Author(s)

Barbara Horner

Date Approved

9-14-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ed.D. Educational Leadership

Department

Educational Leadership

College

College of Education

First Advisor

Doolittle, Virginia

Subject(s)

Interdisciplinary approach in education

Disciplines

Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration

Abstract

Most students, including at-risk students, enter school engaged in the process and eager to learn, like school, and comply with school routines (Alexander, Entwisle, & Horsey, 1997; Nystrand & Gamoran, 1991). Over time students' interest in school declines and they fail to connect within the school context and curriculum (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004). Disconnected and disinterested students exhibit off-task behaviors and apathetic attitudes toward school, which often result in student disengagement. The effects of disengagement manifest in the form of poor academic achievement, disciplinary problems, and poor attendance records (Lee & Smith, 1995; Miller, Leinhardt, & Zigmond, 1988). Research indicates that teaching and presenting material in isolation of other subject areas contributes to student disengagement (Guthrie, Alao, & Rinehart, 1997; Meece, Blumenfeld, & Hoyle, 1988). Restructuring and designing curricula around the needs of students rather than making students fit the curriculum, improves engagement levels and achievement rates. Integrated curricula containing real-world connections, self-directed learning, and strategy instruction heighten intellectual engagement (Guthrie et al., 1997; Meece et al., 1988). Moreover, curricula need to be developed to provide opportunities for collaboration among teachers as well as students. The benefits of student collaboration exist across the curriculum. Research indicates that participation in group projects promotes students' academic achievement, persistence in school, and positive attitudes toward learning (Colbeck, Campbell, & Bjorklund, 2000; Springer, Stanne, & Donovan, 1997). Student collaboration ensures engagement and creates positive experiences and outcomes. This study examined the role cross-disciplinary projects play on influencing student engagement practices in the Eberhardt School District in Southern New Jersey. My research purpose was accomplished through action research methods. The study was completed in four cycles that began by interviewing the 8th grade academic and special area teachers in the Holloway Middle School. In addition to the interview, the teachers completed the Teachers' Sense of Efficacy Scale (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001). Data collected were utilized to establish a starting point and influence subsequent cycles of the study.

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