Information for Researchers

Summary

The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of changes in classroom and family environments on adolescents' achievement-related beliefs, motives, values, and behaviors.

A sample of sixth graders, their teachers, and their parents were drawn from 12 public school districts located in middle-income communities in southeastern Michigan; it included approximately 3,248 adolescents; 95% of the teachers (representing 143 classrooms), and 72% of the parents asked to participate. School districts were selected where the adolescents would experience the traditional junior high school transition as they moved from the sixth to the seventh grade. During the first two years of this study, adolescents filled out extensive questionnaires in their math classrooms two times in the sixth grade and two times in the seventh grade. During the same testing periods, teachers and parents completed their own questionnaires.

The student questionnaires contained indicators of a wide range of environmental characteristics and achievement-related motivational construct's, and assessed a broad range of students' beliefs, values, and attitudes concerning mathematics, English, physical skills, social activities, and other constructs. There were also items eliciting information about students' perceptions of their teacher's fairness and friendliness, competition and social comparison among students, the opportunity for comparative learning among students, and their teacher's interest in mathematics. The teachers completed individual assessments of each of their students, and completed questionnaires that assessed their general beliefs about students and their classroom practices. The parents completed questionnaires concerning their own beliefs about mathematics, family decision-making and other topics, and their perception of their children. Classroom observations of more macro-level instructional processes were also completed.

Sample

Since the primary interest of the study was the impact of various types of changing school environments on early adolescents' motivation and self-concepts, school districts were selected in which the adolescent would experience the traditional junior high school transition as they moved from the sixth to the seventh grade. The initial sample of sixth graders were drawn from 12 school districts located in working and middle-class communities in southeastern Michigan. Approximately 96.7% of the students in these districts were White, 1.5% African-American, and 1.8% other minorities.

The mean age of students at wave 1 was 11 years, 5 months. The sample consisted of 124 6th grade pre-transition classrooms and 19 fifth or forth/fifth combination classrooms; 3,248 children (79.6% of the student population in these classrooms) agreed to participate. Wave two consisted of data from 3,157 children (97.2% of the original sample). This sample was augmented slightly as the study progressed due to attrition rates (entirely due to students moving out of the school district); 105 new students participated. At wave three, 2,705 children (83.3% of the original sample) had completed three waves of data. Three-hundred and eighty-eight new students who moved into the 12 school districts during the course of the study, joined the study. Seventy-percent of the original sample filled out questionnaires at all four waves of data collection.

Parent measures were collected for a sub-sample of approximately 1,500 students. At wave 1, questionnaires were received from approximately 2,040 families (72% of the families agreeing to participate). In the final three waves of data collection, 1,482, 1,303, and 1,170 families participated, respectively. The demographics for the families were sufficiently varied; 15% of the families were single parented, 8% were reconstituted (blended), 10% were divorced, 9% had only 1 child, and 17% had four or more children.

Most but not all of the participating students made a transition from sixth grade in elementary school to seventh grade in junior high school during the course of the study. All teachers in those districts who taught mathematics to fifth or sixth graders scheduled to make transitions the next year were recruited in year one. Ninety-five percent of the teachers, representing 143 classrooms, agreed to participate. The students were followed in year 2 of the study into 134 seventh-grade junior high school classrooms. All eligible year 2 teachers agreed to participate

Data

Data can be aquired through Harvard-Radcliffe's Murray Research Center at www.radcliffe.edu/murray/data/ds/ds1015.htm

Theoretical, empirical, and design criteria were used in developing the questionnaires. Extensive pilot work was done on any new items (including teacher, parent, and observer questionnaires), and most of the measures consisted of both open-and close-ended questions. The following is a brief description of each of the measures used in this study:

  • The Student Questionnaires: This questionnaire measured a large number of theoretical constructs across multiple-activity domains, most measured with 5- or 7- point Likert-type response scales. The questionnaire assessed a broad range of students' beliefs, values, and attitudes concerning mathematics, English, physical skills, and social activities, as well as other constructs. Forty-three items were developed to assess the 12 central constructs related to students' self-perceptions, expectations for success, perception of task difficulty, task utility value, task intrinsic value, anxiety and worries, and standard of excellence. Almost all of these items were specific to mathematics. These items were included at each wave of data collection.

  • Student Academic Records: The following information as gathered for all students from school records: (a) grades in math, English, and physical education for the 1982/1983, 1983/84, and 1984/85 school years; (b) the number of days absent for the 1983/84 and 1984/85 school years; (c) math and reading scores from the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test, a criterion-referenced test administered to all students in Michigan public schools in the fourth and seventh grades; and (d) scores on standardized achievement tests. Grade equivalent scores and percentile rank scores were collected for subtests of some of the standardized achievement test. Raw scores were also collected for subtests of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and for subtests of the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) in the districts that used these tests.

  • Individual Assessment Questionnaire: This questionnaire was given to all of the teachers. They were asked to assess each student's talent, effort, and performance in math. Teachers were also asked to report each student's math ability group membership, level of social and physical maturity, evaluation anxiety, misbehavior, and coping skills. In addition, all junior high school teachers were asked to indicate how well each student was adjusting to junior high school.

  • Parent Measures: The parent questionnaire focused on seven areas: (a) parents' perception of their child's abilities, interest, socioemotional development, and pubertal status; (b) parents' goals and values for their children; (c) parents' feelings of personal efficacy both as a parent and in general; (d) the strategies parents have used to influence their children's interest, plans, and skill acquisition; (e) family interaction styles related to decision-making, discipline, and attachment; (f) parents' stereotypes of adolescence and gender roles; and (g) family demographics including employment status, occupation, education, and marital status.

  • Information Used to Assess Child's Math Ability: This battery consisted of eight possible sources of information a parent might use in evaluating their child's math ability. This measures was administered on 2 waves: one prior to transition and one after transition. The parent is basically asked to rate the extent to which each source informed their opinion of their child's math ability using a five point scale.

  • Motivational Strategies: Ten items used to measure parents' strategies for influencing their children's performance in math. These items were rated on a five point scale.

  • Classroom Environment Measures: One of the goals of the study was to identify characteristics of the classroom environments, before and after the transition to junior high school. A set of classroom environment measures were developed to tap both formal and informal classroom characteristics associated with different classroom environmental dimensions, including teacher control, teacher warmth, evaluation practices, opportunities for student interaction, and practices that focus students' attention on self-evaluation rather than on task mastery. These dimensions were derived from previous research on the kinds of classroom environment variables that relate to student outcomes. Three versions of this measure were developed, one for students called the Student Classroom Environment Measure (SCEM), one for teachers called the Teacher Classroom Environment Measure (TCEM), and one for observers called the Observer Classroom Environment Measure (OCEM).

    The SCEM was given as part of the student questionnaire at each given wave. It consist of 27 items eliciting information about students' perceptions of their teacher's fairness and friendliness, competition and social comparison among students, the opportunity for cooperative learning among students, and their teacher's interest in mathematics.

    The TCEM consisting of 24 items, was designed to assess teaching and grading practices, discipline techniques, reward strategies, and opportunities for student autonomy and cooperation. Year 1 and year 2 teachers completed this measure. Factor analysis was used to create scales. Any items that were highly skewed (2.0 or greater) were excluded from the factor analysis.

    The OCEM consists of 66 low and high inference items measuring teaching practices, informal characteristics of the classroom climate, student interaction patterns, room climate, student interaction patterns, and teacher attitudes. The same people observed classrooms in both year 1 and year 2 . All members of the field staff participated in an extensive training program during year 1 and in a refresher program in year 2 and achieved an interrater reliability score on the OCEM in two classrooms averaging at least .76 both years.

  • Student/teacher classroom decision-making - person/environment fit: This measure was developed to measure person-environment fit for decision-making opportunities in math classes. Five pairs of items were adapted from Lee (1979) for both students and teachers. Each yoked pair asks whether a particular form of student decision-making opportunity existed in the classroom and whether such an opportunity should exist.

  • Teacher Questionnaire (TO): The teacher questionnaire was designed to assess teacher's general beliefs and attitudes, and to gather biographical information from them

  • General Beliefs: This teacher questionnaire was based on the works of Ashton and Webb (1982), Brookover et al (1979), Brophy and Evertson (1978), and Willower, Eidell, and Hoy (1973). From these works, a battery to measure teachers' beliefs and attitudes was developed. The items measured the teachers' trust and respect for students, their beliefs about the needs to control and discipline students, their views of ability as a modifiable or unmodifiable trait, and their feelings of personal teaching efficacy. The year 1 and year 2 teachers completed this questionnaire.

  • Control Attitudes: Teachers answered 20 questions based on 4 vignettes developed by Deci (1981)to assess "Adults Orientation Toward Control Versus Autonomy with Children". A total score was computed for each teacher on a continuum from highly controlling to highly autonomous.

  • Stereotypes of Adolescence: All post-transition teachers were asked nine questions tapping stereotypical beliefs about early adolescence.

  • Training and Preferred Teaching: This measure was given to all teachers both years of testing. It consisted of a battery of items assessing information regarding formal training in mathematics and experience teaching mathematics, preferences for teaching math versus other subjects, and preference for teaching at current versus other grade levels.

Student and teacher questionnaires were administered in math classrooms; parent questionnaires were mailed to the home. In order to get an accurate and detailed description of the changes over a two-year period in the adolescents' home and school environments: a) at least one classroom for each of the participating teachers was observed by trained filed staff members for five consecutive days during late October or November each year, b) all teachers completed an extensive classroom climate questionnaire at each wave, c) all adolescent completed a similar classroom climate questionnaire at each wave and d) both the parents and the adolescents answered an extensive set of questions assessing the family environment at each wave. Although all parents were asked to participate, only about half agreed to do so at each of the four waves of data collection.

Trained field staff administered questionnaires to students in two 1-hr sessions in the children's math classrooms at each wave. Children answered questions at their own pace without time limits. During the same testing periods, teachers rated each child on the dimensions described in the teacher's questionnaire. Questionnaires were mailed to the mothers and fathers who had agreed to participate. Each parent completed the questionnaire individually and returned it in a prepaid mailer.

Questionnaires


Note: The waves posted below are in some cases incomplete

Questionnaires

Wave 1
Wave 2
Wave 3
Wave 4
Wave 5
Wave 6
(1990)

Wave 7
(1992)

Wave 8
(1996)

Wave 9
(2000)

6th Grade

Scales

Wave 1
Wave 2
Wave 3
Wave 4
Wave 5
Wave 6
(1990)

Wave 7
(1992)

Wave 8
(1996)

Wave 9
(2000)

 

 


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