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  1. 1. Improving the math skills of an LEP student Action Research Case-Study Rachel Saperstein Spring 2008
  2. 2. Background for my study <ul><li>Vickie is a 10-year-old Hispanic student who has attended US schools for two years. </li></ul><ul><li>According to her math/literacy teacher, her proficiency is especially low given the amount of time that she has been in the United States. </li></ul><ul><li>Despite her low performance, Vickie seems eager to do well in school and always wants to show her teachers her work to receive praise. </li></ul><ul><li>My goal is to help her improve her math and literacy skills at a faster rate than they are moving now. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Review of the Literature <ul><li>Cooperative learning allows students to practice the skills they learn in the classroom in pairs or groups. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This style of teaching has educational, as well as social benefits (Cohen, 1994). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some studies indicate that the use of cooperative learning among ELL populations can help these students acquire better English skills (Calhoon, et al., 2007; Elbers & de Haan, 2005). </li></ul>
  4. 4. Review of the Literature <ul><li>Despite benefits of cooperative learning, several studies state that it is only useful when students are carefully monitored and instructed on how to best use their collaborative power (e.g. Jacob, et al. 1996). </li></ul><ul><li>In one study, ELL students were successfully paired with a “language peer helper,” and the students were instructed to help each other. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This successful pairing is what this study aimed to achieve. </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. My Research Question <ul><li>What are some of the educational benefits for LEP students who learn alongside peers with the same first language? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can a focused cooperative-learning environment aid a struggling LEP student in improving her math skills and understanding? </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Research Design <ul><li>The study lasted for four weeks, with about 13 days of data collection (due to absences). </li></ul><ul><li>The first participant, the LEP student, was paired with the second participant, a bilingual ELL student. </li></ul><ul><li>Participants sat next to each other and worked together during math. </li></ul><ul><li>Participants were encouraged to help each other on the tasks and to share in the work. </li></ul><ul><li>Data was collected through observations, written teacher interviews, and work sample analysis. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Data Collection <ul><li>I began data collection by re-arranging the classroom seating chart to place Vickie (the target student) and Stephanie (the helper student) next to each other. </li></ul><ul><li>I met with Stephanie before the pairing began to inform her of her role in the case study; she was asked to provide Spanish math help to Vickie during the regular flow of the lesson. Stephanie was informed that she should encourage participation from Vickie in the discussion--that the pairing would work best if Vickie participated too. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Data Collection <ul><li>During my phase-in--the data collection period for the study--I observed Vickie and Stephanie in their interactions. </li></ul><ul><li>I collected work from Vickie to monitor her progress throughout. </li></ul><ul><li>Half-way through the study, I revisited my pairing directions with Stephanie to make sure she still understood her role. </li></ul><ul><li>After the study ended, I collected written evaluations from Vickie’s instructional and ESL teachers to gain additional perspectives on what occurred during the study. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Results - Sample Data Q: Do you think the pairing helped/hurt/was neutral for Vickie and Stephanie? A: (Cooperating Teacher) “I think it helped [for Vickie] in unexpected ways…The study may have had negative effects for Stephanie, who’s difficulty with fractions was compounded by added responsibility.” Day 2 of Data Collection: “ Stephanie still gives directions to Vickie more than she collaborates with her. She tries to help everyone at the table rather than just Vickie. I asked her to concentrate specifically on Vickie, but little collaboration is happening between the two.”
  10. 10. Results - Analysis <ul><li>Overall, neither Vickie nor Stephanie’s performances on tests changed substantially throughout the study. </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of work turned in declined slightly for Vickie and Stephanie, although this may be as a result of a more conceptually challenging unit (fractions) being presented during the study. </li></ul><ul><li>Unexpectedly, Vickie seems to be more willing to work with higher level peers as a result of the study. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Conclusions <ul><li>Overall, although Vickie was not hurt by the study, no substantial academic benefits were observed as a result of her pairing with Stephanie. </li></ul><ul><li>Stephanie spent much math time trying to aid the three girls at her table (not just Vickie), which may have contributed to the decline in apparent understanding of fractions shown through her quality of work. </li></ul><ul><li>The study did yield one major benefit to Vickie’s quality of life in school. That is, she is now more willing to work with higher level peers than she was before the study began. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Reflections <ul><li>This study did not show that pairing a high performing ESL student with a low one will yield academic benefits for the students. </li></ul><ul><li>Given this, I wonder where I might go from here in aiding Vickie in her academic learning. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For one, in the future I will not isolate a strong student with three of my weakest ones. Putting Stephanie with Vickie and two of my other low girls was overwhelming for her. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Perhaps creating a more class-wide system, where every student works consistently in a cooperative learning pair would allow for a greater give and take to occur in pairs, as well as allowing partnerships to focus on each other rather than other students in the class. </li></ul></ul>