University of Tasmania
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Perceptions, perspectives and practice : identifying and supporting young adolescent academic underachievers in the year 7 and 8 classroom

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:19 authored by Ludicke, PJ
This thesis investigated ways that teachers of young adolescents identify and support academic underachievers in the classroom setting. The study commenced with a comprehensive survey of the relevant literature. It considered key issues relating to academic achievement in the first years of secondary school and discussed concerns for students, teachers, and teacher practice. The study then presented a focused look at concepts underpinning academic underachievement in Year 7 and 8, including disengagement, young adolescence and middle years' education models. The study supported claims in the literature that these concepts describe complex and multi-faceted constructs which are often used in diverse ways by different groups in education. Three primary research questions underpinned the structure of the study: What characteristics and factors do teachers consider when they identify young adolescent academic underachievers in the school and classroom setting? What factors do young adolescents identify as significant to their learning? and What practices do teachers use to address academic underachievement in the classroom? The study was based on a constructionist-interpretive paradigm, utilising a mixed methodological approach situated within a collective case study design. The research site, setting and study sample were located within regional Australia. Three different data sets were collected including a questionnaire completed by 34 teachers of students in Year 7 and 8, a survey given to a cohort of 178 Year 7 students from a regional Catholic College and interviews conducted with 12 teachers. Data gathered was predominantly qualitative with some attention given to quantitative data collection methods. Primary data processing techniques included latent thematic analysis techniques and descriptive statistics. Findings revealed that teachers primarily considered four criteria when identifying academic underachievers, predominantly using Australian and Tasmanian Curriculum standards as a benchmark for measuring achievement. Teachers also considered a range of background factors when identifying students. Findings from the student cohort surveyed indicated that many of the students were aware of, and concerned about, meeting 'the standard' as a benchmark in Year 7. Findings from both teachers and students indicated concerns with barriers and challenges to achievement including time constraints, connecting to and participating in classroom learning and learner confidence. Teachers advocated differing practices to address underachievement, supporting the findings from the literature in the field. However, findings indicated that teachers' practice was influenced by their perceptions and perspectives regarding the students they identified as academic underachievers in their classrooms. Teacher practices employed tended to be remedial and did not appear to be influenced by middle years' educational models, constructivist or learner-centered curriculum or other learning theories. Teachers recognised that young adolescent academic underachievers often had complex needs, nevertheless the practices used by teacher participants to address academic underachievement might foster the development of self-limiting beliefs in students identified as academic underachievers.


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