11 SES 01, Beginning the Process as Educators
The paper aims to identify the possible causes of academic achievement deficit of students enrolled in secondary education in Romania. The main focus is set on describing and analyzing the potential relationships and tensions between the way students understand and define learning, the way teachers understand and define teaching and the achievement deficits of lower secondary students, reflected in national and international comparative assessments.
The 2015 PISA study underlines that a weak connection between life satisfaction and academic performance suggests that the latter does not always result in a better quality of life for students and therefore education should explore solutions so that high performance and personal happiness become self-reinforcing goals. The purpose of the school should not only be to develop academic skills, but also to foster and develop students’ socio-emotional skills. Research shows (Natvig et al., 2003; Suldo et al, 2016) that school climate is one of the main factors that influence students’ sense of control over their life, life-satisfaction and resilience in the face of unfavorable situation. Jethwani-Keyser(2008 cit. in PISA, 2015) stresses that a sense of belonging to the school community gives students feelings of security and community that can lead to academic, psychological and social development. Research examining the association between sense of belonging and higher academic achievement shows generally a circular relationship: a sense of belonging leads to high academic achievement and high academic achievement leads to greater social acceptance and sense of belonging (Wentzel, 1998).
At classroom level, teachers play an important role in creating a climate that can foster socio-emotional well-being of students. Therefore, studies have shown that the quality of teacher-student relations can influence students’ engagement with school and their socio-emotional development (Anderman, 2003; Battistich et al., 1995; Chiu et al., 2016; Ma, 2003; Noble et al., 2008).
In the Romanian context, school environment (e.g. learning environment at classroom level, teachers’ communication skills, teaching style) is one of the most important factors that influence adolescents’ choices and behaviors related to school attendance and school performance. In a study by Abraham et. al (2013), researchers suggest that these factors don’t automatically lead to school dropout or low academic performance, but can have a major contribution when the school climate is dominated by lack of trust and lack of communication between students and teachers. According to PISA 2015Romanian students, in classes with supportive teachers (defined as “showing an interest in every student’s learning, “giving extra help when students need it” and “helping students with their learning" ), are 2.6 times more likely to feel that they belong at school than those in classes without such teachers, OECD average being only 1.8. Giving this aspects, the paper aims to analyze the socio-emotional factors that can influence performance, taking in consideration teachers’ and students’ views on teaching and learning, which are complex processes / constructs, heavily influenced by social and cultural patterns.
Our research is based on results of two surveys, on secondary students (both lower and upper secondary, aged 11-18) and on secondary teachers, in which we had one simple item we will analyze here: - “For me to learn means…” (for students) - total of 161answer processed - “For me to teach mens…” (for teachers) - total of 158 answer processed Basically, we have tried to identify what are the dominant narratives about teaching and learning from the perspective of the “main players”, and our analysis used a combined matrix for narrative analsis: For teachers, we have clustered answers according to two axes and categories (one bi-dimensional, and one tri-dimensional): 1. Professional - metaphorical axis - professional / managerial narratives of teaching (i.e. teaching is a process of knowledge and skills development, and of personal growth of students); - metaphorical / mythical narratives on teaching (i.e. teaching as a journey, as illumination, enlightment etc.) 2. Inside - outside axis - narratives on teaching focused on self (teaching is “me” as a teacher doing things….) - narratives on teaching focused on interaction (teaching is a process of interaction / encounter with students through which…) - narratives on teaching as empowerment (teaching as enabling others, making them do things…). For students, we have also clustered answers according to two axes: 1. Short term - long term axis - narratives on learning focused on immediate results (good grades, passing exams, etc.) - narratives on learning focused on long term results (getting into a better high school / university, getting a good job, having a career etc.) 2. Inside - outside axis - narratives on learning focused on self (learning is “me” as a student doing things….) - narratives on learning focused on interaction (learning is a process of interaction / encounter with teachers and other students through which…) - narratives on learning as passive receivers / objects (learning is what teachers are doing for us...). Identification and explanation of dominance and the way they reproduce the social-cultural patterns of understanding teaching and learning, the way they prevent attention from social and emotional aspects of achievements are at the core of our analysis, in the attempt to challenge the status-quo and open a new line of discussion about why our young generations are failing.
Results show there are several aspects which stand out in understanding the connection between academic performance and socio-emotional development. Regarding the way teachers understand teaching, the dominant socially transmitted and accepted pattern is very much related to teaching as knowledge transmission (technical version) or “illumination” (metaphorical option).When it comes to the way students understand this process, the socially transmitted and accepted pattern is that learning is assimilating knowledge to have good marks and pass tests (short term) or progressively developing own knowledge and skills for a successful future career (long term). Even though both learning and teaching are content oriented and both teachers and students perceive knowledge and skill development as very important, students still perform very low in national and international comparative assessments which lead us to identify social and emotional aspects of learning that could influence academic performance. One of the factors that we tried to identify both in teachers and students narratives was quality of interactions in school settings. In what teachers perspectives are concerned, only 12 out of 158 mentioned interaction or communication with students as a main component of their teaching, focusing on two aspects: interaction to establish connection with students in order to facilitate teaching (before teaching) and interaction for the purpose of feedback (after teaching). Students’ views on learning tended to be very self-centered and only two students mentioned interaction as an outcome learning. As seen from the first analysis of the result, social and emotional aspects of learning (especially quality of interactions) are kept marginalized and are not taken into account as serious factors for improving achievement. These socially and culturally constructed patterns of understanding prevent the key actors of the process to address deeply the routes of low achievement and keeps the decision-makers at the convenient surface of educational changes.
Abraham, D. et. al.(2013). Situaţia adolescenţilor din România. Raport final. UNICEF: București Anderman, L.H. (2003), “Academic and social perceptions as predictors of change in middle school students’ sense of school belonging”, The Journal of Experimental Education, Vol. 72/1, pp. 5-22, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00220970309600877 Battistich, V. et al. (1997), “Caring school communities”, Educational Psychologist, Vol. 32/3, pp. 137-151, http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15326985ep3203_1 Battistich, V. et al. (1995), “Schools as communities, poverty levels of student populations, and students’ attitudes, motives, and performance: a multilevel analysis”, American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 32/3, pp. 627-658, http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1163326 Chiu, M.M. et al. (2016), “Students’ sense of belonging at school in 41 countries cross-cultural variability”, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Vol. 47/2, pp. 175-196, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022022115617031 Costa, A.L., Kallick, B. (1996). Habits of Mind. Alexandria: ASCD Hoge, D.R., E.K. Smit and S.L. Hanson (1990), “School experiences predicting changes in self-esteem of sixth- and seventh-grade students”, Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 82/1, pp. 117-127, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-0618.104.22.168. Jethwani-Keyser, M.M. (2008), “When teachers treat me well, I think I belong”: School belonging and the psychological and academic well being of adolescent girls in urban India”, Unpublished Dissertation, New York University, New York, NY. Ma, X. (2003), “Sense of belonging to school: Can schools make a difference?”, The Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 96/6, pp. 340‑349, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00220670309596617. Natvig, G.K., G. Albrektsen and U. Qvarnstrøm (2003), “Associations between psychosocial factors and happiness among school adolescents”, International Journal of Nursing Practice, Vol. 9/3, pp. 166-175. Noble, T. et al. (eds.) (2008), “Scoping study into approaches to student wellbeing: Final report”, Australian Catholic University and Erebus International, Brisbane, Qld, Au., http://researchdirect.westernsydney.edu.au/islandora/object/uws%3A29490/ Suldo, S.M. et al. (2013), “Understanding middle school students life satisfaction: Does school climate matter?”, Applied Research in Quality of Life, Vol. 8/2, pp. 169-182, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11482-012-9185-7. Wentzel, K.R. (1998), “Social relationships and motivation in middle school: The role of parents, teachers, and peers”, Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 90/2, pp. 202-209, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-0622.214.171.124.
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