to feel free to participate and learn in a safe environment.

70 With his structured and orderly classroom, Tony lets his students avoid feeling anxiety about unexpected or unrealistic tasks about which they might otherwise be worried. Champman (2003) pointed out that students that feel anxious about their presence in the classroom are often disengaged from the class itself and as a result are not intrinsically motivated. Glassers description of the survival need (Erwin, 2004) indicates that students would need to feel, to varying degrees, that their environment is safe and predictable. Students that do not have a strong survival need may find a very structured class to be boring, but students with a high survival need would find it impossible to learn in an unsafe environment. Both Wanda and Tony showed the students in their classrooms that they had an interest not only in their school work, but also in their personal lives outside of school. Teachers can create a more inviting and learner friendly environment in their classrooms by treating students with respect and showing an interest in them as people (Margolis & McCabe, 2003). Wanda is very careful about incorporating this idea into her class at every opportunity. As a result, the students enjoy coming to her class, even if they do not particularly enjoy the subject matter being taught. This idea also very much fits with Mendlers (2000) ideas about developing positive, involved relationships with the students and how it improved teacher-student compatibility. Risk taking and participation in the classroom will only happen when a student feels comfortable in the classroom. Both Dan and Leslie make it a priority to create a safe and comfortable environment for every student. In order for the student to cultivate self-efficacy, they need to be in a nurturing, safe environment. A teacher can create such an environment by treating students with respect and showing interest in the students. (Margolis & McCabe, 2003).

71 The students will feel better about themselves and build self-efficacy when the teacher provides frequent, immediate, task-specific feedback, challenge rather than frustrate students, stress cooperation, not competition, make expectations clear and realistic (Margolis & McCabe, 2003). Mendler agrees saying that positive affirmation is extremely important for students to be motivated learners (Mendler, 2000). Leslie and Dan make an effort to include positive reinforcement into their classroom by mean of specific praise and caring gestures. In both classrooms, encouragement and praise also came from fellow classmates. Mendler stated that students will be motivated when adults treat them with care and respect (2000). Dan has created open, respectful, and trusting relationships with all of his students. Mendler stated that creating hope involves creating mountains that students believe they can climb (p. 21). The curriculum should be challenging enough to engage students yet not too challenging to promote frustration. Margolis and McCabe agree by stating that students with low self-efficiency will give up or avoid tasks similar to those previously failed (p. 162). Therefore, teachers should not give tasks to the students that could promote anxiety of frustration. Teachers should be aware of their proper instructional and independent levels to make sure tasks are appropriate. Leslie and Dan both provide this kind of environment that is evident through the students comfort level in raising their hands in class, their ability to take risks, and their high confidence levels. Activity in the Classroom Within each individual class, teachers utilize differing levels of activity to help promote student motivation. Within literature that has been previously discussed, we found connections to the levels and types of activities that were used by the teachers that participated in the study.

72 Teachers can strengthen a students motivation to do well. School environments that provide more relevant tasks, student directed learning, less of an emphasis on grades and competition, and more collaboration have been shown to enhance students intrinsic, task motivation (Rathunde & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005, p. 341). In Matthews classroom, he explained to the students everyday why they are learning the information and how they can relate it to their own lives. Student directed learning allows a child to have power and responsibility in their education. In Dianes classes, the students work at their own pace. They are never told what to do; instead they determine what they want to do for the days lesson. Leslies most used instructional technique is pair share learning. I observed an enhanced motivation level in most students during this type of instruction. Haranda and Yoshina (2004) stated The synergy of these exchanges (working in groups) brings substance and richness to the entire learning project (p. 22). When a student finds meaning and purpose in the learning

process, they will become engaged and interested. Motivational levels increase when a teacher uses a variety of teaching approaches to engage every student (Margolis & McCabe, 2003). By creating a lesson that involves at least four or five activities, teachers will most likely engage every type of learning style. The movement or shifting from one activity to the next caters to the students short attention spans. Connecting Material When preparing to teach lessons and during the course of the lesson itself, teachers use the lives and experience of their students to enrich and form connections to the material that is being taught. Classrooms need to teach a curriculum that students can relate to their own lives. If the material has no purpose, a students motivation to learn it is low. This philosophy and the

73 strategies used by the teachers participating in the study can be linked to previously stated research. Rathunde and Csikszentmihalyi (2005) state, students have difficulty finding meaning and intrinsic motivation in their schoolwork (p. 343). It may be possible that teachers are having difficulty creating meaning and establishing a purpose to what is being taught. One of Matthew and Dianes main objectives is to create lessons that have meaning to the students, one more reason why their students show high levels of motivation. Tonys classroom revolves around students making mental connections between the material taught in class and their everyday lives. Rathunde and Csikszentmihalyi (2005) state that classrooms that provide more relevant tasks for the students will be more successful in motivating the students than classrooms that do not allow the students to make these connections. As noted by Harada and Yoshina (2004), an inquiry approach to learning is much more inviting to student motivation. This approach must begin with students making connections to the material and determining that it is indeed relevant to their lives. Tony identified the most important this that he, as a teacher can do to motivated students is, to make the material fun and relevant for the students. The use of humor in the classroom is very much connected to the personality of the teacher. Both Tony and Wanda were able to use humor as a way to keep students engaged and enthusiastic about their classes. Mendler (2000) states that students can be motivated by humor or any other technique that can communicate a teachers enthusiasm. Harada and Yoshina state, Real learning involves questions- more than simply the answers. Students own curiosity and wonder should provide the seeds for meaningful

74 learning(p. 22). Dan plants seeds through introducing his lessons with a storytelling time or an open ended question or an opinion question for the students. When a student is engaged and interested, they become naturally more motivated in learning (Mendler, 2000). Humor in the Classroom Motivating students in a classroom setting required the teacher to utilize a broad range of not only traditional teaching strategies, but also personality traits. The use of humor in the classroom can be one of the most engaging techniques for a teacher to use. The teachers participating in the study used this technique to differing degrees and for different reasons, but the use of humor overall can be and has been supported by prior researchers. Dan believes a major part of his job is to be an entertainer. He achieves this through his high energy level and his ability to use humor in the classroom. Expressing enthusiasm is the last key aspect for strengthening student motivation. People genuinely enjoy being around people who are positive, lively, and energetic. A teacher should carry these traits to captivate their students (Mendler, 2000). Applications Through the course of our investigation, we have found that there are certain teaching strategies that seem to have a strong impact on the motivation of the students in the classroom. The major themes listed previously can be applied in almost any situation, grade level or subject area. The application of these strategies can be very effective for the teacher and rewarding for the students. Classroom Atmosphere

75 In developing an effective classroom atmosphere, a teacher can take several different paths to achieve a positive motivational outcome. The needs of the class will vary from year to year and grade to grade, but a successful classroom will have an atmosphere that is safe, comfortable for both the teacher and the students and it will have a physical setup that will be conducive to the class activities and the teaching style. Developing personal connections to students, in any grade level, will be helpful in developing trust between students and teachers as well as developing a sense of belonging among all of the members of a class. Students that feel involved and at home in the classroom will be more motivated to learn and will be more accepting of the advice and instruction of their teacher. Activity in the Classroom When developing lesson plans, using several different activities during the course of the class will help to encourage the participation of students with different learning styles and preferences. The pacing of these activities is also very important. A fast paced lesson, one that changes activities often, will keep the attention of the students and therefore increase participation and motivation. This strategy was found to be applicable in all of the classrooms that were observed, regardless of the age of the students. The use of random selection was a tool utilized by several of the teachers in this study. The implication of this was that the students were help accountable for attending to the lesson. This increased the likelihood that the students would be paying attention during class. Random selection can be carried out in a number of ways such as the use of popsicle sticks with student names, student numbers or simply moving in order through the room. Teachers can use their discretion on when to call on students based on the nature of the question or activity and the ability level of the students.

76 Connecting Material Making connections to the lives of the students is one of the most powerful and widely used strategies to motivate the students. The age old question of, why are we learning this? has haunted teachers. Answering this question before it is asked, we found, is very effective at keeping students interested and motivated during class. In any curriculum can be found ways can be found to connect the subject to the lives of the students. It could be said that if this is not the case, the material is irrelevant and should not be part of the curriculum. Showing the connections between class material and the lives of the students helps to give the material importance and context, making it more meaningful and purposeful to the student. Students that can see why they are learning will be more motivated to do so. During lessons, opportunities will arise to provide enrichment in the form of personal stories from the teachers or the experiences of the students. First person accounts will not only make the material seem more real to the students, but will also help to forge personal connections between students and teachers as discussed previously. Using teachable moments in class can dramatically improve the effectiveness of the lesson. Expanding on student comments and questions can help the students to develop lasting connections to the lesson. Humor in the Classroom Teachers need to utilize any tools and techniques available to them in order to convey their enthusiasm to their students. If the teacher has a good sense of humor and can use it effectively, they can help to keep students engaged in class. This is the case whether they are teaching higher level students in need of additional stimulation or with lower level students in need of more personal connections in class. The use of humor can also help a teacher to convey the

77 information in a different, easy to absorb way that students will remember. As Wanda from Hidden Glen stated in her interview, kids remember funny and gross. I dont do gross, so there you go. Conclusion Teachers are constantly on the lookout for new ways to improve their effectiveness in the classroom. This research provides insight into the effective teaching practices of several experienced and well respected teachers. Utilizing the findings of this study will allow teachers, especially new or inexperienced teachers, the ability to improve their practices without the detriment of a trial and error approach. In order to establish motivational and energetic classrooms from the start, teachers should focus their efforts in several key areas. First is the importance of establishing a positive and nourishing classroom atmosphere. This will encourage the students to become more active in the classroom and as a result, they will take more risks in the class. Second is to provide the students with a wide range of activities that involve them in the learning process from the beginning of the class to the end. Third is to connect the material being taught to the lives of the students, both in planning the lessons and in the actual execution of the classroom discussion. In this way, the students will feel that what they are learning is important to them on a personal level. Finally, it is very helpful if the teacher and the students can have fun in a lighthearted atmosphere. In this study, we have found that students will be more motivated when they feel comfortable in the classroom, are engaged and involved in the class, can see the connections to their lives and have fun while they are learning. Teachers that can integrate this into their classroom and lesson structure will find that they have to work less to motivate and teach their students.

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79 References Alderman, M. (1999). Motivation for Achievement: Possibilities for Teaching and Learning. Mahwah: NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Amrein, A., & Berliner, D. (2003). The Effects of High-Stakes Testing on Student Motivation and Learning. Educational Leadership, 60 (5), 32 38. Retrieved April 26, 2006, from EBSCO host Professional Development Collection database. Baloche, L. (1998). The Cooperative Classroom: Empowering Learning. Upper Saddle River: NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. Chapman, E. (2003) Assessing Student Engagement Rates. College Park, MD: ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation (ERIC Document Reproduction Service NO. ED482269) Erwin, J. (2004). The classroom of choice: Giving students what they need and getting what you want. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Harada, V. & Yoshina, J. (2004). Moving from Rote to Inquiry: Creating Learning the Counts. Library Media Connection, 23 (2), 22-26. Mendler, A. (2000). Motivating Students Who Dont Care. Bloomington, Indiana: National Educational Service. Maehr, M., & Midgley, C. (1991.) Enhancing Student Motivation: A Schoolwide Approach. Educational Psychologist, 26 (3&4), 399-427.

Margolis, H. & McCabe, P. (2003). Self-Efficacy: A Key to

80 Improving the Motivation of Struggling Learners. Preventing School Failure, 47 (4), 162-169. Mills, G. (2003). Action Research: A Guide for the Teacher Researcher. Upper Saddle River: NJ: Pearson. Moon, T., Brighton, C., & Callahan, C. (2003). State standardized testing programs: friend or foe of gifted education? (On gifted students in school). Roeper Review, 25 (2), 49 60. Retrieved April 23, 2006, from EBSCOhost MasterFILE Select database. Pederson, S. (2003). Motivational Orientation in a Problem-based Learning Environment. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 14 (1), 51-78. Rader, L. (2005). Goal Setting for Students and Teachers. Clearing House, 78 (3), 123-127. Ramey, C., & Ramey, S. (2004, August). Ten Hallmarks of Children Who Succeed in School. Plain Talk, 9, 1-15. Rathunde, K., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2005). Middle School Students Motivation and Quality of Experience: a comparison of Montessori and traditional school environments. American Journal of Education, 341 (31). Skillings, M., & Ferrell, R. (2000). Student-generated rubrics: Bringing students into the assessment process. Reading Teacher, 53 (6), 452 455. Retrieved April 26, 2006, from EBSCOhost Professional Development Collection database. Stiggins, R., & Chappuis, J. (2005). Using student-involved classroom assessment to close achievement gaps. Theory into Practice, 44 (1), 11 20.

81 Stefanou, C., & Parkes, J. (2003). Effects of classroom assessment on student motivation in fifth-grade science. The Journal of Educational Research, 96 (3), 152 162. Retrieved April 23, 2006, from EBSCOhost MasterFILE Select database. Wonacott, M. (2002). The Impact of Work-Based Learning on Students. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult Career and Vocational Education (ERIC Document Reproduction Service NO. ED472603)

Appendix D Letter of Consent Classroom Teacher Date: month, day, year Dear _____________________, Hello, allow us to introduce ourselves. We are a group of graduate students at the State University of New York at Potsdam and we are working towards the completion of our Masters Thesis project. For this thesis, we will attempt to determine correlations between effective teaching practices and increased student motivation. We will be obtaining this information through a series of classroom observations and teacher interviews that will take place at several schools in the Northern New York area during the fall of 2006. The purpose of this letter is to obtain your permission from you for your participation in this study. The involvement of the teachers in this study will be twofold. Each selected and willing teacher will be observed five times throughout the fall of 2006 and will be asked to participate in

82 one interview that will take approximately one hour. The interview will take place before or after school. Each selected and willing teacher will be observed several times throughout the fall of 2006. Before each observation, there will be an interview with the teacher at a convenient time. The observation will be followed by a brief and informal interview to clarify any questions and to allow the teacher to provide their own viewpoints and observations. Please be assured that the information obtained in this study will be anonymous and analyzed only by those directly involved with the study and shared with the classrooms teachers and interested students. The observations and interviews will contain no names, only code numbers. It will not be possible for anyone to discern the identity of any of the participants from the data collected. Teachers are under no obligation to participate in the study and will not be penalized in any way if he/she does not participate or chooses to discontinue participation at any time. If you have any questions regarding this study, please feel free to contact any member of the group. Our contact information is as follows: Barry Roesch 315 654 3318 roesch24@potsdam.edu Tiffany Pritchard Jade Keith 315 938 5683 315 543 2483 pritch57@potsdam.edu keith64@potsdam.edu

In addition to contacting a member of the group, you may also contact our faculty advisor at Potsdam, Christine Sherretz. She can be reached at 315 773 9007 or at sherrece@potsdam.edu . We would like to thank you for your help in the completion of this thesis project. The information obtained in this study will be used to help teachers, both present and future to enhance their teaching styles with methods and activities that help to promote positive student motivation. Sincerely, Barry Roesch Jade Keith Tiffany Pritchard

State University of New York at Potsdam Potsdam, NY Please Note: Approval by the provost of the State of New York College at Potsdam and the Institutional Review Board attests only that appropriate safeguards have been included in the research design to protect human participants. This approval does not imply that SUNY Potsdam endorses the content of the research or the conclusions drawn from the results of the research. I agree to participate in this study. Signed,

83 ______________________________________ (Teacher Signature) ______________________________________ (Please print name here) _______________ (Date)

84 Appendix E Student Survey Grade: Class: Male or Female (circle one) Please Check All That Apply: In this class I: Participate Often Complete All My Assignments Take Pride in My Work Ask Questions When I am Confused Enjoy learning the material Have Fun Please Check All that Apply: I like this class because: I do not like this class because:

Academically, what kind of student are you in this class: Outstanding Above Average Average Below Average Poor Please Answer the Following Questions: I enjoy coming to class: yes no I can relate the information I learn in this class to my own life: yes no

Please Check All that Apply:

Its engaging Its interesting The teacher makes it fun I can use the material I learn in real-life situations Its easy We do a lot of different activities

Its boring I dont understand the material The teacher does not explain this well The information I learn doesnt matter to me I cant relate this class to my own life Too many tests! All I do is sit and listen!

85 Appendix F Classroom Motivation Observation Checklist Observer _______________________Teacher_______________________ Grade Level _________________ Subject _______________ Start Time _________ Class Size ______________Boys ___________ Girls ___________ 10 5 Minutes before end Other Teacher Observations From 10 20 minutes after the start of class

Teacher Behavior Teacher maintains eye contact with students Teacher appears to have enthusiasm about the material being taught Teacher conveys their enthusiasm to the students Teacher connects the lesson to the lives of the students Teacher sets high expectations for the students Teacher used a variety of teaching styles Teacher is clear with instructions and explanations to the students Teacher uses the personal experiences of the students Teacher allows students to set their own pace for learning Teacher allows for student to student interaction

First 5 minutes

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Student Behavior Student maintains eye contact with the teacher Student is writing when appropriate Student raises hand Assignments completed Disruptive behavior from students Students showing signs of enjoyment during the lessons Students showing signs of depression or resentment during the lesson Students staying on task Students are all in attendance High student absenteeism

5 10 minutes after start

Last 5 minutes

Other Student Observations From 20 30 minutes after the start of class

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Classroom sketch:

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