Addressing the reading issues that low ability students face during a reading class is an essential step towards increasing the academic potential of the students in question. The class selected for the intervention, included a group of thirteen seventh-grade low-ability students. It should be noted that the class consisted of twenty people.
Among the specified group of students, two students face problems communicating English, as they are EAL students (Shin 2010); three fifth of the students (i.e., 12 students) have SEN, whereas one student out of five in the group (i.e., 4 students) has either dyslexia or ADHD.
Their knowledge of grammar and syntax rules also leaves much to be desired (3c to 4a, the KSE test returning the results ranging from 5a to 6c). Though, compared to the initial test results, the final ones can be rendered as a minor improvement, the current evidence points at the need for the students to work on new skills acquisition and memorizing skills. The literature review allowed for defining the methods for addressing the needs of the students in question.
For instance, the fact that students usually lack understanding of the role of peer assessment, as well as the significance of providing accurate evaluations of their peers (Falchikov & Goldfinch 2000) has led to the necessity to not only provide students with a detailed explanation on the process of evaluation of their peers’ success, but also a very close supervision of the specified procedure (Zingaro 2013).
Moreover, it has also been noted that the students will most likely need to provide the students with positive reinforcement so that they could feel motivated enough to strive for a better performance (Cox & Maher 2007). In addition, an overview of the existing sources helped design the strategy that was supposed to help students with high scores to maintain the level of their accomplishments just as high.
Specifically, the need to incorporate a set of graphic principles for the students to comply with emerged after analyzing the methods of tending to the needs of low-achieving students. To be more exact, the fact that low achieving students need graphic data in order to understand the mechanics of the learning process better and, thus, engage into the meta-cognition process was discovered with the help of the review of the readings and their application in the classroom setting.
Moreover, an overview of the existing literature has shown that the students need a positive reinforcement from their instructor in order to attain success in the course of the intervention deserves to be mentioned. Indeed, as Freedman’s study shows, it is the teacher’s responsibility to condition a positive impact of tpeer assessment (Falchikov & Goldfinch 2000).
Therefore, the need to introduce an element of games emerged (Friedman et al. 2007). The application of the specified intervention has shown that scaffolding combined with peer assessment, in fact, does allow for improving the students’ knowledge and ability to develop new skills. Unfortunately, the study has also proven the fact that the motivation of high scoring students drops as the peer assessment strategy is introduced into the class setting and the standards for the students’ performance are reduced a few notches.
It is suggested that the incorporation of an element of a game into the learning process and the introduction of differentiated assignments (Murayama, Perkin & Lichtenfeld 2012), which will allow high scoring students to choose the tasks that they find interesting, will help address the specified issue and at the same time enhance the learning process among low ability students (Burguillo 2010).
In the course of the research, six lessons were carried out, during which the students were supposed to assess each other’s reading skills. The first lesson started with the introduction of the students to the idea of peer assessment and giving them exact instructions on what they had to do.
The students were given a set of statements for the evaluation of their peers, while the teacher explained what each part of the assessment addressed. The teacher suggested that the students should read the questions out loud and ask if anything was not clear.
As soon as every student understood the purpose of the questions, the teacher split them in pairs; then, the reading of the first excerpt started. After the reading, the students were to answer the first part of the questionnaire and evaluate their peer’s reading skills on the scale of 1 to 5, as the specified scale helped embrace the largest amount of possible responses and at the same time avoid acquiring excessive data.
The students seemed to lack confidence when carrying out their first evaluation of their peers, being more lenient to each other than the standards required. As a result, the students that were obviously scoring lower than the rest of the class did not feel willing to make stronger efforts. Thus, the instructor may need to introduce the element of competition into the process in order to make the students evaluate their peers’ work on more rigid standards (Carter, 2014).
The same procedure followed the assignment that involved answering the questions concerning the contents of the excerpt and the new vocabulary; the students evaluated their peers’ responses on the scale from 1 to 5 assessing the accuracy of the vocabulary use and correctness of the factual information. The lesson ended with a game of locating words in a grid filled with letters and defining these words.
The students then evaluated their peers’ skills based on the amount of words found (fifteen were encrypted in the grid) and the time taken to locate the words (the students were given fifteen minutes, a minute per word). The teacher scaffolded the students throughout the assessment helping them measure their peers’ success, which helped the students feel more confident (Knight et al. 2014).
The specified model was repeated throughout the six lessons with slight alterations (the game was replaced with a similar crossword activity three times). Low ability students displayed keen interest and quite honest excitement about the activities suggested by the teacher. As it has been stressed above, students hesitated to grade each other low at first.
However, as soon as the teacher assured them that the grading by peers will not affect their actual score calculated by the teacher, they became rather enthusiastic about the process. Their high achieving peers, though, seemed to be quite bored after they realised that the pace of the lesson was not going to be accelerated.
The fact that motivation rates have dropped among high ability students in the process of the intervention points at the necessity to introduce the set of activities that would keep the attention of high achieving students and at the same time be approachable for low ability students (Wadesango & Bayaga 2013); the use of a game as a type of activities that both low and high ability students may participate in seems to have worked quite well within the specified setting.
The success of the strategy can be explained by the fact that games presuppose the incorporation of a competition factor (Dominiquez et al. 2013) and, thus, make the learning process more engaging for high achievers (Connolly et al. 2012). As the students proceeded with their peer evaluation process, they started understanding the demands that they were supposed to meet much better.
As a result, the students started designing the methods for developing the corresponding qualities and meeting the corresponding requirements. For example, it was noticed that one of the students with dyslexia started identifying the patterns of pronunciation and, therefore, is developing a strategy of spelling difficult words instead of using guesswork in the process of reading.
To be more specific, the aforementioned student spotted specific combinations of letters and denotes which ones precede and follow a certain letter. Afterwards, the student reads the word. Though seemingly minor, these improvements show that low ability students are willing to improve their skills and that they are ready to make major efforts to reach success (Asikainen et al. 2014).
The above-mentioned change in the responses retrieved from the low ability students can be easily understood once viewed from the tenets of the knowledge construction (Lai & Law 2013). From the perspective of the specified theory, in order to develop new skills and not only retrieve, but also process and remember new information, low ability students have to engage into the meta-cognition process.
In other words, the students must understand how they acquire new skills and information, as well as use this knowledge for their further studying process. Peer reviewing, in its turn, allows students to understand how they cognise the world around them (Lavy, Paserman & Schlosser 2011).
At the end of the sixth class, the students were given a questionnaire to fill in and had to evaluate the effects that the use of peer assessment had had on them. The results have shown that the students became more confident when participating in a game or a similar activity. In other words, the students need a group activity involving a minor competition factor (Denton et al. 2013).
The students have shown an especial improvement in their reading abilities during these games. Therefore, it may be suggested that games with a further evaluation may serve as an incentive for the students to strive of a better performance (Cho, Lee & Jonassen 2011). Moreover, the low scoring students displayed an impressive enthusiasm.
However, high ability students seemed to be bored throughout the lesson and, thus, were not as attentive as they usually are. Moreover, they seemed to start adapting to less rigid demands, which could be a threat to their further performance (Munro, Abbot & Rossiter 2013). This calls for an introduction of the activities that high scoring students may perform while the low ability ones handle their assignments.
Therefore, the research should be geared towards the evaluation of gaming and the introduction of competition, as well as the differentiation of tasks, as a tool for retaining the motivation of high achievers and preventing them from losing their reading skills.
One must bear in mind that the implementation of the specified strategies triggers a range of controversies around the learning process and the goals that the instructor pursues. First and most obvious, the threat of a significant drop in the motivation rates of low achieving students becomes rather palpable, as the setting where differentiated strategies are approved of may affect the self-esteem of low ability students (Denton et al. 2013).
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