Critical reading of a quantitative research article

BA in education, module name : understanding education: research and researchingbrief:Critical Reading of a Quantitative Research ArticleYou are to write a 1200 word report (±10%, so anythingbetween 1080 and 1320 words) critically reviewing thefollowing research paper Stipek, D. J., & Byler, P. (1997). Early childhood educationteachers: Do they practice what they preach? EarlyChildhood Research Quarterly, 12(3), 305-325.Assessment Criteria Your report must include a brief description of the aimsof the article you are reviewing You should critically examine the authorsâ?? choice ofmethods (you may use the questions we adapted fromGreenhalgh & Taylor in session 6 â?? see overleaf) You must review some* of the statistics or graphswhich have been used in relation to the context and thetype of data which has been recorded. Have the authorsjustified their approach? You should cite at least three methods texts and/or otherstudies that have been conducted in education to supportyour views. (E.g. if you feel that the author used aninappropriate test or didnâ??t do the right â??checking testsâ?â?? use your lecture notes and other sources to explainwhy.). You can include some reflective commentary â?? do youfind the results interesting, convincing, well-justified?You might also consider what you have learned from theauthorsâ?? report which might have implications for yourfuture quantitative research.* See next pageSuggested structureThe aim of this task is for you to critically explore at leastsome elements of the authorsâ?? quantitative approach. It isrecommended that you briefly summarise how the authorsâ??methods might complement or support each other.You can use these questions as sub-headings if you wish.Explain that you are doing so when introducing the report(cite the EDU202 Powerpoint slides or explain how theseare adapted from Greenhalgh & Taylor).PLEASE NOTE: You are not required to address all of these questions or all of the methods used in the paper. Question 1: Did the paper describe an importanteducational issue addressed via a clearly formulatedquestion? Question 2: Was a quantitative approach appropriate? Question 3: How were the setting and the subjectsselected? Question 4: What was the researcherâ??s perspective, andhas this been taken into account? (How have the authorsâ?? positionality or epistemologicalbeliefs around quantitative methods been declared orimplied?) Question 5: What methods did the researcher use forcollecting data and are these described in enough detail? Question 6: What methods did the researcher use toanalyse the data and what quality control measures wereimplemented? (Assumption checks like Shapiro-Wilketc.) Question 7: Are the results credible, and if so, are theyeducationally important? Question 8: What conclusions were drawn, and are theyjustified by the results? Question 9: Are the findings of the study transferable toother educational settings? Question 10: Has anything in this paper made me changehow I will approach reading or reporting quantitativeresearch in future?Notes on referencing:Include the full reference for the paper you are reviewing atthe end of the task. You donâ??t need to keep referencing itwithin the text itself, instead just use page numbers (p. 4) to indicate where you are referring to parts of the paper.When you use other sources like methods texts or otherresearch, reference them as usual with a citation in the text(Connolly, 2001, p. 43) and an entry in the reference list at theend of the task.Notes on advanced methods:Some of the papers may involve statistical techniques that youhave not yet covered.You can still review these papers using the questionsabove! You can comment on how clearly the author hasexplained the purpose and appropriateness of their chosenmethod. You can also consider how clearly the author hasreported their results.i have provide the literature article that need to critical review in this essay,and also provide two example of this essay that written by previous student
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EarlyChildhoodResearchQuarterly,l&305-325 (1997)
@ AblexPublishing
Corp.
ISSN088572006
Early Childhood Education Teachers:
Do They Practice What they Preach?
Deborah J. Sfipek and Patricia Byler
UCLA
The study explored relationships, for 60 preschool, kindergarten, and first grade
teachers, among teachersâ?? beliefs about how children learn, their views on the
goals of early childhood education, their positions on policies related to school
entry, testing, and retention, their satisfaction with current practices and pressures
for change, and their actual practices. Results revealed, for preschool and kindergarten teachers, significant associations among beliefs, goals, practices, and to
some degree policy positions, that map on to current debates among experts on
child-centered versus more didactic, basic-skills approaches. Findings for the
small sample of first grade teachers showed few of the predicted associations.
Nearly all teachers who reported that they were not able to implement the program they believed was appropriate claimed that their program was too basicskills oriented; parents were the most often cited source of pressure.
Teachers of young children make myriad decisions-about
whether to emphasize
basic skills; about the degree to which activities are child- versus teacher-initiated,
structured or unstructured, completed alone or with peers; about how strict to be in
managing the classroom; and so on. These and many other decisions are sometimes made in split seconds in the context of a room full of children with varying
and significant needs. Teachers are also involved in making or applying policy
decisions, such as about school entry criteria, testing, and retention-policies
that
may have long-term consequences for childrenâ??s lives. This study examines teachersâ?? beliefs related to those decisions. Of particular interest are associations
between teachersâ?? beliefs about appropriate practices and their actual practices,
and sources of tension between their beliefs and practices.
These questions are relevant to early cbilclbood teacher training and professional
development. Previous research indicates that teachersâ?? practices are associated
with their beliefs (Charlesworth, Hart, Burts, & Hemandez, 1991; Charlesworth,
Direct all correspondence to: Dr. Deborah Stipek, University of California, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, Box 951619, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1619.
305
306
Stipek and Byler
Hart, Burts, Thomasson, Mosley, & Fleege, 1993; Smith & Shepard, 1988; Stipek,
Daniels, Galluzzo, & Milburn, 1992), and that teachers filter new information
through personal beliefs (Kagan, 1992). Information on early childhood educatorsâ??
beliefs about appropriate practices and policies is useful, therefore, in informing
efforts to change teachersâ?? practices.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides guidelines to assist teachers in making decisions (Bredekamp,
1989;
Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). They recommend that teachers serve primarily as
resources to childrenâ??s self-initiated activities, providing open-ended opportunities
for children to explore concrete materials and to interact with each other. Basicskills teaching using drill and practice, workbooks, and worksheets is discouraged;
instead basic skills are supposed to be embedded in everyday, meaningful activities. We refer henceforth to this constellation of practices as â??child-centered.â?
The NAEYC Guidelines reflect the opinion of most early childhood education
experts and are generally supported by research on the effects of instructional
approaches on childrenâ??s learning and motivation (Hart, Burts, & Charlesworth,
1997; Stipek, 1993). A minority, however, endorse a greater emphasis on basic
skills using direct, highly structured teaching approaches (Becker & Gersten,
1982; Car-nine, Car-nine, Karp, & Weisberg, 1988). These practices, which we will
refer to as â??basic-skills oriented,â? include structured, teacher-directed instruction
and carefully sequenced tasks, repetition, practice, and review.
These two different constellations of practices are associated with fundamentally
different theories of how children learn and the role of adults in the learning process. Child-centered practices are associated with the theory, developed most
notably by Piaget, that young children construct their intellectual competencies by
confronting and solving problems while directly experiencing and manipulating
concrete objects. According to this view, adults can interfere with the natural
developmental process by over-prescribing or structuring activities and by evaluating childrenâ??s products according to adult criteria. A basic-skills orientation is
linked to learning theory, in which cognitive competencies are assumed to be
transmitted according to the principles of repetition and reinforcement. Learning
occurs when children repeat appropriate responses to teacher-produced
stimuli,
and is facilitated by breaking tasks and responses into discrete, carefully
sequenced units. Errors must be corrected to keep children from learning incorrect
responses. Previous research examining early childhood teachersâ?? beliefs about
appropriate practice have differentiated beliefs and assessments of practice using
similar distinctions between child-centered and teacher-directed
instruction and
learning (Bryant, Clifford, & Peisner, 199 1; Charlesworth, Hart, Burts, & DeWolf,
1993 ; Haupt, Larsen, Robinson, & Hart, 1995; Kagan & Smith, 1988;
Oakes & Caruso, 1990; Spidell-Rusher, McGrevin, & Lambiotte, 1992).
Decisions about whether to implement a more basic-skills or a more child-centered curriculum may be embedded in teachersâ?? fundamental values about the
goals of early childhood education, in what they want to achieve for their children,
as much as in their beliefs about how children learn. Difference in goals is suggested in an ethnographic study that compared two kindergarten teachers who
Practice What They Preach
307
emphasized basic skills by using highly structured, teacher-directed activities and
direct instruction, to two kindergarten teachers who followed NAEYC child-centered guidelines (Kamafel, 1993). The teachers emphasizing basic skills explained
that their primary goal was to prepare children for the academic rigors of fist
grade, to make sure that children had mastered the basic skills they would need to
succeed in elementary school. The two kindergarten teachers who were more
child-centered in their approaches were less concerned about academic preparation
and more concerned about developing general concepts and problem-solving skills
and maintaining childrenâ??s enthusiasm and self-confidence for learning.
The first purpose of this study was to determine (a) whether teachers of young
children held coherent views about how children learn and about the appropriate
role of adults in the learning process, and (b) whether these teachersâ?? views map on
to the two theoretical frameworks described above. A second purpose was to
explore, in a larger sample of teachers than was included in Kamafelâ??s ethnographic study, whether teachers who endorse and implement different approaches
have different goals for their children. Thus, in addition to assessing teachersâ??
beliefs about effective practice, we also asked them to rate the importance of different goals for young children.
We included goals that are often referred to in the literature and that we expected
to be differentially associated with beliefs about appropriate practices and actual
instructional practices. We expected teachers who emphasized basic skills, in their
beliefs and in their practices, to claim that basic skills and knowledge were the
most important goals in early childhood educational programs. Teachers who
endorsed and practiced more child-centered approaches were expected to claim
that social skills, independence and initiative, creativity, and a positive self-concept were the most important goals.
A third set of questions concerned associations between teachersâ?? beliefs about
appropriate practices and their position on three policy issues: (a) whether some
children should be delayed in entering school for a year after they are eligible to
begin kindergarten; (b) whether and for what purpose standardized tests should be
used for young children; and (c) whether children should ever be retained in kindergarten and for what reason. These three policies are debated in the literature and
in many communities, and they have potentially far-reaching consequences for
children.
Because the more child-centered approach tends to be associated with a more
maturationist view of child development (Walsh, 1989, 1991), we hypothesized
that teachers who endorsed and implemented child-centered practices would be
more in favor of delaying school entry and retention, especially for children who
were socially immature. We expected teachers who believed in the value and
appropriateness of an emphasis on basic skills to be more likely to endorse the use
of standardized achievement tests, because they assess skills that the teachers
believe are important, and to advocate retention for children who were academically behind program expectations or their peers.
Fourth, the study assessed associations between teachersâ?? beliefs about appropriate and effective education for young children and their classroom practices.
308
Stipek and Byler
Although we thought some teachers might describe external pressures to teach differently from their own beliefs about appropriate practices, we expected to find
associations between beliefs and practices, as previous studies have found. Oakes
and Caruso (1990), for example, found that teachers who expressed a willingness
to share authority with children in their responses to hypothetical vignettes used
more child-centered approaches in their classroom. Charlesworth et al. (1993)
reported associations between teachersâ?? beliefs and their reported and observed
practices. Bryant et al. (1991) also found associations between teachersâ?? knowledge and attitudes and their scores on a measure of classroom quality (Early
Childhood Environment Rating Scale; Harms & Cliffords, 1980; see also, Kagan
& Smith, 1988.)
These previous studies, however, all included only kindergarten teachers.
NAEYC Guidelines are explicitly written to apply to children ages birth to age 8
years, and the debate about effective instructional practices is relevant to children
in the range (and beyond). The present study, therefore, included preschool and
first-grade, as well as kindergarten teachers. It also examined a few issues,
described below, that had not been addressed in previous studies.
Although we anticipated significant associations between beliefs and practice,
we also wanted to explore ways in which teachers believe they were unable to put
their own beliefs into practice. Teachers are not always free to implement a program that is entirely consistent with their own beliefs. At least one previous study
found that some teachers experienced pressure to emphasize basic skills more than
they would like (Hitz & Wright, 1988).
Administrators, teachers in upper grades, school and district policies, and parents can exert influence that may or may not be consistent with teachersâ?? own
preferences (Haupt & Ostlund, 1997). All of these factors need to be considered in
any effort to affect early childhood education practices. The fifth question, accordingly, concerned teachersâ?? satisfaction with their actual practices. Our study
expanded on previous research by asking teachers to explain, in their own words,
the sources and nature of the pressures they felt, if any, to teach differently from
what they believed was appropriate.
Previous research suggests that both administrators and parents need to be considered. In the Spidell-Rusher et al. (1992) study, kindergarten teachers, on
average, felt that district policies were less favorable to a child-centered curriculum than they were, and some teachers in Hatch and Freemanâ??s (1988)
ethnographic study complained of pressure at the district level to â??get back to the
basics� (p. 155). They also reported that many of the teachers who espoused maturationist beliefs nevertheless worked in programs with a strong behaviorist
orientation.
Shepard and Smith (1988) proposed that many teachers who emphasize basic
skills in early childhood education programs do so against their own inclinations.
They explain that some teachers experience pressure from parents who are concerned about their children doing well academically in elementary school and by
school administrators who are under pressure from policy makers to raise achievement test scores. Zimiles (1986) proposed, likewise, that parents who are anxious
Practice What They Preach
309
to see their children gain an early competitive edge pressure teachers to focus on
academic development. These observations are consistent with findings from a
few studies, which suggest that, on average, parents rate intellectual goals as more
important and social goals as less important than do teachers of young children
(Knudsen-Lindauer
& Harris, 1989) and that parents believe that basic skills (e.g.,
knowing the letters of the alphabet and being able to count to 20) are more essential to kindergarten readiness than do teachers (West, Hausken, & Collins, 1993).
Fifth, the study assessed ethnic differences in teachersâ?? goals and their beliefs
about appropriate approaches in early childhood education. Although the evidence
is mixed, and ethnicity is often confounded with social class, there is some evidence suggesting that African-American
and Latin0 parents are more likely to
endorse adult-directed teaching (Goodnow & Collins, 1990; Nucci, 1994; Slaughter, 1987). We were interested in determining whether these findings applied to
early childhood teachers as well.
Finally, we conducted analyses to determine whether differences in teachersâ?? views
on appropriate instruction were associated with the socioeconomic status of the children served in their programs. Most advocates of an emphasis on academic skills
stress the benefits for economically disadvantaged children (Bereiter, 1986; Carnine,
Cat-nine, Karp, & Weisberg, 1988; Gersten, 1986; Gersten, Darth, & Gleason,
1988). Some claim that the kind of exploratory learning promoted by NAEYC, which
emphasizes autonomy and creativity, is a luxury that children growing up in poverty
cannot afford and is incongruous with the teaching styles and goals of economically
disadvantaged families. Delpit (1995), for example, maintains that low-income and
minority parents, who have been excluded from opportunities afforded middle-class
parents, value basic skills over creative thinking because they believe basic skills
are necessary for success in school and in the dominant culture.
There is also considerable evidence suggesting that parents with low incomes
and relatively poor education are more likely to endorse highly structured, basicskills oriented
programs
for young children
(Rescorla,
Hyson,
HirshPasek, & Cone, 1990; Stipek, Milbum, Clements, & Daniels, 1992) and to see
basic skills as essential for kindergarten readiness (West et al., 1993). Teachers
who serve relatively disadvantaged populations of children may, therefore, feel
some pressure from parents to emphasize basic skills in their programs. Although
Spidell Rusher et al. (1992) did not assess the SES of children in the schools
included in their study, they found that teachers and principals in urban and rural
school districts agreed more with an academic emphasis than educators in suburban school districts. These differences might be related to differences in the
proportion of low-income and relatively poorly educated parents that were presumably served in the two types of school districts.
To address these questions, 60 preschool, kindergarten, and first- grade teachers
completed questionnaires on their beliefs about effective educational practices for
young children; their goals for their students, their position on policy issues related
to school entry, the use of standardized tests, and retention; and their own perceptions of the degree to which they were able to implement practices that are
310
consistent with their beliefs and goals. Detailed observations
in each teacherâ??s classroom to assess actual practices.
Stipek and Byler
also were completed
METHODS
Programs
Of the 60 classrooms studied, 10 preschools, 11 kindergartens, and 1 first grade
were in private schools; 10 of these were nonprofit programs affiliated with religious or community organizations, and 12 were for profit. Three of the preschool
and 1 kindergarten classroom were in Head Start programs. The remaining 5 preschool, 14 kindergarten, and 15 first grade classrooms were in public schools in
one of three urban school districts. The public preschools served only economically disadvantaged children.
The schools served an economically and ethnically diverse population of children. Classrooms were classified as serving predominantly children from middleclass families (N = 34; 9 preschool, 16 kindergarten, 9 first grade) or serving predominantly children from low-income
families (N = 26; 9 preschool,
10
kindergarten, 7 first grade). To qualify as a school serving predominantly lowincome families, the school had to have a low-income requirement for enrollment
(e.g., a Head Start Center) or serve a student population in which at least 40% were
eligible for subsidized lunch.
Participants
The study included 18 preschool, 26 kindergarten, and 16 first grade teachers. The
teachers were ethnically diverse: 3 1 were Caucasian, 13 were African-American,
13 were Latino, 2 were Asian, and 1 was another (unknown) ethnicity. Teacher ethnicity was fairly evenly distributed across the three grades, although both Caucasian
and Latinos were slightly over-represented, and African Americans were slightly
under-represented in kindergarten. The mean number of years teaching was 15, with
a range from 1 to 45 years. Education ranged from a high school diploma to a masterâ??s degree; the mode was a bachelorâ??s degree plus a teaching credential (N = 33).
A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) computed to assess possible ethnic
differences in teachersâ?? education was significant, F(2, 53 = 5.28, p c .Ol). Latin0
teachers had a few years of college on average, whereas Caucasian and African
American teachers held, on average, a bachelorâ??s degree. The difference is not
likely to be explained by grade level differences because Latin0 teachers were not
more likely to be preschool teachers (28%), who typically have lower education
levels than elementary level teachers, than were African American (28%) or Caucasian (39%) teachers.
Classroom Practices
Using Stipekâ??s early childhood program observation measure, an observer made
47 ratings of the classroom instruction and social climate after several (averaging
Practice What They Preach
311
two and a half) hours of observation (Stipek et al., 1992, 1995, in press). The range
of scores for the items varied from 3 to 5. Each item had different descriptions
associated with particular ratings. For example, for the item â??work vs. playâ? there
were three alternatives (thus a range in scores from 1 to 3): (a) clearly distinguished, (b) occasionally distinguished, and (c) not clearly distinguished. For
â??teacher acceptanceâ? the alternatives were: (a) highly critical, (b) moderately critical, (c) moderately accepting, and (d) highly accepting (thus a range in scores of
l-4).
An orthogonal varimax factor analysis of the items from the Stipek et al. (Submitted) classroom measure had, in a previous study, produced two interpretable
factors. Subscores for the observation measure, therefore, were created by taking
the mean of the items (after being standar …
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