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Student Research

2015 MAT Masters Research Abstracts

Kit Adams
Visual Thinking Strategies for Visual Literacy

This quantitative research study explored the effects of using Visual Thinking Strategies in the art classroom to teach students visual literacy. Visual literacy is a 21st century skill that, when mastered, enables children to succeed in an increasingly dynamic world. Pre and post test data were analyzed with a paired t-test indicating that Visual Thinking Strategies can effectively facilitate student growth in visual literacy skills. The Visual Thinking Strategies method can teach children to read a visual similar to the way they read a text. The results of this study support the literature and research which suggest that Visual Thinking Strategies is an effective method for raising the level of fluency in visual literacy. 

Paige Chromy
The Effect of Manipulatives on Solving Subtraction Problems

The purpose of this study was to investigate and test how the use math manipulatives affect student’s subtraction test scores. I was motivated to do this study by observing the eagerness with which my students displayed using physical learning material and the mathematic success using manipulatives I had noticed with early childhood students. Data for this research was collected using first grade student’s subtraction testing information. Theories that helped support this study include the stages of learning theory and Cognitive Load Theory. The results of this study did not show enough statistically significant data to support that using math manipulatives improves the subtraction test scores of students.

Diana Ford
The Effectiveness of Using Manipulatives to Solve Addition and Subtraction Word Problems

The current study examines the effectiveness of manipulatives (specifically, unifix cubes) in solving addition and subtraction word problems. This study mitigates reading comprehension concerns in word problems so that math ability can accurately be assessed. The study population consists of 25 children aged 7 – 8 who vary in math ability. After taking a pretest, the students are taught how to use manipulatives correctly, and then they take a posttest. The study reveals that students’ scores statistically improve in solving addition and subtraction word problems after they are taught how to use manipulatives correctly. Furthermore, the results also indicate that 8-year-olds consistently outperform 7-year-olds. The results of this study support previous findings on the effectiveness of using manipulatives in instruction, and suggest that further research is necessary on transferring from manipulatives to creating equations, and eventually solving word problems using mental math.

Victoria Fuller
Vocabulary Instruction with SMART Board in a 1st Grade Classroom: Is direct, whole-group vocabulary instruction with technology an effective method for memorization and retention of word meanings?

In this action research study the aim was to explore the effects of using vocabulary with technology as an instructional method for retention of word meanings for 1st grade students in a Title 1 school. The pool of students was accustomed to learning weekly vocabulary through non-technological direct instruction. The SMART Board was used as the medium of technology in the study. Data collected from paired sample t-tests indicates that the Vocabulary Instruction with Technology technique can be a purposeful instructional method when the objective of the classroom teacher is for retention of word meanings in combination with real-life connections. The results of the study support the literature on whole-group direct vocabulary instruction and suggest that technology can be a key factor in this instructional method. 

Samantha Meese
Movies in Our Minds: Instruction of Visualization as a Comprehension Strategy in the Kindergarten Classroom

The purpose of this action research study was to examine the effect of explicitly teaching visualization as a specific reading comprehension skill on Kindergarten students’ abilities to recall key details from a text. Students participated in a pre-test and a post-test at the beginning and the end of this three-week study. Between the tests, students were given instruction and practice to develop visualization skills. Data analyzed using a paired sample t-test shows that students’ abilities to recall details from a text did improve with the use of the visualization strategy. The results of this study support previous literature in suggesting that teaching specific reading comprehension strategies to primary students is effective.

Haley Montgomery
Story Mapping and Content-Based Vocabulary Acquisition

This research study attempted to analyze the effect of using story mapping to teach content-based vocabulary, as related to Greek mythology. Fourth grade students completed a story map graphic organizer with a supplemental vocabulary section to use in conjunction with myths from Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan. Data collected from paired pre and post assessment scores suggests that story mapping, as part of an overarching unit, is an effective tool to teach vocabulary that relates to a specific context. The results of this study support preexisting research on story mapping in authentic children’s literature and suggest that further exploration of the connection between story mapping and content-based vocabulary acquisition is worthwhile.

Sam Sells
Open Mathematics and its Effect on Conceptual Understanding

This quantitative action research project studies the effects of introducing Open mathematics as an instructional pedagogy to increase the conceptual understanding of fifth grade students who are accustomed to a Closed methodology. Open mathematics emphasizes the need for proof and reasoning to dictate mathematical thinking. This is accomplished via a solve-instruct condition and renewed emphasis on mathematical writing. The initial data collected from paired sample test scores is promising and indicates increased conceptual knowledge. The results of the study warrant further explorations of the efficacy of using Open mathematics to generate conceptual understanding.

Hannah Shapiro
The RAFT Writing Strategy as a Method for Promoting Audience Awareness in Secondary English Students’ Writing

This quantitative, action research study focused on determining if application of the RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) Writing Strategy as a means of interpreting essay prompts is an effective tool for promoting audience awareness in high school juniors’ writing. Analysis of the data collected from the control and experimental groups' pretest and posttest essays indicates that students' audience awareness scores improved following instruction in application of the RAFT writing strategy to understanding prompts. These results support the literature about the effectiveness of RAFT as an adaptable writing instruction strategy and suggest that further research concerning new ways RAFT can be applied in writing instruction would be worthwhile.

Craig Tayman
Directed Self-Instruction in the Secondary Classroom: Does the Use of Social Media as a Teaching Tool Improve Vocabulary in Secondary Students?

This quantitative research study sought to examine the effectiveness of using social media as a technological means to improve students’ vocabulary during the reading of an assigned novel. Data collected from a pre-test and post-test on the whole did not indicate that social media significantly improves comprehension nor recognition of given vocabulary words for students with diverse learning styles and educational backgrounds. However, secondary analysis of the data in this study does indicate that when the social media assignment is actually accomplished by students, vocabulary improvement occurs. While the results of this study do not necessarily support the singular and explicit use of social media as a vocabulary teaching tool, further investigation of the utilization of social media and similar technologies for vocabulary acquisition in the classroom should be pursued.

Raquel Vasquez
Word Choice in Music: A Study to support the interdisciplinary Realm of Music and Literacy

This study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of guided practice of lyric analysis specifically within a sixth grade choir classroom with the purpose of addressing lyric analysis within the context of meeting Common Core literacy standards. Data taken from practice and test scores on student worksheets shows that guided practice to instruct lyric analysis has promise with the direct implication of evaluating student comprehension of the significance of word choice. This initial experiment suggests that further exploration into the use of guided practice as a method for incorporating Common Core literacy standards in the choral classroom is warranted.

Hannah Warner
Peer Assessment in the Secondary English Classroom: How does the Implementation of Peer Assessment Effect Writing Skills?

This quantitative, action research study sought to explore the effects of peer assessment on improving student writing scores.  Three  essential questions were utilized to guide peer assessment along with an "I do. We do. You do." method of teaching.  Analysis of the data collected from students' pretest and posttest essay scores indicates that peer assessment, when coupled with purposeful instruction,  shows promise in improving writing scores.  The results of this study support the literature on the effectiveness of peer assessment for advancing writing skills and suggest that a more formal and regular program of peer assessment might be useful at the secondary level, especially for struggling writers. Further investigation of peer assessment as a tool for enhancing writing skills may be warranted.

Sarah Yankelevitz
Number Talks: Increasing the Ability to Logically Communicate and Reason

The purpose of this quantitative research study was to determine if using the number talks methodology in a kindergarten classroom would have an effect on students’ communication and reasoning skills in application to a grade level content skill they were practicing. The data collected from the paired sample t-test used for this study indicates that the methodology of number talks shows promise as part of a conceptual approach to learning mathematics when verbal communication and purposeful questioning are the explicit goals of the classroom teacher. The results of this study support literature on the use of communication during mathematics instruction and how it positively impacts students’ abilities to reason and conceptually understand mathematical content taught in traditional classroom settings.

2014-15 Education Major Thesis Abstracts

An Evaluative Case Study on the Effectiveness of the Mindset Works® Educator Kit on Changing Different Types of Educators Mindsets

Kara Timken
Colorado College


In a growing body of educational research, the concept of Implicit Theories of Intelligence demonstrates scholars’ attempts to explain different ways to view intelligence and how that may affect academic traits such as motivation and academic success. Based on these theories, psychologist Carol Dweck has created a comprehensive educational program called Mindset Works®, currently in use in schools across the country. Mindset Works® specifically targets teachers with the Mindset Works® Educator Kit, which includes multiple online modules intended to train teachers on how to implement the correct growth mindset in their classrooms. This case study evaluation aimed to assess the effectiveness of the Mindset Works® teacher program on two separate participant groups, elementary teachers and YMCA staff. The study replicated the online Mindset Works® program and administered pre-and post-program questionnaires, measuring how effective the program was at changing participants’ mentality regarding the different types of mindsets present in an academic setting. The findings of this study demonstrated the need for future research to be conducted regarding the role of educators in implicit theories of intelligence. 

Why not teach math conceptually?

Samuel J. Friedman
Colorado College 


The United States falls below the average in mathematics achievement when compared globally to other developed countries (Meyer & Benavot, 2013). The Common Core State Standards were implemented in an effort to combat this problem. Included in these standards is an increased focus on building students’ conceptual understanding during mathematics instruction. In this study, the relationships between teacher self-efficacy for teaching and teacher anxiety towards mathematics were examined in concert with teachers’ beliefs about the effectiveness of conceptual math instruction and their practice of instructing conceptual math. Results indicated no significant trend between teacher sense of self-efficacy and teacher anxiety toward mathematics. However, there were important findings within teacher survey and observation data that suggest teachers are likely ill prepared to teach conceptual mathematics.


Misalignments Between Reported Parent Involvement and Teachers’ Perceptions of Parent Involvement

Chester White
Colorado College


Teachers’ perceptions of parent involvement are often misaligned with parent reports of their involvement. This study aimed to further analyze where discrepancies lie between these two groups and to explain possible reasons for these discrepancies. Data was gathered by giving parents surveys regarding their at-home involvement, as well as their school-general involvement. Teachers were then interviewed using six related items. After the interviews were quantified, correlations were run between teacher interviews and parent surveys. Findings indicate that teachers largely use what they see, such as parents in school and homework completion to make broader, often incorrect, assumptions of what goes on at home. The findings have practical implications for educators.


Professional Versus Temporary: The Effects of Teacher Certification on Student Achievement

J. Jacob Kirksey
Colorado College 


Recent national attention has come to focus on the quality of teacher preparation before entering a classroom. Specifically, the debate on professional versus temporary licensure dominates much of the discourse surrounding teacher quality, arguing that teachers who receive more hours of mentorship and coursework through professional licensure have a more positive impact on student achievement. Additionally, scholars illustrate that years of experience in teaching is a significant indicator of VAM scores related to student achievement, but at times have been unable to unlink this variable from the type of license a teacher possesses. This study examines these questions with Florida achievement data that links teachers’ licensure to their Value-Added Model scores in the 2011-2012 school year. This dataset allows the examination of whether temporarily licensed teachers are as effective as professionally licensed teachers. Through independent sample t-tests and ANOVA analysis, this study finds that temporarily licensed teachers are less effective than their professionally licensed counterparts. VAM outcomes appear to be strongly tied to teacher preparation.


Keywords: Teacher preparation, value-added models, teacher licensure, teacher quality


An Exemplary Education Minor Capstone

Doorways: Stories of Opportunity, Growth, and Change – A Unit for 10 Graders

by Kayleigh Esswein '15

Click title above to download Kayleigh Esswein's capstone. If you use any part of Kayleigh's unit, please email the results to Kris Stanec,

Kayleigh Esswein