Recent Research

Spring 1997 Masthead

The Effectiveness of Peer Coaching on Classroom Teachers’ Use of Differentiation for Gifted Middle School Students
Caroline Sarah Cohen
University of Connecticut, 1997

Despite the obvious importance of educating all children to their fullest potential, gifted students remain underserved and unchallenged in many educational settings. Gifted students spend much, if not all, of their time in the regular classroom, yet classroom teachers have usually received little or no preservice or inservice training in gifted education. The implications are obvious: teachers who serve gifted students must receive appropriate training in techniques to meet the needs of these children, particularly in strategies and resources for differentiating the regular curriculum and instruction. Peer coaching has emerged in the research literature as one effective professional development technique which encourages and enables teachers to practice and implement newly learned strategies.

The purpose of this study was to examine whether peer coaching was perceived by participating middle school teachers as a useful professional development technique for the acquisition of curricular and instructional differentiation strategies for high ability and high achieving students in the regular classroom. Qualitative and quantitative methodologies were used to describe participating teachers’ perceptions of the training and supported practice of peer coaching. Key participants in this study were middle school classroom teachers; additional participants were district administrators, peer coaches, students, and parents.

Findings from this study supported the use of the principles of peer coaching for the development of new strategies. Participating teachers reported positive perceptions of peer coaching and its usefulness in the acquisition and implementation of differentiation strategies. Quantitative data indicated conflicting perceptions among teachers, students, and parents about the amount of challenge and differentiation initially provided to high ability middle school students. Qualitative data yielded three emergent themes: 1) the variety and contradiction of teachers’, students’, and parents’ perceptions throughout the study; 2) the initial absence of a common definition and shared understandings of differentiation among participants; and 3) the nature of change and the time and training needed for the strategies of differentiation to be widely implemented by classroom teachers.

Effects of Teaching Problem Solving Through Cooperative Learning Methods on Student Mathematics Achievement, Attitudes Toward Mathematics, Mathematics Self-Efficacy, and Metacognition
Edna Leticia Hernández Garduño
University of Connecticut, 1997

Recently, an emphasis has been placed on teaching mathematics in cooperative learning settings and through a problem solving approach (NCTM, 1989). Although numerous research studies have been conducted on the effects of cooperative learning on mathematics achievement, attitudes, and self-efficacy, no study was found that addresses the use of cooperative learning while teaching mathematical problem solving and heuristic strategies and its effect on metacognition. The purpose of this study was to assess seventh and eighth grade male and female students’ metacognition, self-efficacy, attitudes toward mathematics, and achievement after participating in a two-week course on problem solving. Problem solving is an important area of inquiry, as previous research indicates that females demonstrate lower performance in solving non-routine problems.

This experimental study used a pretest-posttest control-group design in which students were randomly assigned to one of two experimental groups or a control group during a summer enrichment program offered to talented students in a southern state. All three groups received instruction in probability and statistics through a mathematical problem solving approach using heuristic strategies. The two experimental groups were taught through cooperative learning methods. In the first experimental group, students worked in mixed-gender groups and, in the second one, in single-gender groups. The control group was taught using whole-group instruction in which competition and individual work were stressed. Students’ achievement in probability and statistics, self-efficacy, and attitudes toward mathematics were assessed at the beginning and end of instruction. Data from the assessment of these three variables were analyzed using a multivariate analysis of covariance and a follow-up discriminant function analysis. Students’ metacognitive episodes were assessed using content analysis procedures.

Although the literature suggests that cooperative learning settings, particularly single-gender groups, are more beneficial for females, no statistical differences in achievement or self-efficacy were found among the groups. Statistically significant differences in attitudes toward mathematics were found favoring students in the whole group instruction, competitive setting. Also, the highest achieving male and female students exhibited more metacognitive episodes in the competitive setting than students in the other groups. Lower achieving male and female students, however, exhibited fewer metacognitive episodes in this type of setting.

A Gender Study of Students With High Mathematics Ability: Personological, Educational, and Parental Influences on the Intent to Pursue Quantitative Fields of Study in College
Mary Katherine Gavin
University of Connecticut, 1997

It is well documented that more males than females enter and pursue mathematically related career fields. Research has generally examined gender issues concerning mathematics majors and related career goals as an integral part of majors and careers in the sciences. However, an examination of the distribution of women in these fields presents a picture of uneven advancement. Women are clustered in the life sciences with far fewer in physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer science. Using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88), this study examined personological and educational characteristics of females and males identified as having high ability in mathematics. These data consist of a sample of 24,599 students from 1,052 schools throughout the nation who completed surveys in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades. Gender similarities and differences were explored using descriptive and inferential statistics.

Findings from this study revealed no gender differences with respect to performance or participation in mathematics courses. Males scored significantly higher on the verbal section of the SAT test, while no gender differences were found on the mathematics section. Also, males rated usefulness of mathematics significantly higher than females. In addition, significant differences were found between parental levels of education and expectation. The more educated the parent, the greater the expectations were for the child’s educational goals. Logistic regression analyses were performed to predict the gender of students who intend to pursue a quantitative field. The odds ratios indicated that SAT verbal scores and teacher emphasis on further study in mathematics were significant influences on males, while credits in Calculus and SAT mathematics scores were significant influences on females. Analyses also revealed that high mathematics ability females who intend to pursue a quantitative field were more likely to consider mathematics as useful to their future and had more credits in Calculus than high mathematics ability females who do not intend to pursue a quantitative field.

Characteristics and Perceptions of Perfectionism in Gifted Adolescents in a Rural School Environment
Patricia Ann Schuler
University of Connecticut, 1997

This qualitative study investigated the characteristics of perfectionistic gifted male and female adolescents in a rural middle school, how they perceived their perfectionism, the influences on their perfectionism, and the consequences of their perfectionistic behaviors in the context of their perceived gender roles and their rural middle school experiences.

Qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection were employed to gather data from 20 gifted male and female adolescents who were identified as having perfectionistic tendencies. Semi-structured interviews, record and document review, self-report teacher survey, and participant observation were used to identify factors which may influence the perceptions and behaviors of this population.

Findings from this study confirm the theoretical proposition that perfectionism is a characteristic of many gifted adolescents. In this study, 87.5% of gifted adolescents in accelerated courses in a rural middle school were identified as having perfectionistic tendencies. Results support the multidimensional theory of perfectionism which states that perfectionism exists on a continuum from healthy to dysfunctional behaviors (Hamachek, 1978). Several differences exist between the healthy perfectionists and the dysfunctional perfectionists. Healthy perfectionists possessed an intense need for order and organization; displayed self-acceptance of mistakes; enjoyed high parental expectations; demonstrated positive ways of coping with their perfectionistic tendencies; had role models who emphasize doing one’s “best”; and viewed personal effort as an important part of their perfectionism. The dysfunctional perfectionists lived in a state of anxiety about making errors; had extremely high standards; perceived excessive expectations and negative criticisms from others; questioned their own judgments; lacked effective coping strategies; and exhibited a constant need for approval.

Family, teacher, and peer influences on perfectionism were perceived as mostly positive for the healthy perfectionists, but negative for the dysfunctional perfectionists. The impact of gender roles was not found as an influence. The perceived lack of challenge by a majority of the perfectionists was manifested in their enormous efforts to perfect school work, while exerting minimal intellectual effort and receiving high grades in return. Teacher difficulty in identifying mild perfectionistic distress may be due to the perception of perfectionistic gifted adolescents as being “model students” who have good school adjustment.

Gifted, But Gone: High Ability, Mexican-American, Female Dropouts
Nancy Lashaway-Bokina
University of Connecticut, 1996

The problem of students leaving school prior to high school graduation is particularly intense in south Texas. Approximately 25,000 Mexican-American students left school before graduation during the 1990-91 school year in Texas. This study examined one portion of the dropout population: high-ability Mexican-American females. Traditional identification measures were used to identify high-ability females who left school between 1990-93, and prior to their graduation from high school. These identification methods included the review of: cumulative records for grades, standardized achievement and creativity test scores, reports of awards or outstanding honors, and counselor, teacher, and self recommendations. Information was obtained from records of school districts with enrollments near or over 12,000 students. According to the Texas Education Agency (1992), the larger the student body, the greater the chance of students dropping out. The school systems included in this study are among the largest in Texas.

Non-traditional methods used by Mexican-Americans to identify high-ability students within their culture were investigated through qualitative research methodology as described by Lincoln and Guba (1985) and Strauss and Corbin (1991). Interviews were conducted with community members, educational personnel, family and extended family, and peers to identify high-ability dropouts who exhibited creativity or exceptional talent in the arts, leadership, or cultural activities.

The four major purposes of the study were: to describe the circumstances that influenced high-ability students to leave school prior to graduation, to determine if underlying characteristics of Mexican-American, female students exist that signify gifted or exceptional behavior in the Mexican-American culture, to examine the identification and gifted program guidelines for students’ entry into gifted and talented programs in south Texas, and to compare the relationship between the lower Valley school population and the number of Mexican-Americans represented in gifted and talented programs.


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