Deciding on a problem in society to research is the first step towards completing a doctoral dissertation and making a meaningful academic contribution to a particular body of knowledge. However, finding a problem in society to research is only the beginning: “It can be said with complete confidence that any scientist of any age who wants to make important discoveries must study important problems” (Medawar, 1979, p. 13). The purpose of this analysis is to explore the societal problems and research which lead to the proposed research topic: Increasing elementary school students reading achievement through the use of reading rewards programs.
The researcher began with the centralized problem of education reform. The researcher then began the search by accessing the “ebrary” database online. From there, “educational journals” were chosen to begin the search, and “educational change” was chosen as the focus of the search. The researcher refined the search by choosing “school improvement programs” within the “educational change” topic of interest. The first piece of literature reviewed for the topic was Improving America's Schools: The Role of Incentives by Eric A. Hanushek, Dale Jorgenson, and The National Research Council Staff (1996). According to the research, the United States faces an immense crisis in educating at-risk students, who are unlikely to succeed in existing schools. Such students compromise over one-third of all elementary and secondary school enrollments, and their numbers are rising absolutely and proportionately over time (Hanushek, Jorgenson, and The National Research Council, 1996, p. 225). Additionally, the rising numbers of at risk students and their continuing failure to succeed educationally will have severe economic ramifications for the Unites States (Hanushek, Jorgenson, and The National Research Council, 1996, p. 227). These two societal problems drove further research into educational change and the role of incentives inside the classroom.
The second database searched was Education Resources Information Center (ERIC). The key terms “education change” were used to begin the search. The researcher then refined the search by adding the key words: low income schools; and elementary education. The first article chosen to review was: The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2011. Trial Urban District Assessment Results at Grades 4 and 8. According to the research, there was no significant change in the reading test scores of fourth and eighth graders in 2011 from the reading test scores of fourth and eighth graders in 2009 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2010), which leads one to believe that student reading achievement in the United States is at a standstill.
The second article chosen from the ERIC database directly relates to how current researchers are attempting to solve the problem of stagnant reading achievement scores among students. The research article Rewards for reading: their effects on reading motivation by Pin-Hwa Chen and Jen-Rung Wu (2010) analyzed how reading rewards both tangible and intangible, motivates students to read. The purpose of this study was to try to realize the effects of rewards in extensive reading activities and it identified the relevant reward variables found in controlled experimental situations (Chen & Wu, 2010). According to the authors “the results showed that the reward process could explain the variances of intrinsic, extrinsic, and global reading motivation, even when including the effects of previous motivation” (Chen & Wu, 2010, p.2). The authors also found that intangible reward and effort attribution were two variables that had a positive predictive influence on intrinsic, extrinsic, and global reading motivation while the presence of a tangible reward had a positive predictive influence on extrinsic motivation (Chen & Wu, 2010, p.4). Finally, longitudinal studies indicate that intangible rewards have a positive predictive effect on intrinsic reading motivation (Chen & Wu, 2010, p.4). This information lead to the proposed research topic: Increasing elementary school students reading achievement through the use of reading rewards programs.
In conclusion, as one begins the process of identifying a suitable research problem, it is important to two keep two criteria in mind. First, your problem should address an important question, such that the answer can actually make a difference in some way; and second, it should advance the frontiers of knowledge, perhaps by leading to new ways of thinking, suggesting possible applications, or paving the way for further research into the field (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010, p. 45). The research problem presented in this analysis includes criteria from both important questions. The researcher aims to address the question of whether or not reading rewards programs can increase student achievement across all subjects, and distinguish which reading rewards programs work best at increasing student achievement scores. The researcher furthermore will suggest the possible application of such programs inside the classroom.
Chen, P., Wu, J. (2010). Rewards for reading: their effects on reading motivation. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies, 3, 1-8.
Hanushek, E. A., Jorgenson, D., National Research Council Staff. (1996). Improving America’s Schools: The Role of Incentives. United States: National Academies Press.
Medawar, J.H. (1979). Advise to a young scientist. New York: Harper & Row.
Leedy, P. D., & Ormrod, J. E. (2010). Practical research: Planning and design. Upper Sadle River, New Jersey: Merrill.
The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2011. Trial Urban District Assessment Results at Grades 4 and 8. NCES 2012-455. (2011). National Center for Education Statistics.