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Group main topic: Improving student engagement

Sub topic: Classroom dynamics

Part A: Literature Review

Improving student engagement is an ever present theme in secondary schools, whereby the

purpose of improving student engagement is to escalate student learning and ultimately improve the

level of student achievement. This literature review seeks to explore factors embedded in classroom

dynamics which underpin the resultant level of student engagement.

However engagement is a term which requires further clarification. Corso, Bundick, Quaglia

and Haywood (2013) define student engagement as three elements. The first being the psychological

level, such as thought. The second is engagement with feelings for example the relationship to others

and the school, and engaged in action i.e. learning activities (p.52). Kizildag, Demirtas-Zorbaz and

Zorbaz (2017) designed a school engagement scale to facilitate a definition for their empirical study

which included inner engagement, environmental engagement with curriculum and, school and

teacher management which bares similar themes to the work of Corso et al. (2013). Paige, Sizemore

and Neace (2013) conducted a study of 362 9th grade students in a low achieving school to evaluate

the relational effect of incorporating Higher Order Thinking (HOT) tasks upon student engagement.

Data from 648 observation were analysed, and the results suggested that the incorporation of HOT

tasks improved student engagement (p.114) justifying need for a more challenging curriculum (p.116).

Connor and Pope (2013) hypothesised that busyness does not necessarily represent full cognitive

engagement. The research studied 6294 students across 15 schools, and reported that while most

students reported working hard, there was a lack of affective and cognitive engagement, and that the

work was not enjoyable (p.1426). The study also found that engagement declines in the 10th grade,

females were better engaged than males, teacher support was a factor, traditional lecturing did not

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stymie engagement and students who were said to be fully cognitively and actively engaged in

learning, they had better mental and physical health (pp. 1431-1433).

To elaborate on the theme of teacher influence upon classroom climate the empirical work of

Allen et al. (2013) is relevant since the study sought to evaluate the relationship between teacher-

student interactions as a predictor for student achievement. The researchers were observing three

domains which were, classroom organisation, instructional support and emotional support (p.77). The

empirical study was conducted in using observations of 643 student across 37 classrooms in 11 schools

(p.80) which established a baseline which was used to predict outcomes using a standardised test.

Analysis of the results showed that one important predictor for achievement was a classroom

environment which adolescents found emotionally and intellectually engaging (p.92). Also the level of

emotional and instructional support from the teacher was also closely related to achievement (p.93),

and the importance emotional and social learning for adolescents (p.94). The researchers concluded

that professional development focusing upon improved emotional, instructional and organisational

interactions may enhance the effectiveness of the teacher, hence improving student learning (p.95).

Cooper and Miness (2014) also explore the realm of teacher-student relations in terms of

caring. Thirty three high school students were interviewed. The students placed importance upon the

teacher understanding them as people and learners (p.264) and also that is was important that the

relationship was co-constructed between teacher and student, whereby the student has agency over

the level of personal information revealed to the teacher. One important aspect of this study is the

orientation upon the student perception, and how does the student know the teacher genuinely cares

in what the researchers describe as relational caring, in comparison to virtuous caring (p.278).

Hagenauer, Hascher and Volet (2015) also conducted research in the realm of teacher-student

relations from the teachers perspective, with the purpose of the study being to explore predictors of

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teacher emotion. In the study teacher self-efficacy was used a control variable for joy, anxiety and

anger (p.394). The results suggest a correlation between teacher emotions and teacher-student

relations, however the researchers advise caution due to a contradiction in burnout rates and self-

reported information, and that the cross-sectional design of the study limits the ability to draw

conclusions between cause and effect (p.397).

Mojavezi and Tamiz (2012) also focussed their research upon the teacher, in terms of

investigating the influence of teacher self-efficacy upon student motivation and achievement (p.483).

The participants were eighty high school teachers from four cities in Iran, and 150 students of those

teachers selected. The instruments used for the study in both cases were questionnaire. The teachers

questionnaire used Likert scales, and the student questionnaire was designed to capture more

qualitative data (p.485). The data were analysed using SPSS software and a correlation between

teacher self-efficacy and student motivation to be true (p.487). Furthermore the study found higher

levels of teacher self-efficacy correlated to higher levels of student achievement (p.488). Shoulders &

Krei (2015) also sought to investigate the topic of teacher self-efficacy from the perspective of the

teacher, in terms of how the teacher perceives levels of student engagement, effectiveness of their

instructional strategies and classroom management. The study surveyed 256 rural American teachers,

and found that these teachers held positive views of themselves across the mentioned categories, and

this did not vary according to years of experience as anticipated (p.57). Limitations of the study were

identified as teacher self-reporting, and an unreliable data cross-section as the sample used was not

truly indicative of the teachers in rural schools. Knsting, Neuber & Lipowsky (2016) conducted a

longitudinal study into the relationship between teacher self-efficacy and their instructional quality.

The study sampled of 203 German teachers also using self-reporting method over a 10 year period,

2001, 2008 and 2011. The findings showed a positive relationship between teacher self-efficacy and

instructional quality which echoes the findings of Shoulders & Krei (2015).

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On the other hand the relationship between student self-efficacy, engagement and

achievement is yet to be discussed. Arabzadeh, Salami, Nadery, and Bayanati (2013) undertook quasi-

experimental research to determine if cognitive function is affected by ones self efficacy. The study

used two student groups of 25 participants aged 14-17 years old, and was administered using pre and

post-test design. One group was the control group, the other group was taught self-efficacy strategies

for 15 sessions. The researchers found the group who had been taught self-efficacy strategies had

improved cognitive engagement positively influencing learning, showing that the constructs of

efficacy and engagement and impact upon learning are related (pp.70-71). Reeve and Lee (2014)

sought to study the relationship between engagement, motivation and achievement. The research

was a longitudinal design over a 17 week semester and involved 313 Korean high school students, who

at three points during semester filled out 2-page questionnaire (p.530). The researcher concluded that

a reciprocal relationship exists between motivation and engagement, and that one could be used as a

predictor for the other (p.538). Regarding pedagogy McPhail (2013) analysed six qualitative case

studies of observations and interviews with teachers and students regarding pedagogic modalities.

McPhails concluding discussion points to the importance of the skill of the teacher to be able to select

the appropriate modality of pedagogy is essential to allow underachieving groups access to the

curriculum content (p.123)

Much of the research presented was teacher centric. Further exploration with a student

centric focus therefore is a valid avenue to explore. Themes proposed for the preliminary data

collection to inform the action research proposal include teacher-student relations, teacher and

student self-efficacy in the classroom, and to some degree pedagogical choice which are elements of

classroom dynamics which underpin student achievement.

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Part B Data Collection Protocol

Student survey is the chosen protocol design for data collection.

Note the survey was created using Survey Monkey (Monkey 2017).

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Consent form

Dear Potential Participant:

I am working on a project titled Improving Student Engagement for the class, Researching Teaching
and Learning 2 at Western Sydney University. As part of the project, I am collecting information to
help inform the design of a teacher research proposal.

The topic of the survey relates to aspects of classroom dynamics and how these themes relate to the
student learning. The themes which the survey is targeting are teacher-student relationships,
perceived teacher efficacy, student self-efficacy and pedagogical effectiveness. The results from this
survey will be used to inform the design of an action research project.

By signing this form I acknowledge that:

I have read the project and have been given the opportunity to discuss the information and
my involvement in the project with the researcher/s.
The procedures required for the project and the time involved have been explained to me,
and any questions I have about the project have been answered to my satisfaction.
I consent to participating in this survey.
I understand that my involvement is confidential and that the information gained during this
data collection experience will only be reported within the confines of the Researching
Teaching and Learning 2 unit, and that all personal details will be de-identified from the
data.
I understand that I can withdraw from the project at any time, without affecting my
relationship with the researcher/s, now or in the future.
By signing below, I acknowledge that I am 18 years of age or older, or I am a full-time university
student who is 17 years old.

Signed: __________________________________

Name: __________________________________

Date: __________________________________

By signing below, I acknowledge that I am the legal guardian of a person who is 16 or 17 years old,
and provide my consent for the persons participation.

Signed: __________________________________

Name: __________________________________

Date: __________________________________

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Part C Protocol explanation

a) The participants selected for data collection are secondary high school students in a western

Sydney school. The reason for choosing this school was based on the likelihood of the author

working in a western Sydney school, therefore being pertinent to understanding this

demographic. The school has an ICSEA value of 941 indicating the students are of below the

state average for socioeconomic status, with 77% of students in the bottom/middle quartile

(ACARA 2017). Participants for this survey are in stage 4 and generally have performed below

the NSW state average literacy ability (ACARA 2017).

b) The rationale for choosing survey was based on the literature reviewed, survey being the

common form of data collection. Additionally, the anonymity of surveys is beneficial in this

instance as students will be answering questions about their teacher, and lastly surveys can

be administered much quicker than interviews. The survey questions were designed to elicit

information relating to the identified themes within the literature review, which are teacher-

student relations, perceived teacher efficacy, student self-efficacy, and pedagogical influences

within the framework of classroom dynamics. The decision to write a student-centric survey

was selected since much of the literature reviewed took a teacher-centric approach, therefore

an alternative perspective is justified.

Readability using appropriate literacy levels was also a consideration. Also the survey uses two

modes of data collection and gathers both quantitative and qualitative data (Neuman 2005).

Questions numbered 1-10 represent the quantitative data elements of the survey. These

questions are comprised of Likert and Rating scales. The decision to use these scales over an

option which may have been multiple choice was to reduce the reading load, and the amount

of time taken to complete the survey which is one benefit of using structured response scale

questions (Buddies 2017). Surveys which take too long may also result in the participant

abandoning the survey (Harrison 2017, p.2). Another reason for the choice of scale based

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questions is that this method avoids the use of Yes/No questions (Beadell 2017) which would

limit the data obtained.

Harvard Universitys tip sheet for designing survey questions (Harrison 2007) recommends

providing instructions, and important framing information, i.e. that the questions relate to the

class the student is in now, and only this class. The order of the questions has been considered

also been considered (p.2) in that general questions have been placed at the start to avoid

putting off the respondent. Open ended questions have been placed at the end of the survey

for this reason, and since participants are more likely to skip and open ended question (p.2).

Difficult to understand language and technical terms (p.3) were also avoided.

The scales used for questions 2-10 are also ordinal, and consistently labelled for readability.

Beadell (2017) recommends that scale questions are designed with 5-7 categories, 5 being the

choice here. The language used avoids being evocative (p.4) and the questions themselves are

not double-barrelled (p.3). The rationale for including open ended responses was to collect

some qualitative data, which would be used to triangulate findings of the qualitative and

quantitative data, and derive correlations between questions 1-10, and questions 11-14

strengthening any findings (Write 2017). Lastly a benefit of creating a digitally usable survey

is that is can be accessed using multiple devices, and also metrics can be obtained from the

survey outcome for interpretation.

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References

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Cooper, K., & Miness, A. (2014). The Co-Creation of Caring Student-Teacher Relationships: Does

Teacher Understanding Matter? The High School Journal, 97(4), 264-290.

doi:10.1353/hsj.2014.0005

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