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Journal of Educational Psychology

Journal of Educational Psychology

  • Pre-K classroom-economic composition and children’s early academic development.
    There are currently 2 principal models of publicly funded prekindergarten programs (pre-K): targeted pre-K, which is means-tested, and universal pre-K. These programs often differ in terms of the economic characteristics of the preschoolers enrolled. Studies have documented links between individual achievement in school-age children and the economic composition of classroom peers, but little research has revealed whether these associations hold in pre-K classrooms. Using data from 2,966 children in 709 pre-K classrooms, we examined whether classroom-economic composition (i.e., average family income, standard deviation of incomes, and percentage of students from low-income households) relates to achievement in preschool. Furthermore, this study investigated whether associations between classroom-economic composition and achievement differed depending on initial academic skill level. Increased economic advantage in pre-K classrooms positively predicted spring achievement. Specifically, increasing aggregate classroom income between $22,500 and $62,500 was related to improvements in math scores. Increases in the proportion of children from low-income households in the classroom were negatively related to both math and literacy and language skills when increases occurred between 52.5% and 72.5% and 25% and 45%, respectively. There was limited evidence that links between classroom-economic composition and achievement differed depending on initial skill level. Results suggest that economically integrated pre-K programs may be more beneficial to preschoolers from low-income households’ achievement than classrooms targeting economically disadvantaged children. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • School transition practices and children’s social and academic adjustment in kindergarten.
    The transition to kindergarten is a critical period for children and families, with successful transitions setting the stage for short- and long-term academic and social success. This study explored the practices used by kindergarten teachers to help ease children’s and families’ transition into primary school (termed “transition practices”), and assessed their relationship to children’s social and academic adjustment to school in a nationally representative sample of children in the United States (N = 4,900). On average, kindergarten teachers engaged in 3 transition practices, with outreach to parents and child or parent classroom visits most common, and structural changes to the school schedule less frequent. Private schools and more experienced teachers engaged in more transition practices, whereas ethnic and racial minority, immigrant, and urban children had teachers who reported fewer practices. Prospective, lagged regression models found that engagement in more types of transition practices was predictive of heightened prosocial behaviors among children, but was not associated with children’s attention or academic outcomes. Examination of specific types of practices found that transition activities geared toward parents were associated with children’s heightened academic skills in kindergarten. These results provide limited evidence to support the “more is better” view of transition practices and instead suggest that specific types of transition practices are linked to particular aspects of children’s functioning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Individual and class norms differentially predict proactive and reactive aggression: A functional analysis.
    Theory and research using a social-information processing framework indicate that reward-focused (proactive) aggression has different social consequences than defense-focused (reactive) aggression. Students use norms that identify expected and socially approved behaviors as guides to their own actions. Differences in social-cognitive processing characteristics and social status linked to each type of aggression may increase the relevance of some normative sources relative to others. This study fills a gap in the literature by examining the contributions of personal beliefs, classroom beliefs, and classroom rates of aggression to future proactive and reactive aggression. During fall and spring, we observed students’ aggression on school playgrounds using a random subsample (n = 254) of consented students from 35 classrooms (Grades 3–6). We calculated classroom rates of proactive and reactive aggression from fall observations. Classroom means for beliefs endorsing retaliation were calculated from surveys of 536 students. Results of multilevel analyses revealed, as hypothesized, that personal beliefs predicted high rates of students’ proactive aggression, but not reactive aggression. Classroom beliefs predicted high rates of students’ reactive but not proactive aggression. Students in classrooms with high rates of fall proactive aggression showed low spring rates of both types of aggression. In contrast, students in classrooms with high rates of fall reactive aggression displayed high spring rates of proactive and reactive aggression. The latter pattern may represent classrooms in which students continue to struggle against status inequities. The discussion examines how inequities may impact intervention efforts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • What happens to the fish’s achievement in a little pond? A simultaneous analysis of class-average achievement effects on achievement and academic self-concept.
    Empirical studies have demonstrated that students who are taught in a group of students with higher average achievement benefit in terms of their achievement. However, there is also evidence showing that being surrounded by high-achieving students has a negative effect on students’ academic self-concept, also known as the big-fish–little-pond effect. In view of the reciprocal relationship between achievement and academic self-concept, the present study aims to scrutinize how the average achievement of a class affects students’ achievement and academic self-concept, and how that, in turn, affects subsequent achievement and academic self-concept. Using a sample of 6,463 seventh-graders from 285 classes in Germany, multilevel path models showed that the class-average achievement at the beginning of the school year positively affected individual achievement in the middle and at the end of the school year, and negative effects on academic self-concept occurred only at the beginning of Grade 7, but not later in the school year. In addition, mediation analyses revealed that the effects of class-average achievement on students’ achievement and academic self-concept at the end of the school year were mediated by midterm achievement, but not by midterm academic self-concept. This pattern was found for mathematics, biology, physics, and English as a foreign language. The results of our study indicate that the consequences for students of belonging to a group of high-achieving students should be analyzed with respect to both academic self-concept and achievement. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Homework and achievement: Using smartpen technology to find the connection.
    There is a long history of research efforts aimed at understanding the relationship between homework activity and academic achievement. While some self-report inventories involving homework activity have been useful for predicting academic performance, self-reported measures may be limited or even problematic. Here, we employ a novel method for accurately measuring students’ homework activity using smartpen technology. Three cohorts of engineering students in an undergraduate statics course used smartpens to complete their homework problems, thus producing records of their work in the form of timestamped digitized pen strokes. Consistent with the time-on-task hypothesis, there was a strong and consistent positive correlation between course grade and time doing homework as measured by smartpen technology (r = .44), but not between course grade and self-reported time doing homework (r = −.16). Consistent with an updated version of the time-on-task hypothesis, there was a strong correlation between measures of the quality of time spent on homework problems (such as the proportion of ink produced for homework within 24 hr of the deadline) and course grade (r = −.32), and between writing activity (such as the total number of pen strokes on homework) and course grade (r = .49). Overall, smartpen technology allowed a fine-grained test of the idea that productive use of homework time is related to course grade. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Benefits of guided self-management of attention on learning accounting.
    This research investigated the effects of 3 instructional design formats on learning introductory accounting. In accordance with cognitive load theory, it was predicted that students who would learn with a guided self-managed instructional design format would outperform students who would learn with a conventional split-attention format or an integrated format on a recall test and a transfer test. In the guided self-management condition students were instructed to reorganize text and diagrams to reduce the need to search the solution steps within the text and match them with corresponding parts of the diagram, thereby freeing cognitive resources for learning. The results of an experiment conducted with 123 undergraduate university students confirmed the hypothesis by consistently demonstrating that students in the guided self-managed condition outperformed students in the integrated and split-attention conditions on the recall and transfer tests. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Learning to read with and without feedback, in and out of context.
    The self-teaching hypothesis posits that enduring orthographic and phonological representations are produced when children independently recode print into speech. However, very little research has examined how children self-teach when initial decoding attempts are weak or ineffective. In this within-participant design, 25 students in Grade 2 learned to read 85 different words in 4 conditions. Words were read in and out of context, with and without feedback. Accuracy rates were recorded throughout 5 training sessions (2 word repetitions per session = 10 repetitions in total). A posttest was administered after a 6-day delay by reinstating the training materials. At the end of training, the highest accuracy scores were observed when children read in context/feedback followed by when they read in isolation/feedback, and then in context/no feedback; the lowest accuracy scores were observed when children read in isolation/no feedback. This pattern remained over the retention period, suggesting that external support from feedback, and top-down support from context, can help create word representations in memory. The results are discussed in relation to the importance of whole-word phonology within self-teaching. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The role of the updating function in solving arithmetic word problems.
    We investigated how the updating function supports the integration process in solving arithmetic word problems. In Experiment 1, we measured reading time, that is, translation and integration times, when undergraduate and graduate students (n = 78) were asked to solve 2 types of problems: those containing only necessary information and those containing extraneous information. The results indicated that participants required more integration time to solve extraneous-information problems than necessary-information problems. However, the higher the updating, the smaller the increment of integration time. In Experiment 2, we investigated whether different problem models were provided by undergraduate and graduate students (n = 73) with different updating functions. Participants executed a lexical-decision task immediately following an integration process. The lexical-decision task comprised 3 conditions: necessary-information word, extraneous-information word, and novel word conditions. The RTs for both necessary- and extraneous-information word conditions were faster than that for the novel word condition. The facilitation amount in an extraneous-information word became weaker as the problem solver’s updating function increased. These results suggest that individuals with a high updating function provide a problem model that maintains only task-relevant information, while those with less-effective updating use an approach that also considers extraneous information. These 2 experiments indicate that updating is an important contributor to the integration process and different updating abilities result in different problem models. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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