Utilizing Media as a Platform for Student Engagement (Grantee Research Proposal)

By Ann Asaro; Jan Richards

    Utilizing Media as a Platform for Student Engagement (Grantee Research Proposal)

    About the Practitioner-Researcher

    Ann Asaro; Jan Richards
    La Mesa, CA
    Ann Asaro; Jan Richards

    Ann Asaro: I have been a teacher in the La Mesa/Spring Valley School District for over 25 years. During my teaching career I have taught many grades and experienced many gifts found in the students and teachers in our district. My philosophy of education is simple: Put students first. I believe if I hold true to this philosophy, all possibilities are attainable. I believe in the power of practitioner research, using the data to improve education, and sharing findings to maximize impact on student learning.

    Jan Richards: I have been a teacher for 30 years, spending most of my time in the upper elementary grades. I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from San Diego State University. Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” I resoundingly agree and work each day to challenge students’ minds and pique their natural curiosities. I acknowledge the importance of developing students who will be successful 21st Century citizens and strive to meet this need through text, technology, and tenacity.

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    Project Summary

    There are various ways to increase student engagement. In this action research I will focus on media to find whether they can play important roles in student engagement through building relationships. Media, such as blogging and applications will be used to engage students in activities that challenge them to question, ponder, and persevere. Using media as a platform, venues and opportunities will be created for students to explicitly participate in collaborations, debates, and discourses that initiate deeper academic and social relationships. A specific research question for this action research is: Can diverse media help engage students in intellectual discourse as well as foster the growth of interpersonal relationships?

    Project Context

    Students use various types of media including blogging platforms, iPad applications, e-books, and virtual field trips to engage in learning. As students use these media often, planned incorporation of their knowledge and skills on media utilization can provide unique opportunities for them to learn more effectively. Students can create their own online presentations and post them on e-pals through available applications. Learners can share their essays on blog pages drawing comments from a global audience; for example, essays on genetically modified organisms that include an organic farmer’s son somewhere in the world. Music and art are universal languages, and learners can create their own “mash-ups” by combining music and art to address various topics, for example, a historical period. A field trip  can go global when video from a field trip in La Mesa is shared with a classroom in Kenya. Comments can blast back and forth between book club members on Schoology. Some students simply need to take it a step further and sit back in a couple of beanbags or at a round table, both conducive to discussion and debate. We want students to ask themselves, “What do I need to know or do to change the world”? This project will create these opportunities more systematically for students so that students experience intellectual and interpersonal engagement.

    Project Significance and Method

    Project Significance

    In the article, “Strengthening Student Engagement:  What do Students Want” (Strong, Silver, & Robinson, 1995), the authors found that people who were engaged in their work were driven by four essential goals. One of these goals is the need for involvement with others, that is, building relationships. Teachers can motivate students by tapping into their natural desire to create and foster peer relationships, thus strengthening student engagement (Strong et al., 1995). In this project, we will focus on media utilization as a resource for relationship building. Focusing on intellectual engagement, our district uses “The Five Dimensions of Teaching and Learning” (Fink & Markholt, 2011) as a guideline for instruction. In respect to student engagement, teachers aspire to create classrooms where students are intellectually involved, own their learning, and access tools that encourage equitable and purposeful student motivation and participation in the learning process. This brings us to the power of media/technology in today’s classroom.  Media provide the climate for developing and strengthening interpersonal relationships and for fostering creativity.  Educators can create pathways of challenge and information that assist students who occupy the desks, floors, beanbags, or couches of our classrooms to realize their academic potentials through building interpersonal relationships.

    Research Plan


    Three 5th grade classrooms will be involved in the study, including approximately 100 students, with 60 girls and 40 boys. Students will be placed heterogeneously; however, elective choices will influence class placement.


    To increase intellectual discourse and interpersonal relationships through student engagement via media utilization, the following activities are planned.

    1. The teacher utilizes a workshop format to provide instruction on grade-level standards for immediate use and application.
    2. Using rubrics, students are involved in the grading and scoring of their work as well as establishing expectations within the classroom.
    3. Students create personal blog pages. The blog is a platform for communication and collaboration with community, classmates and students from other countries.  Content includes narrative, informative, and opinion/personal essays.
    4. Students participate in “epals,” a digital pen-pal program for teachers and students.
    5. Throughout the year, students participate in three book clubs. Schoology, a secure technology platform that allows for digital dialogue and debate, augments face-to-face reflection and instruction. Epals are invited to read the same novels.
    6. Students choose and create three digital projects that address grade-level social studies standards and the transdisciplinary theme, “Where we are in place and time.” Projects include interaction with experts in the community via Skype and/or Facetime.  The projects are presented to classmates and shared digitally on blog pages.
    7. Using iMovie, students produce and direct virtual field trips for a local destination and are published on blogs.

    Data Collection and Analysis

    A two-cycle process will be applied in this project. In December 2017, we will analyze data that has been collected in the Fall 2017 semester. Based on the results, we may modify activities, if warranted, to improve student engagement, applying the cyclical nature of action research. We will use the following approaches to data collection and analysis.

    1. Learners from the classroom with the action research project and from another regular classroom will be given a Student Engagement Questionnaire before and after implementation of the above-described learning opportunities. Using proper statistical techniques (repeated measures analysis of variance), pre and post data will be analyzed for changes in learners’ responses to the student engagement questions and to examine if the change pattern is different across the two classes.
    2. Anecdotal Records/Time-Sampled Observations. Resource teacher, principal, and curriculum director will use the “Reflecting on Student Engagement Checklist” created by the International Center for Leadership in Education (Jones, 2009) four times during implementation (12 total). First, the questionnaires will be used to calibrate the three observers.  Then, the instructing teachers will use them for analysis and discussion. Teachers will look for trends across descriptors.  For example, if the descriptor “Positive Body Language” is rated high by all observers, what did they see? Also, teachers will analyze the questionnaire for change over time. How did the responses change?  Which areas have an increase?  Decrease?  What factors do the teachers believe had an impact on gain in student engagement?  Finally, once each week the teacher will use exit slips to address a question that relates to student engagement through media.  The narratives will be analyzed using qualitative analysis to determine underlying themes.
    3. Teacher Research Journal. The participating teacher will spend ten minutes each day writing on the relevant guiding question (see #4 below). The teacher journal entries will be analyzed to extract trends in themes.
    4. For qualitative data analysis, earliest data will be analyzed with the guiding question, “What am I seeing?” With later data, the guiding questions will be, “What has changed?  Is there any other explanation for the change that should be considered?”  Finally, a formal argument supported with evidence will be written to answer the initial research question.


    Fink, S., & Markholt, A. (2011). Leading for instructional improvement:  How successful leaders develop teaching and learning expertise. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Jones, R. (2009). Student engagement walkthrough checklist. New York: International Center for Leadership in Education.

    Rust, F., & Clark, C. (2007). How to do action research in the classroom. New York: Teachers Network Leadership Institute.

    Strong, R., Silver, H. F., & Robinson, A. (1995). Strengthening student engagement: What do students want?  Educational Leadership, 53(1), 8-12.

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