Impact of Pedagogical Interventions on Student Learning
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Impact of Pedagogical Interventions on Student Learning
The following is an analysis of three student case studies from my student teaching
experience at a medium-sized high school in Manhattan. The information was collected from
ninth grade students during the spring semester (January - May 2013). Each case study includes a
description of the student, results of a pre-assessment, specific pedagogical strategies used with
that student, applicable corresponding theoretical research, post-assessments, and reflection on
Student A is a Hispanic female who received a 70 in English for the first semester. This
student is polite and participates consistently in class. She retains a positive attitude despite her
academic struggles and difficulty interacting socially with some classmates. Student A has an
Individualized Education Program (IEP) that allows for extra time on tests, but has not been
diagnosed with a specific learning disorder. I chose this student because my cooperating teacher
mentioned her as an example of a student who consistently fails tests despite her in-class
demeanor and willingness to participate. My cooperating teacher has even provided a detailed
report of this students academic struggles to the school principal. My goal with this student is to
assist with reading comprehension and improve her test-taking skills.
Student B is an Asian male who received a 75 in English for the first semester. This
student is funny and engaging, even if his answers to questions in class often lack depth. He is an
average student who has steadily improved. Being one of few Asian students in the school, he
was initially shy to participate in class according to my cooperating teacher. At this point in the
year, however, he has found his place and voice in the class and is not hesitant to contribute. He
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also asks very good questions. I chose this student because he came to after-school tutoring to
ask specifically for help with his writing. It is clear he wants to do well, but needs help
organizing his thoughts. My goal with this student is to help refine his writing as he goes
through the process of creating a structured essay.
Student C is a Hispanic male who received a 90 in English for the first semester. This
student rarely participates in class and sometimes struggles to find the right words when he is
called on to answer questions. However, he is an above average student and an example of
someone who might fly under the radar until he hands in written work or takes a test. I chose
this student because of that disparity, and also because when I read his pre-assessment essay, it
was clearly advanced for his grade level. The word selection, insight and organization gave it a
style that most freshman are not close to developing yet. We incorporated examples of previous
student work into the writing process, and used his work for most of it. He also received the
highest grade on the first multiple choice test. My goal with this student is to help him improve
his writing by using higher standards and more advanced concepts (e.g. passive voice) that match
his ability level and potential.
The pre-assessment for each student case study is a standard 5-paragraph essay on The
Perks of Being a Wallflower. The assignment asked students to discuss how unresolved
conflicts lead to self-destruction, dysfunctional relationships, and cycles of abuse. Students
spent over a week of class time on the essay writing process, with mini lessons on each section
(introduction, incorporating evidence, and conclusion). Students wrote multiple drafts and
received feedback from their peers during in-class review sessions. The essay assignment, rubric
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and full student responses are included in the appendix. Below are details on each students pre-
Student A received a 70 (14/20) on her Perks essay. While the essay is solid
grammatically, it demonstrates her challenges in organizing her thoughts and sticking to the
assignment. For instance, the comments on her rubric were that the first body paragraph does not
address the essay question and that the second and third paragraphs basically repeat each other.
In the conclusion this student says that mistreatment in the novel portrays emotional and
physical neglect; however, most of the examples she cites in the essay center around actual
confrontations as opposed to neglect. The bulk of the essay is plot summary with little analysis
(which is a common problem among beginner writers). The inconsistencies in her writing point
to a need for development in reading comprehension. She must first understand what she is
reading in order to write cohesive and coherent analytical statements. She must also be clear on
what the assignment is asking, which speaks to the same basic issue.
Student B received an 80 (16/20) on his Perks essay. He received 3/4 on all rubric
sections with the exception of a 4/4 on organization. This essay is well organized, but there are
some tense and pronoun inconsistencies that make some of the sentences sound awkward. For
example, She hurt herself and eventually hurting her young nephew and If you do not love
self no one will. There is a logic evident in how he explains different examples he uses to
support his thesis statement. In the paragraph about Charlie, he discusses that characters
relationship with his aunt, how he abuses drugs and alcohol before coming to terms with what
happened to him, and then finally how he turned it around when he chose to forgive his aunt. I
am going to focus on cleaning up this students writing and determining whether his word
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selection in those tricky sentences is a matter of not understanding grammar rules or just lack of
attention to revision. My inclination is that it is the latter.
Student C received a perfect score (20/20) on his Perks essay. His thesis statement is
clear and well-written: Unresolved conflicts inevitably propel us to self-destruction,
dysfunctional relationships, and cycles of abuse as shown in Chobskys astounding novel The
Perks of Being a Wallflower. This is a level of clarity and conciseness that other freshman
students are struggling to achieve, and his vocabulary (e.g. propel astounding) is also well
developed. He includes transitions between ideas and paragraphs as well, something even
college writers can struggle with. We used one of his body paragraphs in class as an exemplar for
students during the next essay writing process. This student needs help in polishing his writing
(e.g. one more review and reading it aloud to catch minor errors or sentences that sound strange).
He also should be exposed to higher level writing strategies like improving transitions and issues
like passive voice.
For Student A, the pedagogical strategies revolved around improving her reading
comprehension skills by breaking down what we are reading into smaller, more digestible parts.
There were two parts to my work with this student: 1) worksheets to help her understand what
she is reading; 2) close reading of nonfiction passages. Both of these formative assessments
involved group work with her peers and whole class instruction. McMillan (2003) stresses the
importance of these types of checks for understanding: Formative ongoing assessments such as
daily checks and informal observation, were most informative in relation to instructional
decisions. I developed a worksheet to keep track of character analysis and development. This
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graphic organizer has a sunshine for each main character - inside the sun, students list conflicts
and goals and in the sunrays the student includes inferences and important character traits. As
we continue reading, the students update their worksheet to note how characters develop over
time and what they symbolize in the context of the story and time period of the play. This
worksheet is designed to help struggling readers keep track and make sense of what they have
read, and becomes a study guide for the tests and a starting point for an essay.
The second part of this intervention involved several close readings, with small groups
working to analyze and understand each passage after they were read aloud to the whole class.
Lent (2009) explains the rationale for this: Read interesting and challenging texts aloud to
students, if only a few pages a day, and pepper your reading with thoughtful questions for them
to consider. Before beginning a new unit on Lorraine Hansberrys A Raisin in the Sun, for
example, we read aloud a nonfiction article about Chicago in the 1950s1. Here is the opening
line of the article for an example of the texts complexity: The black population in Chicago
significantly increased in the early to mid-1900s, due to the Great Migration out of the South.
Below are three sample questions that the students worked together to answer in differentiated
What is the main idea of this paragraph? What idea/concept does the text introduce?
Why did many African-Americans move to Chicago in the early to mid-1900s? Cite two-
three details from the text to support your answer.
What do you think disfranchised means? Use context clues to figure out the word meaning.
Creating differentiated questions has been a point of emphasis in discussions with my
cooperating teacher. As a beginner, I was often anxious to get to the home run question without
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1 From A Raisin in the Sun: Study Guide for Teachers. http://chsenglishap4.weebly.com/uploads/2/2/5/7/2257880/raisinteachersguide.pdf
introducing more basic questions that can engage a broader audience in class. Once we began
reading the play, also out loud in class, I continued this same strategy of developing several
levels of questions with students like this in mind. They would move from basic understanding
to inferences, to bigger opinion or thematic questions for students to free write about once we
had read a section.
For Student B, the pedagogical strategies involved 1:1 writing conferences and review of
student work samples. I reviewed this students writing in closer detail than would have been
possible during whole class instruction. This student came to after-school tutoring twice to work
on building and revising his essay, and this extra work helped complement what we were doing
in the full class setting. This student did not initially have specific questions on his draft, so we
broke it down in the component parts, beginning with the introduction. We reviewed what the
rubric called for and analyzed his thesis statement. It was clear that he had good ideas, but
needed help with word choice and analyzing supporting details. I gave him some suggestions
about word choice and also recommended that he develop some type of text-to-world
connection to hook his reader in the introduction.
My cooperating teacher noticed that tutoring and in-class check ins were sometimes
inefficient because students did not have specific questions, so we agreed to stress that more
going forward. This way, students develop more control over their writing and learning, and it
becomes a collaborative effort. Bergmann (2008) states, In the past three decades of
composition studies, collaboration has been repeatedly embraced as a method of learning that
makes students active learners and as a method of tutoring that balances working together to
produce writing with respecting students role as authors of their own writing. I charged this
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student with developing specific questions or areas to focus on for the next tutoring session,
when he would come with a new draft. We worked in similar fashion to tweak his body
paragraphs, with a focus on analyzing specific details and less plot summary.
This tutoring work was supported by in-class writing workshops. My cooperating
teacher and I met to review past student work and identify examples to show in class.
Christensen (2009) says, Students need to have models that demonstrate what the essay looks
like ... In order to teach students how to write, I get them to take model essays apart, tinker with
them, and learn how the parts work together. We identified samples that met the rubric
requirements for full credit and put them on a worksheet with lines below for students to write in
their notes. I asked for student volunteers to read each sample, then we took time for them to
identify what made this section good, whether it was a clear thesis, solid evidence, a powerful
conclusion, or just an interesting turn of phrase. I also gave students sentence starters to help
them introduce authors craft examples into their writing (e.g. The author demonstrates this idea
by using....). We spent six full class periods on the writing process, in part because these are
freshman who need the practice, but also because the material became more challenging (from
The Perks of Being a Wallflower to Oedipus the King).
For Student C, the pedagogical strategies centered on detailed feedback on his writing
throughout the process. The comments went beyond what was specified in the assignment
rubric, because this student is ready for more advanced techniques. For example, I mentioned
reviewing student work in class above for Student B, and it was Student Cs work that we used. I
noticed after peer review that his classmate had made only a few superficial notes on his work.
Hattie (2007) notes that writing feedback is important to writers of all skill levels: Feedback has
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no effect in a vacuum; to be powerful in its effect, there must be a learning context to which
feedback is addressed. It is but part of the teaching process and is that which happens second-
after a student has responded to initial instruction- when information is provided regarding some
aspect(s) of the student's task performance. It is most powerful when it addresses faulty
interpretations, not a total lack of understanding. I felt that the best help I could offer would be
providing very detailed feedback on his first draft. There was much work left for him to do to
bring this first draft to the quality level I saw in his previous essay.
My comments ranged from basic formatting (something I notice many students struggle
with) to more structural issues like deeper analysis of his examples and finishing the essay with