Impact on Student Learning - CIRCA DE RIO the essay question and that the second and third ... and goals and in the “sunrays” the student includes inferences ... IMPACT ON STUDENT LEARNING 7.

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download


  • Impact of Pedagogical Interventions on Student Learning

    Brian Rio

    Hunter College


  • 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 learning.

    Student Characteristics

    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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.

    Pedagogical Strategies

    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


  • 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


    1 From A Raisin in the Sun: Study Guide for Teachers.

  • 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


  • 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


  • 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