Critique 1

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Critique 1

  1. 1. Sarah Tolson May 21, 2014 EDET 780 Critique 1 Smith, P. C. (2006) The effects of technology-integrated differentiated instruction on language arts achievement. Action research exchange, 5. (2) Retrieved May 14, 2014, from http://chiron.valdosta.edu/are/vol5no2/PDF/AREarticlesVol5no2/SmithP- AREarticle-vol5no2.pdf. Introduction The Effects of Technology-Integrated Differentiated Instruction on Language Arts Achievement explores the effects of differentiation and technology use in a sixth grade Language Arts classroom in central Georgia. This research study, led by Paula C. Smith, delves into research of how combined differentiation and technology impact student achievement and student confidence levels. In this study, differentiated instruction is defined as “a method of teaching students with mixed abilities in a single classroom.” The study was conducted in Smith’s classroom, a sixth grade Language Arts classroom in central Georgia during a ten-day unit on the types of sentences: simple, compound, and complex. Smith began the unit with a pretest and survey, as well as showing a video on the three sentence types. Her students then spent two class sessions in the computer lab using software that differentiates based on student ability, Classworks. Following their days in the computer lab, Smith spent two days presenting each type of sentence and providing time for practice and review. She differentiated each lesson by readiness, assistance, or pace that her students needed. On the final day of the unit, they used a technology-based game to review before taking their post test. The results of the study were that 16% of students did not want differentiated assignments, even if they were more appropriate. Approximately half of the students said they would prefer to have the same assignment as all other students in the class. The class agreed that technology and different activities make a unit of study more interesting and help students effectively learn the content that is being taught. When it came to the content of sentence types, 50% of students showed a 10% or more gain in their scores from the unit pretest and posttest. Students reported that they were highly motivated and excited to integrate technology into the content and that the content, especially complex sentences, was a lot to cover in a short time span. Smith and other adult observers reported students being on-task and progressing, without any behavior problems. The study was limited by the amount of students, time, and content material, as well as the use of technology. Smith suggests studies focusing on types of differentiated
  2. 2. instruction such as readiness, interest, and learning profiles. She also states that it would be beneficial to limit the types of technology that is used. Smith also suggests that only one skill should be emphasized or studied at a time. Smith implies that we meaningfully engage our students and keep them motivated and enthusiastic in their learning by involving technology-integrated differentiated instruction in our classrooms. Although the students represented in this study were significantly engaged in technology, this may not be the case for all students. Some students may not enjoy using technology. Similarly, some students do not want to participate in differentiated instruction, even though research suggests that differentiations helps meet the needs of individual students to close the gaps in achievement. Also, it takes a lot of professional development, collaboration, and intense planning to effectively differentiate for all students, which can cause difficulty for teachers on tight time constraints or without needed support. Based on this study, more research could be completed on the use of technology to implement differentiated instruction. Research could emphasize one aspect of technology at a time or one type of differentiated instruction to determine the effects on student achievement and motivation. Similar studies could also be conducted with other content and subject matter, whether language arts or another subject, to determine if similar data will result. Critique Smith’s research study focused on three specific questions: 1. How will a differentiated, technology-integrated language arts curriculum unit influence the language arts achievement of sixth-grade students? 2. What effect will a differentiated, technology-integrated language arts curriculum unit have on students’ confidence regarding their ability to complete language arts assignments? 3. What are a teacher’s perceptions of using a differentiated, technology- integrated language arts curriculum unit for teaching sixth-grade students about sentence structure? Her questions were stated clearly and emphasized exactly what her research would focus on throughout her ten-day unit of study. Smith included a review of different sources of literature to support the information in her study. The definitions she provided, along with summaries of the data and articles she cited, support her research and provides the reader with some background knowledge on differentiation and its’ impact on student achievement. Much of her research focuses on differentiation and reading instruction, but excludes research on
  3. 3. the use of technology or how it can be effectively integrated into the classroom setting. In this aspect, her literature does not reflect all of the disciplines nor content that she is researching. Smith would benefit greatly from including some research on the use of technology in the classroom, especially to support why she believes the integration of technology benefits her students academically as well as how the integration of technology engages and motivates students. Her reviewed literature is presented in a very organized manner that serves as the introduction piece to her study, providing the reader with background knowledge of why we need to differentiate to try to close the gap between different achievement levels. She provides many quotes from the cited literature in a well structured and informative way to introduce the topic. Smith presents much information through restating information from others, but she did not critique, synthesize, or develop this information any further as she did not express her opinions or experiences. Smith directed this research study toward a targeted audience, mainly educators who are interested in closing the achievement gap, integrating technology, and differentiating instruction in the classroom. Smith translates the information from other sources, as well as her data, in a way that is easy to comprehend. The research presented by Smith applies to my research interests and my class in that I have been trying to close the achievement gap in my classroom by my own integration of technology. I have also begun to explore differentiation and its impact on my third grade students. Currently, I differentiate my language arts, reading, and writing instruction, but have found it challenging to differentiate due to lack of knowledge and resources. I have continued to research differentiation and strategies to use in my classroom to meet each child’s needs, as well as collaborate with my peers. Smith’s research confirms some things I have seen in my own classroom. By the end of the report, it is clear that integrating technology into the curriculum and classroom engages many students and keeps them interested. It is also clear that differentiation has some benefits for students, especially when it comes to identifying a child’s needs, developing strategies or interventions to close the gap, and continually re- evaluating their progress. This research study has findings similar to what I would expect to see in my classroom, as well as many others across the nation who integrate technology and differentiation into their curriculum. However, this study focused on the results of a survey and assessment after a ten-day unit, not how to actually add technology and differentiate successfully in a classroom. Smith provides her experience in one, small unit of study, but takes it no further. This study utilizes implicit theory, as differentiation and technological-integration can be interpreted in various ways. The way that Smith designed her unit of study would not necessarily be similar to the way another teacher would. Smith’s findings are also implicit in that her data and conclusions may be understood and interpreted in different ways when it comes to meeting the needs of a variety of learners to close the
  4. 4. achievement gap. Her theories are clarified to the degree of offering explanations for misconstrued or inconsistent data and offering suggestions for more study. Conclusion This study was a fairly valuable read for me since I am interested in ways to integrate technology and more differentiation into my classroom. I am happy to see that technology engages her students, as does mine, but a little surprised to see how many students want the same assignments, even if it means they are not having their needs met. This makes me question how adding the option of student choice would impact the results of this study or a similar study. I believe this study was limited in that it focused on one very tiny unit for sixth graders on the types of sentences. I would like to see more data, including checkpoints from her students, such as quick quizzes (whether paper and pencil assessments or a whole class quick check) to know how she could truly determine who “had it” and who didn’t— the basis of differentiation. This study was useful to me because it has increased my desire to learn more about effective integration of technology and differentiation, as well as sparked my curiosity about research about the impact of student choice on learning. At the same time, the findings of this study are limited in application for me because my third grade classroom is not set up like Smith’s sixth grade classroom. I can use some of her findings and strategies to apply in different ways to my own students, but could not imitate her exact study in my classroom. This study did not provide me with much new information, but sparked my desire for a greater understanding of the positive impacts of differentiation and technology- integration. I feel the need to examine more about these topics, specifically (1) how can technology meaningfully engage students in learning, (2) how can technology encourage students to take ownership and find pride in their work, (3) how to determine flexible grouping for differentiation, (4) resources for differentiation, (5) how to structure group rotations, (6) the impact of student choice on motivation, engagement, and learning, (7) how to promote collaborative groups and learning in the classroom, and, possibly most of all, (8) strategies to integrate more technology, differentiation, and student choice into my own classroom.

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