This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.
This chapter presents details for the conduct of a quantitative research study which will focus on the efficacy of two kinds of construction tasks given to student teachers after a self-directed learning activity to improve conceptual understanding and motivation. It will include background to the problem, problem statement, purpose of study, theoretical framework, research framework, research hypothesis, operational definitions, significance of the study, limitation of the study, and conclusion sections.
Background to the Problem
This is an exciting period to be in Malaysia as an educator and researcher. In ten years the people of Malaysia will find out if Vision 2020, the plan for Malaysia to become a fully developed nation, will become a reality. The Ministry of Education, Malaysia for example has taken a number of initiatives to build the human capital in recent years as can be seen in the Education Development Master Plan (PIPP) 2006 - 2010. Among them is to increase the mastery of Science and Mathematics and also to ensure that 50 percent of primary school teachers are university graduates by 2010. Thus as a follow up action, all the teacher training colleges in Malaysia were changed to teacher training institutes and their focus of training pre-service primary school teachers for diploma changed to preparing them for a degree.
Thus the change in the pre-service primary teacher education to degree level provides affordance for more in-depth training of primary school teachers especially in science and mathematics and which is increasingly ICT dependent. The researcher's motivation to do this research is to address the growing need to prepare teachers for the 21st century; teachers who will live in a world very dependent on ICT and where knowledge is constantly changing and growing and where the children they will teach also have access to these knowledge. Lifelong learning attitude and skills are essential for these teachers to function effectively. One such skill to inculcate is to help them become increasingly self-directed learners. An important benefit of self-directed learning is the development of learners who are autonomous and are able to control and take charge of their own learning.
The change in teacher preparation to degree level which is of a longer duration provides opportunities for transforming the teaching and learning of science for student teachers to include self-directed learning activity as one of the routine teaching strategies.
The heavenly body has fascinated mankind for centuries. As it is part of nature affecting us in our everyday life, it is only appropriate that its study is included in the formal school curriculum as part of scientific literacy for all. In Malaysia, this is taught in the primary schools as "Investigating the Earth and the Universe". Students in Years 4, 5 and 6 learn this strand as part of learning science. The topics covered under this strand include; The Solar System, The Earth, The Moon and the Sun, and Eclipses. In the teacher training institutes, student teachers who major in science are required to take the course SCE 3110: Earth and Space. One of the topics that is taught in the primary schools and also in the Teacher Training Institute for science majors is the Moon Phases which will be the subject of this research.
The study of lunar or moon phases by children and adults have undergone much research in the past. Black (2004) found that university students found the topic of moon phases very difficult to learn. Other researchers, working with a range of students of different ages shared this same view (Trundle, Atwood and Christopher, 2006; Bisard, Aron, Francek and Nelson, 1994).
One of the common misconceptions held by students of all ages includes "the ecliptic explanation" where the moon phases are thought to be caused by the Earth's shadow (Bisard, Aron, Francek and Nelson, 1994; Schoon, 1992). Baxter (1989) identified the sun casting its shadow on the moon as another example of misconception.
A number of explanations have been given for the difficulty in learning the moon phases. They include inability to appreciate the scale of the Sun-Earth-Moon system (Fanetti, 2001), the difficulty of developing mental models to explain Sun-Earth-Moon relationships due to the level of reasoning and spatial ability required (Callison & Wright, 1993) as well as the inability to work from a perspective other than that of an observer on Earth (Suzuki, 2003).
Attempts have been made by researches to explore effective methods of teacher preparation to teach astronomy classes. Callison and Wright (1993) and Dai and Cape (1990) found that misconceptions on essential concepts of the moon persisted even after instruction. However, Trundle, Atwood and Christopher (2002, 2007) found that an inquiry based approach to teaching moon phases brought about conceptual change.
There are a lot of resources on moon phases in the web. They are in various forms. There are a number of videos in "Youtube". One can find many visually appealing pictures on the moon phases if a Google Image Search is made. There are many highly interactive simulations and animations available in the Internet (for example, see http://astro.unl.edu/naap/lps/animations/lps.swf). There are also webQuests that packages some of these resources into inquiry based activities for students to learn. There are also reading materials on the moon phases for both children (http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/time/moon/phases.html) and adults.
Thus there is room for a lot of research on ways to enhance the conceptual learning of topics like the Moon Phases within the increasing availability of resources and strategies available, particularly the Internet, to the teacher.
Twenty first century Malaysian learners are expected to be very active learners and as such will tend to ask a lot of questions. They would have access to a rich source of static and dynamic information readily available in the Internet as strategized in the Tenth Malaysia Plan (EPU, 2010). These children would be expected to come to class with a multitude of misconceptions. Teachers will thus need to have the correct conceptual understanding of key concepts in science.
Self directed learning activities involving the search for these resources, whether in the text book or the Internet, will always involve the many choices of selecting from among very appealing and interesting media. When left alone to select and monitor learning, the student teacher is faced with the problem of "illusions of competence in monitoring one's knowledge during Study" (Koriat & Bjork, 2005).
Thus various forms of "desired difficulties" (Bjork, 1994) are embedded in the learning activity to slow the learner to focus more deeply on the content to be learnt. Desired difficulties are said to enhance long-term retention and transfer. Some examples of desired difficulties include exercises, tests and construction activities. Construction activities resonate powerfully with the idea of contructionism as proposed by Papert and Harel (1990).
Traditionally the use of student-generated drawing was used as a powerful learning and diagnostic strategy in the science classroom. With the increasing availability of technology in the school and students' homes there has been attempts by teachers to incorporate ICT based student construction tasks as a learning and diagnostic strategy. Examples include student created electronic portfolios, hypermedia and digital videos. Student-created videos are the digital equivalents of student-generated drawings. They also need to address a similar issue, that is, learning from diagrams and text versus learning from animations. Up till recently, student-created video was only used for learning events that took about three weeks and above in the form of project based learning. Currently, with the availability of cheap digital cameras and extremely simple to use free video editing tools to students, the use of student-created video as a learning activity in the science classroom has become more feasible due to the much shorter time required. This has a lot of implication because tasks which involve the use of such digital equipments and software are known to be highly engaging and motivating to students. As such, when Hoban (2005) came up with the idea of slowmation, a type of student-created video task that can reduce the time for the student-created video task even less, it was an instructional strategy that attracted many teachers. There are thus a growing number of students and teachers publishing slowmation artefacts on various science topics in the Internet. One would only need to do a Google search to come across such artefacts.
An important issue to consider is to determine the extent of learning improvements in students who participate in student-created video (slowmation) activities in general and if such activities offer pedagogical advantage for dynamic content as compared to the student-generated drawings which are still much more economical in terms of time and cost. The research regarding learning of dynamic content using diagrams and text versus animations for a long time were based on the findings by Betrancourt and Tversky (2000) who found that animations were not necessarily superior to static graphics and in some instances even worse than static graphics. However in recent years Linn (2008) found that students generally learn dynamic content better from dynamic visualisations than from static illustrations. Thus even when learning of dynamic content from static graphics versus animations are concerned the pedagogical advantages are not clear cut, let alone the learning of dynamic content by construction of drawing versus video (slowmation). Although there is much literature about the motivational advantage of student-constructed video (slowmation) there is very little information on the learning of science concepts.
Thus as more students and teachers are attracted to these student-created video (slowmation) tasks, there is an urgent need for research that looks at the learning that takes place using this task. As explained in the previous section, the study of the Moon Phases is an example of dynamic content that is difficult to understand and is prone to misconceptions. It is therefore strategic to anchor this study of constructions task with static and dynamic media in the learning of the Moon Phases.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of two construction tasks, student-generated drawings and student-created videos (slowmation), after a self-directed learning activity of the Moon Phases on the
conceptual understanding of the students as measured by the Lunar Phases Concept Inventory
conceptual understanding between the following types of students
low-ability and high-ability
male and female
low spatial ability and high spatial ability
motivation of the students as measured by the Instructional Materials Motivation Scale score
motivation between the following types of students
low-ability and high-ability
male and female
low spatial ability and high spatial ability
As shown in Figure 1.1 the learning task consist of two parts, first it begins with a self directed learning activity packaged as a WebQuest. The design of this activity will be drawn using ideas proposed by the developer of WebQuests (Dodge, 1995). Second, this will be followed by an artefact creation task. Although two kinds of artefact creation will be involved, one involving paper drawings and the other involving the use of physical objects, the guidelines proposed by van Meter and Garner (2005) which is more directed at designing paper drawing tasks will be used to guide the design of the artefact creation task.
The learning of the Moon Phases through a WebQuest activity is supported by constructivist theories of learning, particularly the works of Piaget (1952). The artefact creation task is supported by Papert and Harel (1990) who agreed that students learn by constructing meaning just as proposed by constructivists but in addition he said that this learning occurs more "felicitously when the learner is engaged in the construction of something external or at least shareable...a sand castle, a machine, a computer program, a book".
These theories, together with other theories that support the study but to a lesser extent, are described in greater detail in Chapter 2.
Promote motivation and deeper conceptual understanding of the Moon Phases
Constructivism (student centred, active learning through assimilation and accommodation) (Piaget, 1959)
Constructivism (constructionism) (Papert, 1990)
Learning of the Moon Phases from multiple resources
Constructivist Learning Environment (WebQuest) (Dodge, 1995)
Generative Theory of Drawing Construction (Meter & Garner, 2005)
Figure 1.1. Theoretical Framework of the Study.
The research framework for this study is presented in Figure 1.2. In this framework there is one independent variable, the construction task, that is either the student-generated drawing task or the student-created video (slowmation) task. This independent variable is postulated to have effects on two dependent variables; the achievement and the motivation. There will be three moderator variables; ability level, gender and spatial abilities and the purpose is to find out if they do interfere with the direct relationship between the independent variable and the two dependent variables.
Figure 1.2. Research Framework of the Study.
Based on the research framework the following are the two main research questions for this study:
Is there a difference in learning (as measured by the Lunar Phases Concept Inventory by Lindell, 2001) among the respondents using the two tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation)?
Is there a difference in motivation (as measured by the Instructional Materials Motivational Scale by Keller, 1987) among respondents using the two tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation)?
Is there a difference in learning (as measured by the Lunar Phases Concept Inventory by Lindell, 2001) among the respondents using the two tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation)?
With different academic ability
with male or female
with different spatial ability
Is there a difference in motivation (as measured by the Instructional Materials Motivational Scale by Keller, 1987) among respondents using the two tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation)?
With different academic ability
with male or female
with different spatial ability
Based on the research questions eight null hypothesis will be tested. The level of significance to be used for this study will be 0.05.
Ho1 There is no difference in conceptual learning (as measured by the LPCI) among the respondents using the two tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation)
Ho2 There is no difference in motivation (as measured by Instructional Materials Motivation Scale) among the respondents using the two tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation)
Ho3 There is no difference in conceptual learning (as measured by the LPCI) among the respondents using the two tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation) with respondents of different academic ability
Ho4 There is no difference in conceptual learning (as measured by the LPCI) among the respondents using the two tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation) with respondents who are male or female
Ho5 There is no difference in conceptual learning (as measured by the LPCI) among the respondents using the two tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation) with respondents with different spatial ability
Ho6 There is no difference in motivation (as measured by Instructional Materials Motivation Scale) among the respondents using the two tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation) with respondents of different academic ability
Ho7 There is no difference in motivation (as measured by Instructional Materials Motivation Scale) among the respondents using the two project tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation) with respondents who are male or female
Ho8 There is no difference in motivation (as measured by Instructional Materials Motivation Scale) among the respondents using the two project tasks, namely student-generated drawing and student-created video (slowmation) with respondents with different spatial ability
The operational definitions of the following terms are as follows:
The self directed learner learns a given topic to be learnt by researching on the topic alone or with peers with little or no input from the teacher. He or she uses a number of mechanisms (it may not be necessarily effective) to monitor and regulate understanding.
Student-generated drawings are drawings or sketches made on paper by the students as a way to demonstrate understanding.
Student-created Videos (Slowmation)
Student-created videos (slowmation) are video of dynamic events created like in normal 30 frame per second video except that slowmation video use very few frames per minute. It involves a digital camera taking photos of movements of clay and edited using simple editing tools like the Windows Movie Maker
WebQuests are a lesson structure in the web which provides a context for the student to learn. This is often provided in the form of a quest statement where the student is in a quest to find or do something which will involve researching the web to help complete the quest.
Pre-Service Primary School Teachers
These are students after Form 5 (Ordinary Level) or Form 6 (A Level) who have chosen a career in teaching for primary school. The degree program is offered by the Teacher Training Institution of Malaysia which has about 29 branches all over Malaysia.
This is a topic which the pre-service teachers learn in the Training Institutions as they will eventual teach their primary school children in Year 4, 5, and 6
Students scoring below the group mean in a Culture Fair Intelligence Test (Cattell & Cattell, 1973). Students having a score at the calculated mean value will not be included.
Students scoring above the group mean in a Culture Fair Intelligence Test (Cattell & Cattell, 1973). Students having a score at the calculated mean value will not be included.
Students scoring above the group mean in the Keller's Instructional Materials Motivation Scale (IMMS) inventory questionnaire. Students having a score at the calculated mean value will not be included.
Students scoring below the group mean in the Keller's Instructional Materials Motivation Scale (IMMS) inventory questionnaire. Students having a score at the calculated mean value will not be included.
The IMMS score is obtained from the implementation of the Instructional Materials Motivational Scale by Keller (1987) after the treatment.
High Spatial Ability
Students scoring above the group mean in Bennett, Seashore and Wesman Space Relations Test (1972). Students having a score at the calculated mean value will not be included.
Low Spatial Ability
Students scoring below the group mean in Bennett, Seashore and Wesman Space Relations Test (1972). Students having a score at the calculated mean value will not be included.
Spatial Ability Score
The Spatial Ability Score is obtained from the implementation of the Visuo-Spatial ability Test (Bennett, Seashore & Wesman Space Relations Test, 1972) after the treatment.
Significance of the Study
Proponents of ICT argue for the use of Web2.0 technologies among which are videos which can be easily uploaded for public or private viewing. However these activities take a longer time although Hoban (2007) argues that a variation of video, that is, slowmation may make it feasible for use in the regular classroom. This study will show if one if superior to the other or both are equally effective for learning.
Limitation of the Study
There are a number of limitations to a study like this one. Three main limitations are as follows:
The sample is limited to pre-service teachers taking a degree course in the Teacher Training Institutes who either major in Science or took Science as an elective subject. Their age ranges from 18 to 22.
Only two tasks were investigated; the student-generated drawing task and the student-created video (slowmation) task.
The topic chosen was on Moon Phases where it is impossible for the respondent to have hands on activity with the moon but rather conception gathered from occasional observations. The findings of this study will be applicable to the learning of similar concepts.
This chapter presented details for the conduct of a quantitative research study which will focus on the efficacy of two kinds of construction tasks given to student teachers after a self-directed learning activity to improve conceptual understanding and motivation. It included background to the problem, problem statement, purpose of study, theoretical framework, research framework, research hypothesis, operational definitions, significance of the study, limitation of the study, and conclusion sections. Chapter 2 will focus on the literature review.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
This study is set at a period when Malaysia has another ten years to realize its vision to be a fully developed nation by the year 2020. The students that are currently in the schools are the one who will fully participate in this knowledge based economy. As such teachers need to be prepared to educate these students to be able to play that role. One such role for teachers is in being lifelong learners; not as teachers who are dependent on courses but on themselves to use readily available technologies to increase and improve their knowledge and skill and in doing so, serve as examples of self-directed learners.
The purpose of this chapter is to link this study to existing research literature and thus provide a foundation on which this research will be based. It will begin with what the literature says about learning in general with particular reference to constructionism and self-directed learning. This will be followed by a discussion on the learning of Moon Phases, the topic by which this study will anchored.
2.2 Theoretical Framework - Learning Theories and Related Concepts
This study relies heavily on constructionism, a theory which is subsumed under the more general social constructivism. These ideas as well as some concepts related to these ideas which are used in this study are explored in greater detail.
2.2.1 Constructivism - Social Constructivism
The idea of constructivist learning suggests that students learn by constructing knowledge. Piaget (1952) proposed that they learn by accommodation and assimilation as they make sense of new information in the light of the knowledge they had gained previously. The implication for teaching is that students need to be at the centre of learning and learning environments need to be designed to allow for such construction of knowledge to take place and thus the emphasis on students as active learners. Vygotsky (1978) went further by proposing that on top of students interacting with materials to be learnt, it becomes more effective with social negotiation of meaning among peers and experts like teachers.
Papert and Harel (1991) came up with a version of constructivist learning where they said that the act of negotiation of meaning as students interact with material to be learnt is naturally facilitated powerfully by the construction of artefacts. They coined the term 'constructionism' to emphasize their focus on construction tasks.
Papert (1990) had the following to say: We understand "constructionism" as including, but going beyond what Piaget would call "constructivism." The word with the v expresses the theory that knowledge is built by the learner, not supplied by the teacher. The word with the n expresses the further idea that this happens especially felicitously when the learner is engaged in the construction of something external or at least shareable...a sand castle, a machine, a computer program, a book. This leads us to a model using a cycle of internalization of what is outside, then externalization of what is inside and so on.
Papert (1990) further reiterated: I like to formulate a major theoretical issue as "constructionism vs. instructionism." This does not suggest that instruction is bad or useless. Instruction is not bad but overrated as the locus for significant change in education. Better learning will not come from finding better ways for the teacher to instruct but from giving the learner better opportunities to construct. (emphasis in the original, p.3).
Schools need to change in providing learning environments with the assumption that children are seen as explorers and where technology provides a means for children to satisfy their curiosity (Papert, 1993). While Papert (2006) emphasized programming as artefacts as well as referred to children in his books, the focus in this research will be on pre-service teachers who will eventually teach children and that the artefacts will be not programming tasks but building and construction tasks which fall within the constraints of constructionist learning philosophy.
2.2.3 Prior Knowledge
One of the important principles of instruction based on the idea of constructivism is the role of student's existing ideas (Driver, 1983; Osborne & Wittrock, 1983; Scott, Asoko & Driver, 1992). Science instruction is effective when students' existing ideas that they bring to the lesson are elicited, addressed and linked to their classroom experience at the beginning of a teaching programme.
It is well documented in the literature that student's pre-conceived idea plays an important part on how well students will learn subsequent related materials. This is because students do not come to the classroom as empty vessels into which new ideas can be poured into by teacher (Leach & Scott, 1995; Vosniadou, 1997; Tytler, 2002). These students come with prior ideas and conceptions about the world around them and based on their experience interacting with the world they have arrived at conceptions of phenomena that makes sense to them. These conceptions may be at odds with the conceptions held by the scientific community.
It is thus important to note that for any learning event to be effective, it must take into account students' prior knowledge. As such a discussion of alternative conceptions and ways to address them are presented next.
2.2.4 Alternative Conceptions
There are a number of reasons why Physics is difficult to learn. Firstly many physical phenomena in real life occur in combination with other activities. For example, when observing two bodies of magnets falling while discussing the effect of gravity it is difficult to isolate the effects of air resistance. Second, terms ascribed by the scientist are different from the terms used by the normal person. The scientists have a very narrow and precise meaning to certain terms to allow further progress to be made. Third, cause and effect in the real world does not occur naturally in a way that is obvious to the naked sense.
Various reasons have been proposed for the abundance of misconceptions held by children and adults alike. Hansen, Barnett, MaKinster and Keating (2004) suggest that part of the reason arises due to the science of astronomy requires that students develop a complex, dynamic mental model. This complexity arises from the need to 'perceive' the motion of three-dimensional objects in three dimensional space, as well as from the need to develop an ability to project their viewpoint to locations other than the familiar reference point of Earth (Parker & Heywood, 1998).
All the above factors contributes to students coming to the physics classroom with misconceptions, concepts and explanations that makes sense to the students based on their daily interactions with the physical world but will not suffice if they were to progress further and fit into the scientific community (Osborne & Freyberg, 1985; White & Gunstone, 1992).
Misconceptions are resistant to change and various efforts have been put forward in identifying them for each topic as well as finding effective strategies for overcoming them. Thus some of the efforts come in the name of conceptual changes strategies, active learning strategies, learning cycle approach and inquiry based learning.
2.2.5 Conceptual change
From the above discussions, it is therefore important that any interventions in the learning of science takes into account students' prior knowledge and the alternative conceptions they already hold when coming to the class and which most often is different from the conceptions held by the scientific community. A number of approaches in promoting conceptual change have been proposed over the years. Some of them are presented next.
The "cognitive conflict" approach popularized by Posner, Strike, Hewson, and Gertzog (1982) involves the making of students existing ideas about some phenomena explicit and then directly challenging them in order to create a state of cognitive conflict in the student. This method fits very well in science experiments where prior to a carefully designed experiment, the teacher ask the students to predict the outcome based on their existing ideas. The outcome of the experiment is supposed to provide the conflict which then creates the atmosphere to discuss the conflict between what was observed and what was predicted.
"Concept substitution" is another strategy proposed by Grayson (2004) and it is based on the idea that students' explanation is correct but applied to the wrong concept. As such, if this concept where the explanation was used is substituted with another concept where the explanation is applicable then the explanation becomes correct.
The "anchoring conceptions and bridging analogies" (Clement, 1993) strategy builds on students' existing ideas by forming analogy relations between misunderstood target case and an anchoring example, which draws upon intuitive knowledge held by the student.
May and Etkina (2002) proposed that students' epistemological self-reflection could be used to promote conceptual change in students. The found that college physics students who did deeper self-reflection as evidenced from their journals had higher conceptual gains.
As reported by Planinic, Krsnik, Pecina and Susac (2005), each of the major strategies have some strength and suffer from one or more weakness. The learning task for this research addresses alternative conceptions using approaches that resembles more of self-reflection as proposed by May and Etkina (2002).
2.2.6 Self-directed learning
There has been an increase in the call for the preparation of students to be self-directed and life-long learners by researchers (Zimmerman, 2002; Boekaerts & Cascallar, 2006; Justo & DiBiasio, 2006). They also give evidence for the need tin terms of the societal needs and also that it does not come naturally. Studies like Zimmerman and Schunk (2001) reveal that self regulated process lead to success in school and that few teachers prepare students for this. This means that when students given self-regulated tasks the tendency is for many students to be poor regulators of learning particularly the self monitoring part. Self reflection (monitoring) is said to be greatly dependant on the students' ability level as well as their motivation.
Secken (2008) explored the effects of computer aided education on self-directed learning process on pre-service teachers on the topic of Renewable Energy. Forty seven pre-service teachers with Internet connections studied Renewable Energy as a web based course and did their homework by collecting data using the Internet as well as using the computer to prepare the report and project. The findings suggest that pre-service teachers were able to increase their knowledge of Renewable energy as a self-directed learning activity with the help of the computer connected to the Internet.
2.3 Moon Phases
The study of moon phases as part of scientific literacy, that is, something that all children should know has been deeply entrenched in major curriculums including the Malaysian primary science curriculum. However it is well known that the concept of moon phases is difficult. This section will provide some of the misconceptions, the reasons for these misconceptions, teaching strategy attempts as well as evaluation strategies.
There are a number of alternative conceptions held by students about the moon phases; from children to adults. Kavanagh, Agan and Sneider (2005) list eighteen studies documenting misconceptions by children and pre-service teachers. Many students believed that the moon phases were caused by the earth's shadow falling on the moon. Some students confuse with the eclipse of the sun while others believe that the clouds cause the moon to appear in different shapes. In a separate study with Turkish pre-service physics teachers, Ogan-Bekiroglu (2007) found that the students held various flawed conceptions including the idea that the moon does not rise or sets, being unable to explain why we always the same side of the moon.
Bayraktar (2009) recently studied pre-service teachers' ideas about the moon phases. One hundred and fifty four pre-service primary school teachers were asked to explain the reasons for the moon phases as seen in the sky at different times. His study showed that 54% of the teachers gave scientific explanations while the rest gave explanations that reflected alternative conceptions. He found that the most common non scientific answers given by teachers were that the earth's shadow fell on the moon and the earth's rotation or varying distance between the earth and the moon caused the different phases.
There is a general consensus among researchers on moon phases that these alternate conceptions are resistant to change (Baxter, 1989; Bisard, Aron, Francek & Nelson, 1994; Callison and Wright, 1993; Dai and Capie, 1990; Philips, 1991; Trundle, Atwood & Christopher, 2002).
Lunar phases may be one of the most difficult concepts to teach in astronomy. Instructors often belief they have successfully taught the concept of lunar phases, only to find that the majority of their students cannot correctly answer simple questions related to the concept.... A factor contributing to this lack of success may be the instructor's ignorance of students' prior understanding and the effect it may have on their future understanding.
(Lindell & Olsen, 2002)
Various approaches and combination of approaches have been tried by researchers over the years. The major approaches are as follows:
Reading text and viewing diagrams (for example textbooks) of the sun-earth-moon system Observing the moon for one month (1 cycle) or two months (2 cycles)
Observing the moon in a planetarium
Using physical models of the sun-earth-moon system
Observing the moon using a planetarium software
Interrogating simulations and animations (sometimes 3D computer models) of the sun-earth-moon system
Creating artefacts like 3D or virtual reality models, slowmation animation videos, paper sketches of the sun-earth-moon system
One example of the use of moon observations within an inquiry mode of instruction is the study by Trundle, Atwood and Christopher (2006). In this study pre-service teachers used the instructional materials from Physics by Inquiry (McDermott, 1996) together with moon observations over nine weeks. Their learning was measured by the accuracy of their sketches of the moon at various phases. It is important to note that the teachers had difficulty in observing the moon during a number of times as either the sky was too bright or the clouds blocked proper observations of the moon.
Mulholland and Ginns (2008) implemented instructional strategies that required pre-service teachers from Australia to make extended observations of the moon's phases and keep observational data records which were shared in asynchronous on-line discussion with fellow pre-service teachers in the USA. They found that although teachers improved in their conceptual understanding of the moon phases in this mode of instruction, many teachers still held to misconceptions. They argued that misconceptions held by teachers on moon phases are difficult to change and the need for increased attention to developing students' visual-spatial capabilities.
An example of learning by using the planetarium can be seen in the Plummer (2008) study. Seven classes of sixty three first and second grade students were involved in attending a planetarium program using kinaesthetic learning techniques. The study showed that students showed significant improvement in knowledge of all areas of apparent celestial motion covered by the planetarium program. This suggests that students in early elementary school are capable of learning the accurate description of apparent celestial motion. The results also demonstrate the value of both kinesthetic learning techniques and the rich visual environment of the planetarium for improved understanding of celestial motion.
Bulunuz and Jarrett (2010) conducted a study with in-service teachers using physical models with one of the students using a lighted bulb (sun) while another held a Styrofoam ball (moon) and the each student (earth) locating themselves in a way that the 'moon' orbits round the 'earth' with the 'sun' held stationary in a corner. They did not find significant improvements in conceptual understanding although they attributed it to the way the model was set up which did not clearly show the effects of the phases of the moon. Baxter & Preece (1999) compared year 8 students learning the phases of the moon using a multimedia package for teaching with learning from physical models. They found that both methods were equally effective in improving student understanding of the moon phases.
Hobson, Trundle and Sackes (2010) studied young children learning the moon phases by comparing the efficacy of three types of instructional tasks; lunar data gathering by observing the moon, using the Starry Night software together with physical modelling using the bulb, styrofoam and the child's head as the earth while the third condition involved the use of both lunar data gathering and the Starry Night software and physical models.
Trundle and Bell (2010) studied pre-service teachers learning about moon phases within a inquiry framework. The teachers either used Starry Night software, nature observation together with Starry Night software or nature observation alone. They found that all three groups improved in their conceptual understanding of the moon phases. Earlier Bell and Trundle (2008) conducted an inquiry based course using the Starry Night Backyard software with 50 early childhood pre-service teachers about lunar phases. They came to the conclusion that a well-designed computer simulation like the Starry Night Backyard used within a conceptual change model of instruction can be very effective in promoting scientific understandings.
Barnett, Keating, Barab and Hay (2000) conducted a study with 8 undergraduate students taking a course Introduction to Astronomy. In that course as part of the assignment, the students developed 3-D virtual models using VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language). They reported general improvements in students understanding of the moon phases. However it is important to note that this construction task was done as part of a semester long project. A similar study was conducted by Kucukozer (2008) where the effects of 3D computer modelling of the seasons and the phases of the moon were studied on 76 students using the predict-observe-explain strategy. They found improvements in conception among the students who used the 3D computer modelling task. Hansen, Barnett, MaKinster, and Keating (2004a; 2004b) compared the learning of astronomical concepts using a three-dimensional computational model construction task with traditional lecture tasks. They found that three-dimensional model construction tasks best facilitated student understanding of spatially related astronomical concepts while traditional instruction best facilitated student understandings of fact-oriented astronomical concepts.
Braxter and Preece (1999) compared the effectiveness of a multimedia package with a conventional 3D modelling approach in teaching about the moon phases to 12 year old students. They found that both approaches were equally and highly effective in terms of student learning. The multimedia approach included an exercise (series of questions) with hyperlinks to check their knowledge and return to the learning section if necessary. While students did interactive exercises with the multimedia as the screen told them the 3D group were asked to observe in the centre while the teacher carried a half side coated with yellow and black orbited the group. An OHP was used as a light source representing the sun. They found no gender effects, no ability effects and no teaching effect. They argued that multimedia is a very good tool for addressing teacher weakness.
As can be seen from the literature review above many of these approaches whether in isolation or in combination has been tried with children as well as pre-service and in-service teachers. Most of these approaches have resulted in improvements in conceptual understanding of the moon phases. However none of them have been successful in eliminating alternative conceptions of the moon phases and in a way suggesting that the study of the moon phases is a very complex one and that formal interventions are only able to reduce some of the common alternative conceptions held by students.
One way to conduct inquiry based learning activities integrating ICTs is through the use of the Internet. The Internet provides powerful affordances for the creation of learning environments that involves the students as active learners searching the Internet in the process of constructing meaning. However, the Internet is such an open-ended tool especially as far as searching for information is concerned that some sort of structure has to be created to make this tool effective and yet constrain it to be doable within the constraints of the classroom. This structure came in the form of a WebQuest. A WebQuest is an "inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the Internet" (Dodge, 1995). Dodge further describes two levels of WebQeusts; Short Term WebQuests that is meant to be completed in a one to three class periods and Longer Term WebQuests that are meant to be complete in a time frame ranging from one week to one month.
According to Dodge (2001) quality WebQuests have certain critical attributes; an introduction, a task, information sources, process, guidance and conclusion. The introduction provides background information on the topic and sets the stage for the investigation or activity. The task includes an activity that is 'doable' and is of interest to the students. The resource section provides links to high-quality Internet-based resources that students will use to complete the activity. The process section provides a step-by-step guide for completion of the activity. The evaluation section provides the means for the students to judge if they have fulfilled the requirements of each important activity and it is usually in the form of a rubric or checklist. Finally the conclusion section provides a closure to the activity and summarizes what was hoped that the students would have learnt as a result of completing the activity.
Abbit and Ophus (2008) reports on a search of the WebQuest.org database and found more than 1700 user contributed WebQuest activities with all levels and subject areas represented. A Google search for WebQuest will result in even more user contributed activities. March (2003) suggested that WebQuests promote student motivation and authenticity, develop thinking skills, and encourage learning cooperatively. WebQuests increase motivation by providing an essential question, real-life resources with which to work, and opportunities to work in cooperative groups. WebQuests, by their very nature, encourage the development of thinking skills. The assigned task requires the students to "transform information into something else: a cluster that maps out the major issues, a comparison, a hypothesis, a solution and in this research construction of an artefact. As WebQuests are often complex or involves controversial topics, students work in groups to complete task and thus supporting Vygotsky's social constructivist theory.
This research will involve two types of intervention embedded within an inquiry based learning episode which will be heavily Internet based and self-directed. The WebQuest provides the right structure for this leaning episode or environment. The design of the Moon Phases WebQuest will closely follow the quality guidelines introduced by Dodge (2001).
2.5 Desirable Difficulties as a Learning Strategy
This study involves students accessing various forms of information which are visually appealing from the web. These materials include text, diagrams, animations, videos and interactive simulations. There is increasing evidence that learning with such materials suffers from a mismatch between what the learner think he or she knows with what he or she actually knows. This is discussed further and arguments of strategies to overcome them are put forward.
Rozenblit and Keil (2002) used the term 'illusion of explanatory depth' to refer to the tendency of people to feel that they understand complex situations with far greater 'precision, coherence, and depth' than they really do. They further argued that this illusion of explanatory knowledge is particularly stronger for explanatory type of knowledge such as facts, procedures and narratives. The learning of the Moon Phases come under this category since they are natural phenomena to be learnt and as such they are subject to the illusion of explanatory depth.
Koriat and Bjork (2005) argues that there is an inherent discrepancy between learning and test conditions when monitoring one's own knowledge during study. They argue that because when one is learning, they will learn with a number of elements which will not be available during actual test conditions. Thus due to this inherent discrepancy between learning and test conditions there is this illusion of competence one tends to feel under the learning condition especially when it is self study. This flawed judgement of learning or overconfidence bias is inherent in the learning process.
Linn, Chan, Chiu, Zhang and McElhaney (2010) argue that when students learn from scientific visualizations, deceptive clarity occurs. Deceptive clarity is the situation where when students process these visualizations, they overestimate their understanding of the material learnt and as such they learn less than what they thought they had learnt. This is because visualizations tend to be so memorable that students are distracted by the superficial features of the visualization rather than the actual concepts to be learnt. Lowe (2003) has similar complaints about learning from animations. To overcome deceptive clarity, activities need to be formulated that slows down learning although it may increase errors or appear that learning was ineffective in the short term but ultimately improves learning. Linn, Chan, Chiu, Zhang and McElhaney (2010) call these learning activities desirable difficulties. They argue that desirable difficulties strengthen understanding in two main ways; they engage students in discriminating among ideas and they increase frequency of revisiting of the visualization by the students.
Thus incorporating activities that cause desirable difficulties as part of learning tasks particularly those that involve learning with rich media would be a good teaching and learning strategy (Bjork & Linn, 2006; Linn & Hsi, 2000).
2.6 Artefact Creation as a Form of Desirable Difficulty
This section will present literature supporting the efficacy of using two forms of artefact creation which will be used in this study. They are student-generated drawings and student-created videos.
2.6.1 Student-generated Drawings
The use of visual representations to learn science, especially in the study of nature, existed since the time of Aristotle (Lerner, 2007). Requiring students to visually represent ideas have been used both for assessment and as a strategy of learning for mastery of content (see for example Coates, 2002; Van Meter, 2001; Trumper, 2006; Trundle, Atwood & Christopher, 2006). In the Trundle, Atwood and Christopher (2006) study, the researchers used drawings by pre-service teachers as data source to assess their knowledge before and after instruction. They paid attention to the phases drawn and the sequence in which they were drawn to determine if these drawings were scientific representations. In addition, Mathewson (2006) argues that drawing for learning as essential to the development of science students' 'visual-spatial thinking'. Kintsch (1994), and McNamara, Miller, and Bransford (1991) argue that elaborative, strategic activities like drawing should lead to the construction of a mental model.
Cox (1999) distinguished the cognitive difference between reasoning with self-constructed eternal representation and reasoning with presented representations like textbook diagrams. He investigated the two situations; External representations as interpreted by the subject versus external representations as constructed by the subject. The finding suggests that the effectiveness of a particular external representation in a particular context depends on a three-way interaction between properties of the representation, the demands of the task and the subject facts (e.g. prior knowledge and cognitive style). He studied the issues related to the difference between selecting, constructing and using one's own external representation (diagrams, tables and plans). His study showed that almost all students produced external representations while solving problems.
Edens and Potter (2003) studied conditions under which generated illustration serve as an instructional strategy promoting conceptual change. They studied students who copied illustrations, generated a drawing or wrote a description about the principles. The study suggested that visual-based instructional strategies may be particularly useful for concepts associated with non observable science concepts such as plate tectonics and potential & kinetic energy.
Zhang and Linn (2008) used drawing tasks as a scaffolding tool for 8th grade students to learn from visualizations. In a study that involved learning by exploring dynamic chemistry visualizations, they compared students who were asked to make paper based drawings with students that were given extra time to explore visualizations in a learning chemistry learning activity which involved exploring dynamic visualizations. They found that the drawing group learnt more and made more precise interpretations of the visualizations than the interaction group. The drawing activity helped the students to reflect on their ideas by comparing their interpretations of the visualizations to the actions on the screen. This suggests that drawing is a promising way to direct attention to the details of complicated, dynamic visualizations.
National Science Foundation (2008) reports on improving learning by asking students to draw in order to explain scientific concepts to others. These activities not only help students learn better, but it also helps teachers to identify misconceptions held by students quickly. While students are encouraged to consider a variety of formats including stick figures and cartoon in their drawings, they are also told to strive for clarity in visually representing the concepts.
Van Meter, Aleksic, Schwartz and Garner (2006) reported on a study on using learner-generated drawing as a strategy for learning from content area text. In their study, fourth and sixth grade students used drawing under three experimental conditions with two conditions using varying degrees of support. They found that both the drawing condition groups performed better in a problem-solving post-test as compared to the control group that were not assigned a drawing task. They also found that the drawing group that received support performed better than the drawing group that did not receive support. Van Meter and Garner (2005) suggest that drawing leads to the construction of mental models and thus leads to improvements in higher-order learning performances.
In a study by Van Meter (2001), fifth and sixth grade participants read about the central nervous system and completed both a multiple-choice recognition and a free recall post-test. All drawing participants read a two-page text and made two drawings to represent the concepts presented on each text page. Drawing methods involved providing participants with blank paper and a pencil and instructing them to make a picture to show the important ideas in text. In the most supported condition, after each drawing was complete, participants inspected a provided illustration and answered a series of prompting questions. A second support condition included the provided illustrations but not the prompting questions. These supported conditions were compared to an unsupported drawing condition in which participants were provided only the written text and blank paper for drawing. In a fourth condition, a non-drawing control condition, participants were provided both the text and the two illustrations but did not draw. The findings of this study indicates that the drawing tasks helped improved higher level learning rather than rote memorization as mental model formation does not involve the memorization of textual information but rather flexible processing and integration of information. The study also demonstrated that drawing tasks that enjoyed the most support performed better in the post-tests. They suggest that the drawing groups performed better because they engaged in more self-monitoring events. The drawing group that enjoyed more support engaged in more self-monitoring events than the drawing group that did not enjoy support.
Van Meter and Garner (2005) presented a processing model of drawing construction that is an extension of Mayer's Generative Theory of Textbook Design, a model proposed to explain learning from illustrated text (Mayer & Sims, 1994; Mayer, Steinhoff, Bower, & Mars, 1995). In Mayer's model, readers select key elements from text and illustrations and organize these to form coherent verbal and nonverbal representations. These two representations are then integrated to form a mental model that supports conceptual transfer (Mayer, 1993; Mayer, Bove, Bryman, Mars, & Tapangco, 1996). The proposed model is fundamentally consistent with Mayer's descriptions of selection, organization, and integration and is similarly grounded in Paivio's dual-coding theory (1986, 1991). When applied to drawing, however, important differences emerge with respect to the construction of the nonverbal representation and the integration of the verbal and nonverbal representations. In addition, the drawing model addresses the role of externally provided support.
The task of drawing begins with the selection of key elements. When learners draw with no provided illustration, however, only elements from the verbal text are available for selection. Selected elements are then organized to construct a verbal representation of text. In the organization process elements are linked within the verbal representation as the learner activities old and generates new associative connections between verbal elements (Mayer, 1993; Mayer & Sims, 1994).
The selection and organization of verbal elements are crucial processes in the drawing strategy because it is the verbal representation that serves as the foundation for the construction of the nonverbal representation. Construction of this representation begins as the learner activates stored referential links between selected verbal elements and stored nonverbal representations of these. The reader who learns that the bones of a bird's wings are similar to the human arm, for example, can also activate a stored image of the human arm and use this as part of the nonverbal representation.
It is also possible, however, that drawing requires the learner to nonverbally represent elements for which no stored imagen, or non verbal mental representation the element (Paivio, 1991; Sadoski & Paivio, 2004), exists. In these cases, the learner relies on the verbal description to generate a nonverbal representation. When reading that barbules are "hooks and catches," for example, the reader must use stored images of hooks and catches and adapt these to the feather structure. The verbal description is the foundation for this construction.
The verbal representation is also the foundation for organizing the nonverbal representation. The spatial relationship between barbules and feathers that a learner represents in a drawing, for instance, is based on the verbal description that barbules hold separate feathers together. Although construction of the nonverbal representation is dependent on the verbal representation, the two mutually influence one another. For example, when reading, the learner may not have attended to the verbal description of barbules. Wen drawing, however, this learner realizes the need to determine the spatial location of this structure and this realization leads to a reinspection of the text and selection of spatial information for inclusion in the verbal representation. Once represented verbally, this knowledge is available to the nonverbal representation and subsequently, can be included in the drawing.
Elements in the nonverbal representation are organized according to associative connections between imagens. Again, some of these are stored links while others are newly generated. The nonverbal representation then serves as the internal image the learner depicts in a drawing. The entire process is a recursive one. Efforts to draw, for example, may cause the learner to realize that the nonverbal representation does not include information about how feathers are connected to the wing. Consequently, the learner is redirected to the verbal representation and, if the information has not been encoded there, text reinspection will follow. This recursive process supports readers' self-monitoring and increases the detection of comprehension errors (Van Meter, 2001).
2.6.2 Student-created Videos (Slowmations)
Student-created videos are one popular activity conducted in the context of project based learning. This is because student-created videos take very long to make and it is also not easy to arrange for props for science which usually involve materials or ideas that are not readily available. For example when explaining the process of photosynthesis by student-created videos, one has to create models of cells and photograph them one by one and that is usually impractical. Thus student create videos are also limited to tasks that does not require making materials or props but rather using readily available props like the real materials.
A literature search on either claymation or slowmation will result in quite a number of articles on how to create them and commercial advertisements that promote software that make this process simpler (see for example, Connelly and Connelly, 2008). However, there is a paucity of research on these animation creation activities as reported by Hoban and Ferry (2006).
Claymation, the generation of video animation using clay objects is a technology based strategy to construct understanding in a playful manner through the use of a digital camera to record animation of processes. Claymation is similar to movies created with clay figures like 'Chicken Run' except that for practical purpose for use in the classroom, movies are of very short duration and the number of frames per second are very much less. According to Gamble (1995) it took her a minimum of three days to produce videos as it was a complex process. Unlike the 30 frames per second for professional videos, claymation videos are four frames per second. Thus it takes about 40 frames for a ten second video and 240 frames for a one minute video. The complexity of producing the claymation affords teamwork. Gamble (1995) reports that students research the topic assigned to them and come up with a storyline. A storyboard is then created. The use of readily available technology tools should be noted. Some of the benefits reported by Gamble (1995) is value based in nature like improvements in collaboration, listening, valuing of different ideas. Gamble and Gamble (1995) has a module on doing activities with claymation. Kiser (2001) reports of using claymation for content as well as skill development like researching, writing, revising and editing while working as a team. It encouraged the development of self-generating questions using Internet. The products were one minute videos taking about one to two weeks to produce.
Recently Hoban (2005) has been able to make student-created videos a reality by the use of slowmation. Slowmation is a simplified version of claymation. Slowmation also uses models made from clay or play dough but they differ from claymation in the way models are moved in the horizontal plan and photographed from above. A slowmation movie, which is played slowly (1-2 frames per second) to help students understand the steps and process involved, can be designed to show many different scientific concepts involving change (Hoban, 2005).
Hoban, McDonald, Ferry and Hoban (2009) studied twenty nine pre-service teachers in a science methods class to determine if they learnt science better by creating, reviewing and publishing their own slowmation animations. They found th