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During my first year of teaching in upper elementary, I observed, experienced and learned new information about educational practices, research based instruction, and academic disciplines. Through collaborations with other educational professionals and classroom observations, I noticed a deficit in the area of study skills in upper elementary and middle school. Students lack the skills needed to effectively prepare and study for quizzes, tests, and other forms of assessments. Often we are expecting students to study without instructing or showing students study skills and strategies.
When students are told they will have a test, I am immediately met with “What do I need to study?” and “Will there be a study guide?” Another response is “I am going to fail.” Some students are defeated before they even attempt to review past material. Teachers have expressed their desire for all students to receive instruction on study skills prior to middle school. Some teachers are under the impression that students received instruction on study skills prior to middle school. Some teachers are under the impression that students are not working hard enough or lack home support. While this may be true in some cases, I often wonder if students are lacking the executive functioning skills necessary to perform. Some students do well without studying, while others are unsure where to begin. There are some students with learning disabilities and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder ADHD) that struggle with executive functioning. These students would also benefit from study skills instruction.
According to Scruggs et al., (2009), “The results of a meta-analysis indicate that study skills strategies are highly effective for middle and high school students with disabilities (i.e., LD, emotional and behavioral disorders, and mild intellectual disabilities, or a combination of these) in the content areas of science, social studies, and English” (Scruggs, Mastropieri, Berkley, & Graetz, 2009-2010). I believe with explicit instruction of study skills in fifth grade, academic success would improve now and in the future for all students including those with disabilities.
The IRIS Center (2013) states, “As early as in the fourth grade, teachers begin to present many of their lessons in the form of lectures, something that is different from how their students have previously received classroom instruction. This type of content delivery requires students to quickly process information, to identify important
details, to take footnotes, and later to retrieve this information for tests.” With this shift in instruction, students are expected to adapt and receive classroom content without the necessary skills to process information, take effective notes, and retrieve this information for later assessments. Students need instruction in executive functioning such as “processing information, retaining and recalling information, organizing materials and time, using effective learning and study strategies” (IRIS, 2013).
Through this action research plan, my goal is to explicitly teach executive functioning skills and strategies on processing information, recall, organization, time management and self-regulation. My research question is as follows: Will the explicit instruction of study skills to support executive functioning positively impact students on Social Studies assessments?