Academic Research

BPS Employee Research Requests and Authorization 

As a learning organization, Bismarck Public Schools encourages continued education and academic research efforts by our employees. Many requests are received asking permission to conduct surveys or asking for data samples that can be used to investigate and evaluate programs and processes. The following information pertains to all graduate-level research that is part of a degreed/accredited program. Research regarding our BPS educational practices and the effect of those practices on student achievement is only a win/win if we are clear about the research questions. It is also important for the researcher to report back on the results and recommendations. Gathering and arranging data can be one of the most time consuming parts of research and this typically falls on our limited assessment and evaluation staff. In an effort to streamline these requests the process for gaining approval is as follows:
Note: BPS does not provide student data that would include individually identifying information (e.g. student numbers).

(1) Complete this survey outlining your study. Authorization Requests

(2) Your study will be reviewed by the Executive Team, typically within two weeks.
(3) If your study is authorized you will receive information regarding a contact for data or next steps.
(4) You will be required to submit an executive summary of your results. You should post it as a comment on this page.  Previously submitted research summaries.




14 comments:

  1. Flipping the Spanish Classroom-Thesis Report-Susan Devine

    The purpose of this project was to identify the benefits of flipping the classroom for high school Spanish language students (level three), measure differences in student performance between a flipped classroom and a traditional classroom, and determine student opinions and preferences regarding classroom models. There were two closely matched high school Spanish level three classes taught by the same teacher included in the study. One was taught using the flipped classroom method and the other in a traditional style, with the same material covered in both classes, spanning a study period of six weeks. In the flipped classroom, lectures were video recorded and uploaded to the classroom website for student viewing before scheduled class time. While in class, this group had time for discussion of the lecture material, practice activities, and completing the assigned written activities. The traditional classroom received lecture material in class and was assigned written activities as homework. Student grades for both groups were recorded before the study began and again after the study ended to note any changes within a group and any differences between groups. Teacher observations of both groups were recorded at several intervals throughout the study to document student behaviors, i.e. engagement, on-task conduct, participation in discussions, use of the target language, and formation of questions regarding the lecture material. At the conclusion of the study, the students in the flipped classroom completed a survey to express opinions about the effectiveness of the teaching model, any personal advantages or disadvantages, and their desire for the flipped model to continue. An analysis of the data showed a statistically insignificant gain in student grades in the flipped classroom during the study period. However, teacher observations of the students in the flipped classroom, when compared to the traditional classroom, indicated a larger percentage of students who were on-task, asking questions about the lecture material, and using the target language.

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  2. Stacey Knudson and Amanda Mahlum

    Using Reader’s Theater During Small Group Reading Instruction to Increase Prosody Within a Second Grade Classroom of Tier II, Title I Reading Students

    Abstract

    The objective of this study was to help second-grade children increase prosody by using Reader’s Theater to improve all aspects of reading and comprehension. The research was conducted collaboratively by a second-grade teacher and a Title I Reading Specialist. Four Tier II, Title I reading students struggling with reading fluency were selected as participants. Reader’s Theater was implemented within a small group setting where students reread scripts while educators modeled and coached them. Data was collected using student self-assessments, observational field notes, digital recordings, and a reading performance rubric. The data revealed a significant increase in the acquisition of reading prosody. Students also became fond of Readers’ Theater and were able to recognize an increase in their own prosody. Due to the positive effects Reader’s Theater provided during this study, the researchers plan to continue implementation of this intervention.

    Keywords: reading fluency, prosody, Reader’s Theater

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  3. Teachers Transform: Developing New Understandings and Competencies Following the Implementation of the Common Core Writing Standards

    Jennifer Wallender

    The purpose of this qualitative case study was to understand how elementary teachers have transformed and developed new writing understandings and competencies following the implementation of the English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This was done by understanding teachers’ perceptions and experiences, as well as how they have developed their understandings, with classroom writing. Participants were four elementary teachers from two public school districts in North Dakota—one single-school district and one multi-school district. Data were collected with interviews, observations, and artifacts throughout the school year. The data analysis was completed using the qualitative research program ATLAS.ti and included within-case and cross-case analyses.

    The theoretical framework underpinning this study was Mezirow’s transformative learning theory. This theory supported understanding how teachers have transformed following the ten phases from transformative learning theory. Four themes emerged from the analysis: Teachers Name Impacts with Implementing the Writing Standards, Systemic and Isolated Learning about Writing Practices, Personalized Learning to Pave the Way to Implement Classroom Writing, and Taking Risks and Transforming Perspectives.

    These themes led to three assertions. The first assertion was “Left in isolation, teacher’s ability to transform is hindered.” Teachers from districts that did not offer systemic and collaborative writing professional development opportunities had to locate external sources for information. The second assertion was “Teachers work through challenges when they value the change.” Although findings described impacts as obstacles for teachers to overcome, they were willing to work through these obstacles because they recognized that writing was important for their students. The third assertion was “Experience as an integral factor with transformative learning.” In order to fully transform and develop new writing understandings and competencies, teachers needed to have experience teaching writing both prior to and following the implementation of the ELA CCSS.

    Recommendations for teachers, teacher educators, and administrators included (a) using innovative solutions to overcome obstacles to developing writing understandings and competencies; (b) ensuring research on writing is based on best practices while developing teachers’ understandings and competencies; (c) training teachers on both procedural and declarative writing knowledge in teacher education programs or professional development opportunities; and (d) transforming teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors regarding the importance of writing in today’s society.

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  4. Student Perceptions of Contextualized Language Instruction with a Focus on Language Learning Through Content Versus Culture

    Laine Beyer

    Content-based instruction (CBI) has been researched for over a half of a century. It is a very promising approach to world language instruction because of its success in immersion schools and at the university level. CBI has the potential to incorporate communication, culture, and connections with interdisciplinary studies. Research has shown CBI increases language knowledge, content knowledge, and motivation to continue studying a language. Although research has been popular on the effects of CBI in the upper levels of language learning and at the university level, there is a gap in research for novice learners at the middle school and high school levels. In addition, there is a lack of research regarding how novice learners feel about learning language through CBI. This qualitative study explores middle school students’ perceptions of CBI with a focus on language learning through content versus culture.

    The data indicated two main themes. The first theme identified was the general attitude and motivation students felt during each unit. Students’ attitudes and motivation were affected by the meaning they created, the value they found, and the autonomy they felt. The second theme that emerged was the connection students made to cultural and academic content. Students made connections to both academic and cultural content, and the findings indicated how they made these connections.

    Although this study took place in one middle school in the upper Midwest, it has greater implications for world language teachers as a whole, teaching in a variety of contexts. By analyzing students’ perspectives from the two approaches to contextualized instruction, a number of implications can be found. I offer five recommendations that world language teachers can apply to their own classrooms: (a) meaningful curriculum; (b) knowing and valuing students’ frames of reference; (c) work across the curriculum; (d) incorporate academic and cultural content; and (e) professional development.

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  5. Summary Martha Straw, May 26, 2017

    The research question was: How does explicit instruction of vocabulary affect English Learners’ (EL) performance in solving Physics’ word problems and their perceptions about their learning? Huerta and Jackson (2010) note that ELs’ “lack of academic vocabulary and English literacy” are the cause of the low scores on content area standardized tests (p. 206). They cannot answer the question because they do not understand what the question means. It’s not that they are unknowledgeable; they do not understand what information is wanted and how to express it. A main conclusion of the literature was that ELs can become more proficient in solving word problems when they improve their reading comprehension. I designed a PowerPoint presentation to introduce the vocabulary; one slide per vocabulary word with the word and a picture(s) to represent the word. On the days that the students were not introduced to a new set of vocabulary words, they participated in activities using the words they had already learned. I learned that vocabulary is a critical skill that ELs must learn. However, vocabulary in isolation is not sufficient, it must be combined with knowledge of sentence structure in order for students to understand what they read and be able to write comprehensively. My recommendation to educators is to teach ELs vocabulary as part of a content-based unit where all four language domains will be incorporated into a meaningful and cohesive thematic study. It is important that the target words are repeated throughout the unit multiple times. As Huerta and Jackson (2010, p 206) and Taboada and Rutherford (2011, pp. 207-208) found, to make a lasting impression on them, the students must: hear it, see it, say it, and write it; the more often, the better.

    References
    Huerta, M., & Jackson, J. (2010). Connecting literacy and science to increase achievement for English language learners. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38(3), 205-211. doi:10.1007/s10643-010-0402-4
    Taboada, A., & Rutherford, V. (2011). Developing reading comprehension and academic vocabulary for English language learners through science content: A formative experiment. Reading Psychology, 32(2), 113-157. doi:10.1080/02702711003604468

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  6. Using Technology to Support Letter-Sound Identification in Kindergarten Students

    This study focused on the effects of a computer game, called Starfall ABCs (Starfall Education, 2019), on kindergarten students’ letter-sound identification. The researcher used a sample group of 14 kindergarten students who had yet to master their letter-sounds after having been exposed to the district’s letter-sound curriculum. The researcher used theories and strategies proven to be effective by previous related studies: digital game-based learning, multiple-intelligences, and repetition. The students in the treatment group received approximately one total hour of using the computer game (five days at 10-15 minutes each session). The students in the treatment group each received a notecard with the letter-sounds they had yet to master; they were required to focus on those letter-sounds before moving on to any others. The data gathered from the pre- and post-tests, along with a post-survey, proved there to be a positive relationship between the computer game and letter-sound identification in kindergarten students. More specifically, the students in the treatment group mastered an average of 3.7 more letter sounds (approximately 19% growth) while the control group mastered an average of 1.3 more letter sounds (approximately 6% growth) at the time of the study’s completion.

    References
    Starfall Education. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.starfall.com/h/

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  7. The Impact of Second Step Implementation on Students’ Social-Emotional Skills in an Elementary School Setting

    The data presented in this study presents the impact of implementation methods on student emotion management skills. Peer-to-peer, small-group teacher intervention, and whole-group implementation groups were researched among kindergarten and fifth-grade students. Student participants ranged in ages from five to eleven years old. Data collection methods included observational checklists, a district created formative assessment, and pre and post-tests created by the Second Step curriculum.

    The data collected indicated students have an accurate understanding of social-emotional learning skills but do not implement emotion-management skills consistently. However, students participating in peer-to-peer emotion management teaching are more self-aware and apply emotion management skills more frequently compared with students receiving small-group and whole-group instruction. Based on the findings of this study, the following conclusions were drawn:
    ● Younger students increased emotion management knowledge and SEL skill demonstration when taught by older peers. Peer-to-peer Second Step teaching for kindergarten students yielded higher levels of learning when compared to either teaching students through whole-group lessons or individual teacher intervention.
    ● Fifth-grade students who taught Second Step lessons to kindergarten students demonstrated higher emotional management knowledge scores than their peers.
    ● Findings revealed a gap between social-emotional knowledge and use of that knowledge/skills learned. Student participants were able to discuss correct emotion management skills while being interviewed by their teacher, but had more difficult time displaying the calm down strategies when classroom conflict arose.
    ● There was no significant impact in the overall scores of students who received small-group instruction with their teacher compared with students who received only whole-group instruction.

    In conclusion, it is recommended to utilize peer-to-peer instruction to strengthen Second Step emotion management skill instruction and student self-awareness.

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  8. Technology can enhance the classroom experience, but teachers often struggle with how to use learning management systems (LMSs) and applications, like Google Apps for Education, successfully. Research shows that students feel LMSs can positively affect their learning if the LMSs are effective, attractive, interactive, and easily accessible (Firat, 2016). According to Jeffrey, Milne, Suddaby, and Higgins (2014), when teachers know how to use LMSs, they can contact students easily, and students can access resources easier on a LMS, which helps improve their learning. This study was done to see how LMSs and GAFE affect learning in the classroom. The study also looked at the effect LMSs and GAFE have on student accountability. Results from the study indicated that students felt the LMS and GAFE increased their learning and their writing in the classroom. The study also showed the LMS and GAFE improved student accountability.

    RQ1: In what ways have Google Applications for Education (GAFE) enhanced learning in the classroom?
    Participants’ understanding that GAFE enhanced their learning increased from 13.6% in the pre-assessment to 31.8% on the post-assessment for the strongly agree category. Participants responded that GAFE helped them be more efficient with their course work because they could access the tools anywhere. They also felt Google Docs improved their writing. Students’ beliefs that Google Docs enhanced their writing increased from 40.9% on the pre-assessment form to 54.5% on the post-assessment.

    RQ2: What effect will an LMS have on student accountability, accessibility, and classroom procedures?
    Participants in the study thought a LMS like Google Classroom affected their accountability. Prior to the study, 27.2% of students believed reminders on Google Classroom helped them turn their homework in on time. At the conclusion of the study, that percentage increased to 45.5% who strongly agreed that reminders improved their accountability.
    Recommendation: Through this experiment, the researcher found that implementing a LMS and GAFE can positively impact learning for students in numerous ways. Not only do these tools enhance learning, but they also improve student accountability. If teachers want their students to be college and career ready, they need to move towards a blended classroom. Most colleges already operate with LMSs and face-to-face classes. With all the advancements and improvements related to LMSs and GAFE, the researcher found fewer problems with the tools than previous studies did, and it will only continue to get better. Regardless if teachers feel they lack the knowledge or not, they need to implement LMSs because the traditional classroom is gone for good.




    Firat, M. (2016). Determining the effects of LMS learning behaviors on academic achievement in a learning analytic perspective. Journal of Information Technology Education, 15, 75-87.

    Jeffrey, L.M., Milne, J., Suddaby, G., & Higgins, A. (2014). Blended learning: How teachers balance the blend of online classroom components. Journal of Information Technology Education, 13, 121-140.

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  9. The purpose of this study was to examine the negative and positive effects a learning management system (LMS) has on a traditional classroom. With the implementation of Chromebooks, all students have technology available to them every day. Students use Google Apps for Education (GAFE), and the study investigated the impact this blended learning environment has on students. The study focused on whether or not an LMS increases student accountability and engagement, enhances the traditional classroom, and affects classroom procedures.

    RQ1: In what ways have Google Applications for Education (GAFE) enhanced learning in the classroom?
    Participants’ understanding that GAFE enhanced their learning increased from 13.6% in the pre-assessment to 31.8% on the post-assessment for the strongly agree category. Participants responded that GAFE helped them be more efficient with their course work because they could access the tools anywhere. They also felt Google Docs improved their writing. Students’ beliefs that Google Docs enhanced their writing increased from 40.9% on the pre-assessment form to 54.5% on the post-assessment.

    RQ2: What effect will an LMS have on student accountability, accessibility, and classroom procedures?
    Participants in the study thought a LMS like Google Classroom affected their accountability. Prior to the study, 27.2% of students believed reminders on Google Classroom helped them turn their homework in on time. At the conclusion of the study, that percentage increased to 45.5% who strongly agreed that reminders improved their accountability. Another way Google Classroom helped students complete their work was the words missing and late on their Google Classroom page. Student did not like seeing that an assignment was missing or late, and it made them more conscientious of reminders for the next assignment. When participants were interviewed, 19 of 22 preferred reminders on Classroom because it helped them meet deadlines with everything else on their schedules. Fourteen of the nineteen participants who preferred reminders on Google Classroom had the app on their phones, and they preferred getting notifications on their phones because they are always checking their phones. Google Classroom was accessible to students whenever they wanted to access it. They could also access the LMS wherever they were. Although one student did not like Google Classroom, the other 21 students found the convenience and availability of Classroom beneficial in numerous ways. They liked that they could go back to look at instructions, rubrics, and reminders. The five students who were absent for extracurricular activities on numerous occasions during the study found Google Classroom helped them from getting behind in the class. The advantages of having the LMS available to them at all times allowed students to capitalize on the benefits of a LMS.

    Recommendation: Through this experiment, I found that implementing a LMS and GAFE can positively impact learning for students in numerous ways. Not only do these tools enhance learning, but they also improve student accountability. If teachers want their students to be college and career ready, they need to move towards a blended classroom. Most colleges already operate with LMSs and face-to-face classes. With all the advancements and improvements related to LMSs and GAFE, the researcher found fewer problems with the tools than previous studies did, and it will only continue to get better. Regardless if teachers feel they lack the knowledge or not, they need to implement LMSs because the traditional classroom is gone for good.

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  10. Teachers observing teachers
    The purpose of this study was to analyze the effect of a Pineapple Chart on school climate in a middle school. The Pineapple Chart, an informal observation tool, was implemented and managed by the researcher. A pre-implementation and post-implementation survey were used to measure teachers’ perception of school climate. Qualitative data was collected through interviews with participating teachers. After one semester of implementation the researcher discovered that the Pineapple Chart had a positive impact on teachers’ comfort being observed by a colleague and teaching with their door open but no noticeable impact on school climate. Prolonged implementation of the Pineapple Chart is recommended to build on the momentum of the participating teachers. Additional research is encouraged to determine if positive impacts on teacher comfort with vulnerability can be experienced by more teachers in the building.

    Key words: teacher efficacy, peer coaching,

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  11. Kristi Dagman and Rani Nelson

    IMPROVING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT WITH STUDENT METACOGNITION AND WELL-DEVELOPED TEACHER STRATEGIES - INTRODUCTORY HOOKS

    Executive Summary
    As 7th and 8th grade Science teachers, we have observed a steady decrease in student engagement in classroom activities. We researched how to improve student engagement utilizing student metacognition and introductory hooks. The study setting was in Bismarck, North Dakota at Wachter Middle School in a 7th grade Life Science and 8th Grade Earth Science classroom. We surveyed between 260 and 300 students. Students completed weekly questions to help them think about their mindset for the week and how this may affect their level of engagement. Students were also exposed to authentic hooks each week or each time a new lesson was introduced. In order to determine their level of engagement, we had students complete a pre, mid, and post-study student engagement survey. We completed weekly observations of off-task behaviors in the classroom and had students complete weekly mini-surveys related to the specific strategy. We looked at trends and averages in each of the survey results to determine if the students' level of engagement increased. The results of this study showed that overall students were more engaged due to the strategies that were implemented and off-task behaviors decreased. The weekly mini-surveys students completed, showed that both strategies were effective in increasing their level of engagement. We noticed that the mid student engagement survey results seemed to indicate the largest change in percentage. However, like many strategies, when the “newness” wears off it loses its effectiveness and we saw the percentages level off with the final survey results. We conclude that both implementing student metacognition and authentic hooks will increase student engagement in the classroom. However, both strategies should be used with intent, so they do not lose their effectiveness. When both strategies are used with intent, teachers will notice increased levels of engagement in class, an increase in positive relationships built with students, and an increase in proficiency exhibited by students. In the future, we will intentionally plan introductory hooks and continuously cycle through improving and adding new hooks to engage students. We will also evaluate ways to include student mindset to engage students in classroom activities.


    Keywords: student engagement, metacognition, introductory hooks, reflection, teacher strategies

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  12. Developing Critical Thinking Skills to Support the Effective Use of Adaptive Math Software

    Abstract
    This action research project was created to improve the level of critical thinking skills of students as they used the online adaptive mathematics program, Dreambox. Dreambox is an independent program, in which students attempt to solve math problems using only the online tools for support, including no use of paper and pencil. The program states that students are to keep going even when it gets hard, and to use their best guess.
    Data collected from the implementation of this program indicated that although teachers reported students were highly engaged, only half of the reporting students agreed. Students ability to persevere and persist with Dreambox became more challenging as the school year progressed.
    Working with a classroom of 17 third grade students, this study examined the impact of increasing student engagement by explicitly teaching and practicing critical thinking skills and perseverance. The school, is a Title 1 school with over 50% of the students receiving free or reduced lunch with a student population of 220 students.
    The project concluded that explicitly teaching critical thinking behaviors, such as asking questions, experimenting with possibilities, and researching by observing and asking others, may have an effect on student engagement when using an independent online mathematics program.

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    Replies
    1. Keywords: critical thinking, perseverance, adaptive software, blended learning, Dreambox

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  13. Brittany Kuester and Melissa Haas

    Building Interpersonal Skills in Kindergarten Students


    This study was completed in two kindergarten classrooms in different schools within Bismarck Public Schools, with two kindergarten teachers, one paraprofessional and thirty six students. Teachers purposefully used direct teaching of interpersonal skills such as kindness, problem solving, empathy and gratitude with the intention that students would transfer these skills outside of the classroom. They modeled these skills by meeting with students one on one to highlight how students were transferring their interpersonal skills and by facilitating compliment circles twice a week. Teachers believed modeling and practicing interpersonal skills would create healthy relationships and a positive classroom climate. This belief created the problem statement that drove the research. Does purposeful modeling of kindness, problem solving, empathy and gratitude by adults, increase kindergarten students’ transfer of these interpersonal skills outside of the kindergarten classroom? Teacher A and B found positive results from this study on kinderdergarten interpersonal skills. Students were searching for ways to help others on a regular basis. When teachers would call students back for individual meetings, their faces would light up as they realized their actions had an impact on others. The compliment circles were the same concept as the one the one meetings. The difference was that students were leading the conversation with their own noticings of their peers’ interpersonal skills.
    Teachers found that students can shift their focus from what they did for others to what others did for them through direct teaching of interpersonal skills. Teachers taught interpersonal skills through the use of compliment circles and individual meetings. This report reviewed current research pertaining to today’s culture but also relatable to the timeless research of Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. Based on the research, teachers implemented methods to teach and model interpersonal skills. Teachers used compliment circles, one on one meetings and a variety of mini lessons to collect data and give students the necessary skills to practice their interpersonal skills. Imagine a world that purposefully models kindness, problem solving, empathy and gratitude to the young people of today. If we turn our focus to the good in others just as these 36 kindergarteners actively focused and mastered in the 2018-2019 school year our world would be a much kinder place.


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