Education Thesis Abstracts

Lauren Barry (Susan Rosa), 2009

Bloom's Taxonomy in the Classroom

The six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy has been a tool for educators over the past five decades. This hierarchical form of questioning has been used by teachers to inform instruction, curriculum, and assessment. The purpose of this study was to determine if higher levels of thinking, based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation) are present in elementary classroom settings for student exposure and practice. This study also looked at the role grade level (1, 3, and 4) and type of classroom setting (inclusion or special education pull-out) may have played in the frequency of higher level questions asked during instruction. Data was collected through observations of teacher directed lessons. Every question that the teacher asked to the students was recorded and labeled with a level of the taxonomy. The frequency of each question type was analyzed. Previous research indicates that higher levels of thinking are lacking from instruction at the elementary grade level. The results of the present study were consistent with the previous research.

Patricia Berube (Cheryl Goldman), 2005

Moral Education for Adolescents

This manual is intended to aid school systems in creating moral education programs for middle and high school aged children. A moral education curriculum is developed using the research and commentaries of many psychologists. Ideas include a focus on volunteer work, ideas on discipline, and ways to bring morals into the classroom by integrating them into relevant subject matter. In recent years, many researchers have been conducting studies on similar programs, and many have shown positive outcomes. Studies have shown increases in positive race relations, fewer incidences of cheating, better student-teacher relationships, and stronger values in children. By making moral education the foundation for a school’s curriculum, children can gain skills that help them relate better to other and will give them a moral framework upon which they can continue to build.

Christina Charron (Maria Jaramillo), 2006

A Comparison of the Cost of Higher Education: What Are We Really Paying For?

Although a college-level education can be received at both public and private institutes of higher learning, when it comes down to it, is the student is paying mainly for the name of his or her college, rather than the quality of education? A comparison between Endicott College, a small private college located in the northeastern part of Massachusetts, and Fitchburg State Univeristy, a small State University located in the northern part of Massachusetts, tested the hypothesis that the quality of education does not vary much between these schools. Although areas of concentration and services varied in some areas such as housing accommodations and parking, there were also many areas in which the two schools had similarities. These similarities include the forms of accreditation, NCAA intercollegiate sports, dining services, etc. However, because of state dictated course work as well as other factors required for graduation, it seems that the colleges varied little in the academic format. The determining factor when comparing these two schools is the effort of the student, not the public or private sector.

Christin Cilimberg (Beth Fullerton), 2007

How Children's Literature Promotes Communication Skills in Children

A study of children’s literature has been conducted to determine how it improves communication skills in children. From an educator’s standpoint, literature is an important tool for both teaching and learning. It the personal interest of wanting to be an elementary school teacher that has brought this project to life. Communication is a tool that people use everyday. As an educator, it is your responsibility to teach children how to form, create, and express new ideas. Without the ability to communicate, learning would come to a screeching halt. The purpose of this project was to determine the most effective ways to use a teacher’s greatest resource, books. With the help of teachers’ resources, books, children’s books, online sources, articles, and personal experience in many classrooms, a range of teaching/learning ideas have been gathered, referring to the promotion of communication skills in children. The final result of this project is in the form of a children’s picture book with a theme of the four seasons. Both words and pictures will be put together to provide a genuine literary experience. Alongside the children’s book is a research paper to serve as a higher-level explanation. The paper discusses specific elements of the book, and what purpose they serve in helping young children to communicate more effectively. The children’s book and the research paper are to be read side-by-side, joining together both the information and the experience.

Mary Coté (Laurie DeRosa), 2007

T.E.A.M. Spirit at the Boys and Girls Club: Together Everyone Achieves More

My service-based project was carried out at the Boys and Girls Club after school program on the Fitchburg State University campus. Twice a week for the duration of the fall semester, volunteers from the Fitchburg State University community implemented a themed activity for the students at the Boys and Girls Club. Each Tuesday, a team of college students led a musically based session, and on Wednesdays the students were engaged in hands-on science experiments. The paper accompanying the project served as an analytic comparison between the Boys and Girls Club after school program and the 21st Century Scholars after school program held at McKay Campus School. Similarities in the programs’ clientele and neighborhood were found, but differences in funding, facilities, ages of participants and staff, and the structures of the programs themselves were most dominant. The T.E.A.M. Spirit program stressed both cooperation and individual participation. Beyond the central benefit brought to the children, I hoped to promote the values of community involvement and service through this project. The enthusiastic commitment of the volunteers paired with the varied activities provided opportunities for both mentoring and for academic and social growth. My conclusions displayed that the Boys and Girls Club and the 21st Century Scholars after school program are organizations with two distinctly different, yet safe and worthwhile approaches to accommodating young people, and that volunteerism and community involvement further enrich these programs.

Yolanda Cruz (David Harris), 2005

Multiculturalism in Education: A Guide for Beginning Teachers

Multiculturalism in education is an important issue to many school personnel, but perhaps may be of utmost importance to beginning teachers. These teachers may find themselves in multicultural classrooms for the first time, which can be a difficult adjustment. Therefore, the diverse needs of the class are a new obstacle to overcome. This guide is being created to aid beginning educators with teaching in a multicultural environment. Four surveys addressing attitudes toward multiculturalism and responses to hypothetical scenarios will be administered to the following groups: teachers of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, teachers of first through third grades, students with no teaching experience, and students with education majors or concentrations. It is expected that teachers in multicultural classrooms will be more sensitive to diverse student needs. On the other hand, students who have not been exposed to such environments may have different approaches when responding to the hypothetical situations in the surveys. The final product will consist of a guide for beginning teachers including discussion of the survey results, a review of current literature regarding multiculturalism in education, as well as some suggestions for teaching effectively in a diverse environment.

Danielle Dombrowski (Laurie DeRosa), 2007

M.I.C.E. for Middle-Schoolers: Meaning, Introspection, Confidence & Exploration of the Self, Others, and the World by Students in Grades 5-8

Because adolescence is a time of extreme change and questioning, many youths feel alone or inadequate. The purpose of this project was to investigate the use of guided interaction and art in order to build confidence in middle school aged children, as well as encourage them to feel comfortable expressing themselves and opening up to others. This was done to provide an opportunity to show them that they are not as different from each other as they may believe and to gather information through their comments, questions, and actions in reference to what they are thinking and feeling. A group of middle-schoolers participated in various planned activities, including collage making, working with clay, and drawing, which provided opportunities for conversations and questioning. Visual and auditory observations were made by the leader of the activities, and a journal was kept to record students’ comments, questions, topics of discussion, body language, concerns expressed, and interactions for every day of the program. The children were given freedom to express themselves through their creations, and this allowed a welcoming atmosphere where students could share what was on their minds freely. Due to the ongoing nature of this project, results will be finalized at a later date through a reflection written by the program coordinator.

Marybeth Donlan (Annette Sullivan), 2011

The Effects of the Responsive Classroom Approach on Instruction Time

Managing one's classroom in an effective way is an essential component to achieving a successful school year for both the students and the teacher. However, managing a classroom is difficult and sometimes daunting task. As Sadker and Zittleman (2007) explain, "Teachers must manage more than thirty major transitions every day, from one content area to another, though different instructional activities, and through a myriad of routines..." (p. 399). Many teachers have different approaches as to how they manage their classrooms. One approach is Responsive Classroom. The developers of this approach believe that it is important to develop a student's social well being in addition to the growth of academic skills. By using strategies such as Morning Meeting, student-teacher collaboration in the creation of rules, positive teacher language and providing academic choice, teachers who use the Responsive Classroom approach hope to create a safe and productive environment in which children can learn. For my thesis, I will use a set of protocol to observe a classroom that follows the principles of Responsive Classroom and one that does not. In addition, I will conduct research using scholarly articles in order to further investigate this topic. My findings will be presented through a professional development workshop that will by offered at Fitchburg State University.

Bethany J. Duncan (Annette Sullivan), 2009

Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners (ELLs) and Adhering to Government Standards: Effective Instruction for ELLs

Research has shown that in the past few generations, the population of immigrants in the United States has tripled. In many school systems, English Language Learners (ELLs) have become the fastest growing section of the student population: and despite that fact, “less than 13 percent of teachers have received professional development on teaching ELLs” (The National Council of English’s James R. Squire Office of Policy Research, 2008). Through my field-based experience and the research I have read over the past two to three years, I have found a need for stronger curricula and units geared towards English Language Learners. In some cases, ELLs are pulled out of their regular classroom for language support by a trained ELL teacher. In other schools and/or districts, there are specific classrooms designed just for ELL students which are called Sheltered English Immersion classrooms. In these classrooms, however, the teachers are still required to use the same curricula as the rest of the teachers and then modify it to fit the needs of the ELL students. The goal of this thesis project was to create a specific unit for Sheltered English Immersion classrooms that is geared toward ELL students, providing them and their teachers with the necessary framework, lesson plans, and materials to promote student learning. because there is still a deficiency in the knowledge base of many teachers about ELL students and their needs, this thesis was prefaced with an introduction about second language acquisition and the needs of this growing group of students.

Nicole Gilford (Jennifer Berg), 2012

Teaching Math to the Masses

One of the most despised subject types in school from elementary levels to continuing education is that of Mathematics. This project is to find out why this subject is so abhorred by students and what could make the learning of math easier on both the student and the teacher. All types of learning and teaching methods will be discussed in relation to mathematics. Classes encompassing math of almost all uppers levels of schooling (high school and university) will be observed. Also, the teachers will be interviewed to find a way to implement an effective way of teaching mathematics in a classroom. The interviews and observations along with the research on learning and teaching will be used to create several lesson plans and a “teaching manual” on creative and innovative ways of teaching math to the contentment of the student masses.

Carolyn Gleason (Laurie DeRosa), 2008

No Child Left Behind: Then, Now, and the Future of Academic Accountability

For seven years, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) signed by President George W. Bush, has been the target of monumental criticism and mixed praise. It has been altered, revised, and debated by countless educated professionals. Currently, in 2008, NCLB is up for rewriting. This project will present the history of NCLB, central arguments surrounding this piece of legislature, and how NCLB could evolve in the years to come. Some of the research for this project includes personal experience from within public school settings as well as literature and online sources. Though the aspects of NCLB are questionable to some, it is clear that NCLB directly impacts the teaching practices and objectives for all current teachers and future teachers in Massachusetts public schools.

Kimberly Hilton (Annette Sullivan), 2014

Playing with Mathematics Instruction: Making Math Count

Mathematics instruction in the elementary classroom involves many teaching strategies. Best practice is derived from historically classic theories of teaching and is supported by present day research. It is evidently clear that effective teaching encompasses many instructional strategies that involve ideas such as cooperative learning, multiple intelligences, concrete connections, problem solving, critical thinking, differentiated instruction, and necessary accommodations. In the subject area of mathematics, supplementary games can incorporate these fundamental teaching practices, while also promoting higher level thinking. I conducted a study to investigate the correlation between supplemental mathematical games used in mathematics instruction and student achievement, motivation, and engagement. Specifically, I evaluated the performance of two diverse groups of third grade students in an urban elementary school by comparing pre- and post-test data in the content areas of multiplication and division according to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for Mathematics. With the third grade teacher, I implemented a unit introducing the concept of multiplication without the support or use of supplemental mathematical games. Then, I implemented another unit introducing the concept of division infused with supplementary mathematical games to address both skill and content standards. In addition to the academic assessment, the students were given a survey regarding motivation and engagement. The results of the study showed that on average there was a higher percentage of increase from pre- to post-test assessments with division, and the majority of students felt more excited and interested when supplemental math games were employed.

Amy Jones (Laurie DeRosa), 2008

Special Olympics and Service Learning

The Special Olympics is an organization that began in 1962, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver organized a camp for children with intellectual disabilities. The official start of the Special Olympics games was in Chicago in 1968. It began with only 1,000 athletes from 26 U.S. states and Canada competing in athletics, floor hockey and aquatics. Today there are 2.5 million athletes in 165 countries competing in 26 individual and team sports. This project begins by reviewing the origins and benefits of Special Olympics. I am also the student representative in charge of Fitchburg State’s involvement in the Special Olympics. I have been recruiting since last semester and have a large base of volunteers. There is much planning that has to be done in order to make the Special Olympics run smoothly, and as the student liaison with the Special Olympics Massachusetts staff most of this rests on my shoulders. There are weekly or biweekly meetings to ensure that all roles are being fulfilled satisfactorily. Every detail must be planned, from food that will be provided to the athletes to how the facilities must be set up and tents arranged. As the final component of this project, I have explored the costs and benefits of integrating Service Learning into an academic curriculum.

Alison Landry (Susan Rosa), 2011

What Makes an Effective After-School Program? A Look at Both the Administrative Process and Academic Output of After-School Programs

The growing need for after-school programs as both educational and social supplements to the classroom cannot be ignored any longer. Students need reinforcement of concepts that extend beyond the classroom, as well as the presence of positive relationships to build social skills. Furthermore, many families do not have safe, supervised places for their children to go after school on a regular basis. Evidence suggests that programs where there is a balance of student’s academic pursuits with their societal and developmental needs, yield positive results. But what are the key components? The McKay Campus Math Mentor program was primarily designed to assist third and fourth grade students who were struggling to meet the state standards for mathematics. Fourteen 4th graders were given an hour of direct instruction from 2:30-3:30 each Wednesday for 9 weeks. Using a 5 station approach, manned by Fitchburg State University Education Majors, each station focused on one math strand from the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. Games and activities with direct alignment were created and implemented. Based on the outcomes of the previous semester’s grade 3 pilot, we eagerly await this year’s MCAS results.

Colleen Montgomery (Brian McCullough), 2004

The Link Between Academics and Extracurricular Activities

It was hypothesized that students who participate in extracurricular activities throughout their educational experience will have a higher academic output. A survey conducted with Fitchburg State University students supported this prediction. Specifically, students who were involved with extracurricular activities maintained a higher grade point average. Other studies throughout the United States have also supported this finding. Based on a review of the literature as well as the present survey results, it is believed that students engaged in extracurricular activities perform at a higher standard for an assortment of reasons. One explanation is that students who participate in extracurricular activities take more pride in their schooling. By becoming connected to one’s educational institution it helps the individual establish an increased level of integrity for him or herself. Therefore, the student wishes to impress others by way of the classroom. Another idea is that those who take part in intercollegiate sports must maintain a set G.P.A. which students who are not athletes may not need to uphold. One last explanation is that students who join extracurricular activities must manage their time in ways to accommodate both studies and their activity. Students who are not involved are at greater risk of getting caught up in activities that may divert a student from his or her academics, and which may result in negative behavior. These explanations hold true at other Universities, as well as at Fitchburg State University.

Jessica Piedrafite (Felicia Farron-Davis), 2008

Bilingual Education and A Thematic Integrated Unit

Today many teachers work in diverse classrooms that serve a variety of learners, which includes second language learners. In order to understand how to better integrate these students into the inclusive classroom environment, this thesis examined the need for bilingual education programs in the state of Massachusetts and the two bilingual education programs that exist in Massachusetts, Sheltered English Immersion Instruction, and Two Way Bilingual Instruction. A thematic integrated unit for an inclusive classroom incorporating the National Standards, the Massachusetts Frameworks, and the English Language Proficiency Benchmarks and Outcomes (ELPBO) was created. The ELPBO is the Massachusetts Department of Education Framework that evaluates the progress of second language learners in acquiring the English language. This unit is designed for first grade, and the topic of the unit is water. The essential questions that will be answered through the unit are: (1) What is that water cycle? (2) Why is water important to human life? And (3) What can citizens do to protect and preserve the water in the environment that we live in?

Alexa M. Raczkowski (Nancy Murray), 2009

Meeting the Needs of All Students Through Differentiated Instruction

As diversity in the classroom continually grows it is essential that educators are armed with a myriad of teaching strategies in order to meet the needs of all students. With the goal of providing students with the education they deserve, educators strive to gain knowledge of the most current and effective practices. Differentiating instruction sounds like the perfect solution, but research has shown that this instructional model is often misunderstood and used incorrectly, if it is used at all, due to its perceived challenging nature. A research based study was completed seizing the opportunity to research and understand the true meaning of differentiating instruction and the needs and benefits of this teaching philosophy in an elementary classroom. By drawing on the current research around differentiating instruction and examining the works of theorists which guide such instruction, a first grade unit was created demonstrating effective implementation of this model. As the need for students to meet higher curriculum standards becomes paramount, it is of utmost importance to identify beneficial teaching practices such as differentiating instruction that can serve to assist all students in reaching personal and standardized educational goals.

Kaitlyn Silva (Laurie DeRosa), 2014

Arts Education

This honors thesis project focuses on the study of arts education in schools across America. In today’s world of education, arts education sometimes falls by the wayside to more academic subjects like math and literacy. Research demonstrates that students who participated in arts education programs show more positive academic and social outcomes as compared to those who don’t. Arts programs help students in numerous ways, and those who are immersed in full arts education experiences actually do better in school. My thesis project researches the effects of current theories related to arts education and how strategies are implemented in schools. My presentation will show an analysis of current research studies as related to academic achievement, social benefits, interdisciplinary approaches and diverse learners. After reviewing the schools identified in the Reinvesting in Arts Education publication by the President's Council on the Humanities (2011), my presentation will feature schools across the country that use effective arts education programs. In addition, I will include the most recent Common Core standards and how they integrate arts education into the curriculum. Analysis will demonstrate specific trends among schools using arts education programs and how the Common Core standards link with arts education.

Stacy Welch (Glenda Oullette), 2004

Massachusetts Teachers Test

The Massachusetts Teachers Test affects thousands of teacher candidates because it is necessary to become certified. The MTEL is a controversial test which may not be the most ideal way to evaluate a candidates teaching ability. The MTEL tests were brought to Massachusetts by the National Evaluation Systems, Inc. The company was sued by a group of students in Alabama for discrimination and other charges and has been questioned regarding the correlation between teacher candidates’ scores and their teaching ability. This study was conducted to determine the problems with the MTEL, the view of supporters and creators of the test, and teacher candidates’ views on the test. The study involved extensive research, surveys of teacher candidates and interviews with MTEL experts/critics/supporters.