Westminster Research Study

Principal Investigator(s): Meltem Alemdar, Jeremy Lingle

The purpose of this research is to measure the impact of new classroom practices described in the Learning for Life Vision of the Westminster Strategic Plan in the areas of a) 21st century skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and leadership, b) interest and engagement in the classroom, c) faculty professional development, d) school culture change, e) technology integration, and f) student self efficacy.


Methodology
This evaluation research utilizes a mixed methods approach employing both qualitative and quantitative data sources to determine the impact of new classroom practices. Specifically, observations and focus groups with teachers were conducted with 30 randomly selected classrooms per division to supplement the student survey and 21st Century Skills Assessment. Such mixed methods designs are methodologically superior to simpler designs because they allow for the triangulation of data and the ability to balance weaknesses inherent in some methods of data collection with the strengths of other methods. Consistent data from both qualitative and quantitative methods increases the trustworthiness of findings, while inconsistency between methods challenges the validity of findings.

The evaluation had six main questions:

  1. What changes do students report, based on the new classroom practices in the schools, in the areas of:
    • 21st century skills such as problem solving, communication, collaboration, adaptability, teamwork and leadership
    • Student Self-Efficacy
    • Problem-Based Activities
    • Technology Integration
  2.  What changes in students, due to new classroom practices, do teachers report in the areas of:
    • 21st century skills such as problem solving, communication, collaboration, teamwork and leadership
    • Engagement in school and  school-based activities
    • Teacher Self-efficacy
    • Use of Technology
  3. What aspects of teaching and learning at Westminster are impacted by technology integration?
  4. What do students, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders view as the benefits and possible challenges of new classroom practices?
  5. What is the impact of teacher training on students’ learning and developing of 21st century skills?
  6. What do students, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders view as the benefits and possible challenges of new classroom practices?

Following an extensive literature review for the purpose of defining and operationalizing the multiple components of interest, existing instruments measuring student and teacher attributes were identified and employed, either in their entirety or adapted to meet the needs of the study.  Both the student and teacher surveys were constructed from multiple existing instruments and several items created by members of the research team.  Versions of the student survey appropriate for student populations in the High School, the Junior High School, and Elementary School were created.

Selected Findings
Findings provided during the first year of data collection were Baseline measures, primarily being descriptive in nature.  Future years of the study will provide a measure of change among the study participants over the course of implementation of the new strategic plan and vision. For example, data related to Critical Thinking Skills among students were captured through three sources: (1) the Student Survey, (2) Student 21st Century Skills Assessment, and (3) the Teacher Survey.  The multiple data sources allowed a comparison and validation of the conclusions.  In this case, both student-based measures provided similar results whereas ratings from the teacher survey results showed a slight discrepancy.  These findings will inform the data collection plan during following years so that potential explanations for this discrepancy can be attained.     
 
•    Engagement in school and school-based activities