2016 Student Research Topics

Senior Capstone Seminar (Andrea Christensen & Matt Kloser, Professors)

Laura Camarata
Title: "As a Teacher,  What Are You Supposed to Do?" Teacher Preparation and Perceptions of Student Gang Involvement
Read the Abstract

Patrick J. Couch 
Title: Teacher Retention: Why Do Teachers Remain in the Classroom?
Read the Abstract

Lauren Crawford
Title: Teaching English in a Multilingual Classroom: Challenges and Strategies
Read the Abstract

Megan Fink
Title: Perceptions of Gender Differences in Science Intelligence    
Read the Abstract

Tommy Flaim
Title: Instilling a Sense of Social Entrepreneurship in America’s Youth
Read the Abstract

Emma Fleming
Title: Analyzing the Relationship between Student  Engagement and Instructional Strategies in a Kindergarten Spanish-Immersion Religion Class
Read the Abstract

Sarah Gibbons
Title: Academic Tracking's Influence on Students Effort, Motivation, and Self-Efficacy
Read the Abstract 

Michael H. Ginocchio Jr.
Title: Analysis of Principal Leadership in the Wake of Maintaining a Tight Budget
Read the Abstract
Madeline Hahn
Title: Which Classroom is Best? A Comparative Study of Spanish Classes for Heritage Language Learners
Read the Abstract

Kenzell Huggins
Title: Graduate Students, Underrerpresented Minorities, and Interpersonal Relationships
Read the Abstract 

Kathleen Kennedy
Title: Teachers’ Perceptions of the Effects of Differences in Teacher and Students’ Racial Identities
Read the Abstract

Paloma Main
Title: How Physical Activity Can Be Used to Improve Social Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Read the Abstract

Grace Mazur
Title: The Impact of Exercise on Freshmen Academic, Mental, and Social Adjustment to College
Read the Abstract

Erin Moston 
Title: A Study of Text Material Including Customized Course-Packets at the University Level
Read the Abstract

Sarah Neuberger
Title: Adolescents’ Interactions on the Internet: Student and Teacher Perceptions of Cyberbullying
Read the Abstract

Kara Neumann
Title: Let’s Talk About God: The Effects of Personal Religiosity on Caring Classroom and School Communities
Read the Abstract

Hannah Petersen
Title: Parental Motivation for Enrollment in a Bilingual Preschool
Read the Abstract

Megan Petti
Title: How Gender Identification of Middle School Girls Effects Their Possible Future Selves in Science
Read the Abstract

Megan Schilling
Title: Beginning the School Day with Care and Support: How Do Morning Meetings Build Caring Communities?
Read the Abstract

Caroline Smith
Title: Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Home Lives and Teacher Efficacy Beliefs  
Read the Abstract

Malaysha Stewart
Title:The Effect of Positive Student/Teacher Relationships on Students' Ability to Count and Number Objects 
Read the Abstract

Katharine Taylor
Title: A Knight Kebab: Social Studies in Montessori Schools
Read the Abstract

Sean Tenaglia
Title: Autonomy and Ownership in Physical Education and Their Effects on Middle School Students’ Attitudes Toward School
Read the Abstract

Elizabeth Weir
Title: Differences in Stress Levels Between Freshmen and Seniors
Read the Abstract

ESS Thesis/Thesis in Major

ESS Thesis
Elizabeth Anthony (PHIL)
Examining the Role of Digital Badges in Achieving the University’s MOOC Strategic Aims
Alex Ambrose, Adviser

ESS Thesis
Alexandra Bohnsack (PSY)
Effect of Set Patterns on the Acquisition of Cardinal Understanding
Nicole McNeil, Adviser

Thesis in Major
Trini Bui (ENGL)
The Sound of Silence: Finding Words to Communicate Identity and Social Space in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Fly
Stuart Greene/Maria McKenna, Advisers

Thesis in Major
Kelly Griffith (POLS)
Promising Practices in Juvenile Justice: A Restorative Lens
Stuart Greene, Adviser

Thesis in Major 
Ray’Von Jones (SOC)
Perceptions Vs. Realities: Experiences of African American Women at Washington High School
Maria McKenna, Adviser

ESS Thesis
Megan McCuen (ENGL/ROFR)
What Can Be Learned from Destination Imagination?
Maria McKenna, Adviser

ESS Thesis
Maria McGuire (PSY)
School Effectiveness as Influence on Students with Military Parents
Andrea Christensen, Adviser

Thesis in Major
Bridget Mooney (PLS)
Notre Dame Department of Education in Retrospect and Prospect
Clark Power, Adviser

ESS Thesis
Zoe Rote (POLS)
Place-Based Education: Engagement from the Student Perspective
Stuart Greene, Adviser

Thesis in Major
Njeri Williams (POLS, AFST)
The Effect of the Black Arts Movement on the Evolution of Black Identity
Maria McKenna, Adviser

Capstone Abstracts

Laura Camarata "As a Teacher, What Are You Supposed to Do?" Teacher Preparation and Perceptions of Student Gang Involvement

Youth gangs and the significant social problems they create have long been researched.  Only recently, however, have studies trained their focus on how gang involvement affects school achievement, and educators’ roles in mitigating these effects.  Yet, novice teachers continue to enter schools with at-risk, gang-involved student populations without adequate preparation, and to date, research has neglected to examine these teachers’ extent of preparation or their perceptions of gang-involved students.  This study examines how prepared teachers felt to address the needs of their gang-involved students, teachers’ perceptions of gang-involved students, as well as teachers’ suggestions for moving forward in this work.  Surveys were distributed (n=48) to teachers at a public high school in a mid-sized Midwestern city, and interviews were conducted (n=7) with several teachers at the same school.  Findings indicate that the sample of teachers felt significantly less influential, confident, and obligated when teaching their gang-involved students as opposed to their non-gang-involved students.  These data also indicate that participants felt significantly less prepared by their preservice education to address the needs of their gang-involved students.  Additionally, participants identified various themes to be prevalent to the conversation when talking about gang-involved youth, such as classroom influences, tracking/academic achievement, race/ethnicity, poverty/SES effects, home influences, parental involvement, disciplinary approaches, student-teacher relationships, and teacher/administrator collaboration.  Moving forward, teachers expressed a strong desire for more information and strategies on teaching, supporting, and disciplining gang-involved students.  Hopefully, this study acts as an impetus for change to improve the existing and inadequate curricula of preservice teacher education programs. Back to Top.

Patrick J. Couch: Teacher Retention: Why Do Teachers Remain in the Classroom?

This study examined the retention rate of teachers within elementary schools. The teaching profession is known for its difficult nature and low retention rate. The burdens that teachers experience within the classroom commonly cause individuals to burn out and leave the field of education. In order to solve the problem of teacher retention, it is essential to understand the ways in which veteran teachers have been able to overcome the burdens of teaching. The purpose of this research was to determine the reasons why specific teachers have continued teaching for multiple decades. The data collected by interviews with veteran teachers in Northern Indiana revealed the favorable aspects of teaching. Upon analysis of these data, several positive elements of the teaching profession emerged. Across the board, teachers reported to value their ability to make a difference in the lives of their students. Teachers also revealed that personal relationships with their family, friends, students, and fellow colleagues have been the greatest source of support for them during difficult teaching periods. Additionally, principals were found to influence the retention of teachers by their ability to maintain healthy work environments within their schools. The participants of this study distinguished these characteristics of their profession to be the main reasons why they return to the classroom each year. The results of this study support previous research regarding the retention of teachers in elementary schools. The implications of this study are significant because they emphasize the elements of teaching that ought to be fostered within school communities. Back to Top.

Lauren Crawford: Teaching English in a Multilingual Classroom: Challenges and Strategies

Most of the research and resources related to English as a New Language (ENL) instruction apply only to bilingual, Spanish-English classrooms, but there are many classrooms full of students who come from different linguistic backgrounds and also demonstrate the need to learn English. The distinct characteristics of these multilingual classrooms have yet to be studied in depth. Because critical language learning occurs in early childhood, preschool is the ideal time to investigate this issue. The purpose of this case study is to illuminate some of the unique challenges that multilingual ENL preschool classrooms can present as well as potential strategies teachers can use to overcome them, with the ultimate goal of providing directions for future empirical research on this topic. Specifically, this study examines verbal and non-verbal interactions in the classroom and the extent to which home language and culture are incorporated in the students’ learning experience. A background interview and three classroom observations were conducted in order to obtain these insights. The findings indicate that there are many ways in which teachers can overcome the multiple-language barrier and help all of their students to improve their English, including creating a low-anxiety environment and encouraging parental participation in the learning experience. This study also found that interactions between adults and preschool-aged children of different linguistic backgrounds is in many ways similar to the ways in which parents and pre-verbal infants communicate, suggesting the need for empirical research on whether these strategies are effective for older children and how they can be applied in classrooms. Back to Top.

Megan Fink: Perceptions of Gender Differences in Science Intelligence    

Research shows that elementary school teachers, employers, faculty members, and parents all make decisions, whether consciously or subconsciously, under the influence of gender bias (Crowley, Callanan, Tenenbaum, & Allen, 2001; Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Graham, & Handelsman, 2012; Owens, Smothers, & Love, 2003; Reuben, Sapienza, & Zingales, 2014). This study aimed to fill a gap in the research regarding gender stereotypes among a group of peers by first examining the extent to which elementary, middle, and high school students make assumptions about peers’ intelligence in science classes based on the gender of their peers and second by examining the extent to which elementary, middle, and high school students internalize gender stereotypes about intelligence in science. Using a Q-sort method, this study determined whether elementary, middle, or high school students had a preference about working with a male or female partner on a science project. This study also used the Q-sort method to examine if participants were more likely to rank male or female students higher on a science test. Finally, this study asked participants to predict their own science test scores to infer whether participants were internalizing a gender stereotype. The results of this study found that high school students were significantly more likely to select a male partner for a science project rather than a female partner, but elementary and middle school students were not. This study also found that women were more likely to predict high scores for themselves on a science test than men. Future research should examine the effectiveness of measures to counter the emergence of gender stereotypes and should study more thoroughly when and why students begin to exhibit gender bias. Back to Top.

Tommy Flaim: Instilling a Sense of Social Entrepreneurship in America’s Youth

The rise of social entrepreneurship is reshaping conversations around our world’s social and environmental issues. In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in the relatively nascent field (Cohen & Bannick, 2014). Social entrepreneurship adds a weapon to the arsenal in our fight against the various social and environmental issues that plague us today, many of which have plagued us for many years. While there is a lot of promise with this field, it is important that we fully leverage its potential. How do we best do this? We know that people are more easily influenced and open-minded at younger ages (Ruder, 2008). Can we somehow influence young students in America to view a career in business and/or social entrepreneurship as a more desirable goal? This study aims to evaluate if, and if so to what extent, we can instill interest in business and/or social entrepreneurship in elementary school students. To answer my questions, I led five afterschool sessions in which two groups of four elementary school students each competed to create hypothetical businesses that made and sold friendship bracelets. Students were told that the friendship bracelets that they created and sold to other students represented a pact to not bully when worn. Further, by wearing the bracelet, he/she vowed to be a “bucket filler”, a term used by this group of elementary school students to describe someone who both avoided bullying and actively tried to make the world a better place for those around them. What I found was that there were no significant differences in interest in social entrepreneurship nor business. However, students’ perceived ability to affect change in the world increased significantly. Additionally, there was a correlation between “perceived ability to affect change” and “anti-bullying”. In other words, there was a correlation between students’ perceived ability to affect change and their tendency to stand up against bullying. Finally, when categorized based on whether they were on the winning team or losing team, the “losers” were significantly less interested in pursuing a career in business and entrepreneurship after the study. Implications of my study include that, after just five afterschool sessions, students can experience an increased perceived ability to make changes in the world and/or their community. The other major conclusion I have made is that competition is not appropriate in the classroom, at least not in elementary schools. From my statistical analysis and my own observation, I have concluded that elementary school students are too sensitive for competition’s potentially beneficial effects to be realized in the aggregate. Back to Top.

Emma Fleming: Analyzing the Relationship between Student Engagement and Instructional Strategies in a Kindergarten Spanish-Immersion Religion Class

This study examined the relationship between student engagement and instructional strategies within a kindergarten Spanish-immersion Religion class. Research on effectiveness of immersion programs primarily investigates general methods of instruction in relation to overall proficiency of a language (Cárdenas, 1993). Instead of focusing on proficiency, this study seeks to combat the means by which proficiency is affected: the instructional strategies. In order for instruction within an immersion classroom to be fruitful, language must be understandable, the content should be taught without translation (in L2), and literacy is developed and transferred smoothly. Specifically, this study focused on the questions: How do methods of teacher instruction affect student engagement in a Spanish-immersion kindergarten classroom? Which methods promote the greatest engagement in this specific style of classroom? To begin answering these questions, observations were taken during three class periods of one teacher and kindergarten students. From these observations, the methods of instruction and the specific tasks chosen for each lesson plan emerged as important factors of engagement. Students’ engagement was affected by the amount of movement of a given task, whether the teacher modeled a task for instructional purposes, and the overall enjoyment of a task. These factors echo previous research on second-language acquisition instruction and provide further a confirmation on the unrecognized levels of engagement differing between each activity. This study seeks to serve teachers by providing evidence from one classroom in order to gain insight about effectively engaging kindergarteners within the context of an immersion classroom. Back to Top.

Sarah Gibbons: Academic Tracking's Influence on Students Effort, Motivation, and Self-Efficacy

Abstract This study assessed how tracking within schools can influence a student’s academic perceptions. While the practice of tracking is associated with promoting appropriately paced instruction and concentrated curriculum, it is also attributed with creating disadvantages for those in need of exposure to high standards and rigorous course material. Particularly, this study focused on whether a student’s placement in either a low or high track shapes his or her effort in the classroom, intrinsic motivation to perform well academically, and insights of self-efficacy. It also examined what the implications of these perceptions would have on their achievement throughout their high school and college careers. To explore these questions, students amongst different academic tracks at a Midwestern public high school were observed in their English courses and administered a survey measuring four variables. The classroom environments between students of the same grade but different tracks demonstrated variances in difficulty of the material, instructor autonomy, and student effort. The oldest and most advanced students exhibited capacity to participate and perform at a high competence amid demanding coursework and discussion. Their survey results did not exhibit large differences between the tracks on perceptions regarding the four variables tested. While the lowest track student perceived themselves the most intrinsically motivation, those in the highest track were confident of their achievements in high school and future educational aspirations. This study may serve as a model to and influence longitudinal studies that examine whether academic tracking shapes academic perceptions of students in low and high tracks both positively or negatively. Back to Top.

Michael H. Ginocchio Jr.: Analysis of Principal Leadership in the Wake of Maintaining a Tight Budget 

The purpose of this project was to analyze the importance of principal leadership in public schooling, and provide more research into what constitutes successful leadership in this position. Through the topic of budgetary issues and handling school finances, I interviewed several principals from different types of schools within a local public district in order to determine how each individual profiled exhibited leadership in a time of financial stress. My goal was to find out if there is a consistent “trait” necessary for someone to be a successful principal figure. I also sought to bring forth to public knowledge the sheer difficulty of the job that these individuals are tasked with. Overall, my findings concluded that each principal, through the way they handled their budgetary situation, exhibited trademark qualities of strong principal leadership. They were willing to resort to creative methods to fund programs throughout their schools, were actively involved in the lives of their students as well as on good terms with their support staff, and did not show signs of major morale loss from the stress of their jobs. My findings conclude that the role of a principal, while typically overlooked in the grand scheme of public education, is extremely important in 21st century public education and requires highly capable individuals in order to succeed. Back to Top.

Madeline Hahn: Which Classroom is Best? A Comparative Study of Spanish Classes for Heritage Language Learners

The rapidly changing U.S. demographics necessitate a closer look at education for youth heritage Spanish speakers. Previous research shows that complete heritage language proficiency contributes to the development of second language proficiency. For heritage Spanish speakers in the U.S., where English language proficiency predicts academic success, complete proficiency in Spanish is essential. Current research suggests that heritage language classes are most effective in promoting heritage language proficiency. This study seeks to investigate which of two heritage language class designs [isolated language teaching or content-based instruction (CBI)] is more effective in developing heritage language reading skills. A comparative analysis of scores from the Spanish reading comprehension exams of heritage Spanish speakers enrolled in either a CBI or isolated language teaching course reveal CBI to be more effective in developing Spanish reading skills within Spanish heritage speakers. However, limitations within this study suggest that further research is still needed in order to assess effective heritage language class design and the true impact of CBI. Back to Top.

Kenzell Huggins: Graduate Students, Underrerpresented Minorities, and Interpersonal Relationships

This paper investigates the extent to which interpersonal relationships of under-represented minority students (URMs) graduate students differ from those of non-URM students and whether these relationships and experiences differ by program. It further investigates the affect do these factors have on knowledge production within their programs. Academic approaches to the problem of increasing diversity in graduate education has largely been focused on simply increasing the number of URM students. However, these students often suffer once they are in graduate school, completing their programs at lower rates than non-URM students. Some research has pointed to a lack of financial support as well as deficiencies in URM students' relationships with faculty advisors, mentors, and peers. By examining the deficiencies of interpersonal relationships, this research contributes to helping improve graduate school experiences for URM students. The research also helps to consider whether such problems may vary as a function of academic fields. To investigate the problem, a survey was distributed through a snowball sampling to URM students at an elite Midwest research institution. The survey measured perceptions of the quality of the school community, the support of other students their departmental program, and the relationship between faculty advisor and student. The students surveyed (N=38) are generally positive about their advisors, students in their programs, and school community as a whole. The sample lacks statistical significance when comparing between  discipline and racial and ethnic categories because of the small sample size. For future research, a number of procedural issues are discussed, mostly centered on the ambiguity of the term “underrepresented minority” and the variability of its meanings. These include the issue of racial classification for ethnic Hispanics and Latinos and the inclusion of gender categories as URMs. It is also important to consider aspects of the campus environment, such as campus diversity officers, which may be improving the URM perceptions of their interpersonal relationships. Back to Top.

Kathleen Kennedy: Teachers’ Perceptions of the Effects of Differences in Teacher and Students’ Racial Identities

As the school-aged population in the United States becomes more racially diverse, the teaching force remains primarily white, often resulting in students having teachers whose racial identity is different than their own. This study examines how teachers perceive these differences in racial identity to affect the classroom dynamic. Through semi-structured interviews with five white K-5 teachers, this study looks at both challenges associated with these differences and strategies that teachers use to address these challenges. Results indicate that difference and lack of familiarity can be challenging for both teachers and students. In addition, behavior is a primary challenge for teachers of different racial backgrounds. With respect to strategies, teachers use certain aspects of culturally relevant pedagogy but may need more explicit instruction on how to utilize their students’ racial identities and cultural backgrounds in the classroom. Back to Top.

Paloma Main: How Physical Activity Can Be Used to Improve Social Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

People with autism spectrum disorder struggle with impairment of social functioning. Partly as a result of this, they are much less likely to be physically active. Physical activity has been shown to be beneficial for ASD symptomatic behavior, but not much research has been done on how it can improve their social skills. This steady aimed to find out what therapies exist for social skills in children with ASD, how physical activity is incorporated into these therapies, and how these improvements in social skills can affect other areas of their lives (e.g. academic performance and confidence). In order to assess the ways physical activity is used and how it can be beneficial, I observed a social skills class and conducted an interview with a behavioral analyst and a psychologist who specializes in the area. A parent survey was also administered to assess a broader scope of the effects of these therapies. The results showed that, although physical activity can be very beneficial, it is not used explicitly to help social skills, nor is it often perceived by the parents to have specific effect. Physical activity can improve social skills in children with ASD, and social skills can in turn positively affect these children’s lives, but more research is needed to connect these two. Back to Top.

Grace Mazur: The Impact of Exercise on Freshmen Academic, Mental, and Social Adjustment to College

This study examined the relationship between exercise and students’ academic, mental, and social adjustment to the freshman year of college.  Considering the complex challenges that accompany the transition from high school, it is important to identify means of effectively managing academic responsibilities, social challenges, and new sources of stress.  Research shows the positive impact of exercise on the academic performance of school children (Trost and van der Mars, 2009) and a reduction of anxiety and depression in physically active individuals (De Moor, 2006); however, research specifically relating to college freshmen is very limited and there is no existing research that examines the impact of exercise on social life.  This study collected survey responses from 168 Notre Dame students in their sophomore, junior, and senior year.  Participants were asked a combination of multiple choice, ranking, and free response questions regarding their experience freshman year.  First, the data was divided using a median split of the four possible exercise levels.  Then the questions that used identical scales were aggregated for each section of the survey.  These results were used to develop scores for academic, social, and mental adjustment.  Independent t-tests were used to compare low versus high exercise levels and perceptions of academic performance, social adjustment, and mental health.  Finally, the qualitative data collected through the free response questions was coded and compared to the quantitative results.  While the results indicated statistically insignificant relationships between exercise and academic, social, and mental adjustment, the findings offer insight into exercise habits and preferences of college freshmen.  The study concludes with implications of the findings in terms of personal exercise routines and university required physical education programs as well as recommendations for future research. Back to Top.

Erin Moston: A Study of Text Material Including Customized Course-Packets at the University Level

Textbooks continue to play a major role in university curricula, yet some teachers are turning to an alternate form of customized text. This study investigates textbook and course-packet usage and usefulness. While prior studies focused on one particular form of text, this study puts the two side-by-side while comparing teacher and student opinions. A course-packet is defined for the sake of this research as a customized collection of textbook readings, supplemental reading material, class slides and/or practice problems. Results suggest a strong student preference towards course-packets alongside increased reading, preparation, and grade expectations. Students and teachers demonstrate disconnect in perceived participation with assignments outside of class, but the numbers better align with course-packet-based classes. The data strongly suggest implementing customized course-packets at the University of Notre Dame. Back to Top.

Sarah Neuberger: Adolescents’ Interactions on the Internet: Student and Teacher Perceptions of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying, a form of harassment that takes place via some form of technology, can be extremely harmful for student learning outcomes, and schools often face difficulty in creating policies that effectively respond to it. Furthermore, students and teachers often have different ideas about how to attend to cyberbullying issues effectively. The purpose of this research is to understand middle school student and teacher perceptions of cyberbullying among adolescents. The specific research questions motivating this study are the following: How do teacher and student perceptions differ in identifying, handling, and preventing cyberbullying? To what extent does the discussion and action regarding cyberbullying in schools align with student and teacher beliefs on the subject? To answer these research questions, interviews were conducted with middle school teachers and focus groups were conducted with seventh and eighth grade students at a public middle school in northwest Indiana. Results of this study support current research in that many students and teachers at this school did have different opinions about what cyberbullying is, how often it takes place, and how to best prevent it. While most students said that they did not know how to attend to issues of cyberbullying, some students said that allowing more opportunities for students to have conversations and share personal stories with each other about the negative effects of cyberbullying would be an effective way to prevent it at their school. In addition, many teachers said that increasing parental involvement and focusing more on the character development of their students would be effective in preventing cyberbullying. Back to Top.

Kara Neumann: Let’s Talk About God: The Effects of Personal Religiosity on Caring Classroom and School Communities

This study of classroom care and community seeks to determine the effects that a teacher’s personal religiosity can have on the culture of care developed in the classroom and thus on the broader school-wide culture. Previous research has shown that students are more engaged in more positive classroom environments. Previous research has also shown that these positive classroom environments impact the school-wide culture. The point of this study was to solidify the positive link between classroom climate and school culture and how to looks at the effects that religiosity of a teacher has on creating that culture of caring within his or her classroom. A classroom was observed, students were surveyed, and a teacher was interviewed to gather key data to pursue this project. Ultimately our notion that classroom experiences affect the school-wide community was validated, while measuring the impact of religiosity proved hard to measure and analyze. This paper fits nicely in the conversation about the existing literature surrounding the implications of a culture of caring on school communities and tries to make the leap to connect religiosity to this discussion. While the study has trouble making that leap, more extensive research could be conducted to fill the gap in the literature that still exists. Back to Top.

Hannah Petersen: Parental Motivation for Enrollment in a Bilingual Preschool

This study analyzed parental motivation for enrolling their child at a bilingual preschool, where parents must actively choose and pursue enrollment.  This research reviews literature on motivational and bilingual theories and programs; describes the bilingual preschool as a research site; describes the methodology used in this study; presents research findings; and offers suggestions for future studies. Furthermore, the study asked two main questions: What are parents’ motivations for placing their children in a bilingual preschool and keeping them in the program? Are there varied reasons motivating student enrollment based on variables like ethnicity in connection to household education level, income, and distance from school? To address these questions inside the parameters of this study, the work stays within ethno linguistic background variables (language, ethnicity). It then uses these variables as a basis for comparison between Hispanic and non-Hispanic parents and their factors for enrollment. These parents articulate through one open-ended and multiple-choice questions, their reasons for choosing to enroll their child in this school through a ranking scale in order of importance. The integrative and instrumental factors for enrollment are based on previous theories and studies: to speak Spanish, to speak English, to read and write in English and Spanish, for increased educational opportunities, to provide future and career opportunities, and to preserve cultural heritage. Percentage correlations were then used to compare demographic characteristics amongst the six different reasons. The final data showcases a motivated and diverse parent population who report multiple factors of importance when choosing a school for their child, changing based on ethnic background. Back to Top.

Megan Petti: How Gender Identification of Middle School Girls Effects Their Possible Future Selves in Science

In order to understand how middle school girls’ perceived science competence and degree of gender identity influences their future self as a scientist, both middle school boys and girls were surveyed. The results show that for both genders, gender identity is not correlated to either perceived science competence or future self as a scientist. However, perceived science competence and future self as a scientist are positively correlated for each gender overall and at each grade level (5th through 8th). For boys, the degree of correlation between these two parameters decreases, while for girls the correlation remains high throughout all four grades surveyed. This suggests that once middle school girls are interested in science they will continue to be so and are more likely to see a future for themselves in science, while for boys this interest drops off. This also suggests the importance of fostering girls’ perceived science competence. The results also show that the difference between boys’ and girls’ perceived competence in science at the fifth, seventh, and eighth grades is statistically different, with boys having a higher average than girls (p < 0.05). This suggests that there is still work to be done in increasing girls’ perceived competence in science. By addressing the differences between girls and boys perceived science competence, advances in decreasing the gender gap in STEM fields can be made. Back to Top.

Megan Schilling: Beginning the School Day with Care and Support: How Do Morning Meetings Build Caring Communities?

Caring environments in the classroom have been identified as influential to student achievement and behavior. This study examines the best strategies to promote and create caring communities in the classroom. Responsive Classroom Approach provides methods and practices for improving classroom climates. One such practice is Morning Meeting, which includes greeting, sharing, and an activity. This study questions to what extent and how Morning Meetings impact the classroom community.     Data was collected through observations and focus groups in two third grade and two fourth grade classrooms. The data was analyzed for evidence of caring communities using four key components: teacher modeling respectful behavior, student autonomy, student opportunity for collaboration, and student practice of social skills. The study found that teacher behavior has the greatest influence in creating caring communities in the classroom. In classrooms where teachers modeled kindness, respect, and engagement through words and actions, students followed suit. These teachers affirmed good student behavior and corrected poor behavior. Students from these classrooms enjoyed Morning Meeting and viewed it as an important part of their day. In the classroom where the teacher haphazardly conducted Morning Meeting, students acted out and unkindly towards one another, often going unnoticed by the teacher. Students in this classroom felt uncomfortable in Morning Meeting.  Regardless of teacher behavior, the structure of Responsive Classroom Morning Meetings inherently promotes components of caring communities. It teaches students how to greet one another in various manners, provides a space for students to share, and encourages cooperation and collaboration in the classroom. When utilized by an attentive, intentional teacher, Morning Meeting positively impacts the caring climate of a classroom. Back to Top.

Caroline Smith: Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ Home Lives and Teacher Efficacy Beliefs 

Existing research shows the impact that teachers’ efficacy beliefs have on student outcomes. This research is focused on filling a gap in the existing research by examining how teachers’ perceptions of students’ home lives affects teachers’ sense of self-efficacy. This study introduces an edited version of the Perception of Students Questionnaire to measure teachers’ perception of students’ home lives, and items from both the Teacher & Principal Sense of Efficacy Scale and the Teachers’ Sense of Efficacy Scale to measure teachers’ sense of self-efficacy. The sample was composed of middle school teachers from two public schools and one private school in a mid-size town in Indiana. The central question of this study is: how do a teacher’s perceptions of their students’ home life make them feel like they are either more or less capable of performing their job well? Results show that public school teachers were more likely to perceive problems relating to their students’ home lives and more likely to report lower efficacy beliefs than the private school teachers. However, results did not show a significant correlation between teachers’ perceptions of students’ home lives and teacher efficacy beliefs. The limitations of this study are discussed, and recommendations for future research are outlined. Back to Top.

Malaysha Stewart: The Effect of Positive Student/Teacher Relationships on Students' Ability to Count and Number Objects

The purpose of this paper was to focus on positive student and teacher relationships and how much (if at all) they affected students’ ability to count and number objects. The researcher spent time observing in two Head Start preschool classrooms located in the same school. While observing, the researcher made note of several aspects of the teacher and student relationship and how they manifested in the classroom. The aspects she looked for were: if and when students asked for help; how the teacher corrected student behavior; if activities allowed for any interaction between the teacher and students; how the classroom design and décor reflected the teacher and student relationship; and how often the teacher was out of the room. The two classrooms were drastically different. It was clear that there were more supportive relationships between the teachers and students in Classroom 2 than Classroom 1. In Classroom 1, the researcher only noticed two instances in which numbers were mentioned. However, in Classroom 2, numbers were mentioned several times by students and teachers alike. It is difficult to determine if the relationships affected the students’ ability to count and number things, but it is clear that a classroom environment with supportive teacher and student relationships creates an atmosphere where students can use these skills. The researcher would recommend doing a similar study with more time and perhaps orchestrate things so that researchers are not seen by the kids. Back to Top.

Katharine Taylor: A Knight Kebab: Social Studies in Montessori Schools

Reform has spread through many social studies classrooms for the past 50 years or so. Politicians, Academics, and Educators wish to change the pedagogy of social studies so that it produces students who are citizens, complex thinkers, and critical inquirers. These outcomes require a change in the way learning is measured. Meaningful learning is a performance scale based on students learning and to what degree they understand the concepts. The Montessori Method focuses on the student’s ability to learn and understand material on an individual and developmental basis. The study observes the pedagogy and method of social studies at a Montessori school to see how they foster impactful learning in the subject across grade levels and if this meaningful learning helps students gain the skills those who wish to reform social studies are emphasizing—including citizenship, complex thinking and critical inquiry. Using observation and focus groups of students, the study finds many instances of meaningful understanding in the students and a structural organization that promotes this impactful learning. The study could be furthered to the comparison to traditional schools as well as the transference of these practices in traditional schools. Back to Top.

Sean Tenaglia: Autonomy and Ownership in Physical Education and Their Effects on Middle School Students’ Attitudes Toward School

The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which the provision of autonomy and ownership in a middle school physical education (PE) unit integrating diet and exercise tracking impacts students’ attitudes toward school. A seventh grade class (N=19) at a Catholic middle school participated in the study. An adapted survey administered at the beginning and end of data collection produced quantitative data to measure student perceptions of autonomy and teacher control in PE class, as well as students’ attitudes toward school. Classroom observations and a focus group with six members of the class provided qualitative data to further assess student perceptions of autonomy and attitudes toward school. Finally, interviews with three teachers were conducted to determine the provision of autonomy in their respective classrooms and their perceptions of student behavior. The survey data find negative correlations between perceptions of autonomy and perceptions of teacher control at Time 1 (r=-.68, p< .01), and positive correlations between perceptions of autonomy and attitudes toward school at Time 1 and Time 2 (r=.49, p< .05, and r=.53, p<.05, respectively). All other correlations, as well as paired sample t-tests, yield no significant results. The observations, focus group responses, and interview responses reflect an emphasis on the provision of autonomy in both PE and other classes. Both students and teachers express a positive opinion of the PE unit integrating diet and exercise tracking. Although results show no clear link between the unit and improved attitudes toward school, student responses express an awareness of personal fitness goals and a desire for healthy lifestyles. This study reflects the importance of the provision of autonomy and ownership in education and provides a model for other schools to adapt in their own PE curriculum. Future research can address the limiting factors of time and sample size to more fully assess connections between the provision of autonomy in PE and students’ attitudes toward school. Back to Top.

Elizabeth Weir: Differences in Stress Levels Between Freshmen and Seniors

Stress is a prevalent issue on college campuses, and it is a persistent feature of a student’s college experience. This study examines the differences in stress levels between freshmen and seniors in terms of academic stress, post-grad stress, and extracurricular stress. Additionally, the study investigates stress level differences between males and females among those three categories. Using an online survey of 105 respondents, this study also investigates students’ perceptions of the stress level of students in other class years. Results show that academic stress is the most common stressor, post-grad stress is more common among seniors, and extracurricular stress is higher in freshmen females and senior males. The data also indicates that both freshmen and seniors perceive seniors to experience more stress. These results suggest that stress levels vary among different student populations at a Research 1 university in the Midwest. Back to Top.