IN HER CLASSROOM AT A RURAL, HIGH POVERTY SCHOO L By APRIL FAITH FLEETWOOD A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR T HE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF EDUCATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2017
2017 April Faith Fleetwood
To my husband, our soon to be born twin daughters, my family, and my 2016 17 AP English Language and Composition students. My husband and family always supported and prayed for me; our twi ns pushed me to the fi nish; my students encouraged and inspired me daily.
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to begin by thanking my Lord, Jesus Christ, because without His guidance and the peace I can only find in Him, I would never have completed my doctoral degree. I want to thank my husband for encouraging me to follow my dreams from the moment I began to consider applying to the CTTE program. When so many others around me were saying there was little worth to a teacher getting a doctoral degree because the expenses outweighed the be nefits, he cheered me on, telling me that he knew I would do great things no matter what. He remained by my side every step of the way. I truly do no t know how I would have made it through this program without his support and patience. I would also lik e to thank my parents, siblings, and close friends for their continuous support and interest in my endeavors. Sometimes, just having someone to listen was all I needed to find the rejuvenation to push forward and they were always there Finally, I have unending appreciation for the professors of the CTTE program. This learning experience has truly been invaluable and I am grateful for each of you. A special thank you goes to Dr. Vicki Vescio for encouraging me to join the team and present at the NAME c onference, as well as to chase continuously after my Last, but certainly not least, I would not have made it to this point without Dr. Alyson A dams. I would like to say thank you for the thorough feedback, availability to talk anytime I needed to and, overall, for believing in me even when I could not qu ite see the path in front of me
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 7 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 8 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION, LITERATURE REVIEW, AND METHODOLOGY ...................... 11 Background and Significance of the Problem ................................ ........................ 12 Purpose of the Study and Research Question ................................ ....................... 15 Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ ....................... 17 Relevant Literature ................................ ................................ ................................ 18 Defining Literacy ................................ ................................ ............................. 18 Student Engagement in Literacy ................................ ................................ ..... 19 Literacy Engagement Practices ................................ ................................ ....... 20 Literacy Engagement in Rural Contexts ................................ .......................... 23 Research Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ 24 Context and Participants ................................ ................................ ................. 26 Timeline ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 28 Data Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ 28 Data Analysi s ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 33 Researcher Positionality ................................ ................................ .................. 35 Enhancing Trustworthiness ................................ ................................ ............. 38 Summary and Overview ................................ ................................ ........................ 41 2 FINDINGS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 43 Literacy Engagemen t ................................ ................................ ............................. 44 Accountability ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 45 Building Relationships ................................ ................................ ..................... 57 Seeking Relevance to Student Interest ................................ ........................... 72 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 81 3 DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 86 Contextual Significance of Findings ................................ ................................ ....... 88 Next Steps as Reading Coach ................................ ................................ ............... 91 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 94 Possibilities for Future Research ................................ ................................ ........... 96 Final Thoughts ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 97
6 APPENDIX: LITERACY LEARNER CHARACTERISTICS ................................ ........ 100 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................ 101 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ......................... 104
7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 1 1 Three Types of Engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) ............................ 23 1 2 Journal and Exit Ticket Questions by Engagement Type ................................ ... 42 2 1 Units and Essential Questions during My Practitioner Inquiry ............................ 81 2 2 Types of Engagement (Fredr icks & McColskey, 2012) and Examples ............... 82 2 3 Written Feedback Examples ................................ ................................ .............. 83 2 4 February 9 Independent Free Write Reflections ................................ ................ 84 2 5 March 9 Student Written Reflections ................................ ................................ 85 3 1 Literacy Learner Characteristics ................................ ................................ ........ 99
8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 1 Themes and Corresponding Subthemes ................................ ........................... 45 3 1 Literacy Engagement ................................ ................................ ........................ 87
9 Abstract of Dissertation Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for th e Degree of Doctor of Education IN HER CLASSROOM AT A RURAL, HIGH POVERTY SCHOOL By April Faith Fleetwood December 2017 Chair: Alyson Adams Cochair: James Mc L eskey Major: Curriculum and Instruction Literacy and student engagement are pressing topi cs of student achievement and when addressing educational outcomes in literacy, context is of great importance Many of the studies of student engagement in literacy have focused primarily on urban contexts, however, and to make populations of rural poverty invisible is to ignore the unique issues they face Additionally, studies have shown that schools of rural poverty encounter issues that differ from their urban counterparts, but they face the same types of gaps in achievement across their diverse populatio ns. Literacy engagement is a significant problem of practice at my rural, high poverty school; my research therefore examined the literacy engagement of high school students in my AP English class. In this practitioner inquiry study, I used qualitative research methods to address the research question, How do I engage high school students in literacy at a rural, high poverty school? Across seven weeks, I used behavioral, emotional, and cognitive categories of student engagement as a framework for determining how I engaged my students, with the ultimate goal of transfe rring my new understandings to my practice as a reading coach.
10 By exploring the strategies I used to engage students through analyzing my research journal, lesson plans, student work, and student insights on anonymous Google Form exit tickets, I discovered that the combination of the following helped move students from behavioral to emotional and cognitive engageme nt in daily reading, writing, speaking, and listening tasks: accountability, built through routines and provisions, (teacher) investment in assi gnments, and collaborative group s and discussions; building relationships, through praise, (student) sense of ownership, and open communication and student voice; and, lastly, seeking relevance to student interest, through challenge, future preparation, hu mor and entertainment, and (student) choice. By understanding more about how to support the literacy engagement of learners in rural, high poverty schools, we can address the gaps in educational outcome s for these vulnerable students.
11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION, LITERATURE REVIEW, AND METHODOLOGY A Google Scholar or library search quickly reveals the newness of the Language Arts Florida Standards (LAFS). These standards specify skills in reading (for both informational and literature texts), writing, speaking and listening, and language that students need to meet grade level proficiency (iCPALMs, 2013 2015), but practitioner scholars have yet to engage in studies that explore teaching these standards. In fact, beyond re views of literacy as an avenue for merely passing a test rather than gaining confidence and skills that will allow them to effectively interact with the world (Counsell & Wright 2015; Guthrie, 2004), there has been minimal research on how high school teachers at the classroom level engage students in literacy practices. Seeing literacy as merely skills that help students pass a test is of extreme dr iven society, where students can access information in seconds with the swipe of a finger (Guthrie, 2004). There is great urgency to resist this narrow view and replace it with building understandings of how we can effectively engage our 21st century stud ents in literacy in ways that will transfer across their school and life experiences (Langer, 2001; Vasudevan & Campano, 2009). To add another level of complexity to this issue, there is a need for investigating how to engage students of rural poverty in literacy. The lack of research addressing the achievement Without such studies, it is unclear what might help stude nts
12 become skilled readers, writers, speakers, and listeners, to both meet grade level proficiency and prepare to apply their skills to future endeavors. This study recognized a need for addressing the se problems where they matter most among educators: within the classroom setting and, in this case, a setting that serves students of rural poverty. As a grades 6 12 reading coach, I saw a need for this study on a daily basis as I witnessed the transienc e, the homelessness, the disengagement, and the lack of basic necessities such as shoes, backpacks, and notebooks among students in classrooms across my school. The challenges teachers of students of rural poverty face are unique (Azano, 2015). The instab ilities and isolation my students see differ from those in urban poverty (Gurley, 2016), and called for a closer look at what engages students in literacy in this context. As a reading coach, a study of how I personally engaged high school students of rur al poverty in literacy practice provided me the opportunity to look for real solutions to the instructional challenges teachers at my school were facing each day. I could then use these experiences ones that had the credibility of the here and now to lear n from my students what literacy engagement looks like and share that learning with my colleagues. I framed this study as practitioner research because it focused on a local problem of practice within my own context. With the goal of better understanding the issues within my own context, I first needed to understand the issue from a broader viewpoint. Background and Significance of the Problem Literacy and student engagement are pressing topics of student achievement today (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012; La nger, 2001; Vasudevan & Campano, 2009) and, when addressing educational outcomes in literacy, context absolutely matters (Azano,
13 2015; Guthrie, 1996). Many of the studies of student engagement in literacy have focused primarily on urban contexts, and to m ake populations of rural poverty invisible is to ignore the unique issues they face (Azano, 2015; Gurley, 2016). While schools of rural poverty face issues that differ from those of their urban counterparts, they face the same types of gaps in achievement across their diverse populations (Azano, 2015; Williams, 2003). In the areas of sociology and economics, there is not a clear definition of the term 2016). For the purposes of this study, however, the definition comes from the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau, which considers areas of 2,500 or fewer residents as rural (Gurley, 2016). survival and maintenance of The poverty threshold for 2015 in a family of two adults and two children is $24,036, and 14.8% of families were classified in poverty in the United States in 2014. Although it is not appropriate to compare the num bers directly, 16.5% of persons in Florida were in poverty in 2014 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2015), 79.5% of Florida students tested on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) atte nded Title I schools, with 57.5% of students receiving free or reduced lunch. In reading, grade 8 students in Florida scored just below the national average on the NAEP, yet only had 30% of students at or above grade level proficiency. As these statistic s and scores reveal, literacy among students of rural poverty is a national issue that needs continuous attention.
14 Students of rural poverty in America have been largely overlooked in the areas of politics, sociology, and education (Azano, 2015; Gurley, 20 16; Hardr, Sullivan, and Crowson, 2009). In many circles, discussions of populations of rural poverty are ones and urgency often associated with urban populations (Azan o, 2015). These types of negative discussions likely have an impact on rural school climate, which is significant because positive perceptions of school climate have been found to be predictive of achievement and future plans for rural youth from high an d low poverty communities (Irvin, Meece, Byun, Farmer, & Hutchins, 2011). Students in rural schools are often from minority populations and face difficult familial circumstances in homes where parents have minimal education (Hardr et al., 2009). Addition ally, high school dropout, teacher retention and quality, and limited resources challenge many rural students, difficulties with which my school population is all too familiar. are th (Azano, 2015). For example, people living in some rural communities may depend on fishing and tourism for their livelihood, whereas others depend on farming or coal. Some of t hese communities lack diversity, whereas others serve people from all over the globe. requiring teachers to find ways to make literacy skills relevant (Azano, 2015). s public schools residing in rural areas and over 50% of school districts classifying as rural, added to the geographical disadvantages and societal stereotypes people of these areas face (Azano, 2015), the unique challenges
15 teachers of rural students enco unter called for closer attention. While poverty is something rural schools may share with their urban counterparts, this story of students of rural poverty brings forth an issue of serious inequity in American education (Williams, 2003). Because student engagement has increasingly become of interest to all 21st century educators (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012), inquiry that focuses on literacy engagement teaching practices among students of rural poverty brought important additions to the conversation. Thr ough practitioner research in my own context, I hoped to gain insights into and carefully document instructional practices that focused on engaging students of rural poverty in literacy. Purpose of the Study and Research Question The purpose of this study was to explore teaching practices that effectively practices. Teachers in my school were seeking to deepen their understandings of the types of instructional practice s that engage students in literacy so that they may This study was important because there had been little research on student engagement in literacy through instruction driven by the new est state standards. Additionally, there had been minimal research on literacy practices in rural schools (Azano, 2015). Districts require teachers to use state assessments of these standards as the primary data for ing abilities. At my school, these scores are low and disheartening for teachers, parents, and students alike, and these stakeholders often view these data as determiners of whether our students are even competent enough to build literacy skills. This de ficit perception is one that needs to change (Vasudevan & Campano, 2009). While the standardized testing data show our students
16 have much room for improvement, they should not define our students as failures who are unable to meet high literacy standards. Through my research question How do I engage high school students in literacy at a rural, high poverty school? I used data beyond that of the state assessment (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009) to seek answers for improving student engagement in literacy. Thi that teachers asked frequently of me as their reading coach. I offered empathy and encouragement, professional development and resources, and I modeled how to use instructional tools and strategi es, but the question remained. When I went into instructional planning on how to engage students in multiple ways. But then I asked myself: how did I know what was best for th eir students amidst the challenges that come with rural poverty and the constant tension between standardized testing, meeting the classroom? What was more was that the Language Arts Florida Standards from which we are supposed to drive instruction are much more challenging than standards of years past. I did not want to limit my inquiry to a small number of strategies, but hope d to investigate as many aspects of the concept of student engagement in literacy as I could over the course of the study. Gaining insights into how I engaged students in literacy practices through standards driven instruction had the potential to reveal n ecessary instructional changes teachers could implement at my school to increase student and teacher confidence, and student achievement. Furthermore, focusing on practices that engage students in
17 literacy places ownership on the teacher and opposes a def icit mindset of placing blame on students, their families, and outside forces when students are not engaging in literacy in our classrooms and not scoring well on tests (Vasudevan & Campano, 2009). Through this practitioner inquiry journey, I placed hope in the possibilities for its Hoppey, 2014, p. 63). Significance of the Study Progress monitoring data school revealed a critical need for making changes in our classrooms. On a daily basis, I witnessed students asking why they have to read and write, while teachers were asking why students would not just d o what they are asking them to do. The question at the core of these conversations came to figuring out how we could better engage our students in literacy. Unfortunately, while there had been a great deal of research in the literature that focused on st udent engagement, there was little understanding of what it means to engage 21st century students in literacy today (Vasudevan & Campano, 2009), particularly students in rural, high poverty schools (Azano, 2015; Hardr et al., 2009). Exploration of best p ractices for engaging students of rural poverty in literacy was necessary and, as a reading coach and teacher who is passionate about student learning, I could not ignore the lack of student engagement in literacy across my te standardized testing data further exhibited a critical need for this study in my context. The 2015 16 Florida Standards Assessment data reported only 38% of our 10th grade students scoring proficiency in English Language Arts. The
18 2014 15 data reporte d 47% proficiency. Both years, my school fell second to last in my school district, above only the behavior alternative school, and revealed less than one in two students reading on grade level. The district averages for proficiency in 10th grade ELA in 2015 16 were 44% and 51% for 2014 15, each also well above the averages for my school. Taken together, this information and the literature in the next section helped situate my study in both local and national contexts (Dana & Yendol Hoppey, 2014). Releva nt Literature As I launched this practitioner research in my classroom, I recognized the importance of understanding the literature associated with the most significant elements of my research question. In the following sections, I provide a review of lit erature that summarized these elements, defining literacy, and establishing what researchers have found to constitute student engagement in literacy, instructional practices for student engagement, and literacy engagement as it pertained specifically to ru ral contexts like my own. Defining Literacy In the quest for understanding how to best engage my 21st century students of rural poverty in literacy (Vasudevan & Campano, 2009), I aimed to focus the design of my classroom and lessons on the learners within my context (Guthrie, 1996), with the purpose of exploring teaching practices that engaged my high school English students Langer (2001) identified this term after a five year study under the Excellence in Englis h project through which she analyzed instructional patterns across 25 schools in Florida, New York, California, and Texas that study because it includes not only bas
19 ability to engage in thoughtful reading, writing, and discussion about content in the classroom, to put their knowledge and skills to use in new situations, and to perform well on reading and writing asses For the purposes of my study, I added to this definition what Guthrie, Klauda, and Morrison (2012) call academic literacy, which specifies the literacy necessary to read proficiently at school, particularly with informational text. Infor mational text includes that from textbooks, notes, handouts, and other artifacts that students must interact with and read proficiently to increase their academic achievement (Guthrie, Klauda, & Morrison, 2012). Student engagement is embedded in this high academic literacy, making it align with the teaching practices I will be studying. This type of engagement involves a variety of social interactions among students that are fueled by motivations to gain conceptual understandings that ultimately transfer beyond the classroom (Guthrie, 1996; Langer, 2001). Student Engagement in Literacy Prior to delving into the research methods of this study, it was necessary to further define student engagement and clarify what it looks like in contexts of literacy instruction such as my classroom. Twenty years ago, Guthrie (1996) called for teachers and schools to focus on classroom contexts to foster environments of literacy engagement. teachers must see these elements as influential. If the classroom context supports student desires for challenge, collaboration with peers, having a place in the classroom community, and feeling more confident with school activities, it will provide students the o
20 Researchers who more recently extensively reviewed the topic of student engagement found that it is a multilayered intersectional construct, with behavioral, emotional, and cog nitive engagement at its core (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). These three types of engagement relate to what Guthrie (1996) specified as necessary for tapping into the intrinsic motivation that is tied to student engagement in literacy. Behavioral engagem part in positive classroom interactions that align with rules and norms set by the classroom community (Guth rie, Klauda, & Morrison, 2012). Emotional engagement hinges upon how students react to people and places associated with the atmosphere of school, as well as whether students feel a positive connection with school and value school successes in ways that m otivate them to do school work (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). willingness to put forth effort and to take the time that is necessary to think through what they have to do in the face of difficult tasks (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012; Guthrie, Klauda, & Morrison, 2012). I used these three categories to guide my study of and reflections on student engagement in literacy in my classroom. Literacy Engagement Practices From a sociocognitive perspective, students bring multiple viewpoints and prior knowledge into their classroom interactions and conversations (Guthrie, 1996; Langer, 2001). Generally speaking, student participation is the most significant means for developing literacy proficiency (Guthrie, 2004; Langer, 2001), and participation encompasses behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). The teacher plays a key role in creating a classroom environment
21 that provides a variety of choices and opportunities for st udents to participate in realistic and relevant literacy activities (Guthrie, 1996; Guthrie, Klauda, & Ho, 2013). Applebee, Langer, Nystrand, and Gamoran (2003) found that discussion is a key piece of participation and developing understandings in English, discussions that teachers drive through showing care for students (Cooper, 2014). These discussions also provide opportunities for authentic questioning and teacher responses that include et al., 2003). Applebee et al. (2003) concluded that discussion based literacy approaches significantly impacted student achievement across low and high achieving students of the urban and suburban middle and high schools they sampled across five states. Among high school students, the combination of high lively teaching, high academic rigor, and high connective instruction resulted in the strongest increases in student engagement (Cooper, 2014). Through a review of research, Guthrie (2004) developed the Concept Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI) framework of teaching strategies for student engagement in reading. This framework drives a 12 week expedition of professional development for participation in strategic literacy as learners, to inquiry groups that co construct the excellent practices During this time, te achers learned how to implement strategies among students in grades 3 8 with a focus on science. Strategies included the following: using concept goals in a conceptual theme for reading instruction; affording choices and control to students; providing ha nds on activities related to the
22 content goals; using interesting texts of diverse genres for instruction; and organizing collaboration for learning from all texts (Guthrie, 2004). Guthrie (2004) has used this CORI framework in multiple studies since this one, seeking to investigate its use through multiple lenses. Guthrie, Klauda, and Morrison (2012) conducted an inquiry focusing on seventh grade students across content areas. This study stands out among others because the researchers investigated studen t perceptions of motivation (Guthrie, Klauda, & Morrison, 2012). They found that persistence in reading had positive effects on motivation and achievement, and reinforced the 2004 finding that behavioral engagement in literacy resulted from classroom cont They also claimed that student dedication to academic reading is something that teachers foster within their classrooms (Guthrie, Klauda, & Morrison, 2012). In another study, research ers applied the CORI framework to one seventh grade middle school classroom, and their findings further exemplified associations between teacher instruction and student motivation with academic achievement (Guthrie, Klauda, & Ho, 2013). Although Guthrie an younger students and looked primarily at teaching reading through science content, many of the findings associated with reading engagement were relevant to my consideration of how I engaged my students i n literacy. This framework addressed a gap in literacy research, and it made connections between student motivation, understanding of English concepts, thinking strategies, and social discourse within classrooms that exhibit reading engagement. The resea rch on the CORI framework
23 therefore did well to provide implications for teaching practices that generally engage students in various ways, which supplied insight into my study. I found Fredricks and listening my teaching style and choices have resulted from my own multiple professional development and experiences outside of what teachers us ing the CORI framework (Guthrie, 2004) underwent. Table 1 (2012) framework for student engagement Table 1 1. Three Types of Engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) Engagement Type Description Behavioral engagement in academic, social, or extracurricular activities Emotional atmosphere of school; whether students feel a positive connection with school and value school successes in ways that motivate their participation Cognitive through what they have to do to overcome difficult tasks Literacy Engagement in Rural Contexts The above literature conveys key findings associated with student engagement, literacy, and motivation. These studies, however, were specific to urban and suburban schools, indicating a need for inquiry on the topic in a rural school such as mine. Researchers who have studied rural schools of po verty recognize the uniqueness of these contexts. Teachers of rural students have more frequent opportunities to build supportive relationships with students and engage them in ways that teachers in non rural schools may not have (Hardr et al., 2009). Ha rdr et al. (2009) looked specifically at rural high
24 profiles. While teacher support predicted student interest in a class, content related oles and the value associated with those roles in the classroom strongly predicted class participation, as well as future school intentions. Students in this study overall showed positive motivational profiles for learning, when separated from achievement (Hardr et al., 2009) a point of intrigue because researchers of other contexts found there were usually associations between positive motivation and achievement (Guthrie, 2004; Guthrie, Klauda, & Ho, 2013). perceptions of engagement in literacy. In short, several researchers have found that student engagement in literacy can come from providing multiple opportunities for students to be self reflective, to have choices in their paths for learning, and to use technology to meet learning goals (Guthrie, 2004; Hardr et al., 2009; Vasudevan & Campano, 2009). Engaging students in lively, purpose driven discussion is another key strategy for increasing student achievement in li teracy (Applebee et al., 2003; Langer, 2001). These findings served as guides for instructional choices that I made as I delved into practitioner inquiry that explored student engagement in literacy at a rural, high poverty school. On the other hand, whi le the literature offered many insights into strategies that have the potential to fare well with my students, I looked forward to generating additional knowledge about student engagement in literacy specifically within my school context. Research Methods I am a firm believer that teachers studying practice and sharing what we have learned are both instrumental to making changes in education. It is through practitioner
25 inquiry that I was able to study best practices of equity and engagement within my own classroom, looking at teaching through lenses beyond that of standardized testing (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009). Teachers of the rural, high poverty students at my school needed more insights into best practices for engaging our students in literacy. I u sed my research question H ow do I engage high school students in literacy at a rural, high poverty school? t o guide an exploration of practices that would help me to generate knowledge (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009; Dana & Yendol Hoppey, 2014) so that I mig ht gain such insights and prepare to share them with others in my context. classroom practice. & Yendol Hoppey, 20 14, p. 9). Using practitioner inquiry, I considered the teaching methods and classroom activities that authentically engaged students in reading, writing, speaking, and listening in my English Language Arts classroom, specifically through one unit of stud y that provides students the opportunity to analyze a civic issue of interest to each of them. As I engage in this inquiry, I will continuously reflect, document, and use the knowledge I am generating to make changes in my practice along the way (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009; Dana & Yendol Hoppey, 2014). Through this practitioner inquiry learning process, I was committed to equity (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009), bringing to the forefront a deepened understanding of practices that engaged students of rural po verty in literacy. This qualitative research method served to empower the participants within my context and gave voice to their experiences (Creswell, 2013).
26 Context and Participants I served as Reading Coach at a grades 6 12 combination school that is s eated in a rural town of approximately 1,200 people. In this school of approximately 550 students, I was responsible for ensuring students receive high quality literacy instruction in core and intervention classes and teachers receive adequate professiona l Many of our students lived with grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings, some shifting houses throughout the week between single parents. Many took care of small children from the moment they left school, or work to support their family income. Some students where I taught moved between schools frequently, according to wherever housing might be available. Some students lived so far outside of town that internet service was not available so far from everyt hing that summers and holidays can feel like a hell of chaos or, maybe worse, boredom. Students like these, students of rural poverty, made up the majority at my school. These students both inspire me and challenge me every day. They inspire me because t heir resilience is undeniably the most incredible thing to see. There is nothing quite like when the flicker of excitement that only wonder can bring reveals itself in the eyes of my students. poverty, I have found that doing everything I cou ld to engage them in literacy i s the best thing I can do to tap into this resilience and wonder, to ignite an internal motivation that makes them want more of what literacy has to offer. I engaged in this st udy in my own classroom, teaching Advanced Placement English Language and Composition students, whose grade levels ranged from 10th 12th. There were 13 students in this class, and ours was the only section of the class
27 offered at my school. This 50 minut e class occurred daily, Monday through Friday, in the first period of the day. While students enrolled in this class were generally characterized as higher performing than the average student at our school, the majority of them scored at or below average on state assessments in English Language Arts. Several students who were in 11th or 12th grade and enrolled in this class were there because they did not score college ready on the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT), and therefore were unable t o dual enroll in college classes. Four of the enrolled students had yet to pass the 10th grade Florida Standards Assessment of English Language Arts, and the 10th graders in the course needed to meet this graduation requirement when they took the assessme nt in Spring 2017. I of insights into literacy engagement in my context. Beginning in the first days of the fall semester, I engaged students in rapport building act ivities and began sharing about my studies and upcoming dissertation. my teaching, as well as to guide my instructional planning so I could begin determining categories of stra tegies for engagement and develop focus questions. I kept detailed lesson plans along the way, which reflected strategies I incorporated to attempt to engage my students in literacy prior to beginning a systematic focus on how to do so best. Approximatel y one month before beginning this study, I used my preliminary unit of focus and revised my preliminary open ended journal response and exit ticket
28 questions, which se rved to capture student voice through short writing opportunities each week. Timeline The study took place over the course of seven weeks in the spring semester. Throughout the inquiry process, I consulted my research group for feedback and direction as I learned from my students and my teaching moves. In the first week, I completed the following tasks: shared my research question with my student participants; began collecting student work artifacts; revisited and continued to plan journal response and e xit ticket questions that focused on student perceptions, giving voice to their views and understandings of engagement in literacy; and wrote in my reflections on classroom a nd student experiences that exemplified student engagement or disengagement. Throughout this inquiry, I paid careful attention to my lesson plans and the strategies I used to attempt to engage students in literacy. Each week, I provided one to two opportunities for students to write about their engagement as I collected student As I neared the conclusion of Week six, I did a brief review of data and determined I needed to extend my data collectio n process for another week, which made the study span seven weeks. Data Collection Practitioner inquiry lends itself to extensive opportunities for gathering data and using it to produce new knowledge about teaching and learning that can be applied both locally and beyond (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009). Fredricks and McColskey (2012) recognize the value in using multiple qualitative methods to study student engagement,
29 focusing on contextual factors through observation and delving into the experiences of the students. I intended to gather several types of data in this study, as a varying array of data types is dynamic (Creswell, 2013) and helps shape the practitioner inquiry journey. In this section, I provide more specific details about the types of dat a I collected throughout my inquiry project teaching behaviors and student behaviors (Creswell, 2013; Dana & Yendol Hoppey, 2014) in my AP English class. Within this journal, I res ponded to five guiding questions that focused on my research question, as well as took note of specific events that characterized highly engaged and/or disengaged student behaviors and how I facilitated and/or responded to them. These questions were subje ct to revisions as I continued teaching and getting to know my class that semester, but I did not make changes to them during the study. I developed the following guiding questions after reviewing my 1. behaviors telling me about their literacy engagement? 2. What types of emotions are my students experiencing as we focus on literacy? 3. In what ways are students responding to and thinking through different types of reading, writing, speaking, and listening ta sks? 4. How did I modify my plans to respond to my engagement issues? 5. What do I need to do next? on and guide my lesson planning (Anderson, Herr, & Nihlen, 2007) Stude nt work artifacts In their review of literature on literacy engagement, Vasudevan and Campano (2009) assert that educators do not allow students enough
30 ownership of their literacies and knowledge producing. I intended to give students an active role in their learning as I gain insights into the impact of focusing on their strengths in literacy. A collection of student work artifacts added to my reflections on cooperat ive work students produce within our community of learning, an imperative piece of literacy engagement (Guthrie, 1996) that I aimed to develop within our classroom context. Lesson plans It was my goal to embody the elements of what Langer (2001) found am ong the most accomplished students of English classrooms: a highly engaged teacher, with highly engaged, academically focused students. My lesson plans themselves served as data that captured how I approached reading and writing skills instruction; how I integrated preparation for the ELA Florida Standards Assessment and Advanced Placement English Language and Composition exams into my lessons; how I enabled students to a pproach rigorous reading and writing tasks independently; how I guide students to conceptualize their learning; and how I organized class time to do all of these things (Langer, 2001). I structured my lesson plans to follow a specific format over the cours e of one to five days: Essential Question; Hook/Engagement; Teacher Modeling (I Do); Collaborative Work (We Do); Independent Practice (You Do); and Assessment (Formative/Summative). The Language Arts Florida Standards and standards for AP English Languag e and Composition drove these lesson plans.
31 Student journals and exit tickets In addition to looking for elements of my own teaching practices that engaged students in literacy, I wanted to give students voice (Benard, 2004; Creswell, 2013) by exploring their perceptions of literacy engagement. Providing students opportunities to voice their opinions and reflections on engagement in my classroom was a key element of my inquiry for a few reasons. The first was that it is a piece of critical pedagogy that attempts to overcome the barriers that power structures can sometimes become in the classroom context (Giroux & McLaren, 1986), thus giving students power to drive the inquiry (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009). A second reason was that research has shown that providing students voice serves as a protective factor that is empowering and makes them feel connected to school (Benard, 2004), an important piece of their motivation to become a part of a classroom community where they feel inclined to participate (Gir oux & McClaren, 1986). Student voice can serve to bring changes to practice at the classroom and school level, as well as provide teachers a look at instruction through the lenses of the students they see each day (Rudduck, 2007). By including this elemen t in my study, I also recognized that there are times when I think my students are engaged, but they may see things differently. I began the school year by creating and establishing classroom expectations with my students that include commitments to each other to grow as introspective, reflective learners. I shared with students my commitment to learn from them, just as they committed to learn from me. As embarking on this study approached, I kept them informed (Creswell, 2013) that as I studied my teach ing practices it was my goal to give them voice in how our class operated. I had already experienced several instances when I felt that my
32 students were authentically engaging to discover later that they were merely complying. When I asked them to share their thinking, they were quite forthcoming. This study of my practice provided opportunities for uncovering explicitly how I engaged my students, their perceptions of that engagement, and a deepened understanding of the new Language Arts Florida Standard s. As part of giving students voice in this study, I captured some of their thinking through providing opportunities for them to write about the classroom activities and how (or whether) those activities engaged them in literacy. I administered writing op portunities with open ended questions (Anderson et al., 2007) to all students in my class. our day to day work so that all students could participate. These writing opportunities incorporated questions that were personal to my students and directly related to their perceptions of the content and activities we were working on in class. When we p rovide them the opportunity to have a voice in our schools and classrooms, students have a lot to offer about what makes learning engaging for them (Rudduck, 2007). In my study, I asked questions that centered on engaging literacy practices (Guthrie, 1996 ; 2004; Langer, 2001) and behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) such as questions in Table 1 2 at the end of this chapter These questions became more specific to the unit of study in which we worked, and I used Goo gle Forms to allow students to complete responses anonymously.
33 Data Analysis I used both formative and summative processes (Dana & Yendol Hoppey, 2014) for analyzing data throughout this qualitative study. Formative data analysis, an important element of practitioner action research, provided daily and weekly insights that shaped my teaching decisions and revealed possibilities within the data that I had yet to consider (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaa, 2014). I engaged in summative analysis when I finished co llecting data at the end of the instructional unit of focus. Formative analysis plans served to inform my daily instructional moves and initial reflections on my my AP English classroom. Each week, I revisited teaching behaviors and student behaviors, inductively coding the data (Miles et al., 2014). As I consid ered these refle ctions I used what I had learned from them to guide my plans for engaging students in literacy the following week. Although I did not yet begin to see themes during this formative process, my responses to the questions How did I modify my plans to respon d to engagement issues? and What do I need to do next? were particularly helpful for developing understandings of the types of practices that engaged students behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). Like that of reading t my lesson plans included inductive coding of data while I collected it. I annotated my plans with daily notes about the numbers of engaged and disengaged students in literacy activities and classi fie d parts of each lesson as reading, writing, speaking, or listening, characterizing those that were most and least engaging. While my research
34 journal helped me to consider weekly plans, analyzing my lessons helped me to consider the instructional moves I would make the following day. Both therefore informed Yendol Hoppey, 2014, p. 158). Additionally, s ingle word coding (Mil es et al., 2014) that categorized was particularly helpful during this analysis for remaining focused on my research question regarding how I engaged students in liter acy Summative analysis When I moved into the summative phase of data 183) to conceptualize themes across my data so that I could develop a written account of my learnings. This process included moving through my data by first organizing, and then engaging in an iterative process of reading and coding them. In the first cycle of coding (Miles et al., 2014), I coded the data openly, jotting notes in the margins of my ickets, and journal responses. Adding to the notes I had taken d uring the formative process helped me begin to characterize what I saw happening across the data In th e second round of coding, I refined this process by reconfiguring the codes across my data descriptively (Miles et al., 2014), dividing them into codes a ssociated with engagement and disengagement. As I refined my codes, I added and kept track of my code changes. To gain further insights into behavioral emotional, and cognitive student engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) across the data, I then used responses and exit tickets as follows:
35 and their emotional responses to content and activ ities in our class. with a + and negative evaluations with a Using the above codes to help me build interpretations of the data, I transitioned into finding patterns within my codes that I could divide into categories/themes, causes/explanations, relationships among people, and/or theoretical constructs (Miles et al., 2014). I then used the patterns I discovered to develop ways of representing or providing visuals for my findings (Creswell, 2013; Miles et al., 2014). To develop a graphic/visual display that modeled how I engaged students in literacy in my classroom, I first mapped the pattern codes (Miles et al., 2014) for themes associated with social, behavioral, a nd cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). These processes allowed me to organize and write the narrative of my findings. Researcher Positionality These Shakespearean words are ones I do my best t o live by, and they are certainly applicable to endeavors of practitioner inquiry. As I engaged in this inquiry, I recognized that I will need to be critically self aware of my biases and values, continuously looking for ways to interrogate my choices and build credibility because I was closely connected with my data sources (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009). Throughout the process of collecting student work artifacts, gathering survey and interview data, analyzing my lesson plans, reflecting in my researcher affects how I see the world (Creswell, 2013).
36 In light of thinking about my positionality, considering the pat h that brought me to this inquiry was worthwhile. I took the opportunity in my first four years in the field of education to teach high school English at a Title I school that is 35 miles from the nearest Wal Mart store. In these early years, I began ref ining my pedagogy for social justice as I worked with a predominantly White, lower class population of students, using literary and nonfiction texts to build understandings, value, and respect for all people. I became keenly aware early on that students s ee me first as a White, middle class female, and of the stereotypes that can be associated with these identities. I therefore began practicing building relationships with my students that would break down barriers of communication or assumptions between u s. I share with my students that I became a teacher, first and foremost, to pass on my love for reading and writing to students who may be facing some of the same types of personal and familial discord that I faced when I was younger. I have always believ ed that literacy and more generally, education saved my life. I am the oldest of seven children and come from a divorced home. Drugs and alcohol have taken the lives both literally and metaphorically of several of my family members. My mother did not co mplete high school, but obtained her GED and completed some years of college. My father is the only person in his family who completed college, and my one to college, as well. All that said, another passion of mine is to inspire first generation college students and students living in areas of rural poverty to learn about their strengths and the world around them, and to use this knowledge to improve tha t world. In addition to
37 teaching, I have sponsor ed our Travel Club, and have taken five cultural learning trips overseas with teachers and students since 2011. I am also the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Coordinator at my school, which is an organization and elective class that works specifically toward preparing first generation college students for success beyond high school. Approximately half of the class of students I worked with for this study were in the AVID program. When I tran sferred to my current position in 2011, I walked into a Title I school of the same district that had a larger, more diverse population. This school has some of the same assets as my first school and faces similar challenges on a larger scale in terms of p overty and underachievement. I took this position as reading coach because of my passions for literacy, teaching, and learning. I sought to not only inspire students, but to also keep teachers inspired to continuously improve their practice. As reading c oach, I have encountered what Azano (2015), in her call to action, describes as a disconnect between policy and the limited resources and research available on how to improve literacy teaching among students of rural poverty. Although I was not able to ar ticulate it in this exact way then, it was my frustration with this disconnect that drove me to apply to the Curriculum, Teaching, and Teacher Education EdD program at the University of Florida. Prior to beginning my teaching career, I had completed my Ba chelor of Arts in English with a minor in secondary e ducation at the University of Florida, followed by my m aster English I walked into my classroom from day one with a passion for helping students to rise to high e xpectations in a supportive, welcoming classroom community where all
38 students can feel safe and appreciated. At the foundation of my teaching is showing students a critical care that nurtures and supports, yet demands much (Benard, 2004). Although I have learned so much since that first year of teaching, I still stand on the passions I have accounted here. I have added to them a love for inquiry and a strengthened pedagogy for social justice. I looked forward to this study providing an avenue for connec ting each of my passions together, and I was excited for the learning I would experience through it. Enhancing Trustworthiness As I considered my context and positionality, it was important to also include various other validation strategies that would enh ance the trustworthiness of my study. I needed to be aware of and address possibilities for ethical dilemmas. I critically considered methods of validity, a term qualitative researchers have used s of this topic over time (Freeman, deMarrais, Preissle, Roulston, & St Pierre, 2007). It was imperative that I revisit my possible biases as I interpreted my data, with the understanding that who I am shapes how I see my research (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2006; Creswell, 2013). In addition to crafting reflexivity into my analysis and writing process, I needed to remain aware that practitioner inquiry is a qualitative research method. Although this statement may seem obvious, I recognize that language is powerfu l my language must be qualitative in nature, avoiding language typical to the writing of quantitative studies (Creswell, 2013). I constructed and maintained a quality study throughout my practitioner inquiry journey as I made decisions that responded to m y interactions with my students and the data I collected (Freeman et al., 2007). As I mention in my description of my context and participants, I recognized that my approaches to building
39 rapport with my students and incorporating strategies for developin g a community of learning that made them feel valued and comfortable had an impact on how they participated in my class, my research (Creswell, 2013), and therefore the quality of the study as a whole. Although I was not yet officially studying my particip ants during this time of rapport building, my prolonged contact with them and informal journaling established classroom dynamics. These understandings later assisted me w ith the choices I made as I gathered and analyzed data to develop the narrative of my findings (Creswell, 2013). Taking this stance was necessary because of the nature of practitioner action research I was both a teacher and a researcher of the context in which I work. It was my goal to bring as much balance to the relationship between myself and my students as possible so that they would provide honest answers in their journal writing and exit tickets, rather than ones that stemmed from fear or aimed to please (Gabarre & Gabarre, 2016). Continuous self reflection was a key element of my study. Authentic reflection, howeve r, can at times be challenging because it is human nature to make assumptions and be unintentionally blind to relationships of power. Brinkmann and Kvale (2006) call for qualitative researchers to critically consider the possible ethical dilemmas that can arise when engaging in qualitative interviews. I recognized the need to be sure I was deeply reflective about the relationship of power I have with my students. I had already divulged and continued to be transparent with my students about the purpose of my
40 study. This purpose brought a power dynamic to the relationship between myself and my student participants (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2006), a dynamic I wanted to be sure had little sway on my participants, data, and narrative. Students were able to complet e the Exit Ticket questions regarding engagement anonymously using a Google Form that did not collect their email addresses. This strategy encouraged students to speak honestly, with the assurance that their opinions would not be associated with their gra des. As I crafted my narrative, it was important to focus on describing the truths I found within my data, rather than merely constructing the truth (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2006). I worked to triangulate the themes across my differing data types, as well as I remained aware that qualitative data are, at their core, interpretations constructed through the interactions among my participants and the classroom culture and activities I too k part in creating (Freeman et al., 2007). Along with triangulation and reflexivity, interactions with my peer research group served as another strategy for keeping a careful, critical eye on my research process. This group included my dissertation chair and a teacher in my cohort who was also teaching AP English. I exchanged emails and phone calls with my chairperson at least every two three weeks to discuss my progress, revisions, and next steps for writing. Approximately twice per month, I reviewed de scriptions of my findings and developing themes, as well as ways that I could present them visually within my findings chapter with my classmate and fellow AP English teacher through phone calls, emails, and text messages. Allowing others to interrogate my work, listen to my victories and frustrations, challenge me, and keep me honest helped me to stay the course and make
41 my research process and writing more trustworthy (Creswell, 2013). I built trustworthiness throughout this study by being constantly v igilant, making moves appropriate to the knowledge I was building (Freeman et al., 2007). Summary and Overview The purpose of this study was to engage in practitioner inquiry to explore how I engaged students in literacy at a high school of rural poverty. This method of qualitative research had the potential to empower participants as their (and my) behaviors and perceptions were key elements of the study. I used this exploration of practice to seek the best strategies for engaging students in literacy in my context, and the iterative process of data analysis allowed for immediate implementation of change in my practice as both classroom teacher and Reading Coach
42 Table 1 2. Journal and Exit Ticket Questions by Engagement Type Type of Engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) Open Ended Journal & Exit Ticket Questions Behavioral: Academic, social, or extracurricular activities Describe your routine when you arrived in class today. What types of things did you do once when you arrived? What motivates you to engage in the reading and writing activities I place before you? What types of things did you do this week to participate in our class outside of class time? Emotional: Reactions to people and places associated with the atmosphere of school; whether students feel a positive connection with school and value school successes in ways that motivate their participation Describe how you feel in this class. What types of class activities make you feel this way? If you could cha nge anything associated with how you feel when you come to our class, what would you change? Describe how this class makes you feel about reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Compare your interactions with students in this class with interactions wit h students in other classes. Are they similar or different? Explain. Cognitive: Willingness to put forth effort and to take the time to think through what has to be done to overcome difficult tasks What types of things motivate you to work through diff icult tasks that require you to read, write, speak, and/or listen? How has this class affected your thinking about reading, writing, speaking, and listening? Describe a difficult task you faced in class this week. How did you respond to it?
43 CHAPTER 2 FINDINGS The focus of this study was to explore how I engage high school English students in literacy in my own classroom at a rural, high poverty school. I wanted to consider the (Langer, 2001) as readers, writers, speakers, and listeners, behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). I collected data over seven weeks of time, moving from the end of one unit through the duration of another and the beginning of the final unit of the spring semester of the school year as I considered my research question: How do I engage high school students in literacy at a rural, high poverty school? These data included a researcher journal, which I wrote in w eekly as I reflected on my research question through answering focused questions and adding details of student work and exit ticket writing responses; and, finally, anony mous exit tickets on Google Forms that students had the choice to respond to each week to provide me feedback on their engagement in our class. Prior to delving into my findings, I think it is important to briefly provide context through describing the uni ts of focus that spanned the weeks of this research study in my AP English Language and Composition class. With our textbook The Language of Composition: Reading, Writing, Rhetoric (Shea, Scanlon, & Aufses, 2008) as a guide, I taught lessons over the cou rse of this study under the guidance of essential questions driven by both themes and s kills. Table 2 1 presents the essential questions that guided the literacy lessons. These questions are relevant for developing a picture of how I engaged high school students in literacy in my classroom at a rural, high poverty
44 school because my findings show how I used my textbook, my interactions with my students, and my study of their understandings through their student work to guide how I engaged them. Within each of these units of study, I used the textbook as a guide for the skills students needed to practice, but I also pulled in other resources as I responded to their levels of engagement in the reading, writing, speaking, and listening tasks I placed before th em. The thematic essential questions guided my teaching focus as I chose the types of nonfiction texts we would read from the textbook or from old AP exams, as well as the relevant visual texts and examples from current events and social media that I woul I will describe these choices as I present the themes I unveiled to answer my research question: How do I engage high school students in literacy at a rural, high poverty school? L iteracy Engagement The themes I discovered as I analyzed my data characterize how I engaged students in literacy in my AP English classroom. Each of the themes resonated across the data, in the daily assignments and interactions within my classroom and be yond it as I worked with my students. The data showed varying levels of student engagement in literacy behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012), examples of which I bri efly describe in Table 2 2 coupled with Fredricks and Table 2 2 clarifies the framework I used to analyze engagement across my data; see Appendix A for further details divided into engagement and disengagement for reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
45 Figure 2 1 presents the themes and subthemes for how I e ngaged students in literacy. These themes and subthemes resonated from my research journal entries, lesson plans, student work and exit tickets, and anonymous Google Form exit tickets. In th e sections that follow I provide specific descriptions of literacy engagement in my classroom Themes Subthemes Accountability Basic Classroom Routines and Provisions Collaborative Grouping and Classroom Discussions Investment in Assignments Building Relationships Praise Sense of Ownership Open Communication and Student Voice Seeking Relevance to Student Interest Challenge Future Preparation Humor and Entertainment Choice Figure 2 1 Themes and Corresponding Subthemes Accountability In my AP English Language and Composition classroom, the data show that I did not provide students a choice of whether to engage I instead provided them guided choices of how to engage. I kept students accountable in several ways, and my actions as a facilitato r of student learning fueled my attempts to keep students behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) engaged in literacy inside and outside of the classroom. I combined my high expectations for student engagement with consistency in routines and provisions, as well as collaborative grouping that worked to balance good behavior with appropriate levels of challenge depending on skills students needed to
46 practice. Furthermore, I kept students accountable by being accountable myself through providing my own reading and writing models of work students would be doing and giving thorough and timely feedback on student assignments. In my research journal, I noted stud they alluded that this investment motivated them to engage behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) in the literacy assignments I placed before them. In th e sections below, I describe each of these elements of accountability in more detail. Basic classroom routines and provisions This type of accountability began with how I structured my classroom and the time I spent with students. At the very minimum, I arranged my classroom and lessons in ways that made it difficult for students to avoid behavioral engagement in literacy during our time together. I posted an agenda each day, provided updates and reminders on our Google Classroom, and provided all of th e tools necessary for achieving our tasks paper, pens, pencils, spiral notebooks, binders, sticky notes, highlighters, etc. for students. From the beginning of the school year, I trained students to know where to locate these materials when they needed the m so that they could, without difficulty or excuse, engage in the behaviors I asked of them. These basic routines and provisions not only provided students accountability but, I found, were also sometimes necessary for the behavioral engagement of student s of rural poverty whose parents/guardians may not have the means to provide such things for them. In my classroom, simply not having materials did not provide students a way to disengage. My analysis of student work evidenced this finding, showing that it was very rare for students not to complete in
47 class assignments. week of February 11, when I noted that all students behaviorally engaged in the Quick Write tone analysis assignment, a s well as the small group text marking of student writing samples. Furthermore, I noted during that week and the week of February 18 that students who did not complete homework assignments did complete all in class assignments. My daily lesson plans follo wed the typical format of Essential Question (EQ), Hook/Engagement, I Do (Model), We Do (Collaboration), and You Do (Independent Practice), as well as specified how I would assess students and the homework they would complete. I used these routines to str ucture how I would engage students in literacy, and these routines kept students accountable for their engagement. For example, on March 28, because we were transitioning into a new EQ, How does the language we use reveal who we are? I asked students to consider the EQ by completing a Free Write with the following sentence starter and follow up question: When we ______________ it is obvious that we __________________. How does your language reveal who you are? As students wrote, I wrote my own modeled response, which I shared with the class. I then connected this activity to the chapter introduction, which I modeled reading with annotations and then had students finish in small groups. Finally, for independent practice, which they finished for homewor k, the essay that were in some way significant due to the language George Orwell used. Students shared their responses the following day in the small groups in which I had placed them and analyzed the quotes for tone and rhetorical appeals.
48 and listening, and facilitating my lessons in such a way moved students to engage behaviorally and cogn itively, albeit at varying levels depending on the day. On this particular day, emotional and cognitive engagement were high. I noted in my research journal that students were laughing through our discussions of language and engaging in thoughtful discus sion of the quotes they had chosen the following day. One student and another said Eleven of 13 students stayed accountable after class by completing the assignment for homewo rk, and the two who had not begu n working immediately the following day when they were unable to participate in the small group discussions. My lesson plan routines followed this format consistently across the study, and it was clear across the data that these routines played a role in student engagement in literacy. Collaborative grouping and classroom discussions. In this study, I found that I used c ollaborative grouping and seating arrangements for two purposes: 1) to separate students who typically distracted each other and/or did not work well together and, 2) to differentiate my instruction according to student strengths and weaknesses. By doing these two things to engage my students in literacy, I was able to hold them accountable for behavioral engagement that also opened opportunities for them to engage emotionally and cognitively (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). Although students themselves did not note my use of groups as important to their engagement, my reflections in my research journal reveal student reactions and
49 comments that evidence that this practice engaged them behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). During the week of February 18, for example, I noted in my research journal that students were not making connections across their tone word vocabulary assignments and that I therefore shifted assignment requirements to open avenues for them to make more connections. I made these shifts by assigning students to groups of low to medium or medium to high vocabulary strength first, and worked with these groups as they developed categories and graphic organizers to reflect connections across tone words. My an alysis of student work and lesson plans showed that as I graded work across the study I responded to levels of engagement and understanding by grouping students purposefully as I describe above and planning questions associated with the literacy activities that would probe their thinking. In addition, in my research journal I wrote about my intentionality with grouping students during the weeks of February 11, February 18, March 6, and March 20. In these entries, I noted that as students worked in small gr oups, I listened to their interactions and used questioning to engage them in thinking about the tasks at hand; I also required students to use the content specific and academic vocabulary necessary to build their understandings. In their Google Forms exit ticket responses, many students alluded to feeling accountable when we engaged in classroom discussions and small group interactions Their initial engagement was behavioral, but thro ugh the discussions, I was able to engage them emotionally and cognitively. When I asked in a Google Form exit ticket if there was anything different about how students engaged in our English class versus how they
50 had engaged in English classes in the pas t, one student put it this way: there are more class discussions. I enjoy having more interaction with my teacher and my classmates as well. In my past English classes I have fallen asleep due to no These comments convey b oth behavioral and emotional engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). In response to this same Google Form exit ticket, another student stated, The whole class can have a conversation, and give their opinions, without [...] In my past English classes, the teachers have just taught out of the [textbook], assigning every page in the book. There was no time for a class conversation, we always just did the work and moved on. I really like our class discussions in this Eng lish class. Such comments evidence the importance of classroom discussions in engaging students in literacy, behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) in my classroom. My lesson plans and research journal show that the majori ty of these discussions first occurred in small groups. W ith my guidance and push for accountability, individuals from each group then shared with the whole class. An important side note here is, across the study, students were highly engaged in the majo rity of their small group discussions, but anytime I attempted to skip the small groups and engage them in whole group discussions first, the activity fell flat. For example, each day of the week of February 20, I began class with a different piece of vis ual rhetor ic in the attempt to engage students cognitively in considering gender roles in society. Students responded in writing first, and a review of their work later showed behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement across the majority of the clas s. However, when I asked students to share their thinking with the class at the time, only one or two of them were
51 willing to speak. From that point forward, I had students share their thinking in small groups so that every person took a turn to speak as I circulated the room to keep them accountable, and these group discussions were much more productive than whole class. Collaboration and classroom discussions, particularly in small groups, were most definitely an important element of how I engaged stud ents in literacy, as much of the data show. Investment in assignments. The data convey that I motivated students to engage in assignments when I showed them my personal investment in their learning. My investment in their work held them accountable for b ehavioral engagement, and often moved them toward emotional engagement that led to cognitive engagement in their assignments, which I will explain in more detail shortly. I showed my investment in a couple of ways. The first was that I modeled the readin g and writing activities for students, giving them examples that I produced myself. Students asked for these models, and then would engage more readily and confidently behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) in the assignm ents. In my research journal, I noted that students used my models as guides to keep them accountable for adhering to my expectations for quality work and general assignment requirements. With the tone letter writing assignment, for example, I provided m y own After reviewing the model with the class and the rubric for their assignment, I posted the model on the Google Classroom. Several students stated that they referred back to that model multiple times as they worke d on their own writing.
52 During Quick Write assignments, short timed writings that helped students mimic the thought process and writing they would do on the real test, rather than use the time to grade student work or take care of other tasks, I would writ e my own response while students wrote theirs. I would ensure that I had not prepared for my writing in any way so that I was on equal footing with the students in terms of working through the task organically. At the end of the 15 minutes, I would share my writing prior to asking students to share theirs with each other. I noted in my lesson plans that when I asked the class if my participation in the work was helpful or whether it mattered, several students said it helped to know that I was struggling t hrough the work with them and that I would be able to give them examples to improve their work as soon as they finished it. In March, some students asked for copies of my work so that they could use it as a model when they went home to make revisions revi sions that I was not requiring them to do. I participated in other assignments across the study, as well, particularly reading annotations and listening guides I required students to complete as their classmates gave presentations. I shared my work with students, which not only showed my investment in what they were doing, but also made them accountable for engaging cognitively so that they would produce high quality reading, writing, speaking, and listening work. The second way I showed my investment in their literacy activities was that I incorporated both verbal and written feedback and follow up opportunities into my lesson plans and grading so that the class had a chance to further process information and/or fill in gaps when they did not complete the assignments. I used holistic writing rubrics adapted from the ones College Board uses to score student
53 writing on the AP exam to guide these discussions and focus my written feedback something I have learned works well, especially for shortening the amo unt of time I spend grading During the we ek of February 11, for example, my research journal and lesson plans reflect that I met with students for individual writing conferences regarding their Free Response essays that responded to a quote about civil d isobedience. During these conferences, I gave students verbal feedback about the quality of their drafts according to the writing rubric and the skills we were focusing on that week, as well as wrote specific feedback directly on the drafts about how to m ake improvement s as they revised their work. As I have found when teaching writing over the years, conferences serve to build accountability between individual students an d myself because the feedback is specific and timely ; I was able to use the feedback to support and reiterate high expectations that helped to spur students in the right direction. The revised drafts that resulted from these meetings showed not only behavioral engagement due to all students completing the assignment, but I recorded that 12 of 13 students made improvements that evidenced cognitive engagement in their writing. Individual and small group writing conferences gave me the opportunity to show I gave students verbal feedback almost daily as I connected the work we had done the previous day to what we would accomplish next. I gave this verbal feedback by listing specific areas of focus on the board that reflected student work, and I circulated the room as students worked in small groups to give them further feedback associated with their written and small group work. I found that providing consistent feedback and follow up opportunities kept students accountable, encouraging behavioral engagement
54 at th e minimum, as well as emotional and cognitive engagement for many as I used the opportunities to remind students of what they neede d to be doing to be successful. Showing my investment in their work was an important part of how I engaged students in litera cy, as my lesson plans and research journal, particularly in response to the question How did I modify my plans to respond to engagement issues?, evidenced. In addition, in their Google Form exit ticket responses, several students noted that knowing we wo uld go over material in class the following day motivated them to engage in the activities for homework and try their best to understand them. One student put it this way: following day, or by you, that motivates me. This quote emotional concern for my investment and responses to student efforts in class. The frequent verbal and w ritten feedback I gave students pushed them to engage in the work. On days when I did not show my investment in their learning by doing my best to stay knowledgeable about their individual progress and continue pushing them forward, I saw a drop in individ ual student engagement. One example of when individual engagement fell was during the week of March 6 as students worked on their group essay. I noted in my research journal that all students engaged behaviorally but upon looking closer, only half of th e class was attending to the task cognitively by improving their essay plans and using new tone words. I had not provided students written feedback and the verbal feedback I was giving them was not specific enough to require all students to increase their cognitive engagement.
55 emotional engagement because it sometimes made them feel frustrated and concerned about their needs for improvement as they worked to apply the feedback. An examp le of these responses occurred when I asked in a Google Form exit ticket after the week of February 11 about the most difficult task for the week. Students had completed essay revisions after having writing conferences with me. One student said the follo wing, which captures other similar reflections: my grade because I had worked really hard to push for a better essay. My improving in any way The response shows that my investment in providing feedback on the revised essay elicited emotional engagement, and my previous feedback had encouraged her to T he process also resulted in the student pushing forward, despite the negative emotions she had experienced, further evidencing cognitive engagement in her writing. Another student expressed similar concerns in response to the same writing assignment and c Students took my feedback seriously and conveyed their intentions to apply it to their present and future assignments. As the above quot es show, in their anonymous Google Form responses, some students stated that part of their motivation to engage in literacy in our class came from not wanting to disappoint me and wanting to show me that they were trying their very best. Students were abl e to see my investment in their work through the written and verbal feedback I provided them, and my investment encouraged their
56 engagement. One student commented that I gave more feedback than any of her other English teachers ever had and that she never felt like she had an excuse not to improve. The same student received an A on her tone letter writing assignment from February 21 after incorporating the feedback I had given her on her rough draft, which included encouraging her to develop a word bank o f synonyms for her tone word to diction. In addition to showing where she had made errors in grammar and punctuation, my final feedback on the assignment built on the feedback I had given her previously: The feedback I had given her before the final assignment was due not only showed my investment in her learning, but made her accountable for turning in high quality w ork that required cognitive engagement. My written feedback on shorter assignments was specific and targeted the skill students needed to improve. For example, on a 15 minute Free Response essay practice on March 20, during which students wrote from a prompt as much as they were able in the short span of time, I wrote comm ents such as those in Table 2 4. That week, we had worked on providing elaboration and using pronouns correctly. I was able to use written feedback such as the above to build account ability with students as they moved on to the next assignment. I would ask students to refer back to assignments and reflect on specific improvements they needed to make, and as they applied my feedback their engagement moved from behavioral to cognitive much more readily than it did when I did not show my investment in the work they had done previously. As a whole, my research journal reflections, student work, and anonymous
57 Google Form exit ticket responses acknowledge the importance of my investment in student assignments to their accountability for literacy engagement. Building Relationships The accountability I built with students was just one piece of how I engaged them in literacy. My data show that the strategies, routines, and investment outlined in the previous section went hand in hand with the relationships I intentionally built with students as part of the critical care (Benard, 2004) I showed them and the classroom community I nurtured. My research journal reveals that I worked to build relat ionships with the class in a few ways. One was by doing small things to show my appreciati on for their hard work as we continued that hard work. On Fridays, we would have coffee as students took a quiz, worked through multiple choice passages and questio ns, or wrote a timed essay. In my research journal, I wrote that several students stated that knowing we were going to have coffee on Fridays helped motivate them to push through difficult assignments. When I offered to have the coffee on a different day of the week, one Other students nodded in agreement. Having this weekly treat had a positive effect on s emotional, and cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). Day, I had to leave my class with a different teacher, but left them chocolate on their desks and posted a message thanking them for pushing through the difficult passages they were reading. A review of the student work from that day revealed that 13 of 13 students completed the assignment i.e. engaged behaviorally in my absence.
58 In addition to these little tangible items, which admittedly affected their behavioral engagement the most, I praised students individually and publicly in class, guided them to develop their own senses of ownership of the class as critical thinkers, and communicated with them frequently to help them develop individual voices and continue to make progress in their reading and writing tasks. The combination of these three strategies, which I explain further below, resulted in stronger relationships with students that influenced their behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) in literacy. Praise. One way I built relationships with students in my classroom was through praising them for specific accomplishments large and small that reflected their work in reading, writing, speaking, and listening t asks in our class. My data show that praising students resulted primarily in behavioral engagement, but student responses on their Google Form exit tickets showed that it also sometimes increased their emotional and cognitive engagement. I praised studen ts when they asked questions through email or text message, as well as on our Google Classroom by saying such Keep it up! provided them on their small group and independent work. Sometimes my praise was general: Other times, my praise was more specific: On each piece of written work students turned in, I was sure to include praise in the feedback I provided them to serve as encouragement when I also had to provide more harsh feedback.
59 an idea for build ing classroom community that I picked up at a training during the summer prior to this study. In my classroom, it was a white board located to the left of our projection screen and second white board that contained our agenda and work for the week. I beg board for doing something awesome associated with our class, and I encouraged students to participate. them t o praise each other, each of which encouraged behavioral and emotional engagement in literacy activities. Examples of the types of praise included thanking individual or small groups of students for drawing insightful connections across texts, skillfully using rhetorical devices to develop their writing, or applying a reading strategy to a difficult piece of text. My research journal and lesson plans show that this strategy helped our class to build relationships that resulted in behavioral, emotional, an d cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) in literacy assignments because them opportunities to express pride in their work, and encouraged students to push thr ough difficult assignments. of the first semester, students had begun participating by the time this study began, using this method to recognize themselves, each other, and e ven me for things such as giving help with assignments, reminding each other to do work, making copies of lost handouts, making excellent improvements on their multiple choice and writing
60 assignments, and having fun discussions in class among many others. With these stronger relationships came increased engagement in our literacy activities as students responded to the praise through improving their efforts, particularly in reading and writing activities. After the week of February 11, I wrote in my resea rch journal that students had frequently and that a That week, I had excha nged emails with this student several times ; I answer ed her questions and thank ed her for her hard work to catch and this correspondence helped us to build a relationship. Very q uickly, this student became not only behaviorally engag ed, but emotionally engaged, as well. Soon, she began engaging cognitively as she emailed me to ask for assistance with assignments and made corrections on her multiple choice assignments to improve h er understandings. Furthermore, this student began coming in before school and eating lunch in my classroom; she used this time to engage cognitively, annotating texts and asking questions as she worked through challenging assignments. Another student who benefited from the praise and strengthened relationships class. She had never taken an advanced course before and needed my support multiple times per week on assignments d ue to reading and writing below grade level. In my research journal reflections for the week of February 18, I happily recorded that this quiet, insecure student seemed to be changing
61 That week, several of he r classmates had written her name reminding them of assignments. Following that week, I noted that this student, although classmates. she needed to speak out more readily and engage emotionally and cognitively in cl ass, not only with her own work but also socially with her classmates. The above instances became apparent to me during the course of this study conversation at the beginning of class as students wrote down their homework, a routine that had been in place since the beginning of the year. As they wrote down their that someone had added. These conversations conveyed the relationships students wer e building with each other and were significant to their literacy engagement because students spoke about their learning as they talked about whose names were on the wall and why they were there. These discussions were specific to the reading, writing, sp eaking, and listening activities with which we were currently working. Speaking was the component of literacy that I had the most difficulty engaging students in across this study, and these short discussions encouraged the behavioral and emotional engage ment that was sometimes lacking in this component of literacy. Our daily conversations also helped us begin with praise and positivity on any given day. e space and evidenced praise as an important piece of our
62 classroom environment and in engaging students in speaking about their learning. Students noticed additions to the wall at the beginning of class and would say I was then able to use these student discussions to make connections to our literacy activities for that day, and st showed its importance to encouraging their engagement. Sense of ownership. Just as incorporating praise into our classroom was a powerful component of building relationships with and among students to increase literacy engagement, my lesson plans and student work data evidence reading and writing activities that drew students to become critically aware of themselves as readers and writers. These types of activities helped students gain senses of ownership of the material, which I nurtured through working with them in small groups and having individual discussions with them; toget her, these activities strengthened our teacher student relationships. During the first week of school, I facilitated an activity in which students drew their own Circles of Identity and wrote words and phrases that were most important to how they saw them selves. As part of our discussion, I provided students small circular mirrors as visua l reminders that who they are t heir identities a re key components of who they are as critical thinkers, readers, and writers. I returned to the Circles of Identity conc ept throughout the school year as conversation pieces for building relationships with students and encouraging them to take ownership of their literacy.
63 During this study, more specifically, I used the concept of identity to engage students in reflections on how they have developed as readers and writers, how to consider different persp ectives when reading critically, and how to take on different personas in their writing. As I engaged students in these thinking, reading, and writing exercises, I reminded them that just as the writers they were reading made choices to convey specific messages, they, too, have that power as writers. I asked students to consider their individual personalities and strengths and how they could use those qualities to enhance th eir writing. Our conversations helped us to build relationships literacy. I facilitated independent free writing assignments that asked students to reflect on their identities as readers and writers as they considered their developing understandings in class. Student work data provide evidence that these writings contributed to my relationship with each of them, as well as encouraged emotional and cognitive engagement for all s tudents. All students used these independent free writing opportunities to share their feelings about their learning and some gave me specific feedback and asked for more focus on skills that they were finding difficult. On February 9, for example, I ask ed students to reflect on the rhetorical devices they used to convey their arguments in essays about civil disobedience. I then asked students to consider the devices with which they felt most comfortable and those they felt they needed to practice more. Students demonstrated their senses of ownership of their writing as they emotionally and cognitively engaged in this activity. In their reflections,
64 they considered how they had performed on the essay, as well as the skills with which they felt comfortab le and those that ch allenged them. Table 2 5 nt in their written reflections. After responding in writing to each one, I spoke with the class about these reflections. I talked to them about how the class had respond ed and how I would use their reflections to guide my plans for practice activities that followed, a finding my lesson plans support. strengths and weaknesses in these types of wr itten reflections as I used their voices to contribute to our class operations. Showing students that I valued their reflections contributed to stronger relationships with them. Two additional writing assignments highlighted the finding that students buil ding a sense of ownership as we built relationships positively affected their emotional and cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012): y write a break I worked as I encourag ed them to imitate not only Our conversations helped students to gain ownership of their writing as they chose topics on; the conversations also strengthened the relationships I had with each student
65 because I was able to tap into their personal interests and help them use tho se in their writing. Similarly, with the Tone Letter assignment, I met with students about their drafts and helped them to identify ways to put themselves into the personas they were creating, even though their personas might have been quite different from how they characterized themselves an energetic, determined student wrote in the persona of lethargy and a conscientious student wrote in the persona of apathy, for example. We talked about movies they had seen or books they had read that included charact ers that fit their personas, and I helped them use this background knowledge to brainstorm the sensory details they might use in their tone letters. Eleven of 13 students performed exceptionally well on this assignment, which required emotional and cognit ive engagement. I think it is also important to point out that, in their anonymous Google Form exit tickets, seven of eight responding students characterized these assignments as the most engaging. Through written and verbal feedback associated with stude nt work and discussions I noted in my research journal, I found that I used these assignments to encourage students individually and help them build confidence in themselves as writers. These efforts strengthened my relationship with each of th em. Studen ts began engaging emotionally we discussed how their roles as sisters, students, cat owners, softbal l players, etc. could help them add insight into their writing. With these discussions, I was able to get
66 to know students better, and they used our discussions to engage cognitively and improve their writing. The data show that all students completed bot h assignments, and only two of 13 did not receive a B or higher. I noted in my research journal that the two students who did not engage cognitively and therefore received lower grades came to me separately to apologize and reflected that it was their own lack of trying that kept them from doing well. Each stated she had different challenges going on at home, and one of them redid her tone letter assignment to receive a higher grade. Taking time to speak with me showed students took ownership of their la ck of effort and our relationships with each other were strong enough that they felt comfortable to discuss their difficulties with me. Although their senses of ownership and our relationships did not encourage them to engage emotionally and cognitively ( Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) in these assignments initially, I would argue that their following actions still showed s ome level of engagement. T hey knew they could share their personal difficulties with me, and one of the two students used our discussion to motivate her to engage cognitively and improve her work. Open communication and student voice. Communicating with students, in general, was important to building relationships with them and therefore improving their behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) in literacy. Open communication was a critical piece of how I praised and encouraged students to build their senses of owning their literacy, which also helped them develop their voices to contribute to our class.
67 Throughout the study, I worked to build relationships with students through communicating with them in various ways inside and outside our classroom environment. Our online Google Classroom was one way I was able to communicate reminders and provide reso urces to students. In their anonymous Google Form exit tickets, many students claimed they depended on this communication to keep up with their work and important materials; this communication therefore improved their behavioral engagement, as was also ev idenced by the high percentage of students who completed homework each night. I noted sending out email reminders in my research journal, as well, and students used their school Chromebooks or cell phones to email me throughout the day to ask questions. T hese communications resulted in stronger emotional and cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) in our literacy activities because students would apply my feedback and clarifications to their small group and independent homework. This strategy w orked particularly well for many students, as my research journal and anonymous Google Form exit tickets indicated. One student had only been minimally engaged in the months prior to the study, but began responding to these communications after I reached out to her individually through email to see how she was doing, both on an assignment and personally. Although her emotional and cognitive engagement in small group work in class did not change significantly, her emotional and cognitive engagement in her independent work, particularly her writing, improved noticeably across the study. She began sending me questions by email and chatting with me after class when she needed help, which was quite a change from her confused silence and poor quality work prior to our strengthened relationship.
68 In my research journal, I recorded that four other students would follow up on our email discussions frequently by coming into class to work on assignments before school, after school, or during their lunch period. Our c ommunications, therefore, resulted in them feeling comfortable enough to seek my assistance on their reading and writing activities in person, outside of class. Over the course of this study, two of these four students began coming in daily to ask questio ns and improve their work outside of class time, indicating that our communication strengthened our relationships and encouraged them to engage more emotionally and cognitively in assignments. While online interactions were helpful for building relationships with some students, however, I noted in my research journal that four different students of the thirteen were unable to access the Google Classroom or email outside of school because they did not have Internet access or data plans on their ph ones. I worked to communicate with these students via text messages and/or arranging discussions outside of class. Many times, I was also able to use my flexible schedule as reading coach to help me do so by making appointments to have students stop into my classroom later in the day to address issues they were facing. My lesson plans evidence that I also provided students opportunities to communicate with me in writing by reflecting on their literacy and giving me tips on any areas of confusion they need ed me to address. The student work that resulted from (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012), as well as their comfort with candidly giving me feedback. On March 9, for example, I aske d students to write for 10 minutes by responding to the following questions: Where are you as a writer? How have you
69 grown and where do you feel stagnant/frustrated? In Table 2 5 I provide quotes from a sample of student responses. This piece of student work is a strong example of the ease with which students felt as they communicated with me at this point in the year. In their responses, students express their emotions and use academic vocabulary and references to learning that had occurred in o ur class, evidencing their emotional and cognitive engagement in literacy (please note that I have not corrected errors in gramm ar and syntax in the responses). Their responses are specific and honest. They evidence the strong relationships I had develope d with students through our communications and other means, as well as indicate in literacy. As each of the above examples also show, in addition to our online and personal commun ications, I sought multiple ways to help students develop and contribute their own voices into how our class operated. I gave students many opportunities to share their voices in their work, during collaborative group discussions and, in general, I worked with them to develop a safe space within our classroom so that they could express themselves freely about the work and topics in which we were engaging. Giving students voice contributed to our open communication and not only strengthened our relationshi ps, but also proved to increase student engagement in literacy. As I discussed in the previous section about making students accountable, the data convey that all of my attempts to engage students in whole class discussions did not result in high levels of behavioral, emotional, or cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). I noted in my research journal that only two to three students took
70 part in those whole group conversations when I attempted them. However, student engagement in small group d iscussions fared much better. These collaborative groups encouraged open communication among students, as well as gave them voice in ways that whole group discussions did not. As I listened and offered assistance during group work, I noted that students would use their time together to work through confusion that they had otherwise kept quiet. They would also give me feedback and suggestions regarding how I could help them understand the material better, which strengthened our relationships. During the w eek of March 20, I recorded in my research journal that all students in class behaviorally engaged in discussion about how to craft their Voice Lessons posters. observed them correctin examples into their posters, and talking about how they could add creative pictures to present their information. When I asked them questions that referred to how they might include examples from previous readings, they began pulling out novels we had read or looking in their reading logs, cognitively engaging in how to draw connections across their learning. Their spoken engagement led to them asking more questions about our readings, and vo icing what they felt like we needed to review in class. On March 28, I recorded that I allowed students to work on brand new content with groups they had chosen. All student s engaged behaviorally in attempting to write sentences in iambic pentameter, a nd most of them engaged emotionally expressing their frustration, confusion, and humor when they made mistakes. I noted in my lesson plans that day that 11 of 13 students had engaged cognitively in the task, which was
71 particularly evident through their disc ussions, an element of the environment of open communication we had developed. Multiple students commented that the task challenged them in new ways, making it difficult and fun. Prior to presenting it, they had checked their work, ensuring they had adher ed to the rules and met the goals of the activity. After the activity, students asked for more practice with iambic pentameter because they did not feel confident with it yet, so I incorporated practice opportunities into the coming lessons. Our communic ations during assignments like this one elicited engagement and strengthened relationships across our class. When I provided students opportunities for communication and having a voice in our class, they built confidence and stronger senses of safety that encouraged them to engage in literacy in ways they had not in the past. The data reveal that building a safe space for expression was important for helping students overcome the anxieties that came with being in an advanced English class. Our classroom a s a safe space for expression strengthened our relationships with each other and encouraged student engagement in literacy. comfort with expressing their levels of confidence and the areas they were depending on me to help them improve. Additionally, in their Google Form exit ticket responses, I asked students how they felt about our classroom environment and if they would describe the emotions they usually experience during o ur class. Their responses gave insight into the importance safety had in their literacy engagement. Several students stated that they feel that they could speak their opinions without fear in my classroom. Some students did mention fear of what classmat es may think; even so,
72 The data show that developing a safe space for expression in our classroom was a key element of building relationships, which was vital to our open communication and how I engaged students in reading, writing, speaking, and listening activities. Seeking Relevance to Student Interest Having a relationship with my studen ts helped me to engage them, but ensuring the reading, writing, speaking, and listening lessons we worked through were relevant and interesting was also a significant part of engaging them. My lesson plans and researcher journal show that I sought ways to engage students through tapping into their interests and drawing relevance whenever possible, particularly when I saw For example, despite the practice we had done with short readings, students were n ot readily using the SOAPStone (Subject, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, tone) reading and writing strategy to help them analyze texts. On February 6, I therefore asked students to use the strategy with the Mr. Clean Super Bowl commercial that many of them h ad seen the previous weekend. The result was laughter and enthusiastic discussion that included students explaining their choices as they used the strategy. Another example occurred during the week of February 13, when it had become clear to me that stud ents did not have much experience considering the impact of gender roles in society. On February 16, I engaged them in a listening activity that prompted them to categorize specific occupations and descriptions as female, male, both, or neithe r to guide t hem to analyze more closely gender roles we had encountered in our readings. Again, the discussions that ensued were enthusiastic and thought provoking, and student applied their thinking
73 afterward to the characters in novels we had read in their notes. The data reveal that activities such as these drew students from behavioral to emotional and cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). In the first week of data collection, I used an anonymous Google Form exit ticket to ask students what motivate d them to engage in the literacy activities I placed before them. Coupled with the reflective writing I asked students to do as part of their weekly work over the course of the study, their responses revealed the importance of relevance and interest to th eir engagement. Students characterized their motivation to engage and therefore how I engaged them i n four different ways: when class activities brought challenge, prepared students for the future, were entertaining in some way, and provided students opp ortunities to choose reading and writing topics. Challenge. In their Google Form exit ticket responses, several students stated that they appreciated challenge. Challenging assignments peaked their interests and motivated them to engage in the activities Challenge made students more inclined to engage, resulting in cognitive engagement because they had to push through difficult tasks (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). One student stated that challenging assignments keep him engaged because he does no t like to remain confused. Another said that the It appears, therefore, that confusion result ed in deepened intrigue in the literacy activity, which led to deeper student engagement. Students who indicated that challenge motivated them to engage in our literacy activities provided examples of how they engaged in overcoming these challenges, as
74 wel l. In response to the Google Form exit ticket question asking students how they responded when they faced a difficult reading or writing task, they stated that they did things such as take breaks when the homework was frustrating, listened to their classm ates who understand material better than they might during class discussions, and skipped sports events and time with friends so they could complete the time intensive homework. ch allenging literacy activities, and the challenges of the assignments themselves made students more inclined to engage. I found additional support for the finding that challenge (as it relates to student interest) resulted in deeper student engagement in s everal pieces of student work. Although I used visual rhetoric warm ups at the beginning of class to elicit student interest, their work shows that these assignments did not result in students engaging cognitively most of the time. These visual rhetoric warm ups m emes and cartoons I used to engage stu dents in our topics for the day w ere not particularly nuanced or challenging for students to comprehend. Despite the fact that students could have applied our learning and deeply analyzed these texts, howeve r, only two or three students in class responded by making such connections. Without explicit guidance from me, most students did not engage cognitively in analyzing these texts, which implies that their perception that the assignment was easy resulted in less engagement. Cornell notes assignments showed similar results. Over half of the class did not engage cognitively by making connections across our learning, implementing detailed examples from texts we had read previously, or drawing visuals that woul d help them
75 retain content. Instead, students put in the minimal amount of work that would result in a decent grade. On the other hand, the tone letter, Brady analysis and written imitation, and writing lines in iambic pentameter were assignments that st udents found interesting, but also quite challenging according to their Google Form exit tickets and my lesson plans and research journal. The majority of students extensively annotated their texts, wrote multiple drafts, asked many questions, and discuss ed these assignments at length in class, evidencing emotional and cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). Future preparation. In their Google Form exit ticket responses, some students conveyed connections between their motivation to engage in class assignments to how those assignments, and the class in general, prepared them for the future. In other interests or personal gain for their futures, they were more likely to engage in them more deeply. One student mentioned the class and taking the AP exam would provide preparation for college and scholarship applications, and this preparation made her want to engage in the work we were doing. Other students s tated that they valued their grades in class, implying the understanding that they needed to move beyond mere behavioral engagement to achieve higher grades. strategies taught for future assignmen writing activities I placed before the class. Each of these statements convey s cognitive engagement because they show evidence of thinking through how they could
76 use assignments to push through challen ges (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012), both in class and beyond. learning in our class going beyond that of completing daily work. Their engagement in literacy moved from behavioral to emotional and cognitive (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) when they found relevance in the assignments preparing them for the future in some way. An analysis of their student work and my lesson plans supports this finding. Assignments such as students analy zing AP student writing samples from students who, without much guidance from me, typically did not move beyond behavioral engagement in general reading assignments. These AP stud ent writing samples were clearly connected to the work my students would have to do themselves on the AP exam. Another example of an assignment that prepared students for the future, both personally and for their final researched argument writing assignmen t in our class, was the weekly current event. The current event assignment required detailed annotations documentation, and a short spoken presentation to a small group on t he Friday it was due. On any given week throughout the study, at least nine of 13 students engaged rhetoric, and the majority of students showed emotional engageme nt when they spoke about their articles to their classmates. The data show that such assignments that
77 appealed to their personal interest in that they prepared them for the future in some way t. Humor and entertainment. In their Google Form exit ticket responses, many students stated that when the material is funny or entertaining, that makes them want to engage in the reading and writing assignments. One way I engaged them is by connecting our work with current events and the Super Bowl. In response to the Google Form exit ticket question about whether there was anything different about how students engaged in our English class versus how they had engaged in past English classe s, one student said the following: English class, we speak about current events such as what has been happening in the lesson plans show that I asked student s to analyze rhetoric in visuals such as memes, comic strips, and political cartoons at least twice per week. I used video clips, commercials, and news stories, as well, and asked students to draw connections among these short analyses with our previous r eadings. The student work that resulted from these activities revealed that all students engaged behaviorally, and small group discussions evidenced emotional and cognitive engagement. One student reflected on the importance of taking interest in our lite racy activities particular week: cynicism. On topics such as community I am less interested because though I may technically be in several communities, I do not consider myself a member within those
78 gave a sense of freedom in what you could write about by adding our imagi nation into the break up. Still others said that taking engaging. Humor and entertainment elicited more emotional and cognitive e ngagement because they made the activities enjoyable, as well as prompted students to think through things that appealed to them in their everyday lives. Choice. My lesson plans and research journal show that I also engaged students by providing them gu ided choices with how to approach reading, writing, speaking, and listening assignments. Broadly speaking, the types of choices I found that I afforded students during the study fell into the following categories: choice of topic; choice of how to approa ch the assignment; choice of what the product would look like; choice of when to complete the assignment; choice of whether to do something for personal practice; and, finally, choice of groups or group roles. With regards to choosing topics, for example, I allowed students to choose their topics of focus with the weekly current event assignment which one student claimed in a Google Forms but I required they analyze specific rhetorical elements within their writing about each article. For the Tone Letter assignment the week of February 13, I assigned each student a challenging tone word, but allowed the freedom to reflect that tone by choosing their own personas and including the details they felt were most important. I n their imitation writing assignment the following week, I allowed students to determine their topics and personas, but they had to imitate the tone and syntax of the focus text. In their Google Forms responses, every student participant noted the tone le tter,
79 the current event, or the imitation writing assignment also called the Brady analysis imag These responses verify that students appreciated the choices I afforded them, and their appreciation resulted in emotional and cognitive engagement in these assignments. My research journal and lesson plans reveal that I balanced the choices I g ave students when it came to working in collaborative groups. When I chose student groups, I allowed them to choose their group roles, along with their plans for how to complete reading, writing, speaking, and listening tasks. When I allowed them to choo se their groups, I gave specific guidance about what the groups needed to accomplish. During the week of February 18, I noted that 11 of 13 students were engaging cognitively in discussions with the groups I had placed them in as they decided the texts fr om which to pull examples of gender roles for their notes. In the week of March 6, students took initiative and began engaging in small group discussion without any direction from me on the second day of working on their group essays; my lesson plans show that I shifted my plans because of this small group engagement. The guided choices I used to foster collaborative work with students proved to engage the majority of students behaviorally and emotionally (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). On several occasi ons in my research journal, I also noted specific improvements had them speak in small groups prior to sharing with the whole class. This finding is significant because I noted sometimes with much frustration that whole group
80 discussion and note taking resulted in minimal student engagement in literacy throughout the study. While providing guided choices proved to engage students in literacy in my classroom, I found that th ere were also times that I gave students too much choice, which resulted in too much freedom to disengage. In my research journal the week of March 6, for example, I wrote that only about half the class became cognitively engaged in the group analysis ess ay. Students who had difficulty with comprehension quietly joked around in their groups about not knowing what the text was about, yet did not ask for my assistance as I offered it or attempt to use the strategies we had worked on previously in class. Ot hers attempted at surface level behavioral engagement, but did not take my advice to pull resources in the textbook or their notes, which they had readily available. During the week of March 20, as students worked in groups to create posters to review rhe torical devices through activities they had completed over Spring repeated (written and verbal) instructions to do so, only four of 13 students pulled out notes and other mat posters. These findings changed my thinking about providing students choices and how this practice can affect their engagement in literacy. As these examples reveal, there must be a balance between how much choice to provide and what I hope for students to accomplish. I found that providing too much choice resulted in students not meeting the levels of cognitive engagement necessary to progress to meet the reading and writing goals they needed to a ccomplish.
81 Conclusion The data from across my practitioner research study reveal that I engaged students in literacy in a variety of ways: through establishing multiple means for keeping students accountable, building relationships with students, seeking relevance to student interest, and providing students voice. In the following chapter, I will give insight into the significance of these findings to my context, as well as the action steps and possibilities for future research that the findings indicate. Table 2 1 Units and Essential Questions during My Practitioner Inquiry AP English Unit Essential Questions (Unit Themes and Skills) Unit 5: Issues of Community What is the relationship between the individual and the community? (Shea et al., 2008) How How can we analyze Which rhetorical strategies do writers use to make their arguments convincing? Which rhetorical strategies do YOU use to make your arguments conv incing? Unit 6: Issues of Gender Roles What is the impact of the gender roles that society creates and enforces? (Shea et al., 2008) purposes? How do writers use the canons of rhetoric to persuade readers? In what ways can we analyze rhetoric? (spiral review of terms and analytical skills from previous units) Unit 7: The Power of Language In what ways can we analyze rhetoric? (continued spiral review) How does the language we use reveal who we are?
82 Table 2 2 Types of Engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) and Examples Types of Engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) Examples in my Classroom Behavioral: academic, social, or extracurricular activities Taking notes Completing assignments Checking online communication and reminders (emails and Google Classroom) Cooperating during group work Following my directions Emotional: and places associated with the atmosphere of school; whether students feel a positive connection with school and value school successes in ways that motivate their participation Showing excitement about completing assignments Friendly competition with classmates Encouraging classmates and praising th em when they do well Communicating with me Showing disappointment when not performing well on reading, writing, speaking, and listening tasks Taking initiative Expressing positive feelings about the class and experiences with literacy assignments Cognitive: effort and to take the time to think through what they have to do to overcome difficult tasks Asking questions relevant to literacy activities Seeking understanding (asking classmates for help; defining unfami liar words; referring to previous notes/assignments) Putting in work outside of class (communicating with me through text/email to overcome difficult tasks; coming in before or after school; completing extra credit assignments) Annotating texts with questi ons, comments, and connections among ideas Applying my feedback to re reading and writing revisions Intentionally using new vocabulary in writing
83 Table 2 3 Written Feedback Examples Student Free Response Sample My Feedback 1 2 3 correct pronouns. 4 anything you do turns out great (when you put 5
84 Table 2 4 February 9 Independent Free Write Reflections Student Free Write Reflections 1 I feel comfortable with using the three appeals (ethos, logos, pathos) but not with using anything else. When writing, I am not focusing on making it fancy, I am focusing on adequately answering the prompt. I rarely, if ever, use any figur ative language because I do not know how to fit it in. In a timed situation, using figurative language does not come to me. 2 I have a good grasp with most basic rhetorical strategies at this point, I just need to work on incorporating them more fully in my writing. Stylistic strategies like metaphor, simile, parallel structure that make the essay more pleasant to read [are] lacking in my writing. they are, but to me forgetting that I can. 3 The strategies that I f eel comfortable with are: allusions, anaphora, statistical data, using anecdotes, declarative strategies, ethos, figurative language, personification, irony, imagery. Not comfortable: parallel structure, I keep summarizing instead of analyzing. Using r hetorical questions.
85 Table 2 5 March 9 Student Written Reflections Student Written Reflections 1 As a writer, I feel as if I have many areas where I need to improve. I am not at all satisfied with my writing and that makes me frustrated...I have grown in some ways like analyzing tone a littl e better.. However I really wish I could improve on not writing in passive voice and writing formally. 2 I know I have improved a lot. Looking back at my past writing, I am super proud o f myself. I still have problems with passive voice and the occasional grammatical errors. My writing is far more formal and far less conversational. and being able to identify rhetorical devices comes a lot easier. I am still frustrated with passive voice and I need to get in the habit of going back over my work .. 3 As a writer, I feel like I am a little child writing essay s. Essays are my arch nemesis.. I feel like I have only made a slim improvement since the beginning of the year. My essay grades/scores have stayed at a 5 or even 4, which is not encouraging. I feel dumb sometimes because I am not an advanced writer like my classmates. I still make the same mistakes, even though I read thoroughly. 4 As a writer, I now have the ability to correctly use the format of analysis. I have improved my word choice and sentence structure. I have issues with collecting my thoughts. I have issues with organization. I do not fully elaborate on textual evidence like I should. I have a hard time looking outside of the box and analyzing. I still have multiple grammat ical errors .. I oversummarize. I overthink. But I do a good job of putting words together.
86 CHAPTER 3 DISCUSSION Although I work as the Reading Coach at my rural, high poverty 6 12 combination school, for this study I chose to examine how I engaged students in literacy in my own classroom. Student engagement in literacy has been a recurring issue of practice since I have been at my school, so I sought to glean learnings through practitioner inquiry; these learnings I then hoped to transfer t o my coaching role as I work with teachers. In this study, I collected data over seven weeks during the second semester of working with my AP English class of students in grades 10 12. I saw these 13 students first period every weekday for 50 minutes. T he data I collected included a research journal, detailed lesson plans, daily student work, and weekly anonymous Google Form exit tickets. The findings of my practitioner research study addressed the question of how I engaged high school students in litera cy in my own classroom at a rural, high poverty school. My data revealed that I engaged s tudents through the following: maintaining systems of accountability through routines and provisions, investment in assignments, and collaborative grouping and discus sions; building relationships through praise, developing student sense of ownership, and open communication and providing students voice; and, seeking relevance to student interest through challenge, future preparation, humor and entert ainment, and provi ding choice. Figure 3 1 provides a visual representation of these findings, showing that each component worked together with the others to engage students in literacy in my study
87 Figure 3 1 Literacy Engagement The combination of accountability, building relationships, and seeking relevance to student interest moved students from behavioral to emotional and cognitive engagement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012) in our daily reading, writing, speaking, and listening tasks. For specific depictions of t he engagement for each element of lit eracy, refer to the Appendix As developing Practitioner Scholar s in this doctoral program, our professors have compelled us to conduct research that has an impact on our immediate context and leans toward changes in future action. In this chapter, I outline what my findings mean within my own rural district context, how I plan to share my learnings through professional development and coaching in my district, and limitations and subsequent ideas for future practitione r research. own teaching practice, but to my role as reading coach as I plan to work with teachers in my rural school of poverty. In the next section, I explain this contextual significance in more deta il.
88 Contextual Significance of Findings Many studies have explored literacy engagement, but I wanted to seek understandings of how I engaged students of rural poverty in literacy. Literacy engagement is a major problem of practice that I face in my contex t, as well as a topic of research that is far less prevalent in the literature than that of literacy engagement in suburban and urban schools. S tudies in general have largely overlooked students of rural poverty in the areas of politics, sociology, and ed ucation (Azano, 2015; Gurley, 2016; Hardr et al., 2009 ). As I have explained, in addition to facing high school dropout, difficulties with teacher retention and quality, and limited resources, students in rural schools are often from minority populations and face difficult familial circumstances in homes where parents have minimal education (Hardr et al., 2009). Such challenges are all too familiar to the students and families my school and district serve. Among others, these factors encouraged me to take a closer look at literacy engagement. Because engaging students in literacy is a significant problem of practice in my context, it is important for our teachers to recognize and take ownershi p of determining how to address the problem actively in our classrooms. Doing so might reduce the deficit mindset that often pervades our schools when students are not engaging in literacy and not scoring well on tests, one of blaming students, their families, and outside forces (Vasudevan & Campano, 2009). My pr actitioner inquiry helped me gain insights about how I engage high school students of rural poverty in literacy practices through standards driven instruction. It also revealed important instructional shifts teachers working with students of rural poverty at my school could put into place to increase student and teacher confidence, as well as student achievement.
89 e a picture of how focusing intentionally on student engagement in literacy on a daily basis can support the student learning in my school and district. Through this inquiry, I was able to tune into the practices that consistently worked well to engage students of rural poverty in my classroom b ehaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012), as well as reduce those practices that did not. Sharing my findings about how accountability, building relationships, and seeking relevance to student interest worked together to deve lop a classroom where literacy engagement happened much more frequently than disengagement has the potential to open conversations that might entice teachers in my context to shift their practices to increase literacy engagement in their classrooms. To im pact the mindsets of teachers who do not feel our students can meet high literacy engagement, I will need to communicate that strategies for reading, writing, speaking, and listening on their own might not be enough for our high sc hool students of rural po verty. W e must use these strategies alongside engagement through accountability, building relationships, and seeking relevance to student interest on a daily basis. My findings conveyed the types of literacy engagement strategies that worked well for enga ging students in my context. For example, the inquiry revealed that communication specific to individual students of rural poverty is a vital component to building the relationships necessary for progressing from behavioral to emotional and cognitive enga gement (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). Teachers within my context would benefit from knowing that merely posting blanket messages and reminders to parents and stu dents may not be enough to engage them fully depending on individual
90 circumstances, it may be necessary for teachers to take other steps to disseminate information as they develop relationships with their students. Communicating in many ways is a staple of my practice of teaching students of rural poverty, and this study helped me to consider the ways that I do so. I worked extensively to reach out to students w ho were not engaging in literacy, as well as to encourage those who were and I could not assume that one form of communication or building trust with students was enough to result in thei r literacy engagement Before my study even began, it was common for me to speak often to students individually through conferences and written feedback, emails, and/or texts and in addition to parent communication, I s ometimes had to reach out to other teachers and coaches to express concern and facilitate extra time for students to improve their work. The amount of time and dedication it took to develop accountability and strong relationships with my students seems to indicate that students of rural po verty need teachers that are intentional in the ways th at I was in order for these factors to strengthen student engagement in literacy. In other words, research based teaching strategies for engagement alone are not sufficient. Additionally, my study evidenced that strategic planning of how to respond to A common complaint I have heard from my teachers is that they attempt to design collaborative groups, utilize advanced organizers, and play game s with little success in engaging stude nts My colleagues often feel e that they claim the literacy strategies they are attempting are the problem an d decide against using them in the future Throughout this stu dy, my intentional focus on improving literacy
91 engagement included ensuring I did not make assumptions about my students and including their reflections and opinions in my consideration of how to engage them. As I allude to above, teachers of students of rural poverty might learn from this study that high impact literacy strategies must go hand in building accountability with students, building relationships with students, and seeking relevance to student interests. This a ssertion leads to the following section, where I rural, high poverty school where I serve as reading coach. Next Steps as Reading Coach The findings that resulted fro m this study call for me to take action. I need to consider how I might share with teachers that all three of the components my findings revealed accountability, building relationships, and seeking relevance to student interest work best together to engag e students in literacy. I want to share with others that without engagement strategies alongside teaching literacy, students may be less likely to engage in literacy as strongly as they might with those strategies. Furthermore, I need to clarify that it is important that teachers who teach all day unlike me due to being a teacher on special assignment, look for common st rategies and routines that work wel l across all of their classes. I have found that doing so assist s with lightening the time intensi ty to engage students of rural poverty effectively. Teaching and assessment tools such as writing rubrics, quick writes as checks for understanding, and grading writing assignments for specific purposes rather than poring over editing student work are compo nents that I have learned to use as I have become a seasoned teacher, and coaching conversations about such practices especially with new teachers would be important. Thinking about how I might implement my learnings as
92 a reading coach, the next logical s tep is to develop professional development sessions that guide teachers to investigate how each of these components contributes to literacy engagement in their classrooms. After analyzing the data concerning how I engaged high school students in literacy in my classroom at a rural, high poverty school, I took a step back and characterized what student engagement and disengagement looked like throughout the study. For each element of literacy reading, writing, speaking, and listening engagement looked a l ittle bit different, and I found it helpful to describe these characteristics as I analyzed how I engaged my students. I would begin these professional development sessions by providing examples and nonexamples of student engagement from my study with the goal of opening discussions that allow teachers to develop definitions of student engagement in literacy within the behavioral, emotional, and cognitive framework (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012). Each section in Table 3 1 provides a picture of what engaged and disengaged students looked like over the course of my study, and gives some insight into how they responded to the tasks and strategies I placed before them. I would provide Tab le 3 1 ( an abbreviated version can also be found in Appendix ) to my profe ssional development participants following the discussions so that I may share my own experiences with the types of engagement and disengagement the students in my study demonstrated. After offer ing the opportunity for teachers to develop working definitio ns of literacy engagement, I can facilitate subsequent professional development sessions. In these sessions, I can provide quotes and articles from my practitioner inquiry, ones that reflect my findings and the literature on rural schools of poverty and l iteracy
93 engagement. Relevance to our context will be very important as we work together to consider how to make positive changes in instruction. As I work with teachers, I can present relevant pieces of my data and findings periodically to challenge teache rs to determine how their experiences might align with or differ from my findings and the available literature. Doing so would allow teachers to use my inquiry as a reference piece directly from the context in which we are working, hopefully helping them to avoid the tendency to feel that our kids students of rural poverty I could use my research as a foundation to help teachers move toward specifically identifying problems of practice in their own classrooms, ones with which they can take ownership. From this point forward, I can guide teachers to use my findings and the literature I used to guide my study as guides for personal reflection, in either a graphic organizer or other format, on the ways that they use accountability, building relationships, and seeking relevance to student interest to engage students in literacy in their classrooms. Using this information, I can work with teachers to set up coaching cycles guided by the individual problems of practice they have identified. These steps would make their application of learning from our professional development timely and relevant to their current work with rural, high poverty students (Barley & Beesley, 2007; Croft, Coggshall, Dolan, Powers, & Killion, 2 010; Desimone, 2009). Applying what I have learned from my st udy is imperative because my goal is to make positive changes in my practice and the practices of teachers with whom I work. I am confident that using my learnings from this practitioner inqui ry study to guide the next steps I outlined in this section will have a positive impact on literacy engagement of
94 students in my context. In the following section, I provide an overview of the limitations of my study, which then lead into ideas for future research. Limitations One important limitation to my study of my Advanced Placement English classroom was that I did not study student achievement data that became available While this study was not about student achievement related to the literacy engagement I examined, I do think it is helpful to provide some data about Students had not only engaged in going beyond basic reading and writing skills throughout my practitioner inquiry, but their achievement data revealed that they may also have utilized their literacy learnings in their performance on assessm ents. For example, the four 10 th grade students in my AP English class scored above average proficiency on their end of year Florida Standards Assessments in English Language Arts on the five point scale, three scored a four and one scored a five, with a three marking proficiency. Of the four 11th and 12 th grade students who came into my class below 10 th grade proficiency in reading and writing, t wo scored a four, one scored a three, and one moved from a level one to one point away from a three. Additionally, four of the 13 students in this study passed the AP Exam with a score of three or four on the five point scale, and seven students scored a two, which deemed t hem college ready. The four 10 th grade students from my course qualified for dual enrollment at the end of the school year as well, resulting from their high scores in reading, writing, and math on the P.E.R.T (Postsecondary Education Readiness Test). Despite the overall positive student outcome data that I was able to consider
95 findings do not directly tie to student outcome data because I did not include them as data pieces during my inquiry. because that is the group of students on which I chose t o focus my practice. This group of students chose to take my course and therefore to take on the challenges I placed before them. It is possible that findings would look different if I were to have focused on a group of students in my school with differe nt academic agendas and needs in our rural school of poverty. Engaging struggling readers in a regular English 2 class, for example, might call for different types of engagement strategies than the ones I found most effective in my study. Finally, my prim ary focus was on my own perspective within this practitioner perspectives into more account, it is likely that my findings would have provided students more voice in impo rtant elements of literacy engagement from their perspectives. My study was limited to students responding to questions I chose to ask them and, despite my assurance that their responses would not impact their grades or my views of them in any way, there is still an element of power that I have as their teacher that I could not completely eliminate from my study. Ultimately, my position as their teacher may have impacted the responses they decided to voice in their anonymous Google Form exit tickets. The above limitations open doors to possibilities for future research that considers literacy engagement of students in rural, high poverty schools. I briefly discuss such possibilities in the next section.
96 Possibilities for Future Research The implied conne ctions between literacy engagement and student performance make me wonder whether a study of student performance on specific Language Arts Florida Standards might reveal implications for improving literacy engagement teaching practices. An additional prac titioner inquiry might in clude taking the time to analyze the achievement data of the students who were in my AP English class closely alongside the engagement they demonstrated in student work data. New findings from this investigation might provide insi ghts that characterize a relationship between these Another practitioner inquiry possibility would be to examine student literacy engagement closely alongside the specific Language Arts Florida Standards taug ht. Considering these standards explicitly could highlight connections between these standards and the most effective engagement strategies for teaching them in the context of my rural, high poverty school. A different study altogether might be one that p rovides students much more voice than I was able to in my study. Such data collection would likely have to include interviews of students by an outside researcher in order to avoid the element of power a I could engag e in this type of practitioner inquiry in my role as reading coach, rather than classroom teacher, working alongside a willing teacher in my school or district. There would of course be elements of power to consider in that type of situation, as well, but with careful design, classroom observations would allow me to gather field notes and a research journal focusing on literacy engagement in one or several classrooms. I could then interview a sample of students from these classes to learn about their insi ghts on effective literacy engagement.
97 Another possibility for research would be a case study investigating teacher perceptions of literacy engagement of rural, high poverty students in my school or district. Data might include classroom observations, as well as interviews that focus on study. Each of the above studies would highlight important findings about literacy engagement of rural, high poverty students that my study w as unable to reveal. Final Thoughts I wanted to explore literacy engagement in my classroom of rural, high poverty high school students because there is a need for research on teachers engaging students in literacy in such contexts. Because it provides in sights into ways I was able to engage high school students of rural poverty effectively in literacy, my study took a this lack of research of literacy engagement among st udents of rural poverty in America has created. My findings reveal the types of classroom practices that may assist English teachers in moving their students from behavioral to emotional and cognitive engagement in literacy (Fredricks & McColskey, 2012), an important component of students becoming more skilled with grade level reading, writing, speaking, and listening proficiencies. I analyzed classroom data, anonymous student Google Form responses, and my own lesson plans and reflections to look for answe rs to how I engaged high school students of rural poverty in literac y so that I could address this problem of practice. This study not only provided avenues for my own next steps as a teacher and reading coach, however, but also illuminated some understan dings of how to engage 21st century students in literacy another area of research that is still open for much work in schools
98 across America, including those of rural poverty (Azano, 2015; Hardr et al., 2009; Vasudevan & Campano, 2009). While much work r emains in this area of research, my practitioner inquiry provided evidence that accountability, building relationships, and seeking relevance to student interest are important components of engaging students of rural poverty in literacy. These findings br ing encouragement and hope for my continued work with teachers and students, as well as highlight important areas for future inquiry, both within and beyond my context.
99 Table 3 1 Literacy Learner Characteristics Engaged Reader Disengaged Reader Annotated texts with detailed evidence of applying the reading purpose Asked questions on paper or aloud and sought clarification for confusion Attempted to use new vocabulary in writing and class discussions Marked the text minim ally, if at all, underlining and circling pieces of text without noting thinking associated with the reading purpose Skimmed texts with little to no interaction Engaged Writer Disengaged Writer Planned for writing Annotated writing prompts Gathered evidence from reading to support claims and analyses associated with prompts Used the format of analysis structure (1 Make a statement about the text; 2 Provide textual evidence for that statement; 3 Explain the significance of the textual evidence; 4 Tran sition to next idea) Drew from background knowledge when relevant Used academic vocabulary appropriately Minimal or no planning for writing Minimal evidence of understanding writing prompt Minimal annotations of text to gather evidence for claims and analy ses Did not use the format of analysis structure Minimal personal insights where they would have been relevant Misuses of academic vocabulary Engaged Speaker Disengaged Speaker Used relevant academic vocabulary Planned for presentations Provided appropriate reasons for conclusions Asked relevant questions Responded appropriately to teacher and classmates Did not use relevant academic vocabulary Stumbled through presentations due to lack of planning Unable to defend conclusions Did not ask question s, or questions were not relevant to discussions Did not speak to teacher and classmates Engaged Listener Disengaged Listener Took notes during discussions Responded appropriately to teacher and classmates Repeated information and sought clarification Drew connections across information Remaine d passive during discussions; did not take notes Unable to respond appropriately to teacher and classmates Did not seek clarification or revealed disengage ment through questions Unable to draw connections across i nformation
100 APPENDIX LITERACY LEARNER CHARACTERISTICS Engaged Reader Disengaged Reader Annotated texts with detailed evidence of applying the reading purpose Asked questions on paper or aloud and sought clarification for confusion Attempted to use new vocabulary in writing and class discussions Marked text minimally, if at all, underlining and circling pieces of text without noting the reading purpose Skimmed texts; little to no interaction Engaged Writer Disengaged Writer Planned for writing Annotated writing prompts Gathered evidence from reading to support claims and analyses associated with prompts Used the format of analysis structure (1 Make a statement about the text; 2 Provide textual evidence for that statement; 3 Explain the significa nce of the textual evidence; 4 Transition to next idea) Drew from relevant background knowledge Used academic vocabulary appropriately Minimal or no planning for writing Minimal evidence of understanding writing prompt Minimal text annotations to gather evidence for claims and analyses Did not use the format of analysis structure Minimal personal insights where they would have been relevant Misuses of academic vocabulary Engaged Speaker Disengaged Speaker Used relevant academic vocabulary Pla nned for presentations Provided appropriate reasons for conclusions Asked relevant questions Responded appropriately to teacher and classmates Did not use relevant academic vocabulary Stumbl ed through presentations; lack of planning Unable to defend concl usions Did not ask quest ions, or asked irrelevant questions Did not speak to teacher or classmates Engaged Listener Disengaged Listener Took notes during discussions Responded appropriately to teacher and classmates Repeated information and sought clarification Drew connections across information Remained passive during discussions; did not take notes Unable to respond appropriately Did not seek clarification; revealed disengagement through questions Unable to draw connections
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104 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH April Fleetwood completed three degrees at the University of Florida. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2017 with the de gree of Doctor of Edu cation in curriculum and i nstruction in the Curriculum, Teaching, and Teacher Education (CTTE) program. In 2007, she earned a Master of Education after completing her Bachelor of Arts in English in 2006. April Fleetwood has been an educator for 11 years i n two different rural, high poverty schools in Florida. At the time of this study, April served at a grades 6 12 school as the Reading Coach and an Advanced Placement English Language and Composition tea cher. As Reading Coach, she wa s passionate about wo rki ng with teachers to improve literacy instruction, as well as facilitating useful, high quality professional development, skills that she sharpened through her studies in the CTTE program. April also enjoyed working alongside her own students and others in her school to help them make learning gains in English Language Arts. As a professional s econdary educator, she advocated for student literacy and post secondary success in college and careers in the 21st century, striv ing for continuous improvement in methods of teaching and learning that address ed closing the achievement gap in literacy