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Case Study Proposal – Analysis – Action - Evaluation

Brad Whaley

October 23, 2016

Step 1: Propose and Describe your Case


At the outset I want to address the idea that I find it difficult to try to notice and document individual specific
behaviors. I’m beginning to work on this, but the idea of noticing than an individual student does something
behaviorally only on Mondays or “at the beginning of a new unit,” for example, is beyond my skill level right now.
Compared to weeks one and two, I am much more “with-it,” but still have a long ways to go in this respect. I will be
working hard to begin to notice and even log behaviors from particular students that seem to need assistance. The
thirty-five I have in class keep my eyes and mind very busy.

Matt is earning a 48% E right now. He scored only 30 of 60 on the last unit test. In looking at his other class grades,
he shows an A in Physical Education and a C in Art, but in the other core classes he’s earning two E’s and two D’s.
Matt does miss class occasionally, but has attended the majority of the time. He’s a mature student who could easily
be described as the “strong, silent type.” When looking at his grade in detail, two major factors stand out. He has
only turned in three of nine daily assignments/ worksheets. And on all three test assessments he is scoring in the 40-
60% range.

Matt is quiet. Earlier in the year, when we had a different seating chart, it seems as if he was more participatory, but
I don’t notice a pattern in his grades. I do see that he wasn’t working with his current table partner when we put
together glucose molecules. They both used their own models and worked independently. He seems to skip two
assignments then turn one in, then skip two then turn in. So sometimes I notice him working / reading / writing, but
other times he is disengaged. I have only had one incident of direct resistance. Early in the semester, probably during
week 2, the bell was near time to dismiss for the day. The class was finished about 2 minutes early. He walked over
to put his binder away in the cabinet then I noticed him checking out the hallway. There were a some students
already out there making noise. I called to him not to leave until the bell rang. He looked at me, smiled a little, then
went ahead and walked out with one minute to go. This was his most resistant moment and he hasn’t repeated it.

Naomi and Travis seem to be a couple. If they aren’t dating, they exhibit typical freshman behaviors, looking at each
other during instruction, talking before class, and seeking each other out whenever they are out of seats for activity.
A few weeks ago, both had near 50% E’s. Both had neglected to turn in work and performed poorly on the first major
assessment, a group poster detailing water movement inside plants. A few weeks ago we had parent-teacher
conferences and both parents expressed concern about their “honor” students not doing well in my class.
Subsequently, Travis turned in a couple missing assignments and a couple assignments for score improvement. He
scored 63 of 70 on the second major assessment (turned in after conferences one week late) and is currently earning
a B. He has a B or better in his other school classes. In the beginning month of school, he was a bit of a class clown,
making noises to distract class and taking an extra long time give attention back to the front of the room. In the last
two weeks, he is still distracting himself with his cell phone, but has specifically asked me to help him on worksheets
on at least two occasions.

Naomi is still earning a 68% D. In the last two weeks since conferences, on three occasions during student work time,
she has asked for my help. Each time I have heard frustration in her voice as she has said “I don’t understand this.”
When I ask what part she doesn’t understand she has said “any of it!” Each time I have worked to help her but on
the unit test (third major assessment) she took last Thursday she earned a 63%. During the parent teacher
conference her father even asked if we would feel ok if he could come in to observe my teaching. I told him I didn’t
have any problem with it. Monday I’m going to do a new seating chart. Naomi is sitting in the farthest corner and
I’m hoping a change might make a difference for her.
Step 2: Analyze the Situation
Naomi

Homework / Tests and Overall Grades

Naomi got off to a good start in class, turning in her syllabus right away. In the first week she completed a beginning
lab report for 18/20 points, then a simple worksheet the second week for 8/10 points. We finished the second week
with another lab and collectively the class performed poorly on this. Naomi earned an 18 of 40 and points then did
not submit the next two in-class assignments. The assessment for the first unit was, with partners, to create a poster
detailing water transport inside plants and its effect on homeostasis. Naomi and her partner earned only a 3 of 12
points and as a summative assessment this is weighted at 80% of their overall grade. She performed better (75%) on
the next summative assessment. It was a larger lab report and it’s possible that she may have had help to complete
it. This is because of the social nature of the lab, and because we are implementing a standards based grading
system that allows students to both submit assignments late and after they scored to be resubmitted. After this lab
two more daily assignments went unrecorded and I remember her asking for help on one of them. It was October 6th
before she turned in more daily work and for a second time she expressed that she didn’t understand the assignment
while the class was working.

Currently she is now earning a C in Biology. She has turned in some assignments that were missing and redone other
work to earn higher point scores. Looking out for a broader perspective, in her other current classes she is receiving
the following grades: Art B+, Honors English C+, Geometry C, Physical Education A, Spanish B+, and Honors World
History B+

I checked into her past grades during her grade 7 & 8 years. The pattern I noticed is that in the core subjects she has
been an A or B student except for Math and Science classes where she has earned more B’s but also three D+’s and
two C’s

Possible Teacher Role

I lost a bunch of students during the second week lab on “How Does Water Get Into Plants.” Even after multiple
students have resubmitted their work for additional points, the cumulative average on it is ten to fifteen points
below other assignments. In hindsight, my mentor and I have discussed that there were multiple points of
disconnection. She quickly acknowledged that we should have scaffolded more for the rubric on the poster. Beyond
this, we have to take responsibility for the fact that this year everything is new to us. Only probably thirty-three
percent of our lessons are drawn from the past and some of those that are even out of sequence We are
implementing the new NGSS standards and doing it in a new block schedule, so there has been a lot of trial and error
with new lesson plans. That first larger lab confused students because it was only the second time some students had
used microscopes. Based on the drawings, some of them were looking at air bubbles, or folded onion skin. In some
cases when they added salt water they may not have added it properly because their drawings didn’t show
hypertonic cells, rather still isotonic condition. As evidenced by the way they filled out the guided lab sheet, they
were not reading and following directions independently and I was not modeling and coaching behaviors. In
subsequent lessons we increased the amount of modeling.

Additionally, my mentor believed in creating very specific materials for students and keeping this information to a
minimum. This is done so as not to overwhelm them with information. I have found that in talking to students that
using a new analogy or providing a different visual sometimes increases their understanding. I believe that in my own
classroom I’ll be likely to include that “one extra diagram” to try to help students build connections.

My mentor also believes in a constructivist approach where students build their own knowledge. Toshalis (2015)
discusses that this constructivist approach is best handled in what is described Brain System 2 which developed
evolutionarily for abstract, analytical, and complex thought. Unfortunately, the developing adolescent brain generally
prefers to spend its time utilizing Brain System 1. Evolution shaped this first system to be able think and act quickly
and to make generalizations for decision making.He suggests that this difference between systems 1 & 2 manifests
when a student feels threatened and tends to use a reactionary response generated in system one. In my specific
situation, by a) teaching a new class (new for me and them); b) with new information; c) in a brand new social
situation and not guiding and modeling and coaching as much as the students needed, I may have unknowing
encouraged various forms of resistance in the classroom, particularly in Naomi.

Lastly I would suggest one other set of behaviors that could have contributed to Naomi’s current behaviors. I felt
physically and mentally overwhelmed in the two weeks leading up to and in the first two/three weeks of the quarter.
I know I was not as perceptive to student needs in the beginning of school. There easily could have been something
going on that was bothering Naomi that I missed. I know specifically, because she told me, that my poor handwriting
on the screen / document camera was bothering her. This one circumstance could have potentially driven a wedge
between us early on. If she is used to taking careful notes and studying them later, then my shorthand / shortcuts /
poor handwriting could have been disrupting her regular methodologies.

What Does the Student Gain?

Last week, in order to help me fill out new seating charts, I asked the students write the names of six friends on a
notecard. The friends on Naomi’s card right now represent overall quarter grades of: 3 Bs, 1 C, 1 D, & 1 E. I show this
as an indication that her closest friends in this class are academically mixed. If she were socially in a group of all A
students then not understanding and performing well might not be socially acceptable.

My leading hypothesis is that Naomi partially disengaged early in the term because of a combination of factors that
stem from my particular teaching techniques and teacher moves (as described earlier). I addition to what I have
already written about, another circumstance I think supports this hypothesis. She and her partner did come in after
school and work on revising their plant poster. They spent two different occasions for about an hour, asked for my
help and produced work that took them from a 3 of 12 to a 10.5 of 12. She also turned in a number of assignments
that she had zeroes on. I think this shows strong motivation.

A second hypothesis is that the drop in her grades now, but particularly in Biology is due possibly due to a higher
degree of cell phone use. There are times when I have had to ask her to put down her phone and concentrate on her
work. But this is true of multiple students in the room. I know that Eastern H.S. forbids in-class phone use for 7th and
8th graders. She may be under normal peer pressure to keep up texting with friends. Now that it is allowed as
freshmen, undoubtedly some students will have a difficult time learning to balance this new freedom/ responsibility.
It could be that this is a bigger distraction for her in biology class because we are less likely than other teachers to call
students out on this unproductive behavior. In informal discussions I know that my mentor wishes the 9-12 classes
would have a more uniform policy. She does not feel right about enforcing a no phone use policy when it is no
applied evenly. Her past A-B grades indicate that she knows how to go about the procedural process of earning high
marks. But I do find daily worksheets where I know that I or another student verbalized the basic answers to the first
5 or 6 questions. Then when I look at Naomi’s sheets, I see that she has only filled in the first 2 or 3 questions.
Maybe the phone use is larger than I have noticed.

Matt

Homework / Tests and Overall Grades

Matt’s behavior hasn’t changed much over the duration of the class and this assignment. He is polite in class but
quiet. He is still submitting only about one daily worksheet assignment per every 3 or 4. His score on the first plant
poster was only a 6.5 of 12. He earned a slightly better score (65%) on the Homeostasis lab, and was consistent with
many other students who likely worked in groups to complete it. But many other students resubmitted to pick-up
easy points but Matt chose not to. We did a more traditional test over photosynthesis and cellular respiration and
again he earned a 50%.
Currently he is failing biology, art and French. He has earned D’s in History and Literature, a C in geometry, and an A
in Physical Education. When I looked at his report card from last year I found out that he isn’t a freshman, he is a
sophomore. He took biology last year with my mentor and failed. In fact, last year during both first and second
semesters he earned a D in one class and failed six others.

Possible Teacher Role

Based on the total number of failed classes that I have found, I can honestly say that I think the odds that Matt’s
resistance is due to either me personally, my teaching techniques or even science classes in general is fairly remote.

Rather than make hypotheses here, I guess I am wondering if I should take a look and try to choose another student
to include as my second in the case study. If you think I should continue with Matt then I will research more and add
into the document.

Part 3 – Consider Alternative Solutions – Action Plan

I’m focusing my current and future work on Naomi. We were asked to consider four different sources of explanation
for student resistance / behavior. In the second part I focused primarily upon my own teacher behavior. I had
looked at Naomi’s grades currently as a freshman biology student, as a freshman in other classes, and even at her
past grades in 7th and 8th grade. I provided the analysis but interpreted that this source of explanation for her current
behavior was insignificant. I’m focusing my action plan on: 1) my teacher behaviors and 2) her cell phone use.

Eastern High School has a late start Wednesday where we do professional development or other relevant work. In
one session, we focused on failing students. Small groups formed, identified students and talked about specific
strategies for individual students. I took notes and while many of the techniques that we discussed that day were
more appropriate for students with larger (more complex) behavioral or emotional issues, two techniques stood out
to me that I will need to put into action in my project. The first was to chunk work into smaller portions and then
follow up with the student. I will specifically do this. In subsequent conversation with my mentor teacher we were
actually talking about a different class when she asked a simple question “Who needs help – and where do you spend
your time – in what order?” What she was suggesting was that in any classroom there will be students that you can
generally spend abrief period of time with because they often understand the readings / assignments more quickly.
We should be able to quickly make assessment if the higher performing academic students are following instructions
and performing as expected. So as teachers when we are moving around the room, we then need to concentrate our
time with those students that specifically are not performing as well academically and need additional effort. I am
sure about this technique because it was also recommended by my field instructor when I was dealing with a
resistant student in the first weeks of school (first observation). As an additional step here, I want to engage Naomi
and my other struggling students as detailed by Robert Marzano (Educational Leadership 2013) in his article
“Planning for What Students Don’t Know. He describes three key actions teachers should take when students don’t
seem to get the daily target. He suggests to make sure that students understand crucial vocabulary, basic facts &
relationships, and that they possess basic skills and processes. In part two I referenced how I believe that I had lost
some students during the lab on onion cell response to isotonic, hypotonic, and hypertonic solutions. In retrospect, I
can see that we 1) were using microscopes and some students may have been challenged, 2) over-loaded them with
new vocabulary and 3) because of the inquiry nature of the lab, we didn’t directly clarify the specific relationships
between the relationships. So these would be some of the key questions to engage students during my rounds.
The second suggestion that I will incorporate into my plan it to increase my level of modeling. The Eastern teachers
during the professional development session recommended that instead of the traditional Model / Coach / Fade
process, that we significantly extend the model portion and the coach portion. My mentor teacher also echoed this
idea. I know that one of my tendencies is to assume that I can model something once and then move right into
fading to student work. I need to break this habit.On the website Smart Classroom Management, in an article by
Michael Linsin on from October 26, 2013, he describes common mistakes teachers make in Modeling. The first two
the author lists ring true for me – 1) not providing enough detail and 2) having a negative vibe. The author suggests
that few teachers go far enough in modeling, making assumptions about what students already know. For example,
when I’m using the document camera I often find myself wanting to just write in key words or even acronyms instead
of full written responses to worksheet questions - Cellullar Respiration becomes C.R. Additionally, in the first months
of school I know there have been times when I have felt rushed while modeling work like this and wanted to just
have the students do this work on their own work time.In part two I described that Naomi even pointed out that my
handwriting wasn’t good enough for her to work from. It wouldn’t surprise me if I have given off a grumpy vibe
during these times.I will provide more detail and lead the overall modeling sessions with passion for the subject and
the students.

I honestly expect these different teacher moves to make the largest difference because they are overall
improvements to my teaching style and technique. Nonetheless, while Naomi should benefit from these techniques
she also had had some difficulty managing use of her cell phone and I know I need to address this as well. The
Lansing School District Board policy on cell phones is specific, but not enforced. By policy, students are prohibited
from using cell phones in class and even from having them out in plain sight. This is not the general practice.

The literature on student use of cell phones was quite mixed. William Ferriter (Educational Leadership, October
2010) suggests requiring students to make phones visible and respond to specific student behaviors rather than some
form of class-wide ban. He also suggests that students should use their phones for timers and looking up definitions.
On the website for the National Education Association, Edward Graham (Advice and Support section) makes a
number of suggestions based on his research with classroom teachers including using smartphones to help students
stay organized, using apps, and allowing students to listen to music. Even here however, he suggests that many
teachers have a “zero-tolerance policy” when it comes to phones during class and enforcing this by having them out
and just walking around the room more.

Based on my mentor teacher’s wishes, and the school-wide PBIS structure, I’m planning a sequence of action steps.
The school policy (Eastern HS Resource Guide 16-17) is that we use an increasing scale of interventions. My first step
will be to simply use proximity(as described in Love and Logic page 316) to dissuade the behavior. Secondly, rather
than dealing with the phone behavior, I’ll restate the current work expectation. Third I’ll ask the student “what do
you need from me to help you get started?” Fourth I’ll redirect and have a discussion in the classroom with the
student about the behavior.

Step 4 – Evaluate
Cell Phone Usage

I implemented my cell phone strategy during the first week of the second quarter, but Naomi and 2 other students
were gone for a week, taking part in a school trip. This was a class-wide approach though so it didn’t directly matter.
In my focus hour, I hoped for two primary outcomes 1) that focusing on this behavior overall would decrease the
number of students who I had to speak /interact with over the course of my efforts; and 2) that a majority of the “cell
phone students” would focus more on their class assignments and I would see a higher overall completion rate. I
simply wanted a majority to put the phone down and do classwork.

I have thirty-five students in my focus class. There were two particular students that I believe, because of my
strategy, did reduce the number of times they were on their phones, even to the point of not using them at all on the
last day of the two and one half week trial. While important to these two students, this effect overall was not as
great as I had hoped. In other class hours I wasn’t tracking directly but haven’t particularly noticed any students
putting their phones away permanently. Users seem to be users in general, though more data might show different
results.

I followed my school’s prescribed protocol of a) using proximity, b) then restating expectations, c) then asking some
form of the question “what do you need from me to help you get started?” and d) having a redirection discussion
with the student in the classroom. This approach is positive for individual students because it respects them in that it
allows them (through the progression) to make positive personal choices to focus on their schoolwork. It’s positive
for me as a teacher because it encourages movement around the classroom, direct individual interactions with
students, and requires a respectful attitude.

In total, I documented approximately 70 instances of cell phone use interactions over the assignment time. Of the 70
total instances, I found that 51 times, students were redirected to the task at hand for a significant period of time (at
least 5 minutes). This is 72.8% of the time. But the other 27% of the time students are allowing themselves to be
controlled by their cell phone behaviors. By this I mean to say that this group of the population, even after being
redirected, I often found using their phones again in a short time frame. The highest individual day (20 total
occurrences) was when we went to the computer lab / library to complete a simulation. The first step of using
proximity was more difficult here as compared to the classroom and I think it had an effect.

There were multiple unanticipated benefits of this strategy. The first was that this helped me increase positive
management interactions. I know it helped me move around the room a little more. Secondly, it helped me uncover
real questions that were sometimes impeding student progress on assignments. Thirdly it showed me that I need to
work on my patience. After following the first three protocol steps I sometimes found myself not following step d.,
but rather becoming impatient and simply asking them to please put their phone away. Lastly, I also saw more
variation in behavior than I expected. I thought that in general students would follow similar daily patterns. In
hindsight though, I found on multiple occasions that a student who was more resistant one day would be more
compliant the next day. I can think of three specific instances of this in one of my non-focus hour classes. Based on
direct student responses, this reminds me that often, their level of phone use isn’t simply a regular pattern, but a
variable response to what is happening in their lives. While this certainly makes sense as I type it (the world is
complex, ecosystems are complex, and people’s behavior is complex), my brain wants to use Toshalis’s System 1
quickly categorize student behavior and create a list of simple teacher moves.

If I think about these behaviors in terms of my own phone use, I can see both sides. There are definitely times when I
use my phone and become distracted from conversations, from MSU school work, and other things important in my
life. At the same time of course, I am able to put it down and make mature decisions about when to use it. This
exercise helps me to remember how young the students are and how much practice they need making mature
decisions about things like this.

I know also that I need to come up with some planned discussion starting words or sentences when the first three
steps aren’t enough. I felt more comfortable interacting when I knew I would ask in step three “what do you need to
get started?”
Teacher Moves – Modeling / Chunking

One of my hypotheses was that Naomi had disengaged early in the term because of a combination of factors that
stem from my particular teaching techniques (and weaknesses frankly). In literature review I found support for
multiple ideas that were suggested directly by my mentor teacher or field instructor or I had reflected on and
discovered for myself. So I presented a bit of a complex and interrelated series of suppositions. At the beginning of
the project I wasn’t measuring my level or degree of modeling / chunking / scaffolding material, so I don’t have a
baseline that I can measure a change in practice against. Instead, I do have agreement from my mentor teacher and
field instructor that this was an area where I specifically needed to grow. For instance, one of the things that I have
consciously done (and it was pointed out by both Naomi and my field instructor) was to improve my handwriting
when using the document camera while modeling. But again, I’m not able to provide any direct evidence of change
or measured direct results.

The measured results then that I’m using is student grades. I would like to also be able to measure assignment turn-
in rates with the idea that if I’m doing a better job as an instructor in modeling and chunking, there would be a
corresponding increase in the rate of student work submitted. If the project had been happening in the middleof the
quarter, this would have been possible. But at the end of October we were finishing the first quarter and making a
big push to get students to submit past assignments. Where one assignment may have had on only two thirds of the
class turn it in near the due date, with the effort we made we may have had many other students complete and turn
in work, driving the turn-in rate up to ninety percent.

Put simply, students are scoring significantly better (fifteen percentage points) in thesecond quarter than they were
in the first. I took the five non-test (daily practice worksheets) assignments that have been completed during the
beginning of the second quarter and just averaged the scores. Quarter two average is 83% (with2/3 of all
assignments submitted? Quarter one average for the last eight daily assignments was 67%. In quarter two the class
assignment highs and lows range from 72% up to 94.3%. In quarter one the class assignment scores ranged from a
high of 87% down to a low of 48%

Additionally, when I look at (anecdotally because I don’t have baselines established) the turn-in rates for students
that were challenged to complete and turn in their work during quarter 1, I find some other increases. I have roughly
10 students that are very slow submitting their work or simply don’t submit it. Of the ten, six are unchanged, but 4
have made significant gains and are now regularly submitting.

When I go and analyze the individual assignments I find a number of important things to consider. I’ll share three
examples.

Example 1 - Sheet #45 was a literacy piece talking about population growth curves. I increased my chunking on the
reading and introduced a new metacognitive practice. Then the assignment was to complete a fifteen point set of
questions on sheet #46. While the current average score is 72% with two thirds submitted, nearly half of them have
been turned in for more points. This was my lowest scoring sheet of thesecond quarter and I was running out of time
that day and didn’t model or chunk it.

Example 2. Sheet #49b was a case-study on density dependent and density independent population limiting factors.
We had already completed the literacy portion of the lesson with the previous sheet. I instructed the students read
throughthe case-study and circle the different limiting factors. I did not model / coach this. I then explainedhow
they had to fill out the back of the #49b, identifying limiting factors in a chart. Students completed the back side
which I fully modeled but only 2 students circled the limiting factors on the front page where I didn’t model.

Example 3 - Effectively the same thing happened again on sheet #50 – I moved faster on the front page and didn’t
model, but on the back I fully modeled three of fifteen questions. Students completed the back page at a
significantlyhigher rate (2 to 1) than the front page.
While Naomi was the causative agent here, I hoped for overall improvement in both my teaching and student
performance and got both. Of course I understand that this analysis is a bit of an oversimplification.I was trying to
correct multiple teaching deficiencies. In education as a whole, like many disciplines, it can be difficult to ascribe
particular outcomes to particular efforts without rigorous testing and examination.

Class average assignment scores are meant to address impacts on the class as a whole. Another party referenced
above is the group of 10 that are very slow to complete assignments (if at all). Individually, I’m not able to
specificallyshow direct positive or negative results with Naomi. As referenced above, she participated in a school
field trip to New York and missed a full week of classes. Since her return, she has been slow to completeand turn in
work. Currently she has three daily assignments outstanding and although she did participate in the unit test, she
earned a $40% on it.