Curriculum Projects - EDCI 537ShindlerTeaching and AssessmentClassroom Management

IMPLEMENTING A STUDY SKILLS PROGRAM IN A HIGH SCHOOL

KIM FRITZEN
SARAH LANE

EDU 555, SPRING 2000

Introduction:
With all the recent talk about systematic change in new education, educators are confronted daily with new "how-toís" and "why notís." Change seems to be focused more on structure than on process. Perhaps the most valuable discussions within school districts and states are those of assessment, particularly authentic student assessment and what this involves.

Throughout these discussions, however, we hear little about what goes on in a studentís mind. Educators are often removed from recent medical and/or psychological findings about the brain and their implications for learning. We are still focusing on product with little emphasis on process.

Discussions about assessment can begin to focus educators on a crucial yet very neglected area from students: study skills. For many parents, teachers, and students study skills results in a product: passing a test or completing oneís homework. Yet the process of study skills is largely ignored or misunderstood.

Implementing such a program could successfully develop and sustain academic achievement in High School and beyond. Another conceivable outcome will be to develop a successful learning environment that will enable the student to actively participate in any academic area of choice. The studentís self-image would improve due to the increase of self-evaluation and positive reinforcement from faculty and staff. This study skills course would also provide linkage between the skills-oriented course and success in learning in the content areas. Teachers would also, therefore, be able to better identify students who are having difficulty in academic courses.

From observation and conversations with both students and staff, it seems that there is a great need for a study skills program. Students are faced with changing standards that require critical thinking skills. Secondly, teachers need to be able to identify various learning styles as well as teach to them. A study skills program can help both students and teachers reach these goals.

Review of Literature:
The process and implementation of study skill s program is largely ignored or misunderstood. If implemented at all, there is no linkage between a study skill course and other academic areas. However, few content area teachers will argue that study skills instruction is unnecessary or undesirable. Nevertheless, study skills instruction is notably absent from content area classrooms, which are there natural habitat (Gaus, 1982).

Furthermore, study skills are often neglected when objectives are formulated and instructional practices are established. The sad result is that study skills instruction is not only absent from content-area classrooms, which are their natural homes. Study skills that should be emphasize are unique to each content area, to the school, to the students and teachers involved (Gaus, 1982).

Integrated study skills instruction, across the curriculum, is most highly recommend because it calls for the teaching of study skills by the classroom teachers in the content of the actual subject matter that is being taught (Dodd & Shaughnessy, 1988). As a result of the classroom teacherís instruction, students greatly benefit. "This enhances the studentís perception of relevance of the study skills and provides for immediate application to subject content at hand" (Guedry-Hymel,pg 11, 1984). Furthermore, there is evidence that systematic study skills instruction does improve academic performance (Thomas, 1993). Advances in cognitive psychology suggest that children are active learners. Furthermore, efforts in Oregon demonstrates both the need to develop study skills and outlines of some of the successes (Thomas, 1993). "Studentsí eagerness to acquire study skills dissipates quickly, demanding a strong commitment from school boards, administrators, teachers, parents and students to make study skills instruction maximally effective" (Thomas, pg. 12, 1993). Study skills can provide students with a beneficial study environment, self management, reduce stress and anxiety in preparing for test as well as more traditional skills of effective listening, reading comprehension, note taking and writing skills. Furthermore, the development of study skills can and should be addressed at every educational level.

The overall benefit for students who are actively involved in a study skills program is great. The hardest part of a study skills program is what skills should be taught and implementation process. Those study skills that will be emphasized should be determined by listening to the people who know best, teachers and students. "Teachers state that central office personnel often make the decision regarding what study skills should be taught; based upon theoretical or idiosyncratic considerations rather than realistic evaluations of student needs" (Gaus,pg 13, 1982). In order to have a successful program that benefits students it must be created and implemented by those who will be directly involved teachers. Teachers need to be trained specifically in the study skills to ensure teachers possess the knowledge base that allows for effective instruction (Guedry-Hymel, 1984).

Lastly, in order for a study skills program to benefit the students, all aspects must be shared. Teachers and students must be listened to about what study skills are necessary. Inservice workshops must be provided for teachers. Elicit cooperation by encouraging teachers to incorporate study skills in their curriculum by writing them into goals and objectives. Most importantly, successes and failures must shared in order to keep growing. If teachers are constantly providing feedback and sharing with one another then this type of study skills program will thrive (Gaus, 1982). "Finally, each school must provide its own patience, good nature, energy and faith and persistence to achieve continual success through a study skills program" (Gaus, pg. 15, 1982).

Goals:
This implementation of a study skills program integrated into the core curriculum would have a number of goals. The first and most important goal would be that student achievement in various areas would increase. For example, one of the main goals for our students would be a decrease in test anxiety and an increase in academic motivation. Secondly, this study skills program will be designed to help students discover how they learn best therefore resulting in better preparation for tests, which in turn would decrease test anxiety. A "good" outcome for this implementation would most definitely be seen in higher passing rate, higher regentís scores to student driven course load.

The main focus of this implementation would be a clear product: the academic success of our student body. The process of this implementation would have secondary positive enhancements. The process would allow faculty to sit down and formulate a program that can only enhance their content area. Moreover, it can allow for a more interdisciplinary approach towards teaching.

The school community as a whole would be more of a place that fosters learning. Teachers from all core subjects would be working together to help students achieve their maximum success. Students will become more self-driven on their learning process, which would increase motivation for both the learner and the facilitator. Both students and teachers would have less anxiety when it comes to preparing and taking state mandated tests. Overall, the school community would continue to grow in all academic areas together.

Determination of the Need:
The need to implement a study skills program at the secondary level is not hard to determine. The increase of at-risk students and new regents standards are just two of the many points that justify such a program. However, what kind of study skills program to be implemented needs to be determined. To start, there should be discussion between all core academic faculty on just what study skills are and how can they be incorporated into each subjects program as well as the schools day to reach all students regardless of past academic success or ability level. To achieve this initial step a formal survey prioritizing study skills should go out to all departments. Each department should decide on what study skills need to address for student success in their academic area. After the formal survey for each department is complete a list of study skills should be made from the department specific survey. At this point focus group interviews (representation from each department) should be formed to ask questions on if and how these department specific skills can be combined into an overall study skills program. The next step is to have another formal survey of all faculty members in each department in how a study skills program can be aligned with New York new learning standards for each department and how such a program can help each student meet these standards. The third step is to formally survey the student body on what they think study skills are, what study skills are most important in achieving academic success, and what skills they need to develop to reach their maximum academic success. Next, focus groups with both students, parents, and faculty need to be set up to determine what the greatest need or skill deficiency needs to be improved.

To promote the awareness of the need to implement a study skills program for all core subject areas certain data needs to be examined. The first piece of data that needs to be looked at is overall student performance. This includes pass/fail rate for each subject, past regents or final exam scores, number of students on merit and honor rolls, and enrollment in honors or advanced placement courses. Secondly, each department and teacher needs to look at their individual success rate and what they want to change in order to increase student success rate. Finally, in-depth examinations of existing study skills programs are needed. The examinations of these programs need to be closely monitored for the positives and the negatives.

A critical factor that also needs to be considered is the idea that teachers, parents, and students need to work together. Teachers need to work together with students to develop a program that promotes learning. Teachers need to have a voice in what kind of study skills should be focused on and how they need to implement them outside of the study skill course. What and how teachers teach must be focused on in the program. That is teachers need to work together in a more interdisciplinary manner. Teachers need to open their classroom doors and be willing to work with different departments to make this program work. This will be the most difficult thing to achieve in the implementation process.

Implementation Plan:
First and foremost, the focus of change must be clear and defining for everyone involved. As a team, we must clearly define student outcomes and build a shared vision of implementation that everyone has ownership of. For implementation to succeed and this program to be successful, everyone needs to contribute and feel a part of this plan. The initial investment in the implementation of this study skills program is vital, but the long lasting commitment is what is really needed. In order to maintain the initial investment there needs to be the idea of working toward shared institutional values.

Before the study skills program is even talked about their needs to be discussion and agreement of what our school as an institution values. For example, the questions "Why are we here?" and "What do we want our to learn?" need to be discussed. In addition, we as an institution must value individualism and teamwork for this implementation to be successful. In order to achieve these shared institutional values all parties must be involved. This includes administration, teachers, support staff, parent and students. This change will ultimately effect all of these people; therefore, everyone needs to be part of this implementation.

It needs to be clear that any implementation will take time, however it can not take to much time because time may lose many of the investors. The time frame will be crucial to this process. Results need to be seen but not at the expense of rushing and not fully thinking things through.

The next step is the implementation plan itself. Like any change the resources and support needs be extensive for the implementation to be successful. This one is no different. The most important resource in this implementation is support. The support needs to be universal and include everyone that will be effected. There needs to be a team approach to this implementation. One of largest factors in this process will be the distribution of power. Like any change, power becomes the motivator as well as the destroyer. In order to maintain the share vision, power must be managed by all that is involved. To make change organizational and systematic, force will stem from the individual schools, specifically each core department. Teachers will be at the forefront of this change. However, commitment needs to be established by all parties. Secondly, time is the next resource that is needed. There needs be sufficient time for all parties involved to discuss the change and how it will be implemented. Therefore, a common planning period needs to be scheduled during the school day for time to work on the implementation process and the study skills program itself. There needs to be representation of all parties involved including administration, teachers, support staff, parents and students. The initial meetings need only include teachers, administration and support staff. In addition to scheduled time during the school day, in house service days and professional development during the summer will also be needed. Once these resources are in place, the stages of implementation can be started.

Stage 1: (Sept.-Nov.)

  • At this point all of the need assessment data has been collected and compiled. At this point a focus group will need to be formed which will include teachers, administration, support staff, specialist(s) in curriculum development (outside the district), parents and students. The data from the need assessment will be reviewed and discussed in this focus group.
  • Next step is to "pitch" the implementation of a study skills program that is mandatory for all incoming ninth graders. The staff that reflects what skills each department wants to emphasize will create the study skills program. Two teachers will teach this program from each department separated by semester. In addition to the study skills program, the skills taught in this program will be used within the classroom. In essence a team will be created with each core academic subject represented.
  • Lastly, a main existing study skills program will be reviewed and observed by the focus group and data will be collected.

Stage 2: (Dec.-Jan.)

  • During the second stage a pilot program will be developed. All members of the focus group will have constructed the development of this pilot program. Each week there will be a weekly memo given to all staff regarding the progress of implementation.
  • Staff not in the focus group are still encouraged to communicate their ideas or

concerns on what direction the vision is heading.

Stage 3: (Feb.-April)

  • Once the pilot study skills program has been chosen, each core subject department (math, science, social studies, and language arts) will need to compile a list of study skills they stress in their curriculum as well as in their classroom.
  • After each department has developed their skill list, the tricky part comes into play. We now must form a team across the core subject areas and combine the list of skills from each subject. In order for this to work, the team must include those who are most positive about the change and the shared vision.
  • It will be necessary for this team to work first on their collaboration skills. They need to know from the start that in order for this team to work they must all value interdependence and have the same vision for change. Also, the communication must continue within the team and to the rest of the staff. It is so important that everyone involved, directly or indirectly, is getting constant feedback on what is happening with this program.
  • The team with then discuss each personís responsibility, and curriculum and instruction for this program.
  • The team that is developing this curriculum would be the four teachers who would teach the course. The task now is to create a study skills curriculum from the needs assessment data of what makes a good study skills program. This team should include the core academic department list in this curriculum.
  • The skills that are to be taught in the study skills program and the skills used in the individual classroom need to be connected. The bridge that will connect this ongoing partnership will be the four teachers who will be teaching the course with the aid of the administration.

Stage 4 : (May-June)

  • After the curriculum is set up, the schedule needs to be finalized. This will be another point of contention. This program will be a full year course requirement of all ninth and tenth graders. However, students will attend the class every other day. This will allow the team teachers planning time and continual assessment of the change.

Stage 5: (June-Aug.)

  • The next stage will be to bring students and parents directly into the implementation plan. (Although parents and students were in the initial need assessment portion.)
  • Students will be brought into this plan to give them an overview of what the study skills program is and how it can benefit them. Additionally, they will be asked to become a part of a student advisory committee to help in the ongoing assessment of this program.
  • Parents will also come in at this a stage to form a partnership with all teachers. Parents will be shown what study skills are, how the program can benefit their child, and how they can help their child succeed through the skills taught in the program. The partnership formed between teacher and parents is crucial for this study skills program to be effective for the students. It also can bring about more parents involved which is lacking in most high schools.
  • Additionally, inservice training will be held for all departments over the summer in this stage. Teachers will attend workshops on how to integrate the study skills program into their classroom. Furthermore, time will me given to each teacher/department to prepare material for the upcoming school year.

Stage 6: (School Year)

  • At this point the schedule and curriculum is in place. The program is ready to begin!!! Each day, two teachers out of the four, from the team will teach the study skill course. At first it will only be the incoming freshman but eventually would continue into the sophomore class based on the need of the program. The study skill class would be taught the same period every day rotating the teachers. The rationale behind this is it would leave two team teachers a planning period to work solely on the study skills program.
  • This stage will continue to proceed throughout the school year with constant re-assessment. Each month there should be re-assessment meetings of the focus group to see if the program is proceeding in terms of the vision and to address any problems or concerns the staff as a whole has. Additionally students and parents will also be included to address their concerns. It is so important to keep communication line open for all parties involved.

Possible Problems with Implementation:
With any implementation of change problems are due to arise. The best thought out implementation plans can still be ruined by problems. However, part of the implementation is to think through problems before they occur and have flexibility to adapt to these issues. However these are some of the foreseen problems that could arise:

  • Individual teachers not emphasizing the study skills in their own classroom.
  • Teachers feeling that they are being told how to teach because they do not pose adequate teaching skills.

** These two examples are probably the biggest hurdle in this implementation process.

However, during the first stages of this process we specifically wanted teachers input into what they felt was needed in a good study skills program. The curriculum was also based on what skills they stress in their classrooms. The message is very clear in this implementation that what the individual teachers are doing in their classroom is great and we want every student to be exposed to it. For this reason the lines of communication need to be open throughout this process.**

  • Scheduling problems. It will take a lot of maneuvering to allow for this program. Furthermore, the need for a common plan period for team teachers will also be scheduling hassle. However, if the need is great, and it is, scheduling will reflect the commitment of the teachers who want this change.

The time frame on how long this change will take is uncertain at this point. If we need to make an educated guess it would be at least 2-3 years. There needs to be adequate time in order to truly assess the progress of this change in order to see its benefit to the students.

Assessment:
The assessment of this program will be ongoing. The changes that will occur will be seen in throughout the school as an institution as well in individual classroom. The motivation of both students and staff should change. Students will be more motivated in completing projects and everyday assignments such as homework. Along with motivation of students, self-esteem and attitudes towards school and learning will improve. Measurable factors would include higher rates of passing on regents exams due to fewer tests taking anxiety. The percentage of students on honor and merit roles should increase. Enrollment in honors and advanced placement course will increase. Moreover, students will continue to go beyond required core subjects and library book circulation may increase. Finally, a possible indication of what has changed would be student involvement in academic clubs and school activities, which will increase due to the fact students, are willing and maybe even love learning!

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