Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Preparing Students for Their Future: Dual Enrollment

Preparing Students for Their Future: Dual Enrollment in High Schools

Increasingly high school students are taking advantage of the opportunity to attend college courses while enrolled in high school.  This practice of dual enrollment offers a means for some students to get a head start on their college career.  Many times the school district will pay for the students’ tuition, if they pass their classes.  This has the potential to increase college attendance for many low income or minority students who are underrepresented on college campuses.  The question that remains is how effective are dual enrollment programs?

A recent study indicated that dual enrollment programs are working.  They found that dual enrolled students out performed traditionally enrolled students even in their second year of college (Crouse & Allen, 2014).  Furthermore, dual enrollment increases student enrollment in four-year programs.  The same study found that 58 percent of Iowa’s dual enrolled students attended a four-year college compared to 42 percent of all Iowa high school graduates (Crouse & Allen, 2014).  However, another study found that students who participate in dual enrollment in a four-year college were 200% more likely to earn a four-year degree than those beginning in a community college (Pretlow, 2014).  Dual enrollment increases student attendance and performance in college; however, the direction that students take after graduating high school is important to consider.

While dual enrollment helps students to perform better in their college classes, high schools can improve their dual enrollment programs.  Dual enrolled students are more likely to take introductory humanities courses than math, sciences or career related courses (Crouse & Allen, 2014; Khazem & Khazem, 2012).  Khazem and Khazem noted the importance of dual enrolled students receiving college level counseling that focuses students on academic-career paths.  Furthermore, they also point out that exposure to career track courses provides students access to labs and facilities not available in traditional high schools (Khazem & Khazem, 20012).  Providing students with the opportunity to learn more about the career path that they have decided upon can work to increase students’ motivation to continue on to college once they graduate from high school. 

Scheduling and transportation poses a potential barrier for many high schools when considering dual enrollment.  Enrollment through online courses helps with scheduling and can help address the transportation barrier that is common with minority students (Khazem & Khazem, 20012).  However, this does not provide students with the experience of attending school on a college campus with other college students.  For many students, the college experience plays a key role in building student efficacy.  Another option that also has similar drawbacks is having the college instructor teach the class on the high school campus.

While dual enrollment can play an important role in preparing high school students for college, high schools can adopt practices that will increase student success in college.  High schools can teach writing practices that focus on substantiating one’s claims, and providing proper citations; use syllabi modeled after ones used in college courses, and develop critical thinking skills to prepare students for college (Khazem & Khazem, 20012). 

Further Information

To learn about dual enrollment for you child, contact your child's high school.

http://www.wiche.edu/info/cacg/meetings/boulder13/white.pdf Provides an overview of dual enrollment in Colorado.


Crouse, J. D., & Allen, J. (2014). College Course Grades for Dual Enrollment Students. Community College Journal Of Research & Practice38(6), 494-511. doi:10.1080/10668926.2011.567168

Khazem, J. H., & Khazem, H. A. (2012). Dual enrollment: The way forward. International Journal Of Education Research7(2), 135-150.

Pretlow, J. (2014). Dual enrollment, community colleges, and baccalaureate degree attainment. Community College Journal Of Research & Practice38(2/3), 264-269. doi:10.1080/10668926.2014.851981

Friday, March 21, 2014

Systems Thinking in Education

Systems Thinking: Big Picture Thinking


Critical analysis . . . problem solving . . . creativity . . . systems thinking are the things that we need to prepare students for the 21st century.  Systems thinking is especially relevant to developing a 21st century understanding of the world. A world where understanding how one's actions affect the actions of others.   

What is systems thinking?  If analysis involves breaking a thing into smaller parts and thinking about how each part works, systems thinking looks at how the thing interacts with other things.   The Waters Foundation (watersfoundation.org) has developed 13 habits of systems thinking:
  • Seeks to understand the big picture
  • Observes how elements within systems change over time
  • Recognizes that a system's structure generates its behavior understanding the complexities
  • Examines interdependence causing cause and effect relationships to be circular rather than linear
  • Changes perspectives to increase understanding
  • Rigorously examines assumptions, beliefs, and perceptions
  • Considers issues fully and resists urge to jump to a conclusion
  • Makes mental models to understand what is happening
  • Uses understanding to identify points of  leverage : what small change can result in the desired effect?
  • Considers both short-term and long-term consequences
  • Identifies unintended consequences 
  • Recognizes that an action will experience time delays before a desired result takes place
  • Successive approximation: Monitors and evaluates the behavior of the system and takes action when necessary 

An example of systems thinking:

Ellen MacArthur Foundation (creator) (2011, August 28). Re-thinking progress:
The circular economy [video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/zCRKvDyyHmI

This type of thinking is found in the common core standards k-12, STEM, and 21st Century Skills.  Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than I.Q.,  has stated that this type of thinking helps to facilitate the development of emotional intelligence (2014).  Recognizing the impact that the actions of others have on you and your actions have on the emotions of others is central to understanding social-emotional dynamics.  Taking this a step further, systemic thinking can also be found in the conflict resolution practices of Restorative Justice, a highly successful school discipline program.  Restorative justice focus on how ones actions affect others.  Research indicates that student participation in social emotional learning programs has been shown to have a 11 percent increase in student achievement (Durlak, Weissberg,  Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2010).  Additionally, Restorative Justice strategies have been associated with increased student achievement (Schiff, 2013).

Systems thinking has been around as a discipline for over 50 years.  However, its application for the 21st century seems untapped.  Providing instruction on systems thinking in the classroom has a large potential for deepening student understanding of content, decreasing discipline problems, and increasing emotional intelligence.  In a world where our interdependence is inescapable, understanding the potential of our actions on others, positive or negative, is essential.

Further Information

Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge discusses system thinking in relationship to empathy building and the use of systems thinking in the schools.

watersfoundation.org  Excellent starting point for systems thinking in schools.

http://www.clexchange.org/  Another good source for systems thinking in schools.

http://www.casel.org/  Information regarding social emotional learning in schools.

http://www.fixschooldiscipline.org/  Fix School Discipline is a good starting point to learn about restorative justice in schools.


Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D. & Schellinger, K. B. (2011), The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82: 405–432.

Goleman, D. & Senge, P. (Performers). (2014, March 17). Education For Today: Rethinking Skills for Success with Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge [Web Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es5yaJdPeBY&feature=youtu.be

Schiff, M. (2013, January). Dignity, disparity and desistance: Effective restorative justice strategies to plug the “school-to-prison pipeline.”. Closing the School Discipline Gap: Research to Practice conference, Washington, DC. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014



Homework can be a source of contention for students, teachers, and parents.  However, some recent studies on homework offer potential insight to guide teachers in assigning homework.

Title : 5/365 | so. much. homework. 12 chapters to read & do journal… | Flickr - Photo Sharing!Source : https://www.flickr.com/photos/anniferrr/4097009340Author : anna gutermuthlicense : Attribution 2.0 Generic

Planning: Taking the Stress Out of Homework

The development of student’s time management skills seems to play an important role in homework completion.  I offer a two-week course that provides instruction on time management, using their smart-phones or a paper planner.  Students who employ these time management skills, have communicated greater confidence in their ability to complete their work, are more likely to have their assignments completed before the deadline, and have seen significant improvement in their overall achievement.  A study of low-income students found that almost half of low-achieving students were confused about how much time it would take to get their homework done (Bempechat, Li, Neier, Gillis, & Holloway, 2011).  As one of my students stated, “I think I have too much to do, so I don’t even bother trying.”  Once she started using the simple time management strategy, her achievement in school and attitude towards homework increased. 

Why Bother? The Cycle of Indifference

Bempechat et al. (2011), found that teachers who did not hold high standards for homework or rarely assigned it communicated to the students that it was not important.  This attitude was picked up on by the students who chose not to do their homework.  I have heard from several teachers that they do not assign homework because it is not being completed.  I wonder if the reason for the lack of completion is that teachers have communicated that the homework is not important. 

What Works in the Classroom also Works at Home

The same engagement strategies that are used in the classroom apply to homework as well.  The power of collaborative learning and providing meaningful learning seem to be lost when learning takes place at the kitchen table.  Students who do not see value in the work that they are doing are not motivated to complete it (Bempechat et al., 2011).  While it does not replace the power of going to a friend’s house to work on an assignment, online programs offer many opportunities for collaborative learning.  Through using technology like Google Docs students can work collaboratively on assignments in a real-time environment.  Learning at home still has a social component.  

Applying Technology in New Ways

A new study offers an interesting way of providing homework that seems to have promising applications.  The study implemented the following practices in delivering homework:

1. Repeated retrieval practice – In addition to receiving the standard homework assignment, students were given follow-up problems on the same topic in two additional assignments that counted only toward their course participation grade.

2. Spacing -- Rather than giving all the problem sets for a week's lectures in one assignment, the researchers spaced the problems over three weeks of assignments.

3. Feedback -- Rather than waiting one week to learn how they did, students received immediate feedback on intervention homework, and they were required to view the feedback to get credit for the assignment.  (Ruth, 2014, para. 6).

The result of this implementation of homework was a 7% increase in the scores of students (Ruth, 2014).  This follows with what educators are taught about the power of feedback on learning.  One of the particularly interesting components of this work was the requirement of students to read the feedback that the instructors provide.  Placing importance on feedback and then providing students with the opportunity to implement what they have learned is not new to education; however, this study demonstrates, that technology could enhance feedback.  

Many electronic learning environments can be utilized in this manner.  For example, Moodle is a highly developed open source environment that can support this type of learning.  The developers at Kaizena provides the ability to include the teacher's audio feedback in a Google Doc  (see: https://kaizena.com/).  
Kaizena provides a good explanation of how to provide effective feedback using their application.


It is easy to forget that many of our students do not have the self-management skills to successfully complete their homework. We need to provide instruction in this area. Furthermore if teachers do not communicate the importance of completing homework to students then students will not see the value of doing it themselves. The nature of learning does not change because it happens at home the instructional techniques that work in class also work at home. Finally there are many applications of technology that can support collaborative learning in the classroom.

Bempechat, J., Li, J., Neier, S. M., Gillis, C. A., & Holloway, S. D. (2011). The homework experience: Perceptions of low-income youth. Journal of Advanced Academics, 22(2), 250-278. 

Ruth, D. (2014). Rice study: Simple changes to homework improved student learning. EurekAlert!, Retrieved from http://news.rice.edu