Research Base

Three prominent bodies of research inform the work of PLACES. Scholarship in place-based learning and teaching speaks to place as an important starting place for organizing curriculum that increases student motivation and achievement. Additionally, research on developmental assets reminds us that if children are to thrive and grow, they must have access to opportunities and experiences that develop internal and external assets. Finally, research on the brain and learning and the use of the arts for leveraging brain-friendly, brain-enhancing learning experiences runs through the work of PLACES.

 

Place-Based  ||  Developmental Assets  ||  Brain-Based Learning & The Arts

 

Place-Based

In a report that documented the perception of drop-outs, nearly half (47 percent) of those students who had dropped out said a major reason for doing so was that classes were uninteresting and reported being bored and disengaged from school (Bridgeland, DiIulio, Morison, 2006). This included students with high GPA's. The educational experiences of Native Hawaiian children and other minority children are often marked by incongruity and conflict between the school culture and family/community/ethnic culture making school less relevant and engaging for them. PLACES draws from several bodies of scholarship and research in constructing a more engaging, culturally responsive approach to curriculum called a Place-based, Cultural Projects (PBCP) approach. In taking up a Place-based, Cultural Projects curriculum, PLACES draws from a number of important areas of research on place-based and project learning, in general, and the education of historically marginalized children and Native Hawaiian children, in particular.

 

Place-Based, Project-Based Learning

One of the most promising curricular theories and practices in recent research and scholarship has been that of place-based curriculum (Gruenewald, 2003; 2008; Smith, 2002; Yamauchi, 2003; Yamauchi, Wyatt & Taum, 2005). A hallmark of place-based learning is that the curriculum adapts to the unique characteristics of particular communities, thus overcoming the incongruence between school and children's lives (Smith, 2002) and uses the natural and cultural history of the community as the foundation for the curriculum. As both teachers and children become 'students of place' they can begin to overcome sociocultural differences and find common ground. For instance, Lieberman and Hoody (1998) found that place-based learning resulted in better working relationship between teachers and their students and colleagues, helping them become learning and teaching teams who were focused on common objectives.

 

Place-based learning draws from a long history of research on the positive impact of project-based approaches in general. In reviewing the literature on active, inquiry-based approaches Barron & Darling-Hammond (2008) maintain that, studies that, "students learn more deeply when they can apply classroom-gathered knowledge to real-world problems, and when they take part in projects that require sustained engagement and collaboration" and that, "active-learning practices have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable, including student background and prior achievement" (The Take Away Section).

 

Thomas'(2000) review of the research on project-based learning approaches indicate that such approaches demonstrate marked increases in student achievement on standardized assessments. For instance, in Expeditionary Learning (EL) Outward Bound schools in Iowa which employ a project-based approach, the EL schools moved from well-below the district average to at-district average and well-above the district average in two years. In Boston, when given the Stanford 9 Open Ended Reading Assessment, inner-city eighth-grade students in an EL school received the second highest scores in the district, behind only the exclusive Boston Latin School (ELOB, 1997, 1999, cited in Smith, 2000). Other studies reviewed by Smith demonstrated that project-based approaches resulted in greater conceptual gains in math (Boaler, 1998, cited in Thomas), enhanced problem-solving skills, metacognitive strategies, and enhanced attitudes towards learning (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992, cited in Thomas), and increased motivation in students in third, fifth, and tenth grade students who were identified as having low motivation (Bartscher, Gould, & Nutter, 1995, cited in Thomas, 2000).

 

Culturally Responsive Teaching. Best practices among successful teachers of Native Hawaiian students are culturally responsive drawing upon children's lives (Meyer, 1998), communicative styles and learning strengths, (Au, 1980, Au & Mason, 1981, 1983; Vogt, Jordan & Tharpe, 1987) and identity affiliations (Reed, 2001). The place-based, cultural-project approach (PBCP) used in PLACES situates learning in what is significant to children within culturally responsive pedagogies. This approach begins with children's lives and communities, using place or the environment as the integrating context across disciplines and doing so with an awareness of children's cultural learning strengths and needs. Place-based learning itself is particularly culturally responsive in this context as such an approach is often connected to the environment. Hawaiian culture evolved in close relationship with the 'āina or land and with island geography (Kame'eleihiwa, 1992; Kana'iaupuni, Malone, and Ishibashi, 2005). Thus, indigenous Hawaiian scholars emphasize the particular significance of place and identity (Kame'eleihiwa, 1992; Kana'iaupuni & Malone, 2006) arguing that indigenous knowledge systems view people and place as overlapping and interacting and that people carry the energy of places as part of their being (Memmott and Long, 2002). Given the deep and spiritual connection of 'ohana (family) and 'āina (land, or 'that which feeds us') in Hawaiian culture and epistemology, the land and the community become a natural starting point for curriculum. The expertise of the küpuna (elders) is a critical link within this learning process (Kana'iaupuni, 2005). 'Ike 'Aina, a form of place-based learning (Ho'omanawanui, 2009) can be seen as an approach to, "cultivating culturally based literacy learning" (p. 1) for Hawaiian and non-native children alike.

Place-based, cultural projects, like other project-based approaches, are experience-based and draw from authentic sociocultural activities which Kawakami and Aton (2001) have demonstrated are very significant to Native Hawaiian children. They and other Hawaiian scholars (Meyers, 1998) maintain that, when what the students learn is concrete, when it is apparent and important in their communities, and when it is of direct significance to their lives, families, and communities, children are more likely to engage with the learning and benefit from the experience. PBCP's focus on these aspects or learning conditions, connecting children in PLACES to what is important within their community through the engagement of community members and the küpuna (elders) within projects that place active, hands-on learning in authentic contexts at the center.

References | Back to Top

 

Developmental Assets

The concept of wrap around support has gained important traction in educational research and scholarship as projects like the Harlem Children's Zone (Tough, 2008) and The Developmental Asset Framework (Benson, 2006) have found their way into federal grants such as the Promise Neighborhood Grants Program. It's clear from this work that comprehensive strategies and broad, community-based efforts to are needed to successfully impact and transform the social contexts in which children grow and develop and that it takes collective attempts to work on the behalf of children and toward the goal of boosting academic achievement and school success.

 

In developing a broad-based, community effort to provide support for children across multiple contexts within their lives, PLACES draws from the research that explores the ecologies that promote health and success in young people (e.g. Anderman, Urder, & Roeser, 2005; Barber, 2005; Barber, Stone, & Eccles, 2005; McNeely, 2005) and that focuses on the development of assets within these ecological contexts rather than on fixing deficits in children. PLACES uses a Developmental Asset approach (Benson, 2006) which is aimed at "transforming the developmental contexts in which young people are embedded" (Benson, 2006, p.10) through the intentional and sustained development and delivery of a framework of assets connected to healthy behaviors in children and adolescents. This framework of assets is divided into external and internal assets and is the result of a synthesis of more than eight hundred studies related to the kinds of assets important for children's healthy development (Benson, 2006; Scales & Leffert, 2004). External assets are clustered under the general areas of support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations and constructive use of time. Internal assets are clustered under the general areas of positive values, commitment to learning, social competencies, and positive identity. Longitudinal and large-scale research demonstrates that the more assets children have in their lives, the greater the likelihood that they will avoid high risk behavior (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, vandalism, violence, school problems, etc.) and the more likely they are to engage in positive behaviors that lead to engagement in school, increased academic achievement, leadership, and maintaining good health (Search Institute, 2003, p. 81).

 

PLACES leverages school-based and community-based resources in order to organize and deliver a set of experiences that wraps support around children in order to deliver these assets. This wrap around structure is aimed at touching upon and transforming multiple aspects of their daily lives both in and out of school and increasing the time children spend in a diverse range of learning experiences from 30 hours a week to as much as 45 hours a week.

References | Back to Top

 

Brain-Based Learning and The Arts

PLACES draws theoretically and empirically from research on the brain, learning, and the arts in the aim to increase the quantity and quality of opportunities for children to participate in the arts, music, sports, and other creative activities both in and out of school. Research on the brain and learning points to the connections to brain development, contexts for optimal learning, academic capacity and the arts. For instance, Jenson (2001, 2005, 2010) synthesizes research on the brain and learning in order to develop new ways of thinking about optimal teaching and learning. He maintains that in order for children to thrive in schools and learn at an optimal level, they must have a well-developed academic operating system which includes among other parts:

 

  • Ability to defer gratification and make sustained effort to meet long-term goals.

  • Auditory, visual, and tactile processing skills.

  • Attentional skills that enable the student to engage, focus, and disengage as needed.

  • Short-term and working memory capacity.

  • Sequencing skills (knowing the order of a process).

  • A champion's mind-set and confidence (Jensen, 2010, p. 55).

 

It is not necessary to have a perfect operating system, but the better functioning the system, the more likely there will be high levels of learning. Out of the kinds of experiences that actually improve this system, experiences within the arts have been shown to have a consistently positive impact. Jenson (2010) maintains that a good arts program physically changes the brain and this is supported by neuroscientists who have studied the impact of participation in the arts, particularly in music, on the brain. For instance, learning how to play an instrument actually changes brain mass and can drive cortical plasticity – or changes in the brain in a very short amount of time (Hyde et al. 2009; Moreno, et. al 2009).

 

Music is the best studied of the arts. Johnson and Memmot (2006) found that, regardless of socioeconomic status of the school or district, students in high-quality school music programs scored higher on standardized tests compared than their counterparts in schools with poor music education programs. These students scored 22% better in English and 20% better in math than students in low-quality programs. In general they found that students who were in schools with strong music programs across the country scored higher in math and English than those in schools with low quality programs and that even students within a low quality program out-performed their peers who had no music instruction at all.

 

Other studies demonstrate that engagement with the arts; music, drama, creative projects and sports have a profound impact on educational performance. For instance, an analysis of 25,000 students from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey Large indicated that students with high levels of arts participation outperform 'arts-poor' students on virtually every measure and that high arts participation makes a more significant difference to low-income students than to high-income students (Catterall, Chapleau & Iwanaga, 1999). In an executive summary by Harvard Project Zero, a meta-analysis of 80 studies linked to the drama and achievement indicated that when drama was used as a way of enacting demonstrated, such an approach not only supported children's verbal skills with the enacted text but with new texts as well showing that, engagement with drama helps build verbal skills across new contexts and materials.

 

Finally, in a three year study by a consortium of universities funded by The Dana Foundation, research indicated among other things, that:

 

  • Training in acting appears to lead to memory improvement through the learning of general skills for manipulating semantic information.

  • Specific links exist between high levels of music training and the ability to manipulate information in both working and long-term memory; these links extend beyond the domain of music training.

  • An interest in a performing art leads to a high state of motivation that produces the sustained attention necessary to improve performance and the training of attention that leads to improvement in other domains of cognition (p. v).

 

This last point is supported by Spelke (2010) who also contend that training in the arts in young children resulted in improved attention, thereby leading to cognitive improvements in other areas, including math and science.

References | Back to Top

 

 

References

Placed-Based References

  • Au, K.H. (2001, July/August). Culturally responsive instruction as a dimension of new literacies. Reading Online, 5(1).

  • Au, K.H., & Mason, J.M. (1981). Social organizational factors in learning of reading: The balance of rights hypothesis. Reading Research Quarterly, 17(1), 115-152.

  • Au, K.H., & Mason, J.M. (1983). Cultural congruence in classroom participation structures: Achieving a balance of rights. Discourse Processes, 6, 145-167.

  • Barron, B. & Darling-Hammond, L. (2008). Powerful learning: Studies show deep understanding derives from collaborative methods Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/inquiryproject-learning-research

  • Kana'iaupuni, S. M. (2004). Identity and diversity in contemporary Hawaiian families: Ho'i hou i ka iwi kuamo'o. Hülili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well-Being, 1(1), 53 – 71.

  • Kana'iaupuni, S. M. & Malone, (2006). This land is my land: The role of place in native Hawaiian identity. Hülili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well-Being, 3(1), 282 – 307.

  • Kana'iaupuni, S. M. (2005). Ka'akalai ku kanaka: A call for strengths-based approaches from a native Hawaiian perspective. Educational Researcher, 34(5), 32-38.

  • Kana`iaupuni, S.K., N. Malone, and K. Ishibashi. (2005). Ka huaka`i: 2005 Native Hawaiian educational assessment. Honolulu, HI: Kamehameha Schools, Pauahi Publications.

  • Kawakami, A. J. & Aton, K.K. (2001). Ke a'o Hawai'i/critical elements of Hawaiian learning: Perceptions of successful Hawaiian educators. Pacific Educational Research Journal,11(1), 53 – 66.

  • Meyer, M. A. (1998). Native Hawaiian epistemology: Sites of empowerment and resistance. Equity & Excellence in Education 31(1), 22 – 28.

  • Reed, G. (2001). Fastening and unfastening identity. Negotiating identities in Hawaii. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 22 (3), 327-339.

  • Thomas, J. W. (2000). A review of research on project-based learning. Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/research/study/review_of_project_based_learning_2000

  • Vogt, L. A., Jordan, C., and Tharp, R. G. (1987). Explaining school failure, producing school success: Two cases. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 18, 276-286.

  • Yamauchi, L. A. (2003). Making school relevant for at-risk students: The Wai'anae High School Hawaiian Studies Program. Journal of Education for Students Place At-Risk, 8(4), 379 – 390.

  • Yamauchi, L. A., Wyatt, T. R., & Taum, A.H. (2005). Making meaning: Connecting school to Hawaiian students' lives. Hulili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well-Being, 2(1), 171 -188.

 

 

Developmental Assets References

  • Anderman, E., Urdan, T., & Roeser, R. (2005). The patterns of adaptive learning survey. In, K.A. Moore & L.H. Lipmann, (Eds.), What do children need to flourish? (pp. 223-236). NY: Springer.

  • Barber, B., Stone, M. Eccles, J. (2005). Adolescent participation in organized activities. In, K.A. Moore & L.H. Lipmann, (Eds.), What do children need to flourish? (pp. 133-146). NY: Springer.

  • Barber, B. (2005). Positive interpersonal and intrapersonal functioning: An assessment of measures among adolescents. In, K.A. Moore & L.H. Lipmann, (Eds.), What do children need to flourish? (pp. 147-162). NY: Springer.

  • Benson, P. (2006). All kids are our kids. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

  • Benson, P.L., Scales, P.C., Hamilton, S.F., & Sesma, A., Jr. (2006). Positive youth development: Theory, research, and applications. In W.W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (pp. 894-941). NY: Wiley.

  • McNeely, C. (2005). Connection to school. In, K.A. Moore & L.H. Lipmann, (Eds.), What do children need to flourish? (pp. 289-304). NY: Springer.

  • Moore, K.A. & Lipmann, L. H. (2005). What do children need to flourish? NY: Springer.

  • Scales, P. C. & Leffert, N. (2004). Developmental assets: A synthesis of the scientific research on adolescent development (2nd Edition). Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute Press.

  • Search Institute (2003). Boosting student achievement: New research on the power of developmental assets. Insights & Evidence, 1(1), 1-10.

 

 

Brain-based Learning and The Arts References

  • Catterall, J. S., Chapleau, R., & Iwanaga, J. (1999). Involvement in the arts and human development: General involvement and intensive involvement in music and theatre arts. In E.B. Fiske (Ed.), Champions of change: The impact of the arts in learning (pp. 48-62). Washington, DC: Arts Education Partnership.

  • Gazzaniga, M. (2008). Learning, Arts and the Brain: The Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition. NY/Washington DC: Dana Press.

  • Jenson, E. (2009). Teaching with poverty in mind: What being poor does to kids' brains and what schools can do about it. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

  • Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

  • Jensen, E. (2001). Arts with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

  • Hyde, K., Lerch, J., Norton, A., Forgeard, M., Winner, E., Evans, A., et al. (2009). Musical training shapes structural brain development. The Journal of Neuroscience, 29(10), 3019-3025.

  • Johnson, C., & Memmott, J. (2006). Examination of relationships between participation in school music programs of differing quality and standardized test results. Journal of Research in Music Education, 54(4), 293-307.

  • Moreno S, Marques C, Santos A, Santos M, Castro SL, Besson M. (2009). Musical training influences linguistic abilities in 8-year-old children: more evidence for brain plasticity. Cereb Cortex, 19(3), 712-23.

  • Spelke, ES. 2008. Effects of music instruction on developing cognitive systems at the foundations of mathematics and science. Learning, Arts and the Brain: The Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition. NY/Washington DC: Dana Press.

  • Winner, E., & Hetland, L. (2001). The arts and academic achievement: What the evidence shows. Arts Education Policy Review, 102(5), 3-6.p.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Student Equity, Excellence & Diversity (SEED)

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Honolulu, HI 96822

Place-based Learning And Community Engagement in School (PLACES)