AN EXAMINATION OF THE IMPACT OF POSITIVE NORMATIVE CULTURE AND INTENTIONAL POSITIVE PEER INFLUENCE ON STUDENT ATTITUDES, POSITIVE BEHAVIORS, AND ACHIEVEMENT IN READING AND MATH
Guajardo Barrow, Julia
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The purpose of this mixed methods case study was to examine the impact positive normative culture and intentional positive peer influence have within a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) on students’ attitudes toward schooling, positive behaviors, and achievement in reading and math as measured by Plato FASTRACK, a skills-assessment courseware that determines a grade-level equivalency for individual students. Positive normative culture refers to a positive culture in which norms define standards of conduct that are enforced by the influence of the peer group, negative behavior is confronted, and positive behavior is reinforced. Intentional positive peer influence is the empowerment of students to fully participate in their peer group, influence their peers as they adopt desired behaviors, and monitor their own behavior as well as that of their peers. The population for this study included teachers, administrators, and staff of a DAEP and students referred to the DAEP in a large, urban setting for violation of the Code of Student Conduct. Thirty students participated in an administration of a school attitudinal pre- and post- survey and in focus groups; twenty teachers, administrators, and other staff participated in focus groups; the pre- and post- reading and math achievement data of 1060 students were analyzed; and, the attendance and behavior rating data trends of thirty students were utilized for this study. This study was conducted in three phases. (1) Paired t-tests and Pearson Chi Square tests were conducted to determine statistically significant differences and “goodness of fit” between the pre- and post administrations of the school attitudinal surveys. (2) Focus groups were transcribed and circular analysis was conducted to identify themes of what the participants of the focus groups perceived were critical factors of positive normative culture and intentional positive peer influence. Additionally, a count of the themes identified was made to determine the most prominent themes, or, critical factors. (3) Paired t-tests were conducted to determine if there was a difference between the pre- and post- reading and math achievement levels of students after participation in positive normative culture and intentional positive peer influence. Finally, attendance and behavior rating data trends were compared to identify similarities and differences between students who responded to positive normative culture and intentional positive peer influence and those who did not. Findings from this study indicated that there were statistically significant differences in the area of attitude toward teachers after participation in positive normative culture with intentional positive peer influence, specifically in the area of relating well to teachers and, as a result, liking learning and classes. Results of the focus groups indicated that students perceived the following are critical factors of positive normative culture and intentional positive peer influence: (1) norms serve as a framework for decision-making and developing prosocial behavior; (2) helping staff and peers builds leadership; (3) being in a positive normative culture with intentional positive peer influence helps to increase student success; (4) a caring climate motivates students to do better in school; and (5) referring principals should not give up on students and should give returning students support and a chance to prove that they have improved. Results of the teacher, administrator, and staff focus groups indicated that they perceived the following are critical factors of positive normative culture and intentional positive peer influence: (1) norms provide students with a framework for prosocial behavior; (2) positive normative culture and intentional positive peer influence give students empowerment and accountability; (3) students motivate other students to do well; (4) students respond to sincere caring and consistency; and (5) students need a clean slate and a caring connection during the transition to the home school for continued success. An analysis of Plato FASTRACK reading and math pre- and post- scores of students in attendance for 45 days or more during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years indicated that there were statistically significant differences in reading and math achievement after students participated in positive normative culture and intentional positive peer influence. Finally, the results of an analysis of attendance and behavior ratings trends primarily indicated that students who were not responding to positive normative culture and positive peer influence had a lower attendance rate and behavior rating than students who were responding to positive normative culture and intentional positive peer influence. Implications for school leadership include the need to keep culture in the forefront; consider conditions necessary for learning; clearly identify expected behaviors for all students and staff; provide students with a sense of belonging; provide caring and trusting relationships among students, teachers, staff, and administrators; and, adopt a transition protocol to give students who return from a disciplinary removal an opportunity to “start over” and re-engage successfully in the culture of the referring school.
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