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International Journal
Learning, Teaching
Educational Research
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Vol.15 No.12
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VOLUME 15 NUMBER 12 November 2016

Table of Contents
Mathematics vis--vis Arithmetics ....................................................................................................................................... 1
Hanna Savion and Michal Seri

The Goldilocks Dilemma: A Case Study toward a Just Right Model of Service-Learning ..................................... 19
Ms. Shelley Brown and Dr. Lori Maxwell

A Critical Interrogation of Integration, Special Educational Needs and Inclusion ...................................................... 31

Glazzard Jonathan

Psychometric Properties of a Screening Tool for Elementary School Students Math Learning Disorder Risk ....... 48
Sinan OLKUN, Arif Altun, Sakine Ger ahin and Galip Kaya

Students Academic Performance in Religious Education: A Case of Selected Schools in Botswana ...................... 67
Baamphatlha Dinama , Koketso Jeremiah, Boitumelo Sihlupheki-Jorowe, Masego Keakantse, Rebonyetsala Kemoabe, Bafedile
Kgaswe, Mpolokang Motshosi and Oshi Sebina

Research-Based Practices for Teaching Reading in Elementary Classrooms: An Exploration of the Instructional
Practices of Former Elementary Education Students ...................................................................................................... 84
Jacquelyn Covault

Community College Faculty and Conceptualizations of Disciplinary Writing .......................................................... 112

Jodi P. Lampi and Eric J. Paulson

Teaching Probability Statistics towards Training Occupational Skills for Economic Majored Students Case
Study at Lac Hong University Viet Nam ......................................................................................................................... 130
Hoan Van Tran and Hang Thuy Nguyen

An Investigation of Discrepancies between Qualitative and Quantitative Findings in Survey Research .............. 145
Melanie DiLoreto and Trudi Gaines

Teaching the Novel in a University English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Context: An Exploratory Study in
Lebanon ................................................................................................................................................................................ 155
Nahla Nola Bacha
The Academic Outcomes of Boys An Argument for a Pluralist Approach ................................................................. 174
Gregory IB Woodrow

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 1-18, November 2016

Mathematics vis--vis Arithmetics

Hanna Savion and Michal Seri

Gordon Academic College of Education
Haifa, Israel

Abstract. This study engages in the two terms arithmetics and

mathematics which are frequently interpreted as having an identical
meaning. Pupils and elementary school mathematics pre-service
teachers use those terms as if they were the same. This study clarifies
these terms and explores their definition among pre-service teachers as
well as 6th and 7th grade pupils. Presentation of a historical sequence
focuses on the development of and relation between arithmetics and the
various areas of mathematics. Later on, we elaborate the terms
arithmetics and mathematics as they are meant to be understood by and
explained to the learners and present the way they are perceived by
pupils and pre-service teachers. The research findings illustrate the
confusion these terms create.

Keywords: arithmetics; mathematics; pre-service teachers.

The relation between arithmetics and mathematics is described by the analogy to
a language, namely the relation between spelling and writing (Peterson, 2001).
Arithmetics is the foundation stone of mathematics as letters are the foundation
stone of writing. Moreover, mathematics is presented as the queen of sciences
and as such, when the fundamental laws of arithmetics are insufficient, learners
can solve more complex questions by means of the other areas of mathematics
(Stevens, 2011; Turgeman, 2006; Weintraub, 2004).
One of the frequent questions of learners, whether at elementary school or junior
high school, is: "Teacher, which books should I bring tomorrow? Arithmetics or
mathematics? Elementary school pupils or their teachers say that they are
studying arithmetics and sometimes they say they are learning mathematics.
Moreover, the class board in elementary school displays the captions
'mathematics' and 'geometry' as two different subjects, geometry being one of
the areas of mathematics.
The study examines those two terms and how it perceived by pupils from the
6th and 7th grade and by students of elementary school mathematics teaching.

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Theoretical Background
The Israeli Managing Director Circular (Ministry of Education, Culture and
Sport, 2006) which specifies the mathematics curriculum for elementary schools,
is grounded in the perception that pupils should acquire and develop a
numerical and geometric insight. This insight is based on the acquisition of
terms and structures in arithmetics and geometry as a continuing process. The
arithmetic insight can be achieved by mastering mathematical competences and
by being familiar with fundamental facts while emphasising oral computations.
The same applies to the relations between different arithmetic terms and relying
on them when choosing strategies for solving questions and checking the
answers. All this is done by using the mathematical language correctly. In junior
high school, the academic year in the 7th grade starts with revision of the laws of
arithmetics familiar to the pupils from elementary school. Later on, the pupils
learn algebraic expressions which comprise letters and numbers, emphasising
the performance of arithmetic operations, acquaintance of mathematical terms
and mathematical procedures. The concepts arithmetics and mathematics are
described in literature as follows:
Mathematics: a language dealing with numbers and shapes, their properties and
the investigation of their interrelations, while using signs and symbols.
Mathematics consists of arithmetics, algebra, differential and integral
arithmetics, geometry, trigonometry and more (Hebrew Encyclopaedia, 1972;
Peterson, 2001; Stevens, 2011; Weintraub, 2004).
Arithmetics: an area of mathematics based on the four basic mathematical
operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, root extraction as well
as on the order of operations between them. This area constitutes a fundamental
part of mathematics studies and is essential for the understanding thereof
(Avnion, 1997; Hebrew Encyclopaedia, 1953; Stevens, 2011; Wikipedia, 2014).
In the introduction to his book, Gazit (2004, p. 5) wrote:
true, many people use the principles of arithmetics the first and
basic mathematical area However, mathematics has additional areas,
the most familiar among them are: algebra, plane geometry and solid
geometry, analytical geometry, trigonometry, differential and integral
arithmetics, statistics and probability.

To emphasize the relations of arithmetics and all the other areas of mathematics,
a Graphic Mathematics Model is drawn (Figure 1 - below). The Model illustrates
some of the areas of mathematics.
The relations between arithmetics and the other branches - areas of mathematics
are exemplified by bi-directional arrows. Those arrows show the reciprocal
connections of arithmetics and all the other areas of mathematics.

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Figure 1: Graphic Mathematics Model -

Mathematics and the various areas-branches included in it

(the representing the other areas)

The graphic Mathematics Model (Fig. 1) and the following chronological review
indicate the development of the areas of mathematics, in general, and of
arithmetics, in particular, and how they are intertwined.

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Historical-Chronological Review
Researchers concur to some extent that mathematics (counting methods, four
basic mathematical operations and geometric computations: arithmetics and
geometry) was developed in Egypt at about 4000 B.C. (Gazit, 2004).
Nevertheless, there are evidences related to the need for counting which dates
back to 25,000 B.C. (Arbel, 2005). The Greek mathematicians distinguished
between the science of numbers (arithmetics number in Greek arithmos and in
Latin arithmetica) and the wisdom of computation (logistics) (Dagon, 1955;
Smith, 1958). Pythagoras (6th century B.C.) and his disciples worshiped whole
numbers (Arbel, 2005), arguing that everything is a number, everything is
arithmos. This view was proven as incorrect when they calculated the length of
a diagonal of a square whose side was 1 length unit. As a result the Pythagorean
sect disbanded. Later, the mathematicians embraced the geometric approach
which facilitated proofs without reference to numbers (Unguru, 1989a). Archytas
(5th-6th centuries B.C.), one of Pythagoras disciples, divided the engagement in
mathematics into four areas (a division maintained for about 2000 years).
Absolute numbers arithmetics, useful numbers music, sizes in position
geometry, sizes in motion astronomy. The Pythagoreans raised the number to
a level of religion, a religion of numbers (Arbel, 2005; Dagon, 1995; Gazit, 2004).
Euclid (3rd century B.C.) collected, edited and enhanced the geometric material
written by his predecessors. Until our present days, the Euclidean geometry is
named after him. Archimedes (3rd century B.C.) conceived the fundamentals of
integral arithmetics (Arbel, 2005). Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century A.C.) made a
great contribution to trigonometry and Abu al-Wafa' (10th century A.C.)
continued to develop it. In the year 90 A.C., Nicomachus of Gerasa wrote
"Introduction to Arithmetics" the first work separating arithmetics from
During the Middle Ages, the term arithmetics was not common, perhaps
because it did not have a Latin origin. People were accustomed to call it 'Greek
arithmetics' (or in Latin 'numerorum scientica'). In 1116 A.C., arithmetics was
referred to as 'arismetricis', in 1140 A.C. it was called 'arismetrica' and 50 years
later Fibonacci used the word 'rismetrica' (Smith, 1958).
Viete (1591) sets clear boundaries between the logistica numerosa arithmetics
and logistica speciose algebra. According to him, arithmetics deals with
specific numbers and the regular arithmetic operations with them whereas
algebra constitutes a method of acting with the numerical structures connecting
between occurrences (Unguru, 1989b). The two numerical areas of study
continued to be studied separately until the invention of the printing press.
Then, the more aristocratic name 'arithmetics' combined the two disciplines.
This term is not universal. Until today, the Germans refer to arithmetics as to the
theoretical part and use the word Rechnen [calculate] for the ancient logistics and
the French call is calcul [calculation] (Smith, 1958).
Pierre de Fermat (17th century) developed a theory which comprised much of
what is called at present analytical geometry and at the same period Rene
Descartes actualised and in fact invents the concept of the analytical geometry
(Arbel, 2005). Moreover, Descartes was the first to present the infinitesimal

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computation which constituted the basis of differential and integral

arithmetics developed by Leibnitz and Newton after Descartes' death. In 1664,
Isaac Barrow presented in his lectures materials which were the origins of
differential arithmetics. In 1675, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm
Leibniz developed the differential and integral arithmetics. In 1690, Jacques
Bernoulli used for the first time the term integral. In 1920, Hardy Godfrey
Harold solved the Waring problem by a method which integrated analysis with
arithmetics. Its importance resides in the fact that it is also applicable in the case
of very difficult arithmetic problems.
The historical review above reinforces the fact that arithmetics is an initial
basis and inseparable part of all areas - branches of mathematics.

Research Statement
Hashiv (anon) and Peterson (2001) argue that most pupils do not know to define
mathematics or what is the difference between mathematics and arithmetics.
Kyriakides, Meletiou-Mavrotheris and Prodromou (2016) state that pupils have
fundamentally narrow viewpoint of mathematics as being primarily
computation and arithmetics. Latterell and Wilson (2016) state that elementary
teachers and elementary students tend to describe mathematics as arithmetics
operations and computations.
Aharoni (2011) indicates that at elementary school arithmetics teaching is
actually elementary mathematics in which basic topics are studied. For example:
essence of the number as well as meaning of the basic mathematical operations,
derived from the rules and order of the mathematical operations. Mathematics is
unique in that it simplifies the most basic thinking processes.
What distinguishes the math is that it abstracts the basic thinking processes. We
have examined the above with pre-service teachers and pupils.

Research aim: explore how the terms mathematics and arithmetic are perceived
by 6th graders, 7th graders and pre-service teachers.

Materials and Methods

Research Population
76 pupils from the 6th grade.
65 pupils from the 7th grade.
56 pre-service teachers [hereafter "students"] in their 4th year of studies,
learning to become elementary school mathematics teachers.
Research Instrument
An open-ended questionnaire (see Appendix A) comprising three items. These
items aimed to check the meaning attributed by the participants (a subjective
interpretation) to the terms arithmetics and mathematics.

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The table in Appendix A presents the questionnaires results. The participants'
answers were divided into categories. The name of which was determined
according to the answers. The data were quantitatively analyzed while finding
relations between the results.

Item No. 1: What is Arithmetics?

Most of the students (89%) knew to explain what is arithmetics. Conversely, only
about half of the 6th and 7th graders 47% of the 6th graders and 62% of the 7th
graders - could explain the essence of this term.

Table 1: Results (%) for the term arithmetics

Examples of answers to the item 'what is arithmetics': "a learning subject at school,
which helps us to advance in life", "arithmetics is mathematics for elementary school",
"a simple computation of numbers, i.e. plus, minus, division, multiplication".

Item No. 2: What is Mathematics?

79% of the students knew to explain this term. 31% of the 7th graders (less than
half the percentage of the students) and 18% of the 6th graders (about one quarter
of the percentage of the students) could explain the essence of mathematics.

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Table 2: Results (%) for the term mathematics

Examples of answers to the item 'what is mathematics': "an alternative and more
difficult word for arithmetics", "mathematics is advanced arithmetics", "mathematics is
the generalization. It is arithmetics, geometry, gematria1"

Item No. 3: In Your Opinion, What is the Relation between Arithmetics and
Three answers were obtained for this item. 79% of the students responded there
was a relation and specified what was its essence. So did 35% of the 7th graders
(about half of the percentage of the students). On the other hand, only 5% of the
6th graders explained this relation.
92% of the 6th graders believed that there was no difference between arithmetics
and mathematics. 62% of the 7th graders and 14% of the students thought so too.
3% of the 6th and 7th graders as well as 7% of the students gave no answer to this

Gematria originated as an Assyro-Babylonian-Greek system of
alphanumeric code/cipher later adopted into Jewish culture that assigns numerical value to a
word/name/phrase. It is also used in Greek and Arabic.

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Table 3: Results (%) for the relation between arithmetics and mathematics

Examples of answers to the item 'what is the relation between arithmetics and
mathematics': "There is no relation", "a similar subject but mathematics is more
difficult. Arithmetics is for elementary school and mathematics is for post-elementary
school", "in my opinion arithmetics is for children and mathematics for adolescents",
"arithmetics is the basis of mathematics, we learn first the basic material and from there
we shift to mathematics".
Although they had not been asked, the participants related in their answers to
the degree of difficulties they encountered in arithmetics and mathematics.
Below are their answers and the analysis thereof:
39% of the 6th graders maintained that arithmetics was an easy subject whereas
mathematics was a difficult one. Compared to them, 5% of the 7th graders and
4% of the students thought like them and chose to indicate it in their answers.

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Table 4: Results (%) for the degree of difficulties encountered in arithmetics

Examples of answers to the item 'degree of difficulties encountered in

arithmetics': "Arithmetics is the easier level for beginning children (addition and
subtraction, comparison between integers)"

Table 5: Results (%) for the degree of difficulties encountered in mathematics

Examples of answers to the item 'degree of difficulties encountered in

mathematics': " much more difficult than arithmetics".

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Summary and Conclusions

This study aimed to explore how the terms mathematics and arithmetics and the
relation between them are perceived by pupils in the 6th and 7th grade and by
students of elementary school mathematics teaching.
The results illustrated that less than half the 6th graders could explain what is
arithmetics and less than one-fifth were able to explain what is mathematics.
This accounted for the finding that pupils of the 6th grade (92%) responded there
was no relation between arithmetics and mathematics. It is noteworthy that the
pupils have been learning arithmetics for six years and still found it difficult to
clarify this term. About 40% of the 6th graders related to the degree of difficulties
they had in arithmetics and/or mathematics. Underscoring the 'easy' arithmetics
versus the 'difficult' mathematics was in line with the other results discussed
About 60% of the 7th graders could define arithmetics and some 30% knew to
define mathematics. Two-thirds of the 7th grade pupils thought there was no
relation between mathematics and arithmetics and one-third believed there was
a relation between them. We realized that there was a change in the reference to
and understanding of the relation between mathematics and arithmetics among
pupils moving from the 6th to the 7th grade. 92% of the 6th graders claimed there
was no relation between mathematics and arithmetics as compared to 62% of the
7th graders. It was obvious that in spite of the gap of one year, the transition to
junior high school affected the differentiation in the answers. Nevertheless, most
of the 7th graders, whose learning subject was already called mathematics, did
not know to explained what was the essence of mathematics and did not think
there was a relation between mathematics and arithmetics.
The students showed no meaningful difference between the percentage of
answers to each of the questions. The results indicated that the students had a
more consolidated opinion about the essence of arithmetics, the essence of
mathematics and the relation between them. About 10% of the students failed to
explain the essence of arithmetics and approximately 20% did not know to
explain the essence of mathematics and the relation between the two.
The pupils' answers indicated that there was no distinction between arithmetics
and mathematics. One learns arithmetics from the 1st until the 6th grade and
mathematics from the 7th grade and above. Some think that arithmetics is the
order of operations in exercises, such as: multiplication, division, addition and
subtraction while in mathematics pupils learn equations, algebra and so on. For
certain learners of mathematics implies exercises with fractions ('complicated
exercises') (see Appendix C, tables 1-5).
The historical review described above and the research results emphasise that
arithmetics is the theory of numbers or to be more precise the theory of
operations with numbers. In order to increase pupils and their teachers'
awareness of an appropriate and accurate use of these terms, we described the
relation between arithmetics and mathematics by means of the Mathematics
Model. The Model shows arithmetics at the vertex of a pyramid which feeds

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(mutual feedback) all the other divisions/areas of mathematics located at the

base of the pyramid.
Learners use these terms currently but with no accuracy and conceptualisation.
The daily use of the terms mathematics and arithmetics, as if they were one
term, while not paying attention to the relation and/or the difference between
them, is one of the factors affecting the lack of clarity and distinction between
these two terms.
We should relate to the fact that the subject of arithmetics learnt in elementary
school is an incomparably crucial and essential milestone. Arithmetics forms an
important and inseparable part of mathematics studies in elementary school,
junior high school and above. Although the arithmetic operations are apparently
a simple procedure, elementary school pupils should understand and correctly
use the order of the basic mathematical operations and the process of
computation. This helps for example to prevent difficulties in understanding the
mathematical operations and connections in algebraic expressions which is the
first topic the 7th graders encounter when starting the junior high school.
Mathematics studies in the wider sense and not necessarily only arithmetics
studies constitute the basis for teaching organized rational thinking. Arithmetics
studied at elementary school is an important and inseparable part of
mathematics studied in elementary school and later on. Arithmetics, as the basis
of mathematics, is an extensive area with quite a few nuances. Mathematics
teachers in general and students in particular who understand this, are endowed
with the orientation for proper teaching.
From the very start, when pupils comprehend the difference between the terms
'arithmetics' and 'mathematics' and express themselves correctly, it implies that
they understand the meaning of each word. This is the opening to the continued
appropriate mathematical conduct, grounded in the knowledge of definitions
and understanding of processes.
We want to end with a short story taken from the field:
During one of the mathematics lessons in the 7th grade where we are teaching, a
teacher (from a difference discipline) came into the classroom to make an
announcement. He saw exercises written on the class board, turned to the pupils
and asked: "When do we move from arithmetics to mathematics?" When asked:
"Why did you ask this question?" he replied: "Because arithmetics is for
beginners and mathematics for higher grades. It is all the same thing".

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Aharoni, R. (2011). Arithmetics for parents: A book for adults about mathematics of children.
Tel Aviv: Shocken Publishing House. [Hebrew]
Arbel, B. (2005). A brief history of mathematics. Tel Aviv: MOFET Institute. [Hebrew]
Avnion, A. (Eds.) (1997). Sapir Dictionary. Tel Aviv: Hed Artzi/Itav. [Hebrew]
Dagon, S. (1955). History of ancient mathematics. Tel Aviv: Dvir Publishing. [Hebrew]
Gazit, A. (2004). Eureka! About people who loved to think and compute. Herzelia: Geist.
Hashiv (unknown). Who doesn't understand mathematics.
http://www.hashiv.co.il/28156/math-article1. Accessed 16.12.2014. [Hebrew]
Hebrew Encyclopaedia (1953). Arithmetics (vol. 5, p. 877). Tel-Aviv: Society for the
Publication of Encyclopaedias Ltd. [Hebrew]
Hebrew Encyclopaedia (1972). Mathematics (vol. 24, p. 750). Tel-Aviv: Society for the
Publication of Encyclopaedias Ltd. [Hebrew]
Kyriakides, A. O., Meletiou-Mavrotheris, M. and Prodromou, T. (2016). Mobile
Technologies in the Service of Students' Learning of Mathematics: The Example of
Game Application A.L.E.X. in the Context of a Primary School in Cyprus.
Mathematics Education Research Journal, 28(1), 53-78.
Latterell, C. M. and Wilson, J. L. (2016). Math is like lion hunting a sleeping gazelle:
preservice elementary teachers' metaphors of mathematics. European Journal of
Science and Mathematics Education. 4(3), 283-292.
Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (2006). Curriculum of mathematics for elementary
schools. Jerusalem: Pedagogical Secretariat, Department of Curricula Planning and
df Accessed 16.12.2014. [Hebrew]
Peterson (Doctor Peterson) (2001). The Math Forum. Difference Between Math and
Arithmetic. http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/52282.html. Accessed
Smith, D.E. (1958). History of Mathematics. Vol. II. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Stevens, H. (2011). Math vs. arithmetics. Tribune Newspapers.
math-20110126_1_arithmetic-math-class-answer-math-questions. Accessed
STIPS site (2011). What is the difference between mathematics and arithmetics?.
%D7%9C%D7%97%D7%A9%D7%91% . Accessed 10.1.2015. [Hebrew]
Turgeman, A. (2006). Hebrew mathematics in Hebrew. Mispar Hazak 2000, 12, 55-62.
Unguru, S. (1989a). Introduction to the history of mathematics. Part I: Ancient times and the
Middle Ages. Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defence Publications. [Hebrew]
Unguru, S. (1989b). Introduction to the history of mathematics. Part II: The Renaissance and the
New Age. Aviv: Ministry of Defence Publications. [Hebrew]
Weintraub, I. (2004). What is the difference between Arithmetic and Mathematics?
http://www.mathmedia.com/whatisdifbet.html. Accessed 9.1.2015
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7%98%D7%99%D7%A7%D7%94. Accessed 18.11.2014. [Hebrew].

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Appendix A
The questionnaire form

Name: _____________________ Age: __________

What is arithmetics?

What is mathematics?

In your opinion, what is the relation between arithmetics and


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Appendix B
Results of the questionnaire

% of % of 7th % of 6th Category

students graders graders
89 62 47 Comprehensive What is
explanation arithmetics?

11 38 53 Irrelevant/incorrect

79 31 18 Comprehensive What is
explanation mathematics?

21 69 82 Irrelevant/incorrect

79 35 5 There is a relation The relation

14 62 92 There is no difference arithmetics and
between them mathematics

7 3 3 Did not respond

4 5 39 Believe that arithmetics is Level of difficulty

an easy subject in arithmetics
96 95 61 Did not refer to the level of
4 5 39 Believe that mathematics is Level of difficulty
a difficult subject in mathematics
96 95 61 Did not refer to the level of

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Appendix C
Examples of additional answers to the questionnaire

Item No. 3: What Item 2: What is Item 1: What is Age Name

in your opinion is mathematics? arithmetics?
the relation
arithmetics and
Pupils of the 6th grade
The relation is that Mathematics = a Arithmetics = a 11+ Shir
both values have synonym of subject studied in
the same meaning arithmetics. The elementary, junior
basic terms of high and high
arithmetics are school and we
called engage in it day-
mathematics by-day (at school,
The relation is that Mathematic is Arithmetics is 12 Hila
in both we use multiplying or adding integers
numbers and dividing big and easy numbers
mathematical numbers
The relation Mathematics is Arithmetics 12 Idan
between exercises on a implies exercises
arithmetics and high level with and comparisons
mathematics is the fractions, decimal of small numbers:
fact that they "are numbers and division,
connected" to comparison on a multiplication,
exercises and high level addition and
comparisons subtraction
between all the
The relation is that Mathematics is for Arithmetics is for 12 Itay
both are subjects learners in higher younger children
which deal with grades, from the in the 1st, 2nd and
numbers 5th grade and 3rd grades
The relation Mathematics is a Arithmetics is a 11 Niv
between them is in general term kind of
fact a relation of which is divided mathematics
similarity, they are into two parts: which constitutes
very similar. The arithmetics and half of the wide
basis of both is the geometry term called
basis of almost mathematics

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The relation Mathematics is a Arithmetics is a 12 Yuval
between word, an area subject learnt at
arithmetics and which embodies elementary, junior
mathematics is that arithmetics, high and high
arithmetics is a geometry and school and most of
topic which is part more it consists of the
of mathematics four basic
and this is the topic mathematical
which is the most operations
studied from (multiplication,
among the areas of division, addition
mathematics and subtraction)
The relation is that Mathematics is a Arithmetics is a 12 Kirill
in arithmetics we subject on a high subject on a low
learn a material level because in level because in
which is somewhat the 4th-6th grades the 1st-3rd grade we
easier and in we say say arithmetics
mathematics we mathematics
learn a material
which is a bit more
difficult than
Pupils of the 7th grade
The relation is that Mathematics is a Arithmetics is the 12.5 Omri
mathematics is small part of basis of
based on algebra which is mathematics and
arithmetics and studied in junior we start learning it
continues with high school in elementary
mathematics school
The relation is that Exercises of Exercises of 12 Uri
both are similar addition, addition,
subjects with subtraction, subtraction,
calculations and multiplication and multiplication and
exercises division for the division for the 1st-
higher grades, 4 - 3rd grades

12th grades
The relation is that Mathematics in Arithmetics is a 12 Lior
mathematics is the generalisation. body within
arithmetics but It is arithmetics, mathematics. It is
arithmetics is not geometry a sub-subject
mathematics within the wider

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The relation Mathematics is a Arithmetics is 12 Gal

between subject which thinking about
arithmetics and encompasses all calculation of
mathematics is the types of numbers, their
that arithmetics is arithmetics, totals, quotient,
included within computations product, etc.
the subject of with equations
mathematics and so on
The relation Mathematics is a Arithmetics is in 12.5 Michelle
between the two is term which fact computation
that arithmetics is comprises exercises and so
included in the algebra, on
term mathematics geometry,
and both are in gematria, etc.
fact a kind of
The relation is that A subject studied A subject at 12.8 Almog
both are a similar at school which is school facilitating
subject but necessary for the our progress in
mathematics is future life
more difficult.
Arithmetics is for
elementary school
and mathematics
is for post-
elementary school
The relation is that Mathematics is a Arithmetics is 25 Dotan
we need proof of computation I
arithmetics in arithmetics think
order to reach
The relation is that A very wide area A subject/area 24 Gal
arithmetics is part dealing with which is derived
of mathematics numbers, algebra, from mathematics
geometry and and constitutes its
others basis
The relation Mathematics Arithmetics is the 44 Noa
between them is focuses on four basic
that mathematics quantities, spaces, mathematical
consists of structures and operations studied
arithmetics. changes. Its at elementary
Without development took school addition,
arithmetics we hundreds of years subtraction,
cannot develop in and it continues multiplication and
mathematics to do so. It is division. Each
learnt at post- operation is
elementary calculation of at

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


schools and least two numbers

higher education
The relation is that Proofs, theorems The basic 23 Nofar
mathematics is which connect the operations on
based on the numbers and are which
foundations of connected by mathematics is
arithmetics them based: addition,

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 19-30, November 2016

The Goldilocks Dilemma:

A Case Study toward a Just Right Model of

Ms. Shelley Brown and Dr. Lori Maxwell

Tennessee Tech University
Cookeville, Tennessee

Abstract: Scholars have long lamented the lack of conceptual clarity in

the area of SERVICE-LEARNING. The pedagogical approaches of
Sigmon (1994), Haynes (2016) and Eyler and Giles (1999) have been
applied to create a balanced or Goldilocks model of SERVICE-
LEARNING to courses in both Sociology and Political Science.
Moreover, preliminary quantitative assessments have been integrated
into the curriculum along with a component of a University wide
accreditation plan now for the second five-year QEP (Quality
Enhancement Plan). Presented are preliminary assessment results of a
case study demonstrating positive relationships between SERVICE-
LEARNING and skills identified as essential to critical thinking and real
world problem solving. The cross-disciplinary application of
community-based SERVICE-LEARNING projects in increasing critical
thinking skills demonstrates a positive direction for future research.

Keywords: SERVICE-LEARNING; Quality Enhancement Plan; Critical

Thinking Assessment

Over twenty years ago, Sigmon (1994) famously lamented what is herein
relabeled, after the famous fairy tale, the Goldilocks Dilemma. (Cauley, 1981).
In true Goldilocks fashion, according to Sigmon, academicians were practicing
an unbalanced approach to SERVICE-LEARNING with either an inappropriate
SERVICE-learning or service-LEARNING pedagogy (1994). Under a SERVICE-
learning model, Sigmon suggested too much emphasis was placed in service to
the detriment of learning, or in our Goldilocks analogy, the SERVICE focus was
too hard and the classroom link too soft (Cauley 1981). In the service-
LEARNING imbalance, clearly, the situation was reversed, whereby scholars
were too cool in their service emphasis and too hot on the educational focus
(Sigmon 1994). To rectify this problem, Sigmon proposed SERVICELEARNING

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(the capitalization is the authors own emphasis) programs in which both the
service and learning would be of equal weight and would enhance the other for
all participants (Sigmon, 1994). In this study, Sigmons balanced approach, or
Goldilocks Model has been incorporated into two groups of courses yielding
positive results. Preliminary analysis was conducted utilizing both pre-test
/post-test assessment of SERVICE-LEARNING pedagogical applications. The
results indicate that a SERVICE-LEARNING based pedagogy in which both
service and learning are given equal priority is just right for application in
higher education.

Review of Related Literature

The last forty years have seen a wholesale revitalization of SERVICE-
LEARNING in the college classroom. Service learning is a diverse, experience-
based approach to education and learning that has a breadth of potential
learning outcomes (Yorio and Ye, 2012). For the purposes of this case study, two
areas of relevant literature have been examined. First, there are those that have
emphasized the need for SERVICE-learning in which the primary focus is on
service. Secondly, there are those which emphasize the learning component of
service-LEARNING, seeking to answer the critical question asked by Eyler and
Giles in their seminal text: Wheres the Learning in Service Learning (1999)?

Imbued both with John F. Kennedys Inaugural admonition to
Askwhat you can do for your country and Reagans reminiscence of
Winthrops City on a Hill, colleges and universities in the 1970s and 1980s
began a focus on what Campus Compact purposed, the education of students
for civil and social responsibility (Campus Compact Vision and History, n.d.).
Campus Compact is a coalition of over 1000 colleges and Universities
throughout the United States with a focus on college-based civic engagement
(Campus Compact Overview, n.d.). Most Americans now agree that schools
have a clear responsibility to link what children study in school to the skills they
will need at work and in their communities (National Service-learning
Partnerships, 2002). SERVICE-learning projects provide this link between study
and real-world application.
One of the main reasons educators require SERVICE-learning projects is
because it has become a social norm. An individuals inclination to give is
reinforced by social norms in their community (Piliavin & Libby 1985).
Participation in SERVICE-learning projects allows students to contribute in a
meaningful way to society (Jovanovic, DeGooyer & Reno, 2002, p 11). When
students work together for a common good, they build a strong understanding
of community and generate ideas for social change while also developing social
bonds with one another (Jovanovic, DeGooyer & Reno, 2002).
Accordingly, SERVICE-learning has become a widely utilized
pedagogical tool on college campuses across the United States. Furco (2002)
defined service learning as an integration of community service and academic

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study; connecting classroom instruction with real life situations (Furco, 2002,
Service learning seeks to engage individuals in activities that combine
both community service and academic learning. Because service-learning
Programs are typically rooted in formal courses (core academic, elective,
or vocational), the service activities are usually based on particular
curricular concepts that are being taught (Furco, 2002, p.25).

SERVICE-learning not only involves a reflection component but also a

triangular relationship between students, the institution and the community, in
which all parties are benefited and address unmet community needs (Furco,
2002). The goal of Service-learning is for students to make contributions to the
community while using the community site as an opportunity for learning.
Consistently, the emphasis remains on linking the students projects, instruction
and/or community service with a broader awareness of citizenship and civic
engagement (Furco, 2002). In addition, SERVICE-learning is a method under
which students learn and develop through thoughtfully organized service that is
conducted in and meets the needs of a community and is coordinated with an
institution of higher education, and with the community; helps foster civic
responsibility; is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum of the
students enrolled; and includes structured time for students to reflect on the
service experience. (Campus Compact National Center for Community
Colleges, 2002). Importantly, Eyler and Giles (1999) found that the benefits of
SERVICE-learning were not limited just to the college classroom and
community. Their research demonstrated that those who contribute to society as
college students would build social capital. They become more informed voters,
better parents, and are more likely to volunteer as adults.
Returning to the introduction, Sigmon (1979) defined service learning as
"reciprocal learning" and he later (1994) developed four typologies. The primary
focus of much of the research in this area is on SERVICE-learning. This,
according to Sigmon, is out of balance with a focus on the service but less
emphasis on how it will be applied in the classroom. SERVICE-LEARNING,
which we have repurposed our Goldilocks Model and in which both the service
and learning goals are of equal value is what Sigmon advocates. In essence,
equal value would be represented in courses where both service and learning
are both emphasized through assignments, grades, student learning objectives
and/or instructional time. However, Sigmon additionally urged caution
regarding his first model of service-LEARNING as it emphasized learning to the
detriment of service. Accordingly, a renewed methodological emphasis is on this
first Sigmon model, as scholars have struggled with how to quantitatively assess

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The Campus Compact National Center for Community Colleges suggests
a definition of service-LEARNING in which service itself should enhance the
academic curriculum (Campus Compact National Center for Community
Colleges, 2002). More significantly, this definition points to "thoughtfully-
organized service" measured with quantitative data with the potential for an
exciting increase in "critical thinking/ real world problem solving" skills
(Campus Compact National Center for Community Colleges, 2002).
Service-LEARNING assessment measures are difficult to obtain. The use
of this pedagogical approach is constantly evolving. In its nascent stages,
institutions would quantify service-LEARNING projects by stating numbers
of faculty members and total students engaged in any activities such as
internships and mission trips as well as courses that would more fully embody
Sigmons vision. As a more coherent strategy for incorporating service-
LEARNING in which a focus was on learning and academic content came to the
forefront, assessment remained problematic. Assessment measures shifted to
indirect student self-perception rather than direct measures of learning outcome
goals such as critical or creative thinking or real-world problem solving.
Although self-perception tests are not inherently flawed, they do not measure
outcomes directly. Rather, they measure students perceived gains of outcomes.
An important work in this area is by Eyler and Giles (1999) who
distinguish the contributions of self-perception measures and also contribute
significantly to the scholarship on assessing service-LEARNING. Not just
focusing on the how, but also the why. Pascarella and Terezini (1991) conclude
that Eyler and Giles process illustrates the potential gains faculty members are
able to quantitatively measure in service-LEARNING outcomes;
[b]ecause students engaged in social problem solving are encouraged to
come to closure, to create solutions, they have to reconcile conflicting
points of view and sources of information. For some, this process will
help them apply their most advanced abilities; for others it will be the
factor that helps them move to the next stage in their ability to evaluate
and use complex information (p.119).

Again, Sigmon (1979) defined service learning as "reciprocal

learning" and he later (1994) developed four typologies. The primary focus of
much of the research in this area is on SERVICE-learning. This, according to
Sigmon, is out of balance with a focus on the service but less emphasis on how it
will be applied in the classroom. SERVICE-LEARNING, or our Goldilocks
model, in which both the service and learning goals are of equal value is what
Sigmon advocates. In essence, equal value would be represented in courses
where both service and learning are both emphasized through assignments,
grades, student learning objectives and/or instructional time. However, Sigmon
additionally urged caution regarding the application of SERVICE-LEARNING
as scholars have struggled to locate the approach within their disciplines and

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quantitatively assess SERVICE-LEARING in a way that is just right (Cauley

1981). It is to these issues that we now turn.

Cross-Disciplinary Application
Service-learning projects allow students to think outside of the box.
These projects provide real-life knowledge that they might not have acquired
otherwise. Students may feel empowered by their experiences to assist others
in need. They may also recognize their own biases and discomfort in such
situations (Jovanovic, DeGooyer & Reno, 2002, p. 7). It is not one particular
type of person that participates in a project. College classrooms consist of people
from every walk of life. This forces the students to communicate with one
another, use real world problem solving skills as well as critical thinking skills in
a group setting and also facilitate activities to enhance the project. This will help
students in the future as they apply for jobs or work through real life problems
with their families. Everyone experiences obstacles, and a group project in
school can better prepare these students for future challenges. These types of
projects can benefit the student and bridge the gap between these generations.
Better understanding of one another can only help society function smoothly.
To establish commonality with the other is to recognize kinship, and therefore
obligation (Jovanovic, DeGooyer & Reno 2002, p.12).

This project consisted of case studies of six classes in Sociology and
Political Science at Tennessee Technological University. All of these case studies
involved extensive service learning projects. Four of the classes were Aging in
American Society courses. In these courses students were given an opportunity
to submit a grant proposal that described a project that could be funded by the
university to meet the needs of seniors in the community. Each semester, a
panel of community providers selected two projects, and the students who
proposed those specific projects became the team leaders for the execution of
that project.
Two of the classes were Political Science classes. One was survey-level
American Government course and the second one was an upper division
political science course where students submitted grant proposals. In the survey
class, students went into local middle schools and taught the students debate
skills culminating in a Great Debate among local middle school-aged children
for prizes. This debate was held at our university. The upper division students
sponsored and brought in speakers for the annual Take Back the Night event to
raise awareness regarding violence against women, children, and men.

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Assessment Tools
Both direct and indirect assessment tools were utilized to measure the
effect of service learning in the classroom projects for this study. As an indirect
measure of critical thinking, students completed QEP pre and post surveys
where students self-reported gains on critical thinking in these classes
compared to typical classes. For the direct measure of critical thinking, students
were given pre and post CAT (Critical thinking Assessment Test) assessments.
As part of the official Quality Enhancement Plan for accreditation at
Tennessee Tech University, specific skills are targeted and assessed. The Quality
Enhancement Plan is a five-year university initiative as a part of University
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation and is an integral
part of the University Strategic Plan to improve the quality of student learning.
This plan is designed to improve students critical thinking/real world problem
solving skills using active learning strategies. Some of the skills targeted include
evaluating and interpreting information, lifelong learning skills, effective
communication, thinking creatively and teamwork. (Tennessee Tech QEP
Background 2010-2015, n.d.) The progress that students demonstrate on course
objectives, as well as some of the objectives of the Quality Enhancement Plan
were evaluated using two separate measures, the QEP pre and post assessment
survey and the CAT Instrument.
The Critical-thinking Assessment Test (CAT) was
developed with input from faculty across a wide range of
institutions and disciplines, with guidance from colleagues in the
cognitive/learning sciences and assessment and with support
from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This NSF funded
assessment has been used at approximately 250 institutions and
over 30 NSF projects to measure critical thinking skills. The CAT
Instrument is designed to directly assess a broad range of skills
that faculty across the country feel are important components of
critical thinking and real world problem solving. All of the
questions are derived from real world situations, most requiring
short answer essay responses. The CAT instrument is designed to
engage faculty in the assessment and improvement of students'
critical thinking. (Critical-thinking Assessment Test Overview,
The CAT assesses several skills that are outlined in Table 1 (Critical-
thinking Assessment Test Overview, n.d).

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Table 1. Skills Assessed by the CAT Instrument

Evaluating Information

Separate factual information from inferences.

Interpret numerical relationships in graphs.

Understand the limitations of correlational data.

Evaluate evidence and identify inappropriate conclusions.

Creative Thinking

Identify alternative interpretations for data or observations.

Identify new information that might support or contradict a hypothesis.

Explain how new information can change a problem.

Learning and Problem Solving

Separate relevant from irrelevant information.

Integrate information to solve problems.

Learn and apply new information.

Use mathematical skills to solve real-world problems.


Communicate ideas effectively.

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Using preliminary bivariate analysis results from the QEP pre and post
assessment survey (two-tailed t-test), students in both courses showed
significant improvement on multiple skills: (p<.05) (Tables 2 & 3)

Table 2: Paired two-tailed t-test of QEP Pre-/Post-Assessment (Sociology Course)

20091 20102 20113 20134
Means Means Means Means
(Mdiff.) (Mdiff.) (Mdiff.) (Mdiff.)
Separate Factual 2.73/3.44* 3.06/3.88* 3.06/3.94* 3.06/3.94*
Knowledge from (.71) (.82) (.88) (.88)
Analyze & Integrate 2.54/3.25** 2.88/3.65* 3.13/3.56 3.13/3.56
Information, Complex (.71) (.59) (.44) (.44)
Problem Solving
Critical Thinking 2.81/3.56* 3.47/4.06 3.56/4.38* 3.56/4.38*
(.75) (.59) (.81) (.81)
Creative Thinking 2.92/3.88* 3.41/3.88 3.19/4.44*** 3.19/4.44***
(.95) (.47) (.82) (.82)
Solve Real World 2.50/3.63*** 3.41/3.93 3.31/4.19** 3.31/4.19**
Problems (1.13) (.53) (.88) (.88)
Analyze & Critically 2.77/3.69*** 3.35/4.00 3.44/4.25* 3.44/4.25*
Evaluate Other (.92) (.65) (.82) (.82)
Make Effective Decisions 2.69/3.56*** 3.41/4.06 3.56/4.00 3.56/4.00
(.87) (.65) (.44) (.44)
Identifying Inappropriate 2.96/3.50* 3.41/3.88 2.75/3.56* 2.75/3.56*
Conclusions (.54) (.47) (.81) (.81)
Understanding the 2.38/2.75 3.00/3.71 3.07/3.53 3.07/3.53
Limitations of (.37) (.71) (.47) (.47)
Identifying New 2.77/3.56** 3.41/4.00* 3.63/4.00 3.63/4.00
Information Needed to (.79) (.59) (.38) (.38)
Draw Conclusions
Recognizing How New 2.81/3.75*** 3.59/4.24 3.31/4.19** 3.31/4.19**
Information, Change (.94) (.65) (.88) (.88)
Solution to Problem
Learn & Apply New 3.24/3.75 3.65/4.24 3.63/4.13 3.63/4.13
Information (.51) (.59) (.50) (.50)
Communicate Effectively 3.23/3.69 3.53/4.24* 3.13/4.63** 3.13/4.63**
(.46) (.71) (1.50) (1.50)
Work with Others as 3.04/4.31*** 3.53/4.35* 3.25/4.31** 3.25/4.31**
Team Members (1.27) (.82) (1.06) (1.06)
Note: * >.05; ** >.01; *** >.001
1 Pre-Test N= 16/ Post-Text N= 23
2 Pre-Test N= 16/ Post-Text N= 23
3 Pre-Test N= 16/ Post-Text N= 23
4 Pre-Test N= 16/ Post-Text N= 23

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Table 3: Paired two-tailed t-test of QEP Pre-/Post-Assessment (Political Science

20071 20082 20093 20104
Means Means Means Means
(Mdiff.) (Mdiff.) (Mdiff.) (Mdiff.)
Separate Factual 3.00/3.91* 2.78/3.39* 3.13/3.74*** 3.27/3.47
Knowledge from Inference (.24) (.61) (.61) (.20)
Analyze & Integrate 2.91/3.64 2.78/3.00 3.13/3.18* 3.47/3.07
Information, Complex (.73) (.22) (.05) (-.40)
Problem Solving
Critical Thinking 3.36/4.55** 3.22/3.72 3.43/3.88* 3.80/3.67
(1.18) (.50) (.46) (-.13)
Creative Thinking 2.82/4.18*** 2.72/3.33 3.23/3.74* 3.53/3.20
(1.36) (.61) (.51) (-.33)
Solve Real World 2.82/4.00* 2.72/3.00 3.23/3.62 4.00/3.33
Problems (1.18) (.28) (.39) (-.67)
Analyze & Critically 2.91/4.55*** 2.83/3.72** 3.03/3.76* 3.87/3.40
Evaluate Other (1.64) (.89) (.74) (-.47)
Make Effective Decisions 2.82/4.09*** 3.22/3.39 3.38/3.65** 4.27/3.33*
(1.27) (.17) (.27) (-.93)
Identifying Inappropriate 3.55/4.18** 3.06/3.50 3.08/3.71 3.20/3.67
Conclusions (.64) (.44) (.63) (.47)
Understanding the 2.45/3.73** 2.78/3.33 2.73/3.50* 2.87/3.33
Limitations of (1.27) (.56) (.78) (.47)
Identifying New 3.00/4.09** 3.17/3.61 3.25/3.85*** 3.40/3.13
Information Needed to (1.09) (.44) (.60) (-.27)
Draw Conclusions
Recognizing How New 2.91/4.27*** 2.89/2.39 3.20/3.50 3.73/3.47
Information, Change (1.36) (.50) (.30) (-.27)
Solution to Problem
Learn & Apply New 3.36/4.27* 3.67/3.94 3.43/3.94* 4.20/3.53*
Information (.91) (.28) (.52) (-.67)
Communicate Effectively 3.64/4.36 3.29/3.61 3.41/3.79 4.13/3.40*
(.73) (.32) (.38) (-.73)
Work With Others As 3.64/3.82 3.06/2.89 3.33/2.82** 3.04/3.07*
Team Members (.18) (-.17) (-.50) (-.93)
Note: * >.05; ** >.01; *** >.001
1 Pre-Test N= 16/ Post-Text N= 23
2 Pre-Test N= 16/ Post-Text N= 23
3 Pre-Test N= 16/ Post-Text N= 23
4 Pre-Test N= 16/ Post-Text N= 23

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Unlike the QEP pre and post assessment, which measures how students feel
they have progressed on certain objectives, The CAT measures a students
ability to transfer critical thinking skills to non-specific disciplines. A series of
increasingly deeper and more explicit question prompts are used to engage
students critical thinking skills to measure the extent to which people can
understand and evaluate new information and apply that information to a novel
situation. (Haynes et al, 2016 p.49)

Using the CAT (Critical Thinking assessment Test) preliminary analysis,

students were evaluated on their progress on a number of skills. Students
showed significant improvement on the following skills: (paired one tailed t-
test)(p <.05)

Summarizing the pattern of results in a graph without making

inappropriate references
Identifying additional information needed to evaluate a
Total CAT score (overall measure of critical thinking skills)

Finally, the IDEA Evaluation tool utilized a likert scale survey to assess
progress on relative objectives in the course that are selected by the instructor.
The emphasis of the IDEA evaluation is on improving teaching, learning and the
higher education process. For this evaluation, students in the course are asked
to evaluate their perceptions of progress on relevant objectives to the course,
identified by the professor prior to the evaluation. As demonstrated in Table 4, a
majority of students in the courses utilized for this study reported Substantial
or Exceptional progress on relevant objectives.

Table 4: IDEA evaluation results demonstrating students perceptions of progress on

relevant objectives
Targeted Skill 2007 2009 2010 2011 2013
(Relevant Objective)
Learning to Apply 88%/84% 67% 82% 95% 95%
Course Material to
Improve Thinking,
Problem Solving and
Decision Making
Learning to analyze and 88%/92% 67% 89% 90% 86%
critically evaluate ideas,
arguments and points of

In conclusion, we encourage further scholarship vis--vis critical thinking
and SERVICE-LEARNING in cross-disciplinary applications. SERVICE-
LEARNING can have a positive, significant effect on many of the skills
identified as crucial to the critical thinking skills of college students.

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Demonstrable gains were indicated both across disciplines and over time in QEP
pre and post measures, IDEA student evaluations and the CAT instrument.
Students learn by doing and therefore, active learning strategies such as
SERVICE-LEARNING projects/opportunities are effective tools for developing
these real world skills and improving critical thinking. SERVICE-LEARNING
projects provide this link between study and real-world application. Although
we have found a promising positive relationship between SERVICE-LEARNING
and critical thinking, more research using direct measures is needed. Thus, we
proffer that universities continue, as suggested by Sigmon, to move away from
the too soft neglect of the classroom inherent in SERVICE-learning and,
likewise eschew the too hard approach of service-LEARNING that overworks
the student in the classroom with no time left for civic education; obviously,
neither option provides a balanced model of SERVICE-LEARNING. Clearly the
balanced and interdisciplinary application of a Goldilocks model of SERVICE-
LEARNING is invaluable in higher education. Therefore, we would suggest,
based on our assessment, that when SERVICE and LEARNING are used as
pedagogical tools in balance with each other, a maximum benefit for the
students can take place. In other words, if SERVICE and LEARNING are given
equal emphasis in the classroom, the learning that takes place is just right.

About the CAT.(n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2016, from
Campus Compact National Center for Community Colleges. (2002). Essential Service
Learning Resource Guide [Brochure]. Retrieved from
Campus Compact National Center for Colleges. Mission and Vision. Retrieved from
Campus Compact. Who We Are(n.d.)Retrieved November 23, 2016, from
Cauley, Lorinda Bryan. (1981). Goldilocks and The Three Bears. New York: Putnam
Eyler, J., & Giles Jr, D. E. (1999). Where's the Learning in Service-Learning? Jossey-Bass
Higher and Adult Education Series. Jossey-Bass, Inc., 350 Sansome St., San Francisco,
CA 94104.
Furco, A. (2002). Is Service-Learning Really Better Than Community Service? In A.
Furco & S. H. Billig (Eds.) Service-learning: The Essence of Pedagogy (p. 25).
Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing
Haynes, Ada, et. al. 2016. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Volume
16, No. 4. August 2016, pp.44-61. Moving Beyond Assessment to Improving
Students Critical Thinking Skills A Model for Implementing Change
Jovanovic, Spoma, DeGooyer, Dan Jr, and Reno, David. 2002. News Talks: Critical
Service-Learning for Social Change. Proteus: A Journal of Ideas. 27(1), pp.7-14.
Pascarella, E.T., and Terenzini, P.T How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from
Twenty Years of Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991.
Piliavin, J. A., & Libby, D. (1985/86). Personal norms, perceived social norms, and blood
donation. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 13, 159-94.
QEP Background. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2016, from

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Sigmon, Robert L. Spring 1979. Service-learning: Three Principals. Synergist. National

Center for Service-Learning, ACTION,8 (1):9-11
Sigmon, Robert L. 1994. Serving to Learn, Learning to Serve. Linking Service with
Learning. Council for Independent Colleges Report.
Yorio, P. L., & Ye, F. (2012). A meta-analysis on the effects of service-learning on the
social, personal, and cognitive outcomes of learning. Academy of Management
Learning & Education, 11(1), 9-27.

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 31-47, November 2016

A Critical Interrogation of Integration, Special

Educational Needs and Inclusion
Glazzard Jonathan
Leeds Trinity University
Leeds, England

Abstract. In this article, I have focused on presenting the key literature

which has shaped my personal thinking and values around inclusion.
Throughout the article, I draw on the perspectives of a Special
Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) who I have referred to as Jane.
The perspectives are taken from a complete life history account which
formed the basis of my doctoral research. To produce the narrative Jane
documented her personal reflections over a period. Janes account
illustrates the extent to which inclusion can present a risk for schools
and in this case the powerful othering effect that it can have on the
reputation of a school.

Keywords: Inclusion; special educational needs; disability; integration

Jane: Throughout my teaching career I have always been acutely aware of an

overwhelming desire to accept and support the very individual and diverse personalities
I have had the pleasure of meeting and educating over many years. In the early years of
my career I was aware of many teachers who labelled children who were unable to follow
the rule book. The term naughty seemed to be splattered around like paint. Naughty
was applied to children, as one would perhaps understand, who disrupted classes with
their challenging behaviour. It was however also applied to children who were shy and
did not respond to questions, or those who struggled to complete tasks. It was the
labelling of the latter group which disturbed me the most. I would find myself trying to
relate to these children, knowing how they were feeling, knowing that the more they felt
pressurised and undermined the more their self confidence and self-esteem would be
damaged. My views have not changed and my empathy for such children is as strong
today as it was then. Deep in my memory I have always realised that I was more able
and ready to relate to these children. Many of them were a mirror image of me. I have,
until now, acknowledged, to myself and a few close friends, that certain aspects of my life
have influenced both my views and practices. I have recalled isolated incidents, but in a
very dismissive manner. In my own thoughts, I have often revisited them. I have never
wanted to publicly dwell on my past. The past was gone, the present and the future were
my focus. In reality I was afraid of revisiting it, unsure of the feelings I would experience
by doing so. Agreeing to share and discuss my life experiences has enabled me to more
fully understand and deconstruct my own meanings of inclusion. I have lived and

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worked through the transition from integration to inclusion. The impact of current
political agendas is not totally at odds with my practices and beliefs. I do believe that we
should do the very best we possibly can for all children and enjoy supporting children to
move forward in their learning although I find the current performance culture
frustrating. I continue to strive to support the whole child. Until recent years I was able
to openly celebrate each and every development and I do so to this day. In the current
wilderness of the standards agenda the children and I frequently celebrate alone.

In this article, I have focused on presenting the key literature which has shaped
my personal thinking and values around inclusion. Throughout the article, I
draw on the perspectives of a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO)
who I have referred to as Jane. The perspectives are taken from a complete life
history account which formed the basis of my doctoral research. To produce the
narrative Jane documented her personal reflections over a period. I have
interwoven specific extracts from the narrative throughout this article to
illustrate the points raised in the literature.

I start the article by exploring the discourses of integration and inclusion. I then
draw upon Foucaults box of tools (Foucault, 1977a) to deconstruct the
discourses associated with special educational needs and inclusion. Following
this, I offer a critical analysis of the current discourses of inclusion by examining
the relationship between inclusion and the marketisation of education.

Jane: As a classroom teacher for the last 35 years I have enjoyed the rewards and
challenges of working with all children. Without doubt, some have been more
challenging than others. In the early years of my career I taught several children who
had been educated in special schools. My role was to integrate them into a mainstream
setting. At this time, it was the child who was expected, with support, to adapt to the
policies and systems of the school. I was fortunate that I was working in a school where
the Head Teacher realised that we would need to make adaptations to our practices to
meet childrens diverse needs. There were, as there are today, also children who struggled
to access some aspects of their education. There were no individual education plans and
teaching assistants and consequently children with special needs may not have been as
effectively supported as they are today. However, it was viewed as essential to support
the whole child. Differentiation was in evidence although I do not recall using ability
grouping. I frequently taught classes larger than 35 children and recall several classes
which had more than40 children. I was charged with teaching these classes with no
additional support.

Janes account makes it possible to view integration as a process of assimilation

which placed an onus on the child with special educational needs and/ or
disabilities to adapt to the policies, routines and curricula of mainstream schools.
The child was largely expected to fit in (Frederickson & Cline, 2009: 71) to a
system of education which had not been adapted to meet the needs of the

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individual pupil. As policy discourse integration emerged following the

recommendations of the Warnock Report (DES, 1978) which removed medical
categorisations of deficit, instead replacing them with the softer language of
learning difficulties and special educational needs (Norwich, 2008). The
recommendations of the Warnock Report were addressed in the 1981 Education
Act and this legislation was the basis of the current system of special educational
needs which exists in England.

The trend towards the integration of pupils with special educational needs
and/or disabilities into mainstream schools arose out of increasing
dissatisfaction with segregated provision (Black-Hawkins, Florian & Rouse,
2007). However, Tomlinson (1982) has demonstrated how special educational
needs are a product of education system which fails to respond to diversity.
Thus, needs are problematic because they are socially constructed (Thomas &
Loxley, 2007). They are also interpreted in various ways by different people in
different contexts. Despite the removal of medical labels, it could be argued that
the special educational needs system which developed following the 1981
education Act was largely based on a medical model of disability in the way that
it failed to consider the ways in which education can erect barriers to
participation and achievement. By retaining a focus on the individual rather
than the environmental, social or pedagogical factors that contribute to the
identification of needs, the discourse of integration located the problem within
the child rather than examining the contribution of schooling to disablement.

Interpretations of inclusion

Jane: Inclusion.one short word. It is a word, however, that I struggle to define

despite its prominence in my current professional role. Should I be asked to substitute
this with an alternative my response would be belonging. Immediately other words
spring to mind, including acceptance. It is profoundly evident that I have no clear
understanding of the word inclusion and that despite my strong beliefs that I wish to
include all children in my teaching I am unable to offer an explanation as to the
meanings of my practices. I offer no apologies for my poor understanding of this
educational term. Through copious discussions with friends and colleagues, as well as
my own readings, it has become evident that this one word, in reality, has several
meanings. It is a word with several meanings to different individuals who may at the
same time be working to enable and support its principles. There is little wonder that,
despite working in an inclusive environment, I continue to find it a frustrating and
challenging experience.

There are aspects of some interpretations of inclusion that I embrace wholeheartedly. To

include children is to ensure that they are not simply a physical presence. I strive to
make adaptations to my practices to ensure that all children can access all aspects of their
education. I view the classroom as ours. It is a space which belongs to all of us, a space
in which we can all grow and develop, and a space where we can all enjoy a strong sense
of belonging. To simply belong, however, is inadequate. Throughout my own story, it is
clear that I belonged to a family who in many respects had my best interests at heart. I
am, to this day, at odds with many of the methods my parents used, but cannot deny

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their ambition for me. This leads me to return to the word acceptance. Revisiting the
events of my life was not an easy journey. It was, however, fruitful. I am more able to
identify a genuine desire, on the part of my mother, to ensure that I was offered every
chance to enjoy success. In doing so, however, she left me longing for acceptance.

Acceptance is of course another term which will have different meanings for different
people. It is, I now acknowledge, acceptance that is central to my own interpretation of
inclusion. I believe that we are all capable of great things and that equally we all find
some aspects of life and learning more challenging. The current agenda relating to
inclusion does not, in my opinion, support acceptance. There is a strong emphasis on
academic attainment and success is measured against narrow performance indicators. I
truly strive to accept the differences between children.


In this section I have not attempted to define inclusion because it is a word

which means different things to different people (Clough, 2000) with different
vested interests. This is complicated further by the fact that social, political and
cultural contexts shape interpretations of inclusion. Inclusion has a multiplicity
of meanings (Graham & Slee, 2008) and thus, to pin inclusion down to a single
entity would fail to do it justice (Nind, Sheehy & Simmons, 2003). I share
Lindsays perspective that inclusion is not a simple, unambiguous concept
(Lindsay, 2003: 6), not least because it cannot be disassociated from values,
which are neither shared nor stable.

Avramidis, Bayliss & Burden (2002) stated that inclusion is a bewildering

concept which can have a variety of interpretations and applications (p.158). As
such it has become an empty and elusive term (Gabel, 2010) and consequently
Cole makes a useful point in arguing that it is better to explore meanings rather
than the meaning of inclusion (Cole, 2005). The vested interests of politicians,
teachers, parents and people with disabilities will invariably shape their
personal perspectives of inclusion. However, the development of socially just
pedagogies continually evolve through being grounded in personal experience
(Sikes et al. 2007: 358) and thus, Janes story provides an opportunity to explore
the ways in which personal and professional experiences shape inclusive

Inclusion has been reflected metaphorically in the literature as a journey

(Ainscow, 2000; Allan, 2000; Nind, 2005; Azzopardi, 2010). Julie Allans
humorous reference to the term inconclusive education (Allan, 2000: 43) serves
as a reminder that inclusion is always in process and never complete. In this
respect inclusion challenges schools to continually develop their capacities to
reach out to all learners (Ainscow, 2000) by developing socially just pedagogies
which connect individual learners with their own ways of learning (Corbett,
2001). Inclusion necessitates a deep cultural change within schools (Corbett,
1999; Graham & Harwood, 2011) to make schools more able to respond to
difference. It places an onus upon schools to examine the environmental,
curricular and pedagogical factors which limit achievement (Erten & Savage,
2012), resulting in radical reform of pedagogy and value systems (Mittler, 2000).

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Such an approach represents an ecological perspective (Dyson, Farrell, Polat,

Hutcheson & Gallanaugh, 2004) which challenges educators to examine factors
in the school environment which limit achievement rather than focusing on
deficits within individual learners.

Azzopardi (2009, 2010) has argued that the term inclusive education is little
more than a clich: a politically correct term that is used for speeches and
policy-makers to silence all woes (2009: 21). It is defined in various ways by
different groups with different interests, leading to its exploitation (Sikes et al.
2007). For example, Hodkinson & Vickerman (2009) have argued that
government definitions of inclusion have continued to emphasise the traditional
discourses of special educational needs. In addition, inclusion is interpreted
differently within groups (Glazzard, 2011). Janes sense of frustration is evident
above when she refers to the lack of a shared understanding of inclusion within
her own school, resulting in various practices. Consequently, there is an
increasing interest in the use of peoples own narratives in the academic
literature to illuminate what inclusion means to those who have a vested interest
in it (Goodley et al. 2004; Cole, 2005; Sikes et al. 2007; Azzopardi, 2009) and my
own study is also located within this arena.

During the past two decades inclusion has become a politically correct term
(Azzopardi, 2010) for politicians, theorists and activists and this has diverted
attention away from its realisation in practice. Pather (2007) argues that there is a
need to de-sloganise inclusion by focusing on providing quality experiences for
all learners and there is some logic in this argument; research which explores
tangible aspects of inclusive practice will help to advance inclusion in schools.
However, inclusion is political because it demands and continues to require a
structural transformation of education to make it more equitable and more
responsive to diversity. Until inclusion is disentangled from neoliberal values of
governance (Slee 2011) practitioners will be restricted in the extent to which they
can develop socially just pedagogies. This restricts inclusion to a process of
assimilation, thus resembling the previous discourses of integration in which
schools accommodated learners with special educational needs but their systems
were largely unchanged.

Like others before me (Slee, 2001a; Slee, 2001b; Slee & Allan, 2001; Thomas &
Loxley, 2007; Slee, 2011) I share the view that the special educational needs
paradigm that has dominated education for the last three decades is
exclusionary and serves the function of maintaining existing inequalities.
Questions of inclusion concern questions of rights rather than needs (Roaf, 1988).
The latter are problematic because the notion of need implies a deficit in
relation to a socially constructed norm. My critique of the special educational
needs paradigm does not relate to the suitability of mainstream or segregated
educational environments for children. Thomas & Vaughan (2004) provide a
very comprehensive overview of this debate. In addition, current policy
frameworks in England (DFE, 2011) and literature (Baker, 2007) recognise the
central role of both mainstream and special educational provision within the
inclusion debate and this is a policy development which I support. My critique

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is primarily concerned with the way in which policies by previous and current
governments (DFES, 2001; DFES, 2004; DFE, 2011) in England have allowed
inclusive education to be used as a replacement for special needs education
(Black-Hawkins, Florian & Rouse, 2007; Slee, 2011). Consequently, rather than
inclusion interrogating and reconstructing the existing structures, policies and
practices of schooling and challenging deeply engrained injustices, it has
sustained inequalities by creating subtle forms of segregation (Slee, 2011).
Through its connection with special needs inclusion has served to protect the
status quo in schools (Graham & Slee, 2008; Slee, 2011). As a concept it has
continued to focus on notions of assimilation and presence rather than
representing a struggle for equality and social justice (Hodkinson, 2012). The
continued dominance of the use of traditional psychological approaches for
responding to diversity has resulted in categorisation, stigmatisation and deficit
views of difference which have not helped the inclusion agenda (Florian, 2009).
Inclusive education must be disassociated from special educational needs so that
it is able, as a policy discourse, to articulate its distinct values (Slee, 2011) based
on social justice, democracy and equity. It necessitates a departure from
processes which label, segregate and stigmatise to enable schools to embrace
diversity (Graham & Harwood, 2011).

Coles narratives (Cole, 2005) are helpful in exploring interpretations of

inclusion. They explore the collective voices of six women who were both
mothers and teachers of children with special educational needs and disabilities.
Within the narratives, the mother-teachers emphasised the need for educators to
embrace humanitarian values (Armstrong, 2005) by developing a pedagogy
which emphasises care, dignity and respect. The emphasis on careful teaching
is also prominent in early writing of Jenny Corbett (Corbett, 1992). The
experience of becoming parents had a substantially positive impact on the
professional identities of these teachers (Cole, 2005) and this theme has been
identified in previous research (Sikes, 1997). The mother-teachers embraced the
language of normality by viewing difference as normal rather than special. In
doing so they rejected the deficit, pathologising language of special educational
needs. These insights, based on the personal experiences of the informants, have
been useful in shaping my own understandings of inclusion. Thus, inclusion
necessitates a humanitarian approach to teaching which emphasises care,
respect and dignity. I view inclusion as a process which engenders a sense of
acceptance. Janes reflection illustrates that a sense of belonging does not do
justice to inclusion. Inclusion, in my view, refutes pathologising labels which
emphasise perceived deficits and demands creative and reflective educators
who are willing to experiment with pedagogy (Allan, 2006) and who view
diversity as an enriching opportunity for learning (Pizzuto, 2010: 88).

Lloyds call for a reconceptualisation of achievement and the denormalisation of

institutions, systems and rules which comprise education and schooling (Lloyd,
2008; 228) has substantially contributed to my understanding of inclusion as a
radical transformation of both policy and practice. Such a transformation
demands major changes to the education system (Nilholm, 2006) through
disrupting the current structures of schooling which result in segregation and

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systemic failure. Inclusion raises critical questions about the purposes of

education and challenges politicians to reconceptualise current limited notions
of achievement. Transformation at a pedagogic level alone is insufficient to
facilitate social justice. To develop inclusive schools, the curriculum and
assessment processes need to be radically overhauled to enable education to
respond to diversity. However, changing schools and school systems is
problematic because there is not a perfect system awaiting us on the shelf
(Nind, Rix, Sheehy & Simmons, 2003) and various models rather than one model
will be required. The notion of inclusion as a radical transformation is a well-
established theme within the literature (Mittler, 2000; Farrell, 2001; Nind, 2005),
with some scholars emphasising the role of teachers as change agents
(OHanlon, 2003; Skidmore, 2004; Nind, 2005). Additionally, the emphasis on
ensuring maximal participation of all learners (Nutbrown & Clough, 2006) has
also been emphasised.

Philosophical debates have emphasised that hopes for full inclusion are
fundamentally naive because schools and communities will always need to
employ exclusionary strategies to secure their own existence (Wilson, 1999; 2000;
Hansen, 2012). The thrust of such critiques is that in practice inclusion always
has limits. Hegarty (2001) warned that inclusion would have a case to answer if
it diverted attention away from a schools core function of promoting learning
towards a focus of promoting values of equity and social justice. Whilst these
critiques are conceptually sound they do not sufficiently articulate how the
current structures of schooling (curricula, assessment processes, limited notions
of achievement) create barriers to participation and achievement which
subsequently results in exclusion. Inclusion is crucially about the politics of
difference and identity (Slee, 2001b) which interrogates the structures, policies
and practices of schooling (Slee, 2011). It demands a process of educational
reconstruction and revisioning (Slee, 2001a) rather than a process of assimilation
into an unchanged system. Such limited notions of inclusion, which have been
uncritically accepted in the philosophical debates, will inevitably result in
exclusion and consequently inclusion will always fail as a policy imperative
(Slee, 2011). It could be argued that educators should not dismiss inclusion
because it takes time to get it right or because they make inevitable mistakes
along the way (Cole, 2005). Instead, they might consider using inclusion as a
vehicle for experimenting with creative, innovative approaches in a bid to reach
out to all learners (Allan, 2006; Goodley & Runswick-Cole, 2010).

Critiques of special educational needs

In this section I draw on Foucaults conceptual tools (Foucault, 1977a) to develop

a critique of the special educational needs empire. I argue that the discourses of
special educational needs have hijacked inclusion and this has restricted the
development of more socially just pedagogies.

I begin my critique by arguing that the discourses of special educational needs in

England are anti-inclusive. The techniques of diagnosis, intervention and
surveillance categorise children by their differences and are rooted in a psycho-

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medical paradigm which conceptualizes difficulties in learning as arising from

deficits in the neurological or psychological make-up of the child (Skidmore,
2004: 2). In adopting the language of special needs by identifying distinct
categories of need, the Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs in
England (DfE, 2015) emphasises homogeneity rather than heterogeneity by
increasing the focus on outcomes for learners with special needs. Additionally,
the Code emphasises early identification of need which results in labelling
through the use of categories of need. These categories ascribe to individuals a
minority status which presumes a weakness and vulnerability in comparison
with the majority of learners who fall outside the imposed categories (Thomas &
Loxley, 2007). The concept of need is highly problematic in that it reinforces
notions of deficit and disadvantage (Thomas & Loxley, 2007). Additionally,
within the discourses of special education, need and notions of normality are
determined through distances from artificially constructed norms (Graham,
2006). Failure to achieve such norms results in the creation of an othered group
made up of learners who do not fit the required subject construction; an able,
productive, skilled learner who understands their responsibilities to a neoliberal
marketised society (Goodley, 2007). These learners are reconceptualised as the
needs of the school (to compete, to maintain standards and order) are
transferred to the learner (Thomas & Loxley, 2007), thus inscribing a stigmatised
identity. They are by-products of a traditional curriculum (Skrtic, 1991) in which
they are viewed as eternally lacking (Goodley, 2007) and with support they are
expected to transform themselves to meet the required subject construction. The
diagnosis, intervention and remediation processes result in the entrapment of
the child in a cocoon of professional help (Thomas & Loxley, ibid. 55) which
conceals the vested professional interests of expert professionals under the
rhetoric of humanitarianism (Tomlinson, 1985). These learners are then singled
out for specialist attention and placed under increased surveillance (Allan, 1996),
resulting in them becoming disempowered.

The vocabulary of individual intervention, targets and individual education

plans advocated in the Code of Practice results in a highly individualised
approach (Skidmore, 2004: 15) which locates the deficiencies within the child
rather than the deficiencies within the school (Dyson, 2001). Such approaches
restrict creative pedagogy (Skidmore, 2004) and, according to Lloyd, are all
concerned with normalization and ... standardization, of groups and individuals
rather than contributing to the denormalization of the institutions ... (Lloyd,
2008: 228) which is so central to the development of inclusion. Inclusion is a
transformative process which refutes normative practices (Graham, 2006: 7)
such as diagnoses and the use of correct training (Foucault, 1975a; 1975b 1977a;
1984a). These serve as disciplinary forces which regulate the lives of individuals
(Armstrong, 2005). Normative practices are deeply embedded in the discourses
of special educational needs and, whilst failing to promote equity, serve to
legitimise failure by emphasising individual responsibility for individual
achievement (Armstrong, 2005: 147). Such practices, which serve to negate
diversity, are justified because they are viewed as benevolent responses to need
(Graham, 2006).

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It has been argued that special needs educators have relocated their knowledge
and experiences within the discourses of inclusion (Slee, 2001b). Consequently,
according to Slee this has restricted inclusion and enabled the medical model of
disability to triumph (Slee, 2001b). Varying disorders have been introduced
into the lexicon of special needs, each with its own symptoms and disease like
characteristics, creating spectacle, fear and revulsion (Dunne, 2009). Intervention
and remediation serves to negate diversity by creating normative subjects and
educators have been positioned as police (Dunne, 2009), charged with hunting
down abnormalities and correcting them through early identification processes.
In contrast, an inclusive pedagogy rejects both deficit views of difference and
fixed notions of intelligence (Florian, 2009) which are heavily embedded within
the discourses of special educational needs.

Foucaults conceptual framework

I now turn to Foucaults conceptual tools (Foucault, 1977a; 1991a) to illustrate
how these can be applied to interrogate the discourses of special educational
needs. I use Foucaults work to argue that the inclusion agenda is currently
situated within a powerful othering discourse (Dunne, 2009) of special
educational needs.

For Foucault discourses relate to practices that systematically form the objects of
which they speak (Foucault, 1972: 49). Discourses are pervading in that they
result in particular truths being accepted (Foucault, 1980) and sustained through
circulatory power rather than sovereign power (Foucault, 1978a; 1978b).
Neoliberal forms of governance are an example of a discourse which places
responsibility on the individual to become entrepreneurial (Masschelien, 2006),
self-reliant and able to compete in a global economy. This is achieved through a
focus on functional skills which derive from a traditional curriculum. Discourses
of special educational needs sit within and feed into this master narrative which
serves the purpose of creating a flexible, qualified and enterprising workforce.
This narrative is immensely problematic for those learners who are not able to,
or choose not to, fit the required subject construction (Goodley, 2007).

Foucaults box of tools (Foucault, 1977a) makes it possible to understand the

ways in which power is used as a regulatory force to control the lives of
individuals. The tool of surveillance is perhaps the most important conceptual
tool that Foucault uses in helping us to understand ways in which individuals
are regulated, sorted and normalised (Allan, 2008). In The Birth of the Clinic
(Foucault, 1973) Foucault illustrates the effects of surveillance on the lives of sick
people through the medical gaze which constructs individuals as both subjects
and objects of knowledge and power (Allan, 1996: 221). In his analysis of
madness (Foucault, 1967) Foucault illustrates how the medical gaze focused on
the regulation and purification of the body, which gave it a normalising
function. In Discipline and Punish (Foucault, 1977a) Foucault draws on Jeremy
Benthams technique of panopticism which made it possible for a single gaze to
see everything perfectly (Foucault, 1977a: 173). This method of hierarchical
surveillance was absolutely discreet, for it functions permanently and largely in
silence (Foucault, 1977a: 177). Foucaults second conceptual tool of surveillance

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was the use of normalising judgements which are used in a range of professions
to promote standardization and homogeneity (Allan, 2008: 87). The notion of a
norm enables individuals to be categorised in deficient ways and distances from
the norm are used to determine the extent of abnormality and extent of need.
Foucaults third conceptual tool of surveillance is the examination which
effectively enables individuals to be described, judged, measured, compared
with others, in his very individuality (Foucault, 1977a: 191).

Foucaults techniques of surveillance provide a powerful theoretical lens

through which the discourses of special educational needs can be critically
interrogated. It makes it possible, for example, to recognise how the Special
Educational Needs Code of Practice (DfE, 2015), with its increased focus on
outcomes for learners with special educational needs, subjects vulnerable
children to increased measures of surveillance compared with other learners.
The mechanisms of the individual education plan, individual progress reviews,
additional assessments, remediation and specialist support both subject those
learners identified as having special educational needs to greater amounts of
surveillance than their peers and serve a normalising function. The technique of
the formal assessment process, which diagnoses specific conditions, validates
the presence of an abnormality in relation to socially constructed norms. The use
of terms such as intervention, remediation and support all serve a normalising
function which aim to purify and correct. The disciplinary apparatus of special
educational needs has an individualising effect which views difference in
negative and stigmatising ways rather than as a positive feature of an
individuals identity. The focus on correction and minimising abnormality gaps
has a pathologising effect which places responsibility on the child to correct
their deficits. Such deeply engrained processes reflect a medical model of
disability which views impairment as a tragic deficit which needs to be
corrected. According to Allan (2008) These mechanisms of surveillance create
subjects who are known and marked in particular kinds of ways and who are
constrained to carry the knowledge and marks (p.87). The discourses of special
educational needs fail to address critical questions about the purposes of
schooling, education policy, the nature of the curriculum and the assessment
systems which create social injustices. Rather than embracing a social model of
disability, the discourses of special educational needs are positioned squarely
within a powerful othering framework which is detrimental to inclusion (Slee,
2001b; Thomas & Loxley, 2007; Dunne, 2009).

Critiquing inclusion
This application of Foucaults theoretical framework is well documented in the
academic literature in relation to learners with special educational needs.
However, applying this framework to teachers who work in inclusive schools,
rather than to pupils with special needs, makes it possible to analyse the
disciplinary effects of inclusion differently. The following account from Jane
illustrates the disciplinary effects of inclusion on teachers who work in
inclusive schools:

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Jane: The room is empty but full of people. Silence surrounds me yet people speak.
Friends are near but seem so far away. Aware of every single heart beat thumping in my
chest, my breathing is becoming ever shallower, my head thumps and my palms are
clammy. I feel distant from the frightened faces around me. There is so much to say and
yet I do not have the strength to verbalise my thoughts. I clearly recognise the physical
symptoms of fear and my mind and body swiftly respond to them in preparation for fight
or flight. The next hour will be life changing. It will confirm my greatest fears. The
events of the last forty-eight hours play repeatedly and vividly through my mind. I re-
live every word I have spoken, every decision I have made and every explanation I have
offered. I am briefly distracted by a high-pitched ringing in my ears and a deep sigh from
a distant corner of the room. I swiftly return to my thoughts. How could we have averted
this devastating outcome? How could we have changed the course of events which had
unfolded and would now impact on the lives of so many for many months to come? I
search deep inside my mind but no answers are forthcoming.
Forty-eight hours earlier life had been full of optimism which was now crushed and
broken like fragments of shattered glass. The buzz of excitement and energy was silenced.
Smiles and laughter had quickly turned to pain and confusion etched on the faces of
those around me. We sought comfort by staying in close proximity to one another as the
predator advanced towards its prey. I had been lost in my thoughts and the realities of
life had dawned on me as I looked up to view the unfolding reactions of my companions.
Each reacted in their own unique way and I carefully studied each and every response as
I sat quietly on the edge of this picture of undeniable disbelief. Young and old we were
together, each feeling the others pain. Some sat deep in thought, others chatted and there
were those who calmly offered words of comfort and advice. Every response was intended
to offer us hope but we all knew that both hope and time had run out.

The door opened and I knew the time had come to face reality. I made eye contact with no
one and left the room with my head held high. I was now devoid of any emotions as I
walked resolutely towards our destiny ready to absorb the injustice of the predicament
with which we were now confronted. The strength to face the next few minutes of my life
came from within as I resolved to deny myself any opportunity to demonstrate regret or
denial of my long-held views and deep rooted beliefs.

Another school year has come to a close. A year filled with challenges which we have
continued to face with determination. More children, and their accompanying needs,
have joined the school including two pupils demonstrating the behaviours of attachment
disorder, one young child with epilepsy and considerable developmental delay and a
statement of special educational needs. There is a child with Turners syndrome who also
has a statement of special educational needs and an eight-year-old with significant
speech difficulties. This is not an exhaustive list but merely gives an indication of some
of the significant needs we support in our day to day work. Each of them is fully and
successfully included in a mainstream classroom. We have also continued to enjoy the
rewards of working with a wonderful mix of children. So why am I so disillusioned, why
am I so frustrated, why am I so angry and why am I questioning my strong desire to
work with the day to day challenges that I have thrived on for the entirety of my teaching

The reality is that my greatest fears have become a reality. OFSTED recently visited
prompted by one complaint from a parent. And so the inspector came to call and almost
two weeks later I am of the opinion that she ripped the heart out of the school. As a

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teacher with much experience of school inspections I have never encountered an

inspector who had seemingly made her decision before she had even set foot in the school.
Our fate, it seems, was sealed. All cohorts but one had made at least good progress
whilst one cohort had made above expected progress. Good progress was entirely
disregarded. All attempts to demonstrate the good progress the school has made, in so
many respects, were ignored. The focus of this inspection became the shortcomings of the
school. We felt that there was so much to celebrate and know that much work still needs
to be done. As a school we are not in denial and we are fortunate in having a staff that is
totally committed to school improvement. Each and every one of them has worked
tirelessly to bring about that change. They have worked with determination to enhance
their practices and the improvement has been visible and has had clear and positive
impact. This impact has been confirmed by those who have worked with us and have
shared and worked alongside us to overcome the challenges. They too were celebrating
with us. It seemed that the tide was turning and that the data confirmed this upward

Based on the one complaint the inspectors had received the focus of the inspection was
the behaviour in school. In all previous inspections this had been identified as good.
Because of the needs of some of our children we would not deny that the behaviour of
some children can be very challenging from time to time. It is for this reason that
systems are frequently evaluated and the need for staff training is identified. Systems are
well considered to ensure that the education of our children is not disrupted by the
occasional responses of some troubled individuals. De-escalation strategies are effectively
used by all staff. Triggers for individuals have been identified. Individuals are able to
take quiet time when they recognise that they are becoming distressed and many now
independently and appropriately access this opportunity, recognising their own needs.
The leadership team always carry walkie-talkies and can immediately respond to calls for
additional support to remove particularly distressed individuals from classrooms. This is
usually achieved without disruption when the identified child is invited to leave the
classroom to have quiet time and then discuss the reasons behind their distress. This
strategy has proved to be very effective and they are usually able to return to their class
in a calm manner, ready to continue with their learning. All such incidents are of course
recorded and parents are invited to meet with senior managers to discuss these events.
The school log shows that nineteen such events have taken place in the last school year.
The log clearly identifies four children. These children have very specific needs. Two are
displaying behaviours clearly linked to attachment disorder, one has a statement of
special educational needs for behaviour, emotional and social development and one is
receiving support, with his family, from the school for behaviour, social and emotional
needs. Systems ensure that their behaviours are dealt with swiftly. In the two days that
the school was inspected there was no evidence of poor behaviours. The behaviour log
was however the evidence used against us. Nineteen incidents were deemed a concern.
There was no opportunity to discuss the needs of the children involved or the ways in
which we had supported them to successfully access their education with their peers for
the most part of each school week. The children have been placed in our school because
the local authority special school is full. The inspector ignored our responses as we
fought in vain to explain how we had developed systems to ensure that the learning
needs of ALL children had been met. All attempts to show the improvements and
successes of the school were completely disregarded. She had the bit between her teeth
and she relentlessly focused on her perceived weaknesses of the school resulting in small
holes quickly becoming craters. To her there was a simple solution. The four children in

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


the behaviour log should have been excluded. Three of the children have previously been
excluded from other schools. Their parents have frequently expressed their gratitude for
the work we do. Unfortunately, they never took the time to convey their views to the

The school is situated in an area of social deprivation. The culture of many of the families
it serves can be a challenge. Teachers are perceived, by many, to be figures of authority
and authority has to be challenged. There are, however, many families who acknowledge
and value the work we do. These are the families who never considered that their voices
should be heard by the inspector. They are the families who remained silent. The voices
heard were those who have relentlessly challenged our systems. Those who refuse to work
with us to support their children but have always been quick to condemn us and
seemingly challenge every initiative we introduce from healthy eating to the completion
of homework. They are undeniably a very small minority of the families we serve but
they were the voices that the inspector heard as these same parents circled like vultures
on their prey. The school was swiftly deemed as inadequate. The entire staff, the
governing body and the local authority have been left in a state of disbelief. Only one
person who has worked closely with the school has expressed a degree of understanding
of the judgement made. There is no time to be lost and the work to quickly move forward
has already begun. There is no opportunity to contest the decision that the inspector
made and as a school we must now pool all our energies into moving the school out of
special measures. The next twelve months, at least, will be filled with challenge and the
staff will face it with dedication and resilience. I have spent my entire career truly
believing in and developing inclusive practices. My views and practices are deep rooted
and on a very personal level I must now question them. Do I respond by going against
my strong beliefs which will result in ticking boxes to alleviate the current pressure or do
I accept that I am simply out of step with current measures of success in education? That
is the dilemma I must now resolve. Fighting the system is futile whilst believing in it is

The account demonstrates that for Janes school, the costs of supporting an
agenda for inclusion were significant and devastating for Jane and her
colleagues. It illustrates the extent to which inclusion can present a risk for
schools and in this case the powerful othering effect that it can have on the
reputation of a school. The account provides insight into the way that teachers
working in schools which demonstrate a similar commitment to inclusion can
become objects of hierarchical surveillance when norms are applied to evaluate
school effectiveness. In relation to social justice the school arguably fulfilled its
role in supporting learners with diverse needs but undeniably it paid the
ultimate price for doing so. In the absence of a radical transformation of the
current education system, which rewards schools which demonstrate high
academic attainment, schools which continue to support learners with diverse
needs will continue to be marginalised and disempowered through various
forms of surveillance. Additionally, teachers working in these schools will
continue to become objects of intense scrutiny unless broader notions of school
effectiveness can be applied when evaluating schools. Sakellariadis (2016)
argues that children who attend separate special schools end up living their

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


adult lives on the margins of society. However, mainstream schools will

continue to be reluctant to admit learners with special educational needs and/
or disabilities if they ultimately have to pay a price for doing so.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 48-66, November 2016

Psychometric Properties of a Screening Tool for

Elementary School Students Math Learning
Disorder Risk

TED University,
Ziya Gokalp Cad. No: 48 Kolej 06420
Ankara, TURKEY

Arif Altun and Sakine Ger ahin

Hacettepe University, Beytepe,
Ankara, TURKEY

Galip Kaya
Havelsan, Mustafa Kemal Mh. 2120 Cad. No: 39 ankaya-
Ankara, TURKEY

This study has been supported by a grant from the Scientific and Technological Research
Council of Turkey (TUBTAK) under the grant number 111K545.

Abstract. This study reports the psychometric properties of a Basic

Number Processing Test (BNPT), which was developed in order to
determine elementary school students at risk for Mathematical learning
disorder. A total of 478 primary school students were selected from 12
different public schools with an attempt to get a representative sample.
The reliability and validity of the Dyscalculia Screening Tool were
assessed with approximately 120 students from each of the First to
Fourth grade. Results showed that, except for the First grade, the test
scores predict the significant portion of the students curriculum based
Math achievement scores for Second, Third and Fourth graders with
having the highest variance in the Second grade. These findings indicate
that BNPT could be used as a screening tool in order to determine the
students at risk for Mathematics learning disorders in those grades. It
could also be deduced that at least very important portions of the causes
of low achievement in Mathematics might originate from either the core
systems of number or the system for accessing numbers from symbols. It
is also suggested that symbolic or non-reading measurement paradigms
would be more appropriate for screening First graders.

Keywords: Basic number processing skills, Math learning disorder, low

Math achievement, reliability, validity

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1. Introduction
The prevalence rates for Math learning disorder reported in existing research
range from 3-6% (Shalev, Auerbach, Manor, & Gross-Tsur, 2000) to 5-14%
(Barbaresi, Katusic, Colligan, Weaver, & Jacobsen, 2005) for children at the ages
between 6-11. The structure of Mathematics is highly hierarchical. Therefore, if
no adjustments or intervention programs are offered for those who experience
Math learning difficulties at early grades, it would be difficult for them to attend
and benefit from regular classes with their peers. Middle school or high school
levels would be too late for interventions. However, if diagnosed at an earlier
age, these students would benefit from guidance or somewhat individualized
education depending on their cognitive characteristics. In other words, this
would let the development of suitable and supportive learning environments if
those students, who are slow in learning Math or find learning Math difficult,
were screened at earlier ages.

It is possible that the majority of those students who experience low

achievement in Mathematics might have reasons different from their own
cognitive characteristics. While a partial of those reasons in the low achieved
group could be attributed to neuropsychological sources in nature, the other
part could be a result of mere poor instruction (Butterworth, 2010) and poor
emotional involvement (Auerbach, Gross-Tsur, Manor, & Shalev, 2008).
Therefore, it is both an important and difficult task for educators to pinpoint the
exact reasons underlying the low achievement in Mathematics.

Recent research indicates that Math learning difficulties carry some neuro-
psychological reasons (Rosenberg-Lee et al., 2015). The findings point out that
both in humans and animals there is a number module (NM) which carries out
number processing (Butterworth, 2009). Different from animals, humans have a
capacity for abstraction and transformation to symbols or to use symbolic
representations for numbers and operations. The differences in capacity within
this module, which had three subsystems (approximate number system, exact
number system, and access to symbols), are thought to be the sources of
individual differences in numerical cognition. Research also shows that ones
success at those tasks designed according to the principles of these subsystems is
strong predictors of Math achievement (Geary, Bailey, & Hoard, 2009). This
system with its subsystems as a conceptual framework for this study will be
described briefly below.

1.1 Conceptual Framework

It is argued that there is a system, onset at birth, responsible for numerical
processes, (Feigenson, Dehaene, & Spelke, 2004), and is comprised mostly of
three subsystems. One of them is responsible for approximate quantities
(Approximate Number System (ANS)); the other deals with exact quantities
(Exact Number System (ENS)). The Third subsystem, on the other hand, is
known to be the system which enables an access to matching the symbols to the
quantity or vice versa. Literature includes some evidences that these subsystems
function independently from each other (Iuculano, Tang, Hall, & Butterworth,

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2008). There is a possibility that any deficit or malfunction in either one or more
of these subsystems leads to Math learning disorders.



Figure 1: Components of Number Module (NM, Number module; ANS, Approximate

Number System; ENS, Exact Number System; ATS, Access to Symbols)

Generally, number line (Dehaene, Izard, Spelke, & Pica, 2008; Van't Noordende,
van Hoogmoed, Schot, & Kroesbergen, 2015) or analog quantity comparison
tasks (Gimbert, Gentaz, Camos, & Mazens, 2016; Mussolin, Mejias, & Nol, 2010;
Park & Starns, 2015) are administered in order to measure about the ANS.
Subitizing, dot counting, and symbolic arithmetic calculations (Iuculano vd.,
2008) are used for the measurement of the ENS. For accessing the symbols, on
the other hand, either Stroop or an equiavilant number-symbol comparison
tasks are used (Heine et al., 2010).

Students with Math learning disorder (MLD) have difficulties in subitizing,

approximate numbers and estimation, comparing symbolically represented
numbers, especially the numbers with close proximities (distance effect), and
they use more primitive strategies and spend longer times in calculation than do
their classmates. These students also make little transfers among number facts or
rarely use derived number facts. If these students are identified earlier in their
education, it could be possible to improve their number sense so that they might
catch up with their peers. It would also be possible to make some adjustments
during their assessment of Mathematical learning. The available screening tools
are not comprehensive enough to assess the students approximate number
system, exact number system and access to symbols within a single tool that can
be administered in relatively shorter period of time in computer environment.
For these types of tasks, latency is more important than accuracy. In this respect,
computer based tools are more reliable in collecting accurate item level latencies
than paper and pencil based tools. The main purpose of this study was to
develop a tablet PC based screening tool for determining Math learning disorder
tendencies in children between the ages of 6 to 11.

2. Method

2.1 Participants

Participants were 478 primary school students gathered from 12 different public
schools with an attempt to get a representative sample. Table 1 represents
demographic characteristics of the sample.

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Table 1. Participants demographic characteristics

Grade Gender
SES of School Boys Girls Total
1st Low 30 29 59
Middle low 15 15 30
Middle 15 15 30
Total 60 59 119
2 nd Low 30 30 60
Middle low 15 15 30
Middle 15 15 30
Total 60 60 120
3rd Low 29 31 60
Middle low 15 15 30
Middle 14 16 30
Total 59 61 120
4th Low 30 29 59
Middle low 15 15 30
Middle 15 15 30
Total 60 59 119
Grand Total 239 239 478

As seen from Table 1, there were approximately 120 students in each grade level
from First to Fourth grade. There were nearly equal number of boys and girls in
each grade level and in total. The number of students from each socio economic
strata was also proportional to population. The information for the socio
economic status of the schools was provided by the municipal body of the
Ministry of Education. The selection procedure of the sample and the number of
students from each grade both contributes to the generality of the results. The
legal permission for data collection was also taken from the same authority. The
ethical permission was taken from the ethical committee of Ankara University.
The teachers in schools were very helpful in providing necessary information for
the students.

2.2 Data Collection Tools

The Mathematics Achievement Test (MAT): The test has been developed by
Fidan (2013) based on the current Turkish State Curriculum (MEB, 2004). Each
grade level has different achievement tests. The tests contained 13 items for the
First, 15 items for Second, 16 items for Third, and 24 items for the Fourth grades.
Open-ended, short answer form was used for all the questions. The MAT is an
untimed test. The administration took one class hour (approximately 40
minutes) for the sample. Various methods were used to examine the content,
construct and criterion referenced validity of the tests. Since all items were not
equal in difficulty the reliability of the tests was estimated by KR-20 method for
each grade level (Crocker & Algina, 1986). The reliability coefficients were 0.80,
0.92, 0.93, and 0.96 for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade respectively.

The Calculation Performance Test (CPT): It was another test used for concurrent
validity in this study. It is developed by De Vos (1992) and adapted by Olkun,
Can, and Yeilpnar (2013) into Turkish. It has five columns of basic arithmetic
operations written in Arabic numerals and arithmetic operation symbols. Each

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column has 40 operations. Olkun et al. (2013) found the KR-20 coefficients as .95
and .98 for the timed and untimed administrations of CPT. Similar to the
original application; the students were given one minute for each column. The
main difference between MAT and CPT is that MAT has open-ended word
problems while CPT has only arithmetic operations with Arabic numerals.

The Screening Test: It has three subtests; canonic dot counting (CDC), symbolic
number comparison (SNC), and mental number line (MNL) test. It was
individually administered and both students reaction times and correct
responses were recorded as data points while administering with tablet PCs.

The data were collected by trained research assistants being unaware of the
study aims. Since the data were collected directly in the tablet PCs as the
students individually answered questions immersed in custom software there
was no need for manual coding or data entry. Therefore, there was no bias in
data collection.

a) CDC Task b) SNC Task c) MNL task

Figure 2. Three sample tasks from the three sections in the screening tool

Raven Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM) Test: It was used to measure

students general reasoning abilities. There are 5 sets of a total of 60
diagrammatic puzzles with increasing difficulty in the test. Raven (Raven, 2000)
reported that the test has good reliability and validity measures.

2.3 Procedures

Item Analysis: During the piloting phase, first the items, which did not function
well, were determined by using ITEMAN software at the grade level. Item
discriminations were calculated by bi-serial correlation. The results indicated
that the lowest discrimination value for CDC for the First grade was .67, for
Second grade it was .50; for Third graders only two items were .09, but the
others were higher than .62; for the Fourth graders the lowest discrimination
value was .25 and the rest were higher than .46.

The lowest discriminant value for SNC for the First grade was .20, whereas the
other values were above .54; for Second grade, only two items (item 14 and 24)
yielded negative values (-0.07 and -0.15 respectively), but the others were above
.50; for the Third graders, the item 14 had a discriminatory value of -0.07, but the
others were higher than .50; for the Fourth graders, the lowest discrimination
value was .09 and the rest was higher than .50.

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The lowest discrimination value for MNL1 for the First grade was .025, whereas
the other values were above .35; for Second grade, only two items (item 1 and 8)
yielded negative values (-0.04 and -0.024 respectively), but the others were
above .50; for the Third graders, the item 9 had a discrimination value of 0.108,
but the others were higher than .30; for the Fourth graders, the discrimination
values fall between .36 and .684.

The discrimination values for MNL3 for the First grade was between .078 and
0.653; for Second grade, only one item (item 1) yielded a negative value (-0.187),
but the others were above .30; for the Third graders, the values ranged between -
0.233 and .646; for the Fourth graders, the discrimination values fall between -
0.190 and .655.

MNL4 has been administered only to Third and Fourth graders. For the Third
grade, only one item (item 9) yielded a negative value (-0.114), but the others
were above 0.37; for the Fourth grade, again, only one item yielded a negative
value (-0.117), but the others were above 0.30. The highest discrimination value
for this grade was found to be 0.686.

Taking the item statistics and expert views into consideration, necessary changes
have been made and the tests were made ready to be administered.

Reliability Results: Table 2 presents the reliability coefficients for the tests. For
MNL1-3 and 4 are multi-graded tests Cronbach alpha coefficient was calculated;
the other tests were binary, therefore, KR-20 reliability coefficient was

The results obtained through item-responses, CDC test, which had lower than
.70, could be considered medium level reliability. MNL1, MNL3, and SNC had
good reliability scores; MNL4, on the other hand, was a highly reliable test.
When the time spent on tasks is taken into account, the reliability scores for
MNL1 and MNL3 were good; CDC, SNC, and MNL4 had high reliability scores.
Reliability for tests in which scores are used to make serious decisions is
expected to be between 0.85 and 0.95; however, values equal to or higher than
0.50 for tests prepared by instructors may be deemed as reliable. From this
perspective, it can be said that the tests developed for this research has adequate
reliability (Frisbie, 1988).

Content Validity: In order to investigate the content validity, an expert panel

was formed and item analyses had been performed. In this study, content
validity was assessed through expert opinions and item analysis as mentioned

Expert Panel: Once the item development process had been completed and the
test had been developed to be run on a tablet PC, an expert panel was formed to
solicit their evaluations based on a predefined criterion. The panel consisted of
an expert from psychology, special education, educational psychology, Math
teachers, and a measurement and evaluation expert. The criteria included items

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related to chosen colors, questions, buttons, and instructions. The feedback had
been reviewed and the necessary changes had been applied by the Project team.

Table 2. Reliability results of the tests

# of Internal Consistency Reliability with
items Coefficients timed tests
CDC 14 0.69 0.92
SNC 24 0.79 0.93
MNL1 11 0.75 0.75
MNL3 11 0.72 0.72
MNL4 11 0.96 0.96

Criterion-Based Validity: In addition to the content validity of the tests,

criterion-based validity has also been investigated. Correlations between
curriculum-based Math achievement test (MAT), (Fidan, 2013) and calculation
performance test (CPT) (Olkun et al., 2013) as an evidence to ensure its
concurrent validity were performed. Furthermore, the predictive validity of the
test has also been investigated by analyzing how the tests are predictive on
students Math achievement scores. For this purpose, the battery has been given
to 478 elementary school students, its Math achievement predictive coefficients
were calculated, and its mean and standard deviations were calculated for the
selected sample. Once the data were gathered, students inverse efficiency scores
(IES) related to CDC and SNC tests and absolute error scores (AES) of MNL tests
had been calculated.

Townsend and Ashby (1978) proposed the inverse efficiency score [IES; see
also (Townsend & Ashby, 1983)] as an observable measure that measures the
average energy used by the system over time. IE scores were calculated based on
students responses and times elapsed answering each question. It is calculated
separately for each test and each subject by dividing the total time for answering
the test items by the percentages of correct responses (Bruyer & Brysbaert, 2011).
Lower values on this measure indicate a better performance. This measure is
used to markdown possible criterion shifts or speed vs. accuracy balances in

IE Scores were then converted into z scores. Outliers were omitted based on each
individuals z-score range. The upper and lower range values were determined
as 5. In other words, standard scores beyond 5 were considered as outliers.
If there were only one or two values over the cut-off point these values were
removed from the data. A total of 11 data points from CDC and 21 data points
from SNC tests were deleted. In addition to outlier analysis, normality
assumptions were investigated.

The newly developed screening tool is different from the one already in the
literature (Butterworth, 2003) in two respects. First, this one has a subtest for
ANS while the other does not. Second, the dot counting subtest used in this
screening tool utilizes subitizing ability more than the other tool. As discussed
earlier in this paper both ANS and subitizing are found to be related to

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Mathematics learning disorders. The results of the correlation and regression

analysis were given in findings section for validity.

3. Findings

Descriptive statistics for each grade level were analyzed in order to explore the
psychometric characteristics of the test. The findings are presented in Table 3.

Table 3. Students performances in each subtest: mean scores and standard deviations
Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3 Grade 4
CDCies 119 90.50 26 120 73.50 20.2 120 59.4 13.4 119 52.4 14
SNCies 119 112.40 29.70 120 91.80 24 120 83 17.4 119 74.7 15
MNL1 119 18.62 9.52 120 11.86 7.06 120 8.8 6.89 119 6.57 5.27
MNL3 119 457 209 120 318 170 120 235 138 119 191 103
MNL4 120 3041 1970 119 2315 1480

Both Table 3 and Figure 3 indicate that students scores have a steady
developmental trajectory starting from Grade 1 to Grade 4. These findings
provide evidence that the test measures the developmental changes in those
skills in students.

Table 4. Multiple regression results for predicting First graders Math achievement
Unstandardized Standardized
Coefficients Coefficients
Variable Standard t p Partial r
B Beta
Constant 10.522 .884 11.908 .000
CDCies -1.71E-005 .000 -.183 -1.708 .090 -.276
SNCies 5.79E-006 .000 .046 .428 .670 -.160
MNL1 -.033 .027 -.129 -1.204 .231 -.288
MNL3 -.002 .001 -.202 -1.742 .084 -.334
R=0.384 R2=0.148
F(4,118)=4.937 p=0.001

The predictive validity results from regression and correlation analyses are
presented in Table 4 through 11. In regression analyses, students curriculum-
based Math achievement scores were taken as dependent (criterion/predicted),
and the subtest sores were taken as predictor variables.

In the First grade, only 15% of the variability in Math achievement as measured
by the curriculum-based MAT was explained by the subtests (see Table 4). The
order of importance according to the standardized regression coefficients (Beta)
are as follows: MNL3, CDC, MNL1 and SNC. T-test results as well as the
significance test results indicate that those tests were not among the important
variables to predict and explain curriculum-based Mathematical achievement in
the First grade.

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100,000 150000
0 0
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
a) b)

20 400

10 200

0 0
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
c) d)

1 2 3 4
Figure 3. Score changes across grades in subtests [a). Canonic dot counting, CDC, b).
Symbolic number comparison, SNC, c) Estimation between 0-10 on number line,
MNL1, d). Estimation between 0-100 on number line, MNL3, e). Estimation between 0-
1000 on number line, MNL4]

Table 5. Multiple regression results for predicting First graders calculation

performance (TTR)
Unstandardized Standardized
Coefficients Coefficients
Variable Standard t p Partial r
B Beta
Constant 18.667 1.972 9.467 .000
CDCies -3.69E-005 .000 -.174 -1.649 .102 -.319
SNCies -1.50E-005 .000 -.052 -.496 .621 -.259
MNL1 -.028 .061 -.048 -.455 .650 -.253
MNL3 -.007 .003 -.254 -2.227 .028 -.374
R=0.420 R2=0.176
F(4,118)=6.092 p=0.000

As seen in Table 5, the CDC, SNC, and MNL test scores explain 18% of the
variance in the CPT test, which does not require any reading-writing but

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includes only symbolic arithmetic calculations (R=0.420, R2=0.176). Only the

MNL3 is significant, and CDC is approaching to significance in explaining the
test performance.

Table 6. Multiple regression results for predicting Second graders Math achievement
Unstandardized Standardized
Coefficients Coefficients
Variable Standard t p Partial r
B Beta
Constant 19.063 .917 20.777 .000
CDCies -6.27E-005 .000 -.331 -4.224 .000 -.634
SNCies -5.29E-005 .000 -.225 -3.000 .003 -.565
MNL1 -.051 .036 -.095 -1.434 .154 -.399
MNL3 -.008 .001 -.366 -5.499 .000 -.594
R=0.770 R2=0.593
F(4,119)=41.805 p=0.000

In the Second grade, the tests altogether explained 60% of the Math achievement
(see Table 6) measured by MAT. The order of importance according to the
standardized regression coefficients (Beta) are as follows: MNL3, CDC, SNC,
and MNL1. When the significance levels in t-test results were considered, it is
only the MNL1 test which did not contribute to the prediction; whereas the
others were of importance in explaining the variance in Math achievement.

In the Third grade, the tests altogether explained 45% of the Math achievement
(see Table 7) measured by MAT. The order of importance according to the
standardized regression coefficients (Beta) are as follows: CDC, MNL1, MNL4,
SNC and MNL3. When the significance levels in t-test results were considered,
it is only the CDC and MNL1 tests that were found to have contributions to the
predictive model.

Table 7. Multiple regression results for predicting Third graders Math achievement
Unstandardized Standardized
Coefficients Coefficients
Variable Standard t p Partial r
B Beta
Constant 18.676 1.625 11.493 .000
CDCies -8.94E-005 .000 -.289 -3.189 .002 -.564
SNCies -3.10E-005 .000 -.076 -.953 .343 -.362
MNL1 -.156 .053 -.260 -2.963 .004 -.544
MNL3 -.002 .004 -.059 -.453 .651 -.441
MNL4 .000 .000 -.168 -1.161 .248 -.529
R=0.669 R2=0.447
F(5,119)= 18.436 p=0.000

In the Fourth grade, the tests altogether explained 39% of the Math achievement
(see Table 8) measured by MAT. The order of importance according to the
standardized regression coefficients (Beta) are as follows: CDC, MNL4, SNC,
MNL3, and MNL1. When the significance levels in t-test results were
considered, it is only the CDC test that was found to have a significant

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contribution to the predictive model while MNL4 is approaching the


Table 8. Multiple regression results for predicting Fourth graders Math achievement
Unstandardized Standardized
Coefficients Coefficients
Variable Standard t p Partial r
B Beta
Constant 28.352 2.121 13.366 .000
CDCies .000 .000 -.341 -3.228 .002 -.560
SNCies -5.16E-005 .000 -.080 -.856 .394 -.375
MNL1 -.052 .095 -.048 -.551 .582 -.320
MNL3 -.004 .007 -.079 -.621 .536 -.469
MNL4 -.001 .000 -.226 -1.764 .080 -.511
R=0. 624 R2=0.389
F(5,118)= 14.386 p=0.000

The correlations between calculation performances (CPT) and Math achievement

scores with the subtests in the battery are presented in Table 8. First of all, the
correlations are all negative as expected. There is a significant correlation
between CDC and Math achievement scores in First grade (r=-0.276, p<0.01).
The correlation between Math achievement and SNC is not significant (r=-0.160,
p>0.05). The correlation between MAT and MNL1 is significant (r=-0,288,
p<0.01); with MNL3, the correlation is again statistically significant (r=-0.334,

As presented in Table 9, there is a negative and significant correlation found

between CPT and CDC scores (r=-0.319, p<0.01). The correlation between CPT
and SNC is in the negative direction, weak but significant (r=-0.259, p<0.05).
Likewise, there is a negative, weak and significant correlation between CPT and
MNL1 (r=-0.253, p<0.01). The correlation between CPT and MNL3 scores are
also negative, moderate and significant (r=-0.374, p<0.01).

Table 9. Correlations among scores for the First graders

CDCies -.276 -.319
(p) .002 .000
SNCies -.160 -.259
(p) .119 .004
MNL1 -.288 -.253
(p) .001 .006
MNL3 -.334 -.374
(p) .000 .000

Table 10 shows the correlations between MAT and CPT scores, and BNP Tests
for Second graders. There is a negative, moderate and significant correlation
between MAT and CDC IES scores (r=-0.634, p<0.01), between MAT and SNC
IES (r=-0.565, p<0.01), MAT and MNL1 scores (r=-0.399, p<0.01), and between
MAT and MNL3 scores (r=-0.594, p<0.01).

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Table 10. Correlation among scores for the Second graders

CDCies -.634 -.536
(p) .000 .000
SNCies -.565 -.495
(p) .000 .000
MNL1 -.399 -.111
(p) .000 .227
MNL3 -.594 -.346
(p) .000 .000

As depicted in Table 10, there is also negative, moderate and significant

correlation between CPT and CDC IES scores (r=-0.536, p<0.01), between CPT
and SNC IES (r=-0.495, p<0.01), and between CPT and MNL3 scores (r=-0.346,
p<0.01). The correlation between CPT and MNL1 scores is negative, weak and
significant (r=-0.111, p>0.05).

Table 11. Correlation among scores for the Third graders

CDCies -.564 -.495
(p) .000 .000
SNCies -.362 -.313
(p) .000 .000
MNL1 -.544 -.476
(p) .000 .000
MNL3 -.441 -.342
(p) .000 .000
MNL4 -.529 -.418
(p) .000 .000

Table 11 shows the correlations between BNP Tests and, MAT and CPT scores
for Third graders. There is a negative, moderate and significant correlation
between MAT and CDC IES scores (r=-0.564, p<0.05), between MAT and SNC
IES (r=-0.362, p<0.05), MAT and MNL1 scores (r=-0.544, p<0.01), MAT and
MNL3 scores (r=-0.441, p<0.05), and between MAT and MNL4 (r=-0.529,

As shown in Table 11, there is also negative, moderate and significant

correlation between CPT and CDC IES scores (r=-0,495, p<0,01), between CPT
and SNC IES (r=-0.313, p<0.01), between CPT and MNL3 scores (r=-0,342,
p<0,01), between CPT and MNL1 (r=-0,476, p<0,01), and between CPT and
MNL4 (r=-0,418, p<0,01).

As seen in Table 12, there is a negative, moderate and significant correlation

between Fourth graders MAT and CDC IES scores (r=-0.560, p<0.01), between
MAT and SNC IES (r=-0.375, p<0.01), MAT and MNL1 scores (r=-0.320, p<0.01),
MAT and MNL3 scores (r=-0.469, p<0.01), and between MAT and MNL4 (r=-
0.511, p<0.01). Overall, there is a negative and significant relation between MAT

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scores and CDC, SNC and MNL tests, which are based on either IES or absolute
error scores.

Table 12. Correlation among scores for the Fourth graders

CDCies -.560 -.567
(p) .000 .000
SNCies -.375 -.377
(p) .000 .000
MNL1 -.320 -.196
(p) .000 .033
MNL3 -.469 -.268
(p) .000 .003
MNL4 -.511 -.338
(p) .000 .000

Similarly, as depicted in Table 12, there is negative, moderate and significant

correlation between CPT and CDC IES scores (r=-0.567, p<0.01) and between
CPT and SNC IES (r=-0.377, p<0.01). The relation between CPT and MNL3
scores (r=-0.268, p<0.01), between CPT and MNL1 (r=-0.196, p<0.05), and
between CPT and MNL4 (r=-0.338, p<0.01) is negative, weak and significant.

Considering these results altogether, as expected, CDC, SNC and MNL test
scores, which had either IES or absolute error scores, have negative correlations
with both curriculum based Mathematics achievement as measured by MAT
and calculation performance, as measured with CPT.

Table 13. ANCOVA results for CDC test scores adjusted according to Raven scores
Type III Sum of Eta
Grade Source Squares df Mean Square F Sig. Squared
raven 1772249843.66 1 1772249843.658 2.870 .093 .027
Group 7072363604.97 2 3536181802.484 5.727 .004 .098
1 Error 64830143430.32 105 617429937.432
Total 978029827305.20 109
raven 912190137.94 1 912190137.944 4.624 .034 .046
Group 5353808450.39 2 2676904225.193 13.571 .000 .222
2 Error 18739525260.78 95 197258160.640
Total 535539634729.70 99
raven 78008294.40 1 78008294.398 .620 .433 .006
Group 3366715933.13 2 1683357966.564 13.371 .000 .203
3 Error 13219402083.21 105 125899067.459
Total 402000955484.06 109

In order to test whether the source of the variance is coming from the tests
themselves or participants general abilities, and whether the BNP tests would
yield similar results when the general ability as measured by Raven SPM test
were controlled, an ANCOVA test was executed. In the analyses, it was assumed
that MAT and CPT tests were standardized, since their validity and reliability

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had been tested earlier. Mean scores were computed from First and Second
applications for each grade level. Depending on the MAT scores, lower 27% is
considered low achievers whereas upper 27% is considered as normal achievers.
Researchers usually use the upper 27% and the lower 27% in order to separate
the tail from the mean of the normally distributed data (Cureton, 1957). If the
CDC, SNC and MNL tests are measuring the same construct then the group
differences would be the same among tests. This would be considered as an
evidence of validity.

After controlling for students general abilities with Raven SPM (see Table 13),
there was still significant differences among the groups based on CDC test in the
First grade [F(2,105)=5.727, p<.05, 2=0.098], Second grade [F(2,95)=13.571, p<.05,
2=0.222], and Third grade [F(2,105)=13.371, p<.05, 2=0.203]. That means, in all the
grades tested, lower groups showed less efficiency in CDC test.

Table 14. ANCOVA results for SNC test scores adjusted according to Raven test scores
Type III Sum of Partial
Grade Source Squares df Mean Square F Sig. Eta Sq.
raven 229882783.962 1 229882783.962 .617 .434 .006
Group 2942071757.621 2 1471035878.810 3.950 .022 .070
1st Error 39102371517.164 105 372403538.259
Total 640519571159.637 109
raven 103724769.429 1 103724769.429 .454 .502 .005
Group 2145180219.755 2 1072590109.877 4.697 .011 .090
2nd Error 21691655781.145 95 228333218.749
Total 351457658059.796 99
raven 146015262.380 1 146015262.380 1.218 .272 .011
Group 710430961.322 2 355215480.661 2.964 .056 .053
3rd Error 12585666394.209 105 119863489.469
Total 315144743780.813 109

Table 14 shows the ANCOVA results for lower and upper 27% groups for First
and Second graders when their Raven SPM test scores were controlled. There is
a significant difference between the upper and lower groups in First graders
[F(2,105)=3.950, p<.05, 2=0.070] and Second graders [F(2,95)=4.697, p<.05, 2=0.090]
in their SNC scores. In both grades, the SNC score averages are higher in lower
group than the upper one. When the Raven SPM test scores were controlled, a
marginally significant difference between lower and upper groups was
observed for the Third graders in their SNC scores [F(2,105)=2.964, p<.05,

After controlling for students general abilities (see. Table 15) with Raven SPM,
there was still a significant difference among the lower and upper achieving
groups based on MNL-3 test in the First [F(2,105)=3.349, p<.05, 2=0.060], Second
[F(2,93)=11.752, p<.05, 2=0.202], and Third grade [F(2,105)=5.670, p<.05, 2=0.097].
In all the grades tested, lower groups got higher TAE scores, in other words,
they made less accurate estimations on MNL-3 (0-100 number line) test.

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Table 15. ANCOVA results for MNL-3 test scores adjusted according to Raven scores
Type III Sum of Mean Eta
Grade Source Squares df Square F Sig. Squared
raven 236467.827 1 236467.827 6.449 .013 .058
Group 245576.951 2 122788.475 3.349 .039 .060
1 Error 3850175.029 105 36668.334
Total 27133300.210 109
raven 124227.377 1 124227.377 6.640 .012 .067
Group 439728.032 2 219864.016 11.752 .000 .202
2 Error 1739951.487 93 18709.156
Total 11634213.560 97
raven 74405.394 1 74405.394 4.696 .032 .043
Group 179682.037 2 89841.018 5.670 .005 .097
3 Error 1663577.571 105 15843.596
Total 8393318.150 109

Table 16. Third Graders ANCOVA results for MNL-4 test scores adjusted according
to Raven scores
Type III Sum of Partial Eta
Source Squares df Mean Square F Sig. Squared
raven 8189246.549 1 8189246.549 2.759 .100 .026
Group 52890994.510 2 26445497.255 8.908 .000 .145
Error 311700713.973 105 2968578.228
Total 1465329741.490 109

Again there was still significant difference (see. Table 16) between the lower and
upper achievement groups based on MNL-4 test in the Third grade
[F(2,105)=8.908, p<.05, 2=0.145] after controlling for the students general abilities
as measured by Raven SPM. Students in the lower group got higher TAE scores,
in other words, they made less accurate estimations on MNL-4 (0-1000 number
line) test.
Since we did not administer Raven SPM to Fourth graders we ran t-tests to
analyze the differences between the lower and upper 27 percentiles.

Table 17. Fourth graders t-test results based on MAT scores between upper and lower
groups for CDC, SNC and MNL 1-3-4 tests
Subtests Group N Mean SD DF t p
CDC Lower Group 31 62139.3540 17163.67989 71
4.617 0,00
Upper Group 42 45579.1818 11880.65529
SNC Lower Group 31 82336.1797 20651.97347 71
3.026 0,00
Upper Group 42 69876.8086 11578.18597
MNL1 Lower Group 31 8.1774 6.85642 71
2.710 0,00
Upper Group 42 4.6405 2.80636
MNL3 Lower Group 31 259.7968 123.29097 71
4.141 0,00
Upper Group 42 153.7214 83.45923
MNL4 Lower Group 31 3420.7935 1933.20610 71 5.034
Upper Group 42 1584.0643 726.95047

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Fourth graders were grouped according to their MAT scores (see Table 17), and
a t-test was run to see whether their CDC, SNC, MNL1, MNL3, and MNL4 test
scores would differ accordingly. The results indicated that there is a significant
difference in CDC IES test scores between groups (t=4.617, p<0.05). When their
mean scores were examined, the difference is observed in favor of the lower
group. Also, the lower group completed the test in a longer period of time.
Similarly, there is a significant difference between the groups in terms of SNC
IES scores (t=3.026, p<0.05), MNL1 test scores (t=2.710, p<0.05), MNL3 test
scores (t=4.141, p<0.05), and MNL4 test scores (t=5.034, p<0.05) in favor of the
lower group. In other words, these findings indicate that students in lower
groups scored higher in these tests meaning that they had more estimation
errors compared to the upper achievement group.

Table 18. Fourth graders t-test results for CDC, SNC and MNL1-3 tests between upper
and lower groups based on TTR tests
Subtests Group N Mean SD DF t p
CDC Lower Group 32 62186.3715 16212.00981 63
6.133 0,00
Upper Group 33 42822.5899 7607.24493
SNC Lower Group 32 81339.2179 18370.05264 63
4.054 0,00
Upper Group 33 66645.6972 9242.30986
MNL1 Lower Group 32 8.3000 7.09861 63
2.218 0,032
Upper Group 33 5.2273 3.36835
MNL3 Lower Group 32 229.6813 123.35055 63
2.310 0,024
Upper Group 33 166.2636 95.78197
MNL4 Lower Group 32 3005.4000 1824.52973 63
2.833 0,006
Upper Group 33 1894.8000 1280.55589

When the Fourth graders were grouped based on CPT test scores (see Table 18),
we found a significant difference in CDC IES test scores between groups in favor
of the lower group (t=6,133, p<0.05). Similarly, there is a significant difference in
SNC IES test scores between lower and upper groups (t=4,054, p<0.05). These
findings indicate that lower group students completed the test in a longer period
of time. When the MNL test scores are considered, there is a significant
difference between groups in MNL 1, (t=2,218, p<0.05), in MNL3 (t=2,310,
p<0.05), and in MNL4 (t=2,833, p<0.05) in favor of the lower group. All these
findings show that students in the lower group made more erroneous
estimations in all MNL tests.

When MAT and CPT tests are considered as standard tests, the results indicate a
validity evidence for CDC, SNC, and all MNL tests. Although there was no
significant difference in MNL1 for Second graders, there is a significant
difference between lower and upper groups when grouped according to CPT
test. However, when the grade level increased, the number line with a wider
range was more discriminative.

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4. Discussion

In this study, a screening tool was developed for determining the tendency of
Math learning disorder in children from the age of 6 to 11. We evaluated the
reliability and validity of the battery consisted of three subtests as CDC, SNC
and MNL1-2-3. The KR-20 method was used for dichotomous data and the
Cronbach Alpha for polytomous data. Regression analysis was run for
predictive validity measures. Correlations and mean differences were calculated
for additional validity. Expert opinions were obtained for content validity.

The results of this study showed that Basic Number Processing Test (BNPT)
yielded a high prediction rate especially in the Second grade. Similarly, an
important portion of the variance in Math achievement could be explained by
the administered tests in Third and Fourth grades. The differences among the
groups were still significant even after controlling for the students general
abilities as measured by the Raven SPM test. These findings indicate that
problems resulting from the poor processing of number could yield to lower
Math achievement especially in Second, Third, and Fourth grades.

When the correlations are examined, despite their significance, the correlations
are weak at the First grade but moderate and strong at the upper grades. When
considering the regression and correlation scores together, it can be said that the
findings provide evidence for the validity of the measurement tool, especially
for the Second grade and up. This trend may also show that deficits in basic
number processing abilities cause students to lag further behind their peers
making it impossible to catch up in regular classes if untreated.

The tests, CDC, SNC, and MNL have all strong contributions to the Math
achievement at the primary grades. Therefore, it could be concluded that at least
very important portions of the causes of low achievement in Mathematics might
originate from the deficits in the core systems of number (Feigenson et al., 2004).
In other words, it could result from any one of the exact number system (ENS),
the approximate number system (ANS), and the access to symbol system (ATS),
or any combinations of these three systems.

Relatively lower relationships among the tests were obtained with the First
graders. It should be noted that there are various barriers especially in the First
semester of the First year in school. Since children already started to read and
write, they often find it challenging to solve verbally instructed Math questions.
In addition, they start learning numbers and representing them with symbols
(numerals) at their First year. This makes it difficult to predict their real Math
achievement by using tasks including verbal and/or symbol-based instructions
and questions. For example, we found a higher correlation between Math
achievements based on CPT and BNP tests, which required only numbers and
other symbols for arithmetic operations, but no word reading-writing. In
comparison, the MAT test requires reading-writing skills to solve verbal
problems. Therefore, it would be necessary to develop new paradigms and/or
longitudinal research with First graders, among which could be using interview
method or tasks which do not require any reading-writing tasks. Additionally, it

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


would also be a part of research to observe students who experience difficulty in

learning and their performances in basic number processing tests.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 67-83, November 2016

Students Academic Performance in Religious

Education: A Case of Selected Schools in

Baamphatlha Dinama and Koketso Jeremiah

University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana

Boitumelo Sihlupheki-Jorowe
Sedibelo Junior Secondary School, Mochudi, Botswana

Masego Keakantse
Bonnington Junior Secondary School, Gaborone, Botswana

Rebonyetsala Kemoabe
Moselewapula Junior Secondary School, Gaborone, Botswana

Bafedile Kgaswe
Ithuteng Junior Secondary School, Mochudi, Botswana

Mpolokang Motshosi
Gabane Junior Secondary School, Gabane, Botswana

Oshi Sebina
Kgamanyane Junior Secondary School, Mochudi, Botswana

Abstract. This research investigated students academic performance in Religious

Education (RE) in three junior secondary schools in Gaborone in Botswana. The sample
comprised seven (7) Religious Education teachers, two (2) deputy school heads, three (3)
focus groups of students and two (2) parent representatives. The study used a qualitative
research methodology and a case study design that entailed interviews, lesson
observations and document analysis. The findings reveal that teachers as the pillars of an
effective instructional delivery process need to have a deep content and pedagogical
knowledge as well as possess adequate assessment skills. In addition, students positive
academic performance requires a warm and welcoming classroom climate. This study also
identified various factors that may contribute to an improvement in students academic
performance such as parent and teacher cooperation, as well as the availability of teaching
and learning resources.

Keywords: academic performance; Religious Education; junior secondary schools;

assessment skills; Botswana.

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Religious Education (RE) as a subject within the Botswana curriculum has been
undergoing a shift since its inception, which can be traced from the arrival of the
missionaries. The first RE curriculum was Christian based and was phased out
when the multi-faith one was introduced in 1996 (Dinama, 2013). Over the years,
the learners performance has been good with the Christian based curriculum as
compared to the multi-faith one where at national examinations level the
performance declined drastically due mainly to teachers lack of assessment
skills in RE. However, teachers attribute students poor performance to the
over-loaded curriculum which in their view contains too much content to be
adequately covered during the three years period in which students will be
doing their junior secondary schooling (Dinama, 2010). Furthermore, it has to be
noted that in 2008 the multi- faith curriculum that used the phenomenological
approach in teaching and learning was reviewed, and both its content and
approach were changed. Dinama (2010) notes that the 2008 revised multi-faith
RE curriculum adopted the interpretive approach while the content stressed
Christianity and this was done in order to make assessment easier. Despite all
these changes, it is notable that students academic performance in RE still
remains unsatisfactory.

Statement of the problem

Students academic performance in RE has been declining over the years since
the introduction of the multi-faith based RE syllabus in 2008 that uses the
interpretive approach. Speculations have been made for the low performance
and they include; teachers lack of content and pedagogical knowledge and
inadequate assessment skills. Furthermore, the studies show that students do
not perform well due to problems associated with their family background and
general school environment (Egalite, 2016; Foley, 2008; Schaps, 2005). This study
therefore explored causes of the decline in the performance of the RE at junior
certificate level in selected schools in Gaborone, in Botswana. The study was
guided by two key research questions.

Key research questions

1. What factors cause a decline in academic performance with respect to the
multi-faith Religious Education (RE) curriculum?
2. What are the possible solutions to factors that cause a decline in students
academic performance?

Significance of the study

This study will benefit or assist the department of Religious Education both at
school and ministerial levels and specifically in teacher training and
development by identifying issues of concern and problems faced by teachers in
the teaching and learning of Religious Education. It will provide relevant
information to the Department of Teacher Training and Development on how to
develop relevant and efficient in-service training programs for RE teachers
especially in relation to assessment. Similarly, it will provide information to RE

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teachers at school level and help them to make an introspection of how they
have been conducting their teaching and assessment of with respect to RE. It is
hoped that this will enhance instructional techniques and assessment skills that
will improve students academic performance in RE.

Literature Review

Academic performance is mainly related to assessment and it is about a
student's success or lack of it in meeting short- or long-term goals in education.
How students perform reflect how well they have mastered the content taught
(Ballard & Bates, 2008). However, there are various factors that ensure and are
considered to be hindering good performance in educational settings. Some of
these factors are; language as a medium of instruction, teaching and learning
resources, parental involvement, study habits, class size, teachers pedagogical
and assessment skills (Farooq, Chaudry, Shafiq & Berhan, 2011). It has been
observed that since the introduction of the multi-faith curriculum in 1996 in
Botswana, RE students have been performing poorly (Dinama, 2010).

Student academic performance is of paramount importance in every academic

institution (Regier, 2011) and that is why the students academic performance in
RE remains a top priority for educators in religion. This is because when
students achieve good grades, they become competitive in the world of work
and may have better employment opportunities.

Factors affecting students academic performance

There are various factors that contribute to good student academic performance
and these may include: teacher beliefs in relation to their profession, content and
pedagogical knowledge, and assessment skills. On the part of students; peer
influence, attitudes towards learning and family background can have a bearing
on students performance (Farooq, 2011; Hijazi & Naqvi, 2006; Jeynes, 2007). In
addition, cooperation and collaboration amongst teachers, student-teacher ratio,
and unavailability of learning resources can also have an impact on students
performance (Aturupane, Glewwe & Wisniewski, 2010; Farooq et al. 2011).

The manner in which the teacher plans and organizes instruction, to a large
extent determines the outcome of students academic performance. Therefore,
pedagogy and assessment skills are important aspects that contribute to
students academic performance. It is thus, the teachers responsibility to employ
diverse teaching styles to enhance students academic performance since current
instruction assessment techniques seem to favour certain learning styles
(Damavandi, Mahyuddin, Elias, & Daud, 2011). Besides, there has to be a good
match between students learning preferences and instructors teaching styles
which have been demonstrated to have a positive effect on students
performance (Harb & El-Shaarawi, 2006). A study by Dinama (2010) on RE
teaching in Botswana public schools reveals that teachers inadequate

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pedagogical skills result in students poor academic performance. For example,

as they taught teachers chose to focus on religions that they favoured even
though that was not the expectation of the core curriculum. Furthermore,
teachers struggled to draw on student knowledge as a resource (Dinama, 2010).
In the same study, Dinama (2010) observed that Religious Education teachers
possessed poor assessment skills in terms of poorly written test items. For
example, he cited incidents where internal monthly, termly tests and external
examinations did not correlate. The cause and source of this could be that
teachers do not possess adequate assessment skills and this is reflected in the
poor final national RE examinations results. For example, at school level,
students would get very high marks in school-based tests and examinations
while obtaining low grades in the final national examinations (Dinama, 2010). In
addition, inadequate pedagogical knowledge and assessment skills, teachers
lack of collaboration with one another are amongst some of the causes of
students poor academic performance. In addition, a study carried out by Burry-
Stock (2003) revealed that teachers assessment practices were inadequate to
meet the demands of classroom assessment due to insufficient or lack of training
in assessment.

The language of instruction is another factor that has an impact on students

academic performance (Nyathi- Saleshando, 2011) because if the students
possess adequate communication skills and a strong command of English which
is a medium of instruction, it will thus increase their performance. In multi-
cultural settings, students bring along with them different languages that if not
acknowledged by the educational system may impede academic learning
resulting in poor performance (Harb and El Shaarawi, 2006; Jotia & Pansiri,
2013; Nyathi- Saleshando, 2011; Pansiri, 2011). All these various learners speak
different indigenous languages and bring with them a wide range of cultural
traditions that can be of value to their learning if they were incorporated in the
education system. However, their mother tongue is not used as a medium of
instruction in both public and private schools in Botswana. As Khan (2014)
notes, language has a central position in all situations involving human beings
(p. 1) and consequently, student performance is negatively influenced by
students weak communication skills in the language of instruction (Benson,
2004; Mulkey, 2012; Pflepsen 2013). Thus language can be an impediment to
student academic performance because it can silently exclude some from the
education system. In the same vein, in RE students learn abstract concepts which
need mastery of the English language which is a medium of instruction as well
as an official language in Botswana therefore. Therefore, if students have
difficulties in understanding the language of instruction, that may negatively
impact their academic performance.

Parental Involvement

Ballard and Bates, (2008) point out that for assessment to be effective, students,
parents, teachers, administrators, policy makers and researchers need to share
responsibility in educational matters. Thus, parental involvement is core to
students academic success (Pansiri, 2008; William & Jeynes, 2007). Parents
attitudes towards education can influence the students performance. Pansiri

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(2008) further posits that parental participation in school curriculum matters

permits them to learn strategies of helping their children hence an enhanced
students performance. Actually, there is a connection between parental
association and the childrens accomplishment in the classroom. Pansiri (2008)
further explains that the Botswanas Revised National Policy on Education of
1994 has a section which encouraged the community in general to actively play a
part in the development and running of education. It also emphasized the
significance of involving the community and parents in certain decision making
matters that could influence the education of their children through Parents
Teachers Association (PTA) and other committees or associations.

Resources and academic performance

Learning resources are identified as yet another factor determining students

academic performance. Karemera, Reuben and Sillah (2003) found that students'
academic performance is significantly connected to the availability of
educational resources like library, computer laboratory and textbooks in an
institution. Godfrey (2012) notes that resources are vital since they do inform
and guide teachers in their teaching. This is true in the context of Botswana
because resources like textbooks are limited leading to students writing their
final examinations without having accessed them thus affecting their academic
performance. Poor results in RE in Botswana is also attributed to the absence of
core text books which cover the content of the curriculum fully (Dinama, 2010).
Even in instances where textbooks are available, teachers rarely explore other
readily available resources, such as the library and the internet, to increase their
own and their students knowledge about religions.

Inadequate learning infrastructure lead learners having their lessons carried out
in places such as laboratories, libraries, out-door spaces and school dining-hall
that are not designed to be classrooms (Archibald, 2006). Inadequate resources
impinge on classroom activities and instructional techniques since a large
number of students will be squeezed in the few available classrooms. In their
study, Bandiera, Larcinese, and Rasul (2010) noted that class size is a factor that
impacts students academic performance. In addition, the teacher-student ratio
has a bearing on how teachers attend to individual students because if an
average student is moved to a large class his or her performance will necessarily
drop (Bandiera, Larcinese & Rasul, 2010) due to inadequate attention by the
teacher (Monks & Schmidt, 2010). Teacher-student ratio therefore negatively
affects students academic performance (Yelkpieri, Namale, Esia-Donkoh &
Ofosu-Dwamena, 2012). If the class is too large the teacher will naturally fail to
adequately interact with all learners and would not be able to fully engage them
into the various classroom activities.
Moreover, students academic performance can be affected by entry points of
the previous performance at a lower level (Geiser & Santelices, 2007) since
ideally a selection rank based on a students overall academic achievement is the
best single predictor of future success. Sentamu (2003) adds that, measures of
prior educational performance are the most important determinants of student
performance. This implies that the higher the previous performance, the
likelihood that the students will perform better academically in future. This is

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true in respect of the Botswana education system because students are

automatically promoted after completion of their Standard Seven regardless of
the grades they would have achieved and this in turn is reflected in their poor
junior secondary school results (Dinama, 2010). In addition, Reyann, (2011)
argues that a grade is a primary indicator in learning and if a learner earns high
grades it is concluded that he or she has learnt a lot while low grades indicate
learning to a lesser extent. Dinama, (2010) further observes that, throughout his
fieldwork in research about implementation of the multi-faith RE curriculum,
the poor results in RE at national level were a common concern among teachers.
This is worrisome because students come with poor results from primary
schools due to automatic progression and after final examinations teachers are
expected to account for the results, as well as the value they would have added
to the results of these students upon entering secondary school classrooms.


This study adopted a qualitative methodology which expects the researcher to
explore in depth explanations of issues to comprehend a phenomenon in its
natural locale as well as to learn from the experiences of the participants (Chilisa
& Preece, 2005). In doing so, it attempts to make sense of or to interpret
phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to it (Denzin, 1994). In this
way, the methodology centres on the meanings, behaviours of people, their
settings, and experiences (Hancock, 2002, Tewksbury, 2009). In this study, it was
the experiences, perspectives and intuitions of teachers that were explored.

Research design, population and sampling procedures

The study employed a case study research design since it assisted the
researchers in exploring the students performance and the use of numerous
sources of evidence (Yin, 1984). In this way, the design allowed the researchers
to examine a rather sensitive and complex issue of students academic
performance. The case study was conducted in three schools that are in an urban
setting in Gaborone and were given pseudonyms namely Boasa, Nageng and
Maareng Junior Secondary Schools. The criterion used to select these three
schools was based on geographical location and the socio-economic background
of the areas that feed these schools with secondary school students.

The study employed purposive sampling of participants in the selected schools.

The participants were nine (9) Religious Education teachers in three (3) junior
secondary schools in Gaborone who have been in the field for a minimum of five
years and were specialists in RE. Long serving teachers were chosen because
teaching experience of typically five years or more is associated with an
internalisation of a curriculum. In each school there was a focus group
discussion of fifteen (15) students and five (5) students were from each form or
level, that is, Form 1 - 3. Students were chosen because they are in a good
position to articulate their academic performance and the challenges they
encounter in learning RE. Moreover, the Student Representative Council (SRC)
academic members were also used as participants because they are involved in

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students welfare. Furthermore, three (3) PTA chairpersons per school as the key
linkage between school and the parents were chosen to give data in line with the
rate of parental involvement in students academic work. The deputy school
heads were also chosen since they coordinate all academics matters in their
schools and are responsible for keeping students academic records.

Data Collection Methods

The researchers used classroom observations, interviews and document analysis
to gather information. Interviews were used in order to understand the lived
experiences of teachers, learners and parents, and the meaning they make of
these experiences. Kvale (2004) states that interviews help obtain descriptions of
the lived world of the participants with respect to interpretations of the meaning
of the phenomena under investigation. Seidman (2012) affirms that an interview
is a powerful way to gain insight into educational and other important social
issues when used to understand the experiences of individuals whose lives
reflect issues raised in a study. Through the use of interviews, valuable
knowledge and nuggets of essential meaning were unearthed in this study. In
addition, they help create an atmosphere that allows participants to talk freely
since ethical considerations would have been observed. Interviews help to probe
deeply into the thoughts and responses of the participants and to uncover
previously unknown details since the participants are encouraged to talk freely
(Dinama, 2010). Therefore, the researchers came up with interview schedules
that were used to meet with the participants at different intervals in a special
room that was allocated. In addition, the researchers used research guide
questions to orally interview the participants.

Classroom observations were also used for data collection because observations
help take note of any biased actions because of the presence of the researcher in
the setting (Chilisa & Preece, 2005). Observations accord the investigators the
opportunity to be first hand eye witness who would check for non-verbal
expressions of feelings as to articulate the information that participants may be
unable or reluctant to share with others. In this study the researchers sat in class
to watch the proceedings of the lessons and also took down notes. Classroom
observations were used for data collection because they assess first-hand
information on how RE is taught. In observing RE lessons, the researchers were
able to witness and observe teachers actions in the classrooms and comprehend
what was communicated even in non-verbal expressions (Kawulich, 2005).
Marshall and Rossman (1995) further posit that classroom environment as a
research site also offers significant data for the research.

Document were also analysed as a way of understanding and interpreting the

phenomenon (Ary, Jacobs, Sorensen & Razaveih, 2010) and in this case, it was
the students academic records. Document analysis focuses on interpreting
recorded material in order to understand more about human behaviour or the
phenomenon under investigation. Documents are a valuable basis of verification
of other forms of unrecorded data since they assist in exploring the actual
content by comparing or contrasting perspectives (Ary et al. 2010). Moreover,
document analysis is helpful when looking for patterns in order to build up a

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picture of the phenomena that is being observed. Documents can help rebuild
events and give evidence about social proceedings as well as corroborate
observations and interviews and thus make conclusions trustworthy and
reliable. Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2000) note that documents are social
products that are located in particular contexts and in this study it was the
school hence they need to be understood and interpreted within that
environment. Documents such as schemes of work, lesson plans and samples of
students work were analysed. These documents are important because they
reflected what transpired in the RE lessons. Tests and examination papers were
also sampled and analysed to verify their standard and quality.

The researchers took ethical considerations into account by informing the

participants about the purpose of the study, procedures to be followed and its
benefits to them as well as assuring them of the confidentiality of the
information they would provide. In qualitative research the informed consent of
participants is respected (Roache, 2014). In addition, participants were given
pseudonyms as a way of further enhancing confidentiality.

Trustworthiness and transferability

Various methods of data collection were used and the aim was to bring about a
balance and establish trustworthiness of the data due to this triangulation (Ely,
1991; Elliot et al 2011; Goodwin & Goodwin (1996). In addition, several sources
of data allowed transferability, so that the reader could decide whether or not
the existing setting is related to similar situations (Shenton, 2004).

Data presentation and analysis

The data was based on the interviews, document analysis and class observations
done in three junior secondary schools namely Boasa, Maareng and Nageng.
The interviewees comprised the deputy school head, RE teachers, focus groups
of RE students and parent representatives. Various issues emerged during
research that proved to be contributing factors towards declining academic
performance of students in RE. The issues included planning by teachers,
student-teachers ratios, syllabus coverage, parental involvement, in-service
training, and assessment skills, language of instruction, teaching pedagogy,
resources and students attitudes towards learning RE.

Planning by RE teachers
Planning as a fundamental requirement in teaching and learning entails the
organization of academic content into manageable units which comprise scheme
books, lesson planning and objectives derived from the syllabus document.
Scheme books were in line with the syllabus in terms of the objectives and were
divided accordingly to the weeks of the term. The record of what had been
covered was recorded fortnightly as well as the students marks for end of
month tests. Also, the lesson plan books were checked but some were not up to
date for example one belonging to Teacher A at Maareng Junior Secondary

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School (JSS). The lesson plan book for Form 1s contained three lesson plans each
from the three topics schemed for the term yet in her record of work she had
covered twelve specific objectives. However, this was not the case at Boasa and
Nageng JSS since the lesson plans were up to date and were consistent with
what was in the teachers booklets for lesson planning. In addition, the schemes
of work of these RE teachers at the two schools were consistent with the syllabus

The information in the three documents namely the syllabus, scheme of work
and lesson planning booklets should correlate in order to enhance students
learning and achievement of the syllabus and teaching objectives. If these
documents do not link as it was the case at Maareng JSS then it would show that
the planning was haphazard. This in itself may affect instructional delivery as
well as learning and could eventually impact negatively on students academic
achievement. For example, the end of February results for Form 1s at Maareng
JSS indicated poor results as there was a mere 5% quality pass which is 60%
and above. On the other hand where there was an alignment of these documents
the results tended to be good. For instance, end of February tests results in Boasa
showed an improvement in results since there was 28% quality pass, 61%
quantity pass, which is 40% and above and lower 11% fail.

With regard to planning, there was incongruence between what should have
been covered and what the teacher had covered at Maareng JSS. It had surfaced
that the Form 3s at Maareng were still doing Form 2 content work and this
showed that the teacher had not organized the content well against the time
allocated. At the same school, poor planning was not only evident in the
available documents but it was also highlighted by students during interviews.
This is what Tebogo one Form 3 student had to say concerning this issue:

We are behind with the syllabus and the teacher asks us to go

and read on some topics at home which is difficult for some of

Thato added by saying; Our teacher skips some topics and asks us to bring CDs
for him to download notes for us and this is difficult because not everyone can
afford those CDs. The learners responses reflect that the teacher does not care
as he compromises planning by shifting his daily lesson preparation
responsibility to students. It is the responsibility of the teacher, when they skip
topics, to make sure that all students access all the necessary information
without any limitations. At Nageng JSS it was a different case since the planning
was consistent with the time allocated for the term. For example, the Form 3s
had completed Term 1 content as per the scheme of work. Similarly, at Boasa JSS
there were also moving at the right pace with content coverage as planned for
the term. In essence, in these three schools some teachers took seriously the
responsibility of planning which is an important component of both teaching
and learning which need not be neglected.

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Challenges faced by teachers in teaching of RE

Teachers face a number of challenges in their daily classroom practice. From the
data collected, all the participants noted the shortage of textbooks and
classrooms for RE as a major challenge. Most of RE classes are not allocated
rooms and in most instances they move around during the lessons looking for a
vacant room. At Maareng JSS shortage of textbooks and classrooms for teaching
RE was identified as the major challenge. During the researchers visit for lesson
observation, it took close to 15 minutes for Teacher B to look for a vacant
classroom. Teacher C at Nageng JSS went on to say that; we who teach optional
subjects fight for classes, no one wants to teach outdoors especially when the
weather is bad like today.

Similarly, the challenge of shortage of books was echoed by both teachers and
students at Boasa JSS. For instance, there were no core texts for Form 2s whilst
the supplementary texts available were used as class sets. Teachers at Boas JSS
reported that the school internet was never working due to poor network hence
an over reliance on text books when searching for information. The students also
noted that there was lack of reference material even in the library and that led to
them failing to do some assigned tasks. Students said that they relied mainly on
the information that the teachers gave to them in class. For example one student,
Nametso at Boasa JSS said that when given homework there is nowhere to
research for answers and as a result they would come back to class blank
expecting the teacher to provide those answers for tasks that were meant to be
done by students.

At Nageng JSS like other two schools, there was shortage of resources especially
the core texts and computers as expressed by Teacher D that; computers are not
working at all and during computer lessons students stay in class and read. As
such students could not do research on the internet to improve their
understanding of the various concepts, and that classrooms were deemed

Parental involvement
Lack of parental involvement was identified as a major challenge at both Boasa
and Maareng junior secondary schools. The Deputy School Head at Maareng JSS
indicated that: There is no support from parents. They do not show up for
meetings or collect students reports. In addition to this, the PTA chairperson
Ms Taba at Maareng JSS explained that for the past three years she only met
Form 1 parents during orientation but not in subsequent terms and years, and
that fewer parents attended meetings called by the PTA. Similarly, at Boasa JSS
the PTA chairperson indicated that parents did not attend PTA meetings
consistently. For example, according to the PTA minutes at Boasa JSS for thepast
five years, less than two hundred parents out of one thousand students attended
a meeting each time it was called and that in one of the meetings, only one
hundred and eighty five parents attended. The Deputy School Head reiterated

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that; We are not happy with parents involvement in the school affairs as it is
not satisfactory.

Contrary to what was happening at Boasa and Maareng secondary schools, at

Nageng JSS parents were very supportive. For example, the Deputy School
Head said, Many parents bought their children the much needed books that are
not available here at school. Again, the PTA executive is very active because
they came up with various strategies on how to motivate the students such as
awarding badges for best student of the month per subject, prize-giving and
motivational talks at assemblies.

Teachers pedagogical skills and content knowledge

During lesson observation the teachers varied their teaching techniques, such as
question and answer, demonstration, class discussions and presentation and this
attributed to lively classrooms and hence motivated the students. For instance,
Teacher E at Boasa JSS used question and answer technique followed by
presentations and discussions and pair work when introducing the topic on
teachings about the responsibility of the rich towards the poor in Christianity
and Islam and the teacher concluded the lesson by giving students a class
exercise. At Nageng secondary school Teacher C taught the topic Personal and
Social Identity (Botswana Government, 2008), and he started by brainstorming,
question and answer followed by group discussions, group presentations and he
ended the lesson by summarizing it through a brief lecture. At Maareng Teacher
B used lecture, pair work and presentation when teaching about the Role of
religion in society. He concluded with question and answer to check students

From the observations made, if the teachers continue varying their teaching
methods and involving students, then learning could be fruitful and lead to
improvement in students academic performance. It was observed that the
student-centred techniques unearthed the abilities of learners since they actively
participated during class proceedings, and in addition the classroom
atmosphere was accommodative of the diverse contributions from students.

The religious jargon of the different religions posed a challenge to the teachers
and students because naturally each religion has its own concepts and
terminology. For instance, many students alluded that their parents were always
willing to help them with their assignments but the challenge was that they
lacked knowledge of world religions, apart from Christianity. At Nageng JSS, it
surfaced that teachers were biased towards Christianity, as it was given more
coverage and as a result other religious concepts were compromised as they
were not given much time. To illustrate this, Theo, a student, said; Our teacher
is biased towards Christianity and always gives more examples from it but not
much about other religions which makes it difficult for me to understand other

Teacher-student ratio

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Teachers complained of large classes even though their subject was an option.
For example, at Nageng JSS there were forty-five, thirty-five, and twenty-five
Form 1, Form 2 and Form 3 students per class respectively, while at Boasa JSS
there were forty-eight Form 1s, forty-five Form 2s, and forty Form 3s per class.
However at Maareng JSS the RE classes were much smaller compared to the
other two schools, with twenty-four Form 1s, thirty Form 2s and thirty-six Form
3s per class. These large classes can have an adverse impact in the teaching and
learning because individual student attention by the teacher could be
compromised and can also compromise the quality of marking scripts as well as
delaying feedback to students.

In- service training

Teachers mentioned lack of in-service training especially on the new syllabus as
a challenge. At Boasa and Nageng secondary schools teachers indicated that
though a new curriculum with it new approach was ushered in 2008 there were
no workshops that were conducted to induct in the new syllabus and that
affected their instructional delivery. For example, Teacher F at Nageng JSS said:

There was no in-service training offered by the Botswana

Examinations Council to update us on the new system of
marking and grading. We are just in the dark. The
government will wait until teachers are about to retire
and that is when they will be sent for further education.

Assessment skills of RE teachers

Assessment is viewed as an on-going process that measures how much learners
have understood a concept in relation to what would have been taught.
Drawing from the students exercise books across the forms, the assessment
done in class indicates that questions were mainly from the knowledge domain as
per Blooms taxonomy. Here are examples of a revision exercises from different

1. Mention two main features of mainline churches in Botswana.

2. Differentiate between doctrinal and experiential dimension.
3. Give two world religions found in Botswana.
4. Mention two ways in which people are exposed to world religions.

Based on the above questions it is evident that they are from one domain which
is knowledge which is a low level cognitive domain. There is need for questions
to be balanced in assessment to prepare students for what is expected of them in
the examination. Nevertheless, from the topics that the teacher picked questions
from, there were objectives that demanded high order cognitive skills such as
application and analysis but they were not included in the assessment. For
instance, the topic Christian denominations in Botswana, the specific objective
namely that the students should have Explored the impact of the existence of
many Christian denominations in Botswana is an application objective which
could have been included to balance the exercise. As for the end of month tests
the assessment for the three schools which is done by a group of schools referred

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to as cluster, covers more than one domain unlike class exercises, but still most
of the questions are from the knowledge category. This is illustrated by a Form 3
end of month test where students were asked to attempt the following question;

1. a) Define the following terms (Knowledge)

b) What are rites of passage? (Knowledge)
2. Case study questions
a) List rituals found in the case study above (Knowledge)
b) Outline three aspects that show the importance of birth rituals in Sikhism
c) Briefly describe what happens during the sacred thread ceremony in
Hinduism. (Comprehension)
3. Explain the significance of the following Hindu marriage rituals.
4. Differentiate between the Bar Mitzvah and the Bat Mitzvah in Judaism.
5. Interreligious marriages promote religious intolerance. Argue for or
against this statement. (Evaluation)
6. Discuss the beliefs and customs about life after death in ATR in
Botswana. (Evaluation)

From this test there are four knowledge questions, three comprehension and two
evaluation questions, therefore the test was not balanced in terms of the testing
of the cognitive domains. Application and synthesis are missing yet they play an
important role in checking understanding of content. The challenge here is that
teachers have not been trained in item writing as it surfaced from the interviews.
At Nageng JSS, a teacher Teacher G complained; We have never been trained in
item writing, mostly we depend on past exam papers standard and try to
emulate that when we set tests and exams. Similarly, Teacher E at Boasa JSS,
said that Most of the time we take our questions from text books and past
national examination papers. Hence teachers find themselves asking questions
based on only one type of domain and unconsciously ignoring others.

Students attitudes towards learning RE

Based on the findings of this study, the attitudes and study habits of most
students towards learning of RE is positive. At Nageng JSS, the students always
did their assigned homework and were very active in class presentations despite
the lack of computers to do research from. This was confirmed by teacher
Teacher G in saying that, The students are really committed to their work
because they always do assignments to my expectations. At Maareng JSS, the
students also mentioned their love for the subject though they face challenges
when assigned work as parents lack knowledge of RE. For example, Bame, a
student at Maareng, reiterated that; I like this subject very much but my
challenge is that my parents cannot assist me in RE like other subjects because
they do not understand it. Similarly, at Boasa JSS students would come back
from home with work undone because they could not get help since there was
no internet access and relevant textbooks. This was proven by Letso when she
said, I like RE that is why I chose it but the problem is that we do not have
textbooks to refer to when given homework so we struggle.

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Some students had negative attitudes and negative study habits towards
learning RE. For instance, at Boasa JSS, some students had no interest in
studying RE to a point where they did not do their assignments and even
disturbed the classroom proceedings. This was reflected by Malebogo when she
said; I do not like the subject because there are no text books and I come back
from home having not done my assignment. Also, Nonofo said that; There is
too much disturbance in the RE class due to use of face book which hinders
learning. This is an attitude to learning that can make learners see RE lessons as
places where they misbehave thus not conducive for learning and as such they
may lose interest in the subject leading to low academic performance.

The findings of the study revealed that teachers have relevant qualifications,
experience and knowledge of their subject area and as such adhere to the set
standards of the RE. It surfaced that some religious jargons were a barrier to the
effective teaching and learning of RE since teachers end up being biased towards
Christianity to explain concepts in other religions because they are largely
familiar with it. In addition, it was evident that teachers had limited skills in
assessment especially in item writing since they could not balance all domains as
is the expectation and this in turn had an impact in students academic
performance. The study also revealed that learner centred methods and
techniques motivated learners as they became actively involved in the learning
process and in that way enhancing their academic performance. It emerged that
where there was positive, constant and consistent parental involvement the
academic performance of the school in general was usually good. It can then be
concluded that the cooperation and collaboration between the parents and the
teachers is the key in improving academic results. In schools where parents are
actively involved, the schools academic performance is high whereas, in schools
where parents are less involved, the results are low.

Based on the findings the following recommendations were made:

There has to be coordination between the two Ministry of Education

departments namely the Department of Teacher Training &
Development and the Department of Curriculum Development and
Evaluation and the Botswana Examinations Council which is a
parastatal organisation responsible for assessment in Botswana primary
and secondary schools..
In service training for RE teachers in the pedagogy of the revised multi-
faith RE curriculum should be provided and has to be initiated by the
supervising department which is the Department of Teacher Training &
Development whilst the service is provided by the Department of
Curriculum Development and Evaluation.
Teachers need to balance the teaching of various religions rather than
over-emphasising on Christianity.
In service training for teachers in assessment should be provided in
order to sensitize teachers about issues of assessment and in particular

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


to issues of setting tasks, marking and grading them. The Department of

Teacher Training & Development should initiate the move whilst the
service should be provided by the Botswana Examinations Council.
Teacher pupil ratio should be revisited by the MOE so as to balance it
with staff and resources, in order to enhance attention for individual

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 84-111, November 2016

Research-Based Practices for Teaching Reading

in Elementary Classrooms: An Exploration of the
Instructional Practices of Former Elementary
Education Students
Jacquelyn Covault
Purdue University Northwest
Westville, Indiana

Abstract. This study explored the instructional reading practices of four

elementary teachers, who obtained their Bachelor of Arts in elementary
education and have been employed in public elementary schools for
nearly three years. The individuals were the researchers former
university students and had previously experienced classroom literacy
instruction in the use of research-based instructional practices within a
constructivist framework for teaching reading in a university methods
course and practicum.

Using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, this study explored

how these teachers knowledge about the use of research-based
instructional practices, or best practices, for teaching reading to children
influenced their classroom instruction, as well as what conditions
contributed to or inhibited their use. Through interviews and classroom
observations of the four teachers, data were analyzed to describe the
factors and dynamics that influenced these teachers choices for reading
instruction. In particular, this study explored whether or not these
teachers were implementing the research-based practices for teaching
reading that were a large part of their university training in their teacher
preparation program, and what may have helped or hindered them
from doing so. The classroom teachers described their beliefs regarding
how reading should be taught, what influenced these beliefs, how they
taught reading, the support or lack of support from their administrators,
the pressure they felt from district- and state-mandated assessments of
their students, and their sense of self-confidence as teachers. Results of
this study indicated that when teachers have a firm understanding of
what constitutes research-based practices for teaching reading, and
when these beliefs are in-sync with their administrators and school
districts beliefs, they are given the support they need to teach according
to their beliefs and experience greater autonomy in their
implementation of reading instruction, and the use of best practices.
Additionally, it was found that teachers who experienced the autonomy
to teach according to their beliefs experienced a larger degree of self-
confidence in their teaching abilities and found more joy in teaching
than those who did not. Lastly, it was found that if schools focuses
solely on the continual assessment of isolated reading skills, they create

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teachers who are inhibited from using what they know about good
teaching practices and whose main focus becomes teaching for the sake
of their students success in passing tests (Covault, 2011).

The recognition and discussion of effective reading instruction and the
significance of using research-based practices for teaching reading and writing
continue to emerge in scholarly circles as topics of great concern in the
educational arena today. There have been many debates about teachers
practices and the need to be certain that all children are learning. The question
of how they teach reading as well as what they teach has created pressure for
teachers as they strive for answers to help resolve their students reading
difficulties (Allington, 2002). In addition, legislative efforts and policies that
inevitably affect teachers practices by mandating that school districts find
instructional practices to improve reading skills, remain at the forefront of
educational debate among policy makers in the United States today (Deshler, &
Cornett, 2012). This has been, and continues to be, the focus of concern for
policy makers, teacher educators, administrators, teachers, and parents. This is
not a new concern or focus for the nation; rather, it has been a topic of discussion
since the beginning of formal education in this country.

Theoretical Framework and Literature Review

What are research-based practices? Calhoun (1994) reported that the use of the
particular term research-based practices causes some difficulty, because in the past
it has been applied and given equal weight to practices that vary considerably in
their scientific rigor. Daniels and Bizar (2005) also pointed out that the term is
ill-defined because of the many names used for good teaching, or what they
termed best practice. For example, exemplary, state-of-the-art, research-based,
proficient, standards-based, instructional efficacy, and teaching for engagement are all
terms used as synonyms for best practice. However, in their research on
research-based practices, or what they choose to instead call best practices,
Daniels and Bizar (2005) affirmed,
Best Practices does mean something, something very concrete and
particular, and something well-worth defending. It is not at all
vague. Genuine Best Practices embraces certain educational ideas
and activities and clearly rule others out. It has a deep basis in
research, in the study of child development and learning, in the
history and philosophy of American (and world education, and
has had a long and distinguished pedigree manifested through a
limited and distinctive set of classroom practices (p. 11).

Adding to this stance, Hempenstall (1997), pointed to many national studies

conducted with regard to defining best practices in reading instruction. This
definition, can also be found in the standards documents published by many of
the nations major professional associations, such as the International Reading
Association (IRA), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
(NBPTS), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and the National
Reading Panel (NRP), to name just a few (Daniels &Bizar, 2005).

Daniels and Bizar (2005) helped to define what good teaching or best practices
looked like in each school subject field. They identified seven key best practices
garnered from more than 60 years of research, some of which they had
documented in their previous works (Zemelman, Daniels, & Bizar, 1998, 1999).
These seven practices, which they consider to be the foundation of good
instruction, are given many different names, but based on their research and
observations they have defined them as reading as thinking, representing to
learn, small-group activities, classroom workshop, authentic experiences,
reflective assessment, and integrative units (Daniels & Bizar, 2005, p. 10). These
key practices are reflected in instruction that is student-centered,
developmentally appropriate, experiential, collaborative, and constructivist.
The converse of this is instruction that requires the students to take a passive
role in their learning. In this case, the teacher is the sole means of instruction
and the class is totally under her direction. A major influence is also the
emphasis of learning facts and figures by rote memorization and standardized
tests are used for determining learning.

For the purpose of this study, research-based practices were defined as practices
that are the result of reading research that has been conducted and extended
over several months or years; where there is evidence the study has been
grounded in solid research and that sound research methodology has been
applied; where reading research reports have been published in peer-reviewed
journals, and there is evidence of student-gain from the use of research-based
reading practices (Allington, 2002; Daniels & Bizar, 2005; Darling-Hammond,
2006; Dorn, French, & Jones, 1998; Gambrell, Morrow, & Pressley, 2007;
Robinson, Shore, & Enersen, 2007, Tompkins, 2014). The best practice strategies
specifically looked for when observing teachers reading instruction, were a
compilation of research-based practices advocated by the aforementioned
authors (Table 1).

Table 1

Research-Based Reading Strategies and Their Implementation in My Teaching


National Reading Panel Research-Based Accomplished Through Modeling and

Practices Taught to Students in My Giving Students the Opportunity to
University Reading Class (NRP, 1999). Engage in Activities that Involve
(Tompkins, 2006):

Using and experimenting with lots of Using and experimenting with lots
oral language of oral language
Phoneme manipulation (identifying, Wordplay (including wordplay
categorizing, blending, substituting, books, songs, nursery rhymes,
deleting) of phonemes to form words poetry, riddles)
Segmenting of sounds in a word and Sound activities (matching,

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


segmenting a word into its constituent isolation, blending, addition,

sounds substitution, deletion, and
Manipulating onsets and rimes in segmentation of sounds)
words Group activities
Individual Instruction
Connecting reading to writing
Allowing children to develop at
their own rate

National Reading Panel Research-Based Accomplished Through Modeling and

Practices Taught to Students in My Giving Students the Opportunity to
University Reading Class (NRP, 1999). Engage in Activities that Involve
(Tompkins, 2006):

Letter identification Singing the alphabet song

Identifying, blending and combining Learning letters in their own names
sounds to form words and their friends names
Teaching Analytic, Synthetic, Embedded, Blending or combining sounds for
and Analogy Phonics decoding words
Teaching phonics through spelling Making words with blends,
Manipulation of onsets and rimes digraphs, diphthongs, short and
Phonics generalizations and their utility long vowels, words that follow
word patterns (cv, cvc, cvce)
Sorting objects and pictures by
beginning and ending sounds
Locating and choosing words that
demonstrate different phonic
Game-like activities such as
arranging groups of magnetic letters
or letter cards to spell words or
creating word sorts on the basis of
spelling patterns
Reading books with many
phonetically regular words
Writing alphabet and other books
with phonetically regular words
Connecting phonics instruction to
spelling words by making charts of
words representing spelling
patterns and other phonics
generalizations and encouraging
children to use invented spelling
Allowing them to see that phonics
generalizations and their percentage
of utility vary greatly
Explicit Instruction, mini-lessons,
and making use of teachable
Writing independently and

National Reading Panel Research-Based Accomplished Through Modeling and

Practices Taught to Students in My Giving Students the Opportunity to

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


University Reading Class (NRP, 1999). Engage in Activities that Involve

(Tompkins, 2006):

Practice in guided and independent oral Orally and silently reading and
and silent reading using a wide variety rereading a wide variety of both
of instructional materials informational and expository text
Providing students with one-on-one Guiding and providing students
feedback about their reading with one-on-one feedback about
their reading
Reading while listening (practicing
reading along with a tape recorded
Readers Theater and other
dramatic presentations
Reading expressively varying and
improving their reading speed
Vocabulary, sight, high frequency
and technical words in expository
and informational text
Using word walls to extend
Phrasing and chunking of words
Modeling and using Guided

National Reading Panel Research-Based Accomplished Through Modeling and

Practices Taught to Students in My Giving Students the Opportunity to
University Reading Class (NRP, 1999). Engage in Activities that Involve
(Tompkins, 2006):

Teaching vocabulary both explicitly and Introducing and discussing words

implicitly in rich contexts before, during and after reading
Making connections to students prior Making connections to students
knowledge background knowledge
Using multiple instructional methods to Being given opportunities to read
allow students to have multiple and both orally and independently
repeated exposure to vocabulary words from expository and informational
Promoting wide reading text and to be read to from these as
Using learning activities that help
students learn new vocabulary
words and their meanings, words
in context, and context clues
Higher- level word knowledge
Choosing words to study from
books or units of study
Highlighting and using words on
word walls
Learning polysyllabic words,
multiple meanings of words, using
Latin and Greek root words and
affixes, word histories and
figurative meanings of words
Learning individual words,
vocabulary concepts and word-

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learning strategies
Teaching using mini lessons to
introduce a topic, present
information, provide structured
practice, and review and
application activities
Using dictionaries and thesauri
during mini lessons and other
word study activities
Creating word posters, word maps,
word sorts and chains
Dramatizing words

National Reading Panel Research-Based Accomplished Through Modeling and

Practices Taught to Students in My Giving Students the Opportunity to
University Reading Class (NRP, 1999). Engage in Activities that Involve
(Tompkins, 2006):

Teaching using multiple method Developing background

strategies for comprehension knowledge with books, videos,
Teaching students to work and hands-on materials
cooperatively in groups Using anticipation guides to
Teaching using both direct instruction activate background knowledge
and teachable moments with K-W-L charts, quick-writes,
Teaching students to tap into their prior and discussions
knowledge and make predictions Making predictions
before, during, and after reading Preparing, using, and completing
Teaching students to make text-to-text, graphic organizers
text-to-self, and text-to-world Reading aloud using independent,
connections guided, and shared reading as well
Teaching students to answer teacher as reading to partners
questions and receive immediate Modeling reading strategies
feedback Monitoring students use of
Teaching students or organize their strategies
ideas and make graphic organizers Using think-alouds
Teaching students how to figure out Discussing the text in a grand or
unknown words by using phonic instructional conversation
analysis, analogies, syllabic and Writing in reading log or journals
morphemic analysis, context clues, and Using drama to reenact a story
or to skip over unknown words Rereading and retelling the text
Teaching students how to visualize Using story boards to sequence
words by creating mental pictures events in a text
Teaching students to discuss, elaborate, Teaching reading lessons on
revise, monitor and reflect, and reading strategies and skills, the
summarize what they are reading or structure of texts (plot, cause and
have read effect), and about the author or
Teaching students to identify important genre
ideas in a story or passage Making open-minded portraits
Teaching students how to ask questions Examining selected sentences and
about what they are reading paragraphs in the texts
Teaching students about story structure Creating projects to deepen their
to help them recall story content in understanding of what they have
order to answer questions about what read
they have read Reading other books on the same
Teaching students about topic

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comprehension in the context of specific Comparing related books or book

academic areas, such as social studies and film versions
Teaching students to evaluate and give Writing reports and other books on
their opinions on a story or passage the same topic

A Conceptual Framework for Teaching Reading

This study utilized a constructivist framework for teaching reading. A general
view of a constructivist theory of learning is grounded in the work of two well-
known learning theorists, Piaget (1973) and Vygotsky (1978). Although both
theorists agreed that knowledge is constructed by individuals, they differed by
the role they give to social/verbal interaction during learning. Constructivist
and social constructivist theories of learning provided the framework for the
basis of this study.

Constructivist philosophy specifically maintains an emphasis on contextual and

reflective thinking and practice. It has powerful implications for teacher
educators, pre-service teachers, and practicing teachers. Constructivist teachers
see themselves as facilitators of knowledge and believe their role is to challenge
students to rethink and reevaluate their current schema to help scaffold them to
the next level of understanding (Piaget, 1985). Constructivist teachers believe
that learning is based upon ones prior knowledge, and because everyones
background of knowledge differs it cannot be assumed that all children learn in
the same manner, or by the same methods (Piaget, 1985). Constructivist teachers
know that in order to facilitate childrens learning, they may need to construct
different learning experiences for children to help them move to their next level
of understanding, and that these learning experiences should include large
amounts of time and opportunities to collaborate and engage in dialogue, as
well as to reflect on these experiences.

Teachers who follow a constructivist framework engage their students in

problem-oriented activities and use instructional strategies to help students
build good mental models of problems they are working to solve. They also
create rich learning environments where the primary source of information is
not the textbook (Allington & Johnston, 2002). They use cooperative or
collaborative groups for helping children to learn, invite children to learn
through exploration, and advocate authentic assessment methods to evaluate
students progress. Constructivist teachers use these theories when they teach
phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and fluency, but they also know that
simply focusing on these areas is not enough (Allington, & Johnston, 2002,
Allington, 2006, Beck & Beck, 2012, Brady, 2011, Carreker, 2011). They know
that constructivist methods also help to foster students oral language and
critical thinking skills as well (Chard, Pikulski, & McDonagh, 2012, De Naeghel,
Van Keer, Vansteenkiste, & Rosseel, 2012). The constructivism framework was
the framework taught to all study participants during their pre-professional
university experience. It was expected that they would use constructivist
methods when teaching reading in their own classrooms.

This study utilized Vygotskys (1978) theory of social constructivism as well.

Vygotsky advocated that learning is socially constructed, viewed as an active

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and constructive task, and what is learned is viewed as subjective. According to

Vygotsky, learning occurs in social, historical, cultural, and political contexts
mediating the ways in which individuals process information. Vygotsky (1978)
viewed an individuals development as a process of active adaptation of the
cultural environment coupled with the use of language and social interactions
within that social context. He asserted that language is the precursor to
developing cognition, and learning is socially mediated. It is the process of
meaningful dialogue between learners in social and cultural contexts through
which thought, problem solving, and language processes and patterns are
internalized by learners. He suggested that meanings are first constructed in
context and then through many experiences are gradually restructured until
they are similar to conventional meanings. Individuals take everyday concepts
and add to and refine their meaning through their daily experiences. Through
mediation by a knowledgeable other, one internalizes problem-solving strategies
(Wertsch, 1991).

In social constructivist classrooms, students are typically put in situations where

there are lots of opportunities to interact with one another. The main premise is
that learning is socially constructed. In these classrooms, much learning occurs as
groups of learners dialogue with each other and work together. It is in literacy
instruction in these classrooms that children are able to move around the room
as they engage in dialogue, read, and learn with one another. There is a great
deal of emphasis on conversation and discussion of texts as students strive to
make themselves be understood and to understand others. When children are
given the opportunity to both articulate and reflect on what they already know,
they are engaging in both social and verbal interactions and in turn become
active participants in the process of problem solving. Teachers who use
responsive teaching practices teach students during all phases of reading, using
before, during, and after reading teaching strategies. The purpose of this is to
discuss with students the connections they have made with the text they have
read. When discussing a text, student responses are encouraged by the teacher
and the teacher is present to help students make connections with all they have
read. Throughout the before, during, and after phases of reading, students are
encouraged to make text-to-self, and text-to-world connections (Clay, 1991; Dorn
et al., 1998, Keene & Zimmermann, 2007).

As to a learners formal education with issues of reading and writing, Vygotsky

(1978) concluded that reading and writing must have a necessary and authentic
purpose, as students learn best when the assignments in which they are engaged
are based on something that they feel they need to do or learn, rather than those
that are generated entirely by the teacher. He theorized that learning is born
from intensely personal, human social processes (Vygotsky, 1978).

As suggested in the previous review, the constructivist/social constructivist

models of teaching are in direct contrast to the traditional or transmission model
of teaching. In this study, participants were taught both constructivist and social
constructivist theory, and all work completed during their university
coursework (lesson plans, etc.) were expected to reflect these theories.

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


Reading Instruction and the Teachers Role

In todays educational climate there is a large degree of focus on teacher reform
as well as on accountability for educators and teacher educators, with particular
attention on how teachers teach reading to their students. There have been
myriad debates about teaching practices as researchers and educators discuss
whether or not the opportunities children have for learning reading at home
fosters their learning or creates a disconnect between what is learned at home
and then at school, whether phonics should or should not be explicitly and/or
systematically taught, whether basal readers should be given up for literature-
based instruction, whether heterogeneous grouping versus homogeneous
grouping should be used, and whether direct instruction methods are better
than discovery methods of teaching. Is there a right way to teach reading? What
knowledge does past research offer about successful learning environments,
methods, and practices for helping children to learn to read?

What is known is that a preschoolers early home experiences with literacy plays
a critical role in learning to read (Clay, 1991; Cox & Sulzby, 1982; Fang & Cox,
1999; Purcell-Gates, Duke, & Martineau, 2007); the characteristics and role of the
classroom teacher have a profound effect on student learning (Allington, 2002;
Darling-Hammond, 2006); and using research-based or best practices for teaching
reading to students helps them to become successful readers and writers
(Gambrell et al., 2007). Many preschoolers experiences with reading begin in
their early years well before they enter school and prior to any formal reading
instruction. Research has shown that during this emergent stage of reading,
when children experience reading development in the home, it offers them the
opportunities to effectively bridge the divide between home and school literacies
which in turn enhances their own reading development (Clay, 1991; Cox &
Sulzby, 1982; Fang & Cox, 1999; Purcell-Gates & Duke, 1993).

In addition to the importance of early literacy learning in the home environment,

it was found that one of the most important variables in childrens learning is
the classroom teacher. Research has shown that teachers who teach reading
using research-based practices have higher gains in student achievement in
reading (Allington, 2002; Daniels & Bizar, 2005; Darling-Hammond, 2006; Dorn
et al., 1998; Gambrell et al., 2007). It is the classroom teacher to whom one looks
for student success, and anticipate that they have an understanding of how
children acquire literacy skills.

The recognition of the importance of the classroom teacher in helping children

acquire reading skills, and the methods of teaching reading using research-based
instructional practices provided the motivation for this study. As a result of an
exploration of effective research-based instructional practices for teaching
reading, the researcher drew upon these practices in university reading courses
by teaching and modeling them for students. This is important because these
are the tenets that impact students reading instruction in their own classrooms.
In short, this study helped to determine if the practices the students were being

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


taught in a university reading course were indeed being implemented in their

own classrooms when they began teaching.

Research Questions
1. What research based reading practices, if any, do graduates of a small
Midwestern university teacher preparation program, actually implement
when they are teaching young children to read and write?
2. What perceived barriers to using research-based reading practices in their
classrooms do the study participants illuminate, and how do they overcome
those barriers?

Approach to the Study. This research study utilized a mixed-methods,
hermeneutic-phenomenological, case study approach to determine four
teachers instructional practices for teaching reading. This study explored
whether or not the teachers used the research-based instructional practices they
had learned in a literacy methods course and the reasons why they may or may
not have chosen to not teach using these particular instructional practices. The
study also explored the perceived barriers to using research-based practices to
teach reading, and how those barriers were overcome. Phenomenology was
explained through teacher interviews, discussions with teachers, email
communications, classroom observations, and document analysis. Data were
analyzed to describe the factors and dynamics that influenced these teachers
choices, the relationship between their knowledge of the use of research-based
practices for teaching reading, their implementation in actual classroom practice,
and the conditions or factors that impacted the instructional practices they used.
In particular, this study explored whether or not these teachers were
implementing the research-based practices for teaching reading that were a large
part of their university training in their teacher preparation program.

A phenomenological approach, according to Creswell (2013), describes the

common meaning for several individuals of their lived experiences of a concept
or a phenomenon (p. 47-48). For this particular study, questions were
developed that sought to investigate ones experience of teaching reading to
children and how this occurred in teachers classrooms. Data were collected
from the teachers experiencing this phenomenon through engaging them in
lengthy interviews, and each teachers instructional reading practices were
observed for a period of forty hours. During data analysis, specific themes or
units were identified to describe how each teacher experienced the
phenomenon, and last, the study ended with an attempt to delineate and
synthesize the data picture so the reader may be able to better understand the
teachers experiences.

Creswell (1998) argued that in order to understand and analyze

phenomenological data there must be a method to reduce the data in order for
the researcher to analyze and explore specific statements and themes. It is

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


through this method of reduction and analysis that the researcher is able to
explore and examine all probable meanings. Moustakas' (1994) study also
provided thorough recommendations for the researcher to maintain a balance
between what one views as subjective and objective findings. Moustakas
emphasized that "establishing the truth of things" (p. 57) begins and ends with
the perceptions of the researcher. Creswell also emphasizes the work of van
Manen (1990) and stated, The basic purpose of phenomenology is to reduce
individual experiences with a phenomenon to a description of the universal
essence wherein van Manen describes this as (a grasp of the very nature of the
thing, p. 177).

Hermeneutics and Phenomenology. Hermeneutics, originating from the

god Hermes, is the practice of revealing and interpreting, as did Hermes in his
role as divine messenger and interpreter. Hermeneutic phenomenology stresses
the human experience and how it is lived in the world. It focuses on exploring
and revealing details and perceived inconsequential properties within
experiences that we pay no particular attention to in our lives. The goal of
hermeneutic phenomenology is to establish meaning and understanding
(Wilson & Hutchinson, 1991). It is through a hermeneutic lens that one aims to
understand the process of understanding. In this process, language plays a
crucial role as it is a fundamental way in which humans understand the world
and share their perspectives with others (Birsh, 2011). Furthermore, it is this
emphasis on language that supports the distinction between scientific thinking
and hermeneutical reflective thinking.

In a phenomenological study, the researcher first has to identify a phenomenon.

After the phenomenon is identified, the researcher must gather data from those
involved with it, and then must analyze and describe the fundamental nature or
the crux of the experience. According to Moustakas, 1994, This description
describes what the individuals experienced as well as how they experienced it
(as cited in Creswell, 2013, p. 76). Creswell, acknowledged the value of the
research in phenomenology by other researchers such as Dukes (1984), Tesch
(1990), Giorgi (1985, 1994, 2009), Polkinghorne (1989), and Moustakas (1994),
supported Moustakass (1994) approach for conducting phenomenological
research as desirable because it has systematic steps in the data analysis
procedures and guidelines for assembling the textual and structural
descriptions (as cited in Creswell, 2013, p. 80).

Participants. Purposeful criterion sampling was used for this study.

According to Creswell (2013), when conducting phenomenological research for a
case study, no more than four to five case studies should be included in a single
study. In addition, Creswell believed that criterion sampling works well for this
type of research if all of the individuals being studied are those who have
experienced the same phenomenon. Aiming ones focus on just the site or the
individuals being studied is not enough. The researcher must also explore and
collect a wide range of details about each individual or site being studied.

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


Four teachers, Jana, Lindsay, Paige, and Sara (all pseudonyms) were
purposefully chosen to participate in this study, because they were students
previously taught by me in several reading courses in which best practices were
taught, and were graduates of a four-year teacher-training program at a mid-
western university. The individuals chosen were those who had grade point
averages of 3.5 or higher, were those of whom it was believed had the greatest
understanding of research-based reading practices, and understood and used
these practices while they were tutoring children during the field experience
components of my courses. All teacher participants were classroom teachers
who were nearing the end of their third year of teaching. Although all of them
were working as classroom teachers, each teacher had previous experience in
another grade level besides the grade in which they were currently teaching.
Two of the teachers taught in the same school corporation and same building;
one taught kindergarten, and the other taught fourth-grade. The other two
teachers both taught second grade in two different school corporations.

Three of the four teachers were viewed as school leaders, and were asked by
their principals and superintendents to work on various curricula initiatives,
chaired committees, served as team leaders of their grade level, attended
professional development conferences, and wrote several grants to obtain
funding for their schools. All four of the teachers were open to innovative
approaches to education and were eager to learn about new research in their
field. Their class sizes ranged from 22-35 students with the largest number of
students being in kindergarten. The kindergarten and the two second-grade
teachers each had a part time instructional aide; the fourth-grade teacher did
not. Each of the participants had some form of resource or instructional support
through a Title-I teacher, or a reading specialist. Although this studys
participant level was relatively low, it was due to the fact that in these students
cohort group only 15 students were enrolled. Out of the 15, only these four
students met the criteria. Each of the participants, through their discussions,
interviews, email communications, and explanations of why they chose
particular instructional strategies for teaching reading provided a lens through
which I was able to understand and interpret how and why they taught reading
as they did. These teachers were employed as full-time teachers in public
elementary schools and were from three different school corporations.

Data Collection
Teacher Interviews. Data were collected in the field over a four-month period
of time. Teacher interviews focused on five different areasteacher beliefs and
instructional practices about teaching reading, instructional planning and
implementation, learning outcomes for students following instruction, the
instructional beliefs of the school district (principals and superintendents) about
reading instruction, and the effects of the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB,
2002) on their teaching practices. Each teacher was asked the same series of 10
interview questions followed by the same prompts.

Classroom Observations. Following the interviews, each teacher was then

observed teaching reading and language arts in their classroom on five different

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


occasions over a four month period for a total of six hours each time equaling 30
hours of observation. This block of time also allowed for the integration of other
subject area matter that might have been studied at the time. For example, if the
life cycle of plants was studied in the afternoon science block, it might have been
integrated into the language arts block in the mornings language arts session as
well. Even though each observation took place during the teachers language
arts block, the observations ranged anywhere from 180 to 240 minutes per visit,
depending on the teachers schedule and grade level being observed.

Four standards of quality and verification recommended by Creswell (2003)

were used in this study. Rich, thick description of data, triangulation, member
checking and clarification of researcher bias provided for increased precision
and rigor of the results. Triangulation of the data allowed for the use of varied
and multiple sources to corroborate evidence. Member checking was performed
to derive the credibility of the findings, analyses and interpretations. Three
graduate students enrolled in a qualitative research course helped to code the
data collected from the teacher and principal interviews to ensure the reliability
of information and assisted in creating the themes analyzed for this study. In
addition, they engaged in discussions with me about the research questions and
teaching practices of each of the participants in the study. Written field notes
and transcriptions were sent to the teachers for verification.

Data Analysis. Data were analyzed by using simple frequency counts during
the hours of classroom observation each time a research-based reading practice
was seen being implemented. Each time a research-based reading practice was
used, it was tabulated to provide a percentage of use for each participant. Next,
significant themes from the teacher interviews, indicating what they knew about
research-based practices and how they used them in their teaching, were
generated. The research-based practices I looked for were listed in Table 1.
From the analyses of the data, three assertions were proposed.

Question 1. What research-based reading practices, if any, do graduates of a
small Midwestern university teacher preparation program actually implement
when they are teaching young children to read and write?

Based upon interviews with teachers and evidence from field notes and
observations, it was clear that Paige, Lindsay, and Jana were able to articulate
and demonstrate the meaning of research-based instructional practices and were
implementing those practices in their classroom reading instruction. Sara had a
much more difficult time articulating her idea of research-based practices for
teaching reading and, in addition, demonstrated fewer times that research-based
practices were implemented in her reading instruction. This is evident in the
responses that followed the question, How do your beliefs, well as what you
know about literacy instruction influence your creation of lessons plans and the
choices of instructional strategies and assessments you use? Following is a
brief synopsis of some of the responses of each participant:

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


Paige said, At the kindergarten level, I feel reading should encompass

everything they do in their daily lives. There are many opportunities to
experience literacy on top of reading books. Lindsay responded, Working
with kids at their instructional level, not the independent but the instructional
level, where you could still help them and theyre not so struggling that theyre
stressed out and not wanting to learn it. Jana stated, I first think that children
who are surrounded by literacy, and are read to, strive in reading.

Sara, who it was thought had a solid grasp of research-based instructional

strategies for teaching reading, could not adequately and clearly express what
research-based strategies are and how they were used in her classroom. It is
uncertain why this was so, especially in light of the fact that during her time in
her literacy methods course as well as during her student teaching practicum,
she was observed implementing many research-based practices in her
instruction. She was not a student who simply talked the talk. She could
walk the walk as well. In addition, while observing some research-based
practices were implemented in her reading instruction, they were less frequent
and more random. Sara responded,
I think best practices changes so much. Because best practices for
me last year, is nothing like what best practice is for me this year.
Because my kids are so different. To me best practice is whatever
works in your classroom at that time with those children. I may go
back to using Four-Block at some time if I know that works well
with a group. I just think its such a fluid thing; I mean it changes;
it doesnt mean the same thing.

Paige, Lindsay, and Jana were able to clearly articulate actual research-based
practices they used in their teaching including modeling reading aloud for
children, reading aloud to them at school and at home, the importance of
activating prior knowledge, the importance of meeting them at their
instructional level, exposure to print, creating lesson plans tailored to the
individual needs of students, and assessing their instructional needs. It was
evident that Sara did not have a clear understanding of what is meant by
research-based practices.

Teacher interview data showed 143 citations which indicated their

understanding of the meaning and use of research-based practices. Paige
demonstrated her understanding by mentioning and describing how she used
them 45 times (31%), Lindsay, 46 times (32%), and Jana, 43 times (30%), and Sara
only nine times (6%).

Of the four participants, Paige, Lindsay, and Jana used, and were more
purposeful about using, research-based practices in their classroom reading
instruction than Sara. Paige, Lindsay, and Jana also viewed the teaching of
reading not as the teaching of a single subject area, but as one that should be
integrated with other subject areas throughout the day. Sara showed
significantly fewer instances of when and how she used these practices, and she
also could not justify why she chose the instructional practices she did. Her

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


choices of using research-based practices seemed to occur in a much more

haphazard manner without seeming to give much thought as to why she was
using the practices she had chosen. Sara also placed much more emphasis on
student assessment and the teaching and acquisition of specific skills, such as
phonics skills. This was apparent in her discussion and use of the number of
morning worksheets she assigned to her students each day, which reviewed
previous skills taught. She taught her class using only large group instruction
where every child was reading the same story out of the basal reader at the same
time, and she did not mention incorporating content from other subject areas.
Sara followed a much more traditional approach to teaching reading than the
other participants. In analyzing data of the 2,609 total occurrences from all of
the categories of research-based practices, (i.e. classroom environment,
classroom management, developmentally appropriate practices, and reading
practices for teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and
comprehension), Paige was witnessed using them 773 times (30%), Lindsay, 544
times (21%), and Jana, 898 times (34%) and Sara 394 times (15%) as shown in
Figure 1.

Total Research-Based Reading

Practices Used




Reading Strategies



Paige Lindsay Jana Sara

Figure 1. Participants use of research-based reading strategies.

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


Some of the research-based strategies they discussed during their interviews,

and were observed happening in their classrooms were strategies for activating
prior knowledge, scaffolding students knowledge, asking higher-level
questions, engaging students in dialogue with the teacher or their peers,
collaborating frequently with each other, making connections between their
reading and writing, engaging in both interactive reading and writing strategies,
and using different comprehension strategies such as making text-to-text, text-
to-self, and text-to-world connections. These strategies occurred much more
frequently in Paiges, Lindsays and Janas classrooms than they did in Saras
classroom. Saras classroom instruction consisted much more of practices such
as round-robin reading, total large group instruction, and a heavy reliance on the
teaching of skills and use of worksheets and workbook pages from the reading
curriculum adopted by the school.

Assertion 1. Pre-service teachers who are taught to teach reading in a

university teacher preparation program that emphasizes the use of research-
based instructional practices within a constructivist framework will use these
practices when they teach reading to students in their own classrooms.
However, if the expectations of the school administrators (principals and/or
superintendents) conflict with the teachers ideas of how reading should be
taught, and/or the teacher is intimidated by the environment in which he or she
teaches, (as appeared to be in Saras situation), they may succumb to the wishes
of the school district and teach in the manner that is expected of them (See
Assertion 2). When teachers experience this type of conflict, their use of
research-based instructional practices for teaching reading diminishes. In
addition, the self-confidence they possessed in regard to their teaching abilities
also is seen.

Question 2. What perceived barriers to using research based reading practices

in their classrooms do the study participants illuminate, and how do they
overcome those barriers?

Paige, Lindsay, and Jana were using research-based reading practices in their
classrooms as illustrated in the data clips of classroom observations in Question
2; however, there was a marked difference in Saras use of research-based
reading practices. Even though Sara said she was able to choose which
instructional practices to use, she was using far fewer research-based
instructional practices for teaching reading than the other participants and in a
much more random manner. Sara also placed a great deal of emphasis on the
standardized testing that was required by either the school district or the state.
All four teachers discussed that they felt pressure from the assessment
requirements of NCLB, but three teachers did not let it impact how they taught
reading and remained true to their beliefs about using research-based practices;
two of the three principals supported their teachers in their instructional choices.
In addition to the aforementioned field notes from classroom observations, data
clips from all four teachers interviews offer rationales for why they felt they
were able to use research-based reading practices or not.

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


Paige said,
Literacy groups are a strong program our school has been
implementing in kindergarten through second grade for several
years and has shown serious growth. Our principal sees the
importance and notices the programs success. That is very
comforting to me as a teacher who shares the same philosophy.
Teachers do have the flexibility to select the text that drives
instruction, so there is flexibility of book choice and reading
strategies to use for instructing the group.

Lindsay said,
I most definitely do not feel like my school district dictates or
prescribes the way I need to teach. I have the flexibility to teach
how I want to. . . When I talk to the principal he will ask what I
am doing to meet my students needs. As far as he is concerned if
our I-STEP scores are acceptable then we must be doing
something right. I really feel like he gives me the freedom to teach
reading how I think it should be taught.

Jana said,
We have guidance from our district as far as what to teach, but not
necessarily how to teach. They stress the importance of direct
instruction and really want us to not teach directly from the basal.
. . We have a committee that meets to pick out the reading series
that we will be using for the year, and as a second grade team, we
create direct instruction lessons and ways to help our struggling
readers and enrich our strong readers.

When asked, Is your school district committed to your professional growth?

How do they show this? Jana replied, Yes, we are given PLC (Professional
Learning Community) time which is an hour on Wednesdays to create direct
instruction lessons and discuss ways to improve our classroom. We are also
given daily common planning time. Sara said,
We have to teach, re-teach, and test, and re-teach and test, and re-
teach and test all of the, what we call, Power Indicators for
Reading, Language and Math. In order to meet the state
standards, a group (in the school corporation) got together and
said, O.K., these are the indicators; which ones do we want to put
emphasis on? And lets make up five tests for each one of these,
and we will continue to remediate and give the test until they
reach mastery, which is 80%. I feel like literacy gets lost in that.
Im teaching to these power indicators and its just not authentic.

When asked, So when you say youre teaching to these power indicators, are
you saying you have to follow the way its done in your basal, or are you saying
you can come up with your own things, but there isnt time? Sara replied,

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


Im saying the time element is not there, and what youre teaching
might teach them the concept, but the way that the test is made up
is just completely different. . . I dont know how to explain it. . .
Were teaching to these little tests. I guess its sort of like, We
dont care how you do it, but they just better pass these
assessments. They have sent us to a couple of professional
development workshops. They really seem to monitor us. We
have to send our students test scores to the superintendent each
week as far as how students are progressing on their mastery of
reading and math skills.

When asked to clarify with the following question, So, if I am understanding

you correctly, are you saying you could basically be testing somebody on
something every day, because theyre all at different points as far as the
indicators theyve mastered? Sara replied,
Yes. We test skills on someone every day. Because we move on as
a class, but I have to come back at some point to the indicators
(that the students havent mastered) and try to test them again.
And that doesnt mean that theyve mastered it. Just because they
can pass a test doesnt mean that they understand compare and
contrast. Theres got to be a better way. I dont know what it is
yet. But I think you get caught up in just the testing, and so you
sort of lose the teaching; you know, the authentic concept that
youre trying to do. District wide, there are certain things,
assessments that we have to do, like DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators
of Basic Elementary Literacy Skills) testing eight times a year,
STAR Reading and Math assessments three times a year,
Trimester Tests three times a year.

Sara was then asked, So do you feel that your view for how you should teach
literacy is the same or different from your districts view? Sara said,
Different! I would do it different than the state! We think our
district would probably get rid of Sustained Silent Reading as a
waste of time. They havent said that; its just sort of the feeling
that we get, because you could be testing or re-teaching.

When asked to clarify, How would you do it differently? Sara replied,

If you could just take maybe 10 really important concepts and
spend time and do some hands-on activities, or some in-depth
things with them instead of rushing through. . . I guess its sort of
like, We dont care how you do it, but they just better pass these
assessments. We are able to choose which instructional strategies
to use, you know, unless they see a problem. Im sure youd have
a visitor or someone checking up on you. . . The district decides
what assessments we use. There are the trimester exit exams I
mentioned. Then for every, we call them indicators, the
standards, power indicators, therell be tests. Therell be test A,
test B, test C, test D. Sometimes theres an E and an F. At one time

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


we all, every school, had to make up their own, an A and a B, um,

now theyre on-line, so I can go and look up [names another
school in the district] and see what assessments they use. But
theyre all from the same school. We also do DIBELS testing eight
times a year.
She was next prompted with, And, do these assessments, when you give those,
what do you do with the information you get from them? to which Sara
replied, They inform my instruction. The trimester tests are usually really
telling. . . I then asked, So, youre saying youre looking at their assessments,
and if they dont pass them, then you know youve got to come up with some
different type of a strategy? Sara replied,
Right. We have trimester exit tests for reading, language arts, and
math. Every week, we have to fill out a sheet [for the
superintendent] saying these are the strategies we are hitting this
week. They look at two things. They look at what were doing in
the classroom, and they also look specifically at what my goals are
for my students.

Teacher responses to the question, Do you feel pressure about giving

assessments, or do you feel like you are not pressured by them? differed. Jana
Because of state testing requirements for my students, I feel
pressured, but I dont feel that from my administrators. I think
they trust us to teach our students and know that we are doing
our best to educate them. The state tests are always in the back of
my mind, but I dont feel like they are driving how I teach.

Lindsay replied, There is tremendous pressure about I-STEP testing, but I dont
really feel this comes from the principal or the superintendent. I think it comes
from me. Paige said, There is always pressure to get students as far as one
can. Sometimes I feel the pressure is self-induced. I am really hard on myself
and just want the best for each and every student. Sara responded,
Yes, very pressured. For the last couple of years, as the year ends,
theyve (Administration) put this graph in our mailboxes where
theyve taken the four of us, teachers students reading scores and
compared them. They are just looking at the scores. Theyre not
looking at how much growth they made this year. Because the
district is pressured by the state, the district is just looking at test
scores. Were doing our best, but we feel the pressure.

Assertion 2. Teachers who have learned about using research-based practices

for teaching reading within a constructivist framework in their university
teacher preparation programs will not use them, or will use them less
frequently, when they feel pressured or intimidated by their school
administrators or school district to teach in ways that are in conflict with
what they believe about teaching; especially when they are directed to
continuously teach, test, re-teach, and retest discrete reading skills in
order to satisfy their districts assessment requirements. In addition,

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


teachers who feel that their teaching time is limited because of their
school districts emphasis on time spent on testing, will not use, or will
less frequently use research-based practices for teaching reading. When
teachers are fearful of repercussions by being held accountable for their
students performance on various assessments, they will not use, or use
less frequently, research-based instructional practices for teaching
reading. This environment of fear also causes them to experience little joy
in teaching. When teachers are supported by their administrators and
school districts to teach children using what they know about research-
based practices, they will implement these practices in their classrooms,
and are less likely to teach to the attainment of discrete skills.

The triangulation of data showed an educationally important

correspondence between the teachers feelings of self-confidence and how
they were teaching reading, and the expectations and culture of the
school in which they were employed. The data showed that only three of
the four teachers used more research-based practices during their
classroom instruction and that one used very few of these practices. It
showed that even though all four teachers felt pressured by the
assessment requirements of the No Child Left Behind act, three of the
four teachers did not let it impact their use of research-based practices,
and they remained true to their beliefs and use of them.

Findings. The results of this study provide insights into and reveal how four
teachers taught reading to their students and the types of practices they
implemented in their classroom environments. The discussion that follows is
organized according to the studys two research interviews and classroom
observations of teachers reading instruction, and are as follows:

1. One of the most important observations was that when teachers have a firm
understanding of what constitutes research-based practices for teaching
reading, and when these beliefs match and are in-sync with their
administrators and school districts beliefs, teachers are given the support
they need to teach according to their beliefs. Thus, they experience greater
autonomy in their implementation of reading instruction.
2. A second observation was that teachers who experience the autonomy to
teach according to their beliefs have a greater sense of self-confidence in their
teaching abilities and find more joy in teaching than those who do not.
3. A third observation was that schools whose main focus is on the continual
assessment of discrete reading skills create teachers who are inhibited from
using what they know about good teaching practices, whose sense of self-
confidence as teachers and joy in teaching is diminished, and whose main
focus becomes teaching for the sake of their students success in passing

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


Results of the study confirmed that teachers who are taught using research-
based practices for teaching reading can and do implement them in their
classroom practice. However, it must be said that of the four teachers who
participated in the study, only three of the four did this in an exemplary fashion.
The fourth teacher used some research-based instructional practices in her
teaching, but these were not implemented nearly to the extent of the other three.
Three of the four teachers frequently and systematically, used many of the
research-based instructional practices they had learned in their teacher
preparation program. They supported their use of research-based practices for
teaching reading with research-based practices for creating and maintaining a
classroom environment that focused upon creating a community of learners.
These teachers worked to ensure that they incorporated literacy as part of their
entire day and created an environment where many materials were available for
their children to experience challenging activities, choice, social interaction, and
success. The children in these three teachers classrooms also had many
opportunities to work independently and to engage in dialogue and work
collaboratively with their peers. These teachers worked to engage and motivate
their students, were excited about teaching and learning, and held high
expectations for them.

These teachers successfully implemented these practices by placing a large

emphasis on how they managed their classrooms. They established routines for
themselves and their students and followed them. They also possessed very
good organizational and management skills and used them daily. Interactions
with their students were kind and respectful and they worked at building and
establishing rapport with and among them. They modeled and taught this kind
of behavior and encouraged their students to treat others well.

The teachers showed that they understood the developmental learning stages of
literacy and were able to provide their students with developmentally
appropriate, meaningful, and varied learning experiences at their level. They
created differentiated lessons based on their students needs, interests, and
learning styles and then utilized one-on-one, small group and large group
instruction in their teaching. These teachers were concerned with the whole child
by being cognizant and responding to their social, emotional, and intellectual

In the teaching of reading, they worked to carry out meaning-based literacy

instruction, and to give their students many experiences with reading. They
incorporated the use of authentic texts in order to motivate their students
interest. In order to foster their students development in reading, they also
incorporated a program of skills development that focused on the areas of
phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency, and
provided specific skills instruction to meet students individual needs. They
utilized a long, uninterrupted time period for teaching literacy, and integrated
their language arts curriculum with different content areas. Reading was
extended into all different kinds of classroom activities and incorporated
throughout the day as well. They focused on helping their students develop

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listening, speaking, reading, writing, and viewing skills. As previously stated,

Table 1 listed the instructional practices they were taught in their university
methods course and used in their classroom instruction.

One of the four teachers used some of the research-based practices for teaching
reading she had learned in her university courses, however, the percentage of
occurrence was much lower than the other three teachers. Data from the teacher
interviews, as well as notes from the observations I conducted in her classroom
indicated that this teacher felt a great deal of pressure from her principal, the
superintendent, and the school district in making certain her students performed
well on district and state-mandated assessments. This teacher also had to
administer many more tests to her students throughout the semester than did
the other teachers in the study. Knowing that teacher accountability rated very
highly in her district, and that she was responsible for sending weekly progress
reports and goals for her students to her superintendent to ensure they had met
specific benchmarks and district and state-standards resulted in increased
pressure for her to continuously teach, test, re-teach and retest her students. She
felt that the pressure to be accountable for having her students master discrete
skills caused her to abandon most of what she knew about how children learn
best and caused her to teach using mostly large group, direct-instruction and a
skills-driven approach. In essence she felt she was, and appeared to be,
teaching to a test. This teacher also indicated her loss of a sense of joy about
teaching and a diminishing sense of her feelings of self-confidence. The culture
of the school environment impacted this teachers ability to teach using what she
knows about research-based practices. If she were to teach in a school
environment similar to the other three teachers, the outcomes for her may have
proved different.

Prior research on teacher education has found that teachers come to the
classroom with inherent beliefs about students, teaching and learning, that affect
the teaching practices they implement in their own classrooms. This research
has shown that there is a clear relationship between what teachers believe about
teaching and learning, and how they put these beliefs into practice. This
research suggests that teachers tend to teach the way they were taught unless
their university coursework strives to address their preconceptions about
teaching (Fang, 1996; Borko & Putnam, 1996; Bransford, Brown, & Cocking,
1999; Britzman, 1986; Darling-Hammond, 2006; Fosnot, 1996; Jackson, 1974;
Kennedy, 1999; Lortie, 1975; Munby, Russell, & Martin, 2001; Schweiker &
Schweiker, 1993; Smith & Rhodes, 2006). Prior research also indicated a
relatively strong correlation between what teachers believe about reading and
their instructional practices. The manner in which teachers teach reading has a
direct connection to their belief system. This belief system influences the manner
in which they plan their lessons, which in turn directly affects their students
learning (Cheek, Steward, Laureny, & Borgia, 2004; Richardson, Anders,
Tidwell, & Lloyd, 1991). Although this correlation may be accurate, one teacher
in this study, Sara, contradicted those findings. Interviews and classroom
observations confirmed this. Even though she originally believed that using a

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


constructivist approach to helping children learn to read produced successful

outcomes, her beliefs were severely challenged when she became a member of a
school environment whose mandates contradicted her beliefs. There was a
definite difference of opinion between Saras beliefs about using research-based
reading practices and her schools. This difference of opinion hindered Sara in
implementing what she knew about using research-based practices because it
caused her to feel threatened if she did not do so. This threat, either real or
perceived, caused her to teach using methods that she did not really believe in.
Knowing that you would receive a visitor if your students test scores were
not up to par was a very real motivation for her to teach in the manner in which
she did. This may have been the reason that caused her to teach using
instructional approaches she did not believe were the best for her students. The
pressures on this teacher to have her students pass many district-level
assessments; more so than any of the other teacher participants in this study,
and the requirements of the school for her to teach using a teaching model that
emphasized the specific teaching of vocabulary, decoding and word recognition
strategies caused her to abandon her beliefs about teaching using research-based

One recommendation is that teachers who believe students learn best by a

constructivist approach that utilizes research-based instructional reading
practices be given the opportunity, by their administrators, to share their beliefs
with them. Sharing their beliefs could serve as a vehicle for engaging in
effective dialogue between teachers and administrators about a) why they hold
these beliefs, and b) the impact of these beliefs on their teaching practices for
helping students become successful readers. A second recommendation is for
school administrators to give teachers the freedom to teach using methods they
believe are the most excellent for helping students learn to read. A third
recommendation is that efforts are made to educate leaders in school districts
and government positions, that students may not be getting the best instruction
in learning how to read through a bottoms-up approach. They must be made
aware that there is not a silver bullet, or one-size fits all approach to teaching
reading. They need to understand that requiring teachers to use behaviorist
methods for reading instruction by having their teachers teach using scripted
programs and materials may not be using sound instructional practices.

All of the teachers felt the pressure of accountability for their students learning
and struggled with feeling that they never had enough time to teach reading.
Because of this, Sara tried to use the time she had to teach reading by utilizing
only large group instruction. The other teachers utilized frequent individual,
small and large group instruction by working one-on-one with students, using
literacy groups, and having students grouped in a large group for certain types
of instruction; Sara seemed to set aside her beliefs about teaching reading
because of time constraints and the accountability she felt. In short, she felt that
because she had so many skills to cover with her students and so little time in
which to cover them, she taught to the whole class rather than diversifying her

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


Another recommendation is there needs to be increased dialogue between

literacy instructors in colleges of education with legislators, school
administrators, teachers, and parents about the value of using research-based
instructional practices for teaching reading as opposed to the current emphasis
on student assessment and performance-based learning as opposed to the use of
research-based instructional practices needs to be addressed. Having students
engaged in field experiences is not enough. Instructors of methods courses that
require a field component should work to create a partnership with the teachers
and administrators of the schools in which their students are placed. Doing so
may be important in helping them to understand why they are promoting the
instructional practices for teaching reading that they are teaching their students.
I believe this is important in light of the fact that the interviews with the
principals showed that of the three, the two principals who had a better
understanding of what constitutes research-based practices and why we use
them in teaching students to learn to read, showed greater confidence in their
teachers abilities, and gave them the freedom to teach using these practices.

Limitations & Future Research

As is true of all studies, this study too had its limitations. Although this
study shows promise for understanding what happens to teachers when
they teach in a school environment whose beliefs about teaching reading
match and support their own, and those who teach in schools whose
beliefs do not match theirs, the conclusions are limited because of the
small size of the teacher and principal population studied, and the fact
that the four teachers were former students of mine. These factors limited
my ability to create generalizations of the studys findings. Because of
this a study utilizing a greater population is necessary. Additionally, if
Sara were to leave the school where she is currently employed to teach in
a different school environment whose administrators shared her beliefs
about teaching reading, placed much less emphasis on testing and
meeting district and state standards, and gave her the freedom to teach
according to her beliefs, it would be interesting to see if she would teach
reading using what she learned about using research-based practices. It
is also suggested that a longitudinal study be conducted to see if these
results remain the same over time. Research studies that focus on teacher
accountability, teacher practices, teachers sense of self-confidence and
teacher retention should also be conducted to examine what happens
when teachers are denied the ability to teach in ways they believe help
children become successful readers.

A Final Word
Since the introduction of the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002,
teacher practices, student assessment, and teacher accountability have
been heatedly discussed in educational and political circles. The results
of this discussion have engendered much controversy and opposition
among those who favor a bottoms-up, top-down, or interactionist

2014 J. Covault and IJLTER.ORG. All Rights reserved.


approach teaching reading. The results of this study appear to

acknowledge that when there is a difference, or a disconnect in what
teachers and administrators believe about the methods used for teaching
reading to children, and when the main objective of the school is on
student assessment and teacher accountability, the teacher may abandon
what he or she knows about teaching using research-based practices and
succumb to the more behaviorist approach being advocated by the school
and federal government.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 112-129, November 2016

Community College Faculty and

Conceptualizations of Disciplinary Writing
Jodi P. Lampi
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois, United States

Eric J. Paulson
Texas State University
San Marcos, Texas, United States

Abstract. In this study, the authors use metaphor analysis to uncover

community college faculty conceptualizations about disciplinary
writing. The findings suggest that faculty have multiple beliefs,
attitudes, and perceptions of disciplinary writing and tend not to
articulate differences between disciplinary literacy practices and general
writing practices. Implications of this study include the importance of
faculty considering how their conceptualizations of writing can support
students understandings of, and practices in, writing throughout the
college experience.

Keywords: Metaphor analysis; disciplinary writing; community college

Academic Writing
In the United States, community colleges occupy an important segment of the
postsecondary educational milieu. Designed to serve local student populations,
their missions can vary widely (Dougherty & Townsend, 2006); however, shared
characteristics of many community colleges include foci as open admission
institutions that, depending on students goals, provide a 2-year associates
degree or vocational certificate, and/or prepares students for transfer to a 4-year
college. A large number of students attend community colleges; the American
Association of Community Colleges lists approximately 7.3 million students
enrolled in the fall of 2014 (AACC, 2016). Given that writing coursework,
including English composition, is a nearly ubiquitous element of curriculum for
students in undergraduate contexts (Fleming, 2011), examining elements of
writing instruction in community colleges is an important focus.

While the goals of community college writing courses often reflect local contexts,
they traditionally share a common aim of preparing students for college-level
general (or academic) writing; this preparation is done through the learning and
application of universal rules for writing, often referred to as academic writing
conventions. As Hyland (2002) noted, the teaching of formulaic and model-like
practices in current composition courses is based on the expectation that to
students will eventually learn how to work toward independent construction as

they approach higher complex tasks within academic writing. Independent

construction is a critical and intended outcome of general composition courses
because it assumes the transfer of writing knowledge to other domains. For
example, when considering the element of audience, students should be able to
transfer that concept to other writing contexts and be aware that they may have
to adjust their language to fit the rhetorical demands of the audience. Likewise,
Faggella-Luby, Graner, Deshler, and Drew (2012) promoted general writing
instruction and suggested that general instruction seeks to uncover and teach
strategies, routines, skills, language, and practices that can be applied
universally to content area learning and are by definition generalizable to other
domains (p. 69).

Scholars have noted that students may discover that what they learn from a
general instruction approach does not easily transfer to other contexts (Perkins &
Salomon, 1994) or to discipline-specific courses (North, 2005a), especially if they
have no formal training on adapting general strategies for disciplinary uses. In
the same vein, some researchers argued that even though disciplines share some
commonalities in their academic language and practices, each discipline engages
in their very own unique practices in language, syntax, and conventions (Moje,
2015; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008, 2012; Snow, 1987).

In fact, as students move forward in their coursework into more discipline-

specific courses, some scholarship suggests that a reliance on overgeneralized
writing rules could actually burden students and constrain their ability to write
(Bartholomae, 1985; Hull & Rose, 1990; Rose, 1998; Shaughnessy, 1977). That is,
an adherence to generic writing structures may mislead them about the
underlying goals and demands of academic writing in the various disciplines
(Sperling, 1996) and students may find that their writing skills valued in one
course may be unwelcome in another (North, 2005a; Smagorinsky, 2015).

Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Process

Although academic writing conventions are routinely and successfully taught in
basic writing and first-year composition courses (Bartholomae, 1985; Hjortshoj,
2010), some scholars have proposed that restricting the teaching of college
writing to composition courses may not be optimal in helping students succeed
in their advanced coursework writing tasks (Carter, 2007; Russell, 1991). Rather,
they posit that an increased focus on disciplinary practices, in this case writing,
may be a more effective route to increasing students writing proficiencies in a
variety of content-area courses, largely due to the idea that writing contributes
to the generation of knowledge and assuming that each disciplines knowledge
construction varies (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008; Moje, 2015; Smagorinsky,
2015). As Moje (2015) argued, Students cannot learn the literacy practices of the
discipline if they are not engaged in the everyday work of the discipline (p.
261). Linton, Madigan, and Johnson (1994) explained that this is not to say that
general composition instructors are not doing their job sufficiently; rather, the
idea of disciplinary writing is to counter the idea that a couple of composition
courses is all the writing instruction students need to be successful for the rest of
their academic writing experiences. That is, disciplinary writing does not serve

as a replacement for generalized academic writing coursework, but rather as a

necessary progression that is part of students writing and knowledge

Two approaches to writing in college have explicitly attempted to build in

disciplinary foci to writing instruction: Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC)
(Russell, 1990; 1991; Stout & Magnotto, 1988) and Writing in the Disciplines
(WiD) (Deane & ONeill, 2011). There are differences between WAC and WiD;
for example, the former stresses writing instruction by content teachers and the
latter emphasizes the role that disciplinary conventions play in shaping text
genre. A goal of WAC would be for instructors in the discipline to use writing
as part of the learning process, while a goal of WiD would be for learners to
explicitly understand the writing conventions within a particular discipline. As
Ochsner and Fowler (2004) noted,
A convenient and generally accurate way to distinguish between WAC
and WID is in the context of curricular goals: The first 2 years of
undergraduate education are most often associated with WAC initiatives
to enhance general knowledge; the last 2 years, with WID initiatives to
refine discipline-specific knowledge. (p. 119)
Despite those differences, both WAC and WiD are based on the idea that writing
is necessarily part of the discipline learning process and each discipline has a set
of socially-constructed expectations and parameters.

However, there are problems inherent in implementing WAC and WiD

approaches that can center on writing instruction taking place outside of the
basic writing or composition classroom (Walvoord, 1996). Fulwiler (1984)
described issues in an early WAC initiative that revolve around faculty buy-in
and in theoretical underpinnings of WAC that run counter to some facultys own
implicit theories of learning and teaching. Additionally, Williams (2003)
suggested content-area faculty might assume that they do not have sufficient
pedagogical knowledge to teach writing in their classes and, even if they did, the
large amount of content they need to cover would preclude any additional
instruction in writing.

Some studies have indicated that faculty resist the idea of writing instruction
falling partially within the duties of disciplinary instructors because they see
themselves as content-specialists and not as writing teachers (Brzovic &
Franklin, 2008; Fulwiler, 1984; Richardson, 2004). Yet, such discipline-specific
writing foci are generally assumed to be requisite aspects of gaining knowledge
in a content area as well as communicating effectively in that content area.

The purpose of this study is to better understand instructors viewpoints on that

issue. Specifically, we set out to uncover how community college instructors
perceive writing in their field. Understanding that faculty have varying
perceptions and thoughts about writing is not a novel idea; however, conducting
this study allowed us to make those conceptualizations more explicit in order to
understand values and perceptions that may guide writing instruction.

Understanding How Faculty Members Beliefs Affect Instruction

The reason that we focus on instructor beliefs about the nature of writing is that
beliefs conceptualizations play a significant role in understanding how
people construct knowledge (Buehl & Alexander, 2001; Schommer, 1990). Given
the idea that differing beliefs about writing knowledge affects the understanding
of the writing tasks and the progressive nature of writing improvement, it
becomes important to study the perceptions and belief systems that faculty
members may have about disciplinary writing. If, as White and Bruning (2005)
suggest, writing quality is linked to implicit writing beliefs, then understanding
how faculty members conceptualize disciplinary writing will provide insight
into how writing is currently being discussed, used, and implemented in the
disciplines. In other words, understanding teacher conceptualizations of writing
provides us a glimpse of how that belief may affect their instructional
approaches about writing.

One way to get at the conceptualizations of faculty members is by employing

metaphor analysis. Since metaphor analysis provides a method for
understanding abstract perceptions, it enables researchers to have a method for
studying those conceptualizations. Several studies in general education and
pedagogy employed metaphor analysis as a research tool including studies on
in-service teachers attitudes on classroom practices and teachers beliefs about
learning and teaching (Knowles, 1994; Leavy, McSorley, & Bote, 2007; Saban,
Kocbeker, & Saban, 2007). These studies, Kramsch (2003) argues, help teachers
articulate and construct representations of their experiences and of themselves to
make sense of their everyday experiences. Although there have been many
scholars who study conceptualizations of faculty members, education, and
learning and teaching, there have not been many conceptualization studies
conducted on the topic of writing.

Some scholars have employed metaphor analysis on the study of writing, albeit
from a student perspective. Armstrong (2008) used metaphor analysis to
investigate students conceptualizations of academic writing and found that
students beliefs about academic writing are wide ranging and evidence of the
prior knowledge and attitude students bring into the classroom. Paulson and
Armstrong (2011) examined students perceptions of college reading and
writing. They suggested that educators should take into consideration the wide
variety of beliefs and knowledge about academic literacies that students bring
into the classroom to better understand how to support students writing
development. The current study aims to take the conceptualization of writing a
step further, moving from academic writing to disciplinary writing, and
focusing on a faculty perspective rather than a student perspective.

Research Question
Understanding the variety of beliefs faculty members hold about disciplinary
writing can provide insight into their pedagogical assumptions surrounding
writing instruction. The research question guiding this study is as follows: How
do faculty members in community colleges conceptualize disciplinary writing?

Theoretical Framework
This study aligns with the theoretical frameworks of metaphor analysis
(Kovecses, 2010; Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) and the socio-cultural theories of social
practice (Gee, 2001; Street, 1993). Because metaphor analysis has two major roles
in this article, it is discussed from two different angles: metaphor analysis serves
this study (1) as a theoretical framework because of its role in conceptual and
cognitive theory, and (2) as a qualitative investigative tool and procedure.

Metaphor Analysis as Theoretical Framework

Lakoff and Johnson (1980) challenged the traditional view that metaphors are
only literary and of poetic origin, noting in their cognitive linguistic view of
metaphor that metaphor reveals social and cognitive constructs. Furthermore,
they described how this conceptual metaphorical structure enables us to
understand our perceptions and experiences when using language as proof of
that system.

Metaphorical language enables us to understand one kind of experience in terms

of another kind of experience (Kovecses, 2010; Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). Thus,
this theoretical approach to metaphor as cognition relies on the idea that
language and metaphor impose structure on thought (de Guerrero & Villamil,
2002), enabling us to make sense of, and understand, the way we perceive the
world and our everyday experiences. In addition, because language is a
function of social practice, this study also relies upon the influence of socio-
cultural theories.

Socio-cultural Theories
This study also emerges from the work of socio-cultural theorists, where
learning is viewed as a function of social interaction, such as through language,
activity, context, and culture (Gee, 2001; Lea & Street, 1998; Street, 1993). For the
purposes of this study, we understand disciplinary writing as a construct
developed and honed by social practices. Gee (2001) argued,
Different patterns in vocabulary, syntax (sentence structure), and
discourse connectors (devices that connect sentences together to make a
whole integrated text) constitute different social languages, each of
which is connected to specific sorts of social activities and to a specific
socially situated identity. (p. 716)
Along these lines, each discipline, then, contains its own language, so to
speak. In addition, Gee continued, the meanings of words, phrases, and
sentences are always situated, that is, customized to our actual contexts (p.
716). Thus, language will be a direct effect of a persons environment, culture,
social grouping, and setting.

With these frameworks, metaphors are employed to investigate how people

conceptualize ideas as well as understand their conceptualizations as constructs
of social practice based on their personal experiences. This study will apply
those two theoretical frameworks in exploring faculty members perceptions of
disciplinary writing as situated language processes.

Research Design
The purpose of this study was to understand how faculty members from
community colleges conceptualize disciplinary writing. Following Creswell
(2013), data were collected in multiple ways and from a broad to narrow
perspective, to encapsulate a rich understanding of instructors beliefs, attitudes,
and perceptions of disciplinary writing across various fields of academia.

Data were collected through an electronic survey and were analyzed using
metaphor and discourse analysis through a process of open coding (Glaser &
Strauss, 1967; Saldana, 2013; Strauss & Corbin, 1994). As Armstrong, Davis, and
Paulson (2011) suggested, data were then triangulated following the metaphor
analysis procedural methods and through peer checks to increase the
trustworthiness of the findings (Creswell, 2013; Saldana, 2013).

The participants in this study were community college faculty in the state of
Texas, recruited through the American Association of Community Colleges
(AACC) database using a maximum variation sampling method. This sampling
method enabled researchers to purposefully sample selected people or settings
to represent the wide variety of experiences related to the phenomenon of
interest (Creswell, 2013), and Texas provided a range and variety of instructors,
community colleges, and geographical settings to sample. In this case, the
phenomenon of interest is how a variety of faculty from different institutions,
educational backgrounds, settings, and disciplines understand disciplinary

Recruitment of participants
To capture this diversity of perceptions of disciplinary writing, the AACC
database was used to harvest emails in our attempt to recruit a large variety of
faculty. The database provided a direct web link to each of the community
colleges webpages (n=72 colleges), which were hand searched for email
addresses of faculty teaching within six specific subject areas described in the
next section.

For the scope of this project, it would have been impossible to survey every
discipline, so the disciplines of interest were purposefully selected. Discipline-
specific instructors were chosen according to disciplines that contain the most
common general core education courses that students take to fulfill their general
studies: biology, chemistry, history, mathematics, psychology, and sociology.

Participant characteristics and demographics

The participants who responded to the survey (n=117) come from a wide variety
of educational backgrounds, employment status, and professional roles and
have a variety of experiences faculty with writing within their disciplines. Most
of the participants have a Masters degree (50.4%) or doctorate (47.9%), work
full-time without tenure (51.3%), and spend up to seven hours a week (82.1%)
working on academic writing tasks, the majority of which are research articles

(27.4%) and research reports (21.4%). Respondents have a rich pedagogical

background, as more than a third had 20 or more years of teaching experience.

Data Collection
To gather a broad view of how faculty members conceptualize disciplinary
writing, participants were recruited with an email that contained a 17-item
survey. The first fifteen questions elicited demographic data, educational
background information, and experiences with writing as a writer and as an
instructor discussing writing conventions within a specific discipline. Once
participants finished answering questions about their disciplinary writing
habits, they were asked, through the last two questions on the survey, to
complete two fill-in-the-blank stems to create metaphors about their perceptions
of disciplinary writing.

Metaphor analysis as a procedure

Metaphor analysis (Kovecses, 2010; Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) explains a basis for
describing everyday cognitive structures as a way to uncover individual and
collective patterns of thought and action. A metaphor is defined as
understanding one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain
(Kovecses, 2010, p. 4), which reflects images of social phenomenon by mapping
two often incompatible domains into one another (Kramsch, 2003, p. 125).

Lakoff and Johnsons (1980) cognitive theory of metaphor allows abstract

conceptualizations, which are difficult to see and understand, to become
tangible through metaphors, which can be looked at, studied, and understood.
As Paulson and Armstrong (2011) explained, metaphor analysis is an
investigational and analytical approach that examines metaphors articulated by
participants, and then categorizes those metaphors in terms of the themes that
emerge from the analogical mappings that underlie participants metaphors (p.
495). These mappings provide much of the meaning of the metaphorical
linguistic expressions that make a particular conceptual metaphor manifest
(Kovecses, 2010 p. 14), which allows researchers to get at conceptualizations.
This procedure is fleshed out in the next section using details from this study.

Data Analysis
In an open-ended survey regarding facultys beliefs about writing specifically
within their respective disciplines, metaphors were elicited in the form of fill-
in-the-blank sentences with a simile construction. Faculty were asked to
conceptualize disciplinary writing in two ways. The metaphor elicitation
statements were:
My writing in my field is like _____. Explain. _____.
Disciplinary writing is like _____. Explain. _____.
The stems of these sentences are considered the targets (my writing in
my field and disciplinary writing), whereas the source is the metaphor that
participants use to explain their conceptualizations of personal and disciplinary
writing. The completed statements become what are considered metaphorical
linguistic expressions, or MLEs (Kovecses, 2010).

Participants were asked to explain their metaphors based on Armstrong, Davis,

and Paulsons (2011) triangulation methods for metaphor analysis that suggest
researchers should engage in metaphor checking with the participant to ensure
that the researchers understanding is on par with what the participant meant.
An additional peer check was conducted on the MLEs to further validate the

There were 133 metaphorical linguistic expressions collected and subsequently

coded by a process called mappings. Mappings are a set of systematic
correspondence between the source and the target in the sense that constituent
conceptual elements of B [the source] correspond to constituent elements of A
[the target] (Kovecses, 2010, p. 7). Once the mapping of the source domain on
the target domain occurs with the properly shared elements, the knowledge
about the source that arises are called metaphorical entailments (p. 122).

Mapping and entailment example

To provide an example of how metaphor analysis proceeds, an example of a
faculty participants metaphor from this study follows.
1. Identify the metaphorical linguistic expression (MLE):
Disciplinary writing is like a snowflake.
2. Identify the target domain:
Disciplinary writing
3. Identify the source domain:
Single or multiple ice crystals falling through the atmosphere
4. Mappings of snowflake:
Each is a small piece, or unit, of snow single/multiple ice
No two snowflakes are the same.
Each snowflake displays its own specific symmetry or pattern.
5. Snowflake mappings onto target domain (metaphorical entailments):
Disciplinary writing is a type of writing.
No two disciplines are the same.
Each discipline has its own conventions, styles, and
characteristics of writing.
In this example, disciplinary writing, from this survey respondents perspective,
suggests that writing is not the same across disciplines and that each discipline
has its own unique way of using writing. Implications of this perception of
disciplinary writing are that the instructor may feel that general composition
methods of teaching writing may not be preparing students to succeed in the
various disciplinary ways writing is being used. This connects to the literature
discussed earlier. Scholars have noted that some conceptualizations can cause a
lack of preparation or hinder success. For example, Sperling argued that a rigid
adherence to generic writing structures may mislead students about the
underlying goals and demands of academic writing, which could contribute to
them potentially assuming writing is to be approached in the same manner in
each discipline. In addition, Sperling (1996), North (2005a, 2005b), and Chanock

(2000) all suggested that what counts as good writing or a favorable writing
characteristic in one discipline may not be valued as good writing or a
favorable writing characteristic in another. Thus, with this perspective,
someone describing disciplinary writing as specific or directly tied to the
discipline might believe that general composition instruction is not sufficient to
support students to write in various disciplines.

Operationalizing and categorizing MLEs

These MLEs, using the analysis procedure described earlier, are categorized and
operationalized. Cameron and Low (1999) suggested that analysis of metaphors
should be operationalized in a manner related to the research topic at hand.
Analyses and findings are as follows.

There were a total of 133 metaphorical linguistic expressions (referred to
as MLEs from this point forward) produced by respondents. These MLEs
provided a variety of perspectives on disciplinary writing:

Ideas similar to general writing:

Disciplinary writing is like diagramming sentences. It requires
pulling out key facts and presenting them clearly so they are
understood before looking at the entire process.
Positive experiences:
Disciplinary writing is like icing on a cake. Because it adds
something sweet to something already wholesome.
Negative experiences:
Disciplinary writing is like torture. I have to restrict my writing to
the ability of the audience to understand
Disciplinary writing is like water. Is water, just water in all cases:
what are your thoughts?
Disciplinary writing is like heart surgery. Only an expert can do it.
Although each participant created metaphors based on his or her own unique
experiences and perspectives on disciplinary writing, several commonalities
appeared across individual perspectives, which were revealed during the coding
of the MLEs as conceptual metaphors.
In the aim to investigate how disciplinary instructors may differ in their
conceptualizations of disciplinary writing, categorizations of data examined
faculty members metaphors as 1) explained with either a general or disciplinary
description, and 2) as thematic groupings of MLEs into conceptual metaphors.
The results are as follows.

Thematic Categorizations
Following metaphor analysis procedures (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980), we grouped
MLEs together based on theme and then identified a conceptual metaphor that
served to describe each grouping. Table 1 shows examples of similar MLEs
grouped together to create a conceptual metaphor.

The thematic grouping of faculty members MLEs indicate that although each
faculty member constructed MLEs based on their own experiences and
backgrounds, other faculty members had similar conceptualizations of
disciplinary writing, which were uncovered during the conceptual metaphor
analysis process. As the table indicates, not only are there a variety of ways that
faculty describe disciplinary writing through metaphorical language, there are
also a variety of categories conceptual metaphors that represent overarching
perspectives on disciplinary writing. Noting this variety is important as it speaks
to the lack of a commonly understood working definition of what disciplinary
writing is as expressed by these faculty members.

Table 1
Faculty MLEs Categorized as Conceptual Metaphors
Metaphorical Linguistic Expression Conceptual Metaphor
Disciplinary writing is like using a prism.
Disciplinary writing is like a bringing a lens into
Disciplinary writing is like looking through a
Disciplinary writing is a snowflake.
Disciplinary writing is like a fingerprint. DISCIPLINARY
Disciplinary writing is like a personality. WRITING IS A UNIQUE
Disciplinary writing is like learning the difference IDENTIFIER.
between venomous and harmless reptiles.
Disciplinary writing is like driving to your
Disciplinary writing is like finding your way out DISCIPLINARY
of a maze. WRITING IS
Disciplinary writing is like a roadmap. NAVIGATION.
Disciplinary writing is like a room of invisible
walls with many thin doors.
Disciplinary writing is like sun breaking through
the fog.
Disciplinary writing is like turning on a light.
Disciplinary writing is like shining a light.
Disciplinary writing is like a light bulb to go off in
someones head.
Disciplinary writing is like a language.
Disciplinary writing is like a secret language.
Disciplinary writing is like Pig Latin. DISCIPLINARY
Disciplinary writing is like being fluent in a WRITING IS
foreign language. LANGUAGE.
Disciplinary writing is like translating from one
language to another
(Note that in metaphor analysis literature, it is common practice to use all capital letters
to denote the conceptual metaphor, and the conceptual metaphor is usually phrased as
(target) is (source).)

The variety of metaphorical language used is only part of the story, as it is

important to consider the categories that emerged. The conceptual metaphor
DISCIPLINARY WRITING IS LANGUAGE may seem an obvious aspect of
writing within a content area as it certainly speaks to the particular vocabulary
that each discipline uses. But it also speaks to the ways that a particular
discipline uses language in constructing knowledge, how understandings are
organized and presented in written form, and the general structure of writing
within that discipline. Both DISCIPLINARY WRITING IS ILLUMINATION and
DISCIPLINARY WRITING IS A LENS speak to what, in a particular content
area, is considered relevant and worthy of attention, with the implicit
understanding that what is relevant in one discipline may not be relevant in
another. Both of those conceptual metaphors indicate that there is a relationship
between what is considered knowledge in a field and the writing within that
field, a relationship that is highly interdependent. The conceptual metaphor
DISCIPLINARY WRITING IS NAVIGATION suggests that disciplinary writing
points to how to understand a concept, an argument, or how information is
presented, within that field; this navigation process may differ across disciplines.
Finally, the conceptual metaphor DISCIPLINARY WRITING IS A UNIQUE
IDENTIFIER signifies the distinctive nature of how each discipline is described,
analyzed, and discussed: what is considered knowledge in that field and how
that knowledge is constructed.

While the conceptual metaphors presented above indicate the uniqueness of

discourse in a given discipline, it is important to understand that the viewpoint
of uniqueness was not limited to faculty from a particular discipline. In each
conceptual metaphor category there are at least two, and usually more than two,
disciplines represented. For example, in the conceptual metaphor
examples are from faculty in the three disciplines of mathematics, history, and
psychology. That is, faculty from each of these disciplines agreed that
disciplinary writing involves unique aspects, even though there may be
differences in how the writing in each of those disciplines is considered unique.

Discipline-focused Perspectives
In addition to a thematic categorization of MLEs, we also looked specifically at
whether faculty MLEs indicated an understanding of writing as a disciplinary-
specific process through a process of open coding. We examined each MLE and
its explanation, and if disciplinary writing was described in a manner that could
apply to any field, it was categorized as general. If the faculty member
described disciplinary writing as a type of writing that differed across subjects
and by unique characteristics, it was categorized as disciplinary.

In Table 2, we provide examples of MLEs that indicated an understanding of

writing as a general process.

Table 2
Faculty MLEs Categorized as General Descriptors
Disciplinary writing is like building a brick wall. Each sentence sets up
the thought process until the whole idea is revealed.

Disciplinary writing is like building a house. First, start with a plan

(prewrite); lay the foundation (thesis statement) put up the support
beams (topic sentences and paragraphs) adjust plans as necessary
(revise) complete the structure (conclusion) review for possible
problems (walk through) move in (publish).

Disciplinary writing is like addition and subtraction. In writing you put

words together to make meaning and in reading it is like subtraction
in that you take sentences apart to gain meaning.

Disciplinary writing is like arranging items in alphabetical order. Learning

to order one's thoughts and put them into words makes sense of those

These MLEs suggest perspectives about disciplinary writing that are general
and, indeed, formulaic enough that they could be applied across disciplines.
They speak to a process of communicating ones ideas additively until those
ideas are expressed adequately and make no claims for specificity to select

In contrast, the MLEs in Table 3 indicated an understanding of

disciplinary writing as specific to a given discipline:

Table 3
Faculty MLEs Categorized as Disciplinary Descriptors
Disciplinary writing is like painting a picture. Like artists paint a picture,
so do different disciplines use different points of view in expression
their information.

Disciplinary writing is colors of the rainbow. Across the curriculum,

writing has different distinct purposes.

Disciplinary writing is like a snowflake. No two snowflakes are the same.

That holds true for disciplinary writing. It differs from discipline to

Disciplinary writing is like a fruit basket. You cant compare apple and
oranges and you cant cross disciplines in writing conventions. Each
discipline has its own style and flavor for citations and those
conventions need to be learned

While both the general and discipline-specific MLEs are rich in providing insight
into faculty members conceptualizations about writing, the numbers bear
mentioning: less than a third (27) of all MLEs involved writing as a discipline-
specific process.

The MLEs with generic descriptions describe how to write and what writing can
do in general terms, whereas the explanations of disciplinary writing as
disciplinary acknowledge disciplinary writing as being unique to a field or
different depending on the conventions of a field. In other words, many
participants appear to approach disciplinary writing as less of a practice unique
to specific disciplines and more of a general writing practice usable in all fields.

The data collected provided a number of significant observations. Relevant to
this study, the data suggests that community college faculty members have
multiple beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of disciplinary writing. In addition,
the analysis of these data not only provides insight to faculty members
conceptualizations, but also hints at the nature of disciplinary writing within
community colleges.

Faculty Descriptions of Disciplinary Writing

Their metaphors and explanations of those metaphors indicate that faculty
members tend to conceptualize disciplinary writing more as a general,
universally applicable practice rather than a social or disciplinary act unique to
an individual subject. That most of these community college faculty members
view disciplinary writing as a general skill suggests that they may not
foreground their own disciplines social or unique characteristics when it comes
to writing. In terms of instruction, these perspectives lend themselves to view
that the formal instruction of writing belongs within a composition course and
not within the disciplines.

With faculty members presenting such diverse perspectives of disciplinary

writing, it is not surprising that many students encounter what some describe as
a mysterious tacit code that they must crack as they bounce from discipline to
discipline (Husain & Waterfield, 2006). In a study on writing in economics,
Richardson (2004) stated that many college instructors have not traditionally
explored or articulated the literacy, language, and writing demands of their
professed discipline; the unintended result is that they could be potentially
creating student beliefs that proficient writing is unattainable.

Some scholars have studied the ways students have acknowledged the inability
to get writing right (Chanock, 2000; Lea & Street, 1998; Stockton, 1995;
Wineburg, 1991), noting that students may experience mixed messages based on
feedback about their written work. For example, Lea and Street (1998) related
the anecdote that one student whose work was acceptable in history was told
that his writing was lacking in structure and in argument in anthropology. This
example emphasizes the point that the writing approach used in both situations
was not equally valued in each discipline. Similarly, Stockton (1995) illustrated
the difficulties that a literature major, trained with similar interpretation skills as
history majors, encountered when that student received good marks in literature
but low scores in history. This particular study is another scenario where
general training in interpretation did not result in favorable feedback in both

disciplines, suggesting that either the term interpretation has different meanings
in each discipline or that interpretation demonstrated through writing has
different structures or approaches in each discipline. Chanock (2000) found that
students received different comments on their written essays in history than
they did in English. In addition, Wineburg (1991) found in a comparison study
that, when given the same text to analyze, teachers discussed political, social,
and cultural constructions where the students only saw facts. Thus, while some
faculty members may not explicitly articulate the nuances of writing as a
function of knowledge in the discipline and task demands within their own
discipline, that does not mean that these disciplinary writing practices are not
being implicitly expected of students. Ultimately, these writing nuances and
task demands are important and ought to be explicit, largely because
disciplinary literacy scholars argue that the nature of knowledge in each
discipline is demonstrated through the valued language, purposes, and habits of
each community. And, ultimately, such knowledge construction and knowledge
comprehension is demonstrated through writing.

The metaphor analysis methods used in this study revealed that faculty do have
multiple beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of disciplinary writing. These results
indicate that due to the variety of conceptualizations faculty members have
about disciplinary writing, instructors may find that deliberately making
instruction and advice to students about writing in their discipline more explicit
may facilitate students writing development. Explicitness in this sense refers to
discussions with students about how writing works within that specific

Richardson (2004) argued that teaching practices can leave impressions and
cause students to make unintended inductions about disciplinary demands.
Paxton (2007) warned that if practices are not made explicit, gaps between
teacher expectations and student interpretations of certain tasks and activities
may emerge. If disciplinary instructors do not include writing instruction as a
part of their course, and if writing instructors are not familiar enough with
specific disciplinary content to create writing strategies, how can students learn
writing demands appropriate to each discipline?

The most salient implications for instruction from this research may be to
challenge instructors in each discipline to support the development of
communication and writing skills since students who may come to their courses
with varying degrees of familiarity with, and commitment to, the discipline
(North, 2005b). In addition, Forman (2008) suggested we might want to explore
how writing instructors can consider teaching context specific strategies and
skills instead of a basic skill set.

Several studies have provided examples of how faculty attempted to address

these issues. For example, Forman (2008) suggested that basic writing
instructors teach students topics such as rhetorical leadership; data-based
persuasion; ethics, rhetoric, and audience communications; relationships among

communication channels; group work; and, finally, modern notions of genre.

These strategies are skills more easily malleable across disciplines than a set of
grammar rules, sentence structures, and basic expository rules.

Other studies have suggested that faculty should incorporate more writing in
their courses to allow students to exercise their disciplinary writing skills more
often (Bangert-Drowns, Hurley, & Wilkinson, 2004; Brzovic & Franklin, 2008).
Shorter, parsimonious assignments would provide students with more frequent
practice and feedback on their disciplinary skills and help encourage retention
and understanding of subject matter. Furthermore, this would mimic a
disciplinary dialogue in which students could start to work their way into the
discipline-specific discourse of that community. Along those lines, DiPardo and
Freedman (1988) argued that peer group work also serves to emphasize the
importance of social interaction to disciplinary learning, providing more
opportunities for students to negotiate and learn the nuances of language,
knowledge, and writing practices as they work together through disciplinary

Supporting Disciplinary Writing with Explicit Instruction

If, as the findings from this study imply, faculty members tend not to
differentiate disciplinary literacy practices from general writing practices, it may
be difficult to explicitly instruct students on how to succeed within their specific
disciplinary literacy practices. Shanahan and Shanahan (2008) suggested that
students may find it difficult to transfer writing knowledge from general
composition to discipline-specific courses because most students need explicit
teaching of sophisticated genres, specialized language conventions, disciplinary
norms of precision and accuracy, and higher-level interpretive processes (p. 4).
Some scholars have implied that professors might not provide explicit teaching
because they often learn to write in the disciplines through slow observation and
apprenticeship and not through explicit instruction (Carter, 2007; Russell, 1991).
Thus, professors may not be aware that the form of writing in their discipline is
actually a specific practice to the discipline. As Macbeth (2010) explained, expert
academics often do not realize that the social and discoursal practices within
their discipline are unique and invisible to novices. In other words, if academics
do not see the differences, they may not communicate these disciplinary writing
differences to novices, which in turn can make those differences seem invisible
to novice writers.

Sperling (1996) posited that writing researchers have yet to fully understand the
role of writing in contributing to the generation of knowledge in different
disciplinary contexts, and if writing is not yet understood as a method for
disciplinary knowledge construction, it likely is not described or used as such.
Nonetheless, Faigley and Hansen (1985) and Smagorinsky (2015) argued that
students need help to understand the work required to make sense of the
questioning and answering methods of their discipline and how they differ from
other disciplines. Thus, North (2005b) offered that the most important thing a
faculty member could do is to challenge him or herself to take the time to
explicitly explain to students the demands, requirements, strategies, beliefs, and

functions of his or her discipline. Based on the findings of this study that faculty
hold a variety of conceptualizations of disciplinary writing, we agree that it is
important for faculty to consider whether their conceptualizations are
supporting students understandings of, and practices in, writing throughout the
college experience.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 130-144, November 2016

Teaching Probability Statistics towards

Training Occupational Skills for Economic
Majored Students Case Study at Lac Hong
University Viet Nam

Hoan Van Tran and Hang Thuy Nguyen

Lac Hong University
Dong Nai Province, Viet Nam

Abstract. Reaching a high quality of the standard learning outcomes is an

important innovation in teaching and training at Lac Hong university. The
knowledge and occupational skills equipped for students before graduation are
clearly stated. However, a big problem is "How to teach disciplines which are
major in Basic science and General knowledge to get the standard learning
outcomes?". Based on the analysis of the current situation of teaching Probability
Statistics course at school. We have given out some measures to train
occupational skills of economic-majored students, which aim at teaching this
subject in order to meet the build standard learning outcomes, such as: problem
solving, teamwork, application of information technology, algorithm-like
thinking, gathering, representing and processing statistic numbers, etc.

Keywords: Standard learning outcomes; knowledge; economy;

occupational skill; ProbabilityStatistics.

Improving the quality, innovation in education and training are the most
important criteria for a university in era of science and technology today. The
innovation is the inevitable trend of the times and according to the strategic
development of education is reported at the 11th National Party Congress
Educational development is the first national education policy. Radical
innovation, comprehensive education in Vietnam towards standardization,
modernization, socialization, democratization and international integration
(Government, 2012).
Lac Hong University is an Educational Institutions interdisciplinary, multiple
levels, combine training with scientific research, technology transfer in the areas
of technology, economics and the humanities and social. The school ensure to
provide and care the conditions of quality learning for everyone in need of
training and retraining; on the other hand ensure to provide human resources

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have qualifications, expertise and political savvy for the labor market at Dong
Nai province in particular , and the country in general. Lac Hong University
where manpower training provided directly to the industrial zones, export
processing zones at Dong Nai province and the neighboring regions. Therefore,
the school has set up training program according to rate of 60% theory and 40%
practice and self-study.
In recent years, one of the most important innovation content in Lac Hong
University has implement is establish the standard output with high
requirement. Standard output represents an affirmation of the ones that the
students need to know, understand and be able to do at the end of the
curriculum, including the specific requirements: Knowledge, skills, attitude,
ability to learn and improve, work placement after graduation (Lac Hong, 2012).
However, a big question arises What occupational skills of the students are
equipped and trained how through the process of learning the subjects in the
field of basic science and general knowledge?.
Probability - Statistics is a subject of basic blocks of knowledge and today the
knowledge belongs to this segment has infiltrated most of the field and the
various sciences. The scientific knowledge of probability and statistics has been
widespread application. Moreover, with particular applications in Mathematics
should be trained of basic mathematical skills such as: generalizations, especially
modeling, detect and problem solving Learning Probability - Statistics is also
contribute to training the occupational skills associated with economics students,
such as: gathering, representing and processing statistic numbers; application of
information technology; teamwork These skills are an indispensable part of
the requirements for occupational skills for economics students that "standard
learning outcomes" of the school was set out. But, how to teach Probability -
Statistics to contribute to meeting the standard learning outcomes in Lac Hong
University is still a question without answers.
Teaching Probability - Statistics subject is always a topic of interest to many
researchers. Related to this topic, with the learned material, we see three
research trends associated with three goals:
- Help students realize intimately intertwined relationship between Probability
and Statistics.
- Help learners understand the meaning of the basic concepts of Probability -
- Help learners develop statistical thinking.
On the world, with Universities, piece of research of Artigue M. emphasizing the
relations between probability and statistics in economics education (Artigue,
1992), and research of Artaud M. (1993) with doctoral thesis "La mathmatisation
en conomie comme problme didactique - Une tude exploratoire" made an analysis
about history of mathematics and economics to indicate that the creation of
economic knowledge often associated with mathematical investigations,
research shows that a close relationship between economics with mathematics,
especially with Probability - Statistics theory (Artaud, 1993).

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In Vietnam there have been many studies on teaching the Probability - Statistics
in College and University, some doctoral dissertation authors, such as Trao Van
Phan (2009), Hieu Huu Ta (2010), Tinh Thi Phan (2011), Hoat Tat Ngo (2011),
Yen Thi Hoang Tran (2011), Hai Nam Hoang (2013),. However, the object to
which the author is interested in training Maths teacher in the field of
Probability - Statistics and to improve the effectiveness of teaching Probability -
Statistics for students but no specific research on teaching Probability - Statistics
target at occupational skills training for economics students.
For these reasons above, we have done research training occupational skills
through teaching Probability - Statistics for economic majored students at Lac
Hong University.

Research methodology

Theoretical method: Analyze, summarize, collect information, research

documents, to establish theoretical foundation of the topic.
Practical method: Method of observation, survey; Method of mathematical
statistics: Process surveyed and actual data.

Study results and comments

Real situation of teaching Probability - Statistics subject to request of standard

output in Lac Hong University
In (Hoan, 2014) this part has pointed out that, teaching Probability-Statistics at
school has limitations exist the following:
- The practice of problem-solving skills have not shown more in the lectures.
- Never focus on assessment with practical content analysis.
- No application of information technology in effective teaching.
- Not to promote self-study ability, ability to work collectively of students
through group exercises, assignments at home.
This reality led to the final examination results module of Probability-Statistics is
low, number of students retake a test, repeat test is high. Moreover, the majority
of students said that this is a difficult subject and not the application-oriented
subject for his/her specialized subjects as well as training skills through this
course. This is most evident in assessment of student for teachers in the subject.
For example, the content of questions, such as: 1) Lecturers provide references to
students by putting many problems related to the subject; 2) Lecturer held for
student group activities; and 3) Your comment on teaching quality this course.
With selected items for students: a) Totally disagree; b) Disagree; c) No
comments; d) Agree; and e) Totally agree, usually get the answers of students
are c: No comments.
So teaching Probability - Statistics according to research is unsatisfactory set out
in standard outputs of school. In particular criteria such as:

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- Content of Probability - Statistics subjects is still general, heavy on theory, not

apply directly to economics.
- Not organized teaching towards training the professional skills for students.
From this situation, Our research found that Occupational skills training
through teaching Probability - Statistics for economic majored students at Lac
Hong University is the urgent requirement.

Some measures to form occupational skills through teaching Probability

Statistics for economic majored students

The orientation measures set out

First, pedagogical measures proposed must base on manpower requirements of
the society for the economic sector, content platforms that students may face to
face in real life.
Second, pedagogical measures proposed must conform to the objectives of
teaching, suitable for teaching perspective detect and solve problems,
innovation trends teaching methods at present.
Third, pedagogical measures proposed to create difficulties, obstacles, consistent
with the ability of students so that they can participate in the process of
settlement practical issues associated with economic reality led to the formation
of new knowledge and skills training.
Fourth, system of pedagogical measures must ensure stimulating students
interest in learning, to promote active and intellectual capacity of students.
Fifth, pedagogical measures proposed should be based on intellectual capital
exist of students, feasible and through a measurement system of students so
that realize their role in the creation as well as to acquire and apply new
knowledge in particular economics.

Some measures to train occupational skills through teaching Probability

Statistics for economic majored students at Lac Hong University

Measure 1. Teaching some content knowledge through the establishment of

the opening problems related to economy.

Purpose, meaning
Before a problem or a specific situation, teachers set up, problem-solving
activities for students will be done, they have to learn, thinking to identify
problems; attempt to resolve those issues. Then students will do it yourself the
following steps: draw formula, prove theorems, find the best solutions and most
concise the problem of theory or practice,... Consequently, students perceive
mathematics knowledge and learn to self-discovery (Hayter 2007; Jay 2004),
This measure contributes to training: the creative thinking skill, solutions and
suggestions, Judgmental thinking.

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How to implement
In the course of teaching, each content knowledge is presented starting with a
situation or a specific problem related to the economy. The analysis of the
situation through the questions suggests problem will stimulate students'
thinking and help them find out the knowledge, thereby they can absorb
knowlegde easily (Hoan, 2015; Schoenfeld 1985). Such as teaching situations of
random quantities with Bernoulli distribution in the following:
The teacher mentioned the problem. A machine produce a type of product, the
probability that made defective products is 10%. Once the machine produces 3
products, please tabulated probability distribution the number of defective
products in 3 products are made.
Teacher posed the questions suggests following:
1. Define random variable and find its value?
Expected answers: Put X is the number of defective products in 3 products
manufacturing, the inferred X {0,1, 2, 3}
2. Calculate probability with the values of X based on the formulas learned?
Expected answers:
P (X = 0) = 0, 9.0, 9.0, 9 = 0, 729
P (X = 1) = 0,1.0, 9.0, 9 + 0, 9.0,1.0, 9 + 0, 9.0, 9.0,1 = 0, 243
P (X = 2) = 0,1.0,1.0, 9 + 0,1.0, 9.0,1 + 0, 9.0,1.0,1 = 0, 027
P (X = 3) = 0,1.0,1.0,1 = 0, 001
3. In the result of P (X = 1) , each event has the occurrence of events of defective
products and how many standard products?
Expected answers: 1 defective products and 2 standard products.
4. In the result of P (X = 1) , how many set of accumulate aforementioned and
Expected answers: 3 set of accumulates, for each accumulates above how to
choose one location for the event is defective products from 3 position, so:
P (X = 1) = C 31 0,110, 92
5. Do the same thing for the remaining results?
Expected answers:
P (X = 0) = C 30 0,100, 93 = 0, 729, P (X = 2) = C 32 0,120, 91 = 0, 027,
P (X = 3) = C 33 0,130, 90 = 0, 001
6. Teachers mentioned the general problem: If in each batch manufacturing 100
products. Calculate the probability of k substandard products in 100 products?
(with k = 0,1, K ,100 ).
Expected answers:
P (X = k ) = C nk 0,1k 0, 9n - k , k = 0, K ,100 .
Thence teacher guide students to state Bernoulli general formula.

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Measure 2. Strengthening the examples and exercises towards applying

Probability - Statistics to solve the problems set out detail in economic

Purpose, meaning
Practice play a decisive role of cognitive processes, is the standard of truth of
Mathematics and other sciences. Practicality of mathematics expressed through
application of Mathematics in practical life. Practices also have an important role
in the formation for students problem-solving skills because it is a very
favorable environment training for students, develop the skills, techniques and
knowledge learned to master (Wu, 2006; Hoan, 2015).
This measure contributes to training: problem-solving skill. (Hoan, 2015;
Schoenfeld, 1992).
How to implement
In the teaching process, teachers give some examples and application exercises
under the direction of applying knowledge content to solve specific problem in
economics. This not only helps students more interested in learning, but also for
students to get the knowledge about Probability - Statistics is used as tool to
solve the problems related to practice their profession in the future. Examples
apply the following specific:
Applying meaning of expectations in choosing investment plans, business
Example. Assuming a bookstore intends to enter some statistical yearbooks. The
annual demand of this yearbook are given in the following table 1:
Table 1. Table needs of statistical yearbook
Demand (j) book 20 21 22 23 24 25
Probability (Pj) 0,3 0,25 0,18 0,14 0,1 0,03
Store bought for 7 USD/book sold for 10 USD/book. But by the end of the year
must sell off 4 USD/book. The store want to define the number of import so that
profits biggest expectations?
The problem apply estimation, accreditation, solve specific problems in the
Example. Expenditures survey (million VND) 160 random students from other
provinces in Lac Hong University obtained the following table 2:

Table 2. Monthly expenses table of Lac Hong University students

1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2,
Spend 1 2 3
2 3 4 5 7 8 9 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
of 6
5 3 2 1 27 6 7 3 2 6 4 4 23 1 1 5
student 0
a) Please estimate the average monthly expenditure of students from other
provinces in Lac Hong University?

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b) Currently the proportion of students from other provinces in Lac Hong

University with spending of 1.4 million/month about 60%. Please check insists
on the significance level of 5%?
Thus after examples, students will better understand the level of monthly
spending. Moreover, students can compare their spending with average
spending, thus helping them to change their spending habits in order to have the
most reasonable spending before the situation escalated price at the present
(Moore, 2006).

Measure 3. Training for students capable of performing, data processing and

forming the statistics icon
Purpose, meaning
Statistics is the scientific study of random phenomena in nature large number on
the basis of collected and processing the statistics - the observed results.Thus
contents of statistics is to create the collection methods and dealing with
statistics to take out scientific conclusions and practical.
The role of statistics can be seen for the whole society, not only at nationally but
also within the region and globally. The statistics are used regularly in all the
aspect, all areas of social life, from planning and policymakers of countries to the
conferences, research projects, teaching, Especially in business, statistics are
used to: Inform the public, forecasts for planning and making decision... But the
reality of teaching statistics show that students are not really interested when
studying this module.
This measure contributes to training: gathering, performance and statistical
data processing skills.
Content and form
In the course of class teachers should spend a certain amount of time to
introduce some examples of practical content to help students initially formed
the visual icon of statistics and know how to perform, processing the data.
Teachers should make students understand the importance of the concept, all
kinds of diagrams, charts, tables, graphs ... in mathematical statistics.
Some types of symbols in mathematical statistics should be equipped for
students when learning probability and statistics modules as follows:
Forming a visual symbol of the frequency table, frequency table (%)
Teachers should clearly distinguish for students to know the role, usage of
frequency tables and frequency of the performance metrics. For example, pig
breed A is tested on a farm. To evaluate the quality, weighing pigs after
slaughter and obtained results:

Table 3. Table weight of pigs A

Weight (kg) 85 87 88 89 90 91 93 95
Frequency 10 20 25 20 12 8 13 13 N=121
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For example, with this frequency table, we can compare the percentage of pigs
weighing 68kg compared to pigs weight 71kg. The concept of frequency in this
situation is not really necessary. However, if the problem is that there are two
breeds A and B put into breed tests in the same time and through data on the
weight when finisher below we need to make decisions that choosing breeds put
into adopted large-scale the concept of frequency is necessary.

Table 4. Table weight of two pigs A and B

Weight (kg) 85 87 88 89 90 91 93 95
Frequency(breed A) 10 20 25 20 12 8 13 13 N=135
Frequency(breed B) 14 22 30 30 15 7 11 12 N=139
Forming of intuitive icons about graphs, charts
This section should be analyzed for students the role and usage of chart suitable
for requests every problem. Moreover when teaching this section, teachers can
pose an assignment for the student at home as follows: Why has collected
sample data they must arrange and describe them in the other form?
1) The frequency distribution table
2) Cumulative frequency distribution table
3) The frequency distribution table (%)
4) Column charts
5) Wheel graph
6) The polygon
Forming a visual symbol about the average value, sample variance, deviation
of the sample.
Teaching this section should make students understand the meaning and how to
use each parameter characteristic above. For example, at a pig farm they applied
a drug weight gain test added to the diet of pigs. After raising three month
obtained the following results:

Table 5. Table weight of pigs with growth drugs

Weight (kg) 65 67 68 69 70 71 73
Number 1 3 4 7 6 2 2

Table 6. Table weight of pigs non-drug weight gain

Weight (kg) 55 56 58 59 60 62 63 65 67
Number 1 2 4 5 6 3 2 1 1
n n

x i .n i 2 x i 2 .n i
) 2 n )2
Applying formula: x = i= 1
;x = i= 1
; s 2 = x - (x ) 2 ; s 2 = s
n n n- 1
Spreadsheet calculations values we obtain:
Sample 1: x = 69,16; s 2 = 3, 2233

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Sample 2: x = 59, 92; s 2 = 7, 5767

Thus through the weighted average value after 3 months and the degree of
dispersion of weight than the average weight, we noticed the effect of the drug
for weight gain.

Measure 4. Guiding students to use Excel to solve statistical problems

Purpose, meaning
Today, with the explosion of information technology has a huge impact on the
educational environment. Therefore the research, using the tools of information
technology to apply to solving problems will bring more practical benefits.
Moreover, through solving problems by using the tools of information
technology support will initially set up and develop algorithms thinking for
students. This kind of thinking should be to equip students in the current era.
This measure contributes to training: application of information technology,
algorithm-like thinking.

How to implement

In the process of teaching besides guiding students to use pocket calculators to

calculation of parameters characteristic of the denominator, then teacher should
guide students to sovle statistical problems such as: estimation problems,
software testing using excel. Using Excel for statistical analysis because:
Excel availability in the office
Excel strong enough to solve problems common statistical
Users can understand the meaning of statistical issues
Example. (Using Excel to solve estimated average expenditure by students of
Lac Hong University in items)
Put m is the average monthly expenditure of students from other provinces in
Lac Hong University. We will estimate m with reliability 95%.
Step 1: Set up Table parameters characteristics of the denominator (sample
average and corrected pattern deviation).
Step 2: Calculating the precision of estimates by confidence function
e = ta = C ONF IDENCE (a , s, n )
Step 3: Find the lower and upper bounds of estimates (x e)

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Table 7. The table illustrates the use of Excel in the estimation problems
Ordinal xi ni ni.xi xi2.ni
1 1 5 5 5
2 1,2 3 3,6 4,32
3 1,3 2 2,6 3,38
4 1,4 1 1,4 1,96
5 1,5 27 40,5 60,75
6 1,7 6 10,2 17,34
7 1,8 7 12,6 22,68
8 1,9 3 5,7 10,83
9 2 60 120 240
10 2,1 2 4,2 8,82
11 2,2 6 13,2 29,04
12 2,3 4 9,2 21,16
13 2,4 4 9,6 23,04
14 2,5 23 57,5 143,75
15 2,6 1 2,6 6,76
16 2,7 1 2,7 7,29
17 3 5 15 45
Total 160 315,6 651,12
Sample average 1,9725
The average of the squares 4,0695
Sample variance 0,17874
Corrected sample variance 0,17987
Corrected pattern deviation 0,42411
The accuracy of estimates 0,06572
Lower bound 1,90678
Upper bound 2,03822

Measure 5. Improve teamwork skill, presentation skill for students through

assignments and homework.
Purpose, meaning
Group learning methods helps students conditional, exchange, mutual learning
through activities group. This method helps to meet the requirements: learn to
live, one of the four purposes of UNESCO of teaching in the current era.
Moreover, according to the National training laboratories, Bethel, Maine, the
interchange method will help students acquire knowledge is 70%.
This measure contributes to training: teamwork skill, presentation skill,
communication skill.
How to implement

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We suggest organizational learning process for student groups in teaching

ProbabilityStatistics courses as follows:
(1) Preparation before the report:
Step 1. (Content) Teachers require students to do assignments and orientation
for them solve exercises, also mentioned student activity assessment forms. (See
Appendix 1)
Step 2. (Groups organizing) Divide the class into groups of suitable so that the
team members as diverse as possible and assign tasks to team members.
Step 3. (Group activities) Conducting group activities as scheduled, exchange to
teachers if there are problems to solve.
(2) The report conducted in class: Teachers require students presentations their
assignments in class. After the report, teachers spent some time to other groups
comment, suggestion ... Finally, the teacher confirmed the results and
summarize the knowledge gained from their presentation.
(3) Assessment of student activities: reporting on group activities for 20% of the
self-study score

Research results and survey

Content, methods, evaluation aims and object of surveying

With the aim of evaluating the effectiveness of the application of teaching
methods towards occupational skills training for students through Probability
Statistics course, after impact methods with the lecturer in charge of subject, we
conducted a survey on the subject is first year student of Faculty of Finance and
Accounting and Faculty of International economic business, Lac Hong
University, school years: 2014 to 2015. Votes have clear data to use for statistics
in the survey was 152.
Research methodology, at the time survey: Information and Documentation
Center of Lac Hong University conducted a survey on student course
evaluations after students semester exam in that subject, the survey was carried
out through the website.
Tools and content assessment survey: Questionnaire for the survey includes 20
questions with level scale: 5 = totally agree, 4 = agree, 3 = no ideas, 2 = disagree,
1 = totally disagree.

Survey results
Survey findings are taken from Information and Documentation Center of Lac
Hong University (Here only lists of questions related to skills-table 8).

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Table 8. Course evaluation results of Probabilily and Statistics courses of students in

academic year 2014 - 2015
1 2 3 4 5
The teacher organizes, guides group activities
1 for students to reinforce lessons, expand 0 0 12 130 10
awareness and adoption of knowledge
Teachers teaching methods toward raising
2 issues, stimulate critical thinking and 1 2 4 135 10
creativity of learners
During school hours, Teachers focus on
3 developing expression skills, problem-solving 2 6 5 121 18
skills of students
Lesson content connects with the real life, in
4 5 5 13 119 10
association with future career majors

Survey results show that the majority of students agree with the comments set
out, in there the rate agree and totally agree, high in the critical comments
related to teaching towards skills training in standard learning outcomes.
Specific question No. 6: Teacher organizes, guides group activities for students
to reinforce lessons, expand awareness and adoption of knowledge have
92.11% students, question No. 7: Teachers teaching methods toward raising
issues, stimulate critical thinking and creativity of learners have 95,39%
students, question No. 8: During school hours, Teachers focus on developing
expression skills, problem-solving skills of students have 91,45% students
choice answers are agree and totally agree. Moreover, if comparing the
percentage of students pass an annual examination, namely academic year 2012 -
2013 are 60.2%; 2013 - 2014 are 67.5%; 2014 - 2015 are 85.4%, and when compared
to the survey results of the school year 2013 - 2014 we noticed there was a
positive change, this insists that these measures have contributed to the teaching
of subjects respond to standard learning outcomes, as well as contact with the
practical applications for job from Probability Statistics course.

Thus, these measures have initially oriented teaching ProbabilityStatistics
course with purpose of occupational skills training of economic majored
students are specified in the standard learning outcomes.
These results suggest that students learn ProbabilityStatistics more positive,
specially application capabilities knowledge of ProbabilityStatistics to solve
practical problems profession is improved remarkably. Those things help us get
the basis for perfection, target synchronization, content and teaching methods

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for ProbabilityStatistics associated with training objectives economics aims

meet the standard learning outcomes set out.

Artaud M (1993), La mathmatisation en conomie comme problme didactique-Une
tude exploratoire. Thse pour lobtention du grade de docteur de lUniversit
dAix-Marseille II. Marseille: IREM dAix-Marseille.
Artigue M, Ingnierie didactique (1992), Recherche en didactique des Mathmatiques,
La Pense Sauvage, Grenoble.
Bernshtein S.N. (1946), Probability theory, Moscow-Leningrad.
Brousseau G., Brousseau N. & Warfield G (2002), "An experiment on the teaching of
statistics an probability", Journal of mathematical Behaviour of chidren, Vol.20,
p.363-411, Edition Elsevier Science.
Edwards, D., Hamson, M. J. (2001), Guide to Mathematical Modelling, Second Edition.
London: Palgrave Mathematical Guides.
Goverment (2012), Education Development Strategy 2011 2020, Decision No. 711 / QD -
TTg dated 16 - 06-2012, Ha Noi.
Hayter A.J. (2007), Probability and statistics for engineering and the sciences, third edition,
Thomson, USA
Hoan V. T. (2014), Situation of teaching Probability - Statistics subject versus outcomes at
Lac Hong University, Ho Chi Minh City University of Pedagogy, Journal of Science,
59(93), p.165169.
Hoan V. T. (2015), Some measures to train problem-solving skill through teaching
probability statistics for economic majored students at Lac Hong University,
Hue University, Journal of Science, Vol. 105, No. 6.
Jay, L. Devore (2004), Probability and statistics for engineering and the sciences, sixth edition,
Thomson, USA.
Johnson D, & Johnson R (1991), Learning together and Alone: cooperative, compettitive and
learning, 3rd, Edition Pretice Hall, Englewood Clift, New Jersey 07632.
Lac Hong University (2012), Report on implementation of publicity regulations of Lac Hong
University's academic year 2012 - 2013.
Moore DS, McCabe GP. (2006), Producing data in Introduction to the Practice of Statistics,
5th ed. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company; pp. 191250
Schoenfeld A. H. (1985), Mathematical problem solving, San Diego: Acadermic Press.
Schoenfeld A. H. (1992), Learning to think mathematically, Problem solving,
metacognition and sensemaking in mathematics, in D. A. Grouws, a curadi,
Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning, New York,
Macmillan, pp. 334-370.
Wu, M., Adams, R. (2006). Modelling Mathematics Problem Solving Item Responses
Using a Multidimensional IRT Model, Mathematics Education Research Journal.
Vol. 18, No. 2, 93-113.

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Exercise 1. (20 marks) Before bringing products to market, they interviewed 200
randomly selected students about the product and get answers of 34 respondents "will
buy", 97 people answered "probably will buy" and 69 people answered "do not buy".
Experience shows that the percentage of customers will actually buy the product
corresponding to the answers above are: 70%; 30% and 1%.
a. Evaluate the market potential of the product.
b. Among customers actually buy the product, how many percent answered "will buy"?.
Exercise 2. (30 marks) The ability to collect on a debt of credit officer at a bank is a
random variable with normal distribution with an average recovery is 30 billion.
Knowing that the ability to collect more than 36 billion is 11.51%.
a. Calculate the probability that a loan officer collected on a debt from 26 billion to 32
b. Knowing that the repayment capacity of the customer below 24 is 0.8 billion, from 24
billion to 36 billion is 0.6 and over 36 billion is 0.4. Calculate the probability that a credit
officer collects on debts.
c. Bonuses of the bank for officers to collect on debt below 24 billion is 10 million, from
24 billion to 36 billion is 15 million and over 36 billion is 20 million. How much is the
average bonus rate of credit officers?
Exercise 3. (20 marks) A maker of baby formula announced that the protein content of
100g milk powder is 13g and standard deviation 3g. Before bringing products to market,
company conduct self-assessment of the production line by the trial production of 300
boxes.Then made 36 out of 300 boxes were randomly sampled.
a. Calculate probabilistic of the collected sample average have protein content in 100g
milk powder less than 12g? If the product weighs less than 12g from 1 box or less, the
test results meet the requirements and are able to produce in bulk to hit the market. Your
conclusion in this case?
b. The assumption after internal inspection, satisfactory products and is marketed in
bulk (large quantities). A quality inspection group also tested the product above with 36
samples randomly collected from 36 stores in the province. You shall Calculate
probabilistic of the collected sample average has protein content in 100g milk powder is
less than 12g? Your comments compared with the results of sentence a?
c. Calculate estimation for sample average in cases as question b with 3 different
confidence levels respectively is 90%; 95% and 99%. Your comments about interval
estimation in 3 cases? Please explain your answer?
Exercise 4. (30 marks) To compare the quality of training in economic majored students
of 2 Universities: A and B. A research has been done with the following design. Select
the students from A University with college entrance exam scores from 20-24 points and
graduated graded fairly. Select group of students of B university are similar. Results
only 10 students from A University and 12 students from B University satisfying the

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above conditions and agree to participate in research. Assuming all 22 students above
can get a job specialization immediately after graduation and average salaries (million
VND) per month in the first year to work can be summarized as the following table:

1 17 1 12
2 15 2 15
3 10 3 8
4 13 4 16
5 18 5 11
6 12 6 13
7 13 7 14
8 11 8 9
9 18 9 10
10 15 10 12
11 14
12 17
Based on the information above you perform the following requirements:
a. You calculate that the statistical characteristics necessary to conclusions about the
variability in salaries of the 2 groups above?
b. Interval estimation 95% for the average salaries of the students majored in economics
satisfy the requirements of the college entrance exam scores and graduated graded fairly
of each school?
c. Interval estimation for the differences in average salaries of students between 2
schools with significance level = 10%?
d. What is your conclusions when drawn from the results in sentence a, b and c above?
---The end---

Full name of the author 1: Hoan Van Tran

Degree: MSc degree
Address: Lac Hong University - Dong Nai Province
PhD student at Viet Nam Institute of Educational Sciences (VNIES) - specialization:
theory and methods of teaching mathematics. Phone: 0973.851.989
Email: tranhoan.math@gmail.com

Full name of the author 2: Hang Thuy Nguyen

Degree: MAc degree
Address: Lac Hong University - Dong Nai Province
Phone: 0937967099
Email: nth2299@gmail.com

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 145-154, November 2016

An Investigation of Discrepancies between

Qualitative and Quantitative Findings in Survey

Melanie DiLoreto and Trudi Gaines

University of West Florida
Pensacola, Florida, USA

Abstract. The purpose of this paper is to bring attention to an important

aspect of mixed methods research design which occurs when the
qualitative findings do not match the quantitative findings within a
particular study. Different perspectives on this phenomenon attempt to
understand and then to resolve such differences. The authors present
these various perspectives as well as an example of a study which
illustrates the phenomenon in question. Recommendations for
resolving differences within the study are given based on the
perspectives presented and conclusions are drawn relevant to an
analysis founded in the literature.

Keywords: mixed methods; research methods; survey research;

discrepant findings

While mixed methods research design seems to represent a desirable and
legitimate alternative to purely quantitative or qualitative designs, it can bring
with it a result that requires attention and reconciliation; that is, the presence of
differences between the qualitative and quantitative findings within a mixed
methods study. Incongruent mixed methods results were first recognized by
Campbell and Fiske (1959) when they established that qualitative and
quantitative methods in research are used to validate and expand upon variance
obtained from the ontological trait rather than an error in methodology (multiple
operationalism). While the theoretical differences that point to incompatibility of
qualitative and quantitative research methods may have been largely put to rest
by theorists in the field (Howe, 2012), actual findings can and do express
discrepancies between the two data sets when conducted either simultaneously
or in tandem.
We turn first to a discussion of triangulation in the context of mixed-
methods studies insofar as it provides the vehicle for understanding findings to
arrive at an overarching view of the issue at hand. There are mixed views of the
definition and use of triangulation in research (Hussein, 2009). Triangulation

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was first promoted in the literature by Campbell and Fiske (1959) as an

important if not necessary means toward the ends of withstanding scrutiny of
findings by the greater research community. The initial purpose of triangulation
was that the various methodologies findings would support or complement one
another, thereby providing the overall conclusion greater validity. Mathison
(1988) introduced a different concept of triangulation which addressed the
occurrence of divergent findings among various methodologies and presented
three options with respect to triangulation outcomes: convergence,
inconsistency, or contradictory. She also proposed the importance of a holistic
approach to understanding the research study itself especially in the presence of
contradictory findings. This holistic approach involves an understanding and
explanation of context in as broad a way as possible. Such an approach was
supported by Howes (2012) rationale for triangulation as a valid and important
pursuit regardless of particular elements of a mixed-methods approach being
either conjunctive or disjunctive that is, addressing the same or various research
questions respectively.
From a different perspective, triangulation can combine methodologies
in one study of the same phenomenon or within-method which uses multiple
techniques within one particular method used to collect and interpret data
(Denzin, 1978). In the case of survey research, multiple scales or various indices
are often used to cross-check for internal consistency (Jick, 1979). Denzin (1978),
however, indicated that triangulation should not be confused with mixed
methods; but instead, these are two distinct ways to conceptualize
interpretations and findings. The process, in a final perspective, includes an
assumption that data analyses can come from a variety of designs and that the
data analyses are not dependent upon the design that is employed
(Onwuegbuzie & Teddlie, 2003). By using triangulation, conclusions about the
research questions can be presented as the result of a higher level of synthesis
(Lee & Rowlands, 2015). Triangulation therefore, is in support of the
complementary theorist who carefully considers the outcome in logical sequence
and evaluates whether differences in conclusions can co-occur. The model of
triangulation is not proposed in this context to cross-validate data, but rather to
capture an assortment of aspects relative to a similar phenomenon. Thus,
triangulation is offered as a potential ontological explanation for discrepant
findings in the present mixed-methods research design.
With respect to typology of mixed methods design, a meta-analysis
(Bryman, 2006) showed that two of the possible methods (both quantitative and
qualitative) dominated the studies examined: self-administered questionnaires
and semi-structured interviews. A coded survey instrument was used in 82.4%
of the studies included. The researchers focused on the issue of intention or
rationale for each of the components that comprised the studies. That is, do the
quantitative questions target different or like concepts, opinions, or perceptions?
Another motivation for using mixed-methods design can be triangulation, but
this can be a strategy after the fact when findings from the different methods are
incongruent. Bryman posited a possible lack of certainty among researchers
employing mixed-methods and that increased certainty about motivation might
reduce redundancy among the data obtained.

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We turn next to an examination of multiple views about how to proceed

when discrepant results are found in mixed-methods studies. In cases of
contradiction, the researchers may simply juxtapose the findings, reporting them
as a recommendation for future research rather than seeking to explain or to
reconcile them (Brannen, 2005). Another possibility is that one set of findings
may be described as being better than the other. Wagner et al. (2012) reported
that addressing the differences between findings is an area of investigation unto
itself and that there are two theoretical foundations for integrating findings:
positivist views and socially relative views. Discrepant findings should be
interpreted as being in a reciprocal relationship rather than in an oppositional
one (Smith, Cannata, & Haynes, 2016). Wagner et al. further posited that the
tensions and dynamics around the various positions should be viewed as both
intellectually and scholastically healthy. Discrepant findings can point the
researchers to potential flaws in the construction of measuring instruments such
as unintended ambiguity or a deficit in the depth of participants responses.
Fielding (2009) held that an overarching benefit of examining differing results is
the prevention of analytic tunnel vision by way of achieving analytic
As an alternate to explanation or reconciliation, researchers should
review the methodological issues and possibly reject outright one set of findings
(Slonim-Nevo & Nevo, 2009). Such methodological issues would include
problems with the sample, with the measuring instrument itself, and/or with
procedures followed in either the quantitative or qualitative portion of the
study. Such an analysis could lead to the conclusion that one data set is actually
superior to the other, which should be rejected. When no such methodological
issues are present, researchers should then determine if the contradictions
between findings are logical or not, with logical differences potentially leading
to further investigation. Finally, it is important to determine if the findings are
discrepant (conflicts) or if they are contradictory. If they are discrepant, then
often the discrepancies can help lead the researchers to a conclusion that will
likely be viewed as logical. If the results, however, are contradictory and there is
no logical way to resolve the differences, then the efforts should be abandoned, a
recommendation that aligns with the previous one suggesting a simple
reporting of differences to be left for further investigation.
Another perspective is to approach differences as being either
complementary or noncomplementary. In the complementary approach,
findings are not contradictory and thus can be logically reconciled. The
noncomplementary approach necessitates abandoning one set of findings over
the other as they cannot be logically understood to coexist. The former assumes
that conflicting findings implicate a necessary choice in determining which to
keep and report, and which to eliminate. In turn, the complementary theorist
does not agree that both discrepant findings cannot coexist in harmony. The
latter does not simply accept results which seem to not make sense, but rather,
attempts to rectify the conflict by making logical connections. For instance, in
reality and in nature, conflicts are always present. Consider the following
example. An individual might believe that the universe is the result of a massive
explosion dating back to approximately 12 billion years ago. Another may
disagree, arguing that God created the universe. The noncomplementary

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theorist would not accept this disagreement; both cannot exist, and one must be
wrong. Alternatively, the complementary theorist attempts to make logical
sense of both situations and its full complexity, understanding the multifaceted
essence of mankind. On the other hand, contradictions are logically impossible.
There do exist absolutes that cannot be debated. For example, it cannot be both
raining and not raining at the same time according to the laws of physics.
Therefore, it is imperative for the researcher to search for potential and logical
conclusions for discrepant results and accept if there are none. Conversely,
complementary findings necessitate consistency across methodologies (i.e.
qualitative and quantitative). If both are in accordance with one another, results
are considered to be complementary.
DeLisle (2011) went so far as to assert that discrepant findings are
necessary in order to portray all aspects of a particular issue, especially true
when the findings are used for policy-making decisions. Issues and questions
about education and educational policy can often be best be addressed by
eliciting more nuanced responses than can be obtained through strictly
quantitative methodologies. Complementary, discrepant findings are necessary
to illustrate the contextual aspects of an issue that are not apparent in
quantitative data alone (DeLisle, 2011; Slonin-Nevo & Nevo, 2009). Positivist
views support one sole, measurable truth whereas socially relative views
support the notion that context influences facts, expanding the possibilities for
disparate findings and justifying their importance.
Moffatt, White, Mackintosh, and Howel (2006) proposed six ways to
further explore differences in the data. The first is to treat the two
methodologies as fundamentally different. This leads to treating the two
resulting datasets as findings to complement each other rather than to be
integrated into each other. The second is to explore the methodological rigor of
each component. The recommendation is to use the findings from one
methodology as a benchmark to more closely examine the rigor of the other.
The third is to explore the dataset comparability. That is, in studies where a
different or modified sample population is used, likeness of the participants
between the methodological groups should be examined. The fourth is to collect
additional data and make more comparisons. For instance, in studies where a
smaller subset of participants is interviewed in addition to the larger sample
which participated in the survey, the recommendation is to interview additional
participants. The fifth is to explore if the intervention under study worked as
expected. It may be that initial assumptions made about participants were not
entirely accurate with such inaccuracies potentially contributing to skewed or
invalid findings. The sixth is to explore whether the outcomes of the
quantitative and qualitative components match insofar as they address the same
constructs or domains. It can sometimes be the case that quantitative findings
do not result from sufficiently explicit or individualized interrogations by way
of a survey whereas qualitative, open-ended questions provide the room
needed by participants to sufficiently express or explain their responses. The
first four of these could be applied to survey research and, particularly, to the
study discussed later in this article, which study investigates the issue of
assessment in education. The fifth proposed way would not apply here as there
is no intervention involved in the study and the sixth way would not apply as

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the construct investigated is the same in both the qualitative and quantitative
Education seems an especially appropriate discipline for mixed methods
research as educators navigate their way through difficult policy issues using
data-driven decisions to inform their practices. Postpositivist researchers believe
that an independent reality exists and can be studied. At the same time,
postpositivists reject the objectivity of theoretical notions since mankind is
inherently biased and largely influenced by cultural nuances. Thus, theoretical
constructs can be measured to some degree but never fully grasped
(Onwuegbuzie, Johnson, & Collins, 2009). This is able to occur if the researcher
takes a neutral and objective stance to the research, and remains as detached
from the results as possible. In a constructivist paradigm, researchers believe
that contradictory results in a mixed method design are equally valid measures
of the same phenomenon (Onwuegbuzie et al., 2009). From the perspective of a
postpositivist critical realism, answers to the many and varied questions and
challenges that educators and policymakers face today will likely be required to
serve and satisfy the different points of view of all stakeholders. As educators
and researchers proceed forward to resolve the challenging issues such as
assessment at numerous levels, it is clear that research findings should inform
the direction toward solutions and strategies that are the most representative
and valid. Toward that end, mixed methods research is an ideal methodology as
it bridges the longstanding divide, at times a hostile one, between the two
polarities of qualitative and quantitative research methods (Johnson &
Onwuegbuzie, 2004).

Results of Recent Study

A recent survey investigating conceptions of assessment among faculty
and students in higher education contained both quantitative and qualitative
items (DiLoreto, 2013). According to Brymans (2006) meta-analysis on
typologies in mixed methods research, this studys quantitative and qualitative
components addressed the same concepts with respect to participants
conceptions which would be seen as the rationale for their inclusion and as
evidence of the absence of a lack of certainty with respect to their inclusion. An
analysis of the results showed that student responses were consistent between
the quantitative and qualitative data; however, there were considerable
discrepancies between the nature of the responses from faculty on the
quantitative items when compared to the qualitative items. This discrepancy
captured the interest of the authors and led to the investigation of this
All undergraduate students and all full and part-time faculty members
who teach at Level V institutions of higher education with a minimum of one
bachelors degree located within the accreditation region of the Southern
Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) were asked to participate in this
study. Level V doctoral-degree granting institutions are defined by SACS as
institutions that offer three or fewer doctoral degrees as highest degrees. For the
purposes of this study, faculty members were identified as university employees
whose primary duty is classroom teaching, research, department chairpersons,

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academic deans, and program coordinators. Students were identified as

undergraduate students attending one of the institutions within this region.
The primary purposes of the study were to confirm a model of the
conceptions of assessment based on the previous research and to investigate the
deeper meaning of the term assessment and the activities that are associated
with the term. The researcher used Huangs (2012) explanation of formative
assessment versus summative assessment as the lens by which to view the
responses of students and faculty about the meaning of assessment. Huang
(2012) defined formative and summative assessments in terms of their intended
outcome. By definition, formative assessments elicit evidence that form the basis
of improvement and these assessments ensure students understand the goals of
learning. Furthermore, formative assessments provide opportunities for
students to receive feedback. These assessments are primarily used as a
diagnostic tool by the instructor to provide informal feedback during the
progression of the learning itself. Formative assessments can be used to help the
instructor evaluate if students comprehend the material without the attached
punitive repercussions. Conversely, summative assessments are often
associated with high-stakes, are standardized, and evaluative.
The cross-sectional design using survey methodology provided a one-
time snapshot of information from both faculty and students of higher education
within the southeastern United States. Quantitative and qualitative data were
collected simultaneously. Participants responded to 27 items using a six-point
Likert scale, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Data were
analyzed using a structural equation modeling framework in order to determine
structural validity of the model before analyzing where the differences, if any,
existed between faculty members and students conceptions of assessment.
After determining the best fitting model, invariance analysis began. To this end,
the best fitting model was tested for invariance across groups, faculty and
In order to identify trends and to further explore faculty members and
undergraduate students beliefs about the definition of assessment, an open-
ended question developed by the researcher was added to the modified
abridged version of the CoA-III developed by Fletcher, Meyer, Anderson,
Johnston, and Rees (2011): What does the term assessment mean to you?
Participants were also asked to select from a list of possible responses about
what types of activities come to mind when they think of the term assessment.
These additional questions were used to gain further insight into faculty
members and undergraduate students conceptions of assessment within level
V institutions of higher education in the SACS accreditation region and were
analyzed to determine if there were any trends in the responses in addition to in
the types of activities that came to mind when participants thought of the term
Data were collected from a total of 563 participants. Separate analyses of
the quantitative and qualitative data were completed. Upon completion of these
separate analyses, it became evident that a discrepancy existed in the way
faculty conceptualized assessment when asked open-ended items versus closed-
ended Likert scale items.

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The quantitative data suggested that faculty believe the primary purpose
of assessment is to improve student learning. Often, the thought of using
assessment to improve student learning a formative, not summative approach
is evident. When asked to respond to, What does the term assessment mean
to you, 9% of faculty responses included the word test, testing, quiz, and/or
exam. Conversely, when asked to identify activities associated with assessment,
faculty selected standardized tests most often, and then followed by program
evaluation and student evaluation. Arguably, none of these are typically
associated with student learning in terms of a formative approach. It is
interesting to note that 77% of the faculty marked standardized testing as an
activity that comes to mind when they think of the term assessment. Although
faculty members did not necessarily use terms associated with testing in their
responses to the open-ended question; they did use terms associated with testing
in their responses to activities associated with assessment. This is possibly an
indication that although faculty use various ways to describe assessment(s), the
high-stakes testing culture apparent in the United States today nonetheless
influences the deep-rooted meaning of the activities associated with the term
As evidenced in past research, this study supports the notion that faculty
often support certain values about assessment that are frequently contradicted
by actual practice (Fletcher et al., 2011). The finding of the open-ended question
related to the meaning of the term assessment represents this discrepancy.
Faculty indicated that assessment is a form of testing and/or evaluation of either
students or programs. Unlike the open-ended question, faculty reported
improvement purposes of assessment to the closed-ended items on the
The introductory section of this paper explored the various ways in
which discrepant findings have been conceptualized and the recommendations
for how researchers should proceed when confronted with such findings.
Beginning with the initial view as reported by Campbell and Fisk (1959), the
findings of the study discussed here can be seen as providing an expansion of
the concept of assessment in education and pointing to its considerable variance
rather than to an incompatibility among the particular views or understandings
expressed by the survey participants. Indeed, the findings can be understood as
providing a holistic view of assessment as Mathison (1988) described, especially
since we know that the divergence in question actually describes the two major
categories of assessment in education the formative and the summative. When
considering Lee and Rowlands (2015) higher level of synthesis resulting from
the process of triangulation, the current findings especially point to an issue
beyond merely identifying perceptions and definitions of assessment from
different methodologies; that is, how shall stakeholders and all participants in
formulating educational policy with respect to educational assessment reconcile
its practice with its theoretical framework? It is not at all the opinion of the
authors here that one set of findings is better than the other which would lead
to a dismissal of that set. Following Wagner et al.s (2012) recommendation to
further examine the measuring instrument itself, the authors here support its
reliability and validity with respect to the Likert scale items. As there were only
two open-ended items that contributed to the qualitative findings, there is

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


clearly room for an expansion of this component either by having more such
items or by wording them differently or both.
From among the six ways to further explore the data as recommended
by Moffatt et al. (2006), we identified the four which could be applied to a
further investigation of survey research in general: 1) treat the methods as
fundamentally different, 2) explore the methodological rigor of each component,
3) explore the dataset comparability, and 4) collect additional data and make
more comparisons. When each of these is applied to the survey study discussed
in this article, the researchers could pursue any one of the four recommended
approaches. Specifically, we could consider treating the methods as
fundamentally different while exploring the methodological rigor of each
component. For example, the quantitative analysis using structural equation
modeling produced a decent fitting model; therefore, it is possible to report
those results alone. It is also plausible, however, to explore the methodological
rigor of each component as a means to ensure that the depth and precision
warrant the conclusions. In the case of the study described in this paper, it could
be argued that rigor was lacking in the qualitative method and that further
investigation using an expanded, open-ended questionnaire is warranted.
Finally, another approach to settle this contradiction might be to collect
additional data instead of attempting any reconciliation of the discrepancies
(Brannen, 2005). Those additional data may be collected using the same
procedures from the original study or the researchers may add to the qualitative
rigor by interviewing a sub-set from the original sample. Any one of these ways
to reconcile discrepant findings could be used alone or in combination with one
another in order to potentially resolve the discrepancies described in this study.

There are many possible explanations for differences between
quantitative and qualitative findings. This paper presents various
understandings of these differences and approaches to reconciling them. With
respect to the study at hand about conceptions of assessment among higher
education faculty and students, we conclude the following.
The difference between the findings is a discrepancy between the
two demographics of student versus faculty and not a
contradiction (Slonim-Nevo & Nevo, 2009). Therefore, the
difference can be viewed as a logical one that should lead to
further investigation.
Should these findings be used for policy-making decisions, they
should be viewed as complementary and as portraying different
aspects of the issue of assessment. The qualitative results provide
important information about the context of the issue that might
otherwise go unnoted. Consequently, neither set of findings
should be rejected, in fact, the authors view is that they are
actually necessary to understand all aspects of the issue (DeLisle,
2011; Ruark & Fielding-Miller, 2016).
The findings here are viewed from the socially relativist view that
the forces of context hold important sway over facts on the

2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


ground, and that there is not one measurable truth about this
Further investigation is warranted based on these findings to
determine how the qualitative results versus the quantitative
shall be weighted in relationship to one another. In fact, as
indicated by Fielding (2009), a revisiting of the research question
may be warranted.
The authors also conclude that an unforeseen area of scholarly and
intellectually stimulating investigation has been triggered by the current
findings and by the existing literature on this topic. The topic is complex, and
lends itself to a more realistic understanding of most of the issues that educators
at all levels seek to resolve in todays climate of distilling answers into test
scores. Arguably, assessment has developed into an integral and inextricable
aspect of todays educational systems and policies. In fact, it can be seen as a
driver of those policies and, therefore, highlighting a discrepancy between
assessment theory and practice could not be more essential as educators and
stakeholders go forward to develop improved instructional delivery systems.
As evidenced in the literature, resolving discrepant and contradictory
findings can pose significant challenges to researchers. Furthermore, it is even
possible for the issue under study to impact the best approach for resolving
discrepant findings. In fact, DeLisle (2011) suggested that the nuanced context
of educational issues are best understood when complementary, discrepant
findings are present. Thus, prior to resolving any conflicting or discrepant
findings, the researchers recommend determining both the context and purpose
of the initial investigation. Then, concluding whether the findings are
complementary and discrepant or non-complimentary and contradictory is
required. Based on those conclusions, future researchers can then take
appropriate steps in resolving the results of the research findings.
As has already been noted, the fact of discrepancies is a viable area of
investigation unto itself that should become of greater focus as the popularity of
mixed-methods research increases (Wagner et al., 2012). As has been illustrated
by the application to the study at hand of concepts and recommendations with
respect to discrepancies, a depth of understanding and a raising of questions
leading to future research can and should be the outcome.


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2016 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 155-173, November 2016

Teaching the Novel in a University English as a

Foreign Language (EFL) Context:
An Exploratory Study in Lebanon

Nahla Nola Bacha

Lebanese American University

Abstract. Research indicates that EFL students find it difficult to read literary texts
in English mainly due to the vocabulary which is culturally bound and thus may
be unfamiliar to them. Studies in the development of students vocabulary
indicate that there is a minimum number of academic vocabulary required for
success at the university level. However, even though students may have this
level, they may still find it difficult to read literature especially the novel in a
foreign language context. It is the authors contention that with carefully selected
texts and methods, the cultural-language challenge can be addressed. The aim of
the present study is to explore the preliminary effect of selected novels combined
with film and student oral presentations on L1 Arabic EFL learners use of
vocabulary in one 20th Century American Novel course at an English medium
university in Lebanon. Two literary essay tests were administered to 25 students,
one at the beginning and another at the end of the semester, holistically scored
and qualitatively analyzed for vocabulary variety. Main findings indicated that
although the holistic scores may not show a more diverse vocabulary variety on
highly scored essays, the qualitative analysis indicated a development in the
vocabulary on Test 2. Recommendations are made for classroom practice and
future research.

Keywords: Vocabulary, novels, EFL learners, teaching, Lebanon

As I enthusiastically enter class each semester with a novel on the required
reading list, I hear sighs from the room. As I assign a few chapters for the next
class session, I hear students call out that they are finding difficulty, one of
which is their understanding of the vocabulary.
Researchers agree that literature is culture and language bound which raises
challenges for the EFL learner (see Brumfit & Carter, 1986; Kachru, 1986;
Seidlhofer, 2005). In our global world with more communication among peoples
of different cultures, it is important that these differences be understood for
better communication among peoples whether for social, political, educational,
economical, or religious purposes (Crystal, 2003). Including literature in the EFL
classroom can help towards this end (Bacha, 2010; Carter & Long, 1991; Carter &

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McCrae 2014). It is the contention of many researchers that through the

literature of the target language, students can develop their language and be
better informed of the target culture (Coxhead, 2011; Seidlhofer, 2005; Saigh &
Schmitt, 2012).
Studies carried out on L1Arabic speakers of English have indicated that
students texts show weak lexical-grammatical features (Al-Khairy, 2013;
Doushaq, 1986; Hayes-Harb, 2006; Khachan, & Bacha, 2012 among others).
Other studies have shown that the students texts do not conform to those
required in academic institutions (Khachan & Bacha, 2012; Hyland, 2016 among
others). Research indicates, however, that with the teachers input in selecting
the appropriate texts and activities, students can participate more actively in
literature classes (e.g. Coxhead, 2014; 2016; Coxhead, & Bytheway, 2015;
Sturrock, 1990) and produce better writing. Literature, despite this, continues to
be taught in high schools in Lebanon mostly through traditional methods which
rely on memorization and teachers lectures, that do not give them an active
productive vocabulary repertoire when entering university (e.g. Khachan &
Bacha, 2012). It is hoped that the present study in the use of literature in the EFL
classroom will contribute to an effective strategy in raising students use of
vocabulary. But this is not without its challenge that Cook (1986) states below
when using literature and where vocabulary can be quite different from
academic vocabulary posing more difficulty for the learner than that in the
regular academic English texts.

The study of literature in English is suited to the foreign

learners needs, and the mastery of literary texts had little
bearing on the learners needs to understand or produce more
functional written or spoken forms of language. It is, moreover,
often in its deviation from the norms of English grammatical and
lexical usage that literature achieves excellence. While such
deviation may please the native speaker by the freshness they
may bring to his or her linguistic world, they can do little but
confuse the foreign learner (p. 155).

He further states that even though this is the case as stated above there should
not be any changes to simplify the lexical-grammatical morphological and
semantic features of the words in the literary text. There is a large body of EFL
research that indicates this difficulty with vocabulary. Often times, the
requirements are long texts in which vocabulary terminology used by the author
impedes students understanding and thus their motivation and consequently
their performance (Brumfit & Carter, 1986; Elgort & Coxhead, 2015). In light of
the above, this study outlines one method of teaching a literary text, the novel, in
a university literature course focusing on students vocabulary development
over a fifteen week semester.

It is known that a certain level of passive and active vocabulary knowledge

is pre-requisite to understanding literary works of which many are culture
bound (Widdowson, 1975; 1982). It is also known that vocabulary is one
significant indicator of both reading and writing proficiency (e.g. Khachan &

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Bacha, 2012; Carter & Mccarthy, 2014; Coxhead, 1998; 2016; Elgort & Coxhead,
2015). There are also studies on how students vocabulary can be widened
through various literary reading strategies (e.g. Clandfiel 2016; Lazar, 1993;
Sengupta, 2003). However, very little if any has been done with L1Arabic
university students in the Lebanese context. Therefore, this study contributes to
the field in offering one instructional method in one university literature
classroom as to how students literary vocabulary can be developed. In light of
the above, therefore, this study outlines one method of teaching a literary text,
the novel, in a university literature course focusing on students vocabulary
development over a fifteen-week semester. That is the situation of our students
who are required to take a minimum of one literature course at the time of the
study. The challenge is helping them to overcome the hurdle of the many words
that they find difficult.
First, the author claims that the appropriate choice of the novel can help
students widen their vocabulary repertoire and in so doing have a better
understanding of the novel being read. Since students vocabulary level has
been found to be limited on entrance to the university where the present study is
carried out (Khachan & Bacha, 2012), resources and instructional models need to
be selected to help students widen their vocabulary (Coxhead, 2011; Coxhead &
Bytheway, 2014). Literature has been found to be one effective way.
Literature is often times taught and learned through the lecture and
memory method, one reason which has made many students avoid such courses
at the university level (personal communication with students, 2015). It is the
authors view that if novels are selected according to the students interests,
related to life situations, coupled with film study and their involvement in
giving, for example, an oral presentation based on a part of one of the required
class novels in which they are interested, they will use the vocabulary they learn
from the novel.

Review of Literature

Improving Language
Research indicates that undergraduate EFL students in university settings often
have weak language proficiency to cope with their university course work
(Coxhead & Bytheway, 2015). Further, teaching and learning of literature can
help them to develop their language skills along with awareness of other
cultures and develop their own personal profiles through critical thinking and
reflection (Al Alami, 2014; Bobkina & Dominguez, 2014; Muir-Herzig, 2004;
Yilmaz, 2012 ). Students active vocabulary repertoires have expanded from the
readings and have helped to improve their written texts (Yilmaz, 2012; Elgort &
Coxhead, 2016). Having said that, however, some researchers find giving
literature in the classroom, specifically long texts, too difficult and unnecessary.
They report that literature is an art and has no or little effect on language
development (see Bobkina & Dominguez, 2014 for an account). Yet, in a study
carried out in Tawain with EFL learners of English, Tsai (2012) states that
Analysis of the pretest and post-test shows that after a semester-long
novel-reading process, students demonstrated improvement in attitudes,
confidence, interest, and their own perceived reading ability. The results

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are of pedagogical significance to EFL teaching in that they present how

well a novel was received in an EFL class, the benefits it offered as well
as the difficulties it entailed to the reading process (p.103).
Researchers, nonetheless, are in agreement that literature is studied for two main
purposes: language development and cultural awareness besides personal
growth that the above quotation shows. It is through words that meaning is
expressed and thus it is important for students to expand their vocabulary
repertoire and reading novels is one way in which they can do so. Related to
this is Yeibo and Akereles (2015) statement that
Lexical [vocabulary] items help the writer to crystallize his thoughts,
express certain emotions and create images all of which give literature
its peculiar expressive beauty. In this regard, writers depend on lexical
items and their connotative implications to convey their intended
messages. (p.2)
Himanolu (2005) in his article on the benefits of literature in language study,
argues how the novel helps students widen their vocabulary and in turn
improve their reading and writing skills in EFL contexts. He, however, states
that the teachers role is crucial in selecting the novel to the students linguistic
level and interests in the sense that there is a story they can relate to their lives
and characters that they may identify with. Pashangzadeh et.al (2016) also
report how reading narratives help students in developing their reading skills.
In another vein, Rimi, & Zabeen, (2016) also agree that EFL students reading
comprehension skills will improve through literature and especially those that
are read outside the class such as novels. Interestingly, they found through an
action research study that diaspora literature helped with students language
skills more than those written by authors of the target language. The students
could better understand the vocabulary and relate to the cultural background.

Theory and Practice

Several theories have given rise to different approaches to the teaching of
literary analysis. These include (1) New Criticism, (2) Structuralism, (3)
Stylistics (4) Reader-Response, (5) Language-Based, and (6) Critical Literacy with
a focus in each either on language, culture, personal responses and involvement
with the literary elements in the text. However, Thi My Van, (2009) advocates
an eclectic approach where the teacher draws on different approaches according
to the students needs, but notes that students language would best improve if
they are personally involved with the text. There have been positive results
gained in reading comprehension and vocabulary when teachers consider their
students reading interests which could be compiled before the start of the
semester through surveys and/or interviews (Lee, 2006; Bacha, 2010).

Further studies offer theoretical frameworks for the teaching of literary analyses
(e.g. Thi My Van, T. (2009). Others outline activities that tap students
engagement with the texts such as those with the use of the computer, films,
theatrical plays, role play, and dramatic readings to help in raising students
interest and involvement with the text to develop their language especially
vocabulary (e.g. Muir-Herzig, 2004; Shao- Wen Su, 2010). Moreover, significant
to the present study is Maleys (1989) categorization of the approaches to

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teaching literature in the classroom, which are in line with the above
approaches and which Bobkina and Dominguezs (2014) further stress on in the
language and the personal growth approaches.
Carter and Long (1991) add a third model, cultural, suitable for teaching
literature in the EFL programs. This cultural model helps in transmitting
various authors ideas on history, theories, biographies and so forth.

Moody (1984) visualizes these three models in the figure below (in Bobkina
&Dominguez, 2014) where the three parts, language, personal growth and
culture can be seen and in the way they overlap. The classroom method in
teaching literature in the present study is based on this model focusing on
language and personal growth.

Figure 1: Linguistic side of literary texts. Adapted from Approaches to the study of
literature: a practitioners view (Moody, 1984 in Bobkina &Dominguez, 2014)

The aim of this study is an exploratory one to examine any development in
language specifically the type of vocabulary used after a fifteen week semester
of teaching the novel. The type of vocabulary is operationally defined by use of
more sophisticated nouns and adjectives in a corpus of Test 1 literary essays
written at the beginning of the semester and another on Test 2 at the end of the
semester. For example, the adjective good is used quite a lot by students to
mean a great many positive things. Words that would better reflect the situation
in question might be appropriate, suitable and so forth. In the use of nouns,
students may use boy or girl or man when the word lad or maiden or
gentleman or lady might be more specific and give a more accurate picture of
the character. As for the personal development, students learn about other
peoples conflicts and how they resolve them which can raise their awareness of
lifes problems and lessons which could enable them to reflect and make wise
decisions in their own lives. This would be seen in their oral presentations and
interviews at the end of the semester.

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Since a liberal arts education is of importance today in many educational
institutions of higher learning, literature has become a significant vehicle for
both language and personal and cultural development and studies have found
the three inextricable in this endeavor (e.g. Tsai, 2012). Although novels as
textbooks do not lay out subject content and language as other discipline
related texts and language texts do, they have a great advantage of providing
authentic material and a mirror of real life whether in the world around us or
that of the authors. The significance of the present study is stated well by Tsai
When using a novel in the class, the teacher assumes the role
as a narrator and facilitator rather than a lecturer; the students
are no longer passive language learners but active readers of
authentic texts that provide them a genuine perspective of the
real world (p.104).
The research is an exploratory one in one literature class using students graded
essays, (Samples in Appendix A) student oral presentations (Appendix B) and
film. Twenty five Literary Test 1 student essays administered at the beginning of
the first semester 2015, and 25 literary essays at the end of the semester were
holistically scored and qualitatively analyzed through content analysis to find
the frequency of adjectives and nouns over a 15 week semester. Topics for Test 1
and Test 2 were similar in that they focused on character analysis. It was not
necessary to have the exact same topic for purposes of this study to control for

Specifically, the study aims to answer the following research questions:

1. To what extent do students use of vocabulary increase as operationally

defined by the use of nouns and adjectives used in the novels?

2. Are students engaged in interacting with the novels as operational

defined by the oral presentations and the focus group interviews?

Twenty five students, registered in a 20th century American novel course at the
time of the study, participated. Their ages ranged from 18-20 with ten males and
fifteen females, and were undergraduates following different majors such as
business, engineering, computer science, biology and nursing. The literature
course is part of the general university requirements. The students are L1 Arabic
speakers of English.

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There were three procedures carried out in the study.

1. Selection and discussion of the novels

Clandfield (2016) offers advice on how to select and deal with the difficulty of
teaching literature in an EFL classroom. Although the focus is for high schools,
the method recommended is also quite relevant and adaptable in tertiary
institutions. A more important factor pointed out by Clandfield (2016) than the
selection is the teachers role in using the text and providing appropriate tasks in
the EFL classroom. Issues in selecting an appropriate literary texts included the
texts relevance to the students lives, suitable linguistic level, sufficient time to
complete the texts, and cultural background within the students understanding.
These factors were taken into account in the choice of the novels for the fifteen
week semester in the present study.

During the semester, four novels were assigned: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest
Hemingway, The Great Gatsby by F.S. Fitzgerald, To Kill a Mocking Bird, by
Harper Lee, and Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom. These novels were part
of the 20th century American novel course and spanned from the beginning of
the 20th century with Hemingways novel set during first world war (WWI), to
its aftermath and the great depression of the 20s with Fitzgeralds novel to the
midcentury concerning racial discrimination of blacks with Lees only novel, To
Kill a Mocking Bird, to the end of the century with Mitch Alboms story Tuesdays
with Morrie. The latter novel is most significant in that it is a true story on how a
disease of one professor brought him and his student together after sixteen years
to discuss topics of death, marriage, love, regrets and other topics. Characters
portrayed those of real life, the culture in which they lived, and often that of the
authors. Themes centered on issues of the times giving the students a historical,
political, social and individual perspectives in which they engaged during the
discussions. Problem situations were discussed and recommended solutions
were made. Unfamiliar vocabulary was discussed and emphasized in relation to
the modern world and the students personal experiences.

2. Films and Oral Discussions

Films based on the novels were screened after the novel was discussed or before
to arouse curiosity and for the students to live the events they were viewing
and reading. They quickly made connections to their own lives. Reading parts
of the novels done in class in a creative performance with students taking roles
were also carried out. The films and the activities helped the students to use
some of the vocabulary they found difficult. For the oral presentations, students
were required to choose two chapters from any of the novels read in class and
to which they related or found interesting and, individually, give a three minute
power point presentation to the class. The presentation would provide a
summary of the chapter, identify and interpret two memorable quotes, ask two
critical thinking questions and interpret two literary elements such as similes,
metaphors, personification related to each of the two selected chapters by the
student. This engaged the class in problem solving lifes issues and to interact
with the text in relation to real life. Students answers were considered by the
speaker, and the student with the best answer, according to the presenter, would

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be rewarded with points or some type of reward such as chocolate or candy

which made the assignment fun. (Sample in Appendix B).

3 Focus Student Interviews

The researcher met with a random group of seven students after the semester
ended but before the final exam so that the final grades would not influence
their opinions. It was an open interview in which the students voiced their
views on the selection of novels, the film, the oral presentation and the

Data Collection and Analysis

The essays were quantitatively scored according to the ESL Composition Profile
with both holistic and analytic scores of content, vocabulary, language, sentence
structure and mechanics (Jacobs, et.al, 1981). Although the profile has a part on
vocabulary, it does not allow for a record of which words were used. To
strengthen the study, it, therefore, was necessary to qualitatively examine the
essays and note the differences. Wordsmith tools (2016), a software to examine
the frequency of words was used. A random sample of twenty students (10
from Test 1 and 10 from Test 2) were input into the software and analyzed.

Results and Discussion

1. Evaluation of Essays
The essays 1 and 2 were holistically scored by the researcher (see Figure 2 scores
on essay 2 below) according to the rubric (Jacobs et. al 1981). Inter-rater
reliability was not necessary as correlations between holistic and qualitative
evaluation of the essays were not part of the study.

The results indicated 10% of Test 1 essay scores were below the 60% pass
whereas 0% were of that level on essay Test 2 (see Figure 2). However, these
holistic scores do not indicate whether the students progressed in the use of
vocabulary. The present research focuses on the vocabulary, and thus the
students use of vocabulary was evaluated in their essays written at the
beginning and end of the semester for any differences.

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Figure 2: Essay 2 Holistic Scores

The vocabulary in Test 1 and Test 2, increased in adjectives and nouns used over
the fifteen weeks in the use of more sophisticated vocabulary. Students would
select and use some words that they had read in the novel or had come across in
class during the discussions. The sample Test 1 and Test 2 (Appendix A)
written by the same student exemplifies this (in bold type). Sample Test 2 also
shows an attempt to quote passages from the novel concerned. Test 1 (Sample
in Appendix A) indicated use of less sophisticated adjectives and nouns which
gave less of a literary flavor to the text.
There is sufficient qualitative evidence that a wider vocabulary repertoire
had been achieved. Tables 1 and 2 below indicate the results represented in the
statistics and qualitative sample of words showing that there was improvement
in the use of nouns and adjectives on Test 2. This confirms the literature in the
field (Khatib, Rezaei, & Derakhshan, 2011) which proposed that literature is a
great exercise in language. Although Widdowson (1982) among others, argued
that literature might confuse students and be ineffective in language
development for EFL learners, since then researchers have noted the positive
influence of literature in the EFL classroom. The novel is one literary genre that
is of significance in the students expanding their vocabulary repertoire.

To answer the first research question then as to what extent do students use of
vocabulary increase as operationally defined by the use of nouns and adjectives
used in the novels, it can be said to a large degree. Table 1 below shows that the
tokens (different words) are higher in number on Test 2. Also, the words are

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longer on Test 2 showing use of more sophisticated use of words. Only part of
the results, top and lower ends of the data from the software could be included
in the present article due to the length. These results are encouraging and
confirm the literature in the field (e.g. Yilmaz, 2012; Elgort & Coxhead, 2016
among others).

Table 1 Statistics of Vocabulary Features on Tests 1 and 2

Using Wordsmith Tools (2016)
Test 1 Test 2
tokens (running words) in 4,815 5,575
tokens used for word list: 4,438 5,564
type/token ratio (TTR): 29.61 22.25
standardised TTR: 36.70 38.26
STTR std.dev.: 46.29 50.35
STTR basis: 1,000 1,000
mean word length (in 2.46 4.40
word length std.dev.: 2.70 2.40
mean (in words): 554.75 19.52
std.dev.: 1,151.21 10.20
1-letter words: 3,454 219
2-letter words: 29 1,001
3-letter words: 192 1,254
4-letter words: 199 1,033
5-letter words: 192 598
6-letter words: 174 368
7-letter words: 178 441
8-letter words: 150 243
9-letter words: 99 193
10-letter words: 63 112
11-letter words: 45 56
12-letter words: 19 27
13-letter words: 15 24
14-letter words: 2 2
15-letter words: 4 4

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Table 2 Use of Vocabulary on Test 1 and 2 Using Wordsmith Tools

(2016) Showing minimum and maximum use of words

Test 1 Frequency Test 2 Frequency

The 285 The 200
And 201 Love 160
To 180 A 130
Of 152 That 120
A 142 For 70
Love 139 because 65
He 131 Or 60
In 118 Is 58
His 114 Her 56
Is 111 Him 50
That 98 Those 50
Rinaldi 78 although 45
widespread 1 Wind 1
Worthy 1 wholesome 1
strange 1 suitable 1
Vain 1 awesome 1
Wind 1 uplifting 1
widespread 1 compassion 1
upcoming 1 Thrive 2
unstable 1 Inflict 2
unchanged 1 sufficient 2
stronger 1 superfluous 2
State 1 unaffected 2
superior 1 frivolous 2

2. Oral Presentations
On checking the written oral reports done at the end of the semester, it is also
apparent that there is more vocabulary variety (See sample in Appendix B).
Although no comparison can be made with an oral report done at the beginning
of the semester, it is apparent that there is an attempt to use a variety of words..
This also confirms studies in the field where well selected activities can help
students improve their vocabulary (Clandfiel 2016; Lazar, 1993; Sengupta, 2003;
Widdowson, 1975).

3. The Focus Group Interview

The focus group interviews aroused much interest among the students.
Many students mentioned that they like to read novels, contrary to what is
claimed by some faculty at the university where the study was done (personal
communication 2015) and view the inclusion of novels as helping them learn
new words. Students saw the relevance of the novel to their lives and became
aware that the novel is not a subject matter to be studied, but a mirror of life
and lifes lessons. This was very revealing and many students commented that

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if they had studied literature this way in high school, they would have read
more novels.

Part of the 30 minute interview, the researcher carried out with the students,
is given below:

Teacher (T) Tell me about the literature course?

Student 1 (S1) The vocabulary is difficult.. A farewell to arms is easy .. I understand the

S(2) I liked gatsby but daisy was not very kind.

S(3) I enjoyed the course the films amazing and I could understand better

S(4) We memorize in high school I like to talk. I loved speaking about two chapters I
loved with the class seeing myself like Mitch always rushing around I may
organize my studies now.

S(5) I learned new words but I like short stories

S(6) I like this way I like talking about what I think

S (7) I had more words I liked giving my idea in the report

The short extract above from the interview indicates that EFL students find
the vocabulary difficult and confirms the research that teachers need to play an
important role in the selection of the novel in terms of language and content.
Films make the novel come to life once visualized for some students. Activities
are better substitutes for the traditional method of memorization and writing
essays strictly according to the teachers lecture notes. They also give the
students the opportunity to learn and produce in a non-threatening context. The
findings from the focus interview confirm the results in the literature (Tsai, 2012;
Clandfield, 2016 among others).

To answer research question 2 then as to whether students are engaged in

interacting with the novels as operationally defined by the oral presentations
and the focus group interviews, it is apparent that although a few of the
students still find the vocabulary difficult, students voiced personal interest
with the text and learning some of the words in the novels (Carter and Long,
1991). The results confirm the literature in the field especially the theories and
approaches on teaching EFL students language and contributing to personal
growth (e.g. Maley, 1989; Carter and Long, 1991; Bobkina &Dominguez, 2014).

Conclusion and Recommendations

The aim of this study is to see the effect of one method in teaching the novel in a
literature university class in an EFL context in expanding students vocabulary.
Although some research has indicted that literature is difficult for students and

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often confuses them with its stylistic terms, it has been shown that with wise
selection of the literary text, the use of films, student presentations and
discussions related to real life as support, students become engaged and their
vocabulary improves. The preliminary results are promising. It is
recommended that further research be carried out with more literature classes
and larger samples and to investigate in more detail different types of words.
Implications of the preliminary results in this study are significant for EFL
contexts where teachers can contribute in the selection of literary texts and
activities to help in the development of their students vocabulary.


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Appendix A
Test 1 Essay Score 70%

Ernest Hemingway once said: When writing a novel a writer should create
living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature. Looking closely
in each person involved in Farewell to Arms and The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
definitely followed Hemingways advice with the identity he gave for Daisy
Buchanan. Daisy was the center of the story which made her the most
interesting part of it. What made her character so good is the end of the novel.
At the beginning of his novel, Fitzgerald draws Daisy as an angel and links her
to the white color too many times (white dress, white flowers, white car) He
tries to make her high. He carefully builds her as a beautiful young lady filled
with light, passion, good and innocence. Daisy is the ideal lady who was always
fashionable, always spoke in a delicate matter and always chose her words
good. He wanted to show the reason Gatsby was about her. She belonged to the
Elite class of the twenties. The rich class that any girl loves to belong to. Shes the
dream girl. Young, fresh, beautiful and lightened just like a Greek Goddess.
The contrast between how Fitzgerald introduces Daisy and how Hemingway
introduces Catherine is good. Catherine was the crazy girl who had suffered a
lot in her life and now she is suffering more during war with the loss of her
fianc. So while Daisy was enjoying her fancy and great life, Catherine was on
the edge of pain and out of her mind.
As the story moves on however, the true Daisy is comes out. Chapter after
chapter, she becomes less of an ideal and more of a picture Gatsby created of her
in the past. The contrast in her personality starts to show. Yet, he cant actually
see what she really is now. Gatsby does not accept the fact that he cant repeat
his past with the idea of Daisy. Daisy knows of her husbands Tom badness
does not do much about it. Why? Because she preferred money and security
over love. As the story goes on, Daisy adds about her daughter: I hope she will
be a fool, thats the best thing a woman could be. This shows the mentality of
the 20s but also shows how Daisy thought that all a woman should do is try to
survive and act bad. Her beauty was more important to her than her moralities
or culture. The materialistic in her soul from the past had not changed. So
maybe all the purity that surrounded her was fake for her to get what she wants.
All the white that surrounded her was void and emptiness; emptiness of morals
and convictions. Compared to Catherine again, Catherine was a flat character.
She does not develop much through the course of the novel but rather stays
good to pure love of Henry. She was submissive and reflects the pain of the
typical Hemingway hero traits.
The carelessness in Daisys character after she hit Myrtles car was the climax of
her development. And to make it bad, she left Gatsby in his most important
mark of his life: his death. She betrayed him three times. The end of the novel,
reflected the betrayal, unconsciousness and carelessness of her character. In
Farwell to arms, the love story was too pure for betrayal. So while Henry stood
by Catherine in the last minutes of her life, Daisy left Gatsby without looking
back. This is what makes Daisy so good.

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A novel character should be a real person not a caricature. Fitzgerald drew

Daisy as the beautiful innocent girl at the beginning of the novel. But then, he
shows more of her. He shows greed, foolishness, betrayal, carelessness and
infidelity. Her lust for money made her what she is. Other characters in the
novels had a good growth but they grew bigger and better. With Daisy, her
change was to the dark side. Good girl gone bad. And once a good girl goes bad
. Shes gone forever.

Test 2 Essay Score 80%

In his Tuesdays with Morrie masterpiece, Mitch Albom enriches our souls with
moving life lessons and makes us question our existence in this modern world.
One of the most touching quotations was: Death ends a life, not a
relationship. This simple yet complicated statement reflects the power of love
in fighting death and maintaining life eternally. Comparatively, the aspects of
death and love are well maintained all through Ernest Hemingways Farewell to
Arms. Matter of fact, the story takes place during World War I where death was
just another habit of the characters daily life. Furthermore, The Great Gatsby by
Scott Fitzgerald asserts on how death does not put an end on life but life cannot
continue without true love. Addressing literary critics, this paper will develop
how death, life and love is visualized in all three novels. Even though death, life
and love are represented in different manners with different characters in the
three novels, they all assert on Morries magnificent idea on how life is eternal in
the heart of the loved ones. Addressing literary critics, this paper will develop
how the three themes are visualized in all three novels.
First, in Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom does not really focus on death and what
is after it even though the whole novel goes on with his expected death in mind.
He rather focuses on the how to live life successfully. He repeatedly advices
Mitch not to cling to material things but rather build relationships. Because to
him love is the ultimate source of satisfaction to human kind. Death to Morrie
does not mean the end of a road. Especially if that road was paved with love,
compassion and ideal intentions. When we live with love, not only we will give
a better meaning to our lives but when we return to the ground, we will still
remain in the hearts and minds of the people we shared love with. Love here is
described as an energy that will never be lost. Morrie died at the age of 78 but he
was confident that his knowledge will not die with him. The relationship he
built with Mitch went too strong to let go of his words and knowledge. He
wanted to teach the world how to give and receive love more freely. To him, the
competition for money, fame and materialistic values were impoverished. In
summary, after death, relationship struggles on the minds of the survivors
toward some resolution that they might never find but will always continuously
On the other hand, death was continuously repeated all through Farewell to
Arms. The story goes on during a time of war where everything seemed fading.
Death symbols like rain and statues were repeated many times though the
novel. Love however accompanied death everywhere. Matter of fact, it is the
love and loyalty of the soldiers towards their country that made them fight for it
until the last drop of their blood. Equally, Catherines love to Henry made her

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fight to stay alive until she surrendered at the end. The title of the novel (A
Farewell to Arms) shows how the death of soldiers and the death of Catherine
were parallel tragedies of equal importance to Henry. He memorializes both of
them and keeps going; hoping to heal his pains with time. But he never forgot
them. They survived in his memories which only asserted on Morries quote. For
instance, Hemingways novel is written in a ways of diaries. Like Henry is
telling the story at a later time. This shows how his story in the war and his story
with Catherine remained immortal in his mind. Death here again killed life but
did succeed in killing love.
In the third novel, characters do not really discuss themes like death and what is
after it. But death was hindered behind symbols all through the novel. In fact,
there was a constant thrive for Gatsby to kill James-Gatz, the real him. He
fought hard to build the man he is in order to win the love of his life: Daisy. And
that what humans someone do. They are ready to kill their true personality in
order to gain love or the allusion of love they create for themselves. Equally
important is the actual death of Gatsby at the end of the novel. The only person
who cared was Nick. And that is of course because of the true relationship they
built through their lives. Daisy, the one who was supposed to care did not.
Why? Because she was clinging to the material world she chose to devote to a
long time ago. This example only sheds more light on the importance of
Morries quote on how we should not make the material world sacred. Only
love can bring the best humans in us. Gatsbys death revealed how he lived in
the mind of Nick rather than Daisy because their relationship was not
materialistic nor was it based on fake golden bases. True love will only lead to
true life.
Memories are kept in the hearts of the people filled with love seeds even after
death. Morries statement deserves to be called aphorism because it must be a
principle of life. Hemingway showed it through the story Henry kept in his
mind about his love to Catherine and in the same manner Fitzgerald expressed it
through the great of Gatsby after knowing that his love for Daisy was only built
on materialistic fading rhinestones. We are a part of the ocean, we will never
disappear but we will always remain a part of a bigger entity: a loving world.

Appendix B Sample Student oral presentation

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

CHAPTER 6 Summary
After being away for two days at the post, Henry goes to visit Catherine.
Catherine, feeling sad having been without him these few days, asks him if he
loves her while they walk through the garden.
He lies and says yes.
She goes on expressing her love for him and asking him not to leave again.
Henry, in complete awareness that he does not and will not ever love
feels like he is involved in a complex game like bridge which she then admits
as being a miserable game.
She tells him that he does not have to pretend to love her.

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They kiss and she goes off.

Back home, Rinaldi senses the uncertainty coming from Henry and admits
that he himself is glad he did not get involved with any British nurse.

In the plot, an object is introduced
in this chapter that will prove significant later on in
the book.
What do you think is this object?
What does it indicate?
A: The narrator is forced to wear the pistol.
This is the obligatory object.
It reminds us that we are at a short distance from
Its presence along with other objects are
mentioned in minor details in these tranquil
chapters, that set a reminder of the closeness of

Thank God I did not become involved with the British.
- Rinaldi, Chapter VI
It is another skillful Hemingway mode to end the chapter
Why does Hemingway use this mode and what does this quote Signify?
A: Hemingway expresses the way his characters are
feeling by showing the reader the reactions these
characters inflict on others.
He doesnt quote their conversation nor describe
their every move or read out their thoughts.
Indirectly, we can sense that the narrator is
perturbed and upset after he was with Ms. Barkley.
This is shown through Rinaldis response:
Ah, ha! It does not go so well. Baby is puzzled.

Note: Permission was received from the students to print their essays and
novel oral presentation in this study.

An adaptation of this article was presented at the International Educational

Conference, Orlando, U.S.A. January 7, 2016. A travel grant was received from
the University Research and Development Center, Lebanese American
University to attend and present at the conference.

2016 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 15, No. 12, pp. 174-207, November 2016

The Academic Outcomes of Boys

An Argument for a Pluralist Approach
Gregory IB Woodrow
Griffith University

Abstract. The conversation surrounding the underperformance of boys and the

issues they face have occupied the popular press and academic articles for some
years (see Biddulph 1998, DiPrete and Buchmann 2013 Doyle 2010 and Epstein
1998). Much of this conversation continues to be polarised along gender lines,
driven by those within the debate who have opposing interpretations of the issue
of boys comparative academic performance in relation to girls. I will discuss the
politics of these conflicting interpretations, as expressed by pro and post
feminism, to highlight the contrast within this conversation. Connell (2011)
believes that the effect of fragmenting the debate into parallel gender policies is a
weakening of the equality rationale of the original policy. The relational character
of gender is lost by following parallel policies which results in more gender
segregation at a time when less is needed.

I will argue that the rhetoric espoused by authors from different positions in the
debate has done little to unfold the real issues around the underperformance of
boys. The rhetorical elements that distract reasoned debate are highlighted by
Gilbert and Gilbert (1998) who legitimately ask; Which boys are we talking about
here?. Whilst the debate is distracted by a competing victims mentality, any
meaningful discussion around the issues of boys or girls will stall. One might
argue that whilst the focus remains on the battle, the war will never be won.

Whilst it is not my intention to present a defined resolution to this dilemma, I will

offer an argument against reductionism in favour of a pluralist approach (see
Yeatman 1994 and Walby 1992). The debate will move forward, in a mutually
beneficial way, when opposing views are brought together through an
understanding that conversations around boys and girls need to articulate them as
equal and interdependent stakeholders within their educational worlds.

Given the discussion I am about to construct around the position that boys now find
themselves within the educational landscape, I wish to clarify with the reader my position
within this debate by offering a philosophical framework around which I will base my
argument. Given the inherent social nature of schools and the constant gendered interplay
between pupils and staff coupled with and my belief that all parties within this debate have a
vested interest in addressing the issues around boys attainment, I am drawn to the relevance
of the pluralist argument within postfeminist theory or third wave feminism as Munford and
Waters (2013) would suggest. Brooks (1997) elaborates on the philosophy of postfeminism by
defining it as a conceptual frame of reference encompassing the intersection of feminism with
a number of other anti-foundationalist movements including postmodernism,

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poststructuralism and postcolonialism. Yeatman (1994) elaborates further by adding that

postfeminism is: a politic representing a move away from reductionism to pluralism and
difference reflecting on its position in relation to other philosophical and political movements
demanding similar change.

Walby (1992) suggests that as postmodernism is engaged with the principles of modernism, so
too one might suggest postfeminism is positively and productively engaged with patriarchy in
a way seldom seen amongst pro-feminist writers (see Smith 2013) and in doing so
conceptualises power as highly dispersed rather than concentrated in identifiable places or
groups. Barrett and Phillips (1992) build on Walbys argument of the dispersion of power by
noting postmodernisms emphasis on difference rather than equality as the central
differentiation between its theory and other social theories including pro-feminism which
Carby (1982) and Hooks (1984) argue is rooted in a reductionist theory that historically focused
on a select group of white, heterosexual, middle class women. Linda Nicholson (1990) moves
this point forward by commenting that from the 1960s to the mid- 1980s, feminist theory
exhibited a recurrent pattern; its analysis tended to reflect the viewpoints of white, middle-
class women of North America and Western Europe. The irony was that one of the powerful
arguments feminist scholars were making was the limitation of scholarship that falsely
universalised on the basis of limited perspectives. Moreover, feminists were becoming
increasingly aware that a problem with existing scholarship was not only that it left out
womens voices, but also the voices of many other social groups. One may argue that the
voices of men were excluded from this scholarship. A growing awareness of the oppressive
nature of this traditional reductionist scholarship began to gather pace throughout the 1990s
which took issue with the manner in which feminism had dictated to women what they should
think and how they should act.

Given the philosophical framework underpinning post-feminism, one might argue that the
aforementioned authors philosophical positioning within postfeminism and its theory of anti-
reductionism, pro-pluralism and the dispersion of power provides a philosophical framework
that is best positioned to provide equality through an appreciation of difference across
different groups. It may also be argued that the competing victims mentality within the debate
(see Mackey and Coney, 2000) often seen through pro and post-feminist conversations is
stalling the type of pluralist, open debate that is required to strike some balance between the
political positioning that conflicting sides have taken. For example, Smiths (2013) reductionist
beliefs are borne out in her pro-feminist beliefs; Yes, Im one of those feminists who doesnt
want men in feminism, the type who doesnt think men can be feminists. Im quite happy to
talk with you, work with you, work in partnership with or alongside you, even count a select
bunch of you amongst my friends, but call you feminists . . . nah! The counter pluralist
argument is put forward by La Paglia (2013): We often think of feminism as purely a womens
movement, based on the inclusion of women and the exclusion of men. The phenomena of
Sisterhood itself, advocating for the solidarity of all women, implies the existence of a
movement of women, standing up for women and challenging social institutions that support
men. While I have no doubt sisterhood is important, I have some reservations about the idea
that feminism will achieve success through the exclusion of men.

The disparity in academic outcomes between boys and girls at all levels of education has been
apparent for some years. Reasons for this divide have been debated by various academics and
within the popular press both of whom have offered a variety of resolutions needed to address
the concern (see Lingard and Douglas [1999] and Martino and Meyenn [2001]). To the
detriment of both boys and girls, the debate surrounding the underperformance of boys has
too often been polarised around gender or politics or both and has in part been driven by the
psychology of a competing victims mentality (see Cox, 1996). The polarisation of this debate
has resulted in broad, rhetorical statements articulated in a way that aims to reinforce the

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argument in line with whichever political view the author favours. These statements have done
little to clear a path along which reasoned, informed debate may travel. I will use my first
section Clarifying the Rhetoric: Clarifying the Issue of Boys Underperformance to explore
this rhetoric and in doing so set the stage for what I plan to be an unbiased, objective
evaluation of the reasons behind boys underperformance.

The debate has involved reinscribing binary oppositions between boys and girls, femininity
and masculinity, where any success ascribed to one gender is seen to be at the expense of the
other. The subsequent polarisation has done little to advance the cause of addressing the needs
of boys and in some aspects the needs of girls who are equal stakeholders in this complex
landscape. The result of the rhetoric espoused by the popular media and by right wing
advocates within womens and mens movements alike, is a fundamental biological
determinism and competing victims syndrome which sets the interests of one group against
the interests of the other at a time when clear objective debate is needed (see Martino and
Meyenn, 2001). With advocates from both sides of the debate driving their own politic through
a competing victims narrative, what has evolved is a backlash arm-wrestle for ascendency
which has made any meaningful progress difficult to negotiate (see Faludi, 1991 and 2006 and
French 1992). Writing on the National Organisation for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS)
website, pro-feminist, Brian Klocke (2014) argues that "Although I believe that men can be pro-
feminist and anti-sexist, I do not believe we can be feminists in the strictest sense of the word.
Men, in this patriarchal system, cannot remove themselves from their power and privilege in
relation to women. To be a feminist one must be a member of the targeted group (i.e a woman)
not only as a matter of classification but as having one's directly-lived experience inform one's
theory." Whilst this backlash arm wrestle continues, one may argue the emphasis will continue
to focus on the battle rather than the victory with boys and girls featuring equally amongst the

The over-emphasis of the central position of the female in gender equity policy has created a
division on both sides of the debate which has resulted in an opportunity for femocrats (see
Lingard and Douglas, 1999) to enter the debate through the politicisation of education
departments which has served to further polarise the debate. This move has provided impetus
for authors (see Gilbert and Gilbert 1998, Faludi 1992 and French 1992) who have been given
space and legitimacy within which to promote their notion of girls as the true victims. Despite
the evidence that would suggest girls are doing better than boys across all levels of education,
some authors continue to espouse the belief that if there is any disadvantaged position that
boys and men find themselves in, it is the currency that needs to be paid for the superiority
they hold in society (see McLean 1996). Connell (1995) touches on this principle through his
concept of hegemonic masculinity. McLean writes; It is meaningless to argue that men are
oppressed on the grounds of their gender. It is perfectly legitimate to argue that men suffer as
a result of conforming to gender stereotypes, as long as it is also recognised that this suffering
contributes to the maintenance of systems that actually oppress others (McLean, 1996). This
quid quo pro argument attempts to normalise the underperformance of boys and the disparity
in academic outcomes because they recoup when they enter the workforce. If there is a
pendulum bias to one pole within the workforce, I do not believe education should be seen as a
site for the justification of the opposing pole.

As a recognised leader within the gender debate, Connell (2011) adds that by fragmenting the
debate into parallel policies for men and women and boys and girls, he acknowledges a wider
scope of gender issues that weakens the equality rationale of the original policy. His argument
forgets the relational character of gender and in doing so tends to redefine women and men or
girls and boys simply as different market segments to serve some purpose which does little
more than promote more gender segregation at a time when less is needed. Connells notion of
defining boys and girls into Epstein (1998) and Kenway (1995) reflect on these separate issues

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in a rather derisory and off-hand way. The authors suggest the underperformance of boys may
be related to three dominant poor boys discourses, these being single (fatherless) families,
female dominated primary schooling and feminism. Epstein polarises the debate further by
suggesting; if it is not women teachers, it is mothers, if not mothers, it is feminists; most often
it is a combination. Ironically, it is a combination of these factors that I have used to underpin
this article. Devaluing the narrative in this manner seeks through negation or denial to
discredit the argument, and in acting to inhibit support from others. Cohen (1981) comments
on this form of political control of truth which operates at a number of levels and through a
range of mechanisms. Another semantic framework through which one discourse or belief
attempts to neutralise the power of alternative narratives through the employment of
interpretive denials, discretisation or the acknowledgement of the existence of an alternative
The issues which inhibit boys from competing on an equal footing with girls are broad,
complex and in some cases interlinked and need to be considered in total if the disparity in
academic outcomes is to be addressed. Arnot, David and Weiner (1996) argue this point by
proposing that any single issue lacks sufficient gravity to create the disparity we currently see
between boys and girls. Rather, just as the perfect storm required a variety of factors to come
together at a particular time to create the most destructive storm to hit the eastern seaboard of
North America, so too have key issues around gender come together at the same time to create
the divide in the academic outcomes that we are currently witnessing.

It may be argued that 1960s feminism provided the initial momentum which has seen the
academic results of girls pass boys in most subjects at all levels of schooling for the first time.
This feminism has also offered a new and inspiring set of role models for girls (see Nicholson,
1990). In this respect boys have been left behind. They still aspire to many of the same character
traits amongst their role models and the same employment opportunities that their fathers
aspired to. Despite those role models that encourage girls to be strong and assertive,
stereotypically seen as traits for boys and men to aspire to, there are too few role models who
encourage boys or men to be as compassionate as they are competent or as able to express
themselves emotionally as they are to express themselves professionally. Feminism has
provided girls with the confidence to play the part of a tomboy at a time that it is still
unacceptable in mainstream masculine culture to be seen as effeminate. Feminism has also
challenged the rules of conduct and girls aspiration in schools and within the workplace with
laws that prevent and punish sexual harassment. Subtle and overt forms of discrimination
against girls whose place was once seen as within the home economics classroom have been
challenged which now allow them to sit equally and comfortably in maths or physics
classrooms. Whilst this feminism has offered a blueprint for a new outlook and aspiration for
girls, the opportunity has passed by many boys who still see their rightful place within a
narrow band of stereotypical subjects and men who aspire to an equally narrow range of
professions. In this respect, the gains that have been achieved for girls and women have shifted
the balance of power in many male dominated fields but have failed to create the same shift for
boys and men. This shift has challenged hegemonic masculinity (see Connell, 1995) and it is,
therefore, not surprising that feminists have been blamed for taking opportunities away from
men and boys in trying to present alternative models of masculinity that have mutual benefit
to boys and girls and men and women. There remains those whose mindset has not made this
shift (see Gurian 1996 and 1998 and Biddulph 1998) who continue to attribute laddish anti-
social behaviour as simply boys being boys. In doing so these apologists promote a particular
version of masculinity which is treated unproblematically as an effect of biological sex
differences which fails to appreciate there are alternatives to this culture and it is these
alternatives which can provide the impetus to challenge the underperformance of boys.
Connell (1995) takes this point forward by suggesting that masculinity should be
conceptualised in terms of relationships, that different masculinities are constructed in relation
to other masculinities and to femininities through the structure of gender relations - a pluralist

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approach to gender relationships. Thorne (1993) elaborates on this proposal by suggesting a

move away from a reductionist role based on gender. Masculinities need to be conceptualised
in relation to their class, sexual orientation and ethnicity. Furthermore, Brittan (1989) argues
that masculinity should not have a one-dimensional identity; rather it should embody multiple
dimensions, for example white, working class gay masculinity alongside Asian, middleclass

The thrust of this paper will argue for a politics of alliance between men and feminism which
may be achieved either through the acceptance of a strategic essentialism which both groups
are able to present themselves through the acceptance of a pluralism which allows both sides
to agree to multiple, even contradictory strategies to be adapted and maintained as possible
courses of action. Connell (1995) follows this pluralist notion by proposing not so much a
parallel mens movement to counter feminism, but rather an alliance of politics. Any project
with the aim of developing a mutual benefit through social justice will depend largely on the
overlapping of interests between groups rather than the mobilisation of one groups ideas
around its primary interest at the exclusion of the interests of the other group. I hope to play
some small part in demystifying the debate which is too often driven by emotive rhetoric, with
parties on both sides acting to defend their position within the gender landscape and seeking
out opportunities to discredit the alternative view whilst endeavouring to cement their
position. What I hope to bring to this paper is the merits of a pluralist approach driven by a
belief that headway can be made for boys that will not compromise girls attainment through a
conversation which provides space for the views of both sides. Whilst Lingard and Douglas
(1999) present recuperative masculinity strategies as a possible solution and Martino and
Meyenn (2001) propose physical education and school sport as a counterbalance to be used to
connect constructively with current concerns about boys, it is not my intention to set out a
model or definitive answer as to how the current disparity in academic outcomes between boys
and girls may be addressed.

Working on this paper from London has drawn me to this location for much of my work.
However, as the issues surrounding boys underperformance is world-wide, I have consciously
drawn in references for this topic from The United States and Australia in an attempt to
provide the reader with a more balanced international perspective on the issues surrounding
the underperformance of boys. I hope this paper might in some way add to the debate for
continuing the emotive and sensitive discussion of theory, political and cultural change and
education reform that will ultimately lead to the benefit of boys and girls who deserve equal
access to the curriculum and an equal footing in the educational sphere.

Challenging the Rhetoric:

Clarifying the Issue of Boys Underperformance

It is often said the devil is in the detail, it is also often reported that boys are underperforming
girls, the inference being that all boys are underperforming all girls with no consideration
given to the variety of characteristics surrounding these boys, whether they are in
independent or government schools, be it their age, their socio-economic background or their
race. Political rhetoric has deflected the true statistics behind the misinformation that espouses
the viewpoint that boys are underperforming girls with no consideration being given to the
variety of characteristics surrounding who these boys and girls might be. The rhetoric which
underpins these oft reported statements is driven by those within the debate who are
motivated by presenting a view that reinforces their politic and it does little to promote
informed, objective debate of a pluralist nature. To reinforce this position, I will use this section
to unfold the populist statements which have distracted the reader from the fuller picture of
boys relative underperformance.

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The complexities of boys performance in school has been documented for some years (see
Teese 1995, Yates 1997, Murphy and Elwood 1998, Raphael Reed 1998 and Arnot 1999). What
these researchers, amongst others, have shown is that boys are disproportionately represented
amongst the lowest achievers but also amongst a small band within the highest of the high
achievers. The least differences in academic attainment occur amongst the highest socio-
economic groups; the greatest difference is noted amongst the lowest socio-economic groups
and herein lies one anomaly that challenges the generic statement of boys underperforming
girls. Gilbourne (1997) also points out that the inequalities generated by race are greater than
those generated by gender. Lu (2014) supports this position by adding that relative
disadvantage could accumulate and become significant when a student experiences multiple
aspects of disadvantage. Many leading British independent schools have embarked on school
partnerships and the sponsorship of academies to support underperforming maintained or
government schools in low socio-economic areas. These independent schools offer financial
and teaching support through sharing professional development opportunities, best teaching
practice and the use of a wide range of their facilities. The notion of these wealthy independent
schools, which include Eton and Wellington College, supporting underperforming schools in
the maintained sector is tangible proof of the divide between the resources at the disposal of
independent schools and those within the maintained sector. Whilst it is true to suggest these
independent schools support underperforming schools in part to justify their charitable status
for taxation purposes, it is equally true to suggest that the resources independent schools have
at their disposal is far beyond the reach of those maintained schools in low socio-economic
areas which they have chosen to sponsor.

Whilst I have used my Introduction to highlight the complexities that lie behind the reasons for
the academic outcomes of boys and girls, I will use this section to clarify the issue of this
disparity in outcomes and refer to Gilbert and Gilbert (1998) who legitimately ask; Which
boys are we talking about here?. One does not need to conduct too much research to come
across blanket statements that point to the increasing discrepancy between the academic
outcomes of boys and girls, the inference being that all boys are falling behind all girls, in all
subjects, at all year levels and in all levels of education. However, when one takes a deeper
view of the situation, it is not as clear cut as one might be led to believe. Gender aside,
geography, ethnicity and a raft of socio-economic factors all play a role in differentiating
outcomes and these need to be considered before generalised statements are made. What is
true is that the academic outcomes for girls and boys have shifted in recent years and this has
been noted in most Western democracies including the United Kingdom, the United States and
Australia. The shift in academic outcomes is not as straight forward as one might hope and it
would be fair to suggest the devil is in the detail. To clarify this point and to give weight to the
complexity of the issue, I would refer to a UK report by CentreForum, an independent think
tank which develops evidence-based research to influence both national debate and policy

In January 2016, CentreForum set out what it considered to be world-class standards in

education (for full details on the assessment criteria, see CentreForum Report, 2016). The
English Report highlighted a stark geographical differential in achievement levels between
pupils with 40% of schools in the lower socio-economic areas of the East Midlands and 30% in
Yorkshire and the Humber failing to get 25% or more of their pupils to the proposed standard.
In contrast, the more affluent areas of London had fewer than 10% of schools fail to meet the
same benchmark with 61.2% of pupils achieving CentreForums benchmark compared with
55.4% in Yorkshire and the Humber. To reinforce the socio-economic bias in academic results,
the Report found London boroughs dominated their list of the 20 highest performing
authorities whilst 25% of the lowest 20 performing authorities were found in Yorkshire and the
Humber. The proportion of children who achieved a good level of development in 2015 ranged
from 71.9% in the South East to 64.0% in the North East. Based on performance on both

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attainment and progress indicators, the highest performing local authorities at Key Stage 4 are
in the affluent areas of Barnet, Kingston upon Thames, and Westminster, the poorest
performing are Knowsley, Blackpool, Stoke-on-Trent, and Doncaster, all low socio-economic

These results show a clear socio-economic and geographic divide, with the highest performing
regions located in the more affluent areas of the south of England and the lowest performing
regions located in the poorer regions in the North. The Report also found pupils for whom
English is an additional language (EAL) are less affected by poverty which reinforces the socio-
economic perspective of academic performance (Taken from CentreForum Report, 2016).

Figure 1.6 shown above highlights Londons position as the highest performing region at both
Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 2, in terms of both attainment and progress. Gillborne (1997) takes
this argument forward in a study he conducted on the intersection between race and ethnicity
with gender and social class in terms of exam results at 16. Gillbournes study found that
irrespective of gender, colour or ethnicity, the higher social class of the pupil the higher their

The disparity in academic outcomes by regions is compounded by the skewed allocation of

government funding to these regions. According to Department for Education funding
statistics (2016) London schools received 8,587 per pupil in the 2015/2016 academic year.
Schools in York received less than half that amount at 4,202 per pupil during the same school
year. In the 2003 school year, the two regions of England with the lowest GCSE attainments
were London and Yorkshire. The capital, which has the benefit of the devolved Greater
London Assembly (GLA), was able to address the issue through instigating the London
Challenge, an initiative offering increased funding, specialised training for teachers and the
sharing of best practice into underperforming schools in their region. In 2014 and 2015 the
London region returned the highest GCSE results in the country while Yorkshire and the
North-East continued to return the worst GCSE results. The GLA holds the London Mayor and
Mayoral advisers to account by publicly examining policies, funding and programmes through
committee meetings, plenary sessions, site visits and investigations. The Mayor is expected to
respond to any formal recommendation made by the Assembly and this may include the

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allocation or reallocation of funding aimed at addressing any disparity in academic outcomes

across boroughs within the Greater London boundary. Regional political parties such as the
North-East Party and the Yorkshire Party have called for an end to such inequality of funding.
Chris Whitwood (Deputy Leader of the Yorkshire Party [2016]) has called for an end to the
skewed allocation of funding which benefits London pupils in a way that regional pupils are
not benefited. Whitwood has called for a more equitable model that will aid in addressing the
underachievement of white, working class boys in his electorate.

The correlation between socio-economics, race and disadvantage and academic

underperformance is a consistent factor that is not restricted to the UK alone. (Aud et al., 2011)
reports on the significant disparity in letter recognition disparity between differing socio-
economic bands of American children at the same age ranging from 10% to 13% differentiation.
Proficiency in recognising numbers and shapes also displays a noticeable disparity, in some
cases up to 40%, between ethnic and racial minority groups and White and Asian groups. In
mathematics achievement, 8% 9% of fourth grade White and Asian children scored at the
below basic proficiency levels, but 29% to 36% of African American, Latino, and Native Indian
children scored below basic proficiency. It is noted that the pattern of disparities has been
consistent over the last two decades and the patterns are similar across reading and
mathematics for Grades 4, 8 and 12. On Advanced Placement (AP) tests, where a score of 3 or
above is considered successful, 62 64% of White and Asian students scores met this criteria,
43% of Latino and Native American students and 26% of African American students were
considered successful. Graduation rates also show a marked differential; 91.3% of Asian
students, 80.3% of White students graduated from high school at a time when 60% to 63% of
the Latino, Native American and African American groups graduated. Dropout percentages
favour Latino and Native American children at approximately 17% at a time when the dropout
rates for White and Asian pupils at the same age is 5.3% 6.1% (NAEP, 2011).

Added into this American research on the socio-economic disparities in academic achievement
and high school dropout rates, is work undertaken by Harvard economist Richard Murnane
(2015) who reports that it is now widely acknowledged in the United States that girls are better
than boys at school. Not only do girls achieve better grades than their male counterparts, they
are excluded, suspended and expelled less from school have been more likely over the past
forty years to earn high school and college diplomas. The high school graduation rate for males
has stagnated around 81% since the 1970s while at the same time the percentage of girls
graduating has risen slowly to a current rate of 87%. I believe there is significant relevance in
the 1970 date. I have mentioned previously the impact that the womens movement has had on
refocusing attention and resources into girls education. The womens movement has
undertaken an admirable role in offering girls opportunities at all levels of education that their
mothers did not have and the consequences of this refocus can be seen in the aftermath of the
1960s and 1970s feminist movement.

In support of the socioeconomic factors offered by Aud (2011) Murnanes research also
highlights the greatest differential in academic results being among the most disadvantaged
children. David Autor (Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] Economics Professor
[2015]) and colleagues analysed the records of over a million Florida children born between
1992 and 2002 who attended state government schools. Their research also found that young
women had surpassed young men in schooling. They also noted the significant contribution
that race and socio-economic status played in this disparity. Furthermore, the work of Raethel
(1996), Capp (2000) and Cox (1997) has also highlighted the statistics which show the marked
disparity between the academic outcomes and opportunities between American boys and girls.

I would ask are disciplinarian schools to blame? Crime and gang activity tend to draw in more
boys than girls, so are disadvantaged neighbourhoods to blame? Many of the poorest boys and

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girls grow up in single-parent families with mothers overwhelmingly filling the role of single
parent, so are absent fathers to blame? To untangle these contributing factors, Autor and his
colleagues (Figlio, Karbownik, Roth and Wasserman, 2015) pieced together birth and school
records, combining them with information about neighbourhoods and school quality. Their
research showed that all of these factors play a role at some point for most boys living in social
disadvantage. Their research also found that girls living in the same settings are less likely to
be adversely affected by their situation which supports the work carried out by Murnane

Autor, Figlio, Karbownik, Roth and Wasserman (2016) collected from Florida which showed on
average 83% of students in that state were kindergarten ready at the appropriate age. Their
research also revealed a disparity of 2% between boys and girls in advantaged communities
were not ready to begin kindergarten with boys being less ready. Their study also revealed this
percentage rose to 8% disparity for boys from broken families where their mother was the sole
parent with the gap between African American boys and girls being significantly wider at
8.4%. In explaining this increased differentiation, the researchers revealed boys are less
resilient and more sensitive to family disadvantages than girls. As the children in the survey
continued to grow, the disparity in academic outcomes continued with boys never being able
to close the gap (Autor, Figlio, Karbownik, Roth and Wasserman see Figure 2; Boy-girl Gaps in
Absences, Maths Scores, On-Time High School Completion and Kindergarten Readiness by
Family Characteristics). The report also noted that boys are 10% less likely than girls to
graduate high school on time with the gender gap is half that among children born to college
graduates revealing the socio-economic impact on graduation rates. The Report also reveals
that amongst children born to married parents, boys outscore girls and that among children
born to fathers who did not claim them on their birth certificates, girls outperformed boys.
Research undertaken by Harvard economists Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Larry Katz
(2015) reinforces these findings. Their work reveals that giving poor families vouchers to move
into better neighbourhoods has had a large effect on young children who grow up to earn 30%
more than their peers who they left behind in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Autor and his colleagues found that the biggest reason boys underperform their female peers is
their family situation, that being family income, the mothers education and the presence or
absence of a father. One may ask why boys from broken homes and disadvantaged
communities are more disadvantaged academically and aspirational than girls from the same
environment. I have noted that boys are more adversely affected by their environment,
furthermore, it may be that boys naturally need more nurturing and are more dependent on
appropriate male role modelling. Autor (2015) adds weight to this assumption by commenting
that Theres a lot of studies that show boys have trouble with what we call soft skills. They're
more impulsive, they have more trouble containing themselves. It takes a lot of work to help
boys overcome those behavioural traits. Where do they learn that? It starts with families, with
parents role-modelling appropriate behaviours. Because of their tendency to act out, boys may
be in particular need of parental guidance but because poor families also tend to be single-
parent families, time spent with their mother or father is a scarce resource. A further study
from economists Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan (2015) showed that boys are particularly at
risk when they grow up in single-mother households. When boys dont get enough parental
attention, particularly from their fathers through appropriate role modelling, they misbehave.
Girls, in contrast, are less likely to misbehave regardless of how much time parents spend with
them, they are simply more resilient and less affected by adverse environmental factors.

The phenomenon of female advantage in school is not unique to the United States. In other
wealthy countries there is also a gender gap between high school graduation rates. The pattern
is consistent, as the following Chart 2.5 Successful Completion of Upper Secondary
Programmes by Gender from the OECD shows. From Korea to Sweden, girls are slightly more

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likely to finish high school than boys. The latest research from Autor (2015) and his colleagues
shows that early-life adversity causes boys to struggle much more than girls. The gender
differences are minimal in households with resources, but among poorer families, boys
systematically fall behind female peers.

The Australian context presents a similar picture. In terms of social disadvantage, indigenous
people have a lower rate of participation in the education system. A Report by The Australian
Council of Social Services (ACOSS, 2016) presented by CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie, notes that
731,300 or 17.4% of all children in Australia are currently living in poverty, a rise of 2% in ten
years. The Report notes that those at most risk of deprivation in living conditions, education
and aspirational opportunities are those children in single parent families, the overwhelming
majority of those families have mothers as the sole parent. Children within this group are three
times more likely to be living in poverty (40.6%) than those living with both parents (12.5%).
Since 2012, the poverty rate for Australian children in lone parent families has risen from 36.8%
to 40.6%. Of these children, the Report notes indigenous children suffer more than their non-
Aboriginal counterparts and highlights the significantly higher percentage of single parent
families of which the mother or grandmother is the sole carer.

Age Range and Qualifications % Indigenous % Non-

People Indigenous

16 Year Olds in Full Time Education 57% 84%

18-24 Year olds In Post-Secondary Education 10% 28%

Attained Post-Secondary Qualifications 11% 30%

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Attained Skilled Vocational Qualification, Undergraduate or 9% 20%

Graduate Diploma

Attained Bachelor Degree 2% 10%

The table has been created from the 2000 Australian Census (2000) to highlight the disparity in
educational outcomes.
As a result of social disadvantage and lower educational attainment amongst the indigenous
population compared to the remainder of the Australian population, Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people have reduced access to employment opportunities which has been
shown to affect their motivation to participate in education beyond the compulsory years of
schooling. Educational attainment limitations in turn affect the ability of Indigenous people to
secure employment and has been shown to contribute to a cycle of poverty which impacts on
successive populations (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2000). This disparity is despite the
significant funding that has been made available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by
the Australian Government and may highlight a lack of aspiration as a consequence of a lack of
role models.

The Australian Mitchell Institute (2015) reports that a students family background plays a
large role in determining his or her educational pathway. At every stage of learning and
development there remains a strong and persistent link between a socio-economic status and
educational outcomes as shown in the following table.

Taken from the Mitchell Institute Report on Educational Opportunity in Australia (2015).

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The Feminisation of the Classroom

Those who argue against the notion of the feminised classroom being an environment that
benefits girls and disadvantages boys, echo a competing victims mindset. An example of this is
found in Skelton (2011) who writes; This articulation of the feminisation of teaching is a feature
of the political usage of the term, specifically in terms of backlash politics. Nevertheless, the
predominance of women in the teaching profession and any subliminal, engendered
preferences they may bring to teaching needs to be opened up for discussion.
Since the introduction in Great Britain in 1870 of elementary state education, teaching has
always been regarded as work for women, particularly the younger years and statistics would
suggest this mindset continues today (see Coffee and Delamont 2000). Men account for less
than 14% of teachers in nursery and primary schools in England and 2% of day nursery staff
(Johnson 2012-2013). The exception has to this day been the independent sector which sees
many more men employed, particularly in senior schools. One may ask if this gender divide
within the classroom has always been the case. The percentage difference in male and female
teachers, particularly in the primary classroom, has changed a great deal since inspectors in the
early to mid-nineteenth century reported on teachers in their districts who noted: The majority
were men who had tried other trades and failed. They had been semi-skilled craftsmen,
shopkeepers, clerks or superior domestic servants, all occupations which either required
knowledge of reading and writing or offered opportunity to acquire such knowledge (Tropp,
1957). In short, the predominant gender of teachers in the early part of the nineteenth century
was male. However, Jacob Middleton (2012) notes that the split between the sexes in teaching
in England began around 1860 shortly after an Act of Parliament instigated School Boards
which set a starting salary for a board school teacher at 70.00 a year. At that time the
recognised poverty line was 50.00 a year. This wage was significantly lower than that
received by a skilled tradesman or a man who entered the civil service as a low-level clerk who
could earn up to 500.00 a year. The exception, as it is now, were independent schools that
could set their own independent wage structure which was above the minimum set by the
School Boards which kept men employed in larger numbers as private schools do today.
Women by contrast, had significantly fewer earning opportunities open to them.
Consequently, they began to move into the teaching profession via government schools at a
much higher rate than men who continued to be drawn to the higher wages offered in
independent schools which also offered various forms of accommodation for additional duties.
A teaching career for a woman in Victorian times was seen as a suitable profession in which a
woman could earn a wage and bide her time until she could divert her attention to its proper
focus, that being a family (Troop, 1957).

One position within the debate argues that the predominance of female teachers, particularly
in the maintained or government primary sector has had a negative impact on the academic
outcomes of boys whilst at the same time enhancing those of girls (see Dee, 2006).

This feminisation of the classroom implies that there have been fundamental and widespread
effects on primary pedagogy and culture as a consequence of the predominance of women
teachers. Included in these discussions are the beliefs that:
Daily routines and practices favour the majority, those being women.
Female teachers hold lower expectations of boys abilities based on perceived
generalisations and stereotypes.
The absence of male role models in the classroom creates issues for boys in terms of
motivation, discipline, positive same gender role modelling and social interaction.
The way in which the curriculum is delivered and assessed favours girls learning styles
(Delamont, 1999).

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One might also consider the restrictions that a predominant female staff has on delivering a co-
curriculum that boys are drawn to or wish to engage in as one more factor that discriminates
against boys.

Dee (2006) and James (2007) argue boys and girls have a preferred learning style. Simy and
Kolb (2011) move this argument forward by suggesting that there is also a cultural bias in
preferred learning styles between boys and girls. It follows that a classroom led by a woman
which focuses on verbal, auditory and visual communication in a structured, defined space
which restricts the movement of pupils and expects boys to sit quietly, still and remain
attentive is unsuited to the way boys learn. The argument follows that this structure best suits
girls learning styles and it continues into tertiary education, particularly undergraduate
classes which are often delivered in lecture theatres with large numbers of other students who
are expected to sit quietly and take notes. Abigail James takes this argument forward by
reinforcing her belief that boys are more successful with kinaesthetic activities, visual, spatial
relationships, and competitive activities while girls are better with verbal/linguistic activities
and auditory learning styles (James, 2007). To suggest boys and girls learn the same way and
are equally suited to the same learning environments follows the path of reductionism that I
highlighted earlier in this paper. The past few decades have seen tremendous changes in the
world of education, particularly innovations in the delivery of the curriculum. These
innovations have included charter schools, year round schools, differentiation of instructional
strategies, various specialty schools, the diamond shaped curriculum and a number of others
new concepts including Harkness and Assessment for Learning. Underpinning these initiatives
is the drive for educators to provide all pupils, irrespective of gender, equal access to the
curriculum to achieve, if not surpass, a minimum expectation. Given that current pedagogy
recognises the need to present the curriculum in various forms to engage boys and girls
equally, it follows that there exists amongst educators a belief that the curriculum needs to be
presented in a variety of ways if it is to capture boys and girls equally and in doing so provide
them equal access to the curriculum.

To gain a clearer picture of the impact of differentiated learning I recently conducted an

experiment involving pupils within one of the Preparatory Schools which feed into my senior
school. I chose three sets of ten random items setting them out on three tables in three different
rooms of the same building. The intention of choosing the twenty different items for each of the
three rooms was to select items that were not closely related to each other in order to make it
difficult for the pupils to create linked associations between the items. For example; if a pencil
sharpener, a pencil, a sheet of paper and an eraser were chosen, pupils would be able to create
a link between those related objects making them, as a group, easier to recall. The thirty items
chosen across the three rooms were:


Lightbulb Screwdriver Spectacles

Pencil Spanner Bath Plug

Rock Dog Biscuit Scissors

Calculator Leaf Small Trophy

Credit Card Phone Charge Spoon

Key Cup Table Clock

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Headphones Sweet Tennis Ball

DVD Toothbrush Medicine Bottle

Toy Car Golf Club Bottle Top

Book Jigsaw Piece Flash Drive

Forty 13-year-old pupils were chosen at random for the experiment, twenty boys and twenty
girls. Birth dates were not considered, therefore, there could have been up to twelve months
difference in ages between the pupils. The group was non-selective so no attention was paid to
academic levels of achievement.

Experiment 1 Auditory
The twenty girls were blindfolded and led into the first room containing the table with twenty
items. I verbally listed all of the items individually to the girls leaving a five second pause
between each item. Shortly after the last item was called out, the blindfolded girls were led
from the room. After the girls had left the room, the group of twenty blindfolded boys were led
into the room and the experiment repeated in the same format as the group of girls before
them. After each group left the room accompanied by a fellow teacher, they removed their
blindfolds and asked to write down as many items as they could recall. Absolute silence was
maintained at all times; the pupils were supervised to ensure no cheating occurred.

Experiment 2 Visual
The twenty girls were then led in silence into the second room containing a table with twenty
different items which were covered by a blanket. After the group had entered the room they
were told that they were required to memorise as many items under the blanket as possible
and given two minutes to complete this exercise in absolute silence under teacher supervision.
The experiment was then completed with the twenty boys in exactly the same manner. After
each group left the room accompanied by a fellow teacher they were asked to write down as
many of the items as they could recall. Absolute silence was maintained at all times. The pupils
were supervised to ensure no cheating occurred.

Experiment 3 Kinaesthetic
The twenty girls were then led into the third room containing another twenty items on a table
covered with a blanket. The group were placed into a circle and handed a marble. I then asked
them to hold the marble in their right hand and to pass it into the left hand of the person on
their right. This task was completed so they could familiarise themselves with what was
required of them during the experiment.

Having established this routine, the girls were then blindfolded and each handed one item off
the table. After handling the item for ten seconds, they were asked to pass it to their right as
they had practiced with the marble at the beginning of the experiment. After the last item was
held, they were asked to drop it into buckets that were presented to each of them. The
experiment was repeated with the group of twenty boys in exactly the same manner. After
each group left the room they were asked to write down as many items as they could recall.
Absolute silence was maintained at all times under strict teacher supervision to prevent

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Results of Experiments

Results of Experiment 1 Auditory

Average Number of Items Recalled Percentage Differentiation


Girls 11 55% Girls recalled +15% more items correctly than boys on the
auditory experiment.
Boys 8 40%

This test of auditory recall showed that girls were able to recall 55% of the twenty items listed
for them whilst the boys recalled 40% of items listed to them. The disparity between these two
percentages show that in this experiment, girls were able to recall 15% more items than the
boys in a similar experiment.

Results of Experiment 2 Visual

Average Number of Items Percentage Differentiation

Recalled Correctly

Girls 14 70% Girls recalled +5% more items correctly than boys on the visual
Boys 13 65%

This test of visual recall showed that girls were able to recall 70% of the twenty items on
display whilst boys recalled 65% of the items on display. The disparity between these two
results of this experiment reveals girls were able to recall 5% more items than the boys in a
similar experiment.

Results of Experiment 3 Kinaesthetic

Average Number of Items Percentage Differentiation

Recalled Correctly

Girls 9 45% Boys recalled +25% more items correctly than girls on the
kinaesthetic experiment.
Boys 14 70%

This test of kinaesthetic recall showed that girls were able to recall 45% of the twenty items
listed for them whilst boys recalled 70% of items listed to them. The disparity between these
two percentages show that in this experiment, boys were able to recall 25% more items than the
girls in the same experiment.

The disparity between the boys performance in recall and that of the girls of -5% on the
auditory test and -15% on the visual test are not significant percentages. However, the +25%
disparity in recall that boys have over girls in the kinaesthetic experiment highlights an overall
net gain of 40% over the auditory experimental results (-15%) of girls and a 30% net gain over
the visual experimental results (-5%) of girls. It may be argued that prioritising work on
preferred learning styles is misconceived if it simply tries to identify and teach to students
dominances within a specific learning style to which the pupil shows greatest preference, to
pursue any one specific learning style narrows learning. Rather, it may be argued that it is
important to locate any discussion on preferred learning styles within an on-going professional

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development process which addresses issues of classroom pedagogy if the notion of preferred
learning styles is to be translated into teaching style and ultimately pupil performance. Within
this framework, it is important for teachers to develop skills which will allow them to engage
in a variety of teaching styles which will ultimately translate into their pupils being exposed to
a range of access pathways to the curriculum. This may be recognised and addressed through
peer mentoring and staff appraisal opportunities which seek, in part, to address opportunities
to share best practice across departments.

Consideration given to the differentiation of learning styles and single gender education are
amongst the most critical changes in the past ten years to come out of these initiatives.
Although it might appear counterintuitive, the goal of single gender education is equality.
Studies on the human brain and behaviour suggest that boys and girls develop and learn in
different ways and separation within an educational setting is beneficial for both. Sometimes
equality is not necessarily achieved through identical treatment; but rather, from giving people
the best opportunity to succeed given individual circumstances. What may work for one
group, may not for another (Gurian, Stevens and Daniels, 2009).

The notion of the benefits in single gender education formed the topic of study for Stephen
Keast (1998), a researcher at Monash University, Australia. Keast based his study on a small
rural co-educational secondary college in western Victoria which had identified low numbers
of girls continuing with maths in the final years of school as a major problem. In an attempt to
address this decline, after an initial investigation it was decided to introduce a single-sex maths
class experience for all students in Years 7 and 8. It was noted that the boys in the single sex
(SSB) class preferred to work individually with the teacher as the primary provider of
information whilst girls were seen to prefer to work in small groups sharing information
amongst members of their group. Boys preferred to work individually, girls preferred to work

To address the different method in which boys and girls chose to access the curriculum, in the
following year, teachers adjusted their teaching style to accommodate the collaborative
preference shown by the girls. By identifying how one particular group preferred to learn, the
school was able to respond by moving towards an emphasis on group work and sharing
knowledge in the SSG maths class which was noted to be the preferred style of learning for the
girls. Given that the girls were observed to prefer a particular learning style; one might argue
that women may follow on with a preferred teaching style based around their preferred
learning style. If one was to take this argument further, it may be reasoned that the best teacher
of a particular learning style is the teacher who themselves preferred to learn via that style.

Gilligan (1982) and Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger and Tarule (1986), have offered a framework
for analysing variants in learning styles which build on the findings of the Keasts (1998)
research. Their work provides a further insight into reasoning and learning styles, the
formation of knowledge and the construction of understanding and have proposed two types
of knowers. The first, which typically represents boys learning, has been referred to as
Separate Knowers who are people who develop their knowledge in isolation through their use of
impersonal rules which they objectively and critically sort information by filtering out any
subjectivity. The second group which typically represent how girls learn have been referred to
as the Connected Knowers. These learners prefer to connect with the knower; they value learning
and knowledge that is woven into their personal relationships, surroundings and environment.
These people do not view knowledge as cold and impersonal but prefer to include the emotion
and personality of the knower into their learning. Their knowledge of truth develops through
an interconnection with others and the relationship they build with them.

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Alan Smithers, Director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham
University England, expands on the physical disadvantages to boys in the current environment
by commenting on the manner in which lessons are presented (taken from an article in The
Observer, June, 2009). Smithers believes that the curriculum has been feminised by an
emphasis on coursework, modular exams and extended essays which favours girls learning
styles and discriminates against boys whose preferred mode of learning involves the
competitive nature and higher risk of sudden death exams. The greatest differential in
performance has been in English where reading, writing, listening, oral communication skills
and modular assessment carry the greatest weight. Not only is the physical environment of
today's classroom best suited to the way girls learn, the manner in which the curriculum is
assessed also benefits girls learning styles.

Support for the belief in the advantages to boys in being examined differently to girls may be
found in UK data of maths and English results by gender. When the modular assessment and
coursework element of maths exams was discontinued in 2009, boys started to do fractionally
better than girls as the following graph highlights. When these results are contrasted against
the gap between boys and girls pass rate in English which has maintained its 60% controlled
assessment, the gap in boy/girl attainment has been maintained. This may be attributed to the
higher verbal abilities, on average, from an early age but the 60% weighting for coursework
and modular exams which favour girls learning styles cannot be discounted as a contributing
factor in girls continuing to outperform boys in English which has maintained its 60%
coursework weighting.

(Centre for Educational Research [CEER] 2014)

Further support for this notion may be found in the 2015 GCSE results (Year 11) of boys and
girls in Great Britain. Whilst girls still lead boys with 73.1% of all subjects sat being awarded an
A* - C, boys have closed the gap by 0.4% to 64.7%. Brian Lightman, the General Secretary of the
UK Association of School and College Leaders, attributed this narrowing of the gap to a change
in how assessment for some subjects have changed from coursework to examinations.
Lightman reported that coursework, or controlled assessment, is more suited to the way girls
work whilst boys tend to perform better under the pressure and competitive environment of
final exam conditions (Lightman, 2015). The report also noted that girls in Great Britain have
scored more A* - C grades every year since 1989 when the gap was 4.3%, rising to a peak in
2000 when the gap was 9.2% after which it dipped to 8.8% in 2014 (for further evidence of
gender bias across differing exam conditions (see Gneezy, Niederle, and Rustichini, 2003 and
Niederle, Carmit and Vesterlund 2008).

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The presumption is that womens predominance within the classroom is a recent phenomenon
which coincides with an equally recent decline in the academic attainment of boys. DiPrete and
Buchmann (2013) state that girls have performed better than boys for well over 100 years.
Indeed, the seventeenth century philosopher John Locke expressed a concern for boys
problems with language and literacy (Cohen, 1998). Girls more recent rise to the top of
academic league tables may also be attributable to societal changes and expectations in recent
years which has resulted in girls, and women, being freed of the pressure to choose between
completing an education or having a family. Societal pressures and expectations prior to 1960s
feminism placed a greater onus on girls prioritising motherhood over academic achievement so
the desire to do well at school and achieve their academic potential was less of a pull factor for
many than becoming a good mother and wife. Girls could have one or the other, but not both.
Employment was something that girls tended to do till they were married and started a family;
consequently, there was no pressing need for girls to perform to their academic potential at
school in order to achieve the results needed to enter university or a vocational pathway. It
may, therefore, be suggested that boys access to higher academic grades and university places
was easier to attain as girls were not competing equally against them.

Even after joining the workforce, the widespread practice of marriage barring in Western
countries restricted the employment of married women in general and in particular within
acknowledged professions or occupations rather than in unskilled or lowly paid jobs. Within
many public sectors the practice of marriage barring called for the termination of employment
of a woman on her marriage, especially in occupations within the public service. There was
little economic justification for this practice which, when rigidly applied was disruptive to
workplaces. It was justified during depression years as a social policy to increase employment
opportunities for men, but the policy persisted beyond such economic times. The practice was
common in Western countries from the late 19th Century to the years immediately after the
gains brought about by second wave feminism. Marriage bars have less impact on employment
in lower paid unskilled jobs which had an additional impact on lowering incentives for women
to acquire the level of education that would provide them access to higher paid work. Marriage
bars were widely relaxed in wartime when the availability of working men was severely
compromised but re-imposed immediately after these conflicts. Since the 1960s, the practice
has been discontinued or outlawed by anti-discrimination laws which may also deal with
discrimination based on marital status.

The impact of marriage bars and societal expectations of young women to prioritise marriage
and motherhood had a double impact on their involvement in higher secondary and tertiary
education. With boys only having to compete predominantly against each other to gain entry
into university or a high skilled profession, they could get away with lower academic results
because the pool of applicants was less, as was competition for places. Martino and Meyenn
(2001) argue against the popular and simplistic view that stresses the need for boys to reclaim
lost territory. An alternative argument may support the notion that this territory was never
truly theirs because of the bias in the landscape.

It has only been in recent years since more girls have remained on at school has a valid
comparative study been able to be produced that maps the performance of boys and girls in a
common setting, with similar numbers and equal motivation for academic success. One may
argue that this shift in the landscape has allowed the disparity in achievement levels between
boys and girls to develop and subsequently be identified. An argument may be initiated that
presupposes that this disparity has always existed and we have post 1960s feminism to thank
for providing the opportunities for girls to expose this differentiation through their new found
access to higher secondary and tertiary education and greater access to the workforce.
However, to simply assume that the feminisation of the classroom and the greater access that

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girls now have to higher education and the workforce is the sole deciding factor leading to the
underperformance of boys is an oversimplification of a more complex arrangement.

I have created the following table taken from the UKs Higher Education Statistics Authority
(HESA [2016]) on Russell Group Universities to highlight the point I have made regarding the
gender skew in university applicants.

University Gender % of Applicants

Kings College London 64% Female

36% Male

Leeds University 60% Female

40% Male

Edinburgh University 59% Female

41% Male

Glasgow University 58% Female

42% Male

Cardiff University 58% Female

42% Male

These statistics reinforce the concern over the falling number of boys applying for university
places. The HESA also released figures on the number of applicants to all English universities
in the autumn of 2016 which saw approximately 90,000 more women applying for a degree
course. Alan Smithers, Professor of Education at Buckingham University, also notes that for the
first time 2016 saw the number of applications from male school leavers fall against the number
of female applications. Furthermore, although not shown, the same HESA report revealed the
majority of students in 2016 enrolling in the once traditional male dominated fields of
medicine, law, dentistry and veterinary science are now predominantly female. One may argue
that the concerns over fewer males going on to university is a symptom of an outdated psycho-
social economic mindset which places too great an emphasis on pupils having access to higher
This mindset places too little regard on the alternatives which may be the most appropriate
option for their skills set and motivation. If boys are failing to move into tertiary education, one
may ask where they might be choosing to move when they graduate school?

British Airways, the Dorchester Hotel, Rolls-Royce and English National Opera are among
companies offering apprenticeships to school leavers as an alternative to university at a time
when many employers are investing heavily in internships, scholarships and traineeships.
Crossrail created more than 400 apprenticeships during the construction of the new railway.
The apprentices working on the project have been trained in a range of skills including
construction, accountancy, quantity surveying and business administration. Frank Field (2016)
Chairman of the UKs Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee blames universities and
the government mindset of setting a 50% target of school leaver entering into universities for
the emergence of a graduate precariat. Field continued by claiming: There has been a huge
miss-selling by universities. Partly it is a terrible British snobbery which implies that if you
earn money with your hands, you cant be as good as somebody who supposedly earns it with
their brains. One may see this as a very positive alternative career pathway for boys
graduating from school in providing them with alternative career pathways to meet the need
of a greater cross section of male school leavers. In what may be interpreted as a typical
backlash, competing victims mentality, the Young Womans Trust (YWT) sees this

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development differently. The Trust reports that young women are missing out at every stage of
apprenticeships, including being underrepresented, achieving poorer outcomes and being paid
less (YWT Report, 2016).

The report found that in sectors such as engineering, women make up a lower proportion of
apprentices than a decade ago, for every female apprentice working within engineering there
are 25 male apprentices. In construction, there are 56 men to every woman and in plumbing
there are 74 men to every woman. One may argue that the thrust of such feminist arguments
which are based around equality of access, lose some credibility when the same authors, being
aware of a similar gender imbalance in teaching, nursing and the care sector, choose to
withhold similar proportional access comments.

A 2016 Report from the Independent Panel on Technical Education notes that the UK has a
serious shortfall of technicians in industry at a time when over 400,000 16-24 year olds are
unemployed. The Report highlights the UKs lack of a skills base by noting that by 2020, the
UK is set to fall to 28th out of 33 OECD countries in terms of developing intermediate skills.
Furthermore, the Report notes that the size of the post-secondary technical education sector in
England is extremely small by international standards and this has an adverse effect on
productivity. The UK currently lags behind its competitors Germany and France by as much as
36 percentage points. The Report presented 34 recommendations to the UK Government in a
bid to draw greater investment in the country's technical base. The Report noted that the UK
has a long-term productivity problem, although some sectors such as the automotive industry
have enjoyed stronger productivity growth in recent years. In 2014 the UK had a productivity
gap of around 30 percentage points with its competitor countries France and the USA, while
the gap with Germany was 36 percentage points. The UK productivity was 18 percentage
points below the average for the rest of the G7 economies which was noted to be holding back
the economy. Across the globe, countries have realised that investing in the development of
technical skills, especially at intermediate and post-secondary levels is essential to enhancing
productivity and improving living standards. Yet, by 2020 the UK is predicted to rank just 28th
of 33 OECD countries in terms of developing intermediate skills. If as statistics show, fewer
boys are entering tertiary education, one may suggest that the issue is not one that we should
be overly concerned with given the many opportunities available to boys within the wider
workforce. The issue will be for those unaware or unwilling to accept these opportunities.

Furthermore, the size of the post-secondary technical education sector in England is extremely
small by international standards. As a result of years of undertraining at these levels, the UK
faces a chronic shortage of people with technician-level skills. In engineering and technology
alone, Engineering UK data show an annual shortfall of 29,000 people with level 3 skills and
40,000 with skills at level 4. Given that these occupations have traditionally been the preserve
of males, the impact amongst this group has been the greatest. Among 16-24 year olds,
England and Northern Ireland together now rank in the bottom four OECD countries for
literacy and numeracy key prerequisites for access to intermediate and higher level skills
training. A 2016 Report commissioned by the UK Government of the Independent Panel on
Technical Education found, our education and skills system is failing to develop the skills
employers seek. Unless we take urgent action, our economic competitors will leave us even
further behind. If initiatives are to be considered that engage boys in the education system,
one argument would be for the UK Government to invest in those areas within the workforce
that boys have traditionally moved into. Given that there is a shortage in these sectors, this
investment would be of benefit to both boys and the UK economy.

Finally, I wish to cover one further point linked to the predominance of females in teaching
that has is linked to boys, namely the issue surrounding appropriate male role models. Martino
(1995a) and (1995b), Heywood and Mac an Ghaill (1996), Jackson and Salisbury (1996), Gilbert

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and Gilbert (1998) and Letts (1999) all argue that it is the ways boys learn to be male which
presents teachers in all subjects with one of their greatest challenges. Young people do not
need any role model because many of these are inappropriate, young people need role models
who affirm correct behaviour and to whom they may aspire to in a way that enhances their
lives and those with whom they come into contact. Young people need role models in their
lives who allow them to develop within themselves an appreciation of their place within the
wider community in which they live that enhances their ability to make a positive contribution
to that community through thought and action.

The dilemma facing many young men in the 21st Century is where these role models might
come from. I have shown they do not necessarily come in the form of male teachers for a great
number of these boys and this is borne out in the following table that I have created to
highlight the percentage of male and female teachers in the primary and secondary sectors of
government schools in Australia.

Males in Trainee Registrations in the Academic Year 2008 -2012


Primary Gender

1992 2003 Academic Male Female Total Number of

Number/Percentage Number/Percentage Registrations
25.8% 20.9%

Secondary 2008 -2009 2567 15% 14,284 85% 16,751


1992 2003 2009 - 2010 2824 16% 14,671 84% 17,495

49.4% 44.7% 2010 - 2011 3262 18% 14,507 82% 17,769

2011 - 2012 3743 19% 15,750 81% 19,501

(Figures taken from; Males in Teaching and Teacher Education; Australian Bureau of Statistics
and DEST Higher Education [UK Department of Education Database for Teacher 2005]
Statistics 1992 2003).

Although I have accessed Australian data for this table, the disparity is found across the
Western world. Smithers (2009) reveals that more than 25% of state primary schools in the
United Kingdom have no male teachers. This denies a significant percentage of boys with a
male role model throughout their primary education. The additional concern of this gender
disparity in the classroom only serves to reinforce the belief that teaching is a feminised
profession and it is a conundrum that universities grapple with in their endeavour to attract
more males into teacher training and degree courses. Professor Smithers report is reinforced
by the 2009 data released by the General Teaching Council of England which reports that only
123,827, or 25%, of the 490,981 registered working teachers within maintained or government
schools are men, with the majority of those men occupying secondary teaching and further
education posts. Male teachers make up 13% or 25,491 of state primary teachers and 3% or 43
state nursery school staff. Of the 16,892 state primary schools in England, 4,550 or 27% have no
male teachers. Given that 92% of all children educated in England attend maintained or
government schools, the chance of any boy being taught by a man within this sector at any
time throughout their primary schooling may be slim.

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Beyond the United Kingdom and Australia, a similar pattern is evident from data published by
the OECD in Education at a Glance, 2003 which highlights few significant differences
amongst OECD member nations. The OECD 2003 report noted that in 2001 the mean
proportion of female teachers for primary education was 78.6% and for lower and upper
secondary education 64.8% and 51.4% respectively (Australian Government Department of
Education, Science and Training [DSET] Submission to the House of Representatives Standing
Committee on Educational and Vocational Training Enquiry into Teacher Education, June

If, as I have argued, schools may not be relied upon to provide all boys with appropriate male
role models because of the high percentage of female teachers, then surely one might expect
boys find their male role models in their homes . . . or can they? The role models who influence
adolescents tend to change over time (Glover, 1978). Early in life, young children look to their
immediate family to provide positive role models. Within the first five years parental influence
has the greatest impact. When children begin schooling there is a subtle shift in the people they
look to for role modelling and aspirational guidance. Once children begin school, they begin to
change their role models with friends and teachers beginning to fulfil the role that immediate
family members once held. As we grow, our role models begin to originate from a range of
other areas including athletes, coaches and television, pop and movie stars (French & Pena,

A Report for the Tavistock Institute (2014) found family breakdown affects both individuals
and the immediate and extended residual family unit in terms of short term acute outcomes
and longer term residual issues. These issues include hostile parental animosity towards each
other at the detriment of the parent / child relationship and parents who choose to use their
child to play out their perceived position of victim through isolating the other parent and
casting them in a poor light in front of the children. The issue of competing victims is a
recurring theme in this landscape of gender relations that serves to isolate one group, and in
this case an individual, from the other through a victim mentality. Furthermore, insidious
chronic problems impact on the long term future mental and physical health of the children
and in many cases their ability to maintain healthy relationships. Further concerns involve the
negative impact on the extended families. On the contrary, there are significant mental and
physical health benefits for couples and their children by maintaining their married status and
with that their circle of friends, support networks and extended families.

The UK pressure group Fathers4Justice cite that there are 87,000 children involved in contact
orders in the UK, of these 30% will lose contact with a non-resident parent within two years.
The group further cite that 94% of residencies are awarded to mothers and 50% of all contact
orders for fathers are broken which denies children access to the many benefits that fathers and
male role models offer both boys and girls. One million children have no contact with a non-
resident parent three years after separation, with the overwhelming majority of non-resident
parents being the father. It is the child/father relationship which is lost in the majority of cases.

Research would suggest that boys from broken homes are less likely to live with their same sex
parent as their sisters. Furthermore, during the course of my research into this issue, I
interviewed Mr Guy Barlow, a Partner in the family law firm Charles Coleman LLP in
Windsor, England. When I asked Mr Barlow to reflect on the number of successful fathers who
he had represented during his 23 years as a family lawyer in residency applications, he
responded that in all his years of practice, he could only recount two cases in which the father
was awarded a residency order over the childrens mother: One involved a woman who was
residing at Her Majestys pleasure, the other woman was an inmate at Broadmoor Psychiatric
Hospital (Woodrow, 2014). Similar statistical evidence of custodial orders may be found in the
US Census Bureaus report by the Office of Child Support and Enforcement of the Department

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of Health and Human Services which states there was 13.4 million custodial parents in the
United States in 2002. In the spring of 2002, these custodial parents had residency of 21.5
million children under 21 years of age whose other parent lived somewhere else. About 5 of
every 6 custodial parents were mothers (84.4%) and 1 in 6 were fathers (15.6%), proportions
which have remained statistically unchanged since 1994. Overall, 27.6% of all children under
21 living in families had a parent not living in the home (Data taken from the 1994 - 2002 April
supplements to the Current Population Survey, CPS).

Moloney (2000) conducted a study of Australian Family Court judgements of residency from a
gender perspective and found that only 18% of judgements resulted in custody being awarded
to fathers, 79% went to mothers and 3% resulted in shared care arrangements. Of the shared
residence orders the results provide some support for separated siblings living with the same-
sex parent, a slender majority of sons (53.3%) lived with fathers, but the vast majority of
daughters (70.5%) resided with mothers. In Britain women head 90% of single parent families
(OXFAM, 2005). One cannot discount the outdated Victorian belief held by the Family Law
Court that the parenting and nurturing process of children is the primary responsibility of the
mother, not the father.

I have used the following table to highlight a selection of the top 20 out of 46 countries in terms
of percentage of that countrys divorce rates across their population of married couples
(UNESCO, 2007).

Divorce Rate Percentage Per Population

New Zealand Australia Canada Netherlands France Germany UK Russia USA Sweden

17% 41.2% 37% 38.3% 38.3% 39.4% 42.6% 43.3% 54.8% 54.9%

The womens movement has brought with it many considerable advancements which have
proved mutually beneficial for women and indeed men (see Fernandez and Cheng Wong,
2011). However, womens access to independent income, greater access to child care, a
streamlined divorce system, the de-stigmatisation of divorce, no-fault divorce bills, womens
shelters and changes in the benefits system that supports, and some may argue rewards, single
mothers with housing and financial assistance by way of government benefits and garnishing
the wages of the childrens fathers, has all played a role in the dramatic increase in divorce
since the early 1960s. In the United States from 1960 to 1980, the divorce rate more than
doubled from 9.2 divorces per 1,000 to 22.6 divorces per 1,000. Less than 20% of US couples
who married in 1950 divorced, approximately 50% of marriages in 1970 ended in divorce.
Approximately half of the children born to married parents in the 1970s saw their parents part,
compared with approximately 11% of those born in the 1950s (Wilcox, 2009).

The psychological revolution of the late '60s and '70s was largely fuelled by a post-war
prosperity and a user society that allowed people to give greater attention to non-material
concerns (see Bradford Wilcox [2011]). This lifestyle shift played a key role in reconfiguring
men and women's views of what constituted marriage and family life. Prior to the 1960s,
people within Western societies were more likely to look at marriage and family in terms of
duty, obligation, self-sacrifice and long term commitment. A successful pre-1960 home built
around the notion of the advancement of marriage and family life was one that was reflected
through meaningful employment for the husband, a well-maintained home by the wife,
mutual spousal aid and child-rearing responsibilities valued by both father and mother and a
shared religious faith. But the psychological revolution that the post 1960s brought with it
refocused people on individual fulfilment in a way that did not previously exist. Increasingly,

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marriage was seen as a vehicle for a self-oriented ethic of romance, intimacy and fulfilment and
in an increasing number of cases, a means to an end rather than an end in itself. In this new
psychological approach to married life, one's primary obligation was shifted from a focus on
the primacy of one's family to one's self. This mind-set shift brought with it a new definition of
marital success being defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one's spouse and
children but by a stronger sense of subjective happiness. Whilst it must be accepted that the
womens movement brought with it considerable gains for women, one cannot discount the
fact that these gains have come at some cost to the concept of and viability of the nuclear

Should we be overly concerned about children in single parent families in the 21st Century
where our communities are more liberal and accepting of the wider variety of families that
have developed beyond the traditional model of heterosexual parents living in a monogamous
lifelong marriage? Ermisch and Pevalin (2006) argue that childrens pathways to inequality and
social disadvantage are interconnected; children who experience family breakdown and the
consequential loss of an appropriate male role model in their lives are significantly more likely
to achieve lower life outcomes. Too often this is a cyclical event as young people mirror the role
models of dependency offered by their parent. Daughters of single teenage mothers are
considerably more likely to become single teenage mothers themselves. The stigma once
attached to single motherhood has evaporated. More recent studies have shown that the
likelihood of a teenage birth to a single mother in Britain is 2 to 2.5 times higher for the
daughter of a teenage single mother and that intergenerational factors were a major thematic
finding (Whitehead, 2009).

If, as I have argued, schools and homes can no longer be automatically considered to be the
stereotypical bastions of male role modelling for young boys, one may justifiably ask where
these young males might look to find the male role models missing in their lives? Altman
(1995) believes boys and young men are increasingly drawn to gangs and their pseudo family
hierarchical culture as an alternative to the traditional family unit. Traditional independent
boarding schools also offer this structure in the absence of a boys family. Boys belong to
Houses that develop a bond of collective union and ownership, they provide a structure,
discipline and routine that is lacking in many young boys lives. Boarding schools provide a
breadth of opportunities for boys to engage in community service activities that link them into
the broader communities in which they live, these schools provide a breadth of education that
enriches the academic, cultural and spiritual lives of those young men who are lucky enough to
attend such schools. Boarding schools provide a communal environment and instil a respect of
self and others including peers, teaching and non-teaching staff. Although not entirely, but
nevertheless considerably, the Childrens Act of 1989 has resulted in the development of
institutions where bullying and fagging are no longer an obstacle that needs to be negotiated.
These traditional establishments now have a moral and legal obligation to provide the
necessary pastoral care and support that boys living away from home need. The calibre of
teaching staff has moved well away from the strict disciplinarian to pastoral leaders who
provide a genuine concern for and care of their pupils. However, as mentioned previously,
despite their charitable status and the many means tested bursaries offered each year, fewer
than 5% of boys have access to these types of independent boarding schools.

Boys and young men are increasingly joining gangs which provide them with an authority
figure as an alternative to a father figure. The gang provides boys with security and a self-
identity that they would normally be offered within a family unit and gang membership
provides boys with a support network, a code of conduct and expectations that they would
normally be given within their family unit. In these ways, gang culture is the only alternative
many boys and young men have to a traditional family culture. Decker and Van Winkle (1996)
and Baccaglini (1993) believe there are push and pull dynamics for boys who join gangs. Pulls

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involve the attractive dividends in belonging to a gang such as enhanced prestige or status
among friends, especially girls who play a significant role in reinforcing stereotypical
interpretations of masculinity which are highly destructive to those boys who choose to follow
those models. Gangs provide attractive opportunities for excitement and to make money
through illegal activities including the sale of stolen goods or drugs. These pull dynamics
result in many boys making a rational choice to join a gang and the personal advantages
attached to gang membership. Wilson (1987) believes young males are drawn or pulled into
gangs for social relationships that give them a sense of identity that would normally be
provided by their biological families. Similar pull dynamics are in play with cults and
communes that offer isolated, vulnerable people an opportunity to belong to something better,
something that offers them a sense of purpose and belonging not found within their current
existence. Social, economic, and cultural forces may work to push many adolescents into gang
membership. Protection from other gangs and a perceived general well-being are also key push
factors. Family members who are also members of gangs also act in pushing young males into
the gangs of which they are members of. To many young males living in socially isolated and
deprived communities, gangs provide the only perceived route to a better existence and a
possible way out of their deprived situation.

A 2008 report commissioned by the Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers

(NASUWT) of the United Kingdom reported that the lack of positive role models, the absence
of a father in the home combined with too much unsupervised freedom to behave without
prescribed boundaries and expectations of behaviour resulted in young people with no respect
for their elders. These young people with common ideals around this lack of boundaries are
attracted to others with similar unsupervised lifestyles. Teaching staff who were interviewed
as part of the report claimed that existing gang members were actively singling out recruits
who lacked an identity and a sense of belonging as a consequence of them not getting that
affirmation from homes that lacked a father figure (Broadhurst, Duffin and Taylor, 2008).

There are a variety of factors that contribute to a boy joining a gang but there is a common
theme amongst these factors which relates to dysfunctional relationships within the boys
family and includes such themes as a lack of parental guidance, a lack of love and respect from
within the family, a deterioration of the family unit and poor or absent parent role modelling,
particularly fathering. When combined, these factors lead boys elsewhere to find an
environment that satisfies their need to be accepted and to belong (Campbell, 1992). In general,
poor family management strategies increase the risk for gang membership by adolescents
(Friedman, Mann, and Friedman, 1975). More specifically, low family involvement, inadequate
or inappropriate parental discipline and control, monitoring or expectations, poor affective
relationships between the child and their parents put youths at much higher risk of becoming
gang members. This is particularly pertinent in communities where there is a gang culture.
These family-based risk factors are leading contributors to an increasing risk of involvement in
delinquency and gang membership (Loeber and Stouthamer-Loeber, 1986).
Rob White (2009) presents three propositions as to why young males join gangs in an
Australian context:
The gang offers a substitute family-like role for its members, regardless of specific social
composition, particularly when it comes to material support, emotional refuge, psychological
wellbeing, physical protection and social belonging.
In some cases, particularly in regard to ethnic minority youth, the gang is mainly
comprised of family members and or members from a distinctive and frequently tight-knit
community, which means that there already exist strong filial bonds within the context of gang
In the case of indigenous young people, the gang and family connection is unique insofar
as the colonial experience reinforces an othering process that is distinctive and specific to this

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Gangs take root in schools for many reasons and gang members specifically target these
institutions for recruitment, but the primary attraction of gangs is their ability to satisfy needs
not otherwise met by their families. Young recruits are particularly sought as their age is seen
as a low risk factor if caught committing an illegal act. Whilst there is no national standard in
determining at what age a child can be treated as an adult in the criminal justice system in the
US, the younger a child is the less likely they will be held responsible for their illegal activity
and the more attractive they are to recruitment into gangs. To clarify this point, gang homicide
victims were significantly younger than non-gang homicide victims across the US. Whereas
27% 42% of the gang homicide victims were school aged boys between the ages of 15 19
years, only 9% 14% of the non-gang homicide victims were in this age group (taken from the
US National Violent Death Reporting System [NVDRS] 2008).

Gangs provide the disaffected with a sense of family and an acceptance that comes with
belonging to a group with shared interests and ideals (Burnett and Walz, 1994). If the nuclear
family is absent, dysfunctional or if there is a competing value systems being presented to a
child which creates conflict and confusion, the transmission of mainstream cultural values may
be compromised. Appropriate values may not be transmitted or those which are transmitted
may run contrary to the values of the mainstream culture.


Pro-feminists (see Yates [1997], Lingard and Douglas [1999]) support the notion of a backlash
against their position within the debate by right wing, reactionary mens groups, particularly
those supporters of the mythopoetic or masculinity therapy models (see Bly, 1991, Doyle, 2010
and Tacey 1997). It is suggested that these reactionary lobby groups employ essentialist
constructions of male and female students, arguing in part that all females are now
outperforming all males in all sections of education, which I have shown to be inaccurate.
Those pro-feminists on the left argue that this approach attacks their position within the debate
and attempts to undermine further resources aimed at improving the position of girls within
education. Unfortunately, the emotive and self-serving accusations employed by both sides
which seek to discredit the other argument does little to move the issue of boys
underperformance forward in a way that will result in mutual benefit to boys and girls. Pro-
feminists argue that a critical approach to facilitate a reconstruction of masculinity needs to be
combined with a recognition of the underlying stubborn, yet not immutable, bodily and
emotional attachment of men to their masculine heritage. Kimmel (1998) moves this notion
forward by arguing that there is another important element in some mens feelings of
powerlessness and that relates to the notion of entitlement, mens feeling of their right to
preferment and power within the public sphere which is challenged by feminism. Too much of
the debate about boys performance in schools reads as a competing victims response to a fear
of losing ground in a gender-centric struggle to promote girls in schools and women in the
workforce and counter responses by opposing politics at a time when a mutually beneficial,
pluralist discussion is needed about boys and girls.

In order to move forward in addressing the issues of boys education the debate needs to move
away from this competing victim mentality as seen through backlash politics (see Mills, 2010)
states making boys welfare a social justice issue may encourage the diversion of funds away
from girls social justice programmes and gender equity for girls is quite clearly under threat
from these concerns about boys. I have argued a pluralist position which acknowledges how
much may be learnt from the advancements made for girls and women by the womens
movement. Many of these lessons should be followed particularly those which have resulted in
the increased representation of girls in tertiary education, their place at the top of academic

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results across many subjects and the movement of women into areas within the workforce
which were once seen as the domain of men. Given my earlier stated belief that schools are
socialising agencies, I would support Connell (1995) who argues that the questions
surrounding boys education are questions of major importance with education being a key site
for the type of alliance politics that unite us as mutual beneficiaries, this being a contrasting
view to those within the debate who espouse a reductionist theory.

Despite the rhetorical responses from pro-feminists (see Douglas, 1994, Flood, 1997 and
Messner, 1997) that girls should retain our focus of attention, statistics compiled around the
world indicate that girls are continuing to outperform boys across primary, secondary and
tertiary settings. I would, however, temper this statement by reiterating the socio-economic
and cultural considerations that need to be factored in when making these assumptions.
Concerns raised by pro-feminists include a rejection of any refocus of resources away from
their priority for the education of girls (see Lingard and Douglas, 1999). This argument pushes
forward the notion of addressing hegemonic masculinity (see Connell, 1995). The pro-feminist
evaluation of the issues surrounding the differential in academic outcomes between boys and
girls rejects post-feminist politics which seeks an engagement between feminism and other
contemporary theories, including postculturalism, postmodernism and postcolonialism which
portray an anti-essentialist politic of difference in pursuing equality and difference. Opponents
of this pluralist theory include Yates (1993) who believes that as a result of post-feminist
ideology, the politics of feminism generally and specifically in education have been weakened
and complicated to the detriment of girls and women.

Despite Connells (2011) comments on how the changes in girls and womens education
around the world in the last two generations and the reduction in class inequalities in access to
secondary schooling have profoundly changed learning outcomes for girls, pro-feminists
continue to promote the notion that the education of girls should maintain our focus and
priority in schools. Furthermore, the argument discourages any re-focus of resources onto the
difficulties that boys might face. This is seen as a backward step for the ongoing success story
of the education of girls. Despite the assertions (see Lingard and Douglas, 1999) that the debate
about boys has been characterised by a strong backlash against feminism, schools and policy
writers need to avoid this alarmist populism which seeks to assert a binary oppositional and
competing victims perspective on the factors impacting on the social and educational
experiences of boys and girls. Recent developments in identifying the disparities in the
academic outcomes of boys and girls has resulted in pro-feminist writers feeling the need to
defend their positions, but such stances will only serve to homogenise and normalise boys and
girls on the basis of sex and in doing so reinforce the disparity in academic outcomes, and
many stereotypical versions of masculinity and femininity will have detrimental consequences
for both. Bleach (1996) asserts that males are now having to reconcile themselves to a reversal
of roles. Boys and men face the erosion of their traditional roles of leaders in their domestic and
occupational roles. They have no formal mens liberation movement, no informal male
equivalent of the sisterhood to help them cope with the increasing loss of identity.

The current situation in education should not be seen as a fait accompli, but rather an
opportunity to move the debate forward in a fresh and new direction that will be mutually
beneficial to boys and girls which will lead on to similar benefits for men and women. It
would, therefore, be feasible to suggest that pro-feminists have a great deal to gain by
engaging other politics in meaningful, mutually beneficial conversations. To those who are of
the opinion that feminism has created the current divide in academic outcomes between boys
and girls, research would indicate that the disparity in these outcomes has always existed.
Feminisms role in the past two generations has been to simply expose what was already there
(see Troop, 1957). Therefore, the blame should not lie with feminism in creating this divide, but
it must take some responsibility in refusing to move their fight beyond the singular which

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would allow an opportunity for mutual benefit to boys and girls rather than a fight that has
proved to be beneficial to girls alone. Pro-feminism must also take some responsibility for the
debate having to negotiate a landscape which is scarred by a backlash, victim mentality which
has resulted in a fight for space on two fronts. This battle has served to split resources and our
focus on a system that must set party politics aside to the mutual benefit of boys and girls who
deserve our collective and undivided attention.

A greater appreciation is required of a fuller picture and of the issues that currently impact on
the academic outcomes of boys. I have presented an exposure of engendered rhetoric and the
concerns with the feminisation of the classroom as two key inhibitors to boys gaining academic
parity with girls. However, they should not be seen as issues holding separate ground within
the context of the larger issue. They need to be addressed collectively and with a pluralist
mentality. I have presented the womens movement model as a matrix for reference when
beginning to address the relative underperformance of boys. Womens fight for equal access to
education and areas of the workforce traditionally seen as the domain of men has been
successful, although more work needs to be done, because of the support they have enlisted
from influential men in political positions that few women occupied. An argument may even
be raised that the platform from which the womens movement lifted itself was a platform set
down by men through the Chartist movement of the mid-19th Century (see Chase, 2015). A
great deal of what women achieved was through the support and acquiescence of men in
influential positions who had the authority to legislate in a way that provided women with
more equality. It may, therefore, be argued that emancipation was successful because of the
pluralist approach taken by men in positions of power who were sufficiently open minded to
appreciate the important role women had to play in society. The argument may, therefore, be
made that the success of the mens movement relies in part on the support of women in
influential positions within the debate through the type of pluralist conversation and
convictions that men held in the earlier part of the twentieth century that began to improve
their positions and roles in society.

Had women fought for a raft of issues at the same time, success and momentum may have
been compromised by the complexity of the debate. Whilst the manner in which feminism
succeeded in addressing issues individually, addressing the complex issue of the relative
underperformance of boys presents a more complex, multi-dimensional conundrum which
needs to be confronted on several fronts through the pluralist support of a diverse group of
people on both sides of the debate. The issues of boys education are far more complex and
present a range of concerns which are interlinked to produce what I have referred to as a
perfect storm. In this sense, the blueprint offered by the womens movement in successfully
addressing single issues does not provide a perfect matrix to follow in order to address the
multi-faceted concerns of boys, nevertheless, it is one that provides some model of optimism.

Any one issue amongst those I have covered in this paper will not offer a full picture of the
problems that needs to be negotiated. It is only when the issues are appreciated as parts of the
whole does one begin to understand the scope of work that needs to be undertaken and where
the focus of our attention needs to be directed through a new pluralist, meditative approach. In
this respect, new pathways need to be chartered through which the debate needs to pass in
order that the issues of boys underachievement may be resolved and these must be negotiated
in sympathy with the ongoing issues that girls and women continue to face.

There is clearly no single cause for boys relative under achievement in education, nor is there
a simple solution (Boys: Getting it Right Report, 2002).

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