04 SES 06 D, Effects Of Social Inequalities On Inclusive Education
Children with lower socioeconomic status (SES) are at particular risk of lagging behind their peers in in the secondary school level (Björklund & Salvanes, 2011). Inclusive teaching techniques such as individualized assignment, group work, and discussions could provide some support for at risk children (Cohen, Lotan, Darling-Hammond, & Goodlad, 2014; Miller, McKissick, Ivy, & Moser, 2017; Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2011). However, large-scale assessments of teaching techniques paired with risk factors are rare.
Teacher effects can significantly reduce the negative effects of disadvantaged backgrounds (Torres, 2018), and individualized instruction is a critical component of effective teaching within inclusive classrooms (Bešić, Paleczek, Krammer, & Gasteiger-Klicpera, 2016; Ok, Rao, Bryant, & McDougall, 2016; Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2011). Through such individualized instruction, children are provided specialized tasks based upon their current ability level, such as classwork and homework assignments tailored to their ability levels.
Additionally, group work and discussions are encouraged to provide additional engagement (Miller et al., 2017; Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2011). Group work can improve the engagement of children to foster their learning (Cohen et al., 2014; Igel & Urquhart, 2015; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2003). Meanwhile, effective classroom discussions can enhance student engagement (Jocz, Zhai, & Tan, 2014; Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2011), but, not all students gain equally from discussions. (e.g., Kang & Keinonen, 2018). Both of these allow for additional individualized, student centered instruction, but the outcomes of these approaches may be inconsistent across student and teacher ability levels (Kang & Keinonen, 2018).
Missing in these studies is the connection to teaching practice on a large-scale. A scant few recent large-scale studies have examined these teaching techniques (e.g., Hofmann & Mercer, 2016). The National Education Panel Study (NEPS; Blossfeld, Roßbach, &, & von Maurice, 2011) provides an excellent database to connect these areas. NEPS is a large-scale, multi-cohort study, which tracks many psychological, sociological, economic, educational, and other variables of thousands of German children, adolescents and adults.
Within the NEPS data set, we checked for longitudinal connections between teaching styles, and a student background variables. We examined the role of lower parental educational attainment on the development of math and reading skills in secondary students between grades seven and nine, alongside the effects of group work, discussions, individualized assignments, differentiated teacher expectations.
Multilevel, random intercept with fixed slope models examined the relationship between these variables and competency change in reading and math between grades seven and nine. We expected to find that the use of group work and individualized assignments would foster learning; however, individual assignments in grade seven were associated with significantly worse reading competency in grade nine. No effect of individual assignments was found for math. Meanwhile, there was no significant main effect of group work in seventh grade on math development, but it was associated with significantly worse math competency in ninth grade for children whose parents lacked a university degree.
These results run counter to the predictions that individualized instruction and group work foster learning growth. More work is required to square these results with theory on individualized instruction and within an inclusive classroom environment. One possibility is that differing assignment difficulties as described within the NEPS survey do not constitute truly individualized instruction as demanded within inclusive instruction and universal design for learning. Another possibility is that children with a pre-existing lower ability level lead teachers to choose more individualized assignments. Further large-scale longitudinal studies could to identify the direction of this effect more clearly.
Participants were 2054 secondary school students from the NEPS cohort starting in 5th grade. Warm’s likelihood estimates from NEPS for math and reading competence in grades 7 and 9 were taken from competence tests at the beginning of the respective years. Parental education level was determined the parent’s responses. Households where neither parent had obtained a university degree were considered to have a lower education level. In Germany, the highest track of secondary education is gymnasium, which prepares children for a subsequent university program. Students attending a gymnasium were compared against students attending all other secondary school types. Teacher and student responses about the type of school they were attending were used to determine school type. Seventh grade teachers answered questions about their instruction techniques in four categories based on responses to Likert scaled items. Harmonizing demands and capabilities were defined by the questions “I demand considerably less from students who are less capable,” “I form groups of students with similar capabilities,” and “I form groups of students with different capabilities.” Individualized assignments were defined by answers to the three questions “I give students homework ranging in complexity based on their capability,” “I allow students who work faster to move on to the next assignment while I am still practicing or reviewing things with the ones that work slower,” and “if students have difficulties in understanding, I give them additional assignments.” The use of groups was defined by how often teachers use “small student groups,” “partner work,” and “students acting as tutors.” Lastly, the use of discussions was defined by how often teachers used “discussions” and “discussion rounds.” Multilevel regression models with random intercept with fixed slope models were built to estimate the relationship between parental education level, school type, grade seven competency and teaching methods on grade nine competency. Within each model, children were clustered by the class they attended. Additional models examining other risk factors were considered, but they did not significantly improve the fit over the included models, and were thus discarded.
For both reading and math models, competency at grade seven proved to be a significant predictor of competency at grade 9, ps < .001. For the reading model, children who received a higher degree of individualized instruction performed worse than those who did not, p < .05. No other significant predictors were identified in the reading model, all other ps > .05. Meanwhile, in the math model, children whose parents lacked a university degree performed worse, p < .05. This effect was significantly stronger for children attending gymnasium whose parents lacked a university degree, p < .05. Lastly, children attending gymnasium whose 7th grade teachers used group work more had a significantly lower 9th grade competency, but this was not true for children in other school types, p < .05. No other significant effects were found, all other ps > .05. These results indicate that individualized assignments had a significant negative effect on students’ reading competency two years later. This may mean that providing additional assignments or different assignments is not effective in fostering reading development in secondary school. Meanwhile, group work was found to be less effective for children with less educated parents and for children attending gymnasium. Combined, these results suggest that optimum support varies between subjects and may be specific to school type and the parental educational background. More work is required to identify these specific effects and explain why they may be stronger in some educational environments. One possibility is that teacher who provide individualized assignments are not providing individualized instruction to the level demanded by universal design for learning. Alternatively, lower ability students may prompt teachers to employ more individualized instruction. More research regarding this possibility is required.
Bešić, E., Paleczek, L., Krammer, M., & Gasteiger-Klicpera, B. (2016). Inclusive practices at the teacher and class level: The experts’ view. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 32(3), 329–345. https://doi.org/10.1080/08856257.2016.1240339 Björklund, A., & Salvanes, K. (2011). Education and family background. In E. A. Hanushek, L. Woessmann, & S. Machin (Eds.), Handbooks in economics. Handbook of the economics of education: Volume 3 (pp. 201–247). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: North Holland. Blossfeld, H.-P., Roßbach, &, H.-G., & von Maurice, J. (Eds.). (2011). Education as a Lifelong Process – The German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS). [Special Issue] Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft: 14. Cohen, E. G., Lotan, R. A., Darling-Hammond, L., & Goodlad, J. I. (2014). Designing groupwork: Strategies for the heterogeneous classroom (Third edition). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Hofmann, R., & Mercer, N. (2016). Teacher interventions in small group work in secondary mathematics and science lessons. Language and Education, 30(5), 400–416. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500782.2015.1125363 Igel, C., & Urquhart, V. (2015). Generation Z, Meet Cooperative Learning. Middle School Journal, 43(4), 16–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/00940771.2012.11461816 Jocz, J. A., Zhai, J., & Tan, A. L. (2014). Inquiry Learning in the Singaporean Context: Factors affecting student interest in school science. International Journal of Science Education, 36(15), 2596–2618. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2014.908327 Kang, J., & Keinonen, T. (2018). The Effect of Student-Centered Approaches on Students’ Interest and Achievement in Science: Relevant Topic-Based, Open and Guided Inquiry-Based, and Discussion-Based Approaches. Research in Science Education, 48(4), 865–885. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-016-9590-2 Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2003). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement ([Nachdr.]). Alexandria Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Miller, N. C., McKissick, B. R., Ivy, J. T., & Moser, K. (2017). Supporting Diverse Young Adolescents: Cooperative Grouping in Inclusive Middle-level Settings. The Clearing House: a Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 90(3), 86–92. https://doi.org/10.1080/00098655.2017.1285661 Ok, M. W., Rao, K., Bryant, B. R., & McDougall, D. (2016). Universal Design for Learning in Pre-K to Grade 12 Classrooms: A Systematic Review of Research. Exceptionality, 25(2), 116–138. https://doi.org/10.1080/09362835.2016.1196450 Tomlinson, C. A., & Imbeau, M. B. (2011). Managing a differentiated classroom: Grades K-8 ; a practical guide. New York, NY: Scholastic. Torres, R. (2018). Tackling inequality? Teacher effects and the socioeconomic gap in educational achievement. Evidence from Chile. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 29(3), 383–417. https://doi.org/10.1080/09243453.2018.1443143
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