Development research with cognitive tools : an investigation of the effects of a Web-Based Learning Environment on student motivation and achievement in high school earth science
MetadataShow full item record
This study is an example of development research with the twin goals of solving an educational problem at the local level and generalizing design principles that other educators and researchers can apply. The local problem involved a high school science teacher from the northeast Georgia who reported that his tenth grade students had low motivation and inadequate achievement with respect to learning earth science. Working closely with the science teacher, a Web-Based Learning Environment (Web-LE) was designed by a group of graduate students and faculty in the Department of Instructional Technology at University of Georgia to improve the students' motivation and achievement in the context of topic of fossilization. Development research was the most appropriate methodology for this study because of its capacity to have direct impact on teaching and learning while also yielding generalizable design principles. For approximately twenty-two months, the team worked closely with the teacher to define the instructional problems, clarify the traits of his learners, understand the context for implementation, and create alternative solutions. Several factors (challenge, control, curiosity, and fantasy) for increasing students' intrinsic motivation were involved in the design of Web-LE. The team met frequently with the teacher to revise the prototype Web-LE. A pilot study was conducted in the middle of the production phase to evaluate the usability of the Web-LE and ensure that the design met the teacher's needs. The Web-LE was implemented in the teacher’s 10th grade classroom in January and February 2003 as a three-day student-centered learning activity. Data collection methods included individual student interviews, teacher interviews, motivation questionnaires, an observational protocol, and analysis of student responses to a teacher-created assignment. The assignment was designed to encourage students to use the Web-LE as a cognitive tool to solve higher order problems. Findings revealed that the Web-LE and associated student-centered learning activity improved students' motivation and enabled the students to visualize the various conditions of fossilization at a level not attained before. The teacher expressed the belief that student achievement improved significantly, and stated that he intended to use the Web-LE with other classes in the future. This study suggests that educational researchers should maintain strongly collaborative working relationships with teachers and school level technology specialists throughout the development research process to successfully solve instructional problems and increase the likelihood that instructional technology research will improve teaching and learning in practical ways. Specific design principles for the development of similar Web-LEs were also revealed.