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Comprehensive School Reform Instructional Practices Throughout a School Year: The Role of Subject Matter, Grade Level, and Time of Year

by Caroline H. Wiley, Thomas L. Good & Mary McCaslin - 2008

Background/Context: The achievement effects of Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) programs have been studied through the use of input-output models, in which type of CSR program is the input and student achievement is the output. Although specific programs have been found to be more effective and evaluated more than others, teaching practices in CSR schools have received less attention. This study focuses on observations of math and reading/language arts lessons in classrooms implementing an array of CSR programs to better understand what occurs in CSR classrooms.

Research Question: This article describes observed instructional practices and teacher-student dynamics that occurred in CSR classrooms in two different subject areas, reading/language arts and math, in Grades 3–5. Reading/language arts included several literacy-related areas such as spelling, vocabulary, phonetics, and writing. Math primarily consisted of computations and math applications. Our primary research questions were: (1) Does subject matter matter in CSR classrooms? (2) How does instruction in CSR classrooms differ among Grades 3, 4, and 5? (3) Are there major differences in classroom practices between fall and spring?

Population: Teachers (N = 104) in Grades 3–5 in 16 CSR schools, totaling 248 observation periods in math and reading/language arts lessons.

Research Design: Observational study using a systematic coding system to observe student/teacher classroom behaviors and dispositions.

Data Analysis: Data were analyzed using basic descriptive statistics and analysis of variance procedures.

Conclusion: We found that students were productively involved in assigned tasks and that classrooms were pleasant and task oriented in both mathematics and reading/language arts. Some subject matter differences were notable, particularly that math lessons were more structured and rigid than were reading/language arts lessons. Also of interest, third- and fifth-grade classrooms experienced more positive teacher-student relationships than did fourth-grade classrooms. Furthermore, instruction in the fall was more structured and more focused on basic skills than in the spring. Overall, students appeared to be engaged in learning basic facts/skills in an uninterrupted teacher-directed classroom. Students did what was asked of them, were given little choice about their social and academic tasks, and were in mostly comfortable classroom environments.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 11, 2008, p. 2361-2388
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15279, Date Accessed: 4/19/2021 9:07:07 PM

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About the Author
  • Caroline Wiley
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    CAROLINE R. H. WILEY is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Arizona. Her research interests are primarily characterized as classroom research, research methodology and measurement, and educational evaluation within the context of educational policy. Also of interest is classroom assessment and grading practices. Recent publications are “Traditional Teacher Tests” in T. L. Good (Ed.), 21st Century Education: A Reference Handbook (SAGE, in press); and, with coauthors T. L. Good and I. R. Florez, “Effective Teaching: An Emerging Synthesis” in L. Saha & G. Dworkin (Eds.), The New International Handbook of Teachers and Teaching (in press).
  • Thomas Good
    University of Arizona
    THOMAS L. GOOD is the Editor of the Elementary School Journal and is the head of the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Arizona. His research interests include the study of teacher-student communication in classrooms as it unfolds in both the formal and informal curriculum. Recent publications are, with coauthors T. L. Good, S. Nichols, J. Zhang, C. R. H. Wiley, A. R. Bozack, et al., “Comprehensive School Reform: An Observational Study of Teaching in Grades 3 Through 5” in Elementary School Journal (2006); and, with coauthors T. L. Good, M. McCaslin, H. Y. Tsang, J. Zhang, C. R. H. Wiley, A. R. Bozack, et al., “How Well Do 1st-Year Teachers Teach: Does Type of Preparation Make a Difference?” in Journal of Teacher Education (2006).
  • Mary McCaslin
    University of Arizona
    E-mail Author
    MARY MCCASLIN is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Arizona. Her scholarship focuses on the relationships among cultural, social, and personal sources of influence that coregulate student adaptive learning, motivational dynamics, and emergent identity. Her recent publications are “Co-Regulation of Student Motivation and Emergent Identity” in Educational Psychologist (in press), and “Co-Regulation of Opportunity, Activity, and Identity in Student Motivation: Elaborations on Vygotskian Themes” in S. M. McInerney and S. Van Etten (Eds.), Big Theories Revisited: Research on Sociocultural Influences on Motivation and Learning(Information Age, 2004).
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