Ashtyn Greenstein Final Project!

Ashtyn Greenstein

Educational Psychology Spring 2018

Final Project - Portfolio


This portfolio will act as a lens through my experience researching and applying my research in the areas of student engagement, motivation, adolescent development, and learning theories. As I continued with my research I began to hone in on the area of engagement and attempted to integrate my findings into my lessons and my classroom environment.


Starting out:

I began my journey doing some general research on a reading recommended for the course. Throughout the reading, Seifert, Chapter 7, I was immediately drawn in by how classroom management is directly correlated to engagement in the classroom. Classroom management has been my largest and most noticeable struggle all year and I was (am) desperate to find a remedy to my situation. The more I read this and other articles on the correlation between engagement and classroom management, the more I began to make engagement in the classroom my focus for this course. After I had made this connection through this first article, I thought back to my classes and realized that I had been mainly asking my students to take notes, read, and write and rarely had them complete an interactive activity or perform a science lab. This detriment was due to my fear that my students’ behaviors could not handle these hands-on, interactive activities. My fear then turned into hope as I realized that adding these activities that I feared so much could actually improve my classroom management skills. I then dedicated the rest of my work in this course to discovering and implementing ways to add engagement in my lessons and classroom environment.


What I found:

Through my weeks of observation and research, I made the very important connection that engagement leads to effective classroom management. Students that are engaged and excited to learn will not exhibit “off task behaviors”. My findings from my research were confirmed specifically when I visited Millennium High School and observed multiple science classes. In the Living Environment class I observed, there was a culture of respect and thoughtfulness already created.


After talking to the co-teacher of the class I learned that the students always act this way due to the strict environment instilled by the teacher from the first day of class. Students know that they will get kicked out of class if they are exhibiting any “off task” behavior”. This system works because students do not want to get kicked out of this class! They want to know what activities are going to occur on any given day and their teacher makes class exciting and unpredictable. From this visit, I learned the teacher is constantly engaging her students by introducing new activities and keeping them on their toes. More specifically, the teacher engages almost completely in student centered teaching.


Applying my findings:

Due to my findings on the effectiveness of student-centered teacher, I made a commitment to incorporate engaging, mini labs and activities and put the owness to learn on my students. I realized that my lessons up until a few months ago focused heavily on the teacher (myself) standing at the front of the classroom and doing the thinking for my students. I gave them the information they needed to know and had my students complete low level activities applying the knowledge I told them in class. Making the switch to more student-centered lesson has allowed my students to have a louder voice in my classroom without actually having loud voices. Students who normally have trouble following along in my note-taking and writing intense lessons were able to be engaged and focused in a way I had not witnessed before. My “trouble students” engaged in less incidents as they were actually able to complete the work put in front of them. Student-centered activities not only allows students to engage in hands on learning, but also taps into different strengths and weaknesses that cannot be accessed through other styles of lesson, such as note-taking or writing activities.


Evidence and data:

Below are samples of my work that demonstrate how I applied my research of student-centered lesson and activities into my own lessons. I am sharing two of my most successful interventions of my research.


My first lesson I adjusted was a review lesson for the upcoming unit test on the Sun, Earth, and Moon systems lesson. The lesson originally was designed in a note-taking setting where I would lead the class through a discussion of the important topics that would appear on the test and students would complete practice problems afterward that would allow them to apply what they know before their test. I adjusted the lesson to make it more student centered by having my students participate in a jigsaw activity, where one student of a partner pair filled out one graphic organizer of a topic of the test and the other student filled out the same graphic organizer but of a different topic on the test. This was a two day lesson to cover all topics on the test. Afterward, students got the opportunity to “teach” their partner about their topic so that both students were knowledgeable about both topics by the end of the class period. Students did this by answering practice questions together on both topics, allowing one student at any time to be the “expert” of their topic. Answers were discussed as a class afterward to ensure there was no misinformation. Students were assigned to fill out the other graphic organizer for homework so that they were equally prepared on all topics of the test. Below is the moon phases graphic organizer used. The four topics were phases of the moon, eclipses, tides, and seasons.



The second lesson was centered around defining Newton’s First Law of Motion through discussion and observing demonstrations. I adjusted this lesson to make it more students centered by having my students complete the demonstrations rather than myself completing them. This adjustment called for more planning, but in the end my students were more engaged in the lesson and really took a hands on approach to defining Newton’s First Law of Motion. The students are organized in rows and each row did one of the three demos prepared. A sample of the worksheet can be found below including the directions for each demo as well as a graphic organizer where students predicted what would occur before each demo and then wrote what actually occurred during each demo and how their demo relates to Newton’s First Law of Motion. Afterward the entire class discussed how their demo relates to Newton’s First Law of Motion. This was specifically engaging because students were able to hear how all demos related to Newton’s First Law of Motion rather than just the demo they completed.


Demonstration groups:

Rows 1 and 2 will do the cup and index card demo.

Row 3 will do the ball rolling demo.

Rows 4 and 5 will do the cup and coin demo.


Before starting your demo, make a prediction for all demos in column one of your graphic organizer.

In your prediction I am looking for you to include:

  • The change that will occur from the original set up of each demo

  • Answers to the prediction questions assigned for each demo (found in the graphic organizer)


See below for the procedure of the demo that you and your partner are completing. Once you are done complete columns 2 and 3 of your graphic organizer.

Cup and Index Card Procedure:

Step 1: Place two red cups, one on top of another, with an index card in between as shown below.



Step 2: Pull the index card quickly from between the two cups allowing the first cup to fall onto the second cup. The end product should look like the picture below.



Step 3: Fill out the 2nd and 3rd column of your graphic organizer.


Ball Rolling Procedure:

Step 1: Pick one partner to roll the ball and one partner to stop the ball.

Step 2: Have the “roll partner” roll the ball down the table.

Step 3: Repeat step 2, but this time have the “stop partner” stop the ball mid way down the lab table.

Step 4: Fill out the 2nd and 3rd column of your graphic organizer.


Cup and Coin Procedure:

Step 1: Place the cup standing upright, place the index card on top of the cup with the coin resting on the index card. This setup should look like the picture below.



Step 2: Slowly pull the index away from the cup. The end product should look like the picture below.


Step 3: Very quickly pull the index card away from the cup. The coin should end up in the cup as shown in the picture below.


Step 4: Fill out the 2nd and 3rd column of your graphic organizer.

Newton’s First Law of Motion Demonstrations Graphic Organizer:


During our demo discussion I am looking for you to:

  • Fill in the graphic organizer for the demos you and your partner did not complete

  • Listen silently and respectfully


What do you think will happen (answer the predictions questions)?

What actually happened?

How do you think this applies to Newton’s First Law of Motion?

Cup and Index Card

Prediction question: What will happen to each cup as the index card is pulled?




Cup and Coin

Prediction questions:

What will happen to the coin when the index card is moved away slowly?


What will happen to the coin when the index card is moved away quickly?


Ball Rolling

Prediction questions:

What will happen to the ball when it is not stopped from rolling off the table?

What will happen to the ball when it is stopped from rolling off the table?



Conclusion and Next Steps:


Implementing my student centered activities into my lessons allowed for observable positive differences in the engagement of my students and, therefore, the classroom management of my students. My students came into class excited because they knew that there was something hands on and engaging occurring in class that day, which lead to a more focused and on-task classroom environment. I am not saying this change in planning fixed all my problems with classroom management. There were still issues that arrived every day and I still have many more factors to implement into my classroom environment and my lessons to improve my classroom management. Creating student-centered lesson is my first step in the right direction.

    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito


      I think it is terrific that  you wrote about your experiences in terms of doing research. I believe that this is a powerful teacher stance, and one that will have a great impact on your teaching and your students' learning.

      It is also great that you were able to document a connection between the types of activities you had your students perform as well as the types of interactions you probably ended up having with them and they problem ended up having with one another. This reminded me of the changes documented through various research studies on Self Determination Theory and SDT. You can find some education focused SDT research here. I hope you find it valuable. As you have been learning, very interesting and powerful things begin to happen when a learning environment values and promotes autonomy.

      I very much look forward to seeing what happens next.


    ED 631 - Educational Psychology- Spring 2018

    ED 631 - Educational Psychology- Spring 2018

    Here is our online home for ED 631 for Spring 2018.

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