Educational Standard 8- Professional Practice
Increasing drop-out rates have plagued the American school system for many years. While there are a variety of issues which seem to contribute to the mounting rate of drop-outs, it appears the dominate culprit is student engagement within the school and classroom setting. One may assume the issue of dropping out of school predominantly effects those who do not academically excel, however, studies have shown those who are gifted also contribute to the percentage of students who leave high school without receiving their diploma. Teachers have a responsibility to acknowledge and remedy this issue at every academic level and should not accept student drop-outs, regardless of a student’s ability. In response, educators should tailor their classroom environment to meet the needs of their most at risk pupils.
Students drop out of school for a variety of reasons, both academic and social. Research findings suggest “poor attendance, school failure, dislike of school, drug and alcohol use/abuse, learning disabilities, pregnancy, and family conflict” as well as less supportive school environments, lack of teacher assistance, lack of engagement and peer pressure are often the reasons why students, of any academic ability, leave school (Fan & Wolters, 2014, Landis & Reschly,2013). Children who drop out of school are at a higher risk of reduced earnings and higher risk of need for government assistance, to name a few (Landis & Reschly, 2013).
In order to properly assess and remedy the issue of drop-outs among students, teachers must first examine why kids leave and what they can do to make them stay. Many factors are associated with academic resiliency. Whether students believe they are able to complete a higher degree is among the factors that predicts whether or not a student will complete high school (Fan & Wolters, 2014). Fan and Walters (2014) discuss the idea of “Expectancy-Value Model”. This model refers to what the student believes their academic ability is in comparison to their interest in learning. These two internal thoughts play a significant part in how a student will perform at a task, thereby influencing their achievement overall. Students who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to engage in coursework and feel confidant of their abilities (Fan & Wolters, 2014). Motivation is one of the most important indicators of whether or not a student will drop out (Fan & Wolters, 2014). In fact, the act of dropping out is initiated well before the student actually leaves school for good (Fan & Wolters, 2014, Landis & Reschly,2013).
Ensuring learners are engaged in the classroom environment is perhaps the single most effective way to insure lower drop out rates, therefore student engagement should be of the highest importance to teachers (Landis& Reschly, 2013). While there are internal factors, such as self-perception and determination in students, teachers can do their best to create an environment where students of all ability can connect and engage in academic activities. These efforts must start early and educators must be vigilant to not overlook any student, regardless of their seemingly apparent abilities. Educators should be creative in the ways they engage students, remembering to use tools and strategies that are effective as well as remembering that engagement can be cultivated in a variety of ways, including: cognitive, behavioral, academic and affective. The most significant type of engagement for gifted students is behavioral. Meaning in order to keep exceptional students in school, they must actually be engaged in more extracurricular activities. Activities that get them involved outside of the academics, not necessary exclusively within the classroom (Landis & Reschly,2013).
Likely this is a different approach than many teachers would normally take to engage their gifted students in school and academia. Many educators likely assume the biggest problem is actually boredom. While boredom does play a role in whether or not gifted students complete their degree, teachers must consider whether or not the student was placed in the appropriate class to begin with (Landis & Reschly, 2013). Regardless of when a student shows gifted abilities they should have access and resources (Landis & Reschly, 2013). By providing the appropriate resources at every grade level, educators can ensure they are providing ways for gifted students to remain engaged throughout their academic career (Landis & Reschly, 2013).
Other issues involved with the completion of high school is a gifted student’s ability to develop career aspirations (Landis). When students do not know what is possible to do with their skills once graduated from high school, they are less likely to be engaged in the classroom environment, be it through homework or class discussion (Landis & Reschly, 2013). One way of insuring proper engagement is through appropriate placement in classroom environments that allow them to explore and exercise their abilities (Landis & Reschly, 2013). With appropriate placement, gifted students are able to be cognitively engaged (Landis & Reschly, 2013). Teachers must be conscious about how placement and opportunities are provided to gifted students. Occasions should be provided with intention and design. For example, students should have the chance to participate in advance classes from the elementary level (Landis & Reschly, 2013). Additionally, schools should recognize a larger group of “gifted” learners. By simply providing programming for students who test at “gifted” levels, educators miss a chance to educate a more diverse population of students who may have giftings that are overlooked (Landis & Reschly, 2013).
Gifted learners also benefit from a tailored environment. Promoting questioning in a classroom environment is one way to accomplish this. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to structure questions, teachers can provide a thought-provoking, safe environment where students can self-promote further learning (Shaunessy, 2000). When students are able to develop questions on their own, information is likely to feel more pertinent to their lives.
Another group of students that must be considered is those of low achievement. Studies show that students of average or low abilities who believe they are strong in English and Math skills are less likely to drop out of school, and those who do not think they are strong in English and Math are more likely to drop out of school (Fan & Wolters, 2014). Learners who do not believe they are strong in English and Math are also more likely to believe they are unable to preform at other high level academics. These believes hinder any motivation to stay in school (Fan & Wolters, 2014).
For students who have disabilities, information should be presented in chunks. By breaking larger concepts into smaller, more manageable bits, students have an opportunity to learn concepts more deeply (Bisland, 2004). Information should also be presented in such a way that it builds on previously learned information and knowledge, beginning with content that is more easily grasped and progressing toward more challenging substance (Koetje, 2015). When learners are able to access information in manageable and obtainable ways, it is more likely they will feel both engaged and successful, motivating them to continue their education.
A final grouping of students yet to be discussed in this paper includes students who are both gifted and learning disabled. These students also contribute to the number of those who drop out before completing schooling. In order to engage learners who are academically disabled and gifted, an educator must be vigilant to recognize both the learning disability and the gifts. Teachers should consider allowing students who are gifted in some areas the opportunity to use supports to accomplish tasks which they may be hindered by in other ways. For example, a student who has a difficult time with hand-writing, but has a talent for essays or stories, is allowed to use a computer to type. Such supports also promote independence in learning for those who struggle (Shaunessy,2000). Finally, students who fall into the gifted/learning disabled group should be supported through counseling throughout school, ensuring they have adequate support throughout their education (Shaunessy,2000).
By using research based information, as well as the psycho-social issue of motivation and engagement, teachers can develop an environment that supports students staying enrolled in school, regardless of academic ability. Teachers must focus on creating a meaningful environment for their students, where learners can feel engaged and called to higher levels of achievement (Landis & Reschly, 2013). Simply giving students busy work in the classroom will not keep them engaged, and may frustrate students, leading to the seemingly ever present issue of drop-outs. (Landis & Reschly, 2013).
Bisland, A. (2004). Using Learning-Strategies Instruction With Students Who Are Gifted and Learning Disabled. GIFTED CHILD TODAY, 27(3), 52-58. doi:https://bbweb03.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1134521-dt-content-rid-2474300_1/courses/EDU6150_46328_201563/EDU6150_46328201453_ImportedContent_20150121014720/Bisland 2004.pdf
Fan, W., & Wolters, C. A. (2014). School motivation and high school dropout: The mediating role of educational expectation. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 22-39. Retrieved May 21, 2016, from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e4931499-f68f-4ca3-8145-b2192d6aa19b@sessionmgr106&vid=0&hid=102
Koetje, K. (2015). Methods for Supporting Exceptional Learners [Web log post]. Retrieved May 31, 2016, from https://spu.techsmithrelay.com/JtRN
Landis, R. N., & Reschly, A. L. (2013). Reexamining Gifted Underachievement and Dropout Through the Lens of Student Engagement. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 36(2), 220-249. Retrieved May 21, 2016, from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=c35bad5d-a5dc-469d-bfd0-b5567acbed97@sessionmgr103&vid=0&hid=102
Shaunessy, E. (2000). Techniques Questioning in the Gifted Classroom? Gifted Child Today, 23(5), 14-21. doi:http://gct.sagepub.com/content/23/5/14