Date of Award

2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Marion Milton

Second Advisor

Colin Kenworthy

Abstract

Remedial EngIish education has long focused on the development of students reading and writing skills, but research suggests that greater emphasis may need to be placed on affective factors such as self-esteem, motivation, attitude and perception. The influence of such 'non-cognitive' factors on any adolescent student's literacy development is often underestimated. For students experiencing difficulties in literacy, the interaction between perceived ability of degree of success in literacy and the affective factors often impact negatively on self-esteem, attitude and motivation. The relationship between self-esteem, attitude, perception, motivation and literacy needs to be explored, especially when dealing with students with literacy difficulties. This study examines the perceptions of lower secondary school students who had been placed in a remedial English program. It examined not only their perceptions of the program, but also their self-concept as readers, the value they place on reading and their motivation to read. The research differs from much of the earlier research by focusing on student perceptions, attitudes, expectations and recommendations rather than on teacher evaluation• or the effectiveness of remedial programs. The case study research was conducted on 24 boys from Years Eight to Ten in an Australian Catholic secondary school. The boys had been the placed in a 'Focus English Program' designed to improve the literacy competencies of students who had difficulties with reading and writing. The case study grew out of the researcher’s concern over the negative effect that placement in the program was having on students in terms of self-esteem, attitude, motivation and achievement. The negative effect on student achievement was noticeable particular for those who had been in the program for .an extended period of time. A comparison was needed of the perceptions and attitudes of Year Ten boys, who had been in the program for more than two years, with the perceptions of Year Eight and Year Nine students, who had been in the program for less than two years and who bad also taken part in a Self-Esteem Development Program. The research involved two phases. In the first phase of the study two surveys were administered and in the second phase a focus group interview was conducted. The first survey was the Motivation to Read Profile (Gambrell, et al, 1996) which yielded scores on two measures: Value of Reading and Self-Concept as a Reader. The second was a researcher-designed Perceptions Survey in which participants were asked to express their views about the Focus English Program. This survey examined student attitudes towards reading benefits and disadvantages of the Focus English Program, peer influences and recommendations for change. The second phase of the study involved the random selections of two students from each of the year groups participating in the study. These students then took part in a focus group which discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the Focus English Program, academic achievement parental attitudes and the issues students faced as a result of placement in the program. Results indicated that participants had strong opinions regarding the Focus English Program. All participants identified a number of advantages and disadvantages and aspects they believed were in need of change. The responses indicated that the Year Ten students were negatively affected by the program as they provided a number of strongly negative opinions, while the Year Eight and Nine students provided more balanced perspectives and identified a number benefits and disadvantages. Overall, the findings revealed the Year Ten group was extremely negative in terms of perceptions of themselves as learners and of the Focus English Program. Conversely, the Year Eight and Nine students were more positive and displayed a greater awareness of their difficulties and reasons for their placement in the Focus English Program. The findings suggest the Self-Esteem Development Program played a positive role in the achievement and attitude of students; and that students may become more negative if kept in a remedial program for a number of years. The findings also highlighted a need to re-examine curriculum and in particular the type of curriculum presented to remedial students. Participants indicated the need for more visual elements to be integrated into the curriculum as well as more choice in the types of materials assigned. The study highlights the importance of student perceptions and the influential role self-esteem, attitude and motivation play in learning. It argues that the Self-Esteem Development Program should be continued. It suggests that it would be improved by the introduction of a more consistent behaviour management program and that motivation would be improved by the provision of more computers for student use, more reading materials based on students’ interests, increased use of films and videos in the classroom, and more class excursions. It also recommends more targeted in-service programs for teachers dealing with Focus classes.

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