Joyce Rademacher, Ph.D
- Professor of Special Education
- Texas Woman’s University
- Denton, TX
- Certified SIM Professional Development Specialist
- University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning
- Lawrence, KS
My Background and Interests
My interest in teaching began when I was in first grade. I loved “teaching school” during my elementary years and recruited younger children in the neighborhood to be my “students.” Thus, I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I enrolled at Texas Lutheran College in 1960: to become a teacher. I loved observing in the schools as part of my course requirements, and I was particularly interested in the students who struggled to learn. During my junior year, I transferred to the University of Houston to complete my degree because that institution began to offer an endorsement in special education. Since my graduation in 1964, I have gained knowledge and experience from a number of perspectives. Because I was a military wife, I experienced many moves. As a result, I had an opportunity to work in a variety of settings throughout the country. For example, I have taught students with mild mental retardation in self-contained classrooms and students with learning disabilities in a resource room. I have also worked as a special education consulting teacher and as an educational therapist in a hospital setting for adolescents with emotional/behavior disorders. In addition to my special education experiences, I was also a general education teacher for students in grades one, four, five, and six. Prior to completing my doctoral studies at the University of Kansas in 1993, I was an elementary school principal. I am currently a Professor of Special Education at Texas Woman’s University where I prepare teachers at the undergraduate and graduate levels to teach students with disabilities. I am also an active member of the Strategic Instruction Model Professional Development Network. My research interests focus on issues related to teacher preparation and on the research and development of instructional methods that can be used to teach students how to learn and be successful in inclusive settings.
The Story Behind the Quality Assignment Routine
My idea for the Quality Assignment Routine originated during the time I was a doctoral student at the University of Kansas in 1990. I distinctly remember attending a Council for Learning Disabilities conference in Austin, Texas, that year. The keynote speaker was Dr. Edward Deci. Dr. Deci spoke about his research on self-determination. He described the many classrooms he had visited in which he had observed students actively engaged in classroom learning activities that did not fit the typical “worksheet” format. He stated that student interest in learning in those classrooms appeared to be high; they were having fun and were acting excited about learning compared to students in the classrooms in which students were completing multiple worksheets to demonstrate their mastery of knowledge and skills. I had observed the same phenomenon over the years.
Later, I consulted with my doctoral advisors (Jean Schumaker and Don Deshler) and explained to them that I was interested in conducting research with both students and teachers to identify what they believed to be the characteristics of assignments students enjoyed completing while meeting important learning goals. In addition, I wanted to explore the necessary instructional procedures for teaching students how to be successful in assignment completion. They approved my plan.
To identify teacher and student perceptions on the characteristics for planning and presenting high-quality assignments, I conducted focus-group discussions and survey research with middle-school teachers and academically diverse classes of students. Their ideas, coupled with what I gleaned from the literature on student motivation and assignment completion, resulted in the planning and presentation phase of the Assignment Completion Routine. Also, because effective assignment completion habits are life skills, the REACT Strategy and the PACE 1, 2… Assignment Checking Routine were developed and included in the Quality Assignment Routine. The lessons related to these strategies teach students how to listen to and record important assignment information and then how to check their work for quality before turning it in to the teacher.
My Thoughts about the Quality Assignment Routine
I have observed teachers using the Quality Assignment Routine in upper elementary, middle-school, high-school, and university classrooms. I have seen teachers become very creative in their use of the routine as they plan motivating and meaningful assignments. While practice worksheets still have a place in their assignment completion practices, teachers see the value of planning fewer and better assignments that engage students in personally relevant and meaningful ways. My student teachers have used the routine to plan and present technology- infused assignments with their students. Research on the success of this project was published and has been presented at national conferences. During my work in a Professional Development School in Dallas, I observed a sixth-grade teacher consistently engaging Assignment Expert Teams of diverse learners in planning and presenting assignments to the class. She reported improved grades and increased assignment completion rates over a grading period as a result of the students’ involvement. This research has also been published and presented at national conferences. Finally, the routine is very successful in university classrooms. Professors who use the routine are able to model effective assignment completion procedures for their students. Several of my colleagues and I consistently require a Personal Choice Assignment each semester. Our students select a course competency and complete the Quality Assignment Planning Sheet to develop their assignment based on that competency. Once their assignment is approved by the instructor, students complete the assignment, evaluate it for quality, and present it to the class. Research on the effectiveness of Personal Choice Assignments with university students has also been documented and published.
Teacher and Student Feedback on this Product
Teachers and students report their satisfaction with the routine. In particular, they like the way the routine helps students record the assignment and evaluate it for quality before they hand it in to be graded. One sixth-grade teacher who used the routine reported that one of her students who was promoted to seventh grade returned a year later to tell her how he still used PACE 1, 2… to check his finished work.
Teachers also report on the motivating impact of offering students a variety of choices in the planning and presentation of high-quality assignments. When students have a choice of when and how to complete parts of the assignment, it gives them a sense of control and a way to express their learning in a more creative way. Likewise, professors who have incorporated the routine into their courses report that their students frequently state how much more they learn when they are allowed to create personally relevant assignments based on critical course content.
My Contact Information
Joyce Rademacher, Ph.D
Professor of Special Education
Department of Teacher Education
Texas Woman’s University
P.O. Box 425769
Denton, TX 76204-5769
Work Phone: 940-898-2272