Elementary education is one of the most important stages of schooling today. This is so because this level of education provides students with important basis points that they can use throughout their lives, not only during their secondary and tertiary education, but also in their adult lives and the workplace. Hence, ensuring a top level of achievement at the elementary level is highly important.
The challenge is, however, that research has not conclusively suggested strategies that can ensure a top level of student achievement at this level. Although much research has focused on student achievement in general, few have focused particularly on the elementary level. Literature investigated for this study suggests that various areas of focus can be investigated for their influence on student achievement at the elementary level. These include teacher qualifications, school size, teacher-student relationships, student-student relationships, and teacher relationships with school leaders such as principals.
There are certain assumptions that are connected to the above factors. Teacher qualification, for example, can be assumed to be important in effectively providing instruction to elementary level learners. School size and class size, on the other hand, is often assumed to detrimentally influence the performance of learners, with bigger schools and classes being less beneficial than smaller sized ones. Good relationships among students and teachers, again, would leader to better performance.
This leads to the idea of collaboration. Student collaboration as a method of instruction has enjoyed significant research attention, as will be suggested in the review of literature. Again, little has been done to focus specifically on collaboration at the elementary level. Nevertheless, research results appear relatively consistent regarding the benefits of this type of classroom management method.
The literature suggests various factors that might influence the effectiveness of elementary education in terms of student achievement, including educator perspectives and relationships, school size, teacher qualifications, and cooperative learning. It is suggested that cooperative learning provides the most flexible and most easily controlled factor to affect student achievement at the elementary level, although the other factors should also enjoy research attention.
Review of the Literature
The literature is investigated to determine the results of research focusing on factors that may influence student achievement at the elementary level, including teacher perspectives and relationships, school size, teacher qualifications and cooperative learning.
Butcher (2014) structures his investigation around teacher perspectives and how these affect school goals. Lion Elementary was the school chosen for the investigation. Identifying the similarities and differences in the perspectives regarding school goals held by teachers and principals were the aim of the investigation.
A hermeneutical phenomenological approach was applied for the research. A population of 19 educators and one principal and Lion Elementary School was included I the study. Data were collected from transcribed semi-structured interviews, audiovisual material, and written documents. Analysis was conducted by means of hand-coding, constant-comparative analysis, and phenomenological reductionism. According to Butcher (2014), perception often acts as a basis for interaction in the school setting, which makes this an important phenomenon in the quality of the learning process.
The study was conducted to compare the ways in which teachers and the principal, respectively, perceived the importance of school goals. Specifically, the focus was on determining the level of alignment between the perspectives of the teachers and principal.
Bucher found a high level of alignment I the areas of safety, data-driven goals, individualized learning, and the necessity of instructional support and funding. Some misalignment was found where teachers focused on a positive school climate, safety, and the view of teachers as professionals. Teachers were concerned with the importance of more time, collaboration, clarity, and voice. The principal's focus, on the other hand, was on factors such as the necessity of change in terms of focus and attitude on the part of teachers.
Possible reasons for the found similarities were identified as communication and media coverage in the school district. It was concluded that misalignment was connected to the perception of goal importance and prioritization. The perspectives of teachers, for example, focus on experiences that relate to the classroom, while principals tend to focus on the wider overall school environment in relation to the environments of other schools.
Although the study was somewhat limited in terms of focusing on the personnel of only one school, it nevertheless provides important material for consideration when it comes to student achievement at the elementary level. Perspectives, goals, and priorities should be as aligned as possible in order to ensure that all students achieve their highest potential of achievement.
Butcher's study therefore has important implications for leadership at schools. Principals should ensure effective communication with their employees in order to ensure that there is an alignment of as many perspectives as possible for the benefit of student performance. Teaching and learning are a social process; this is also true of leadership.
Another factor that could have significant implications for goal setting and student performance is school size, as investigated by Jones and Ezeife (2011), Egalite and Kisida (2013). For their study, Jones and Ezeife included 541 schools from ten school boards in Canada, with data obtained fromteh Ontario provincial standardized test.
The findings suggested some correlation in certain areas. There was a significant correlation between Grade three writing and Grade six reading, writing and mathematics and school size, where larger school sizes were positively correlated with higher levels of achievement. This is somewhat counter-intuitive in terms of the assumption mentioned above, that a smaller school and classroom size would mean more individualized teacher attention and therefore a higher level of achievement. It is possible that larger schools attract a higher quality of educator and that this, rather than school size per se, may be the deciding factor in student performance. One limitation of Jones and Ezeife's study is that only school size was investigated as a potential influencing factor for student performance. This could provide valuable material for additional study that focuses on student performance.
While larger school sizes for this study appears to have had a positive impact on student performance, it is interesting to find that other studies, like the one by Egalite and Kisida (2013), indicated the opposite. These authors found a consistently negative impact when it comes to large school sizes and student performance.
The study found the same negative correlation for both elementary and secondary levels, particularly in terms of reading and mathematics. Since these two areas are important indicators of future achievement for children, it is highly important to further investigate the effects of school size on student performance.
The authors investigated further factors that could relate to school size and student performance, including teacher motivation, teacher experience, and classroom atmosphere. The study therefore offers important material for future studies that relate to school sizes and student performance, as well as offering supplemental material for the study by Jones and Ezeife.
Studies like these are highly important for both educators and policymakers; in order to ensure a higher level of student achievement, schools need to be set up in a way that would encourage better performance. The fact that there is some disagreement among findings indicates that more focused studies are needed to determine the specific factors that correlate with school sizes to influence student performance.
Teacher qualification, as investigated by Buddin and Zamarro (2009), may well be such a factor. The findings of this study are also interesting, in terms of little correlation being revealed between measurable teacher qualifications in general and student performance. On the other hand, the authors did find significant differences between students who were taught by different individual teachers. As a future area of study, it may be valuable to attempt identification of common traits among teachers for whom students perform at a higher level than others. Indeed, the article acknowledges that little evidence has been found of such common factors, suggesting that more investigation may be needed in this area.
Like the first study on school size, this study also offers counter-intuitive results, where a higher level of qualification does not necessarily correlate with higher levels of achievement. In spite of its lack of conclusive results, the study offers many areas of future study. The human factor in the teaching profession is one such area of potential study. Teacher motivation, for example, and the influence of qualification level on this.
Another factor that could influence student achievement and the teacher's role in this is classroom strategy such as collaboration. A study by Bancroft (2010) made an elaborate inquiry into this factor. According to the author, this method has been in use and subject to research since the 1980s. However, little research attention has been paid to collaboration within primary school settings.
Collaborative learning has several benefits, both within and beyond the classroom. It provides children with the ability to recognize and value interpersonal difference, for example. In a group setting, these differences can be used as a strength rather than a weakness in order to achieve group-determined goals for the completion of a project.…