Dissertation Chair: Dr. Antonia Darder
Listening to Student Voices: A Critical Study of Homework
In a culture of meritocracy and an increasing emphasis on global competition, student learning has become more fully aligned with a belief in the value and effectiveness of homework. Amidst the incessant drive toward competition and an unrelenting push toward an increasing use of homework as commonplace educational practice, there also exist clarion calls to question, reform, and abolish this practice. From student stress to overarching challenges to the nature of education, there exist unexamined discourses that critically challenge current beliefs in the significance of homework practice in the United States. Through employing discussions of student voice and theoretical lenses of intrinsic motivation, social reproduction, and critical pedagogy, this study examined how homework practices impact high school students, by engaging directly with their perceptions. The purpose of this mixed methods study is to better understand how homework affects high school students, beyond measures of student achievement within the current context of education in the United States. The study was conducted in an all-female, Catholic, college preparatory high school, utilizing student survey and focus groups. Findings of the study are explored and discussed with respect to public policy implications related to the future development, assignment, and role of homework practices in the academic formation of high school students in this setting and beyond.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Shane P. Martin
Impact of Physics First on Math Achievement: A Quantitative Study
Improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education has become a national priority and the call to modernize secondary science has been heard. A Physics First (PF) program with the curriculum sequence of physics, chemistry, and biology (PCB) driven by inquiry- and project-based learning offers a viable alternative to the traditional curricular sequence (BCP) and methods of teaching, but requires more empirical evidence. This study determined impact of a PF program (PF-PCB) on math achievement (SAT math scores) after the first two cohorts of students completed the PF-PCB program at Matteo Ricci High School (MRHS) and provided more quantitative data to inform the PF debate and advance secondary science education. Statistical analysis (ANCOVA) determined the influence of covariates and revealed that PF-PCB program had a significant (p < .05) impact on SAT math scores in the second cohort at MRHS. Statistically adjusted, the SAT math means for PF students were 21.4 points higher than their non-PF counterparts when controlling for prior math achievement (HSTP math), socioeconomic status (SES), and ethnicity/race.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Shane P. Martin
Teachers and Cheating: The Relationship Between Classroom Environment and High School Student Cheating
Academically dishonest behaviors pose a major threat to education. High rates of cheating have been reported at all levels of education, and by most accounts seem to be on the rise. Classroom environment research has demonstrated that environments created by classroom teachers have a significant impact on many aspects of education. Using a mixed methods approach, the current study investigated the relationship between cheating and the high school classroom environment. Quantitative data were collected from two surveys. The Academic Integrity Survey (AIS) asked students to self report cheating behaviors, and the Classroom Environment Scale (CES) asked students about their perceptions of the classroom environment. Qualitative data were collected from classroom observations and student interviews. The results of this study indicate that the classroom environment is significantly related to student cheating; the more positive the environment, the less students will cheat. Regression analyses indicated that 2 CES subscales, order and organization and involvement, were negatively related to student cheating and explained 40% and 23% of the variance respectively. The regression analyses also indicated that 3 other study variables, school sports participation, after school employment, and grade level were positively related to student cheating and explained 15%, 12%, and 11% of the variance, respectively. Qualitative analyses yielded 5 major findings. It was found that students cheat more in environments where students are not involved, that lack order and organization, and that lack teacher control. Students cheat more when their teachers are oblivious and are not respected, and larger systemic issues are related to student cheating behaviors. This study represents rare attempts to access the student perspective on cheating as well as to understand teachers' role in student cheating. This study concludes that teachers can reduce the rates of cheating in their classes by improving their classroom environments, especially in the areas of order and organization and student involvement, and by increasing their use of authentic standards based assessments. However, most of these improvements will only impact students' opportunity to cheat. Educators will have a difficult time affecting students' desire to cheat until larger systemic problems with the current educational system are addressed.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Edmundo Litton
Fighting Fire with Fire: The Use of a Multimedia WebQuest in Increasing Middle-School Students' Understandings of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying, the use of personal and information and communication technologies to harass or intimidate others, is an increasingly pervasive problem in schools. This mixed-methods study explored the effectiveness of a multimedia WebQuest in teaching 156 middle-school students about the dangers of cyberbullying and examined the role of gender in learning about cyber-harassment. Set within a constructivist framework, the study provides an innovative, technological intervention for cyberbullying education for use with adolescents and is instrumental in reshaping public policy surrounding cyberbullying education and prevention. The dissertation study occurred in two phases. Phase I, WebQuest Construction, was qualitative in nature and employed stakeholder focus groups to assess middle-school students' knowledge and awareness surrounding cyberbullying. Data from the focus groups informed the construction of the WebQuest. The second phase, Data Collection from Students, was quantitative in nature and was composed of a pre-test, WebQuest treatment, and post-test. Data analyses for Phase II included paired-sample t tests, repeated-measures analyses of variance, and descriptive statistics that focused on three dependent variables, namely awareness, safety, and knowledge. Findings indicated statistically significant increases in awareness and knowledge from the pre-test to post-test among the middle-school aged participants, while the slight increase in safety from pre to post-test was not significant. The findings support the need for school communities to begin engaging in conversation surrounding the best ways to teach students about cyberbullying's dangers through the use of technology and issue a call for a re-examination of constructivist learning theory.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Marta Baltodano
Organizing a Grassroots Math Literacy Campaign: The Launching of the Young People's Project in Los Angeles
The purpose of this study was to delve into the emerging awareness of the social factors that contribute to the teaching and learning of mathematics by documenting the experiences of Math Literacy Workers in the Young People's Project, as it formed its Los Angeles Chapter. Twelve high school students, three college students and one program coordinator participated in this research study.
This research study focused on a series of math literacy workshops conducted as part of an after-school program at Roosevelt Elementary School. Built upon the legacy of the Mississippi Freedom Riders, the Young People's Project has developed an engaging program that allows participants to take direct action in transforming their communities. The design of a pedagogy rooted in the tenants of civil rights, youth leadership, civic engagement, critical math literacy, situated learning theory, cultural relevance, peer-to-peer education, social empowerment, grassroots leadership, and community organizing, enabled participants to develop their identity as agents of social change. This research examined the capacity of critical literacy and the methodologies used to promote math literacy and youth leadership as aspects of the Math Literacy Workers training program.
The Math Literacy Workers training program positively impacted youth participants' math literacy, problem solving, academic achievement, communication, organizing skills, leadership capacity, self-confidence, civic engagement, critical literacy, and self-identity. Participants described how the program allowed them to achieve praxis, through continuously reflecting on their identities and the social significance of their experiences as they took direct action as facilitators of the math literacy workshops at Roosevelt Elementary School.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Franca Dell'Olio
Parents' Perceptions of Partners in Print, a Family Literacy Program
Partners in Print, a family literacy program, was brought to the urban elementary school in this study to educate and empower kindergarten and first grade parents to promote literacy development at home. This research aimed to explore the impact of participation in this program after consistent participation by utilizing a one-group pre-test, post-test research design. The Parent Empowerment and Home Literacy Environment Survey, which included both structured and unstructured questions, was administered before and after participation in the program to elicit notions of parent empowerment and growth in the home literacy environment. Parent participants also completed a document review of program handouts to triangulate the data.
The data suggested that parents feel more empowered after consistently participating in Partners in Print. There was also evidence that the home literacy environment was of higher quality after participation. This study validated the practice of implementing family literacy programs as a strategy for empowering parents and enriching the home literacy environments of children.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Ref Rodriguez
Expected and Unexpected Outcomes of a Service-Learning Program Rooted in Social Justice and Programmatic Constructivism
Service-learning, an experiential learning and teaching pedagogy, provides students and teachers the opportunity to take classroom knowledge and put it to work in real world applications in the greater community. This qualitative case study dissertation explored the expected and unexpected outcomes of a service-learning program at an urban charter high school. Through a review of current literature, the history of service-learning is traced from its modern roots to present day incarnations. Grounded in the overlapping frameworks of pragmatic constructivist theory and practice, and service-learning with a social justice model, best practices were examined through interviews and focus groups of current students and students who have completed the SL program. The findings to the three research questions suggested: The expected outcomes addressed activism, awareness, and social development; the unexpected outcomes spoke to the development of interpersonal transformations surpassing expectations and agency, unexpected content-based outcomes, and unexpected abstract outcomes; the implementation data focused on the need for institutional support and adaptability. Recommendations for future implementation were also discussed.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Candace Poindexter
Literacy Achievement in Non-graded Classrooms
This longitudinal quantitative study compared literacy achievement of students from second through sixth grade based on two organizational systems: graded (traditional) and nongraded (multiage) classrooms. The California Standards Test (CST) scaled and proficiency scores for English-Language Arts (ELA) were used as the study's independent variable to measure student performance. A matched control was utilized in which nongraded students were compared with graded students based on gender, ethnicity, and date of birth. Data analysis included independent samples t-test, analysis of variance (ANOVA), and effect size. Results showed that nongraded students had a significant advantage over their graded counterparts in literacy achievement (p=0.000). Effect size for the matched group increased with length of exposure in the nongraded program from Cohen's d=0.49 to d=0.99. It is difficult to determine if significant outcomes were the result of classroom structure or instructional strategies used in the nongraded setting. However, a unique quality of this study involves the rare conditions and matched control design that allowed for variables to be controlled, which have yet to be simultaneously accounted for in multiage studies to date. Based on the results, this study suggested that nongraded education, by responding to the developmental nature of children in the classroom, may offer a viable alternative to the graded system. In nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Finland, and Canada with the highest literacy rates in the world, nongraded classrooms are common educational practice.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Candace Poindexter
Emergent Readers and Open Court Reading: A Case Study of Second Grade Students in an Urban School
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Karen Huchting
Effect of Kundalini Yoga on Adolescent Stress, Affect, and Resilience
In order to integrate a mind, body, spirit approach in school settings, yoga programming such as Y.O.G.A. for Youth was introduced to one public and two charter schools in Los Angeles area urban neighborhoods. The study examined the effectiveness of the overall program and its effect on adolescent stress, emotional affect, and resilience. A survey was administered to measure the three dependent variables and informal interviews were conducted to determine the overall effectiveness of the program. The results of the mixed method approach indicated that the overall program was effective in creating a general sense of well-being and statistically significant in alleviating stress (p < .05), increasing positive affect (p < .05), and resilience (p < .001), in the participants (N=30).
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Yvette Lapayese
Youth, Social Networking, and Resistance: A Case Study on a Multi-dimensional Approach to Resistance
This exploratory case study focused on youth and resistance that was aided by the use of technology. The combination of resistance and technology expanded a multidimensional framework and leads to new insight into transformative resistance.
This study examined the framework of transformative resistance based on Solórzano and Delgado Bernal's (2001) findings. Specific interest centered on learning how and why youth used MySpace to organize student walkouts in protest of House Resolution 4437 in late March 2006, ultimately amassing 40,000 students in Los Angeles. Another purpose was to create a framework for ways in which educators can meaningfully embrace the combination of pedagogy, technology, and revolution.
The case study method, which involved collecting data by document review, MySpace Group pages, and interviews, produced a comprehensive picture of the H.R. 4437 Walkouts. Thematic coding and social network analysis were used to examine the collected data.
The study findings showed that a combination of multimodal (face-to-face, text messaging, and MySpace) and multidirectional (one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one, many-to-many) communications contributed to the success of the H.R. 4437 Walkouts. The sub-themes of speed and strategic use of private and public communication channels also played roles. The combination of these four elements created a decentralized, non-hierarchical network that provided significant strengths, but also indicated some weaknesses in the communication process.
An educational framework is proposed that combines pedagogy, technology and revolution. Multidimensional revolutionary pedagogy has been created as a guide for teachers to facilitate student efforts to engage in transformative resistance related to social justice causes.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Magaly Lavadenz
An Inquiry of Instructional Coaching in an Urban High School
This inquiry examined the practice of instructional coaching in a large, low-performing, high-poverty urban high school. The participation of instructional coaches was examined in light of the school's attempt to construct a culture of social justice in a long-marginalized community. This research looked at instructional coaching through the framework of social reproduction theory in order to ascertain specific instructional coaching practices that may substantiate or validate the existence of legitimization, cultural reproduction, tracking, a hidden curriculum, internalized oppression, deskilling of teachers, and hegemony of dominant ideologies, in an urban secondary school. Methods included interviews with instructional coaches, examination of documents evidence, and observations of instructional coaching activities.