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Creating the Opportunity to Learn

by A. Wade Boykin and Pedro Noguera

Table of Contents

An ASCD Study Guide for Creating the Opportunity to Learn: Moving From Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap

This ASCD Study Guide is designed to enhance your understanding and application of the information contained in Creating the Opportunity to Learn: Moving From Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap, an ASCD book written by A. Wade Boykin and Pedro Noguera and published in September 2011.

You can use the study guide before or after you have read the book or as you finish each chapter. The study questions provided are not meant to cover all aspects of the book but, rather, to address specific ideas that might warrant further reflection.

Most of the questions contained in this study guide are ones you can think about on your own, but you might consider pairing with a colleague or forming a study group with others who have read (or are reading) Creating the Opportunity to Learn: Moving From Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap.

Chapter 1: What Are the Dimensions of the Gap?

  1. What are some of the factors that contribute to the academic achievement gap and its perpetuation over time?
  2. What are some of the dimensions of the achievement gap, and why is it important to understand how these dimensions influence disparities in academic outcomes?
  3. Why is a two-tiered scheme essential for understanding and developing responses to the achievement gap?
  4. How has NCLB influenced both perceptions and manifestations of the achievement gap? In general, has it helped or hindered efforts to eliminate the gap?

Chapter 2: What's Race Got to Do with It?

  1. How have Americans historically understood the relationship between race and intelligence? Why is this history important for understanding how we address the achievement gap today?
  2. What is potentially wrong with attributing differences in academic outcomes to a student's "culture"?
  3. How do stereotypes related to a student's race, class, or gender influence academic outcomes?
  4. In American education, there is a long history of expecting students from different racial, linguistic, or national backgrounds to assimilate to the dominant culture. What are some potential problems with this expectation? What may be problematic about teachers assuming a "color-blind" stance toward their students?

Chapter 3: Engagement

  1. Differentiate between the three types of student engagement depicted in this chapter, and provide concrete examples of each. Do the three types seem equally important in the effort to promote increased learning outcomes?
  2. Does engagement seem like a factor that would be relatively easy to observe and measure in classrooms? How can teachers and/or researchers measure engagement?
  3. How is engagement related to instructional time? Does more instructional time necessarily increase levels of engagement?
  4. Might there be merit in discerning students' avoidance displays separately from their displays of engagement? How do teachers' practices and students' engagement/avoidance displays mutually impact each other?

Chapter 4: Guiding Functions

  1. Describe self-efficacy in your own words. In your opinion, is this just another term for self-esteem or self-concept? Why or why not? How might high levels of self-efficacy have a positive impact on student engagement?
  2. Give specific examples of teaching practices that could raise students' self-efficacy levels. What practices might cause self-efficacy to be lowered?
  3. The notion of self-regulation describes children's ability to do what is appropriate and to refrain from doing what is inappropriate. Compare and contrast self-regulation with self-regulated learning. Is it necessary to make a distinction between these two ideas? Why might enhancing self-regulated learning be particularly important for low-achieving ethnic minority students?
  4. Research indicates that incremental beliefs about one's own ability have positive consequences in terms of student achievement. How can incremental beliefs be promoted in classrooms? Would such promotion be difficult to enact?
  5. In what ways are self-efficacy, self-regulated learning, and incremental beliefs interrelated? In what ways are they distinct from one another?

Chapter 5: Asset-Focused Factors: Interpersonal Relationships

  1. In the discussion of asset-focused factors, what is meant by an asset? Do you believe that a focus on assets has merit in closing academic achievement gaps? Why or why not?
  2. Why might enhancing teacher–student relationship quality be especially important for certain ethnic minority or low-achieving students?
  3. Research indicates that holding high expectations can make a positive difference for certain ethnic minority students. If teachers believe that certain students will not do well, is it still necessary or appropriate for them to convey high expectations for all their students?
  4. What is meant by a goal structure? Although mastery goal classroom structures seem to have great gap-closing promise, is there still a place for performance goal structures? Can these two structure types be integrated? Should they be?
  5. How would the interpersonal factors discussed in this chapter impact student engagement and guiding functions?

Chapter 6: Asset-Focused Factors: Intersubjectivity

  1. Capture the notion of intersubjectivity in your own words. Do you think that emphasizing intersubjectivity has educational merit? Is the successful deployment of this notion in classrooms limited only to certain topics or subject matter? What examples can you use to bolster your position?
  2. Is the notion of meaningful learning akin to a curricular emphasis on real-world problem solving? Justify your position.
  3. How difficult might it be to personalize and differentiate instruction when there are so many different students in a given classroom? Can and should this concern be overcome?
  4. How does the way that culture is depicted in this chapter square with your own prior understanding? Have your views of culture changed as a result of the considerations presented here? Why or why not?
  5. Discuss the promises, perils, and challenges involved with implementing the culture-based strategies presented in this chapter.
  6. What are the professional development implications for the successful delivery of personally meaningful and culturally salient pedagogy?

Chapter 7: Asset-Focused Factors: Information-Processing Quality

  1. Research on working memory and the reduction of cognitive load has been produced in the field of psychology for over forty years. Nevertheless, this achievement-enhancing research has not substantially informed educational practices in U.S. schools. What needs to happen for such work to significantly affect educational practice?
  2. The direct and explicit teaching of effective learning, comprehension, and problem-solving strategies is not widely evident in U.S. schools. Why do you think this is the case?
  3. What is meant by schema in schema-based instruction? How might educators become better prepared to deliver such instruction? How might such an instructional approach have gap-closing consequences?
  4. How might the deployment of information-processing factors help secondary students catch up when they are behind grade level in their academic knowledge and skills?
  5. How would more efficient and effective information processing impact student engagement and guiding functions?

Chapter 8: Why Are Some Schools Making More Progress Than Others?

  1. How do the obstacles and challenges to raising student achievement differ between urban and suburban school districts?
  2. How do you explain the different levels of progress achieved in the Gardenville and Riverview school districts?

Chapter 9: What Can We Do to Close the Gap?

  1. Discuss the policy recommendations presented in this chapter. How relevant are they to your school or district? Could some of these recommendations be introduced in your schools?
  2. With respect to state and federal policy, is it realistic to expect that some of these ideas can ever be implemented? Why or why not?

Creating the Opportunity to Learn: Moving From Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap was written by A. Wade Boykin and Pedro Noguera. This 230-page, 6′ × 9′ book (Stock #107016; ISBN-13: 978-1-4166-1306-0) is available from ASCD for $20.95 (ASCD member) or $27.95 (nonmember). Copyright © 2011 by ASCD. To order a copy, call ASCD at 1-800-933-2723 (in Virginia 1-703-578-9600) and press 2 for the Service Center. Or buy the book from ASCD's Online Store.


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