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.


  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.

  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


    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

  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.

  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.

  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.

    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

  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.

    Starfall Education. (2019). Retrieved from