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The Prevalence of Developmental Instruction in Public and Catholic Schools


by Sean P. Kelly — 2010

Background/Context: Prior research has investigated differences in course-taking patterns and achievement growth in public and Catholic schools, but the nature of instruction in Catholic schools is currently understudied. One important dimension of instruction that impacts student engagement is the prevalence of developmental or student-centered instruction.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The overall goal of the present study was to investigate whether student and teacher reports of developmental instruction differ in public and Catholic schools. In addition, is a teacher’s approach to instruction shaped by the social context of the school, as measured by the teacher’s perception of her students? Finally, can differences in the social context of schools explain reported differences in the prevalence of developmental instruction in public and Catholic schools?

Population, Participants/Subjects: Data for this analysis came from the Chicago School Study, a large longitudinal study of public and Catholic schools in the Chicago area.

Research Design: The prevalence of developmental instruction in public and Catholic schools was analyzed using three student-reported measures of developmental instruction and one teacher-reported measure. Multilevel regression models were used to investigate the relationship between four potential predictors of developmental instruction—teachers’ perceptions of challenging instruction, teachers’ expectations of students’ future educational attainment, teachers’ knowledge of their students’ cultural backgrounds, and principals’ endorsement of developmental instruction—and teacher reports of developmental instruction.

Conclusions: Catholic school teachers and students were less likely to report the use of developmental instruction than public school teachers and students. This finding was particularly striking given Catholic school teachers’ high expectations for their students’ future educational attainments, a factor that was associated with an increased likelihood of reporting developmental methods in the classroom.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 9, 2010, p. 2405-2440
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15951, Date Accessed: 10/23/2017 7:19:39 AM

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About the Author
  • Sean Kelly
    University of Notre Dame
    E-mail Author
    SEAN KELLY is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame and the Center for Research on Educational Opportunity. His research on student engagement received an Exemplary Dissertation Award from the Spencer Foundation and has appeared in Social Psychology of Education, Social Science Research, and Sociology of Education. He teaches coursework in the sociology of education and statistics for social scientists.
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