SUPPORTING RESEARCH

SEDL Research Study

Southwestern Educational Development Laboratory in Austin, Texas, conducted a comprehensive year-long research study of Great Expectations®. The results of the study revealed the following facts about Great Expectations®.

When Great Expectations® is fully implemented in a classroom, the teaching behaviors of teachers and the learning behaviors of students are markedly different - in positive ways - from teacher and student behaviors in "traditional" teacher-directed classrooms.

  • The seventeen classroom practices represent much of what the current educational literature suggests are "best practices" of good teaching.

  • Great Expectations® is unique nationally as a school reform model in that the program combines "best practices" of good teaching with the teaching of social skills to students.

  • Interviews with teachers and classroom observations clearly reveal that some of the core Great Expectations® elements that substantially impact positive changes in classroom practices include:
    • creating active, interesting, hands-on lessons that integrate multiple subjects and have real-world connections,
    • providing opportunities for students to work in small groups to complete projects,
    • providing clear classroom expectations,
    • establishing positive student-centered dialogues through which students perspectives are considered and valued,
    • giving students opportunities to have personal input and choices,
    • teaching life principles to students as well as facilitating student-to-student dialogues that help them learn social competence and social problem-solving skills.

  • The teaching of social skills has important, positive effects on students and teachers.

  • Great Expectations® classroom procedures allow students to control aspects of learning by assuming leadership roles, choosing learning activities/situations in which they learn best, and self-directing their own behaviors.

  • A high level of Great Expectations® implementation requires serious commitment and effort.

  • Great Expectations® Coaches are invaluable resources to help teachers and principals who are in the early stages of implementation.

  • Visits to classrooms in which there are high levels of Great Expectations® implementation provide powerful supports for teachers who are in the early stages of implementation.

  • For systemic change to occur, school/district administrators must "lead" the reform agenda.

  • For systemic change to occur, school/district administrators must provide as much support as possible in terms of on-going training (follow-up training during the school year and subsequent Summer Institute training following completion of methodology component).

  • Great Expectations® training promotes teaching strategies that positively impact students' engagement in learning activities. Great Expectations teachers maximize learning opportunities with little or no wasted class time.

  • Great Expectations® training substantially impacts teachers' instructional strategies and their beliefs about their teaching responsibilities.

  • One of the most positive aspects of Great Expectations® training is that it is conducted by teachers who use Great Expectations® practices. Great Expectations® practices are modeled by the trainers so that the learning is experiential for those being trained.

  • Teachers who implement Great Expectations® at a high level use whole group instruction that is interwoven with small group instruction and/or individual instruction. This approach maximizes teacher/student interactions and allows teachers to give more individualized student attention where needed.

  • Teachers who implement Great Expectations® at a high level create a learning community in their classrooms. Students engage each other in learning tasks and there is a sense of congeniality and togetherness exhibited by both teacher and students. Students in these classrooms are ready, willing, and eager to take on learning activities and challenges presented to them.

  • Teachers who implement Great Expectations® at a high level feel high degrees of a shared sense of purpose, collegial support, shared leadership, professional growth, and generally positive attitudes. Teachers who implement Great Expectations® at lower levels feel lower degrees of a shared sense of purpose, collegial support, shared leadership, professional growth, and positive attitudes.

  • Teachers who implement Great Expectations® at a high level act as facilitators of learning rather than transmitters of information.

  • Teachers who implement Great Expectations® at a high level present instruction in an up-beat, enthusiastic manner that engages students' attention and activity.

  • Teachers who implement Great Expectations® at a high level incorporate students' prior knowledge and experience, create lessons that make real-world connections, and/or engage students' curiosity. Their lessons are usually interdisciplinary.

  • Teachers who implement Great Expectations® at a high level engage students in critical, higher order thinking. They challenge students to articulate and clarify their thinking.

  • Results of the evaluation provide overwhelming evidence that Great Expectations® has both merit and worth as a comprehensive school reform model that enables teachers/schools/districts to accomplish a positive transformation in the learning and life-skill environment.

A Look at Achievement Test Scores

Great Expectations® profiled thirty-one Oklahoma schools that were implementing Great Expectations® in the third and/or seventh grades. The schools varied in terms of the total number of grade levels represented at each site. Twenty-six of the schools provided only third grade data; three provided third and seventh grade data; and two schools provided only seventh grade data.

The unit of measurement used in the study was the overall grade level. The study compared each school's third/seventh grade level of achievement one year prior to implementing Great Expectations® and the grade level achievement in 1999, the final year that Oklahoma mandated norm-referenced testing in these grades.

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) was the standardized, norm-referenced test used in the study. The Total Composite National Percentile Rank scores were the measures used in the comparison. To ensure objectivity, accuracy, and consistency, test scores were provided by the Oklahoma Oversight Board/Office of Accountability in Oklahoma City.

It is important to note that the study was not a cohort study. It was longitudinal in nature and profiled only third and seventh grade achievement levels in each school.

The overall results of the comparison revealed that 62% of the third grades and 80% of the seventh grades demonstrated increased levels of achievement following the onset of Great Expectations implementation.

In an effort to better delineate and understand the results of the study, the grade levels were divided into the three categories: 1) those in the first year of implementation; 2) those in the second, third, or fourth year of implementation; 3) those implementing Great Expectations® for five or more years.


Grade Levels Experiencing First Year of Implementation
There were seven grade levels in their first year of implementation. Five of them revealed gains in terms of NPR points. See Table 1.

Grade Levels Showing Gain
5
Total Amount of Gain (NPR Points)
21
Average Gain (NPR Points)
4.2

Table 1 - Gains for Grade Levels Experiencing First Year of Implementation

It is important to note that both grade levels not revealing gains experienced insignificant declines in NPR points of 1 point and 3 points, respectively.


Grade Levels Experiencing Second, Third, or Fourth Year of Implementation
Fifteen grade levels were in their second, third, and fourth year of implementation. Seven grade levels showed gains in terms of NPR points. See Table 2.

Grade Levels Showing Gain
7
Total Amount of Gain (NPR Points)
50
Average Gain (NPR Points)
7.14

Table 2 - Gains for Grade Levels Experiencing Second, Third, and Fourth Years of Implementation

NPR scores greater than 50 are considered above the norm, therefore making gains more difficult to attain. It is important to note, all grade levels in this category not experiencing gains had unusually high pre-test NPR scores, ranging from 61 to 80.

The remarkably high pre-test scores in this category provide powerful evidence that many schools implement Great Expectations®, not only for the benefits gained from increased academic achievement, but for the purpose of creating an inviting, nurturing school climate that positively impacts the social growth and ethical behavior of students.


Grade Levels Experiencing Fifth or More Years of Implementation
Twelve grade levels had been implementing Great Expectations for five or more years. Ten of those grade levels showed gains in terms of NPR points. See Table 3.

Grade Levels Showing Gain
10
Total Amount of Gain (NPR Points)
190
Average Gain (NPR Points)
19

Table 3 - Gains for Grade Levels Experiencing Five or More Years of Implementation

The grade levels in this category revealed the greatest average gain in NPR points. This was not surprising. These grade levels had fully implemented Great Expectations® for a number of years and, in doing so, had developed an expertise in organizing and using their knowledge about Great Expectations. Their knowledge had become deeply integrated and the sequence of their knowledge-building had been absorbed and was an integral part of their daily teaching and classroom management routine.

The findings in this category are consistent with effective schools research. Changing attitudes and expectations, coupled with changing organizational and instructional practices must occur over a period of time before dramatic improvements in learning become evident.

It is important to note that both grade levels (representing two school sites) not revealing gains in NPR points experienced school-level administrative leadership changes during the span of time indicated by the pre-test and post-test comparison.

This evidence supports research that underscores the importance of the principal's role in bringing about whole-school reform. Moffet (2000) asserted that, "Unquestionably, the principal leadership role is vital, and research shows that leadership turnover jeopardizes school change efforts."