2017-2018 Student Research Topics

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

Hannah Beighle: Exploring the Role of Interest and Choice in Reading Aloud to Children in an Afterschool Tutoring Context
Read the Abstract

John Cunningham: Classroom Media and How It Affects Students’ Historical Questioning
Read the Abstract

Caroline Holt: Exploring the Instruction of Controversial Literature in Elementary Classrooms
Read the Abstract 

Katie Mackin: The Influence of Perceptions of US Social Studies Teacher Political Affiliation on Student Trust
Read the Abstract

Allison McGloin: Student Self-Direction in Early Childhood Montessori Education: Teachers’ Methods and Student Dosage
Read the Abstract

Allison Olshefke: Investigating Perceptions of Musical Identity In a Mentorship-Based Band Outreach Program
Read the Abstract

Kyra Powers: Students’ Perceptions of Bullying in Montessori and Catholic Case Study Schools
Read the Abstract

Caroline Rooney: Understanding Parental Motivations to Enroll their Children in Two-Way Immersion Programs
Read the Abstract  

Taylor Still:  Civil Table of Elements: A Case Study of Civil Discourse in the Social Studies Classroom
Read the Abstract

Amanda Ball: Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (CSP) and High School History Classes

Karina Chamorro: Student Perceptions of Classroom Community and Peer Relationships in Inclusive and Non-Inclusive Classrooms

Colin Cablain: Technology and Conceptual Understandings in High School Physics

Megan Gafvert: Exploring How Racial Representation Exists in Elementary Classroom Libraries

Anthony Nguyen: Differences in Health Literacy, Attitudes towards Education, and Perceptions of the Educational Environment between ESL Students and the Native English Speaking Population

Sheila Roohan: “Tell ‘em my business?”: Enhancing Peer Relationships and School Community through Restorative Justice

Julio Salazar: “Just a Welcoming Place” Auditing LGBT Culture at a Midwestern High School

Moira Stotz: “To Teach in a Way that Gives Opportunities to All My Students”: Elementary Teacher Perceptions of Teaching for Social Justice

Casey Valentine: Growth Mindsets in Inclusive Classrooms

Nhi Vu: “They don’t know what it’s like to be without”: Navigating Unique Challenges as a First-Generation, Low-Income, Student of Color at an Elite, Predominantly White Institution

Allegra Wallingford: Preparing Students for Democracy in 2017

Meghan Watts: Approaches to Cross-Curricular Content and Influences on Perceived Relevancy and Motivation

Josephine Weymon: Adult Perceptions of Parent-Child Collaborative Learning of English as a New Language


ESS Thesis/Thesis in Major


Nadia Braun: Mission Statements and Charter Law in Indianapolis and Detroit
Mark Berends, Julie Dallavis, Advisors

Regina Ekaputri: Integrating Art and Mathematics
Nicole McNeil, Advisor

Jenna Galuska: Differences in Stereotype Threat Effect for Mathematics and Applied Mathematics Majors
Nicole McNeil, Advisor

Kyra Twohy: Perceptions of Female Faculty in STEM-affiliated Positions
Matt Kloser, Advisor


Sophia Buono: Education and Formation in Virtue: Finding the Right Approach
Clark Power, Advisor

AJ Derouin: The Architecture of Inclusion: How can Design Make More Inclusive Learning Environments that Allow All Students to Thrive?
Maria McKenna, Advisor

Carly Gray: Marital Conflict and Perceptions of Competence
Mark Cummings, Advisor

Lawrenzo Howell: The Role of Race in the College Experience
Bill Carbonaro, Advisor

Rachel Iverson: How Does Count Order Vary with the Development of the Order Irrelevance Principle?
Nicole McNeil, Advisor

Nathan Kriha: St. Augustine on the Values of a Liberal Studies Education
Denis Robicoud, Maria McKenna, Advisors

Kristie LeBeau: How Rural Schools and Communities Support Each Other
Leslie Wang, SMC Advisor; Maria McKenna, ND Advisor

Qiran Li: Purposes of Education for 18th Century Women in England as Seen in the Fictional Characters of Jane Austen
Margaret Doody, Advisor

Adam Moeller: Gender, Sexuality, an Morality in Uganda: Creating a Meaningful Past
Paul Ocoback, Maria McKenna, Advisors

Sarah Ritten: Self-Esteem an Segregated Schools in Cape Town, South Africa
Bill Carbonaro, Advisor

Anne Vieser: The Role of Public Libraries in 20th Century, Lower East Side Immigrant Families
Rebecca McKenna, Brian Collier, Advisors

Capstone Abstracts

Hannah Beighle: Exploring the Role of Interest and Choice in Reading Aloud to Children in an Afterschool Tutoring Context

Reading out loud to children has been empirically shown to encourage their development, impact their relationship with text, and provide benefits that they cannot easily receive by reading texts to themselves. An afterschool tutoring setting is a suitable environment for reading out loud, especially as it provides an opportunity for the child to discuss a text one-on-one with their tutor that they may not have in other settings. However, if children are disengaged when they are being read to out loud, it minimizes or eliminates the multitude of benefits they gain from the experience. Interest and choice are two variables shown to influence engagement in texts and reading comprehension when students read texts on their own. This study investigates the role that interest and choice play in children’s engagement when children are read to out loud, specifically in an afterschool tutoring context. Employing a case study methodology, this study investigates a single student and the impacts that interest and choice have on her engagement with a text as she is read to out loud. Using a series of interviews and observations to measure her engagement with a book she did not choose and a book she chose based on her interest, the data suggests that the student was more engaged when she was able to listen to the book she chose herself. The data suggests that allowing children to choose a book they are interested in impacts their engagement and subsequently increased the benefits of being read to out loud. Furthermore, this study emphasizes the integral role that reading out loud can play in developing emerging individual interest in a student and promoting further learning. Back to top.

John Cunningham: Classroom Media and How it Affects Students' Historical Questioning.

Researchers have concluded that most social studies classes fail to challenge students to analyze and interpret the sources they encounter in class. In result, students tend to focus on memorizing facts rather than asking high-level historical questions. This study examines if the different media used in class (textbooks, videos, and primary sources) affects students’ historical questioning and if students saw a difference in learning from the different media. To collect data for this study, students wrote down questions while reading their textbook, watching a video, or reading a primary source. The questions were collected, coded, and a two-way ANOVA was conducted comparing the low and high level questions. After encountering each media, students filled out a brief survey asking them to report if they thought whether or not the media was accurate, easy to understand, and interesting. Another two-way ANOVA was conducted comparing students’ responses about each medium. Results indicate that students asked a statistically significant different amount of low-level questions compared to high-level questions after reading their textbook and watching the video. However, there was no statistically significant difference between low and high-level questions after reading the primary source. The only statistically significant difference from the survey was students reporting they understood the textbook and video more than the primary source. The data suggests students ask more high-level cognitive questions after reading the primary source but their comprehension of the material lacks. Teachers can help students become better historians by providing them opportunities to engage with various media that fosters their historical questioning. Back to top.

Caroline Holt: Exploring the Instruction of Controversial Literature in Elementary Classrooms

This study investigates how teachers plan discussions for controversial literature versus traditional literature. Using think alouds and interviews, this study explored two teaching situations within in a public school and private school with a different elementary teacher in each location. Teachers tend to use the same techniques when instructing their students using literature, but their motivations for using the different types of literature vary. Their motivations depend on personal beliefs or values, and themes of the book. Accountability also plays a role in motivation. Results show that if the teacher feels as if it is their responsibility to be teaching these controversial subjects they do so. The data suggest that there are many different factors that influence the decision of teaching controversial literature in elementary classrooms. Back to top.

Katie Mackin:  The Influence of Perceptions of US Social Studies Teacher Political Affiliation on Student Trust

This study looks at the inclusion of politics in high school US Government and US History classes and how the perception of teacher political affiliation relates to student trust in teacher accuracy. The research question is: “How does high school student perception of US History or US Government teacher political affiliation influence trust in teacher accuracy?” This research question is particularly significant within the contemporary political climate in the United States and contains implication about partisanship and what topics belong in the classroom if trust is affected by perceptions of political affiliation. This research project used the conceptual framework of the disclosure question, which is whether or not teachers explicitly state their political affiliation in class, in combination with the concept of relational trust in education. A survey questionnaire was completed by 99 students from a northern Indiana high school for the results of the research project. An ANOVA test and frequency tables were used for the quantitative data and the qualitative data from open-ended survey questions was coded. There was no correlation between student perception of teacher political affiliation and trust in teacher accuracy. Results about whether students believed they knew their teacher’s political affiliation varied widely between teachers. Students overwhelming responded that they trusted their teachers. Instead, the most relevant findings were that students favored teacher disclosure and appreciated open discussion with multiple political viewpoints within the classroom. This study suggests that further research can be done about the role of teachers in political identity formation in high school students. Back to top.

Allison McGloin: Student Self-Direction in Early Childhood Montessori Education: Teachers’ Methods and Student Dosage

Early childhood students, who are new to classroom settings, may have trouble adjusting to an academic environment and concentrating on tasks for a prolonged period of time. This ability to concentrate may improve as students become older or have more experience in Montessori education. This study aims to look at the ability of early childhood Montessori students to work autonomously, and how teachers’ methods influence this ability. The research questions for this study are: (1) What methods are used by early childhood Montessori teachers to promote student self-direction?, (2) What is the relationship between teachers’ methods and student self-direction?, and (3) What is the relationship between dosage to Montessori education and student self-direction?. Self-direction can be defined as the ability of a student to work independently with attention and focus solely on the task at hand, to self-correct, and to navigate through the work without teacher or peer interruption or interference. The research questions were evaluated by holding four teacher interviews with public early childhood Montessori teachers and by conducting classroom observations. The results of the teacher interviews provided patterns in topics concerning lesson presentations, independent learning, control of error, and dosage effects. The classroom observation results compared external and internal disruptions of work between students with 1 Year Montessori versus More Than 1 Year Montessori experience. The results of this study provided valuable insights into the relationship between teachers’ methods, dosage, and self-direction but were not conclusive. Further areas of research on these topics could explore if the types of work a student engages in influences their self-direction or if the need for social interaction differs with student age. Back to top.

Allison Olshefke: Investigating Perceptions of Musical Identity In a Mentorship-Based Band Outreach Program

Research indicates that musical identity, i.e., the extent to which one identifies with music or as a musician, is a good predictor of interest and motivation in musical endeavors (Shouldice, 2014). It has been shown that children’s musical identity is strongly influenced by the perceptions and opinions of significant adults in their lives (Shouldice, 2014; Borthwick and Davidson, 2002; Lamont, 2002). This study aimed to fill a gap in the research by examining how mentor-protégé relationships in a band outreach program affect students’ musical identity. Participants of this band outreach program are college students from a local university marching band who are paired with students from local Catholic grade schools to teach a musical instrument. Using surveys that measured the extent to which students identified as musicians—from both the mentors’ perspective and the perspective of students themselves—this study investigates how mentor and student perceptions of students’ musical identity compare. These surveys were also used to determine how participation in the band outreach program affected students’ musical identity and what features of the program contribute to musical identity construction. Results indicate that students and mentors have similarly high views of students’ musical identity and that these perceptions do not change as students age. Results also found that students and mentors maintained a traditional view of musicianship, which can negatively impact students as they age and become more interested in expressing their musical identity through less traditional means. Future research should focus on testing and developing robust and reliable scales for measuring musical identity. Additionally, different qualitative and quantitative methods of investigating musical identity should be employed in a longitudinal study in order to develop a more thorough understanding of students’ musical identity. Back to top.

Kyra Powers: Students’ Perceptions of Bullying in Montessori and Catholic Case Study Schools

Combating bullying is regrettably not a straightforward path. This study investigates how an ecologically-based school climate may affect students’ perceptions of bullying. The study compares the approaches two different school communities in the Midwest; a traditional Catholic school and a Montessori Catholic schools. Using teacher interviews, a bullying vignette ranking survey, and student reflections, this study specifically evaluates the differences in these two communities approaches to bullying behavior, classroom culture, and curriculum. Interviews indicate clear differences in the Montessori and Catholic case-study schools, particularly with respect to school curriculum, classroom culture, and approach towards violence. Still, quantitative results showed no significant difference in how students from both schools rank bullying scenarios.  Overall, physical bullying and social exclusion bullying scenarios were ranked as very severe and verbal bullying was ranked as less severe than both physical and social bullying. The data suggests that solutions to buffering bullying behavior may be ingrained into the overall approach schools as a whole. Perhaps more effective preventative bullying strategies may result from examining the approaches of schools with cohesive communities and low-bullying rates. Back to top.

Caroline Rooney: Understanding Parental Motivations to Enroll their Children in Two-Way Immersion Programs

This study investigates parents’ motivations to enroll their children in Two-Way Immersion programs to understand what factors influence parents’ choice of enrolling their children in bilingual prekindergarten? And, why do these factors influence parents’ motivation? Using a survey, 13 parents’ motivations to enroll their children were explored. The results indicated that among all factors, the value of bilingualism and the value of biculturalism were most influential in parents’ decision to opt into Two-Way Immersion programs; while school prestige and friends and family enrolled seemed to be the least motivating factor. These significant findings were interesting due to the fact that although friends and family enrolled was the least motivational factor, it was how the majority of the parents found out about the program. Therefore, these data suggest that the value of bilingualism and biculturalism are more motivating for parents’ decisions to enroll their children than who they know enrolled in the Two-Way Immersion program and the prestige of the school. Back to top.

Taylor Still: A Civil Table of Elements: A Case Study of Civil Discourse in the Social Studies Classroom

As globalization blurs national borders, the perceived threat to democrative values has resulted in a surge of interest in civic learning, a rethinking of civic identity, and a proliferation of checklists citing the necessary values for a democratic education. Constructive dialogue is recognized as both a value and a precursor to democracy in nearly all models of democratic education. However, these ideals are scarcely integrated into curricula before students reach high school. This case study explores the ways in which students and teachers engage in civil discourses in social studies classes. It uses Dr. John Duffy's framework, "Virtues of Discourse," focusing on three of his seven virtues--accountability, generosity, and judgment--in observing and recording four social studies class periods for fourth and fifth grades. Speech analysis identifies several indicators along a spectrum of positive and negative speech for each element of civil discourse, with generosity emerging as the most pervasive of the three elements. Semi-structured interviews with teachers offer insight into educators' priorities to discursive skill development and the challenges they face in fostering dialogue in their grade school classrooms. Realizing the gap between student and civic identities and civic learning and eventual democratic expectations, the paper invites further theoretical work on civil discourse and practical support for teachers and students to opt into challenging discussions. Back to top.