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International Journal
Learning, Teaching
Educational Research
p-ISSN: 1694-2493
e-ISSN: 1694-2116

Vol.16 No.4
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VOLUME 16 NUMBER 4 April 2017

Table of Contents
Failing Public Schools: The Consequences of the Misleading Framing of American Education Policy ................. 1
Karl F. Wheatley

Building Integrated Situations in the Teaching of Probability and Statistics Oriented to Professional Skills for
Economic Majored Students Case Study at Lachong University Viet Nam .............................................................. 16
Hoan Van Tran and Hang Thuy Nguyen

A Framework for the Creation of Leap Motion Gestural Interfaces for Handwriting Education to Children with
Development Coordination Disorder ................................................................................................................................ 31
Leonardo Ramon Nunes de Sousa and Ismar Frango Silveira

Teachers in Multi-Cultural Societies: Excellence and Leadership .................................................................................. 54

Tamar Ketko

The Impact of Demographic Influences on Academic Performance and Student Satisfaction with Learning as
Related to Self-Esteem, SelfEfficacy and Cultural Adaptability within the Context of the Military ......................... 67
Deborah Schreiber, Jean-Claude Agomate and Brian Oddi

Effects of Warm-Up Testing on Student Learning .......................................................................................................... 91

Kimberly M. Levere and Matthew Demers

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 1-15, April 2017

Failing Public Schools: The Consequences

of the Misleading Framing of American
Education Policy

Karl F. Wheatley
Cleveland State University
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.

Abstract. Over the last 20 years, American K-12 education has been
profoundly transformed to reflect the values and principles of market-
based thinking. The article examines the powerful role that the failing
public schools frame played in reducing American citizens faith in
public education, eroding teacher autonomy, and opening the door to a
range of market-based ideas previously resisted in American public
education. Evidence is provided that there has been a dramatic increase
in framing American public schools as failing since the 1990s, and that
this framing of the situation is profoundly misleading. Negative
practical consequences of this misleading framing of the situation are
discussed, as is the way in which this framing of the situation provides a
powerful obstacle to implementing superior educational practices.
Practical suggestions for re-framing educational discussions are

Keywords: educational reform, conceptual framing, failing schools,

accountability movement, neoliberal policies


We have an obligation, I think, to refuse to accept the debate as it has

been framed for us. - Alfie Kohn

Whether we study educational policymakers aiming to transform schools

or computer hackers seeking to influence national elections, language is
increasingly being used as a key tool or weapon for bringing about substantive
changes in society. Reflecting that reality, one of the most striking features of
recent educational policies in the United States and some other countries has
been the increasing dominance of market-oriented language such as
measurable objectives, alignment, value-added assessments, and greater
However, given that education works very differently than do economic
markets and manufacturing, it can be considered puzzling that the language and
ideas of markets and manufacturing have come to dominate American K-12

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education (Kumashiro, 2008; Wheatley, 2009). How did this happen, especially
given that the practices ushered in by market advocateshighly standardized
curricula, high-stakes testing, teaching to the testwere once widely considered
to be inferior practices?
In this article, I analyze the unfolding of market-oriented education
policies over recent decades, and examine the role that the failing public
schools frame played in transforming American public education to strongly
reflect the values and principles of markets and manufacturing. I conclude that
the corporate-oriented policymakers were able to gain substantial control over
American K-12 education because they first took control of the organizing
narratives surrounding education and society. The result is that many
educational practices strongly favored by teachers and researchers alike (play,
project-based learning) now lie outside the boundaries of what seems acceptable
according to the current framing of educational debates in America.
I begin by reviewing how the conceptual framing of issues influences
thought, and then examine broader changes in American society and how those
changes set the stage for a market-oriented transformation of education. I then
explore the cognitive and practical consequences of Americans current habit of
implicitly or explicitly framing their discussions of education in terms of failing
public schools. Finally, I outline practical suggestions for more accurate and
constructive framing of educational policy and practice.

Conceptual Framing

What cognitive neuroscience teaches us is that we think in terms of

stories, images, and conceptual framesshort, punchy phrases such as student
achievement and greater accountability (Lakoff, 2014). Language has the
power to shift policy in dramatically different directions because different ways
of framing an issue steer the mind towards certain solutions while excluding
other possible solutions. For example, American politics has been strongly
framed in terms of smaller government, lower taxes, and tax relief, and
these frames can steer our minds and discussions towards cutting taxes and
avoiding tax increases (Lakoff, 2014). Similarly, framing education as being
about student achievement (i.e., test scores) steers the mind in a different
direction than would discussing education in terms of healthy whole-child
development. And just imagine the influence on policy if most Americans
routinely discussed educational inequality and the growing shortage of good
jobs in America as resulting not from failing public schools but from a failing
economy designed to serve the needs of the wealthy few very well, while
leaving everyone else struggling. Some ways of framing an issue directly teach
an idea by creating and reinforcing an association in our minds. For example,
repeatedly hearing or using the phrase failing public schools conditions our
mind to associate public schools with failure. As the cognitive neuroscientist
George Lakoff points out, when a certain way of framing an issue is well-
established in individuals brain and those frames are active, facts that do not fit
that framing of the issue simply bounce offthey are rejected, ignored, or
treated as crazy (Lakoff, 2014). This phenomenon explains recent research
showing that when presented with facts about politics or the environment that

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run counter to their dominant way of thinking, people not only have a strong
tendency to reject those facts, their previous thinking is often reinforced.
However, that same body of research shows that changing the framing of an
issues changes the degree of acceptance of the new ideas (Khazan, 2017). In
short, the language we use to discuss education or other issues powerfully
influences which policies and practices seem sensible and which seem unwise or
even unthinkable.

The Changing Social Context and Overarching Narratives in America

To be understood well, the stories we tell ourselves about education and

the educational policies that result from those stories must be understood in the
context of broader social and political developments. From the 1940s through the
1970s, the United State had a mixed-market economy in which the importance of
a strong central government was rarely questioned and there was substantial
faith in most public-sector institutions (Hacker & Pierson, 2010; Smith, 2012).
Informed by the harsh lessons of the Gilded Age, Great Depression, and World
War II, most Americans seemed to agree that government inherently does many
things better than the private sector does, and does some things that the private
sector will not do or cannot be trusted to do. This was Americas shared
overarching cultural narrative, and well call it the mixed-market story
because this narrative promoted the idea that a mixed-market organization of
society works best.
But by the late 1970s, public faith in government and public sector
approaches had taken a huge hit, with a failed war in Vietnam, three major
political assassinations, the Watergate scandal, two humbling oil crises, and an
economy marked by stagnant growth yet sharp inflation. This context of
disillusionment and crisis set the stage for the Reagan Revolution, a radical
change in the perception of the proper respective roles of government and the
private sector (Hacker & Pierson, 2010; Smith, 2012). President Reagans 1981
inaugural address famously declared that government is the problem, and
thus began decades of increasingly market-oriented policymaking in the United
States. Over and over again, real or manufactured crises were blamed on the
government in general or on specific government programs and institutions, an
overarching narrative that Ill simply call the government-bashing story.
Critically, the rhetorical assault on public sector institutions paved the way for
weakening, dismantling, or privatizing public sector programs and institutions,
accomplished through tax cuts, de-regulation, cuts in social programs, and
privatizing many government functions. The market-based assault on and
transformation of American public education got underway with the 1983 A
Nation at Risk report (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), a
report claiming that if another nation had intentionally caused our public
schools to be as weak as the ANAR authors claimed they were, then Americans
would have viewed that as an act of war. ANAR was just the beginning: For
over three decades now, Americans have read and listened to an unending
barrage of reports claiming that American public schools are generally failing.
That dominant cultural narrative that has sounded like this, with key frames in

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America and Americans are struggling largely because our failing

public schools are inefficient government bureaucracies that are not
adequately preparing students with the marketable job skills they need
to compete in the global economy, and this scandalous situation has
put our nation at risk. We know our public schools are failing due to
the poor student achievement of American pupils on international
tests, the unacceptable number of students not on grade level or who
need remedial college courses, and the skills gaps among workers
and the shortages of scientists. All kids can learn, but our public
schools are failing due to low standards, inefficient government-style
bureaucracy, lazy and incompetent teachers, unscientific teaching
methods, obstructionist teachers unions, and the lack of competition,
accountability, and school choice.

Key conceptual framesbrief phrases that Americans have heard or read

hundreds or thousands of times, appear in italics in the block quote above.
Notice that these frames teach the reader or listener how to view realityfor
example, the frame failing public schools teaches the listener to associate
public education with failure, actually reinforcing the connection between
failure and public schools in the listeners brain. By the late 1990s and early
2000s, the unending teacher bashing by market advocates was so relentless
and often nasty that a former teacher turned educational activist felt motivated
to co-author a book titled Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?
(Emery & Ohanian, 2004). In 2004, Americas Secretary of Education, Rod Paige,
actually called the nations largest teachers union (the NEA) a terrorist
organization, a phrase he later retracted, but which captured the sense of just
how aggressively the American business community and sympathetic
politicians have attacked American public education. As a subset of the larger
government-bashing story, well refer to this general shared narrative claiming
that public schools are generally failing as the failing public schools story.
To be clear, although Americans showed much more respect for public
education in the pre-ANAR era, Americans have always complained about their
public schools (Rothstein, 1998), albeit not as vigorously or viciously as became
common after 1983. The feeling inside public schools over recent decades is
captured by a quote by the late Gerald Bracey: A war is being waged on
America's public schools. They are under siege.
With this background on conceptual framing and the changing context of
American education, we turn next to analyzing the failing schools frame and
its effect on educational policy in the United States.

Analyzing the Failing Public Schools Framing

The Dramatic Rise of a Deeply Misleading Frame

The first key thing to understand about the various failing public
schools frames is that they have only become common during the period when
business leaders and sympathetic politicians have been vigorously pressing to

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re-make American public education according to market-based values and

principles. For example, a Google Ngram search of word frequency in books
revealed that the term failing schools was used over 72 times as frequently in
books in 2008 as in 1983, the year when the A Nation at Risk report (ANAR)
was published. Similarly, failing public schools was used 146 times as
frequently in 2003the year the No Child Left Behind Act was enactedas in
1983. As someone who has spent much of the last decade studying the framing
of educational discussion in America, I can report that the American media
almost reflexively uses failing public schools or failing schools as their
default language for discussing American education, and the phrase failing
schools appears with remarkable frequency in the discourse of most American
citizens, including even strong supporters of public education.
The second key thing to understand about the various failing public
schools frames is that they attribute educational failures to the public schools
themselves, and thus to teachers also (e.g., Parsons, 2016). Historically, this
represents a profound shift in cultural thinking, for in the 1960s, Americans
routinely and largely attributed poor educational outcomes to the socio-
economic conditions the child was raised in, a tendency strongly reinforced by
the findings of the highly-influential Coleman Report (Coleman, 1966).
Depending on their political leanings, Americans might have viewed poverty as
more or less due to personal failings or conditions in society, but either way,
they did not expect teachers and schools to eliminate learning gaps created by
social forces as powerful as poverty. Americans believed that the quality of
teaching could influence educational outcomes at the margins, but conservatives
in particular traditionally expressed profound skepticism that education could
provide a substantial boost to life outcomes for children growing up in poverty.
But by the early 2000s, those pushing market-oriented educational policies,
including CEOs and officials in the second Bush administration, were routinely
and vigorously attacking anyone who claimed that poverty was in any way
determinative of a childs educational or life chances. Specifically, president
George W. Bush repeatedly decried the soft bias of low expectations, and any
educators who argued that poorer educational outcomes among children living
in poverty were partly or largely due to family SES was attacked for making
excuses. This represented a radical shift in assigning responsibility for
educational outcomes. Given this re-framing of educational causality, citizens,
teachers, and other advocates for public education now often argue with one
breath that socio-economic factors are the primary drivers of educational
inequality (see Robinson & Brandon, 1994), but will later say low-performing
schools, thus implicitly assigning primary blame for poor education outcomes
for poor children to schools and teachers. Finally, its worth repeating that
schools, districts, and nations do not take the standardized tests that are often
used as the basis for these claims of failure, nor do they bear direct responsibility
for the disappearing good jobs that are also often blamed on American
education (i.e., skills gaps). Nevertheless, the failing schools framing laid the
blame for educational inequality and key economic problems in America
directly on public schools and their teachers. After decades of talking about
education this way, educators and non-educators alike now routinely talk as if
the average test scores of students in a school are a direct proxy for the quality of

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the education the school provides, and thus, low test scores are treated as a
direct indicator of a failing school. It would be difficult to overstate just how
powerful a role this shift in language and understanding has played in the rise
of market-based educational policies and in the inability of public school
educators to regain control of educational policy.
The third key thing to understand about the various failing public
schools frames is that they directly condition the brain to view public education
as a failure. Reinforcing the neural pathways between failing or failure on
the one hand and public schools on the other hand means that anytime
someone thinks of public schools, they are now more likely to think of failure,
and anytime the idea of failure is activated in someones brain, public
schools are now more likely to come to mind as one example of failure. This
idea that public schools were allegedly failing was further reinforced by frequent
repetition of claims that public school teachers were lazy and incompetent.
This kind of classical conditioning or associationist learning is one of the most
elementary and fundamental learning processes (Berk, 2009). While corporations
routinely make use of this learning mechanism through celebrity endorsements
of their products, market-oriented educational policymakers made use of it
through clever framing of educational issues, framing that teaches the brain to
believe that standardized tests can be objective (objective testing) or that
private/charter schools are inherently better than public education (high-flying
charter schools) or, of course, that public schools are allegedly failing (failing
public schools). Finally, and critical for the agenda of CEOs and business
groups intent on downsizing and privatizing government while expanding the
influence of market ideology, the phrase failing public schools reinforces the
idea that what is failing is a public-sector institution.
The fourth and most critical thing to understand about the various
failing public schools frames is that at the best, they are deeply misleading,
and at the worst, they are dead wrong. There is simply is no trustworthy
evidence suggesting that Americas public schools are generally failing at their
assigned mission, which is largely to pursue higher test scores in schools based
largely on the logic of factories (Wheatley, 2015). To be sure, American education
could be much better if it were based more on principles of human development
and democracy (e.g., Kohn, 1999; Littky, 2004; Little & Ellison, 2015; Meier, 1995;
Sahlberg, 2015; Zhao, 2009) rather than the logic of manufacturing, but this point
suggests that policymakers have sent teachers on the wrong mission, and the
fault for that error rests primarily with policymakers, not public schools or
teachers. Next, the indicators usually used as evidence of these so-called failures
have been Americas middling ranking on international tests, but there are
several problems with using average standardized test scores as indicators of the
success of educational systems. Specifically, most of what people say they value
most in education is not on standardized tests (Sachs, 1999; Stoddard, 2010) and
these tests ignore the majority of academic subjects. Furthermore, average
national scores on these international tests are not a good predictor of the future
for highly-developed nations such as the United States (Ramirez, et al. 2006),
and roughly 80% or more of the variance in test scores is due to out-of-school
factors, primarily the socio-economic status of students families (Robinson &
Brandon, 1994). Significantly the U.S. has the highest or second-highest rates of

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both child poverty and inequality among major developed nations. With this
confounding variable in mind, a 2009 analysis of 4th-grade reading scores on the
2009 PISA found that if you corrected for Americas much higher rate of child
poverty by comparing students from under-10% child poverty schools in the
United States to the performance of students in nations with under 10% child
poverty, those American students scores would have ranked them #1 in the
world (Riddile, 2010). A similar re-analysis of the 2009 4th-grade PISA
mathematics scores would have landed American students in under-10% child
poverty schools in third place globally in comparison to students from nations
with under 10% child poverty. Moreover, judging the effectiveness of American
teachers by the average test scores of its students is complicated by the fact that
the United States has far more linguistic and cultural diversity than many of the
nations whose students achieve higher average scores on these tests. Finally,
among major developed nations, only the United States does not have universal
healthcare coverage, and untreated medical, dental, and vision problems may
also play a role in the performance of a sizable subset of American students.
Thus, there has always been available a great deal of evidence that this
narrative of crisis and failure was profoundly misleading, but it continued
throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, thus motivating two well-respected
educational researchers to author a book tellingly titled The Manufactured Crisis:
Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on Americas Public Schools (Berliner & Biddle, 1995).
Since then, educational scholars have published a string of books de-bunking the
claim that American public education is generally failing at its assigned mission,
books whose titles use unusually strong language such as myths, lies, hoax
and the attack on public education (e.g., Bracey, 2004, 2009; Ravitch, 2013;
Rothstein, 1998). However, most Americans dont read such academic books,
and there were also plenty of other academic sources and media sources
claiming that public schools were in fact failing. Thus, there are two sets of
forces that have kept many Americans falsely believing that American public
schools are generally failing.

Innocent Confusion or Cynical Shock Doctrine Ploy?

Innocent confusion as a motive for the failing schools framing. Since

the 1980s, I have engaged in literally thousands of discussions and debates about
education, both in-person and on-line, and sometimes with individuals who
have been influential in educational policymaking. These experiences convinced
me that many caring and intelligent Americans are deeply confused about the
state of American education. First, many Americans have come to believe that
standardized test scores are a true and accurate measurement of student
learning and teacher effectiveness, a misleading belief that market-oriented
educational policymakers have strongly encouraged (and many may themselves
believe). Second, conditions in American public education could be much better,
a fact that is largely accounted for by the vast child poverty and economic
inequality in America, coupled with the fact that educators have been instructed
to organize education largely around the principles of manufacturing, not
around what we know about how children develop and learn best. However,

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most people are not educators and are too busy to think much about education,
and its simpler to just blame teachers and schools.
Shock doctrine motives for the failing schools framing. Over the last
half century, politicians worldwide have realized that creating a real crisis or the
illusion of a crisis can help them get even highly-unpopular policies enacted, a
disturbing process that Naomi Klein reported has been implemented in virtually
every field from education to economics to foreign policy (Klein, 2007).
Occasionally, educational policymakers have even gotten caught in the act of
creating a fictional crisis to serve their policy purposes:

In September, 1995, a video was leaked to the Canadian press of John

Snobelen, Ontarios minister of education, telling a closed-door meeting
of civil servants that before cuts to education (and other unpopular
reforms) could be announced, a climate of panic needed to be created
by leaking information that painted a more dire picture than he would
be inclined to talk about. He called it creating a useful crisis. (Klein,
2007, p. 326)

Why such urgency to create the illusion of an educational crisis? Its

possible that the most important function of the failing schools narratives for
economic elites was to establish a credible scapegoat for the negative economic
and societal consequences of the neoliberal trickle-down economic policies that
were established in the United States and elsewhere. Tax cuts, de-regulation,
and slashing social programs have had profoundly negative effects for average
families in America and other nations where such neoliberal policies were
implemented, and unless policymakers had public schools to blame for
deteriorating circumstances, its not clear how they would have explained what
caused these problems.
But fictional or not, the narratives that public sector institutions in
general and public schools in particular were terrible failures became widely-
accepted, largely because wealthy individuals and corporations promoted this
message and also established foundations (e.g., Cato Institute, Heritage
Foundation) and media outlets (e.g., Fox News, conservative talk radio stations)
to relentlessly promote these messages.
As Klein (2007) thoroughly documented, the power of an existing crisis
or the illusion of a crisis is that it can scare or disorient people, and make people
believe that business-as-usual will no longer work, thus enabling
policymakers to enact quite radical policy changes that would be vigorously
resisted under more normal circumstances. Indeed, this process has been used to
enact radical neoliberal economic policies all across the globe, from Chile and
Argentina in the 1970s to Bolivia, Poland, and Africa in the 1980s, to Russia and
China in the 1990s, and including a steady increase in neoliberal economic and
social policies in Europe and the United States. The idea of using a real or
manufactured crisis to get market-oriented policies implemented was famously
articulated by Milton Friedman, the person most often cited as the godfather of
the effort to remake both societies and schools in the image of neoliberal

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Only a crisisactual or perceivedproduces real change. When that

crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying
around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to
existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically
possible becomes politically inevitable. (Friedman, 1982, p. ix)

Of course, what Friedman meant by real change was displacing mixed-

market systems with systems run according to the values and logic of unfettered
capitalism, an arrangement known variously as neoliberalism, the Washington
consensus, or simply winner-take-all capitalism (and also winner-take-all
politics). Questionable motives and lamentable confusion aside, what are the
practical consequences of so many people seeing the issue of American
education through the lens of the failing public schools frame?

Consequences of the Failing Public Schools Framing

The first and most important practical consequence of the relentless

framing of public education as a failure is that it profoundly affected the
American publics faith in public education as a national institution. Gallup polls
given across the decades reveal that 50-60% of Americans expressed a great
deal or quite a lot of faith in public education as an institution in the 1970s,
but that number had dropped to 26-32% by 2012-2016 (Gallup Inc., 2017).
Leading credence to the theory that this erosion of trust resulted from the
concerted effort by the business community to repeatedly frame public
education as a failure in the media is that fact that parents who actually have
students in public schools have consistently expressed much higher levels of
satisfaction with the schools their children attend than they have with public
schools in general (Gallup Inc., 2017). Thus, the relentless teacher-bashing
seems to have convinced many Americans that public schools in general must not
be doing so well, even though they Americans across the nation simultaneously
express quite high levels of satisfaction with the public schools that they actually
know about.
The second practical consequence of the failure framing of public
education is that the resulting loss of faith in teachers and public schools
undermined public support for the substantial degree of teacher autonomy that
had been commonplace in American education prior to decades of attacks on
public education. As a result, teachers claims that they should be trusted to
make important curricular and assessment decisions have increasingly fallen on
deaf ears. Once people believed that public schools are generally failing and
filled with lazy and incompetent teachers, they lost their appetite for allowing
teachers freedom and autonomy, and instead wanted someone to tell teachers
exactly what to teach exactly how to teach it, and to watch them carefully to
make sure they do it, or else. This loss of professional autonomy is enormously
consequential for teaching as a profession because teacher autonomy has long
been cited as one of the most appealing aspects of teaching (Darling-Hammond,
1997), but the dramatic erosion of teacher autonomy, coupled with decades of
teacher bashing and the toxic climate created by high-stakes testing have made
teaching far less attractive as a profession. Thus, despite the relative lack of good

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middle class jobs in the United States, shortages of teachers have been increasing
in many states.
The third practical consequence of the failing schools framing nestled
within the larger government-bashing story was that it opened the door for
the private sector to claim that public education should be run more like a
business. After all, if government is the problem, public sector institutions are
inherently inefficient bureaucracies, and failing public schools merely reflect
the inherent inferiority of public sector approaches, then where else can people
turn for solutionsother than the private sector? This playbook of creating a
crisis and then proposing radical market solutions had been utilized all over the
globe by market advocates seeking to re-make democratic nations in the image
of winner-take-all capitalism, but how did this dynamic unfold in American
educational policy? The self-styled educational reformersa group
dominated by CEOs, wealthy individuals, and business organizations such as
The Business Roundtable (Emery & Ohanian, 2004)declared with enormous
confidence that what American education needed was a much more market-
based approach. Those claims sounded like this:

Everything works better if you run it more like a business, and

education is just like any other business, so to fix failing public
schools, we must run them more like a business. That means setting
higher standards; focusing on rigorous academics and a common
core of measurable student outcomes all aimed at developing
marketable job skills so that our students can better compete in the
global economy. Teachers must use evidence-based practices and we
should measure student achievement using objective tests. To
motivate teachers and students, we need to incentivize excellence
using value-added measurements of teacher effectiveness and hold
everyone more accountable for results. Overall, we need market-based
solutions emphasizing standardization, efficiency, competition, and
school choice. And dont claim that your students test scores are lower
just because your students are poor: Poverty is just an excuse and we
dont accept any excuses.

Well call this story the market-based solutions story, and once again,
the phrases or conceptual frames that Americans have heard countless times in
recent decades appear in quotations above. To reiterate, hearing and saying such
phrases repeatedly literally re-wires our brains so that the market-based-
solutions story becomes dominant in our minds and the mixed-market story
fades away through lack of use.
In terms of conceptual consequences, the dramatic rise of the
government-bashing story and the market-based solutions story has meant that
many Americans seem only able to conceive as government as a problem and
believe all solutions come from market-based thinking. As it has now been 36
years since President Reagan declared that government is the problem,
America now has more than an entire generation of citizens who have been
raised entirely in a society that has rarely spoken the mixed-market story but

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instead regularly repeats the government-bashing narrative and the market-

based-solutions narrative.
As for practical consequences, the ascendance of market-based thinking
has had profound and revolutionary consequences for American education.
Americans have traditionally thought of education as being about developing
well-rounded individuals, wise and active citizens, and ethical and competent
workers, but the market takeover of public education largely narrowed the
explicit focus of education to being about developing marketable job skills to
better compete in the global economy. Even kindergarten teachers are now
expected to document how they are preparing five- and six-year-olds for
college and career readiness. In turn, this increasingly narrow focus on
marketable job skills has led to profound neglect of social studies (history,
economics, psychology, sociology, government, etc.), literature, health and
physical education, and the arts. Like a factory trying to boost daily output,
these market-based policies focus on rapidly boosting testable outcomes in
reading, mathematics, and science, and this has led to increased use of long
blocks of direct instructionmethods that do boost test scores faster in the short
run but that also undermine intrinsic motivation, cause faster forgetting and
more behavioral problems, and generally seem less effective overall in the long
run (Wheatley, 2015a, 2015b). Lost in this process are broadly superior teaching
methods such as play and project-based learningtransdisciplinary methods
that are connected to real life and that are more effective in the long run for the
whole child and whole curriculum but that do not as rapidly boost test scores in
the short run. The narrowed curricular focus, loss of trust in teachers, and rise of
business ideas such as standardization and alignment led to the widespread
disappearance of creative and locally-developed curricula coupled with far
greater use of highly-profitable commercial curriculum packages aligned with
commercial high-stakes tests. Because everything often seems to revolve around
test scores in this context of test-based accountability, teachers, especially in
high-poverty districts, feel enormous pressure to raise students test scores,
especially because there are often harsh consequences for failing to do so. Most
educators see test-based judgments of teacher effectiveness as misleading at best
or flatly unscientific and fraudulent at the worst, but most feel powerless to
change the system. Not surprisingly, teachers and students alike often feel
burned out or alienated by the toxic stress created by market-oriented policies
centered on test-based accountability:

People who haven't darkened the door of a public school in decades have
no idea how accountability has robbed those institutions of vitality, of
zest, and of the intangible elements that make children want to succeed.
There's only so much brow-beating, only so much drilling, only so many
test-prep worksheets a small mind can endure without zoning out. Later,
when the option is availed, that uninspired child will drop out.
John Young, Waco Tribune, 10/23/05

While these market-oriented policies have not created any meaningful

improvements in even long-term test score outcomes, multiple book-length
accounts have been published on the wide range of collateral damage these

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policies have caused for students, teachers, and society (e.g., Bracey, 2009;
Nichols & Berliner, 2009; Ravitch, 2010, 2013; also see Wheatley, 2015a).

Discussion and Implications

Whats most striking about the findings above is that a series of profound
psychological and practical ripple effects were set in motion across an entire
nation simply by assigning primary blame for Americas educational and social
problems to government in general and public education in particular. That
framing, carefully conditioned into the minds of hundreds of millions of
Americans over time, allowed for the market takeover of public education (and
much of society). If we still doubt the power of frames and stories for shaping
policy and the destiny of nations, lets imagine how American education policy
might have played out if the following story and frames were how most
Americans had understood reality starting in the late 1990s:

Failed market ideology is the main cause of the most serious social and
educational problems facing America. The extension of the unhealthy
priorities of market-based thinking to the broader society has created
higher levels of poverty and increasing inequality, which in turn
have caused a vast array of social dysfunctions, including struggling
families, a disappearing middle class, vast educational inequality,
increasingly corrupt and dysfunctional governments, and accelerating
environmental destruction. Market ideology has failed repeatedly for
achieving the broader goals we have for people and the planet, and has
backfired badly in public education. Education is a unique profession,
profoundly different than manufacturing or for-profit business, and
educators are everyday heroes who require substantial freedom and
autonomy in order to teach effectively.

We can debate the best wording of such a statement or debate the degree
to which the problems described therein are fully attributable to market-based
thinking and neoliberal policies or are partly due to other factors. However,
there is no debating the fact that if Americans understood their current situation
in light of that story and those kinds of frames, that would lead to very different
policies and practices than came about after America education was framed in
terms of the government-bashing, failing schools, and market-based-solutions
stories. Language matters, and the way we frame educational debates can have
profound implications for which policies and practices seem sensible and which
seem unthinkable. More specifically, while frames such as measurable
objectives, objective testing, student achievement, value-added assessment,
greater accountability, merit pay, and school choice all frame our thinking
about education in ways that have an array of negative consequences (Wheatley,
2009, 2015), it is the framing of public schools as failures that created the
possibility for market-based ideology to largely take over American public
Given that the failing public schools framing is both deeply misleading
and inevitably creates various negative consequences, how might American
educators and citizens more constructively frame educational debates? The

2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


insights from cognitive neuroscience can help guide us in these reframing


1) One should never use the language that was designed to promote the
policies you oppose, in this case, frames that associate public
education with failure or that attribute student outcomes wholly to
the performance of schools themselves. Thats right, the
recommendation of Lakoff (2014) and others is to try to never speak
or write those frames, unless you must mention them to in a critique
or use them to establish a shared frame of reference with others.

2) One should develop concise frames and phrases to challenge and

replace the ideas and frames that you oppose. For example, one can
discuss educational inequality as primarily resulting from a failing
market ideology or failing economy that creates vast inequality
across the board. And we might talk about Americas remarkably
successful public schools, a framing that will surprise many listeners
but that is fair given how American schools have performed despite
facing much tougher challenges than those found in other major
developed nations. These frames should be used and repeated
frequently and whenever possible, because frequent repetition plays
a critical role in establishing new frames in listeners brains.

3) Develop concise frames and phrases to establish the seed ideas,

values, principles, and practices you consider most beneficial. Thus,
those supporting strong public education with substantial teacher
autonomy and progressive educational practices might promote the
idea that education is a unique profession, that public education is
a national treasure like our national parks or interstate highway
system, that teachers are everyday heroes, and that we want and
need healthy motivations for teachers and students alike, and that
all this will require more freedom and autonomy for teachers and
learners. To establish these frames in peoples brains, people should
use these phrases whenever they get the opportunity, and repeat
these phrases over and over again.

4) People should be ready with facts and examples to back up this new
way of talking about education. For example, the finding that fourth-
graders in under-10% child poverty schools in America would have
been #1 in the world in reading scores among nations with under
10% child poverty directly contradicts the narrative of general failure
for U.S. schools. However, in terms of effective persuasion, it is
usually more effective to start with compelling stories and concise
reframing anchored in ones moral values, not with vague
paragraphs or minor details of research findings.

5) Understand that it takes hard work and effort across years to

establish a shared cultural understanding that will then allow you to

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use short phrases and frames and everyone will know exactly what
you mean (Lakoff, 2014).

The late Robin Williams remarked that No matter what people tell you,
words and ideas can change the world. In this article, we have explored how
one powerful way of framing the situation in American schools (and society) has
enabled a profoundly destructive market-based takeover of American K-12
public education. The path to taking back American public education requires us
to apply the same framing principles and strategies that were used as a weapon
against American public schools and their teachers. However, this time, we
should use those framing principles and strategies to promote a more accurate
narrative aimed at the goals we value most for people and the planet, and
anchored in principles of healthy human development and democracy.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 16-30, April 2017

Building Integrated Situations in the Teaching of

Probability and Statistics Oriented to Professional Skills
for Economic Majored Students
Case Study at Lachong University Viet Nam

Hoan Van Tran and Hang Thuy Nguyen

Lac Hong University
Dong Nai Province, Viet Nam

Abstract. Nowadays, the integration theories are applied to education has

become a theoretical view of teaching and learning popular in the world to
develop learners capacity. Teaching methods for integrating practices, impact
on the integration of knowledge with the formation and training of skills, this
teaching method to facilitate for learners to actively participate and improve
practical capacity through integrated learning situations. Probability - Statistics
is a subject that has many applications for the economic majors, applications do
not only stop at the level that the subject is equipped with basic knowledge to
study specialized subjects but also application of knowledge to solve the
economic problems set out in practice. Moreover, teaching Probability - Statistics
should be geared towards practice professional skills for economics students
specified in the learning outcomes. To do this, we researched a number of
integrated teaching situations in probability-statistics with other subjects and
practical economic situations, to meet the learning outcomes of the economic

Keywords: Learning outcomes; economy; integrated situation;

professional skill; ProbabilityStatistics.

Improving quality, innovation in education and training is a vital criterion in
today's science and technology for a university. Innovation is an indispensable
trend of the times and according to the educational development strategy
reported at the 10th National Party Congress. "Educational development is a top
national policy. Fundamental Innovation and universally reform Vietnam's
education along the direction of standardization, modernization, socialization,
democratization and international integration (Government, 2012).
Lac Hong University is a multidisciplinary, multi-level educational institutions;
combine training with scientific research and technology transfer in the areas of
engineering technology, economics and the humanities and social. The school

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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 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,
2015). 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?.
Teaching of probability and 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).
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.

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For these reasons above, we have done research Building integrated situations
in the teaching of probability and statistics oriented to professional skills 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

Introduction to integrated teaching

Integrated teaching concept

Integrated teaching is the teaching process in which the teacher organizes
students into teams, create knowledge, skills in many different fields and Many
other personal attributes such as strong-willed, co-operation, creativity, to
solve learning tasks through it is the formation and development of qualities and
capacity needed (Roegiers 1996, 2004, 2005).
The essence of integrated teaching is teaching theoretical contents combine with
lesson practice and behind the hidden, it is a point of view of competence model
in education (Allal 2001).

Characteristics of integrated teaching

The purpose of integrated teaching is to take form and develop learner
competencies, help learners to solve problems in the practice of life, occupation.
The capacity of nature is the ability of the subject to flexibly and reasonable
organizes the knowledge, skills, attitude, values, motives to meet the complex
requirements of an operation, ensures that the activity is successful in a certain
context (situation); and the method of creating that capacity is integrated
teaching. Integrated teaching has the following characteristics (Roegiers 1996,
2004, 2005), (Gerard & Roegiers, 2003):
- Establish relationships, according to a certain logic of knowledge, different
skills to perform a complex operation.
- Select the information, knowledge and skills that students need to perform
practical activities in learning situations, to integrate them into the world of
- Make the learning process clear and purposeful.
- Teachers do not prioritize the teaching of knowledge and single information,
but students must be able to search, manage, and use knowledge to solve
problems in meaningful situations.

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- Overcoming the habit of communicating, absorbing discrete and discrete skills

make people "functional illiterates", meaning that they can be crammed with
much information but cannot be used. As such, integrated teaching is reform
to reduce unnecessary knowledge, to increase in useful knowledge. To select
the content that is included in the curriculum, first answer what knowledge is
needed and can make students aware of meaningful situations. Expression of
capacity is knowing how to use the content and skills in a meaningful
situation, not in discrete knowledge (De Ketele, 1996, 2004).

Creating an integrated teaching situation

In teaching, to develop capacity in an integrated perspective, it is necessary to
build a system of practical situations (Roegiers 1996, 2004, 2005), (Su, 2005). The
way to build an integrated situation is:
- First of all, what is the need to identify situations to help develop competencies
for learners?
- Each construction situation needs to meet the following requirements:
+ Contains problems.
+ When dealing with problems, they must apply different knowledge and
manipulate personal qualities.
+ Close to life, occupation of the learners.
+ The situation can be resolved.
- Situation systems toward will help develop the necessary capacity.
- System of integrated situations to be satisfied:
+ Each situation helps to develop some capacity
+ A Chain of situations is designed so that developmental capacities tend
to rise the level of that capacity. (However, Not all capacities are satisfied. "In the
following situations, that capacity must be at a higher level than in the previous
situation. Sometimes the following situations just need to make sure the
requirement to "strengthen" that capacity is available) (Bonniol, 1985), (Wu &
Adams, 2006).

The role and status of the probability and statistics teaching in comparison
with the economic majors's learning outcomes

The contents in the learning outcomes of economic majors under the

CDIO (Crawley et all, 2005) approach
One of the most important jobs done at Lac Hong University is to develop the
learning outcomes of the CDIO approach of each training discipline. After many
edits, up to now the learning outcomes of the school was completed with the
comments of many enterprises, departments and agencies in the area. From the
mission of the school and the annual surveys, the school built "the learning
outcomes 2016" (Benken 2005), (Crawley et all, 2005), (Lac Hong 2015), (Hoan &
Trung 2016):

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1.1. BASIC SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE 2.2.2 Search and synthesis of documents
1.1.1. Knowledge of the basic principles of Marxism- 2.2.3 Experimental studies
Leninism; Vietnam Communist Party's Revolutionary 2.2.4 Hypothesis testing
Platform; Ho Chi Minh Thought; 2.2.5 Ability to apply research in practice
1.1.2. Have basic knowledge of mathematics and natural 2.2.6 Skills in collecting, analyzing and processing
sciences; information
1.1.3. Have knowledge of social sciences and humanities. 2.3 SYSTEMS THINKING
1.2. BASIC KNOWLEDGE AND SPECIALTY CORE 2.3.1 Whole thinking /logic
KNOWLEDGE 2.3.2 Detect problems and correlations between problems
1.2.1. Knowledge of fundamental principles for analyzing 2.3.3 Identify priority issues
activity in the economy, to grasp the policy issues related to 2.3.4 Analyze the choice between problems and find a
the overall performance of the economy, to find out some balanced solution
solutions to achieve the goals of the organization. 2.3.5 Multi-dimensional analysis thinking
1.2.2. Basic knowledge of corporate governance, marketing, 2.4 SKILLS AND PERSONAL QUALITIES
and economic law helps leaders make decisions to achieve the 2.4.1 Ready to take the lead and cope with risks
goals of the organization. 2.4.2 Patiently
1.2.3. Basic knowledge of Econometrics: Probability and 2.4.3 Flexible
statistics, Linear programming, applied to build linear 2.4.4 Confident
programming situations to solve real problems in business to 2.4.5 Laborious
bring out optimal production options for businesses. 2.4.6 Enthusiastic and passionate about the work
1.2.4. Knowledge of construction, estimating, the econometric 2.4.7 Creative thinking
model tests used in the analysis, economic forecast, finance. 2.4.8 Critical thinking
1.2.5. Basic knowledge about international business as well as 2.4.9 Understand and analyze the knowledge, skills, qualities
international investment has understood the factors affecting and attitudes of another individual
international business operations, the opportunities as well as 2.4.10 Discover and learn from life
challenges in the current trend of globalization like 2.4.11 Manage time and resources
regulations and the importance of international investment in 2.4.12 Adaptive skills with the complexity of reality
international economic integration. 2.4.13 Understanding of different cultures
1.2.6. Basic knowledge of accounting theory: concepts, nature, 2.4.14 The spirit of honor
functions, objects, purposes and requirements of accounting, 2.4.15 Study skills and Self - study
accounting methods, the process of collecting, recording 2.4.16 Self management skills
accounting data, accounting sequence, major business 2.4.17 Computer skills
processes, forms of accounting, content and organizational 2.5 PROFESSIONAL SKILLS AND QUALITIES
forms of accounting work, as well as the preparation and 2.5.1 Professional ethics (honest, responsibility v credible)
interpretation of financial statements. 2.5.2 Professional behavior
1.2.7. Knowledge of the organization of the accounting 2.5.3 Planning skills for careers in the future
apparatus in various types of enterprises (production, 2.5.4 Organizational skills and job arrangements
commercial, administrative careers, bank,) as well as the 2.5.5 Recognize and catch up with the modern world
accounting data processing skills of economic operations economy
arising from the organization. 2.5.6 Ability to work independently
1.2.8. Basic knowledge of English for economics as well as 2.5.7 Confidence in the international working environment
writing, speaking and reading skills in knowledge economic 2.5.8 Target skills
growth in business. 2.5.9 Motivational skills to work
1.2.9. Fundamental knowledge of monetary finance in general 2.5.10 Personal and career development skills
and corporate finance, in particular to take forming new 2.5.11 Customer and partners care skills
thinking on monetary finance as well as corporate finance to 2.5.12 Skills in use english for specific
approach, to implement policies and economic policy 3- SKILLS AND QUALITIES BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS
guidelines in reality. (SOCIAL SKILLS)
1.2.10. The basic knowledge about how to use math tools in 3.1 WORK IN GROUPS
financial operations to carry out a financial instruments 3.1.1 Create effective teamwork
valuation, analyze projects, and select investment projects 3.1.2 Group operations
help managers make the right decisions in business to achieve 3.1.3 Group development
high economic efficiency. 3.1.4 Team leader
1.3. BASIC KNOWLEDGE AND ADVANCED MAJORS 3.1.5 Working skills in different groups
2.1 ARGUMENTS THINKING AND SOLVING 3.2.1 Communication strategy
ECONOMIC PROBLEMS 3.2.2 Communication structure (how to argue, arrangement
2.1.1 Detect and form problems ideas.)
2.1.2 Generalize the problem 3.2.3 Communication skills documents
2.1.3 Skills in qualitative assessment and analysis of the 3.2.4 Communication skills through email / media
problem 3.2.5 Presentation skills
2.1.4 Problem analysis skills when lack of information 3.2.6 Communication skills among individuals
2.1.5 Quantitative analysis skills 3.3 COMMUNICATION IN FOREIGN LANGUAGES
2.1.6 Problem-solving skills 3.3.1. English (Equivalent level B1 according to European
2.1.7 To take solutions and recommendations standard or TOEIC 450).

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Thus, this learning out comes is stated that the content of probability and
statistics knowledge should equip students in economic majors to meet the
learning outcomes. 1.1.2; 1.2.3; 1.2.4; 1.2.10. Beside the content of knowledge, the
probability and statistics teaching can be towards training skills in the learning
outcomes, such as: 2.1.6. Problem-solving skills; 2.2.5. Ability to apply research
in practice; 2.2.6. Skills in collecting, analyzing and processing information; 2.4.7.
Creative thinking; 2.4.8. Critical thinking; 2.4.15. Study skills and self study;
2.4.17. Computer skills; 3.1. teamwork skills; 3.2.5. Presentation skills,
The above analysis confirms that for the teaching of probability and statistics to
meet the knowledge and skills in the learning outcome built up, teaching should
be equipped toward the knowledge of probability and statistics to apply in
economics and students can use in studying the next module as well as learning
to improve after graduation and application in economics. Not only that, the
probability and statistics teaching towards skills training mentioned in the
learning outcomes.

The role of probability and statistics in the learning outcome of the economic
Probability and statistics is a basic subject and today, knowledge of this field has
penetrated into almost every field and science. Knowledge about scientific
probability as well as statistics have been widely applied (Devore 2004). This is
one of the basic knowledge of the module that the Ministry of Education and
Training has defined as a compulsory subject for students in economics,
medicine, chemistry and the environment.
The characteristic of probability and statistics is "finding stability in the
seemingly unstable, indispensable in the randomness by mathematical methods"
(Hayter, 2007), (Devore 2004). Incident is an indispensable part of life. Probability
and statistics becomes an important science subject, especially its applications. In
fact, individuals sometimes encounter situations in front of multiple choices
before deciding, the exact decision will lead they to success. Probability statistics
is necessary, It is an indispensable tool when economists need a basis to make
the final decision on their business strategies (Hayter, 2007).

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Figure 1. Relationship between probability statistics and subjects of the

economic majors
Probability statistics equips economists, future engineers in the process of
collecting and processing information. It is a prerequisite to other subjects such
as Corporate Finance, Econometrics, Stock Market, Risk Management,
Moreover, with particular applications in Mathematics should be training of
basic mathematical skills such as: generalizations, especially, modeling, detect
and solve problems... Learning probability and statistics is also contributing to
training the occupational skills associated with economics students, such as:
gathering skills, statistical data processing; observation skills; analytical skills,
decisions through estimation problems, accreditation; skills in information
technology applications; teamwork skills These skills are an indispensable
part of the requirements for occupational skills for economics students that
"Learning outcomes" of Lac Hong University was set out. But, how to teach
probability and statistics to contribute to meeting the learning outcomes in Lac
Hong University is still a question without answers.
For these reasons above, we have done research Training occupational skills
through teaching probability statistics for economic majors

Reality of teaching probability and statistics subjects to the requirements of

the learning outcomes at Lac Hong University
In (Hoan, 2014) have pointed out that, teaching of probability and statistics at
school exist on limitations the following:
The practice of problem-solving skills have not shown more in the lectures. Most
lecturers taught in the traditional way is mainly (cognitive knowledge and
application of knowledge to solve specific exercises), leading to not practice
problem solving skills for students.
Dont focus on assessment with practical subject contents. Example for the tests,
final exams have many properties of mathematics and applied to all majors,
without the installation practical problems for students in specific occupations.

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No application of information technology in teaching an effective. At present,

most instructors only instruct students to compute by pocket calculator without
using the tool as a specific software (such as Maple, Mathematica,) for solving
specific math problems like technique for students
Not to promote self-learning ability, ability to work collectively of students
through group exercises, assignments homework. Now, the school has not
compiled the major assignments of the subject, resulting in the training of the
above skills not yet implemented for this subject.
This reality led to the final examination results module of probability and
statistics is low, the number of students retake a test, repeat a module 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 setting many problems related to the
subject; 2) Lecturer held for student group activities; and 3) Your comments
about the quality of teaching in this course. With selected items for students: a)
Totally disagree; b) Disagree; c) No comments; d) Agree; and e) Totally agree,
the students' answers are usually c: No comments.
Thus, teaching probability and statistics acccording to results of the survey
(Hoan, 2014) is not meet the requirements set forth in the school's learning
outcomes. Specifically, in criteria such as:
The content of probability and statistics is general knowledge, theoretical heavy,
not directly applied to economic majors.
Teaching is not organized towards of training professional skills for students as
defined in the learning outcomes
The integrated teaching method allows the selection of content into curriculum
and can make students apply their knowledge to specific job situations. On the
other hand, knowledge is also equipped to train the skills in a meaningful
situation, not just to equip the knowledge discrete.
The above analysis shows that research is needed "Give some integrated
situations in teaching of probability and statistics oriented to professional skills
for the students economic majors at Lac Hong University" is very necessary

Some integrated situations in the teaching of probability and statistics

oriented to professional skills for students economic majors
Some practice skills for students through teaching situations are (Roegiers 1996,
2004, 2005; Hoan, 2015; Hoan & Hang, 2016; Schoenfeld, 1992).
- Skills in using mathematical language
- Skills in modeling a practical situation
- Problem-solving and decision-making skills

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- Application research skills in practice

- Skills in collecting, analyzing and processing information
To solve the problem contained in the situation, students must apply the
following knowledge:
- Knowledge of probability and statistics: random variables, probabilities in the
classical sense, probability and statistics, expectations, variance of random
- Basic knowledge of economics, such as risk measurement, optimal coverage,
utility function, expected return E(R), risk, balances

Situation 1. Apply probability and statistics to solve the problem of insurance

Exercise. Suppose you have a motorbike worth 10 million VND. A company
invites you to buy insurance with the following conditions: Every year, you pay
a certain premium, if you lost the car, the insurance company will reimburse you
8 million (equivalent to 80% of the value of the car). How much is the highest
premium you accepting? Now, suppose you read the People's Police Newspaper
and know that in the past year, the rate of motorcycle theft in the city was 0.1%
(that is, with 1000 motorcycles, 1 motorcycles was stolen). How does this new
information affect the decision on the maximum premium you accept?
Problem situation, given: A person thinking how to protect personal property?
The solution that most people accept is to buy insurance for their motorcycles.
However, whether buying or not buying insurance, he still faces the risk of being
stolen. So, what to do to minimize losses, This question directs students to task
the mathematical expectations model to calculate the expected level of expected
holdings of all possible cases. We have to compare between two cases: When to
buy insurance and not to buy insurance?
Table 1. Cases of insurance fees
Lost Not lost Expected asset value
(p = 0,1%) (p = 99,9%) (E (X))
Yes 0 million 10 million (99,9%). 10 million
(0,1%). 8 (99,9%) 10 + (0,1%) 8
No 10 million
million million
Thus, if you buy insurance, expected asset value to be:
EV1 (99,9%).10(million) (0,1%).8(million) IF , with IF is insurance fees. If
not, buy insurance, expected asset value is:
EV2 (99,9%).10(million) (0,1%).0 (99,9%).10(million) . So, if only based
on the level of expectations to make decisions, you will buy insurance if
EV1 EV2 , it means IF < 8.000 VND. This fee is 8.000 VND called fair premium
after performing all these calculations, we try to ask ourselves again what is the
maximum premium we can accept? And if the premium is not 8,000VND but
10,000VND, are we willing to buy insurance?

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From a real situation in class, It is possible to draw some initial comments

related to the problem for students as follows: Why do we buy insurance
(demand for insurance)? We buy insurance to reduce variability in consumption.
Note that you only need to spend 8,000 VND a year you are not afraid of empty
hands when losing a motorcycle anymore. Thus, variability or variance is one of
the measures of risk. In statistics, people use the variance to measure the
variability of a random variable. Variability here means that the variance of
the mean (or expected value) (Thoyts, 2010).
Starting from the practical problem, students can ask questions: Will the
company always sell the desired amount of insurance? The rate of theft this year
increased over last year?,... Therefore, the insurers themselves are also at risk
when carrying out insurance projects above. What do they do to minimize the
risks they will face? This is precisely the premise for students to enter into new,
expanded and inherited models of mathematical and new economic model,
broader and inheritance of probability models was built from Application of
probability and statistics, such as: profit, risk, risk measurement, risk mitigation,
profit maximization, the application of choice in business,...

Situation 2. Apply probability and statistics of calculating the expected return

on financial investment (Integrate with the stock market subject and
Corporate Finance) (Hallwood & Ronald MacDonald, 2010)
Exercise. Mr. An works for a company with a monthly cumulative of 30,000,000
VND and is considering two investment channels as follows:
- Option 1: This amount will be deposited into the bank with a stable interest of
1,800,000 VND/year.
- Option 2: Investing in a stock market of 100,000 VND to buy a stock will
receive an annual dividend of 5,000 VND/year and after one year, expected
market price of that stock is 105,000 VND.
This is the result Mr. An obtained after collecting data, using calculations (which
in fact, many investors use Probability models) to process the data..
Problem situation, given: Which strategy is optimal?
Consider plan A: If Mr.An deposited money in the bank and then earn 1.800.000
VND/year, it means rate of profit equal to 1.800.000/30.000.000 = 6%/year.
Consider plan B: If Mr.An invested in securities, his investment information as
- The investment amount is 100,000 VND
- Income after 1 year of investment is: 5.000 + (105.000 - 100.000) = 10.000/ stock
(this is Stock market subject)
- Rates of profit = 10.000/100.000 = 10%/year
Thus, if you invest in the stock, the return on investment includes stock
dividends (5,000 VND/stock) and income from securities increased (5,000
VND/share), with Mr.An's 30 million VND can buy 300 stocks and earn

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respectively 3,000,000 VND (300 stock x 10,000 VND/stock) (this is Business

finance subjet)
Therefore, in terms of margins to evaluate the efficiency of investment, we
choose option 2, which is to invest in stocks, the yield will be higher. However,
the risks of the two options are different. If Mr. An deposited into the bank will
have a profit of 6% per year. If Mr. An buys stock and holds until the end of the
year, he may or may not have the expected dividend as the stock price may
fluctuate up or down, so Option 2 to suffer a loss. In terms of the degree of risk,
it is clear that depositing money in a bank can not be considered as risky, but if
investing in stocks, the probability of stock price volatility is higher. This shows
that the choice of higher expected value always has a higher risk, that is, the
expected return and risk are two variable quantities in the same direction. This
problem continues to be covered in detail in the subjects: Economics of
Investment, Choice Uncertainty,...

Situation 3. Application of probability and statistics to solve the problem of

choosing a business plan (Integration with Management Accounting subjects)
(John Burns at all, 2013), (Moore & McCabe, 2006)
Exercise. At HAT company, there are data on the results of business operations
in accordance with the balance of receivables in November 2016 as follows:
(consumption of 4,500 products), Unit: 1,000 VND

Table 2. Data on the results of business operations in accordance with the balance of
receivables in November 2016 At HAT company

Calculated for 1
Total Rate
1. Revenue 300.000 60 100%
2. Variable cost 225.000 45 75%
3. Contribution margin (CM) 75.000 15 25%
4. Fixed cost 25.000
5. Profit 50.000
December, executives want to increase profits over the previous month, so they
have offered to reduce selling price by 2,000 VND/product and increase the cost
of advertising on the media by 8,000,000 VND (this is Management accounting
subject). So, the question is put: Will the proposed management plan become
Problem situation, given: Is the proposed management plan feasible?
Before the situation, Financial analysts conduct calculations of probabilities
happens when put this plan into the business model of the company. To do that,
they conduct a market survey and assume that after studying the market survey
results of the sample survey at some business agents when implementing the
above plan, as follows: Consumption is expected to increase from 20% to 50%,
with the probability that consumption increase by 20% is 60%, the probability
that consumption will increase by 50% is 40%.

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From the results of the probability survey, the accountant can calculate the profit
(loss) corresponding to the survey results:
- If consumption of products increase by 20% then:
+ Unit Contribution margin = (60.000 - 2.000) - 45.000 = 13.000
+ Increased receivables: (5.000 x 120% x 13.000) 75.000.000 =
3.000.000 VND
+ Profit increased: 3.000.000 8.000.000 = -5.000.000 VND (Profit decreases
7.000.000 VND)
- If consumption of products increase by 50% then:
+ Increased receivables: (5.000 x 150% x 13.000) - 75.000.000 = 22.500.000
+ Profit increased: 22.500.000 8.000.000 = 14.500.000 VND
Inferred, the increase in profitability when calculating is: -5.000.000x60% +
14.500.000x40% = 2.800.000 VND (Profit increased 2.8 million VND).
The results show that the proposed management model can bring additional
profits for the company. Thus, the company should implement this option.
In the above situation, students realize that conducting surveys and collecting
data by application of probability and statistics model allows the enterprise to
verify the feasibility of a business plan from which to make the decision. Should
the business plan be implemented?

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 these
integrated situations in the teaching of probability and statistics, after impact
methods with the lecturer about integrated situations 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: 2015 to 2016. Votes have clear data to use for statistics
in the survey was N = 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 3).

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Table 3. Course evaluation results of Probabilily and Statistics courses of students in

academic year 2015 - 2016
1 2 3 4 5
During school hours, Teacher guides for
1 students: using mathematical language and 0 0 7 135 10
modeling a practical situation
During school hours, Teachers guides for
2 students: using mathematical tools to solve 1 2 9 130 10
practical problems
During school hours, Teachers focus on
3 developing: problem-solving skills and 0 1 7 126 18
decision-making skills of students
Lesson content connects with the real life, in
4 0 3 7 132 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. 1: During school hours, Teacher guides for students:
using mathematical language and modeling a practical situation have 95.39%
students, question No. 2: During school hours, Teachers guides for students:
using mathematical tools to solve practical problems have 92,1% students,
question No. 3: During school hours, Teachers focus on developing expression
skills, problem-solving skills and decision-making skills of students have
94,74% students choice answers are agree and totally agree. This insists that
these integrated situations in the teaching of probability and statistics 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, creating integrated situations in the teaching of probability and statistics
has initially oriented teaching for economics students in order to purpose of
training professional skills.
The results initially showed that students learn probability and statistics in a
more positively, in particular the ability to apply probability and statistics to
solving occupational issues has been significantly improved. That helps us have
a well-founded, synchronized goal, the content and method of teaching
associated with vocational training to achieve the developmental learning

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Allal, L. (2001), La mtacognition en perspective, in Figari, G., Achouche, M. (2001). L'activit
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probability statistics for economic majored students at Lac Hong University,
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---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. 16, No. 4, pp. 31-53, April 2017

A Framework for the Creation of Leap Motion

Gestural Interfaces for Handwriting Education to
Children with Development Coordination

Leonardo Ramon Nunes de Sousa

Mackenzie Presbyterian University and Federal University of Piau
Teresina, PI, Brazil

Ismar Frango Silveira

Mackenzie Presbyterian University
So Paulo, SP, Brazil

Abstract. Gestural interfaced-based computational tools can be more

suitable than other kinds of interfaces during calligraphy education to
children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. The touchless
tools reduce difficulties with handwriting of these pupils because they
do not require physical contact and they dispense efforts of fine motor
skills needed to perform calligraphy. They also serve as a motivational
tool and they are more intuitive than touchscreen and graphical user
interfaces. This paper deals with concepts of Development Coordination
Disorder and human-computer interaction principles and it proposes a
framework with a set of specific guidelines for software for the
development of gestural interfaces for calligraphy education to children
with DCD. Containing 25 guidelines in 3 stages Prototyping,
Development and Evaluation, this model takes into account the
characteristics of DCD and recognizes fine motor skills technologies,
relating all proposed guidelines to each other and supports the creation
of appropriate gestural interfaces to assist these children at this school

Keywords: Gestural Interfaces; Framework; Guidelines; Developmental

Coordination Disorder; Handwriting.

First Considerations
As gestural interfaces for children calligraphy learning are often inappropriate
or poorly designed (Saffer, 2008), it is recommended that the development of
these interfaces starts with its framework which contains a number of guidelines
to be followed and can be adapted to the reality of the process of teaching
handwriting to children with DCD, taking into account those devices that have

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the characteristic of recognizing fine movements without tactile response, for

example, Leap motion (Nunes & Silveira, 2015b), (Nunes & Silveira, 2015c).
A framework, therefore, is a type of system or model to formalize a
conceptual process, capturing a common feature among different concepts
(Ferguson, Jelsma, Versfeld & Smits-Engelsman, 2014) and allow the reuse of
these definitions for analysis, design, implementation and testing, being
commonly used in the software programming area in computers (Landin,
Niklasson, Bosson & Regnell, 1995) and helping in the development of interfaces
(Johnson & Deutsch, 1993).
The advantage of using a framework is that it acts as a paradigm for the
development of something in accordance with an established standard, saving
additional time and research work, as the whole process is regulated, besides
productivity benefits in creating new tools, with reliability and quality, as well
as updating and constant maintenance of the model. A disadvantage has to be
the time spent in the creation of formulations and settings.
Therefore to use a framework, there is need of an analysis for a complete
understanding and handling during implementation in accordance with their

I. Developmental Coordination Disorder

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a disorder linked to fine and
gross motor coordination with children and adults who commit to academic
achievement, physical education and everyday activities such as dressing,
personal hygiene, nutrition, social interaction/relationships and health, without
any clinically evident brain injury/damage. It is mainly characterized by spatial,
motor, postural and verbal difficulties, compromising movements, perceptions,
thought and language (Polatajko & Cantin, 2005), (Magalhes, Cardoso &
Missiuna, 2011), (Portwood, 2013).
People with DCD have an intellectual capacity in accordance with the
general population, but the presentation and difficulties of the disorder can vary
between individuals and may change in accordance with environmental
demands and life expectancy. For some, however, its impact is persistent and
significant up to adulthood, affecting daily life and creating problems with time
management, organization and planning (Kirby, Edwards & Sugden, 2011),
(Kirby, Sugden & Purcell, 2014).
It is estimated that there are 5% to 6% up to 22% of school-age children
with DCD, with 2% severely affected. In the general population, the number of
DCD prevalence is between 5% and 7%, most frequently with males (Martin,
Piek & Hay, 2006), (Cardoso & Magalhes, 2009), (Ferguson et al., 2014).
Discussing the difficulties that DCD presents before, the problem of
space is many times confusing for subjects, concerning concepts like high, low,
near or far, as well as the shapes and sizes of figures used in writing (Wilson &
Mckenzie, 1998), (Vaivre-Douret et al., 2011).
With neurological motor dysfunction, DCD prevents the brain from
performing all its functions, compromising balance, generating imprecision and
slowness (Geuze, 2003). The areas that suffer most are changes in body posture
and temporal-spatial orientation (Ferguson et al., 2014). The stance is reflected in
movements lacking rhythm and little control (Fong, Ng & Yiu, 2013). In some

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cases, language is not affected, but there is a phonological and phonetic deficit in
speech (Gaines & Missiuna, 2007). The main features of this disorder can be seen
in Figure 1.

Figure 1: DCD and its characteristics. Source: Prepared by the author.

Children with DCD experience school failure, with challenges in

calligraphy, as handwriting is the most affected area due to the difficulty in
controlling and holding a pencil, little tactile sensation and limited concept of
space, characterized by the absence of spacing between letters and the
impediment to position the pencil at a specific point of the paper, along with the
lack of three-dimensional perception when copying or drawing geometric
figures and disorganization in presented works on paper (Miyahara & Mbs,
1995), (Zwicker, Missiuna, Harris & Boyd, 2011), (Jolly & Gentaz, 2013),
(Scordella et al., 2015). By using digital technology, however, school problems
can be overcome, since the cognitive part of the brain is unaffected and children
with DCD can use them with dexterity and rapidity (Thorvaldsen, Egeberg,
Pettersen & Vavik, 2011), (Czyewski, Dalka, Kunka & Odya, 2014), (Ferguson et
al., 2014).
Educating children with DCD during literacy should focus on
calligraphy and literacy with techniques and tools that improve physical and
psychological aspects of the child at this stage (Othman & Keay-Bright, 2010),
(Prunty, Barnett, Wilmut & Plumb, 2013), such as dotted exercises, using non-
toxic modeling clay, boards and paintings, chalk or brush, chairs and adapted
tables, different types of pencils, pens (that light up when pressed), erasers,
rulers, lined paper which is always aligned with the child's arm, giving more
autonomy and confidence for these pupils and those who are in special needs
education (Kirby, 2011), (Hsu et al., 2013), (Huau, Velay & Jover, 2015).
You can also allow the child to write with pre-shaped letters, requiring a
certain amount of work or exercises, making use of other moments of interaction
with colleagues, such as intervals, in addition to giving extra time, not scoring all
errors, encouraging oral responses or use of digital technologies that benefit

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from kinesthetic movements (those performed in the air), as well as technologies

which use gestural interfaces, helping in the education of children with DCD as
they have problems in finalizing and reverse letters (handedness and
orientation) (Chen & Cohn, 2003), (Summers, Larkin & Dewey, 2008),
(Magalhes et al., 2011), (Missiuna, Rivard & Pollock, 2011).

II. Leap Motion

Leap motion Technology is a compact-size device with infrared sensors and
cameras that have the capability to track and recognize only the movements of
the fingers and hands of a user, as can be seen in Figure 2. The tool requirement
is the need to calibrate prior to use so that a new user gets used to using it (Nho,
Seo, Seol & Kwon, 2014), (Seixas, Cardoso & Dias, 2015).

Figure 2: Leap Motion. Source: www.leapmotion.com

This tool has a split control in 02 (two) areas: Hover Zone and Touch
Zone. The first captures movements shallow as a general navigation cursor on
the screen, being located between the user and the sensor. The second zone is
closer to the monitor, activates buttons and other controls equivalent to for
example the clicks of a mouse. It is located between the sensor and the computer
monitor if it is used (Sutton, 2013).
Leap Motion is a device example that uses gestural interfaces and has
drawn attention because of precision in recognizing movements. Financially,
the cost of acquisition is more affordable than other devices, such as ASUS Xtion
Motion Sensor, Microsoft Kinect (Xbox 360) - Win and I, MYO Armband
(Thalmic Labs), Interactive Projections - GestureTek (wall, floor), Nintendo Wii
(U), PlayStation Move-Eye (Sony) and Wisee: WiFi signals (Potter, Araullo &
Carter, 2013), (Weichert, Bachmann, Rudak & Fisseler, 2013).
In addition, its physical dimensions are more comfortable to changing
environments and transport for people with disabilities, also having a detection
capability of your sensor more accurately than others in the market, focusing its
motion capture system only on the hands (Shen, Luo, Wang, Wu & Zhou, 2014).
This device also has a set of applications that can be free or paid and are
available in (Leapmotion, 2017), with the example of software to be
recommended for use with children with DCD the Skywriting Alphabets,
Floatmotion, BT Handwriting Free and Herbi Write About (Leapmotion, 2017).

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When developing applications for Leap motion, you need to use SDK
(Software Development Kit) of this tool and choose a framework with a
programming language for development as e.g. C ++, C \ #, Unity (V2),
Objective- C, Java, Python, JavaScript, and Unreal Motor Unit (Orion). The SDK
offers two (02) options for data collection on the interface - the native and
websocket. This creates web applications that contain a dynamic library for
creating new applications (Bassily, Georgoulas, Guettler, Linner & Bock, 2014),
(Seixas et al., 2015).
With these features, for example, the Leap motion can be interesting for
children with DCD in literacy to enhance learning calligraphy training hand
movements, also at work in the communication process, expression, interaction
and storing digital actions through movements and kinesthetic movements
performed in the air (Bachmann, Weichert & Rinkenauer, 2014), (Liu, Zhang,
Rau, Choe & Gulrez, 2015).
The application being developed will contain e.g. calligraphy activities
divided into modules that reinforce the learning of uppercase and lowercase
letters, numbers, geometric shapes and symbols. It will be used during the
process of literacy and literacy of children with DCD for later use similar
procedures to (Becker, Mauer, Emer, Behar & Assumpo, 2014), also
characterized as exploratory qualitative research.

III. Work / Method Proposal

To help teach and motivate calligraphy to children with DCD using gestural
interfaces through devices without tactile contact, we propose a framework
containing a set of guidelines for developing applications that potentially
intervene in literacy steps and calligraphy of this target audience.
The guidelines in this framework propose a guide on how interfaces of
applications should be implemented, facilitating the accessibility and systemized
usability for people with DCD and allowing gestural interface technologies
being used more safely.
As an example of technology that works with the recognition of fine
hand movements, we recommend that software can be developed for Leap
motion by virtue of its advantages listed in Section 3, taking into account the
context of the subjects with this disorder, their needs and constraints, as well as
being an inclusive solution for people with disabilities in general.
One can create applications for handwriting activities that reinforce
learning uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, geometric shapes and
symbols in order to expedite learning for individuals with DCD. They will be
used during the process of literacy and calligraphy of children with DCD, before
teaching traditional methods for calligraphy, thus creating, for this classic
methodology, training benefits and memorization as shapes, letters and
numbers should be created through the practice of kinesthetic movement,
making it intuitive.
For this, however, a good methodology and addressing ethical issues
should be involved in the development of one or more applications that
effectively promote calligraphy learning in children with DCD through
appropriate gestural interfaces, facilitating educational calligraphy opportunities

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by way of such tools, in addition to being diverse and inclusive when

considering the individuals involved.
This framework is therefore the starting point of the development of
gestural interfaces for people with DCD on devices that consider fine motor
hand movements, in addition to highlighting the need for further and new
approaches to content analysis for this audience, its characteristics and
meanings, using the concepts of accessibility and effectiveness of applications
created, also launching other looks to promote calligraphy learning that gestural
technologies offer and are thus challenging and thought-provoking.

Description of Framework
The proposed framework consists of 25 (twenty five) based guidelines in the
Participatory Design Principles and User-Centered Design, highlighting the
characteristics of children with DCD and being divided into 03 (three) main
parts: Prototyping, Development and Evaluation, as in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Proposed Framework with the parts of Prototyping, Development and

Evaluation. Source: Prepared by the author.

Prototyping aims to advance understanding of the needs of children with

DCD in relation to calligraphy learning, acting as a set of guidelines that will
guide the development of gestural interfaces effectively targeted at these
subjects and being supported by the work of (Othman & Keay-Bright, 2010),
(Placitelli & Gallo, 2012), (Othman & Keay-Bright, 2011), (Caro, Martnez-Garca,
Tentori & Zavala-Ibarra, 2014) and (Caro, 2014) with regard to the
understanding of user requirements for better system development, and
therefore having a greater number of guidelines, fourteen (14), like the other
steps of the framework, taking into account the part of planning with schematics
of the product before it is generated (Dey, Abowd & Salber, 2001) and usability
(Hall, 2001), (Still & Morris, 2010), reducing the chances of a bad design
(Wiethoff, Schneider, Rohs, Butz & Greenberg, 2012).
The second stage, Development, has 07 (seven) guidelines related to the
peculiar characteristics of the devices with recognition of fine movements,
therefore, particularly for Leap motion, there are some hand formats to your
SDK that need to be chosen. This step concentrates the guidelines that need to
unite the demands of devices (Hand Size and Position, Hand Immersion, space
between objects, Highlight Selected) with the needs of children with DCD for
proper use (Realism, Encouragement and Ergonomics).
The evaluation phase has 4 (four) guidelines (Technologies Used, A
Device for Children, Punctuation and General Checking) directed to carry out
the assessment of the previous steps and guidelines by identifying the
characteristics of children with DCD, the focused technology, interface

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obstacles/interaction between subjects and tools, also suitable alternatives of

how adversity can affect the desired results, and finally the compliance check of
the recommendations with the set (Prates & Barbosa, 2003).
Thus, the proposed guidelines are:
P1. Fine Movement Applications: Consider relevant devices having feature
recognition of fine motor movements centered on hands without tactile
response, for example, Leap motion. These devices are relevant in a context
where there are children with additional motor difficulties to normal, as with
DCD, to help in the process of autonomy and security in calligraphy learning
during school literacy (Nunes & Silveira, 2015a). These technological devices can
be recommended for people with DCD before the traditional calligraphy
learning process as it would help in the visual memory of the formation of
letters by performing kinesthetic movements in the air (Sugden & Chambers,
1998), causing the child to stay focused on coordination, accuracy and dexterity
needed for speedy writing motion and precision needed for calligraphy
(Polatajko & Cantin, 2005), (Snapp-Childs, Casserly , Mon-Williams & Bingham,

P2. For Calligraphy: The application task should be directed to exercise the
difficulties in learning calligraphy. For children with DCD, these difficulties are
different and more pronounced. The child has difficulty in fine motor skills in
writing letters, numbers, words and the difficulty of planning the route to get
there (Kaiser, Albaret & Doudin, 2009), (Sudirman, Tabatabaey-Mashadi &
Ariffin, 2011);

P3. Highlight Objectives: The objectives of each part of the software should be
well explained and highlighted, focusing on a purpose to be achieved through
the task of compliance (cognitive part) and the movements to be performed
(motor part) because children with DCD have difficulty learning how to move
the body and members (in this case: shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand and fingers) to
perform writing and have to pay more attention to complete motor activities
(Caro et al., 2014), (Caro, 2014), (Bo & Lee, 2013);

P4. Interaction: Provides the communication processes and application

interaction for children with DCD by providing possibly real and interactive
situations as they may be disinterested in some activities and avoid interactive
processes with their peers or situations closer to their reality (Othman & Keay-
Bright, 2011), (Zwicker, Missiuna, Harris & Boyd, 2012), (Gonsalves, Campbell,
Jensen & Straker, 2015);

P5. Motivation: Promoting stimuli and encouragement by using animations,

videos and sounds. The engagement and involvement of children in the task of
compliance can increase their ability to exercise the cognitive and motor parts,
making them more enjoyable and decreasing frustration. Animations, videos
and sounds should be used with caution to avoid being interpreted as noise and
stress. They should be fun and useful, providing opinions on actions, being used
in times of transition or when nothing happens on the screen, because the

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fatigue and repeated failure to shares not carried out can cause them to not
participate in the activities and present secondary emotional problems, such as
low self-esteem, intolerance to frustration and demotivation (Magalhes, et al.,
2011), (Tresser, 2012), (Mandich, Polatajko & Rodger, 2003);

P6. Levels and Transitions: Create very clear and defined transitions through
easy levels without much difficulty from one level to another, showing a
progress of tasks in cognitive and motor parts. Generally, children will perform
the same number of tasks or task times and change, the next steps should be
similar to previous so they are also executed many times and that children do
not lose concentration, as children with DCD may experience problems with
abrupt change, with much effort to plan and execute a task, showing in the lack
of performance (Caro et al., 2014), (Missiuna, Moll, King, King & Law, 2007);

P7. Movements and Repetition: Focus on repetitiveness of movements in

sequence. Help in learning new moves and consolidation of motor exercises,
acting significantly with intervention therapists, and empower the subjects for
future action, as children with DCD may have trouble learning a new motor skill
and with repetition, some of these qualifications will be performed well and
others poorly (Smits-Engelsman, Wilson, Westenberg & Duysens, 2003), (Jelsma,
Geuze, Mombarg & Smits-Engelsman, 2014);

P8. Spatial, Visual and Body Motor Understanding: Promoting control of

movements, posture, balance and hand-eye coordination (fine visual-motor), the
child may feel the effects that each movement provides for the completion of a
task, in addition to providing a space and visual understanding as a result of
each body and motor movement, as children with DCD may have difficulty with
activities with changes in body position and the custom to use vision as a
feedback guide of their movements (Zwicker, Missiuna & Boyd, 2009), (Wilson,
Ruddock, SmitsEngelsman, Polatajko & Blank, 2013), (Ferguson et al., 2014);

P9. Tasks: Create simple, short, easy to remember and intuitive tasks. This will
help in achieving objectives, will serve as a stimulus for other steps and reduce
frustration. For children with DCD, the maximum cognitive load they support is
a little less than a child with a typical development, it is important to map out
the shortest and most realistic term goals, leaving the most predictable
environment possible (Caro, 2014), (Sugden & Chambers, 1998), (Sugden &
Chambers, 2003);

P10. Accessible Navigability: Offer accessibility tools, promoting autonomy by

offering buttons on the application interfaces, such as: go / back, left, pause /
resume, internal search, location map, access the main menu, increase / source
reduction , text size (if any), alignment, spacing, color manipulation, contrast,
background. It is important to introduce and encourage the use of digital
technologies with accessibility and usability features, so that children with DCD
can be proficient and self-sufficient, and promote motivation for the
implementation of activities (Othman & Keay-Bright, 2011), (Jacoby et al., 2006);

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P11. Writing and Language: Be concise, clear and use plain words, avoiding
problems of interpretation and giving time to understand the instructions to
users, since according to its characteristics, children with DCD often spend more
time to understand, complete an action and run the instructions. Emphasizing
that they have to pay more attention to the implementation of activities than a
typical child, requiring usually a longer response time and slower execution of
tasks (Mandich et al., 2003), (Dewey, Kaplan, Crawford & Wilson, 2002), (Snapp-
Childs, Mon-Williams & Bingham, 2013);

P12. Instructions and Help: Provide accurate and useful instructions in order to
help avoid a lot of information. Create an emergency button/icon in case of
questions. This type of resource can be a support for a better understanding of
the task and benefits users with more severe levels of disorder or multiple
disorders (comorbidity, or co-occurrence), for the child with DCD requires the
description of each step to run the required gesture by activity, assisting in the
planning of the movement (Wilson et al., 2013), (Smyth & Mason, 1997);

P13. Errors and Answers: Promote corrections by giving answers/tips

throughout conversation, for example, about the possible misunderstanding of
the user and how he can correct it by performing the right action, as children
with DCD need appreciation throughout most of the activity, enforcing that
effort is more important than ability (Poulsen & Ziviani, 2004), (Katartzi &
Vlachopoulos, 2011);

P14. Design: Use simple and strictly functional designs for the general objective
of the application, preventing anxiety and nervousness before the execution of a
task so the subject is not distracted by visual elements without relevance to the
context of the moment, as a child with DCD needs to focus on the objective of
the activity and has no opportunity to be distracted (Mon-Williams, Wann &
Pascal, 1999), (Visser, 2003), (Chen, Tsai, Biltz, Stoffregen & Wade, 2015).

D1. Hand Size and Position: Choose a hand model that is child friendly and in a
position to provide a deep understanding of space with the use of 3D lighting
and texture, in addition to position control and appropriate rotation (Garber,
2013), (Potter et al., 2013), (Adhikarla, Sodnik, Szolgay & Jakus, 2015). Choose
the best hand and position format as hand movements may be limited, and as
handwriting of children with DCD requires greater coordination of joints and
limbs for the execution of the writing movements and, consequently,
significantly more effort than with children with normal development ((Prunty,
Barnett, Wilmut & Plumb, 2014);

D2. Immersion of Hands: Focus on the immersion of hands only while teaching
calligraphy to children with DCD in literacy. It is recommended to not create an
avatar of the whole body, which creates difficulties with gross motor skills, and
can confuse the child and leave it devolved to keep the focus in the field of fine
motor movements as writing involves constant understanding of feedback from
the movement of the hands and children with DCD tend to disperse and become

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discouraged with other points of distraction (Kaiser et al., 2009), (Forsyth,

Maciver, Howden, Owen & Shepherd, 2008), (Cantin, Ryan & Polatajko, 2014);

D3. Realism: Use the 1:1 Virtual Reality (VR) scale so that objects and virtual
hands are most realistic and as natural as possible. Be as realistic as possible, it
will help the child with DCD to work better in the environment of the activities,
as they may have linked emotional problems and also frustration of the tasks or
half of tasks are not close to the reality and discourage the use of digital
technologies VR (Tresser, 2012), (Tarnanas et al., 2013), (Silva & Rodrigues,

D4. Space between Objects: Set a distance between objects (buttons, avatars) in
the application, as well as providing a large comfortable click area, avoiding
unwanted and accidental actions, as children with DCD tend to be more clumsy,
resulting in difficulties in learning, behavior, emotional character and
performance in new motor tasks (Celletti et al., 2015), (Smits-Engelsman, Jelsma,
Ferguson & Geuze, 2015);

D5. Highlight of Selected / Selection: Enhancement through the selection of

different lights or colours. Thus, users can differentiate what is being
manipulated more prominently, as a child with DCD sometimes need tools that
draw attention and arouse interest in activities, avoiding fatigue and dispersion
(Weichert et al., 2013), (Robert et al., 2014);

D6. Encouragement: Use a layout with appropriate accessibility and usability

features to encourage the tasks. A layout which promotes usage by children with
varying degrees of impairment of DCD, because they need to properly exercise
writing movements with speed and precision for calligraphy, along with feelings
of fun, development of these skills, achieving success in the tasks, participation
and interaction with the application (Silva & Rodrigues, 2015), (Ferguson,
Jelsma, Jelsma & Smits-Engelsman, 2013), (Jarus et al., 2015);

D7. Ergonomics: Offer a comfortable hand positioning, being suitable for

constant and repetitive use of fine motor movements, avoiding stress and
discomfort, as for the child with DCD task performance is linked to comfort
factors and fatigue, leading to demotivation for participate in motor activities,
like calligraphy, which occur the early stages of transition and maturity in their
implementation (Hsu et al., 2013), (Pauchot et al., 2015).

E1. Technologies Used: Assess whether the application explains which
technologies are used. It is important to inform the child with DCD on what is
required with the use of fine movements technologies such as Leap motion and
gestural interfaces in handwriting activities. That is, the child will know within
reason which fine motor movements will be required to perform, helping the
child to be aware of movement (Sudirman et al., 2011), (Souza, Prates & Barbosa,
1999), (Prates, Souza & Barbosa, 2000), (Thorvaldsen et al., 2011);

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E2. An Application for Children: Check if an application for children is

provided, as the disorder manifests itself differently in each child, and may also
be accompanied by other disorders (comorbidity) (Visser, 2003), (Flapper &
Schoemaker, 2013), (Kirby et al., 2014). Every application task should be focused
on children with DCD, their needs, preferences and circumstances, and therefore
customized (Caro et al., 2014), (Caro, 2014);

E3. Pointing: Find out whether a pointing process was used in all phases of the
tasks in a way which encourages children with DCD to attain the objective, as
they are accustomed to performing the same motor skills in achieving success or
anticipate movements (Jelsma et al., 2014), (Ferguson et al., 2013), (Chang & Yu,
2010). If a mission is not fulfilled, redistribute the point spread or create a
subscore to motivate constant repetitions, such as colour changes of score

E4. General Check: Pay attention to the proposed software for the child with
DCD. Prove that all guidelines have been implemented, for example, if the
application was able to keep the user's attention, if principles of ergonomics and
usability were followed, it boosts motivation, if it observes the characteristics of
applications which recognizes fine motor movements and directs activities for
calligraphy learning (Weichert et al., 2013), (Jeffries, Miller, Wharton & Uyeda,
1991), (Nielsen, 1994), (Curtis, Ruijs, de Vries, Winters & Martens, 2009).

Moreover, according to Figure 3, we can verify there are connections

between all phases of the framework, having the designer of gestural interfaces
freely navigate through all stages, but with the observation that not all
guidelines will necessarily be interrelated.
Prototyping is directly linked to development where a primary guideline
may be reviewed when considering a second, being interconnected. This also
presents itself in the stages of development and evaluation. In the first and last
phase, prototyping and evaluation, this interconnection appears again because,
after verification of the guidelines in the third stage, with the need for change in
the prototype stage, this action can be performed directly, without the need to
include the middle part.
In general, the framework with guidelines can be reviewed in Table 1.

Interconnections of the Guidelines between the Parties to the Framework:

As previously mentioned, there may be connections between the guidelines for
each of the parts of the framework because of similarity of themes or because of
implications of configuration and implementation. Thus, the appropriate
descriptions and explanations are necessary.
For the stage of prototyping Table 2 was configured, showing the intra-
and interconnections of each guideline presented. One can see that in the first
line, the guideline P1 is directly linked to the theme of this work, that is, to work
with devices that map the fine motor movements of a child with DCD, taking
into account the guidelines related to the task target, calligraphy (P2), making it
always with usability and accessibility features (P10), while also taking into
consideration the type of hand (D1) to be chosen by the designer from the SDK,

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in this case, Leap motion. In addition to these guidelines, linked to the

immersion of hands (D2), with the need for space between objects (D4) of the
application to the correct handling of these children, due prominence to the
selected items (D5) and appliance to the ergonomic criteria (D7) for this audience
should also be taken into account. Regarding the evaluation guidelines to
determine which technologies are used (E1) and a general verification process
(E4) are related to the guideline that recommends the use in devices with
tracking fine movements (P1).

Table 1: Summary framework proposed with its guidelines. Source: Prepared by the
P1 Fine Movement Applications
P2 For Calligraphy
P3 Highlight Objectives
P4 Interaction
P5 Motivation
P6 Levels and Transitions
P7 Movements and Repetition
P8 Spatial, Visual and Body Motor Understanding
P9 Tasks
P10 Accessible Navigability
P11 Writing and Language
P12 Instructions and Help
P13 Errors and Answers
P14 Design
D1 Hand Size and Position
D2 Immersion of Hands
D3 Realism
D4 Space between Objects
D5 Highlight of Selected / Selection
D6 Encouragement
D7 Ergonomics
E1 Technologies Used
E2 An Application for Children
E3 Pointing
E4 General Check

Related to the theme of calligraphy (P2) in the prototyping phase, we

have the previous (P1) for manipulating fine movements tools and
recommending the necessary emphasis of objectives (P3) application. In the
second stage, one needs to check if the hands are handled properly (D2) and
provide proper ergonomic positions (D7) for children with DCD.
Related to the theme of calligraphy (P2) in the prototyping phase, we
have the previous (P1) for manipulating fine movements tools and
recommending the necessary emphasis of objectives (P3) application. In the

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second stage, one needs to check if the hands are handled properly (D2) and
provide proper ergonomic positions (D7) for children with DCD.

Table 2: Connections of guidelines with prototyping. Source: Prepared by the author.

Prototyping Development Evaluation
P1 P2, P10 D1, D2, D4, D5, D7 E1, E4
P2 P1, P3 D2, D7 E1, E4
P3 P2, P6, P8, P9, P11, P12, P14 - E1, E3, E4
P4 P5 D3 E2, E4
P5 P4, P6, P7, P10 D2, D6 E1, E2, E3, E4
P6 P3, P5, P7 - E3, E4
P7 P5, P6 D3, D6 E3, E4
P8 P3 D3, D7 E2, E4
P9 P3 D3, D6 E4
P10 P1, P5 D4, D6 E1, E4
P11 P3, P12 - E4
P12 P3, P11, P13 - E4
P13 P12 - E4
P14 P3 D7 E4

In the case of the directive regarding the highlighting of the objectives

(P3), it is directly related to the criteria of the type of task that directs the
application created, in this case calligraphy (P2), if these tasks are divided into
difficulty levels and if there are transitions (P6) if they promote activities that
incorporate notions of space, visual and fine motor motion (P8), if the tasks help
to meet the proposed objectives (P9) if the information is placed in an
understandable way in writing and language (P11) to the subject of this
investigation, if there are appropriate instructions and help tools (P12) for any
user's needs and the design (P14) designed for application interface was
appropriate for the context. On the part of Development, P3 is not directly
related to any of their guidelines, as these seven (07) are not strictly connected to
the fulfillment of tasks and due prominence of their goals. Finally in relation to
the assessment, P3 checks whether the targeted objective receives the
explanation of the technologies used (E1), have dealt scoring criteria (E3) and
happened to proof of guidelines (E4).
The P4 relates to the promotion of interaction criteria for children with
DCD and if there were incentives to motivate them (P5), taking into account
environments closer to reality (D3), if there was only a tool for the child (E2) and
if there is a check of recommendations (E4).
For the guideline that emphasizes the importance of motivation (P5) for
the child with DCD, checking interactivity (P4) of the application and its
interface should be essential, along with the need of levels and appropriate
transitions (P6), the repetitiveness of actions and movements (P7), and the
provision of usability benefits and accessibility for handling (P10). On the part of
Development, one needs to check if the hands were included correctly (D2) and
promote encouragement (D6) so that these children achieve the application
objectives with its gestural interface. As evaluative process, the P5 connects with

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all (E1, E2, E3, E4) the criteria of that stage, since motivation is required in all of
The P6 guideline (Levels and Transitions) is linked to the objective (P3) of
the application, motivational process (P5) and the need to promote repeated
activities and hand motor movements (P7), not relating to any development
criteria because these are more targeted to Leap motion and P6 is not. And
recommendations to establish punctuation/pointing (E3) and its verification by
the E4 are the items of evaluation of connected P6.
The recommendation on movements and repetition (P7) interconnects
with the motivational (P5) and the need of levels and transitions (P6), it should
focus on children with DCD and promoting their skills, for consolidation and
learning new movements. Development, P7 highlights the convenience of close-
to-realistic environments (D3) and situations for encouragement (D6) of these
users in the calligraphy learning process. Regarding the assessment, the criteria
relating to P7 are the same as the previous paragraph (E3, E4), therefore it is
necessary to check whether there was accountability of punctuation to promote
repetitiveness for children with DCD.
The promotion of controlled movements, posture, balance and fine
visual-motor coordination (P8) is directly linked to the desired objective (P3) in
addition to the availability of situations close to the daily life of children (D3)
and provide repetitive movements (D7) for learning consolidation. Like the
evaluative process, P8 interconnects the need to have an application for children
(E2) and general verification (E4).
The guideline that emphasizes the creation of simple, short, easy to
remember and intuitive tasks (P9) connects with the clarity of objectives (P3) that
proposes the application and gestural interface development, at the level closest
to the real environment (D3) and encouraging (D6) of children with DCD to
perform the tasks proposed and is interconnected with a general assessment (E4)
of the framework's recommendations.
The guideline P10 (Accessible Navigability) connects those that promote
usability and accessibility criteria in applications like Leap motion (P1), with
motivational characteristics (P5) to these users and act on the development with
well-located objects (D4) in interfaces for selection without errors, along with the
promotion of encouragement (D6) its proper use. P10 is also linked to the
technology used (A1) and the general check (E4) during the evaluation.
Writing and Language (P11) is a guideline on the part of prototyping of
the framework that relates to the manner in which the objectives (P3) are placed
to reach the users, as well as being important for the provision of the terms of
instructions and help (P12), without being directly linked to the development of
recommendations, which refer to devices that implement fine motor
movements, but which are evaluated in a general way (E4).
Instructions and Help (P12) connect to guidelines in highlighting of goals
(P3), the way they communicate (P11) and providing tools for correction of
errors and appropriate responses (P13) to children with DCD while using
applications with gestural interfaces and does not bind to the development and
only the general check (E4) in the evaluation phase.
The guideline dealing with the correction of errors through answers/tips
(P13) interconnects to the one that adequately provides instructions and help

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(P12) as they are antecedents and consequences to the prototyping

understanding process, or to correct and need instructions, as users are new to
the use of gestural interface application creation. Regarding the development
phase, there are no interconnections because these recommendations are
specifically directed to devices like Leap motion and are only linked to general
verification (E4) of the Evaluation.
And finally, P14 (Design) relates to the display mode of the target (P3) to
be achieved and the promotion of ergonomic criteria (D7), and a link with the
general check (E4) in the evaluation phase, not having connections with
Development for these are very specific to certain device types.
For the part of Development, was configured Table 3 describing the
interconnections with other guidelines.

Table 3: Connections with development. Source: Prepared by the author.

Prototyping Development Evaluation
D1 P1 D5 E4
D2 P1, P2, P5 D5 E1, E4
D3 P4, P7, P8, P9 D6 E4
D4 P1, P10 D5 E4
D5 P1 D1, D2, D4 E4
D6 P5, P7, P9, P10 D3, D7 E3, E4
D7 P1, P2, P8, P14 D6 E4

Initially, it had been the relationship between the directive that

standardizes hand shape and position (D1) from SDK Leap Motion, specifically.
It is also connected with the first of the Prototyping phase (P1), which
recommends the development of applications with gestural interfaces for fine
movement devices, taking into account the part of development which provides
the highlight for the selected object (D5) at the interface with in order not to
happen unwanted selections, plus there is a general check (E4) Evaluation.
The guideline D2 is the concentration of hands as a member to be
recognized by the fine movement device (P1) for teaching handwriting (P2), so
that children with DCD in the literacy process are constantly driven (P5),
without the occurrence of unwanted Actions (D5) and being evaluated by the
technologies used (E1) and a general analysis (E4).
The system to be developed and handled by the gestural interface must
be the closest to everyday life (D3) of children targeted, having an interaction
process (P4) through the promotion of repetitive movements (P7) for learning,
giving spatial / visual notions and body / motor (P8) and creating simple and
intuitive tasks (P9) to help in encouraging activities (D6) and having a broad
investigation (E4) in the evaluation phase.
When setting up an appropriate distance between objects (D4), you need
to check what the device recognition of fine motor movements is (P1) and their
usability and accessibility requirements (P10) to properly highlight the selected
objects (D5) to use, need to be extensively (E4) evaluated.
For the highlight of the selected objects (D5), this guideline connects to
the type of fine motor movements device (P1) to be used, according to the type

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


of hand (D1), how it will be placed (D2) and whether there will be adequate
spacing of objects (D4) so that no errors occur and there is a general check (E4).
In D6 (encouragement), there is a systematic connection with the
motivational part (P5) and promotion of movements that can be repetitive (P7)
in fulfillment of intuitive tasks (P9) in appropriate accessibility and usability
features (P10), through the need to take everyday situations (D3) and obedience
to ergonomic criteria (D7), trying to check if scores have been placed (E3) and
having a thorough investigation (E4).
And as the final specification, the need for a comfortable position of the
hands (D7) for continuous and repetitive use, relates to the type of device (P1) to
be used, the application function to be performed (P2) - Learning calligraphy, by
promoting movements that give spatial sense / visual and body / motor (P8)
and having a design (P14) functional for children with DCD, promoting an
encouragement (D6) to participate in activities and being evaluated completely
In the third phase of the framework, evaluation, we have Table 4, in
which the guideline that ascertains which technologies are handled (E1) relates
to the part of Prototyping, which emphasizes the importance of using fine motor
movements devices (P1) with appropriate gestural interfaces for calligraphy
learning (P2) and clearly identifying the objectives (P3) to be achieved,
accompanied by motivational processes (P5) for the use of common form/shape
and accessible (P10) for children with DCD. Also, it interconnects with the
recognition of hands (D2) in the development step and with a general
examination (E4) of all recommendations.
The guideline that emphasizes the availability of a device per child (E2)
connects, in the prototyping phase, the recommendations that preach the need
for interactive processes (P4), those that promote motivation (P5) for children
with DCD and provide movements that give spatial notions / visual and body
/motor (P8) and show no connection with the development stage because of its
specificity with technology and having connection with the general assessment
(E4) of the guidelines.

Table 4: Connections with assessment. Source: Prepared by the author.

Prototyping Development Evaluation
E1 P1, P2, P3, P5, P10 D2 E4
E2 P4, P5, P8 - E4
E3 P3, P5, P6, P7 D6 E4
P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, P6, P7, P8,
E4 D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, D7 E1, E2, E3
P9, P10, P11, P12, P13, P14

Then the E3 recommends using a scoring process at each stage of the

application tasks so happens the encouragement of children with DCD to
achieve a goal to be highlighted (P3) being interconnected with motivational
factors (P5) through the use of levels and transitions (P6) suitable for these
children, in addition to promoting repeatability (P7) to learn new movements
with encouragement processes (D6) and checkout (E4) if all were observed.
Finally, realize that the E4 guideline relates directly to all other
guidelines, as it makes an overall assessment check, making sure that all

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


recommendations have been met, ensuring a very detailed view of the entire

Final Considerations
The literacy of children with the Developmental Coordination Disorder by the
use of digital technologies in calligraphy education can be interesting with the
development of applications that comply with the guiding guidelines for devices
without tactile contact through appropriate gestural interfaces, so that they are
mediating in the process and not a final, somewhat flexible and that presents
itself as only a new look but also promote a new perspective of discovery, being
interesting and dynamic, enriching education and with a multidisciplinary
approach in its design.
This study therefore addresses concepts of Development Disorder
Coordination and Human-Computer Interaction Principles and proposes a
framework with a set of specific guidelines of software for the development of
gestural interfaces aimed at calligraphy education to children with DCD. 25
guidelines and divided into 3 stages prototyping, development and evaluation,
this model takes into account the characteristics of this disorder and
technologies that recognize fine movements here Leap motion, making all the
proposed guidelines respect each other and can support the creation of
appropriate gestural interfaces to assist these children in this school phase.
For future works, we need the development of an application that meets
the recommended guidelines using a Leap motion device and the evaluation of
other handwriting recognition software and fine motor movements devices,
verifying how the adhere to the guidelines proposed here from a set of
validation points.

The authors thank the Federal University of Piau and the Mackenzie
Presbyterian University Research Fund.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 54-66, April 2017

Teachers in Multi-Cultural Societies: Excellence

and Leadership
Tamar Ketko
Kibbutzim College of Education,
Culture sciences and Philosophy of History and Education Department
Tel-Aviv, Israel

Abstract. Fulfilling the most significant role in shaping their students

personalities, teachers must also regard themselves as social and political agents
by playing a significant part in their activities, in addition to their academic
achievement. This paper introduces several perspectives regarding the role of
the teacher in a multicultural society, one who is involved not only in academic
aspects, but also in complex socio-political environments, prompted to manifest
his or her qualities as a commendable figure. It will also examine the special case
study of training such teachers against the background of a multicultural
existence with moral obligations in the State of Israel.

Keywords: Multi-cultural society; Excellence; Political-educators; Israeli


Human history shows that unresolved tension has always existed
between the necessity to preserve religious and cultural identities on the one
hand, and the need to create contacts, dialogues and common partnerships
with others, on the other. The age of technological developments which
expedited global processes and theories about humanism, equal rights, and
multiculturalism, is also a turning point for teachers and educational methods,
particularly in those countries in which these changes evolved. It is obvious
that demographic changes in Europe, the Middle-East and the United States,
and social and cultural mobility over the last decades, have significantly
exacerbated problems related to cultural diversity among both students and
teachers. Educational systems and pedagogical theoreticians embarked on new
research regarding multicultural policies and practices in teacher training
colleges, and among experienced teachers in all schools. But this was not
enough: a dramatic change was also necessary in thematic studies and
textbook content in most subjects when race, color, and religious identities
issues evolved constantly.
The last century, with its global development, progressivism, and high-
technology communications, enabled unrestricted immigration, across
countries and continents. The immediate results were difficulties of language,
culture and behavior, in addition to political and social differences of opinion
and systematic steps taken by the authorities and governmental ministers and

2017 The author and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


activists. They had to calibrate their state of mind and perform an inevitable
switch in their basic attitude towards education and diverse and multicultural
environments. The rise of multicultural education also coincided with several
legislative and court actions in some countries particularly from the late sixties
and the seventies. More and more laws in the US and in Western Europe,
Scandinavia and in the State of Israel, inter alia, the Civil Rights Act and the
Equal Educational Opportunity Act, were passed. This also highlighted the
visibility of diverse bilingual students who inevitably developed double lives
with their families and communities to preserve their cultural identity, and
with their new friends at school and their social-educational local and
environmental activities. How did this affect the innovative process and
prepare educators and teachers with regards to these facts and the genuine
intention of paving new educational roads? This paper will introduce several
ideas and dilemmas in the field of teachers and teacher trainees in relation to
multicultural society, integrative methodologies, modern pedagogy, and the
tasks of the leaders of education who serve as the main excellence role models
and humanistic mentors.

Diversity and multiculturalism and their importance to beneficial

The bond between teachers and leaders is historical; Plato mentioned
this aspect when he adopted the Socratic pedagogy, understanding the
common denominator which they share: the nature of truth (Plato, Republic,
454d -509d). In Platos ideal state, rulers, as teachers, should seek the truth and
become virtuous role models as educators, as they exemplify total interaction
with self-knowledge and wisdom (Gonzlez, 2013). Even if it may seem
utopian in our multifaceted and dynamic reality, there is an acute need for
teachers who will play the role of educational leaders in the spirit of Platos
Republic. Most modern countries are currently facing a crisis: (a) Teachers
leave their profession a few years after they complete their studies and begin
work, and encounter difficulties in teaching and handling heterogenous and
multicultural classes. (b) Excellent students of education realize that their
choice of profession was misguided, and that being a teacher at present also
requires psychological, social and political skills, a challenge which is not
suitable for all, and in addition is perhaps threatening. Numerous studies and
dozens of headlines relate to this ongoing process: Every year approximately
forty-five thousand teachers enter the profession, and about the same number
leave (including retirement), and some eighty thousand teachers switch jobs
within the state school system.
Europe, the Middle-East, Asia, Africa, and the US show a decline in the
number of outstanding people who join the teaching profession. Furthermore,
unfortunately the shortage of suitable students who choose to become teachers
forces the education systems to hire candidates who decided to become
teachers as their second-best choice. Half of these students leave school after a
few years, or have no intention of implementing their formal certification as
teachers. This has an overall effect on their young students and brings about
ongoing deterioration. It is crucial that education systems throughout the
world find a way to engage appropriate young people and invest all their

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efforts in turning them into outstanding teachers. These teachers will be able to
play the role of leading educators as motivated and courageous mentors, and
will implement the required changes in their advanced pedagogical, moral,
and professional points of view. They will be sufficiently talented to embark
on the process of cultivating the future of the next generation, particularly
within the complex reality of mounting fundamental anti-liberal movements,
and intricate political, social, and economic problems. These ideas lead us to
Nel Noddings' (2013) points of view: Reality necessitates us to see the world
not as a collection of cultures and peoples but rather view it through global
eyes and adopt a cosmopolitan way of thinking which should precede all
specialization in teaching. This classroom cultural and heterogeneous mosaic
mandates an attitude and didactic methodologies based on synergy and
cultural collaboration, without relinquishing ethnic uniqueness. This approach
will train students to become good citizens in the future which is one of the
basic values of a good educator in all cultures and countries.
A change in the orientation of the teaching profession now demands not
only academic and professional anchors in the teachers training program, but
also a kind of political compass coupled with awareness of the fact that unlike a
scientific compass, the pedagogical one is given to social, cultural and political
change. The ability to accustom both teachers and students to a discussion of
controversial issues, and conduct a conversation in which conflicting opinions
are expressed, is not only important from the pedagogical point of view, but is
also essential for cultivating doubt and reflection, particularly in heterogenous
classrooms in countries in which different populations, religions, and ethnic
groups exist (Naveh, 2017).
In the attempt to develop theories and practices of teaching and
learning, diversity and multiculturalism are most important for teacher training
processes. These will assist teachers in expressing and sharing their state of mind
with other students, and will expose them to other and different cultures, thus
creating empathy and understanding; nonetheless, they will also create moral
and educational problems. Coping with this issue is particularly crucial in times
when racism defeats humanism, as is often the case throughout the world.
Devoid of any form of critical thinking, people still hate others due to their
religion, political attitudes, and their sexual or cultural identities. The
assumption that students are deeply influenced by their cultural identity and
heritage, and that their teachers should master educational approaches that
appreciate and recognize their cultural backgrounds, is still far from the current
state of affairs. Students are not adequately encouraged to learn about the
cultural backgrounds and identities of other students in their class, nor do they
accept others as equals. Even though teacher trainees hold different political and
pedagogical opinions, and even though they belong to different educational and
ideological movements, it is important to stress that numerous colleges and
schools of education show a change in curriculum, and support learning
standards that focus on cultural groups and a variety of learning experiences.
Thus, there is evidence of new pedagogical methods in special courses
based on human nature and educational values. Progressive educational
philosophers such as, Jean-Jacques Rousseau ([1762] 1979), John Dewey ([1916]
2009), Paulo Freire ([1970] 2007, 2014), Janusz Korczak ([1929] 2009) or Nel

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Noddings (2013) have become an integral part of academic assignments and

syllabuses in the didactic studies of professional teachers. Understanding their
educational and social methods exposes students - both younger and older
people, and future and senior teachers - to wide scope intellectual doctrines
which familiarize them with social justice, ethics and cultural-theological
sciences, prompting them to become aware of diverse global approaches. These
recent provocative programs in the process of training excellent teachers both
theoretically and practically require them to be sufficiently capable of
assuming full responsibility for their educational calling. This ongoing change in
the school/academy system climate may also prevent cultural and racial bias,
and its distorted political and popular reverberations in their daily work, study,
and research. At the university, college or school, and in their community
activities, teachers must be free of cultural and social discrimination and any
environment that may endanger the mind and soul of their students and their
capability to make their own decisions and choose educational methods
alongside the cultivation of critical thinking and broad horizons.
Following several educational studies on these issues, such as those
conducted by Rosemary Henze, Geneva Gay and Richard Milner, it appears
that the majority supports the idea that preparing educators as teachers in
constructive ways with relevancy to their actual multicultural surrounding is
both inevitable and urgent. A consensus exists on the necessity of creating
proactive approaches and fruitful relations among students and teachers based
on inter-ethnic activities. This innovates and promotes positive and intensified
motivation toward advanced studies, and enables them to establish an ethical
code and ground rules which do not tolerate racism, humiliation or
disrespect. (Henze, 2002; Milner, 2015). They recognize difficulties that arise
among teachers and their mentors in focusing on cultural responsive teaching
and ethical empathic understanding as the natural quality of their professional
skills. It is essential that they know how this relates to their educational work
and recognize their responsibility in constantly bridging gaps between theory
and practice, between generic and general dictated principles and the sensitivity
of different backgrounds, levels of competence and knowledge with unique
characteristic expressions in any classroom (Gay, 2010). It is not only about being
excellent teachers with a high standard curriculum, but also about blending their
teaching and their inner soul and talents, in addition to the subject they teach at
school. This is the art of teaching that also involves their personality. Gay
continues to explain the teachers potential power to design their students
minds, abilities, and personalities by removing the veil of threat and
untouchability that often encompasses them. The objective is to help teachers
encourage the development of dialogues with their students, capturing their
thoughts and attention, and engaging both their students and their own feelings
at the same time, inside and outside the classroom. These arguments are based
on the belief that to be an educator in a state where cultural diversity reigns,
means to strengthen humanistic norms and cultural differences due to their
importance to humanity. As such, no teacher can ignore his or her role and its
significance to human dignity.
However, we should not forget the inevitable problems manifested by
those who argue that assessing students of different cultures, with different

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levels of language and knowledge abilities, may be unfavorable toward

disadvantaged students, as it ignores their difficulties due to false expectations.
Some of them are still not fluent in the local language and some interpret
information differently depending on their skills, stage of adjustment and
cultural origins. The same is true of lecturers, teachers, and all those who
represent policies of a country or a region that relate not only to educational
considerations, but also to economic or urban aspects that exist in the
environment of the students and teachers, their communal belonging, and the
financial status of their families (Quiroz & Milam-Brooks, et. al, 2014). Taking
the same tests and using the same evaluation scales in every country and
cultural community creates dilemmas about fairness and ethical educational
codes which often are not taken into proper account. Doubtlessly, educational
systems, teachers and students and even their parents, must learn how to
interact in a diverse environment and identify its positive aspects and common
benefits, such as in the shared educational networks that were developed in
Northern Ireland, for example, for several years, Catholic and Protestant
children have been studying together in multi-community cooperative schools.
It appears that this collaboration is not self-evident, and is accompanied by
cultural and political complexities and difficulties relating to national belonging
and identity, of teachers, students and their families. The findings of the
researchers of multicultural education and pedagogical experts in Belfast show
the extent of the impact of this collaboration on education, how the students
have learned to accept the other and nurture the ability to contain and study
together, and recognize the advantages of this type of multicultural integrative
education. Acts of violence have diminished, and animosity and religious
entrenchment have gradually blurred. The researchers argue that this model
should be examined in other countries where multinational and diverse
religions exists (such as the United States, France, Germany and Israel (Hughes,
2017). The problem is that a chasm always exists between research and academic
theories and the quotidian reality in schools and in the teaching profession.

After all that has been said and described above, as much as educational
colleges invest in pedagogical training and professional development, most of
the new teacher graduates, who regard the creation of a harmonious
environment in school as their professional goal, admit that this is insufficient.
More field experience and theoretical, didactic, and multicultural studies must
be added to their studies and professional preparation. By developing a
constructive approach to education as a link for implementing social and
cultural behavior, teachers will be able to guarantee that their lessons and
methods will remain relevant to and have an impact on the daily life of their
students. This is the responsibility of teacher trainees and mentors: to create
pedagogical platforms which will encourage future teachers to become involved
as far as possible in the demands of their students reality, despite their
dissimilar cultural backgrounds, historical narratives, and values. One of the
most significant aims of the professional preparation of teachers in colleges of
education is to develop the future teachers multicultural perspectives and
understanding. These ideas should also be reflected in the theoretical and
practical activities of educational and social systems in all schools, despite their

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diverse identities (Veugelers, 2011). The next section of this article will introduce
the source of several ideas related to the fact that at present becoming a teacher
demands not only high-level academic skills and excellency, but also creativity,
a sense of leadership, and a great deal of courage; It will introduce the Israeli
case study as an example of methods and practical advice for teachers in a
multicultural society, and attempt to uncover similar problems and points of
departure, and the differences that make the situation of the Israeli teacher
unique, unlike teachers in other Western countries.

Teaching in a multicultural-situational reality: The Israeli case study

A strong correlation exists between liberal and democratic communities
and the need to develop multicultural approaches and open-minded attitudes
toward foreigners, immigrants, and ethnical-religious diversity. Thus, tolerance
and empathy are important characteristic expressions in our daily life, not to
mention their significance for teachers and students in different educational
systems - kindergartens, schools and academic campuses. These arguments exist
in most Western countries and societies, and often prompt political and
educational changes with the objective of raising the racial and multicultural
awareness of teachers. This is not limited to professional aspects and
organizational factors. First and foremost, it is the teachers obligation and
responsibility to clarify their own cultural identity and personal views (Johnson,
2002). This matter evokes difficulties in developing appropriate curriculums and
training programs which include diverse viewpoints and pedagogical tools
which will encourage dialogues and open discussions, make room for all voices
and social, ethnical, theological and political approaches. In her studies, Johnson
shows how crucial it is for teacher trainees to understand the perspectives,
thoughts and feelings of others, prior to all lessons and activities. She places
emphasis on the development of a corresponding strong connection between
inner life at school and social life outside it in most diverse communities and
cultures. It is necessary to implement these educational insights and train
teachers to become more constructive and more aware. Being enlightened
human beings, who are oriented toward dynamic geo-political and social
change, will turn them not only into excellent teachers, but also into positive
activists (See: Hill-Jackson & Lewis, 2010). Recently, and particularly over the
past ten years, we have witnessed several changes in the field of teacher training
programs. Education departments in American universities and colleges began
preparing and educating newly trained teachers in special programs which
provided them with advanced skills and innovative methods (Berry; Darling,
2013). It is evident that teachers who adopted special psychological-sociological
skills for teaching in multicultural communities, in addition to coping with other
educational problems, decided to continue teaching for five to ten years after
graduation, and continued their professional development more than others
(Yogev& Michaeli, 2009; Arnett, 2015).
Following this description of some of the worlds acute problems
regarding diversity, and the increase of multicultural issues related to education,
let us focus on how this affects the relevant systems and teacher training
programs in Israel, considering that the countrys fragile political-social situation
has additional effects on regular teachers as discussed above. As in other

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countries, teachers in Israel are involved, particularly as of the beginning of this

century, with the massive stream of migrants from the Middle-East and Africa
(Clark-Oates et. al. & Robertson, 2016). These facts fall in line with European
case studies and the issues dealing with integrative minorities in diverse
communities that have developed over the years in the Unites States as well.
Cultural diversity can be found in all stages of the students studies and
preparation. Like their counterparts in other Middle-Eastern countries, they are
exposed to geo-political and military unresolved conflicts, compounded with
problems related to different identities, religions, and historical narratives and
backgrounds, all of which make it imperative to become more than simply
excellent teachers. They must be loyal to their governments policies and
educational doctrines and as far as possible, become progressive teachers with
broad intellectual horizons, who pursue growth and modern thinking. In their
attempt to act in this complexity, they must play a dual role, and adopt bridging
methods to create optional platforms for their students as multidisciplinary
mentors. As Carine Allaf (2014) explains in her research, there is no doubt that
becoming a teacher in one of the Middle-Eastern countries at present, demands
other talents as well; facing unacceptable and absurd daily scenes and moral
dilemmas that often impel them to cope with cognitive dissonance, accompanied
by urgent requirements to act or to become immediately involved, preferring
local state principles instead of their personal ones, even if they often reject them
The Arab Spring generated chain reactions among the young
intellectual elite, which evidently brought about an increase in the number of
branches of international universities in all the Arab countries. As Allaf
underscored in her study, most of these universities did not offer a full academic
syllabus as offered on their home campuses in Europe and the US, and hence
they did not offer International Studies, but rather adapted a kind of deformed
and combined local-state political-educational program (Allaf, 2014: 95).
Following this brief review, the time has come to describe how this affects
Israels educational policies and educational systems. The main argument which
will be introduced here is that even though Israel is part of the Middle-East,
Israeli teachers are confronted with different types of obstacles, and hence there
are differences between them and teachers in the neighboring countries. We will
introduce unfamiliar facts about teacher training programs in Israel from other
points of view, which are essential when comparing them to other countries.
These will illuminate the core of this case study and reinforce the main
arguments regarding the teachers special preparation.
In most Arab countries, it would be highly unlikely to find Jewish-
Israeli students in universities or academic colleges of education, or teachers at
schools. On the other hand, there are numerous Israeli Arabs and Palestinians
in the State of Israel who are free to choose study medicine, technological
research, education or industry, with no restrictions. Among them you may
find professors, doctors, engineers, lawyers and teachers. Despite socio-
political difficulties, they invest efforts in integrating into Israeli reality. Some
of them are highly successful and have made impressive contributions not
only to their Muslim-Christian-Druze-Bedouin communities, but also to the
overall Jewish-Israeli society and the State of Israel.

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Accordingly, being a lecturer or a teacher trainee in academic courses

or pedagogical practice lessons in colleges of education demands a totally
different attitude and personal-mental-psychological capacities. In times of
war they are faced with unthinkable situations when students sons and
daughters, sisters and brothers of 'the enemy' on both sides, sit next to one
another in the same classroom, and conduct an academic conversation about
an article or other professional issues, while their relatives are fighting against
one another in the battlefield. At times, lessons are held in air raid shelters
during an attack and teachers, mentors of the university or college, Arab and
Jews, residents of the same country, but loyal to different nationalities and
flags, who support opposing sides, share the same space. This example, one of
many, shows the unique complexity of the multicultural and social situation in
Israel which has a substantial impact on the methods and practices of teacher
training, and on the developmental processes as excellent educators.
In such unusual situations, as well as in routine life, teachers and
students are required, mainly in mixed cities in which Jews and Arabs live
near, such as Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, Nazareth and Ramleh, and of course
Jerusalem, to present multi-national, and often, bilingual skills. They are
confronted, often against their will, with reality tests that are beyond their
pedagogical skills. They become the agents who connect diverse and often
contradictory historical narratives, beliefs and worldviews, in an attempt to
produce a common road which will facilitate the comprehension of reality and
provide them with tools to choose a path and consolidate a standpoint and
awareness in the future. In this sense, the Israeli teacher carries crucial
responsibilities (Naveh, 2017: 275).
The distribution of Israeli society shows that there are over six
million Jews (75.6%), one million two hundred thousand Muslims (16.6%), one
hundred fifty-two thousand Christians (2.1%), one hundred twenty thousand
Druze (1.6%) and the remaining population belong to other religions or define
themselves as atheists. It is important to underscore that half of the colleges of
education in Israel train religious students Jews and non-Jews alike. In
addition, another fact complicates matters: over 65% of the Jewish population
serves in the IDF (the Israeli Defense Forces) in which enlistment is
compulsory for all Jewish citizens between the ages of eighteen and twenty
(for women) and twenty-one (for men). They are called up for reserve duty
once or twice a year, some for only a few days, while others for over four
weeks, up to the age of forty-five, and some even later in life, depending on
rank, army unit and role, and in the case of women, depending on their family
status (unmarried, married officers, pregnant or mothers). In other words,
approximately 65% of Israeli teachers served or are still serving in the army.
This means that some of the students in universities and colleges of education,
who are trainees in schools and aim to become teachers or permanent teachers,
and teachers in fact, are absent several times a year (one week or a month), and
in times of war for longer periods, and some - orthodox Jews, Israeli Arabs and
Palestinians students - do not. When in training, these teachers are required to
study and practice together in schools with Jewish, Arab, Christian, Bedouin,
Druze populations or in special schools for immigrant children. These
experiences, these mental, moral and physical obligations, inevitably require

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them to ignore this part of their lives and to focus, objectively as far as
possible, on their educational and pedagogical obligations as excellent teachers
trained to encourage dialogue and enlightened democratic and humanistic
activities, despite the diverse surroundings in which they live. These facts may
illuminate and clarify other case studies in countries that cope with similar
situations, particularly in Europe with its massive flow of immigrants, hostile
activities, and the new social and political situations with their plethora of
unresolved problems.
Israel, a multicultural and democratic society, invests great efforts in
becoming part of the Western world. Therefore, it is imperative to provide
special pedagogical platforms with the objective of consolidating the next
generation and conducting a dialogue between its Jewish and non-Jewish
residents, which is largely the result of a unique political and social situation,
and its problematic geo-political environment. It is important to understand
that the only way to edify the minds of students, in all matters that pertain to
their personalities and psychological and cultural needs, is through meta-
education, which means that as a student teacher you must separate your
personal viewpoints from your professional obligations, and thus you are not
the one who determines the means of achieving this end. Subsequently,
training future teachers with notable awareness of the needs of the minorities
by cultivating their knowledge and empathy, prepares them far better and
boosts their self-confidence and responsibility to act as teachers with initiative,
from kindergarten through high school. This is the main reason why special
excellent teacher training programs are so essential, now more than ever.
There are two main training programs for excellent teachers: Regev1
and Hotam.2 The Regev program has been operating in the Kibbutzim College
of Education since1998. The essence of the fundamental idea which guides
those involved in the program is the belief that investment in recruiting and
training students with outstanding academic qualifications, and cultivating
their social and cultural agendas, will raise the prestige of the teaching
profession. It will also favorably raise their own prestige, and bring about a
drastic change in the standard of teaching in Israel, with all its social and
political difficulties (Libman & Zelikovicz; Yogev & Michaeli, 2009).
Since 2011, and after more improvements were introduced to the
excellent teacher's program, candidates were interviewed to ascertain their
aptitude for different tracks, as well as their personality sorting tests
administered by the programs director to identify their intellectual capacity to
express themselves, their orientation vis--vis current events in the cultural
and intellectual world, and the extent of their commitment to education. The
training program's new curriculum consists of an additional twelve hours of
exclusive courses. Many of the courses relate to science and are conducted in
seminars which include field experience, methodological analysis, and writing
research papers. In return, the excellence program students are required to
commit themselves to another fifty-six hours of teaching in schools in the
periphery and other multicultural schools (in addition to their two hundred
twenty-four hours of practical disciplinary and pedagogical work): ultra-

The initials of "Rosh Gadol Behoraa" - can-do attitude, "Open head in teaching", in Hebrew.
'Imprint', in Hebrew.

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Orthodox schools (separate schools for girls and boys), Arab and Druze
schools, and special international schools for illegal immigrants (their majority
from Asia and Africa). Over and above their studies in the specific areas of
expertise, students are required to devote another one hundred and twenty
hours to a variety of activities in the community and on campus, tutoring
students with special needs, and working as assistant teachers with new
immigrants and students of the minorities. Moreover, they are required to
study Arabic and the Islamic and Christian historical narratives.
The second program for training outstanding teachers in Israel is
Hotam, which has been operating since 2010. It is a new joint initiative of the
Ministry of Education, Joint Israel, Haifa University and the Hakol Hinuch
(education is everything) movement, which recruit excellent bachelor and
master degree graduates, (mainly in the sciences) as school teachers. The
program operates as part of the Teach for All Global Organization that
combines innovative educational activity in several countries, headed by the
US and the UK. In comparison with the Regev program, Hotam is condensed
and intensive; it is conducted over five consecutive weeks during the summer
semester. Studies take place during the day and the evening, and the students
live in a dormitory. It has become clear that this intensive program does not
fully train teachers and prepare them (as Regev does) to cope with the
multicultural complex situation previously described. It failed to instill in them
the overall pedagogical, sociological, and didactic basic concepts of necessary
knowledge required of teachers in the field in such a tight timeframe,
particularly in Israels complex social and political reality. Therefore, the
percentage of those remaining is less than fifty percent, far lower than in other
countries. This is one of the critical differences between the two programs,
which sets apart the training program in Israel from other countries, and these
are the differences between teacher training programs and methods in Israel
and other Middle-Eastern countries. Nevertheless, the Regev program proves
that despite the difficulties involved in becoming an excellent teacher in the
State of Israel, it is now a national challenge and part of the inevitable ideology
of bearing an impact and effecting political-cultural change which appear so

Teachers, educators, teacher professionalism and excellence are now
standing at a crossroads. Moral purpose and change agents are implicit in
what good teaching and effective change mean, but they are society's great
untapped resource for radical and continuous improvement and revolutionary
change. As we have seen in this article, there are programs in Israel for training
excellent teachers, teachers who will enjoy a combined capacity, both academic
and pedagogical, and who will be connected to the social political reality in
which they themselves and the next generation will live. Teacher training
programs in various academic universities and colleges (in Europe as well as
in the US) frequently guarantee excellent teachers who will know how to
perform their role excellently and professionally. Nonetheless, the results do
not always fall in line with expectations and promise. The accelerated
programs do not make it possible for student teachers to mature within the

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pedagogical world, nor do they allow them to be sufficiently exposed to the

corpus of knowledge and school experiences that derive from different
avenues of culture, education and identity. A person, as talented and as well-
qualified as he or she may be, cannot become a teacher and an excellent
teacher, in accelerated and marathonic courses (such as those conducted in
Hotam), just like it would be impossible to train a doctor or a pilot in a five-
week crash course. Becoming a teacher, one who needs to fulfill several tasks
simultaneously, involves inner personal growth and demands time. This is the
difference between the Regev Program and other programs. Perhaps this is
also the difference between innovative excellent teachers in Israel and other
teachers in different societies as I have reviewed, where students are required
to cover academic, didactic and cultural courses and practical internship work
in six or seven years, in an intensive five, and often six-day schedule, including
summer courses, with no shortcuts.
We need to invest much more in proving why teaching development is
crucial to the future of society, particularly now when in some communities
and countries fundamental ideas prevail over the values of democracy: free
thought, action and abilities, and the need for an ongoing dialogue between
people. Above all, we require action that links initial teacher preparation and
development, based on moral purpose and change agents, to the
corresponding restructuring of universities and schools and their relationships.
Systems will not change on their own accord. Rather, the actions of individuals
and small groups working on new conceptions intersect to produce
breakthroughs. New conceptions, once mobilized, become new paradigms.
The teaching profession demands interaction with students who come from
diverse backgrounds, under taxing conditions, working within a multicultural
community. Most researchers believe that the quality of teaching cannot be
ascertained only by indicators such as academic degrees, the number of years
of study, experience, grades, and academic or pedagogic abilities. Intellectual
teachers must express themselves verbally, and have a broad education which
enables them to act as agents of culture and universal knowledge. As
professionals, teachers must possess broad educational knowledge and must
be well-versed in the educational processes regarding the subjects they teach.
Merited teachers are caring, committed to their students, consider
their emotional and intellectual abilities, and they themselves are dedicated to
their calling. If we add to these qualities the ability to cultivate critical
thinking and a dialogue that enables everyone to be heard, we may reach the
definition of the excellent teacher, who has the capacity to make a valued
impact on the future of his or her students, particularly in a multicultural and
diverse society such as Israel. We should not forget: A multicultural liberal
encouraging climate is not enough to cultivate a positive change in entrenched
attitudes toward tolerance, multiculturalism and the professional abilities to
cope with the complicated status of teachers. Neither is it possible to ignore the
political, social and regional situation that encircles teachers and students. A
change should be created in the perception of the role of the teacher in the
existing reality; teachers cannot function merely as a source of knowledge and
practice, as mentors and as pedagogical operators, but must be constantly

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aware of what is evolving around them, and play a part in the consolidation of
their students characters, identities, and attitudes (Gipps, et al, 2016).
One of the main targets of the teacher training program is to train
teachers and convince them that this is their national, professional and
predestined struggle. There is nothing more important for the sake of the next
generation than to become educators and teachers, and assume responsibility
for young peoples minds, behavior and activities. Following this point of
view, teachers become revolutionary leaders, intellectual activists, who,
despite all the social, cultural and political difficulties, possess the power,
eventually, to create the long-awaited change.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 67-90, April 2017

The Impact of Demographic Influences on

Academic Performance and Student Satisfaction
with Learning as Related to Self-Esteem, Self-
Efficacy and Cultural Adaptability within the
Context of the Military
Deborah Schreiber
University of La Verne,
La Verne, California USA

Jean-Claude Agomate
U.S. Army, Retired
Tysons Corner, Virginia USA

Brian Oddi
California University of Pennsylvania
California, PA USA

Abstract. This study examines the impact of age, gender, education,

rank and years of service on academic performance and student
satisfaction with learning, as related to self-esteem, self-efficacy and
cultural adaptability within the context of the military. The study
population includes individuals stationed at a joint military command
unit overseas participating in nonmilitary-related continuing education.
The results illustrate relationships exist between student age and years
of service, and satisfaction with learning, as well as, between student
age, gender and level of education, and academic performance. Rank
shows no significant relationship with either outcome; and self-esteem
relates only to student satisfaction with learning. This study concludes
that generational differences and diverse educational backgrounds, as
well as, individual (personal) and group (military) goals, all impact
success of military students participating in nonmilitary-related
continuing education.

Keywords: continuing education; military; contextual reference; higher



The United States military supports continuing education for its personnel
across all branches of service (Department of Defense, 2016). Minimal research is

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available however that examines individuals stationed overseas participating in

non-military-related courses while in their host nation. Also, literature is limited
that investigates characteristics impacting academic success of these individuals,
some of whom are members of joint military command units located Outside of
the Continental United States.

Research is available that does describe general student populations studying

abroad. For example, Lowinger, He, Lin and Chang (2014), and Ling (2009),
report that a direct relationship exists between self-esteem, self-efficacy and
cross-cultural adaptability, and academic performance and satisfaction with
learning for traditional international students. Studies by Yora (2014) and Ling
(2009), respectively, also note that demographic factors such as age, gender and
previous education impact these students self-esteem and self-efficacy, as well
as, cultural adaptability. Missing from the literature however is examination of
these factors influence on non-civilian populations, such as military personnel,
participating in continuing education courses while overseas. (Continuing
education in this study includes college courses and programs selected by the
individual and which are not specifically required by the military.)

This study hypothesizes that military personnel, participating in continuing

education while stationed overseas, experience studying abroad differently than
civilian populations. This hypothesis is based on the belief that self-esteem, self-
efficacy and cross-cultural adaptability, as context-based constructs, are
impacted differently by demographic factors (such as age, gender, education,
rank and years of service) depending on the environment in which the
experience occurs (Vaz, Parsons, Falkmer, Passmore, & Falkmer, 2014).
Considering the sample population of this study, two primary environments
exert influence: host nation (as described by Mak, Bodycott and Remburuth
(2015)), and military organization (as described by Hsu (2010) and Greene,
Buckman, Dandeker and Greenberg (2010)).

The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to describe quantitative research that
examines the impact of age, gender, education, rank and years of service on
military student satisfaction with learning and academic performance as related
to context-based constructs of self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural adaptability.
Second, this paper provides a narrative literature review to help interpret the
implications of this studys findings. Utilizing the theoretical framework of
social situational learning, this article identifies a number of related phenomena
that shed light on military personnel participation in continuing education while
overseas, including contextual competition (due to membership in multiple
communities), and reciprocal determinism (a dynamic interaction between
environment and individual).


Current research describes a number of challenges facing individuals studying

abroad and the role that self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural adaptability play
in overcoming these challenges. Described in the literature also are a number of

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significant personal and professional traits (i.e., demographic factors) that

influence these context-based constructs. As guided by the sample population in
this study military personnel participating in non-military-related continuing
education while stationed overseas the demographic factors under
investigation in this study include individual age, gender, rank, level of
education and year of service.

Demographic Influences: Age, Gender, Education, Rank and Years of Service

Studies examining relationships between constructs shaped by cultural context

(such as self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural adaptability) and academic
achievement and satisfaction with learning, must consider the impact of
demographic characteristics of the sample population. Research by Yorra (2014)
and Berry (2008), respectively, note that demographic traits relate significantly to
development of ones self-esteem and self-efficacy, as well as, cultural
adaptability. Research by Schwartz (2013) goes further, illustrating that specific
factors of age, gender and previous educational experiences influence student
performance and satisfaction in school. Within a military community, MacLean
(2010) suggests also that demographic factors directly associated with military
life and military culture, such as rank and years of service, also may impact

(Note: Research on the construct of ethnicity is limited, as related to

acculturation and orientation of students studying abroad (Tan & Liu, 2014), and
worthy of further study. As for this current research, the sample population
represents an array of diverse ethnic backgrounds, however, the numbers are
small. For this reason, the construct of ethnicity, although shown as part of the
demographic make-up of the sample population, is not part of this study of
personnel participating in non-military continuing education while overseas.)

Regarding the demographic traits considered, the first, age, half of the current
military personnel, of which nearly 90% falls within the range of 18-40 years,
identify themselves as members of the Millennial generation (those born after
approximately 1980), and over one-third identify as being of Generation X (those
born after Baby Boomers, yet earlier than the Millennials) (Department of
Defense, 2016; Pew, 2014). The significance of this distribution is that differences
between age often occur within groups, with each generation maintaining
distinct attitudes and behaviors about life (Donatone, 2013). For example, Gen-X-
ers prefer to face a challenge with minimal assistance from others (Scheef &
Thielfoldt, 2014). Millennials, on the other hand, generally welcome oversight
and guidance (Donatone, 2013).

Gender becomes an item of interest in a study of military personnel because

military communities continue as male-dominant environments, and this has
been shown to have an effect on organizational culture (Rhode & Kellerman,
2006). Research by Preston (2011) acknowledges that gender role in the military
is still a thorny problem (para. 1). Males and females often see things
differently. For example, a young woman may attribute failure in the training
classroom to not being smart enough (Halvorson, 2011). A young man in a

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similar situation may interpret perceived lack of support as the culprit, and it is
viewed as the supervisors fault (Seeman, 2008).

An individuals level of education, another demographic factor in this study, is

considered because of the nature of this trait relative to the context of the
military environment. For example, education and training represent
discriminating factors for military promotion boards. College courses and
training programs completed by military personnel are often reviewed for
combat and field application that support increased rank and pay (Lipscomb,
2015; Wong, Bliese, & McGurk, 2003). Also, students look to their past
educational experiences to better understand current situations (Russell, 2006). It
is unclear, however, whether military personnel see participation in continuing
education as simply a means to an end (i.e., for military rank and promotion), or
as a specific academic or cognitive growth experience.

The last two demographic factors of interest in this study include military rank
and years of service. Both of these constructs are aligned directly to the military,
and are examined due to their capacity to influence military personnel.

Rank is concept defined only in terms of the military, and represents similarities
to a caste system (i.e., hierarchical structure of officers and enlisted) (Goodale et
al., 2012). Within military culture, rank is tied closely to combat-based actions
and missions, and counts more toward promotion than any other military or
non-military activity (Hsu, 2015).

Regarding years of service, some troop members believe that it is advantageous

to stay in the military (rather than not reenlist) despite recent changes in the
promotion process. More often, promotion criteria now highlight merit and
performance over time in service (Tilghman, 2015). Many active military
personnel acknowledge the advantages of staying in the military, which include
ample access to continuing education, healthcare benefits, and diverse
retirement options, all factors which outweigh the disadvantages of strict
military culture, combat duty, and separation from family (Nielson, 2015).

Research by Shoukat, Haider, Munir, Khan and Ahmed (2013) recognizes that
demographic factors (such as age, gender, level of education, rank and years of
service) act as influences on attitude and behavior. This study examines self-
esteem, self-efficacy and cross-cultural adaptability, three concepts based on
attitude and behavior, and the relationship to student academic achievement
and satisfaction with learning while overseas. Consequently, studying the
specific impact of age, gender, level of education, rank and years of service, as
related to self-esteem, self-efficacy, and cross-cultural adaptability, is necessary
to provide insight into the process of continuing education of military personnel
while stationed overseas.

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Self-Esteem, Self-Efficacy and Cultural Adaptability, and its Role in Academic

Performance and Satisfaction with Learning

Individuals studying or working abroad do not fail or succeed on technical or

operational expertise alone. Research suggests that individual capability for
cultural adaptability and intercultural sensitivity contributes significantly to
ones success in a foreign environment (Abbe, Gulick, & Herman, 2007; Bhawuk
& Brislin, 1992; Gardner, 2007). This relationship exists for leaders of cross-
cultural and global military operations, as well as, civilian populations
participating in the role of international student (Oblilisteanu (2011), and
Miranda (2012, respectively).

Individual readiness and ability to interact with people who are different from
oneself or ones culture define cultural adaptability (Kelly & Meyers, 1995;
Lowinger et al., 2014; Sam & Berry, 2010). The related process of acculturation is
triggered by a persons sense of similarities and differences, and results in a
dynamic struggle by the individual for internal (psychological) comfort and
balance (Church, 1982; Kim, 2001; Vygovsky, 1978). The culmination of
acculturation is the integration of an individual or group of individuals into a
larger and different cultural community, resulting is some individual
characteristics being altered (Bhattacharya, 2011). Researchers recognize that this
process may extend to ones individual identity, attitudes, and behaviors, and
exist within professional, as well as, personal environments (Gardner, 2007;
Smokowski, Bacallao, & Buchanan, 2009).

Closely related to cultural adaptability, and the overall process of acculturation,

are the concepts of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Self-esteem is belief in ones
competence to cope with challenges; self-efficacy is the confidence to act, or
execute behaviors, which master these challenges (Bandura, 1993; Reasoner,
2010). Individuals derive self-esteem and self-efficacy from self-identity (Ling,
2009). Self-identity exists most often as one of two perspectives: individual
(personal) or collective (social). The individual self is achieved by
differentiating from others (Sedikides & Brewer, n.d., para. 1). The collective
self is achieved by membership in a group and experiencing social interactions
which define that groups accepted behaviors (McLeod, 2008). It is this
interaction and membership in community that bring the individual and social
together in a coherent theoretical perspective (Wilson & Myers, 2000, p. 57).

Each community or environment, however, presents context-specific attitudes

and behaviors. These attitudes and behaviors may vary from location to
location, and impact differently new members of the community (Leite & de
Souza, 2012). It is recognized that self-esteem, self-efficacy, and cultural
adaptability represent context-based constructs, and this context-specificity
provides a frame-of-reference that defines an experience relative to the specific
group or environment in which it occurs (Pajares & Schunk, 2001).

Persons who progress successfully through the acculturation process participate

in cross-cultural activities within the group or environment that strengthen ones
self-esteem and self-efficacy (and vice-versa). These individuals demonstrate

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adaptive and flexible behaviors which result in a strong sense of self. This in
turn leads to higher aspirations for personal and professional success (Chasten,
2014; Rubie, Townsend, & Moore, 2004). Such aspirations appear to relate to
occupational expectations, as well as, academic performance and satisfaction
with learning (Kiche, 2010; Schwartz, 2013).

Several scholars agree that a strong relationship exists between an individuals

level of cultural adaptability, self-esteem and self-efficacy, and academic
achievement and student satisfaction with learning. For example, Mustaffa and
Ilias (2013) and Zhao (2010) suggest that these three traits often act in tandem
when relating to international students academic performance and satisfaction
with learning. Gebka (2014) agrees, illustrating that self-esteem and self-efficacy
are directly related to cultural adaptability, and all three may serve as predictors
of academic success and satisfaction while studying abroad.

Current studies related to self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural adaptability, and

academic performance, unfortunately, focus primarily on civilian student
populations. Questions remain regarding military personnel, the relationships
between these context-based constructs and academic performance and
satisfaction with learning, and the impact of demographic factors of age, gender,
level of education, rank and years of service. One benefit of gaining insight into
this phenomenon is to inform practice in the field, as leadership works to
support continuing education of military personnel overseas studying in areas
not directly related to military or combat issues.

Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework for this study is based on the constructs of social
situational learning, which provides the underpinning for the hypothesis that
self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural adaptability relate to academic
performance of OCONUS personnel while participating in continuing education
overseas. As seminal works by Bandura (1978) and Vygotsky (1978) describe,
learning occurs through observation of ones surroundings, and human thought
adapts to the environment. Social interaction and membership in community
occurs, and both play key roles in cognitive development and relationship-
building. Lave and Wegner (1991) agree, stating that learning is situated within
authentic activity, context and culture. (Reprinted from Learning-Theories.com,
2014, para 2).

Social situational learning occurs when individuals engage in didactic

interaction (Belpaeme & Morse, 2012). Research by Evensen and Hmelo (2000)
further explains that social situational learning is not merely a vehicle for
acquisition of information, but rather an actual transformation of an individual
as he or she interacts with others and moves toward membership in the
community. Wilson and Myers (2000) agree, stating that situated learning is
positioned to bring the individual and the social together in a coherent
theoretical perspective (p. 57).

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As related to joint military command units located overseas, it is important to

recognize that at least two primary communities exist for these personnel: the
military community, and the host-nation community. Both of these
environments collectively present many attitudes and behaviors which impact
new members. Individual traits such as age, gender, marital status, education
and job situation, as well as, the music, food and religious preferences of the
individual and the community, all influence the context of the group or
environment in different ways (Leite & de Souza, 2012).

Finally, in addition to contextual differences across communities, Bandura (1978)

recognizes a related phenomenon known as reciprocal determinism, which
explains how an environment influences individual attitudes and behaviors, and
how ones individual attitudes and behaviors in turn influence the environment.
The underlying principle here is that intrapersonal development, interpersonal
transactions, and interactive functioning all occur within the context of the
organization or environment (Bandura, 1978, para. 1). Consequently, studies
examining personnel studying overseas while assigned to joint military
command units, must consider the complexity of the situation with regards to
learning, to fully understand the implications of the study outcomes.


This paper presents a two-prong strategy for study methodology. First, a non-
experimental quantitative research design was used to collect and analyze data;
second, a narrative literature review was completed to provide insight and
further understanding into the implications of the findings. Surveys collected the
quantitative data from a convenience sample. Descriptive statistics were used to
analyze the data.

The focus of this study included two dependent variables (academic

performance and satisfaction with learning), three independent variables (self-
esteem, self-efficacy and cultural adaptability), and five covariates (age, gender,
rank, level of education, and years of service. The covariates were controlled for
and individually tested against the respective dependent variables for

Sample Population

The sample population for this study included 83 individuals assigned to United
States joint military command unit, with military bases located in England and
the unit headquarters located in Stuttgart, Germany. Sample size was
determined by utilizing power analysis, with alpha error probability set at .05
and an a priori effect size of 0.15 (f2 = .15 - medium).

The study participant group consisted of both males and females, and
represented military personnel, as well as, Department of Defense civilians and
contractors assigned to the joint military command unit. Available individuals
ranged in age from 18 to over 60 years. Participant represented an array of
ethnicities, including African American, Caucasian and Hispanic groups.

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Quantitative Data Collection and Statistical Analysis

Data were collected for independent variables via multi-tiered survey

instruments which were composed of validated measures for self-esteem (i.e.,
the Self-Esteem Scale by Rosenberg (1968)), self-efficacy (i.e., the Generalized Self-
Efficacy Scale by Schwarzer and Jerusalem (1995)), and cultural adaptability (i.e.,
the Weiss-Lyon Scale by Weissenburger and Lyon (2001)). Grade point average
(GPA), measuring student performance, was obtained from archival data, and
student satisfaction was measured via individually piloted survey questions.
Data on predictor variables were obtained through self-reporting by study

Bivariate analysis was conducted to determine the relationship over time

between the three independent variables of self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural
adaptability, and the dependent variables of academic performance and
satisfaction with learning. Multiple regression analysis was conducted to
examine possible relationships of the independent variables as predictors of the
dependent variables, as well as, to control for covariates of age, gender, level of
education, rank, and years of service. Multiple regression was also use to test the
relationships of the covariates as predictors of the dependent variables.
Pearsons product-moment correlation coefficient (r) measured the statistical
strength of these relationships.

Narrative Review of the Findings

Upon completion of statistical data analysis, the researchers developed a

narrative review of the literature to provide insight into the meaning of the
findings. (The narrative review is presented in the Discussion section of this
paper.) The goal was to identify and reflect upon any contradictions or
inconsistencies between the findings of this study involving military personnel
and previously investigated civilian populations who studied overseas. The
theory of social situational learning was used to provide a framework within
which to identify and discuss the insights generated.


This study provides quantitative analysis of the impact of age, gender,

education, rank and years of service on military student satisfaction with
learning and academic performance as related to context-based constructs of
self-esteem, self-efficacy and cross-cultural adaptability. The sample population
included personnel stationed at a joint military command unit outside of the
continental United States. Continuing education in this study is defined as
academic courses and programs not specifically required by the military.

Figure 1 illustrates a summary of the findings. Empirical evidence supports a

significant relationship between self-esteem and student satisfaction with
learning. Statistically significant relationships also exist between age and years

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of service, and student satisfaction with learning, as well as, age, gender and
level of education, and student academic performance. No statistically
significant relationships exist for the covariate of rank, nor the variables self-
esteem, self-efficacy and cultural adaptability, when considering academic

Figure 1. Summary of statistically significant relationships between independent and

dependent variables.

The following data tables provide empirical results related to each significant
relationship shown in Figure 1. The statistical tests represented include the
following: bivariate correlation between student satisfaction with learning and
primary independent variables of self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural
adaptability; multiple regression analysis of student satisfaction with learning,
using primary independent variables as predictor variables; multiple regression
analysis of student satisfaction with learning, using covariates as predictor
variables; and multiple regression analysis of student academic performance,
using covariates as predictor variables.

Table 1 illustrates results of bivariate correlation analysis conducted to

determine the relationship between the independent variables of individual self-
esteem, self-efficacy and cultural adaptability, and the dependent variable
satisfaction with learning of military personnel pursuing continuing education
while overseas. Findings identify statistical significance for only one of the three
independent variables self-esteem when moderating variables of age, gender,
level of education, rank, and years of service are controlled.

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Table 1. Bivariate Correlation between Student Satisfaction with Learning and

Cultural Adaptability, Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy, with Moderating Variables

Satisfaction Self-Esteem Self- Cultural

with (Rosenberg) Efficacy Adaptability
Learning (Schwarzer (Weiss-Lyon)

Satisfaction Pearson 1 .240* -.109 -.107

with Correlation
Sig. (2- .044 .368 .380

N 76 71 71 70

* Significance defined p .05

Table 2 presents results of multiple regression, utilizing student satisfaction with

learning as the outcome variable and self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural
adaptability as predictor variables. The regression model indicated no statistical
significance when considering all three independent variables, wherein F (3, 60)
= 1.748, and p = .167, with an overall model fit of R2 = .034. However, upon
closer scrutiny of the independent variables in this model, one of the three self-
esteem when considered individually, was found to be a significant predictor
of military student satisfaction with learning while overseas. This finding is
consistent with results from bivariate analysis described earlier for the
independent variable of self-esteem. (Note: The phenomenon of semi-partial and
partial correlations, as related to regression models and the results in Table 2, are
attributed to multicollinearity.)

Table 2. Multiple Regression of Primary Independent Variables and Student

Satisfaction with Learning.

Unstandardized Standardized 95% Confidence

Coefficients Coefficient Interval for B

Lower Upper
Model B Std. Error Beta t Sig. Bound Bound

1 (Constant) .635 1.139 .558 .579 -1.643 2.914

Self-Esteem .510 .231 .349* 2.207 .031 .048 .972

Self-Efficacy .296 .223 .211 1.328 .189 -.150 .743

Cultural -.077 .169 -.057 -.455 .650 -.416 .262


* Significance defined p .05

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Table 3 presents results of multiple regression again for the outcome variable of
student satisfaction with learning, however, this time utilizing age, gender, level
of education, rank, and years of service as predictor variables. The regression
model here initially indicated no statistical significance, wherein F (5, 68) = 1.977,
and p = .093, with an overall model fit of R2 = .063. Again however, closer
scrutiny and individual examination of each variable, two of the five covariates
were found to be significant predictors of student satisfaction with learning: age
and years of service. Covariates of gender, level of education, and rank were
found not to be significant predictors of student satisfaction with learning in this
study. (Note: The phenomenon of semi-partial and partial correlations, as
related to regression models and the results in Table 3, are attributed to

Table 3. Multiple Regression of Covariates and Student Satisfaction with Learning.

Unstandardized Standardized Collinearity

Coefficients Coefficient Statistics

Model B Std. Beta t Sig. Tolerance VIF


1 (Constant) 1.663 .484 3.439 .001

Age .460 .189 .573* 2.435 .018 .232 4.307

Gender .149 .176 .103 .846 .400 .859 1.164

Level of -.122 .080 -.208 -1.530 .131 .694 1.442


Rank .115 .067 .233 1.728 .089 .703 1.422

Years of
Service -.043 .020 -.513* -2.194 .032 .235 4.253

* Significance defined p .05

The final table, Table 4, presents results of multiple regression for the outcome
variable of student academic performance (GPA), and the covariates of age,
gender, level of education, rank, and years of service were utilized as predictor
variables. The regression model here proved that there is statistical significance,
wherein F (5, 75) = 6.329, and p = .001, with an overall model fit of R2 = .250.
Specifically, this model found three of the five covariates to be significant
predictors of military student academic performance: age, gender and level of
education. Covariates of rank and years of service were found not to be
significant predictors of student performance in continuing education in this

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Table 4. Multiple Regression of Covariates and Academic Performance.

Unstandardized Standardized Collinearity

Coefficients Coefficient Statistics

Model B Std. Error Beta t Sig. Tolerance VIF

1 (Constant) 4.324 .625 6.913 .000

Age .543 .209 .448* 2.598 .011 .315 3.176

Gender -.475 .229 -.216* -2.069 .042 .860 1.162

Level of -.490 .103 -.539* -4.761 .001 .732 1.365


Rank .065 .089 .083 .728 .469 .727 1.376

Years of
Service -.007 .023 -.057 -.324 .747 .308 3.244

* Significance defined p .05


This study hypothesized that military personnel, participating in continuing

education while stationed overseas, experience studying abroad differently than
civilian populations. This hypothesis is based on the belief that self-esteem, self-
efficacy and cultural adaptability, as related to academic performance and
satisfaction with learning, are context-based constructs and impacted in multiple
ways by demographic factors (such as age, gender, education, rank and years of
service), depending on the environment in which the learning experience occurs.
In this study, two environments the host nation and the military organization
exert influence on student learning.

A narrative review of the findings follows. This discussion provides insight into
the meaning behind the statistical results and ultimately the implications for the
field of practice.

Age and Generational Differences

This study found that age of military personnel significantly impacts both
academic success and satisfaction with learning of individuals participating in
continuing education while overseas. Age, as a trait, however, was measured by
group in this study. Approximately half of the individuals in this study self-
identified as members of the Millennial generation (those born after 1980), and
over one-third self-identified as being of Generation X (those born after Baby
Boomers, yet earlier than the Millennials). These numbers are consistent with
Department of Defense reports (2016).

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The significance of this age distribution is that each generation maintains distinct
attitudes and behaviors about life (Donatone, 2013). To successfully support
military personnel in continuing education, institutional help and resources
must work with, not against, generational differences that are present in the
troop populations. For example, one of the behaviors associated with success in
academic programs is persistence, or staying-the-course (Shoukat, Haider,
Munir, Khan & Ahmed, 2013). The best approach by the military to hep
personnel of Generation X to stay-the-course in their studies is to leave them
alone. Generation X individuals prefer, when presented with a challenge, that
supervisors be hands-off. Gen-X individuals are comfortable with input,
however, only when constructive (in their minds) and when it results in
pragmatic outcomes (Scheef & Thielfoldt, 2014).

Military students of the Millennial generation, in contrast, may react quite

negatively to a hands-off approach when it comes to supporting their continuing
education endeavors. These individuals desire attention. Although similar to
Generation X individuals in welcoming a challenge, Millennials prefer
structured oversight. Millennials are not only more comfortable with authority,
they feel entitled to its support and benefits (NBC News, 2013).

Another example of age-related difference in military personnel participating in

continuing education involves individual management of time and stress.
Success of adult learners depends on the ability to juggle multiple
responsibilities from diverse arenas, including family, work, military, personal
and education (Fairchild, 2003). Also, freeing up the time needed to focus on
academic studies requires an individual to let go of less important yet competing
tasks (Shoukat et al., 2013; Wetzel, 2010). The problem is that some Millennial
students may initially possess minimal skills for thinking for themselves,
making independent decisions, or resolving conflict when presented with
competing demands (Donatone, 2013).

The challenge for military leadership is to develop support for military students
that is aligned to the generational needs of the individual. (This is particularly
important when the individual is enrolled in continuing education that is not
related specifically to combat.) Possible strategies which military joint command
units may pursue include mentors, group training sessions, and online
resources. This help should address life areas that may cause stress due to time
management issues and other demands, such as childcare, tuition
reimbursement, and housing within proximity to classes. It is important to
remember however that each resource must be aligned specifically to
generational attitudes and behaviors of the student.

Gender Perspectives

Similar to the construct of age, this study found gender of military personnel to
impact individuals satisfaction with learning while participating in continuing
education overseas. This is consistent with the literature, and utilizing
individual mentors, as discussed earlier for age and generational differences,

2017 The authors and IJLTER ORG. All rights reserved.


works here as well. For example, a young woman may feel less confident than
her male counterpart to express her views or request help in a male dominant
environment such as the military (Andrews, 2006). The mentors task involves
more than simply instructing the girl to speak-up in class or contact her joint
command unit supervisor for assistance. To ensure effective support, the mentor
must work to enhance the young womans self-assertiveness and help her to
build self-confidence within the military environment (Andrews, 2006).

Leadership within joint military commands may also encourage identified

mentors to incorporate role-modeling and networking strategies when support
personnel in continuing education. Role models exhibit desired behaviors that
can be emulated (Sowders, 2015). Networks result from mentors and mentees
formalizing processes that establish relationships which bring benefits to the
participants (Rhodes & Kellerman, 2006). Role-modeling and networking
provide access to mentors, help to dispel stereotypes, and aid in strengthening
behaviors in mentees and subordinates (Sowders, 2015).

Utilizing mentors and role-models to support military personnel in continuing

education while overseas is likely to facilitate friendly and open environments
conducive to respecting gender differences. This may ultimately increase
academic performance of both males and females assigned to joint command
units abroad.

Level of Education

Another factor related to satisfaction with learning of military personnel

studying abroad (in non-military-related courses) is an individuals current level
of education. As participation in academic programs constitutes a very
individual endeavor, military personnel benefit from the ability to look into his
or her own past educational experiences and use this to inform the learning
process. For this reason, mentors and role models may help military students not
only identify past positive and negative academic incidents, but also to
recognize opportunities for remediating outcomes. In this regard, mentors and
role models may help military students identify incremental improvement and
progress through interventions such as teachable moments.

Spiegler (2012) advocates the use of teachable moments (unplanned

opportunities for learning), whereby a mentor facilitates student self-reflection
to learn from past positive and negative educational experiences. The rationale
behind the use of role models and mentors to facilitate teachable moments, is the
belief that these individuals possess wisdom and experience to communicate
across diverse lines, and with a significant commitment to the future, and also
are able to facilitate alignment of individual and organizational goals and
objectives (Hain, 2013).

It continues to be unclear, however, whether military personnel see participation

in continuing education simply as a means to an end (i.e., for military rank and
promotion), or as a specific academic experience and part of lifelong learning.

2017 The authors and IJLTER ORG. All rights reserved.


Rank and Years of Service

This study found that the factors of rank and years of service impact military
personnel differently with regards to participation in non-military continuing
education while overseas. Rank registered no significant relationship with
academic achievement and satisfaction with learning; years of service marked a
direct impact on military student satisfaction with learning. This result is
puzzling in that rank and years of service are both defined by the military, and
as such, it is expected that both constructs would behave similarly (that is, have
limited or no relationship with a non-military continuing education activity).
The fact that this is not the case suggests that the contextual reference for
military rank may differ from the contextual reference for years of service in the

Military rank, as discussed earlier in review of the literature, represents one of

the last remaining caste systems (i.e., officers and enlisted) in the United States
and other countries, existing as an organizational hierarchy that sustains
authoritative oversight, and a slow, measured advancement through the system
(Goodale et al., 2012). Rank is defined primarily in terms of the military
environment, via combat-based actions and accomplished field missions. Within
this context, military personnel participating in this study may conceptualize the
construct of rank only as related to garrison life and combat-readiness.
Consequently, the influence of military rank on academic performance and
satisfaction with learning becomes less notable for personnel, particularly when
outside the context of the military environment (i.e., participating in non-
military continuing education while overseas).

Research by Lipscomb (2015) supports this contextual reference, or

organizational-specificity, when it comes to investigating rank and promotion in
the military. For example, education within the context of a military
organization is often viewed as a means to an end, rather than a specific
outcome itself. Education and training represent discriminating factors for
promotion boards. College courses and training programs completed by an
applicant are reviewed for combat and field application that support increased
military rank and pay. Participation in non-combat related studies that are not
required by the military for promotion, sets a different context one with
minimal military significance (Wong, Bliese, & McGurk, 2003).

Finally, regarding the trait of years of service, the direct relationship of this
demographic factor with student satisfaction with learning in non-military
continuing education while overseas suggests one of two phenomena. First,
military personnel may view service time from an individual (or personal)
perspective, and not from a collective perspective defined by membership in the
military. Or, these individuals do in fact view time in service from a military
(i.e., collective) perspective, yet this view is not inconsistent (psychologically)
with individual or personal goals. One explanation for this is that the longer an
individual is in the service, the more likely he or she is to experience a positive

2017 The authors and IJLTER ORG. All rights reserved.


impact on career from both combat-related and non-combat-related educational



As is evident through the narrative discussion, not all demographic factors

studied in this research impact military personnel educational experiences in the
same way. Considering the context-based construct of self-esteem, self-efficacy
and cultural adaptability, two primary environments exert influence on these
traits the host nation and the military organization. Research by Hsu (2010)
suggests that military culture generally impacts only issues and characteristics
related to combat. Studies by Greene, Buckman, Dandeker and Greenberg
(2010), however, recognize that the impact of military culture may extend to
attitudes and behaviors related to family, education and race.

Following is a discussion of the implications of this study. These implications are

aligned to the contextual influence that multiple environments may exert on
military personnel participating in continuing education while overseas.
Considered in the discussion are the significant results of this study, including
the positive relationship between self-esteem and academic performance and
student satisfaction with learning, and the significant impact of age, gender,
level of education and years of service on military student learning experiences.

Can-do Attitude within Military Environment

The first implication derived from this study focuses on the significant
relationship between self-esteem of military personnel participating in non-
military-related continuing education while overseas and academic performance
and student satisfaction with learning.

Empirical evidence in this study supports a positive relationship between an

individuals self-esteem and satisfaction with learning of OCONUS personnel
participating in non-military-related continuing education while overseas. This
finding implies that troops believe they can cope with challenges related to
studying overseas, and are generally satisfied with the learning experience
during the process. Differences among military personnel exists, however, and
may impact individual learning experiences. Consequently, leadership must
align support for continuing education in non-military-related courses and
programs to specific generational needs, diverse gender perspectives, previous
education and years of service of participating military personnel.

Another benefit of knowing this information is that it informs military

leadership and practice in the field. Supervisors become aware of the importance
of fostering these can-do attitudes for non-military-related academic pursuits
(just as they do for activities related to combat and war-readiness), and support
members dreams of higher education as an attainable outcome (Watson, 2016,
para. 1). A note of caution, however. Leadership behavior which artificially
inflates self-esteem of military personnel, as related to continuing education,

2017 The authors and IJLTER ORG. All rights reserved.


must be avoided. Promoting unrealistic expectations often results in over-

extended commitment and unexpected failure (Sack, 2012).

Capabilities May Not Transfer from the Battlefield

The second implication of this study is that this can-do attitude toward
continuing education does not appear to transfer to increased academic
performance in non-military-related courses while stationed overseas. This is
curious, in that it is expected that military personnel who believe they are able to
cope with the challenge (i.e., self-esteem) of non-combat behaviors such as
continuing education, would then also possess the confidence to act (i.e., self-
efficacy) and execute successfully associated academic performance. However,
this is not the case. Why? The answer may be the perspective with which
continuing education in non-military courses is viewed by military personnel,
and the misalignment of this view with military culture.

The evolution of self-efficacy of a soldier appears to evolve somewhat differently

than self-esteem. Initial participation in the military often lowers the trait of self-
esteem in new recruits, with feelings of inadequacy and inability (Owens, 1992).
However, over time, individuals begin to articulate new role clarification and
role demands within the context of the military, and an increase in feelings of
control reoccur and mastery of related tasks takes place (MacKenzie &
Armstrong, 2004). Unfortunately, the belief and confidence to effectively execute
the new military position does not appear to transfer to non-military activities.
Troop confidence and related behaviors are often solely tied to military
capability (i.e., social self-efficacy), thus manifesting itself selflessly on the
battlefield, yet not transferring to non-military activities (NBC News, 2013).

Rawat (2011) recognizes the potential psychological conflict here when military
personnel participate in non-military continuing education while overseas. A
disconnect may develop between individual (i.e., personal) and group (i.e.,
military) goals and objectives. Rawat (2011) advocates strengthening
simultaneously a commitment to [self] awareness, independent thinking,
integrity [and] independent responsibility (p.131). Research by Rawat (2011)
also supports [military] leaders as role-models, providing appropriate
strategies for aligning individual and group goals (p. 126). The intended
outcome is to promote successful academic experiences for personnel in
continuing education, regardless of the focus of the content (i.e., military or non-

Multiple Communities yet Limited Cross-Cultural Experiences

Members of joint military command units, participating in continuing education

overseas, maintain membership in two primary social groups the host nation,
and the military community. New surroundings and unfamiliar cultures within
both environments can present social barriers, as well as, unique professional
and academic demands. Challenges may include foreign language acquisition,
intercultural communication, and diverse cultural beliefs (Gao, 2008; Lesenciuc
& Draghici, 2011).

2017 The authors and IJLTER ORG. All rights reserved.


Within the host nation, researchers describe the need to build intellectual
awareness and intercultural sensitivity to facilitate social interaction,
understanding and learning (Sam & Berry, 2010). Military environments, on the
other hand, including that of the joint command units overseas, represent
unique organizational cultures that are quite different from academic, personal
or other professional groups (Greene, Buckman, Dandeker, & Greenberg, 2010;
United States Department of Veterans Affairs, 2016). Traditional military culture
stems from a need for combat-readiness, and emphasizes discipline and
hierarchy, as well as, prioritization of the group over individuals (Hsu, 2010).

The final implication derived from this study focuses on this exact point the
phenomenon of military personnel existing simultaneously in multiple
communities. Cross-cultural adaptability in this study appears to require
communication and interaction across military and non-military environments,
rather than across multiple diverse ethnic and religious communities (i.e., the
sample population is from the United States and stationed in England, an
English-speaking western European country). Consequently, the reason cultural
adaptability does not illustrate significant relationships with academic
performance and satisfaction with learning may be because these military
personnel maintain only a collective identity for cultural adaptation, which is
directly aligned only to the military community. In contrast, the military
students individual identity fosters a personal perspective, and it is with this
perspective that the student appears to participate in continuing education not
related to combat or other military topics.

A key learning here is that leadership must be informed regarding troop

disposition toward military and nonmilitary environments; and as implied
previously, strive to align and integrate collective and personal goals to facilitate
growth and success of military personnel across both military and nonmilitary


This study concludes that military personnel, participating in non-military

continuing education while overseas, sustain multiple self-identifies driven by
the specific environment or community within which they are engaged, as well
as, the activity itself. The perceived alignment (or misalignment) of military-
member community and the continuing education community, impacts
perceptions regarding self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural adaptability, and the
relationship with academic performance and satisfaction with learning.

The importance of this study relies on understanding the nature of competing

contexts by the multiple communities in which military personnel operate
overseas. As these military personnel seek help and support from within the
joint command unit for non-military-related continuing education, the source of
this support may be perceived as incompatible with the individuals need. For
example, the source of the support is military (i.e., the joint military command

2017 The authors and IJLTER ORG. All rights reserved.


unit, with collective perspective), yet the recipient (i.e., troop member) is
operating from a personal or individual perspective within a nonmilitary
continuing education environment.

To provide support needed by military personnel for academic success and

satisfaction with learning while participating in non-military continuing
education, this study concludes that military leadership must take the initiative
to develop strategies that help troop members align personal (individual) and
group (military) goals. This may be accomplished through role modelling and
the use of mentors. As role models, commanders may exhibit desired attitudes
and behaviors for self-awareness and independent thinking, while
simultaneously aligning multiple goals for the benefit of both the individual and
organization. Utilizing professional and/or peer mentors as personal advisors,
ensures that support takes into account differences among troops, and embraces
diverse perspectives related to age, gender, level of education and years of
experience in the military.

Finally, this study concludes that mentors and role models, engaged by
leadership, must recognize the phenomena of both collectiveness and exclusivity
of current military culture, and not overlook its contextual reference. Those
providing support to military personnel enrolled in nonmilitary-related
continuing education must understand the impact of context-specificity on many
personal characteristics, including self-esteem, self-efficacy and cross-cultural
adaptability, as well as, an individuals rank. Support for military personnel
must acknowledge and respect the phenomena of these traits within military
environments, and recognize that at times, they manifest themselves in a
military-specific manner that does not necessarily translate to non-military
activities such as continuing education in non-combat related academic courses
and programs.


The primary limitation of this study is a lack of a control group (i.e.,

international students or other civilian group) to test the impact of contextual
reference on the constructs of self-esteem, self-efficacy and cultural adaptability,
and the corresponding impact of age, gender, education, rank and years of
service on military personnel participating in nonmilitary continuing education
while overseas. The strong context set by military organizations and host
nations, demands a truly experimental research design to evaluate constructs
from both an individual (personal) and collective (social and/or military)
perspective. This type of study is needed to provide comparative data necessary
to fully understand military personnel performance and satisfaction in
nonmilitary-related continuing education while stationed overseas.

Another limitation of this study is sample size of the current study population.
Power analysis determined the recommended number of participants based on
three primary independent variables. Analyzing the demographic factors as
predictor variables, requires increasing the number of study participants. Future

2017 The authors and IJLTER ORG. All rights reserved.


research of military personnel participating in nonmilitary-related continuing

education must take this information into account when calculating sample size.

The third and final limitation of this study relates to the limited examination of
the phenomenon of competing contexts from multiple environments in which
troops operate. In addition to the host nation and the joint military command
unit, military personnel may maintain strong ties to an original branch of
service, as well as, personal communities which include ones home, church and
institution of higher education being attended.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 4, pp. 91-103, April 2017

Effects of Warm-Up Testing on Student Learning

Kimberly M. Levere and Matthew Demers
University of Guelph
50 Stone Rd. East, Guelph, Canada, N1G 2W1

Abstract. The assessment of student preparedness for entry-level

university calculus has been of interest in recent years. Many
institutions have adopted diagnostic tests as a means to assess
foundational skills. We introduce a new testing-style, the Warm-Up
Test, which occurs very early in the semester and only tests concepts
from prerequisite courses that will be used to develop the new concepts
in the course to come. Despite the large size of the course, Warm-Up
Tests are not of a multiple choice format in order that rich feedback may
be given by graders. Warm-Up Tests may also make up part of a
student's grade, shifting weight from a high-stakes final exam. We
analyze the predictive ability of this new form of assessment upon
student performance on later assessments throughout the course, and
we discuss this analysis as well as potential biases and possible future
avenues of research.

Keywords: assessment; diagnostic testing; undergraduate mathematics;

warm-up test.

1. Introduction

Recent curriculum changes at the secondary level in Ontario have resulted in a

challenging environment for teaching and learning at the post-secondary level.
The addition, removal, or change in the way that various mathematics concepts
are introduced and reinforced in high schools have resulted in a difference in the
alignment of these foundational curricula. This is not a new phenomenon;
dealing with curriculum and curriculum-delivery changes has been an ongoing
challenge for decades (Cooney, Bell, & Fisher-Cauble, Sanchez, 1996). There has
been much interest in ensuring that students entering university continue to be
as well-prepared as possible for their first university mathematics courses.

One strategy that has been well-explored in the literature is that of a diagnostic
test. A number of studies have been conducted in the area of diagnostic testing,
outlining and evaluating the structure, rationale, and efficacy of diagnostic tests
administered upon enrolment in a post-secondary mathematics course. For
example, online learning resources have been used for this purpose (Beevers,

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Bishop, & Quinney, 1998), but these resources were not mandatory and may not
have been utilized fully by all students. A novel approach has been utilized
involving paired questions in an attempt to measure the sorts of questions that
students may be liable to make a slip on despite having a solid understanding of
the material (Lee & Robinson, 2005). Another approach has utilized a
mandatory diagnostic test (Carr et al. 2013), requiring a 90 percent score to pass
but allowing multiple attempts. A variety of styles of diagnostic tests have been
used, each perhaps with its own benefits or specific purposes. A recent study
showed that students largely believed diagnostic testing to be a positive and
beneficial idea, but students stressed the need for improved communication (N
Fhloinn, Macan Bhaird & Nolan, 2014). Examining the literature, however,
reveals that multiple choice questions are almost always used exclusively within
diagnostic tests and so written feedback to students is necessarily limited or
altogether absent. This is significant, as research suggests that feedback may
have a powerful influence upon student learning as well as having indirect
effects such as an increase in the development of interest via a variety of means
(Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Rakoczy et al., 2013). Kearney et al. (2013) agreed
that student engagement is increased by the presence of feedback and pointed
out that prior research shows "students who are more fully engaged in their own
learning perform better academically than their non-engaged peers." (Kerney et
al., 2013)

Motivated and influenced by these previous findings, our aim is to introduce a

new form of assessment, called a "Warm-Up Test,'' that captures the spirit of a
diagnostic test, but with a few important differences. Our Warm-Up Test occurs
within the first two weeks of class and constitutes part of a student's overall
grade. Warm-Up Tests are structured identically to "actual'' term tests and do
not contain multiple choice questions. The content appearing on the test is not
limited to basic arithmetic and simple mathematics, but includes ideas from
prerequisite courses that will squarely be used later within the course to build or
prove new concepts; this strategy is one that has been explored in a study
finding that interim testing of prior material facilitates learning of subsequent
new material (Wissman, Rawson & Pyc, 2011). Finally, the Warm-Up Tests are
graded quickly and returned to students with detailed, written, and
personalized feedback so that they have the opportunity to fill in any perceived
holes in their background knowledge so that they might be prepared for the rest
of the course. We wish to analyze whether changing the structure of our first-
year calculus course to include this type of assessment has an impact upon
student learning and/or performance throughout the rest of the course.

This paper is laid out as follows: In Section 2, we discuss the history and
background of first-year calculus at the University of Guelph. In Section 3, we
discuss in greater detail the differences between a Warm-Up Test and a typical
diagnostic test. In Section 4, we outline our study, summarizing some of our
interesting results in Section 5. We provide a brief discussion of these results
and subsequently potential biases in Sections 6 and 7. Final future endeavours as
a result of this work are discussed in Section 8.

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2. History and Background: First-Year Calculus at the University of


There are currently three dedicated introductory calculus courses offered at the
University of Guelph: Math*1030 (Business Mathematics), taken chiefly by
students pursuing Business or Economics degrees; Math*1080 (Elements of
Calculus I), taken mainly by students enrolled in the Biological Sciences; and
Math*1200 (Calculus I), typically taken by Physical Science and Engineering
students. The latter of these three, Math*1200, is the course that will be
discussed exclusively for the remainder of this paper.

Calculus I is a course that has experienced astonishing levels of growth, like

many entry-level calculus courses in recent times; this is mainly due to recent
expansion and vastly-increased student intake in the School of Engineering. For
example, in the Fall 2009 semester, 537 students were enrolled at the end of the
course, compared with 726 at the end of the Fall 2014 semester. This represents
an increase of over 35 percent in just five years. Support from the University of
Guelph for Teaching Assistantships has stayed roughly in-line with growth, and
as of Fall 2014, 420 hours of Teaching Assistant support was granted over the
semester. This is enough to allow for tests and the final exam to continue to be
hand-graded with written feedback, despite these large numbers. Multiple
choice is not used as a method for assessment in this course. Students taking this
particular course are in degree programs that utilize mathematical skills such as
those learned in Calculus I frequently throughout their degrees. As such, despite
growing numbers, the feedback and learning that is afforded by hand-written
tests is favourable to the potential for guessing on multiple choice assessments.

In terms of content, Calculus I is designed as a course that reviews many topics

from high school calculus while introducing a few new topics and additional
rigour; it is a course whose purpose is often framed as "getting everybody on the
same page and speaking the same language.'' Concepts include: a review of
functions with an emphasis on trigonometric functions; transformations of these
functions; the absolute value function; solving inequalities; solving limits; the
formal - definition of the limit; continuity; the Intermediate and Extreme Value
theorems; the definition of the derivative; derivative rules; higher-order
derivatives; implicit differentiation including log differentiation; related-rates
problems; differential approximation; Fermat's Theorem, Rolle's Theorem, and
the Mean Value Theorem; curve-sketching; optimization problems; basic
integration techniques including the method of substitution; Riemann sums;
definite integrals and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus; and finally,
applications of integrals including finding areas and solving word problems.

Historically, two to four tests have been set during the semester. Since 2007,
these tests have been accompanied by a set of weekly online quizzes, utilizing
Maple TATM, that serve as enforced homework. (Maple TATM is an online
learning environment that allows for testing of students in a wide variety of
ways.) There is a final exam that has historically carried a weight of between 35
and 50 percent of the overall grade. In recent years, none of these assessments
have included any multiple choice questions at all. Rather, they are divided into

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two parts: Part A is a "Quick Questions'' section where students answer simple
questions or problems by writing their answers in a box at the side of the page.
Student work need not be shown, and partial marks for incorrect solutions are
limited. Part B is a "Longer Written Answer'' section where full solutions are
expected and partial marks are granted if sound mathematical steps are made.
Tests are written using brand new questions each year primarily to minimize
academic misconduct, which has the added benefit of allowing instructors to use
past tests to provide practice resources for students. Students are aware that
typically none of the questions on a practice resource will closely resemble
problems on the "actual'' test, but this opportunity for extra practice has proved
to be a popular idea among students. Dedicated "extension'' problems, intended
to be challenging, are included on each assessment. Accounting for 10 to 20
percent of the marks on a test or exam, these questions tend to blend concepts or
allow students to explore simple new concepts.

3. What is a Warm-Up Test and how does it compare to a Diagnostic


Feedback after the Fall 2013 semester indicated that many students struggled
with a few fundamental concepts from the very beginning of the course in
September. These concepts (like basic arithemetic, functions, and trigonometry)
provide a foundation for many of the topics covered in the course. Thus, it
seems reasonable to infer that having weaknesses in the understanding of these
fundamentals would make it more difficult to gain understanding of new
concepts throughout the rest of the course that depend on this foundation. A
student with these foundational weaknesses may be inclined to resort to surface
learning rather than deep learning, as has been discussed by Prosser and
Trigwell (1999).

The idea of a "Warm-Up Test'' was conceived as the result of discussions

between the instructors about this very issue. A Warm-Up Test is a test, held
early in the semester, that only tests concepts that are assumed to have been
learned in prerequisite courses. The tested concepts are chosen to be those
topics that will certainly be used to develop the calculus techniques later in the
course (functions, trigonometry, etc), and do not include any calculus concepts.
Students are aware of the topics that they should be prepared for from the
beginning of the semester. The onus is on them to prepare because with the
exception of trigonometry, no lectures are dedicated to material covered on the
test. (It was felt that, due to the exceptionally important nature of trigonometry
in first-year courses, along with high student anxiety surrounding that topic, the
instructors would spend lecture time to review this.)

In terms of the logistics and specifics, Warm-Up Tests are held at the end of
week 2 of a 12-week semester, outside of class time. They possess the same
structure as a regular test (as outlined in section 2); all hand-written with no
multiple choice. With respect to content, the Warm-up test contains only
prerequisite material (no Calculus concepts), and only tests at a basic level with
no extension questions. The Warm-up test carries a small, but significant (to
encourage participation) proportion of a students final grade (currently 10

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percent as compared to 20 percent for regular term tests). This weighting is fully
transferrable to the Final Exam should the Final Exam result be higher. This is to
take the pressure off of the Warm-up test so that students use it as tool for
indicating their readiness, rather than a stressful event. Finally, the Warm-up
test is hand-graded and returned to students with written feedback within a
very short time (typically one or two days). Detailed solutions are available
online to all students immediately following the Warm-Up Test so that students
can immediately follow up and learn from their mistakes while the material is
fresh in their heads.

There were many motivations for introducing the Warm-Up Test. First, students
lose some of their academic learning over a summer holiday. This learning loss
has been shown to not only increase as students get older, but hurts
mathematics learning more than other school subjects (Kerry, 1998). An early
test forces students to hit the ground running and quickly reminds them of some
topics that they might be rusty on after a summer vacation.

Next, it has been shown that high-stakes testing may discourage active student
learning and may even have negative effects upon the classroom discourse
(Wideen et al., 1997). There is incentive for students to do well on the Warm-Up
Test, because doing so will make it likely that the more difficult Final Exam is
weighted less heavily.

Most obviously, though, by holding this early test, student weaknesses can be
identified and very early written feedback can be given by instructors and
Teaching Assistants, which may have a significant impact upon student learning
(Hattie & Timperley , 2007; Rakoczy, 2013). Since students are told that the
Warm-Up Test topics are those that will certainly be used later in the course,
students can come to an early realization of the important topics that they are
weak in, and seek assistance or put in extra work ahead of the later, more
heavily-weighted assessments. The very fast timeframe of grading and
returning the Warm-Up Test is enforced to make sure that students have the
opportunity to immediately start working on any weaknesses that have been

A Warm-Up Test is fundamentally different from the typical diagnostic tests that
have been administered at various universities though the two concepts have
similarities. A diagnostic test is typically given ahead of a semester or at the
very beginning of a course in order to identify student strengths and
weaknesses, but is not typically a test that is given for grades. Often, a
diagnostic test does not possess a dedicated focus toward the course to come,
instead concentrating on a more abstract and broad set of fundamental
mathematical skills. Finally, nearly all diagnostic tests are given in a multiple
choice format, precluding any personalized written feedback.

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4. An Outline of the Study

As a pilot of this novel assessment method, a Warm-up Test was created by the
authors of this manuscript and administered to a first-year Calculus I class.
Following the completion of the test, ten teaching assistants, with the help of
solutions provided by the authors of this manuscript graded and returned the
Warm-up Test. The analysis that follows was conducted after the entire semester
was completed. To investigate the validity of this pilot effort, We wish to
perform an analysis of grade data in order to help answer a few questions:

Do students who perform well on the Warm-Up Test tend to perform

well throughout the rest of the course?

Are poor grades on the Warm-Up Test associated with poor grades
throughout the course or higher failure rates?

Does the inclusion of a Warm-Up Test promote student learning and

better final exam results than if there was no early assessment given?

To measure this, we performed an analysis of Warm-Up Test grades as

compared to Term Test and Final Exam grades, and followed each student in the
class through the semester to evaluate their subsequent performance on later
assessments. We first compared the Warm-Up Test grades to grades obtained
for Test 1; then we compared the Warm-Up Test grades to grades obtained in the
Final Exam. Finally, we evaluated performance throughout the course by
comparing Warm-Up Test grades to final overall grades. For this final
comparison, it is noted that this final overall grade may include and thus be
influenced by the grade from the Warm-Up Test itself.

To compare in all cases, assessment results were categorized by letter grade, and
we recorded the number of students that moved from each grade category to
each other between assessments. We used the following standard groupings:

90-100 percent is an A+ grade;

80-89 percent is a A grade;

70-79 percent is a B grade;

60-69 percent is a C grade;

50-59 percent is a D grade;

49 percent and below is an F grade.

The study included a total of 690 students. Only students who were present for
all assessments were used in the analysis (students may have missed an
assessment for a variety of reasons, including illness, etc).

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5. Methodology
5.1 Comparison: Warm-Up Test Grades and Test 1 Grades
The average grade received on the Warm-Up Test was 79.6 percent while the
average grade received on Test 1 was 63.0 percent. We wished to measure the
significance of the difference in mean scores. As the data were dependent,
paired data was constructed by subtracting each individual students Test 1
grade from their Warm-up Test grade. A two-sided paired-t procedure was then
administered on this paired data. A p-value of 1.319 x 10-146 was obtained,
indicating that the student grades for the two assessments were significantly
different. Further, a 95 percent confidence interval indicates that student grades
were 15.6 - 17.5 percent higher on the Warm-Up Test than on Test 1.

We found that despite the significant difference in grades for these two
assessments, the Warm-Up Test results strongly predicted student performance
on Test 1. Table 1 provides a detailed description of the data collected. The data
describes the number of students to go from receiving any particular grade on
the Warmup Test to grades received from future assessments. Percentages
given are proportions of those who received the same letter grade on the
Warmup Test. For example, from the table, 48 students who received an A the
Warmup Test received a B on Test 1. This represents 23.3 percent of all students
who received an A on the Warmup Test.

Of the 690 students that were included in the study, 619 received a lower grade
on Test 1 than on the Warm-Up Test. Few students (20 out of 690) failed the
Warm-Up Test, receiving an F. Nevertheless, 75 percent of students who
received an F on the Warm-Up Test also received an F on Test 1. Similarly, for
students who received a D on the Warm-Up Test, 76.7 percent received a grade
of D or F on Test 1 while students who received a C on the Warm-Up Test did
not fare much better. It is interesting to note that not a single student who
received a C or lower on the Warm-Up Test received anything higher than a B
on Test 1. Meanwhile, a plurality of students who received a B on the Warm-Up
Test received a D on Test 1; of students who received an A on the Warm-Up
Test, the greatest number received a C on Test 1; while on Test 1, a B was the
most common grade obtained for students who received an A+ on the Warm-Up
Test. It is also noteworthy that of the 551 students who received a grade of B or
better on the Warm-Up Test, only 8.2 percent went on to receive a grade of F on
Test 1.
5.2 Comparison: Warm-Up Test Grades and Final Exam Grades

The average grade received on the Warm-Up Test was 79.6 percent while the
average grade received on Final Exam was 68.6 percent. As the data were
dependent, paired data was constructed by subtracting each individual
students Final Exam grade from their Warm-up Test grade. A two-sided paired-
t procedure was then administered on this paired data. A p-value of 5.48 x 10-69
indicates that again, the results of the two assessments were significantly
different. Further, a 95 percent confidence interval indicates that student grades
were 9.9- 12.1 percent higher on the Warm-Up Test than on the Final Exam.

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Table 1. WU = Warmup Test; FE = Final Exam; FG = Overall Final Grade

WU to T1 WU to FE WU to FG
Count Proportion (%) Count Proportion Count Proportion
(%) (%)
F to F 15 75 10 50 13 65
F to D 4 20 7 35 6 30
F to C 0 0 3 15 1 5
F to B 1 5 0 0 0 0
F to A 0 0 0 0 0 0
F to A+ 0 0 0 0 0 0

D to F 17 39.53 25 58.14 17 39.53

D to D 16 37.21 5 11.63 12 27.91
D to C 7 16.28 7 16.28 9 20.93
D to B 3 6.98 3 6.98 2 4.65
D to A 0 0 3 6.98 3 6.98
D to A+ 0 0 0 0 0 0

C to F 31 40.79 22 28.95 25 32.89

C to D 22 28.95 19 25 12 15.79
C to C 11 14.47 16 21.05 17 22.37
C to B 12 15.79 8 10.53 15 19.74
C to A 0 0 8 10.53 7 9.21
C to A+ 0 0 3 3.95 0 0

B to F 25 16.56 23 15.23 36 23.84

B to D 55 36.42 30 19.87 27 17.88
B to C 45 29.80 39 25.83 43 28.48
B to B 21 13.91 29 19.21 26 17.22
B to A 4 2.65 25 16.56 17 11.26
B to A+ 1 0.66 5 3.31 2 1.32

A to F 16 7.77 21 10.19 21 10.19

A to D 51 24.76 22 10.68 25 12.14
A to C 64 31.07 36 17.48 46 22.33
A to B 48 23.3 47 22.82 53 25.73
A to A 23 11.17 50 24.27 45 21.84
A to A+ 4 1.94 30 14.56 16 7.77

A+ to F 4 2.06 10 5.15 3 1.55

A+ to D 22 11.34 3 1.55 4 2.06
A+ to C 53 27.32 16 8.25 18 9.28
A+ to B 69 35.57 40 20.62 50 25.77
A+ to A 36 18.56 57 29.38 66 34.02
A+ to A+ 10 5.15 68 35.05 53 27.32

Despite that the Final Exam occurred three full months after the Warm-Up Test,

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we nevertheless found that again, Warm-Up Test results provided a strong

prediction of Final Examination results.

Of the students who received an F on the Warm-Up Test, 50 percent also

received an F on the Final Exam. A slightly greater proportion (58.1 percet) of
students who received a D on the Warm-Up Test received an F on the Final
Examination. It is a note of interest that a greater proportion of students who
received a D on their Warm-Up Test were not successful on the Final Exam than
those who received a grade of F on their Warm-Up Test. Students who received
a C, B, or A on the Warm-Up Test were widely distributed throughout all of the
categories for the Final Exam, with some students failing while others obtained
grades as high as an A+, though Final Examination results did generally increase
with greater Warm-Up Test results. Students who received an A+ on the Warm-
Up Test, however, provided quite a different picture, with over 85 percent of
these students receiving a B or higher on the Final Exam; a plurality of such
students (35.1 percent) received an A+ on the Final Examination.

5.3 Comparison: Warm-Up Test Grades and Overall Final Grades

The average grade received on the Warm-Up Test was 79.6 percent while the
average overall final grade was 71.0 percent. As the data were dependent, paired
data was constructed by subtracting each individual students Final grade from
their Warm-up Test grade. A two-sided paired-t procedure was then
administered on this paired data. A p-value of 1.5 x 10-73 indicates that once
again, the results were significantly different. A 95 percent confidence interval
indicates that their Warm-Up Test results were 7.7 - 9.3 percent higher than their
final overall grades.

We found that the Warm-Up Test was strongly predictive of overall final grade,
to a remarkable extent. Of the 20 people who received an F on the Warm-Up
Test, 65 percent of them went on to fail the course with an F. Generally
speaking, the better that students did on the Warm-Up Test, the lower the failure
rate for the overall course. This effect was by far most visible for those students
who received an A+ on the Warm-Up Quiz; only 3 (1.5 percent) out of these 194
students received an overall grade of F in the course, while much higher failure
rates were observed for other students. On the other hand, students who
received high grades on the Warm-Up Test had much greater chances of
receiving an A or A+ in the course. It is interesting, however, that several
students who received a D or C on the Warm-Up Test managed to earn an
overall grade of A despite their shaky start to the semester.

6. Discussion

Most of the results seem to speak for themselves: The Warm-Up Test is a test of
foundational skills, and so a student who struggles with these underlying
fundamentals is easily identified with a poor performance on the Warm-Up Test.
This weakness strongly predicts a weak performance not only on the first test,
but throughout the entire course. We noticed that many students who
performed at a C or B level tended to have a mixed range of performance

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throughout the course, but generally fared more poorly on future assessments.
Students who improved their performance, while relatively few in number, may
represent a group of students who recognized weaknesses that were identified
on the Warm-Up Test and who subsequently worked to shore up their
knowledge. By and large, however, students who did more poorly on future
assessments likely did so because their fundamental mathematical skills were
still not as solid as for many of their peers. The students who displayed the
greatest resilience throughout the course were those who received an A+ on the
Warm-Up Test, with a drastically smaller proportion experiencing a large drop
in their performance throughout the semester. Perhaps it is the case that those
students were "fully ready'' to move into university calculus, since it is these
students who had already achieved mastery of fundamental concepts. High
school grade point average and student attitude have been shown to have
positive correlation with performance in a first-year university calculus course
(Pyzdrowski et al. 2013) further study in future offerings of the course may
reveal whether either or both of these factors could be correlated to Warmup
Test scores, as one might expect.

We believe that the Warm-Up Test can be viewed as an important measure that
students may use to gauge their readiness to continue forward in Calculus I.
Further, based on the results, we feel that instructors may be able to use this past
data to help motivate students in future offerings of the course. For the case of
those students who receive a B or C on the Warm-Up Test, it is especially
evident that a high overall grade is still attainable, though perhaps some
remedial work, support and encouragement would be necessary. Students who
receive very low Warm-Up grades of D or F might take their result as a warning
that they are not ready for some of the rigorous material that will be covered in
the course until their foundational skills are improved, and as such urgently
require immediate extra support or perhaps will face failure.

The observation was made during this analysis that despite a weak performance
on Test 1, the Final Exam (and ultimately, the final grades) represented a marked
improvement. The material on the Final Exam was certainly not easier to grasp
than the concepts appearing the first test, because the Final Exam was
comprehensive and thus included all of the material from Test 1 along with
many other topics from the rest of the course. Can this improvement be
explained by the presence of the Warmup Test at the beginning of the course, or
are there other factors at play? Perhaps this is a question that may be explored
in future offerings of the course.

7. Biases

We recognize that there are some potential biases in our results, many of which
are unavoidable and inherent to a large first-year university course. These
biases could have a significant effect upon comparisons or student performance.
In the interest of full disclosure and completeness, we discuss some of these
biases here.

Scheduling of tests and final examination alongside those of other

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courses. Students may not be able to prepare as adequately for a test if,
by chance, they have another large assessment or due date for a different
course very near the date of the assessment for their calculus class.

Since the Warm-up test weight can be shifted to the final exam, some
students may opt not to write the Warm-up Test. These students would
therefore not have been included in our study and may have skewed the
results that we observed.

With regards to the comparison between the Warm-Up Test results and
the overall final grade, it is the case that for 76.5 percent of students
(those who performed better on the Warm-Up Test than on the Final
Examination), the overall final grade does incorporate the result from the
Warm-Up Test itself, which is weighted at 10 percent of their final grade.

The results presented in this paper only include results from a single
semester, representing the very first time that first-year calculus was
presented with a Warm-Up Test as part of the assessment. These results
should be considered alongside results from additional future semesters
in order to corroborate our findings and present a stronger argument for
the value and predictive power of this new kind of assessment.
8. Future Work
Recognizing that the Warm-up Test results were a strong predictor of
performance in Calculus I, perhaps greater efforts should be made to help
students that are identified as at risk by the Warm-up test to bring their skill
set up to an appropriate level to encourage their success in the course. A variety
of initiatives may be helpful in this regard including:
The Development of an Email Feedback Tool
Entry-level mathematics courses are among some of highest enrolment classes
on campus. As a result, students can often feel like a number among their
peers and classmates. In an effort to personalize student experience and promote
individual recognition, we propose the development of an Email Feedback Tool
that will allow instructors to generate personalized emails to students regarding
their progress or performance. This tool would also allow instructors to provide
the student with information about learning resources that they can take
advantage of should they be struggling with course material.

The Compilation of Feedback Regarding Student Opinions of

With the approval of the Research Ethics Board, we conducted a survey in the
Fall 2015 semester in our Calculus I class regarding student opinions. We asked
for their opinions of their preparedness for University mathematics, their
thoughts on Warm-up test, as well as methods and techniques that they use to
study for mathematics tests. We would like to compile and investigate the
resulting data from this survey so that it may be used to improve our

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understanding of the student perspective of our course (and University as a

whole). This information can have a significant impact on the delivery of our
course going forward and how we cope with preparedness challenges.

The Development of a Foundational Mathematics Refresher Course

The Warm-up test results explored in this paper indicate that while a number of
students perform very well on the Warm-up test, many other students perform
far below an acceptable level. Beyond simply reviewing concepts on their own,
students currently have no designated resource that they can use to catch up. In
order to promote the success of our students, we propose the development of a
Foundational Mathematics Refresher Course to assist students in filling in any
gaps in their mathematical backgrounds (perhaps exposed by their Warm-up
test). Since entry-level math courses are integral to so many other courses, this
would provide a substantial resource for students to increase their skills up to an
appropriate level, thus encouraging success in their further studies. Students
performing below a designated level would be enrolled in this course on a
mandatory basis in order to bring their foundational skills up to the necessary
level for success in Calculus I. This course would run concurrently with Calculus
I as a three or four-week session, to end in mid-semester. Mandatory testing to
ensure mastery of foundational concepts would allow students to remain in their
Calculus I course, while failure to pass such testing in this foundational course
by its completion would indicate a lack of preparedness and thus would require
withdrawal from the course and subsequent remedial work before reinstatement
into Calculus I.


This research has been approved by the Research and Ethics Board at the
University of Guelph.

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Kerry, T. (1998). Summer Learning Loss: The Evidence and a Possible Solution.
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Kearney, W. S., Webb, M., Goldhorn, J., & Peters, M. L. (2013). Examining the impact of
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