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Perceptions of students and educators about academic success and how to promote it

6 June 1997


In this study, I investigated students and educators perceptions of academic success and ways teachers can promote it. I set out to answer three questions: 1) What aspects of a school learning environment can promote academic success? 2) Will effective discipline play a significant role in the creation of a positive learning environment? and 3) Do students and educators agree on the definition of academic success and the factors that contribute to success?

My research into the definition of academic success is based upon the work of Bonnie Benard(1991) on resilient children. The four behaviors she attributes to resilient children provided a useable framework for defining success. These behaviors were: sense of purpose and future, problem solving skills, social competence, and autonomy.

Much of my research into factors that can promote academic success is based upon the theories of James P. Comer(1984), Peter Scales(1992), Jim Fay and David Funk(1995). These educators found that children, and adolescents in particular have specific needs that must be fulfilled. They provide a great deal of useful information for teachers who desire academically successful students.

This study took place in a sub-urban junior high school. Specifically, in a seventh grade math class. The students at this school were from a wide range of economic backgrounds. There was a small percentage of ethnic minorities, however. In order to protect the privacy of the participants in this study, all names of actual people and places have been changed.

Information for this research was gathered through observation and interviews with students who volunteered to be a part of my study. After collecting and analyzing data, I found that students and educators perceive success in a very similar manner. The primary difference was that, while the students described many successful behaviors in terms that agreed with the definition I established, they did not state it as explicitly I did. In addition, they knew that they needed to behave a certain way and do certain things to be successful, but they did not always act that way.

Students in this study reacted positively to the suggestions given by Fay and Funk in their book, Teaching With Love and Logic (1995). Following their advice, I tried two Love and Logic experiments. These two methods I used to promote academic success attend to the needs of adolescents described by Scales(1992). During my study, I successfully avoided power struggles and gave my students the control over their environment they need . by offering them choices about classroom. procedures and assignments.


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