AERA 2012 - Countering a Dominant Narrative of Educational Reformers: Examining the Research on the Effectiveness of Virtual Schooling

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Barbour, M. K. (2012, April). Countering a dominant narrative of educational reformers: Examining the research on the effectiveness of virtual schooling. A paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Vancouver, BC.

This proposal examines the rhetoric used by proponents of educational reform and the use of online learning as a solution for K-12 education. Using the research into K-12 online learning, I argue that those educational reformers use methodologically flawed research or promote an inaccurate understanding of research results to promote a corporate agenda in K-12 online learning. The proposed session will examine the limited amount of research into virtual schooling in an effort to better understand what this research indicates about the effectiveness of K-12 online learning.

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  • Benefits = Expanding educational access; Providing high-quality learning opportunities; and Allowing for educational choice Challenges = Student readiness issues and retention issues
  • Another problem is what we measure... 1. Correlation does not equal causality 2. Single studies measure if there is a difference between two groups beyond chance Need for meta-analysis...
  • Cavanaugh (2001) - developmental effects Cavanaugh et al. (2004) - reverse effects Means et al. (2009) - online = teacher effects & blended = developmental effects + teacher effects
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • The research is based upon the best and the brightest.
  • However, we know from practice that this does not reflect all or even the majority of K-12 online learners. So the population of students the research focuses on is one of the main limitations of the usefulness (and even the believability) of much of that research.
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • In their two-year evaluation, Bigbie and McCarrol found that more than 50% of Florida Virtual students get As in their courses and very few students failed I n examining 6 virtual schools in 3 Canadian provinces, Barker and Wendel found that online and classroom students performed the same
  • But does this tell really tell the full story???
  • AERA 2012 - Countering a Dominant Narrative of Educational Reformers: Examining the Research on the Effectiveness of Virtual Schooling

    1. 1. Countering a Dominant Narrative of Educational Reformers: Examining theResearch on the Effectiveness of Virtual Schooling Michael K. Barbour Assistant Professor Wayne State University
    2. 2. 2
    3. 3. Dominant Narrative1. All students are digital learners.2. All students have access to high quality digital content and online courses.3. All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved provider.4. Students progress based on demonstrated competency.5. Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.6. Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.7. All students have access to high quality providers.8. Student learning is the metric for evaluating the quality of content and instruction.9. Funding creates incentives for performance, options and innovation.10. Infrastructure supports digital learning.
    4. 4. Dominant Narrative1. All students are digital learners.2. All students have access to high quality digital content and online courses.3. All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved provider.4. Students progress based on demonstrated competency.5. Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.6. Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.7. All students have access to high quality providers.8. Student learning is the metric for evaluating the quality of content and instruction.9. Funding creates incentives for performance, options and innovation.10. Infrastructure supports digital learning.
    5. 5. Students ARE Digital Learners
    6. 6. High Quality Content2. All students have access to high quality digital content and online courses.4. Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.5. Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.6. All students have access to high quality providers.
    7. 7. Customization
    8. 8. Analyzing Meta-Analyses Teacher Effects Zone of Desired EffectsDevelopmentalEffectsReverseEffects
    9. 9. Results of Interest• Programmed instruction (d=0.24)• Individualized instruction (d=0.23)• Student control over learning (d=0.04)• Second and third chance programs (d=0.50)• Computer assisted instruction (d=0.37)• Decreasing disruptive behavior (d=0.34)• Class size (d=0.21)• Charter schools (d=0.20)• Web-based learning (d=0.18)• Home-school programs (d=0.16)• Teacher training (d=0.11)• Teacher subject matter knowledge (d=0.09)• Distance education (d=0.09) 9
    10. 10. K-12 Distance Education Meta-Analysis• Cavanaugh (2001) - 16 studies – +0.147 in favor of K-12 distance education• Cavanaugh et al. (2004) - 14 studies – -0.028 for K-12 distance education• Means et al. (2009) - 46 studies (5 on K-12) – +0.24 favoring online over face-to-face – +0.35 favoring blended over face-to-face*
    11. 11. Student LearningCavanaugh et al. (2005) FLVS students performed better on a non-mandatory assessment tool than students from the traditional classroomMcLeod et al. (2005) FLVS students performed better on an assessment of algebraic understanding than their classroom counterpartsBarbour & Mulcahy (2008) little difference in the overall performance of students based upon delivery modelBarbour & Mulcahy (2009a) no difference in student performance based upon method of course delivery
    12. 12. Student LearningCavanaugh et FLVS students performed speculated that the virtualal., 2005 better on a non- school students who did mandatory assessment take the assessment may tool than students from have been more the traditional classroom academically motivated and naturally higher achieving studentsMcLeod et FLVS students performed results of the studental., 2005 better on an assessment performance were due to of algebraic understanding the high dropout rate in than their classroom virtual school courses counterparts
    13. 13. Student LearningKozma et al. (1998) vast majority of online students were planning to attend a four-year collegeEspinoza et al. (1999) students enrolled are mostly college boundHaughey & Muirhead (1999) preferred characteristics include the highly motivated, self-directed, self-disciplined, independent learner who could read and write well, and who also had a strong interest in or ability with technologyRoblyer & Elbaum (2000) only students with a high need to control and structure their own learning may choose distance formats freelyClark et al. (2002) online students were highly motivated, high achieving, self-directed and/or who liked to work independentlyMills (2003) typical online student was an A or B student
    14. 14. Literatureindicates K-12online learningstudents are...
    15. 15. Reality of most ora large segmentK-12 onlinelearningstudents?
    16. 16. Student Learning• “Online student scores in math, reading, & writing have been lower than scores for students statewide over the last 3 years.” (Colorado, 2006)• “Online student scores on statewide achievement tests are consistently 14 to 26 percentage points below state averages for reading, writing and math over the past four years.” (Colorado, 2011)• “Virtual charter school pupils’ median scores on the mathematics section of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination were almost always lower than statewide medians during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.” (Wisconsin, 2010)• “Compared with all students statewide, full-time online students had significantly lower proficiency rates on the math.” (Minnesota, 2011)• During both years [2008-09 & 2009-10], full-time online students enrolled in grades 4-8 made about half as much progress in math, on average, as other students in the same grade. (Minnesota, 2011)
    17. 17. Are students really learning?
    18. 18. Does online learning = high quality?
    19. 19. Funding & Infrastructure• An independent study found that the “operating costs of online programs are about the same as the costs of operating brick-and-mortar schools.” (iNACOL)• “We find that average overall per-pupil costs of both models are significantly lower than the $10,000 national average for tradition-al brick-and-mortar schools—and that virtual schools are cheaper on average than blended schools.” (Fordham Foundation – 4th report)• “Fund all learning opportunities equally per pupil.” (Fordham Foundation – 5th report)
    20. 20. What’s This Really About???
    21. 21. YourQuestions andComments
    22. 22. Assistant Professor Wayne State University, USA mkbarbour@gmail.com http://www.michaelbarbour.comhttp://virtualschooling.wordpress.com

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