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Steffen, Cherry O.
Preservice teachers' responses to an interactive constructivist model for web-based learning
h [electronic resource] /
by Cherry O. Steffen.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: College and university teacher education programs are not, and should not be, exempt from the growing demand for distance education opportunities. Science teacher education is no exception to this growing demand. While there are some distance-learning courses and even complete programs for teacher education, the majority of these are offered as continuing education or post-graduate education opportunities. The number of programs offered specifically in science teacher education (either undergraduate or post-graduate) is extremely limited. Those distance-learning classes that are available for teacher education rarely reflect the instruction expected from teachers by the National Science Education Standards when they enter the K-12 classroom. With the demand for distance education rising, it is important to determine if it is possible for the distance-learning format to be an effective form of delivery for quality preservice science teacher education programs. The research herein took the form of a qualitative case study of two sections of a Science Technology and Society Interaction (STS) course offered via a distance-learning format. (For the purposes of this study, distance-learning courses are defined as those that are offered using online delivery.) The research investigated the extent to which the course incorporated the principles of science education reform. The study took the form of an evaluative case study and provided a rich description of the course itself as well as the nature of the interactions and meanings constructed by students. The course was determined to be an example of a distance learning opportunity that exhibits the desired ideology. Insights gained here were used to illuminate some guiding principles for developing courses for distance delivery that exhibit principles consistent with science education reform.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 153 pages.
Adviser: Barbara S. Spector, Ph.D.
Science education reform.
x Secondary Education
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Preservice TeachersÂ’ Responses to an Inter active Constructivist Model for Web-Based Learning by Cherry O. Steffen A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Secondary Education College of Education University of South Florida Major Professor: Barbara S. Spector, Ph.D. Pamela Fleege, Ph.D. James King, Ph.D. Paschal Strong, Ph.D. Diane TeStrake, Ph.D. Date of Approval: February 28, 2006 Keywords: Distance learning, WebCT, Science education reform, STS, Constructivism Copyright 2006, Cherry O. Steffen
Dedication To David and RachelÂ… Thanks for making it possible for me to pursue my dreams. Without your patience and help, I would have ne ver realized the possibilities. I love you both.
i Table of Contents List of Tables................................................................................................................. ......v List of Figures................................................................................................................ ...vii Abstract....................................................................................................................... .....viii Chapter 1: Introduction........................................................................................................ 1 Science Education Reform.......................................................................................1 Distance Learning....................................................................................................3 Constructivism.........................................................................................................6 Statement of Intent.................................................................................................15 Purpose of the Study..................................................................................17 Guiding Research Question...................................................................................18 Chapter 2: Research Plan...................................................................................................19 Research Question.................................................................................................19 The Researcher as an Instrument for Data Collection and Analysis of Data.........19 Researcher Role.....................................................................................................19 The Sample................................................................................................21 Data Sources..........................................................................................................22 Research Design and Data Analysis......................................................................22 Format of the Study...............................................................................................23 Design and Analysis..............................................................................................25 Summary................................................................................................................28 Chapter 3: The Course......................................................................................................29 The Syllabus and Study Guide...............................................................................30 Course Overview...................................................................................................30 Course Goals and Objectives.................................................................................32 Required Learning Activities.................................................................................33 Biography...................................................................................................33 Study Plan..................................................................................................34 Exit Memos................................................................................................34 Journals......................................................................................................35 Concept Maps (C-Maps)............................................................................36 Media Watch..............................................................................................36 Videos........................................................................................................37 School Site Visits.......................................................................................37 Community Site Visits...............................................................................37
ii STS Issue...................................................................................................37 Electronic Project.......................................................................................38 Teaching/Learning Opportunity.................................................................39 Final Project...............................................................................................39 Assessment and Evaluation of Student Outcomes.................................................39 Assumptions...........................................................................................................41 Assumptions About Education Reform.....................................................42 Assumptions About the Audience for the Course......................................42 Assumptions About Cognition...................................................................44 Assumptions About Teacher Education.....................................................44 Assumptions About STS............................................................................46 Virtual Resource Center.........................................................................................46 The Nature and History of STS.................................................................47 Teaching STS.............................................................................................48 Examples of STS........................................................................................50 Student Headquarters.................................................................................51 Communication Center..............................................................................51 Chapter 4: Characteristics of Constructiv ist Learning Opportunities Exhibited in the STS Class.................................................................................................................5 3 Characteristics of Constructivist Lear ning Opportunities Exhibited in the STS Class Learning Opportunities....................................................................53 Provide Multiple Perspectives...................................................................53 Authentic in Nature (Repre sent the Real World).......................................54 Allow for Construction of Knowledge......................................................55 Encourage Collaborative and Cooperative Learning.................................56 Build Upon Prior Knowledge and Experiences.........................................57 Emphasize Deep Understanding................................................................57 Provide Opportunities for Action and Exploration....................................57 Build Upon Previous Activities With Increased Complexity of Skills and Knowledge............................................................................58 Include a Transdisciplinary Emphasis.......................................................58 Allows for Alternative Viewpoints............................................................58 Encourage Metacognition and Self-Analysis.............................................59 Occur in an Environment of Trust and Mutual Respect (A Community of Learners).......................................................................59 Encourage Questioning and Reflection.....................................................60 Provide Opportunities for Discourse.........................................................60 Allow for the Construction and Reconstruction of the Cognitive Map........................................................................................................60 Role of the Instructor.............................................................................................61 Facilitate and Coach Student Learning......................................................61 Monitor Student Progress..........................................................................62 Share Control With Students.....................................................................62 Role of the Student.................................................................................................62
iii Control Own Learning Environment.........................................................63 Take Responsibility for Own Learning Experiences.................................63 Learn Actively...........................................................................................64 Participate in Self-Analysis and Metacognition........................................64 Learn Collaboratively and Cooperatively..................................................64 Become a Reflective Practitioner...............................................................65 Assessment.............................................................................................................65 Authentic....................................................................................................65 Negotiated..................................................................................................65 Rewards Intrinsic Motivation....................................................................66 Included Self-Analysis and Metacognition................................................66 Summary................................................................................................................67 Chapter 5: Student Responses and Rec ognition of their Responsibilities in a Constructivist Online Course........................................................................................68 Students Control Their Own Learning Environment.............................................68 Students Take Responsibility for Their Own Learning.........................................73 Active Learners......................................................................................................77 Self-Analysis and Metacognition...........................................................................85 Students as Collaborative a nd Cooperative Learners............................................88 Students as Reflective Practitioners.......................................................................93 Students Feelings about Dist ance Learning Opportunities....................................96 Chapter 6: Literature Review.............................................................................................99 Constructivism.......................................................................................................99 Online Distance Learning....................................................................................100 Who Takes Online Courses?................................................................................102 Student Satisfaction With Di stance Learning Experiences.................................104 Distance Learning Versus Face-to-Face Learning...............................................105 Constructivism and Onlin e Distance Learning....................................................107 Barriers and Problems for Online Learning.........................................................110 Cost Motivators........................................................................................110 Feedback and Teacher Contact................................................................111 Need for Student Support Services..........................................................112 Alienation and Isolation...........................................................................113 Lack of Experience and Training.............................................................116 Faculty Concerns.................................................................................................117 Courseware Concerns..........................................................................................119 Guidelines and Suggestions for Devel oping Online Constructivist Courses.......121 Summary..............................................................................................................125 List of References............................................................................................................1 28 Appendices..................................................................................................................... ..139 Appendix A: Data Analysis.................................................................................140
iv About the Author...................................................................................................End Page
v List of Tables Table 1. Characteristics of Cons tructivist Learning Opportunities..............................11 Table 2. Changing Emphasis on Teaching Standards..................................................13 Table 3. Changing Emphases in Prof essional Development Standards.......................14 Table 4. Changing Emphases on Assessment Standards..............................................15 Table 5. Comparison of Paradigms..............................................................................43 Table 6. Primary Delivery of Distance Education Courses........................................102 Table 7. Free Nodes that emerged from the student communications database.........143 Table 8. Categories that emerged as free nodes were grouped..................................144
vi List of Figures Figure 1. Example of a concept map s howing studentÂ’s unde rstanding of an STS issue........................................................................................................81 Figure 2. Example of a concept map show ing a studentÂ’s understanding of the nature of science.............................................................................................82 Figure 3. Example of a concept map show ing a studentÂ’s understanding of the nature of technology.......................................................................................82 Figure 4. Frustrations a nd Insecurities Tree as it Emerged from Student Communication Database Includ ing Some Sample Entries.........................145 Figure 5. Understandings Tree as it Emerged from Student Communication Database.......................................................................................................146 Figure 6. Interactions Tree as it Emerged from Student Communication Database.......................................................................................................147 Figure 7. Beyond the Class Tree as it Emerged from Student Communication Database.......................................................................................................148 Figure 8. Feelings of Independence and Control of the Class Tree as it Emerged from Student Communication Database.......................................................150 Figure 9. Reflections Tree as it Em erged from Student Communication Database.......................................................................................................151 Figure 10. Responses to Class Tree as it Emerged from Student Communication Database.......................................................................................................152
vii Preservice TeachersÂ’ Responses to an Interactive Constructivist Model for Web-Based Learning Cherry O. Steffen ABSTRACT College and university te acher education programs ar e not, and should not be, exempt from the growing demand for distan ce education opportunitie s. Science teacher education is no exception to this growi ng demand. While there are some distancelearning courses and even complete programs fo r teacher education, the majority of these are offered as continuing education or postgraduate education opportunities. The number of programs offered specifically in science teacher education (either undergraduate or post-graduate) is extremely limited. Those dist ance-learning classes that are available for teacher education rarely reflect the instru ction expected from teachers by the National Science Education Standards when they enter the K-12 classroom. With the demand for distance education risi ng, it is important to determine if it is possible for the distance-learning format to be an effective form of delivery for quality preservice science teacher education programs. The research herein took the form of a qualitative case study of two sections of a Science Technol ogy and Society Interaction (STS) course offered via a distance-learni ng format. (For the purposes of this study, distance-learning courses are defi ned as those that are offere d using online delivery.) The research investigated the extent to which the course incorporated the principles of science education reform. The study took the form of an evaluative case study and provided a
viii rich description of the course itself as well as the nature of the inte ractions and meanings constructed by students. The c ourse was determined to be an example of a distance learning opportunity that exhibits the desired ideology. Insights gained here were used to illuminate some guiding principles for developing courses for distance delivery that exhibit principles consistent with science education reform.
1 Chapter 1: Introduction Science Education Reform The crisis in science ed ucation, originally populari zed by the National Academy of Sciences in 1982, prompted the development of reform documents such as Science for All Americans (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989), Benchmarks for Science Literacy (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993), and the National Science Education Standards (Council, 1996). These documents were generated as a means to gui de the needed reform. They provide what was called a Â“new vision of science e ducation for K-12 studentsÂ” (Sparks, 1997). Principles of reform which were set forth in these documents were in keeping with current research into how people learn as presented in works such as the National Research CouncilÂ’s book entitled How People Learn: Brai n, Mind, Experience, and School (Council, 1999). In response to the declared crisis in science education and the subsequent call for systemic reform, college and university teacher education programs are finding a need to reevaluate preservice sc ience teacher education. Further, the guiding documents indicate that colleges and unive rsities are expected to make changes consistent with current unders tandings of how scie nce is learned and should be taught. The guidelines suggest that several changes must be made in the way in which science is taught in order to meet the need s of all American stude nts. Johnston (Johnston, 1989) has suggested that the best way to break what he or sh e has described as the Â“cycle of ineffective teachingÂ” is to improve the quality of teachers entering the profession. He
2 goes on to state that, despite this need, Amer icaÂ’s colleges and uni versities had not, at that point, met the challenge. Rather, teacher education programs continued to offer the same conservative programs using the Â“itÂ’s always workedÂ” philosophy (Haugen et al., 2000). In a keynote address at a 1993 NSF Workshop on the Role of Scientific Disciplines in the Undergraduate Educa tion of Future Science and Mathematics Teachers, Dr. William Kirwin stated: A strong case can be made for the university as the best place to begin this reform effort. Not only do the universities train the teachers for the K-12 classrooms, it is the universities that provide the final phase of the education for the NationÂ’s technological workforce. It is the job of the colleges of education to challenge their traditional teacher education prog rams and Â‘reinventÂ’ them (as cited in Mason, 2000). While the reform documents offer gui ding principles for effective science education, there are minimal examples of best practices of reform in action documented in the educational experiences of preservice teachers. The books Exemplary Science in Grades 5-8: Standards-Based Success Stories (Yager, 2005a) and Exemplary Science in Grades 9-12: Standards-Based Success Stories (Yager, 2005b) and Exemplary Science: Best Practices in Professional Development (Yager, 2005c), all ed ited by Robert Yager are the first national studies to address how these practices are implemented in the classroom. Exemplary Science: Best Practic es in Professional Development (Yager, 2005c), provides examples of some of the wa ys professional development is meeting the needs of science education reform. Of the sixteen essays in the book, only two deal with formal courses for preservice teachers. Included among these is a chapter about the
3 course that was studied here. In the time since the study co ntained herein was completed a national search conducted by a 30 person a dvisory board of science educators chose this course as an example of a program which meets the needs of science education reform. In the introduction to the Profe ssional Development monograph, Robert Yager states Among issues on the college level is the fact that although 50 semester hours of course work in science certainly indicat es a strong backgr ound in traditional science, there is no indication of some oneÂ’s ability to teach. And, too often, science methods courses are taught in th e same way that science is taught: Instructors define terms, pr ovide lists of ways to teach, offer their own ideas, and expect students to take notes and repeat what they say for tests. This approach is no better than what typically happens in science classrooms and laboratories (Yager, 2005c). There is currently a need to develop ways to express the principles of science education reform in the implementation of a teaching/ learning experience. In order to prepare teachers of the future to teach according to what is known about how science is best learned and taught, teacher education must change and become consistent with the national standards. Distance Learning In addition to direct calls for changes in teacher education programs, changes in technology and in market conditions are also causing colleges and universities to offer educational opportunities for different audi ences, using new and evolving technology.
4 However, these innovations are occurring wit hout increasing budgets. With these factors in mind, more courses, and even entire degree programs are being offered through distance learning avenues (Willis, 1994). Distance education has been called the Â“f astest growing form of domestic and international educationÂ” (M cIsaac & Gunawardena, 1996). It appears that distance learning is being viewed as the means that can revolutionize education and learning of all types. This includes all types of educationa l experiences ranging from corporate training and seminars through university courses a nd even entire university programs (Spooner, Spooner, & Algozzine, 1998). Distance education has a history that began with the early correspondence courses and has now employed se veral forms of deliv ery including print materials, radio, television, computer c onferencing, interactive video, satellite telecommunications and currently the Inte rnet and multimedia computer technology (McIsaac & Blocher, 1998). More interactiv e courses may include graphics, video, and audio components prepared and collected by the instructor (Jones, 2003). However, despite multiple formats for delivery, the Internet is currently the most popular and accepted form of delivery for distance education (Porter, 1997; Sopova, 1996). The 1996 Technology Survey reported by th e American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and the Na tional Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) found that colleges and departments of education do use contemporary technologies (with room for im provement). The survey concluded that education students, faculty, and institutions are moving forward, and in some cases, are leading the way in the uses of thes e avenues for education (Beck, 1998).
5 Teacher education programs are not exempt from the demands for distance education opportunities. It seems obvious that teacher education programs should lead the way in the integration of available te chnology into their programs. In fact, distance education technologies are beginning to affect t eacher education programs. Colleges and universities offering teache r education programs are moving forward in offering programs using the available technologies fo r distance education. It should be noted that, for the purposes of this study, the use of the term technology in education does not include the integration of technology into cl assroom teaching (i.e. virtual laboratories, computer graphics programs, presentation software, and projection microscopes). The only discussion of this type of technology in e ducation will be in the context of the course described in this study. Integration of tec hnology to improve scie nce teacher education (in this case, the use of distance delivery via the Internet) may include classroom technology demonstrations and usage, but this is not the focus of the study described here. While there are courses and indeed, co mplete programs available in teacher education, it is more prevalent in con tinuing teacher education and post-graduate education than it is in undergraduate teach er preparation programs (Hacker & Sova, 1998). In the paper Â“Teacher Training Progr ams Turn to CyberspaceÂ”, Blair (2001) reports that about a dozen colleges and uni versities offer online teacher preparation programs. These programs are, in general, design ed to appeal to adults who are interested in career changes or advanced degr ees. The 2006 version of the online book Distance Learning Online lists only seven accredited colleges or universities that offer online bachelorÂ’s degrees in educati on. None of these is specifica lly in science education. Of
6 the four science education degr ees listed, all are offered at the masterÂ’s level (M. Wilson, 2006). According to PetersonÂ’s Guide to Distance Learning Programs (Peterson, 2005) several other colleges offer a limited number of undergraduate cour ses in education via distance delivery. Modes of delivery for th ese distance programs range from printed material to full internet-based courses. In the publication Get Your Degree Online Helm and Helm (2000) list fifteen certificate pr ograms from nine universities which are intended to be add-on programs for people with existing degrees and in careers other than education. The publication further lists twenty -six complete post-graduate programs in education offered by eighteen colleges or uni versities. Of these, only two offer programs in science education specifically. Although some classes and programs fo r distance learning in education are currently available, these rarely reflect what is expected from teachers when they enter the K-12 classroom. Currently few, if any, guidi ng principles are av ailable for developing distance learning courses in any field, including science edu cation. The lack of available science education courses and programs for pr eservice teachers is apt to lead to higher demand for science teacher education program s to enter the distance learning arena. These, yet to be developed, distance learni ng opportunities must reflect and reinforce current best education pract ices along with reflecting science education reform. Constructivism The principles of science education reform are based upon the theories of constructivism. Constructiv ism encompasses a group of theories of knowledge and learning. These theories, influenced by the works of Dewey, Piag et, Bruner, Vygotsky,
7 and von Glasersfeld among others, take into account the nature of knowledge, and how we come to know what we know. John Dewey proposed that students shoul d participated in what he classed directed living. He believed that knowle dge emerged from situations that were meaningful for the students. As he stated: The essentials of method are therefore identical with the essentials of reflections. They are first that the pupil have a genuine situation of experience Â– that there be a continuous activity in which he is intere sted for its own sake; secondly, that a genuine problem develop within this situa tion as a stimulus to thought; third that he possess the information and make the observations needed to deal with it; fourth, that suggested solutions occur to him which he shall be responsible for developing in an orderly way; fifth, that he have opport unity and occasion to test his ideas by application, to make their m eaning clear and to discover for himself their validity (Dewey, 1916). Jean PiagetÂ’s beliefs about how ch ildren learn are based on his views of psychological development. In his work, To Understand is to Invent (Piaget, 1972) Piaget expressed the belief that teachers must understand the stages of psychological development and that discovery is the basis fo r learning. He stated that Â“To understand is to discover, or reconstruct by rediscovery, and such condition s must be complied with if in the future individuals are to be formed who are capable of production and creativity and not simply repetition.Â” According to Jerome Bruner, learning is an active process. Through this process, new ideas are constructed based on existing k nowledge. He believes that there are four
8 components essential to instruction: 1) pr edisposition towards lear ning, 2) the intended learning should be structured in such that it is readily grasped by the learner, 3) the sequence of presentation must be effective, 4) rewards and punishments must be of an acceptable nature and paced correctly. Bruner al so believes in the social and cultural nature of learning Russian born Lev Vygotsky felt that st udents learning in the sciences was enhanced by the opportunity to explain and interpret their work s for others. He described learning as taking place due to tension between their ow n understandings and adult concepts. The learner must make a connec tion between the information presented and their previously held unders tandings (Van Der Veer & Valsiner, 1994; Vygotsky, 1978). As a guide for science education, Ernst von Glasersfeld is in the forefront of constructivist thinking. Accord ing to von Glasersfeld, Â“knowledge is the result of an individual subjectÂ’s construc tive activity, not a commodity that somehow resides outside the knower and can be conveyed or instil led by diligent perception or linguistic communication (von Glasersfield, 1990).Â” He goes on to state that the facilitation by teachers Â“necessarily rema ins tentative and cannot ever approach absolute determination.Â” This is due to the fact th at knowledge is constructed by individuals and there is more than one solution to any problem Further, individuals arrive at solutions through different pathways (Boudourides, 1998). Knowledge, according to constructivist th eories is constructed by an individual through interactions with the environment. Â“Constr uctivism does not claim to have made earth-shaking inventions in the area of edu cation; it merely claims to provide a solid
9 conceptual basis for some of the things that, until now, inspired teachers had to do without theoretical foundation (von Glaser sfield, 1995).Â” According to von Glasersfeld (1995) Â“there are as many varieties of constructivism as there are researchersÂ”. These range from the theory of radical constructivism (influenced by Pi aget) to the theory of social constr uctivism as supported by the works of Russian psychologist Le v Vygotsky and others. As defined by von Glasersfeld, radical constructi vism sees information as be ing actively rece ived through communication and the senses. Based on th is information, knowledge is actively constructed. Cognition is the ac t of organizing the experienti al world and not the act of discovering an objective reality (von Glasse rfeld, 1989). Bonnstetter (1994) describes radical constructivism as a situation Â“in wh ich learning takes place due to interpersonal deliberations and inner speech, leading to pe rsonally valid interpretations that are internally assessed for personal consistenc y. Sort of a Â‘self fulfilling prophecyÂ’.Â” On the other end of the spectrum, social constructivism emphasizes a situation in which multiple interpretations are resolved in a group setting by so cial negotiations. The result is a consensus and common understand ing among members of a group. The range of theories labeled as constr uctivism is vast. In his work Â“Beyond Symbolic Processing: Expanding Horizons in Educational PsychologyÂ”, Derry (1992) notes that the theory of constructivism has been defined by Â“various epistemological campsÂ” whose members are far from Â“theoretical comrades.Â” Despite the differences in emphases among th e various theories of constructivism, there is some consensus as to how the ba sic constructivist und erstanding of learning underlying these theories should be reflected in educational practices and learning
10 opportunities. In developing a model for science teaching, we can draw upon the works of many constructivist theorists and resear chers. Several of these theorists and researchers, including Jonassen (D. J onassen, 1991, 1994), Wilson and Cole (1991), Ernest (1995), and Vygotsky (1978), have provided overviews of implications for teaching and learning which encompass the theories of both radical and social constructivism. Further, these design principles have been applied to the development of some constructivist science teacher prep aration programs (Barman, 1998; Hammrich, 1998; National Science Education Standards 1996 ; Richardson, 1997). Implications for the role of the teacher, the role of the student, the environment in which the learning opportunities take place, the Â“toneÂ” of activi ties and assessment are all evident. The following is a summary of characteristics presen t in constructivist learning opportunities (adapted from Murphy, 1997). This summary in formed this researcher about essential elements to examine when assessing the ex tent to which the distance learning course studied here reflects constructivis t science teaching practices.
11 Table 1 Characteristics of Construc tivist Learning Opportunities Learning Opportunities Provide multiple prospectives Are authentic in nature (represent the real world) Use primary sources of data Facilitate construction of knowledge Encourage collaborative and cooperative learning Build upon prior knowledge and experiences Emphasize deep understanding Provide opportunities of action and exploration Build upon previous activities with incr eased complexity of skills and knowledge Include a transdisciplinary emphasis Facilitate alternative viewpoints Encourage metacognition and self-analysis Occur in an environment of trust and mu tual respect (a community of learners) Encourage questioning and reflection Provide opportunities for discourse Facilitate the constructi on and reconstruction of th e learnerÂ’s cognitive map Role of the Teacher Facilitate student learning Coach student learning opportunities Monitor student progress Share control with students Roll of the Student Control own learning environment Take responsibility fo r own learning experiences Learn actively Participate in self-analysis and metacognition
12 Learn collaborativ ely and cooperatively Become reflective practitioners Assessment Authentic Negotiated Rewards intrinsic motivation Includes self-analysis and metacognition Note. Adapted from Â“ Integrating distance education tec hnologies in a graduate course,Â” by K. Murphy S. Cathcart, and S. Kodali 1997, TechTrends, 42,1. The science education reform documents not ed earlier were developed with these characteristics in mind. The National Scienc e Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) highlight several areas in wh ich the emphasis in science education needs to change. These areas include science teac hing, professional development, assessment, science content, science edu cation programs, and science ed ucation systems. In looking at the syntheses of changing emphasis it is obvious that the shift is toward a more constructivist approach to scie nce teaching. Many of the char acteristics of constructivist educational opportunities can be identified in the more em phasis areas found in these standards. Due to the nature and objectives in the course studied here in, this investigation concentrated on the teaching, professional development, a nd assessment areas only.
13 Table 2 Changing Emphasis on Teaching Standards Less Emphasis On More Emphasis On Treating all students alike and responding to the group as a whole Understanding and responding to individual studentÂ’s in terests, strengths, experiences, and needs Rigidly following curriculum Se lecting and adapting curriculum Focusing on student acquisition of information Focusing on student understanding and use of scientific knowledge ideas, and inquiry processes Presenting scientific knowledge through lecture, text, and demonstration Guiding students in active and extended scientific inquiry Asking for recitation of acquired knowledge Providing opportunitie s for scientific discussion and debate among students Testing students for factual information at the end of the unit or chapter Continuously assessing student understanding Maintaining responsibility and authority Sharing responsibility for learning with students Supporting competition Supporting a classroom community with cooperation, shared responsibility, and respect Working alone Working with other teachers to enhance the science program Note. From The National Science Education Standards National Academy Press, 1996.
14 Table 3 Changing Emphases in Professional Development Standards Note. From The National Science Education Standards National Academy Press, 1996. Less Emphasis On More Emphasis On Transmission of teaching knowledge and skills by lectures Inquiry into teaching and learning Learning science by lecture and reading L earning science through investigation and inquiry Separation of science and teaching knowledge Integration of science and teaching knowledge Separation of theory and practice Integr ation of theory an d practice in school settings Individual learning Collegial and collaborative learning Fragmented, one-shot sessions Long-term coherent plans Courses and workshops A variety of professional development activities Reliance on external expertise Mix of internal and external expertise Staff developers as educat ors Staff developers as facilitators, consultants, and planners Teacher as technician Teacher as intellectual, reflective practitioner Teacher as consumer of knowledge about teaching Teacher as producer of knowledge about teaching Teacher as follower Teacher as leader Teacher as an individual based in a classroom Teacher as a member of a collegial professional community Teacher as target of change Teacher as source and facilitator of change
15 Table 4 Changing Emphases on Assessment Standards Less Emphasis On More Emphasis On Assessing what is easily measured Assessing what is most highly valued Assessing discrete knowledge Assessi ng rich, well-structured knowledge Assessing scientific knowledge Asse ssing scientific understanding and reasoning Assessing to learn what students do not know Assessing to learn what students do understand Assessing only achievement Assessing achievement and opportunity to learn End of term assessments by teachers Students engaged in ongoing assessment of their work and that of others Development of external assessments by measurement experts alone Teachers involved in the development of external assessments Note. From The National Science Education Standards, National Academy Press, 1996. Statement of Intent There are few, if any, online learning opportunities for preservice science teachers. The question that must be explored is whether it is possible to offer online educational experiences (either individual courses or complete programs) for these students. What is evident is that colleges of education need to explore options for alternative types of instruction that meet th e needs of the presentday student (Paulsen, Higgins, & Miller, 1998; White & Walker, 1999) With these things in mind, the ultimate goal must be to create or maintain quality programs for preservice science teachers.
16 One problem that remains is that instructor s have little, if any, research to help identify the best way to develop distance le arning experiences. There is a need for qualitative empirical studies associated with different styles of delivery. Currently there are few studies being done to determine if the outcomes of distance education opportunities reflect the stated goa ls of the programs or courses. It may be that distance education can reflect reform in science e ducation and therefore serve a dual purpose. First, these programs could be beneficial to the colleges and universit ies in reaching more students. Further, these progr ams may be a way to implement the practices that are crucial to reform. They may provide future te achers with opportunities to participate in educational experiences that mirror the teaching styles that need to be implemented in the classroom (Hacker & Sova, 1998; Hurlburt, 2001). Perhaps it was best stated by White and Walker in the paper Â“Technology, Teacher Education, and the Postmodern: Encouraging the DiscourseÂ” Teachers have been trained to fit into modernismÂ’s educational and school goals for training our children. Teachers typical ly have gone through a higher education institution, engaging in a program where by liberal arts, steeped in the Western classics, and education courses, heavily influenced by the tenets of modernism were mandated. The prospective teacher then endures a semester long student teaching experience and is magically transformed into a professional teacherÂ…The goals and objectives of education require rethinking and reconceptualizing to meet the needs of students and society in a postmodern worldÂ…education and technology should then be designed to facilitate a critical
17 thinking and problem solving focus that allows for a variety of perspectives (White & Walker, 1999). Purpose of the study. The purpose of this study was to determine if a reformbased science education course can be ta ught through a distancelearning format. One example of a constructivist, undergraduate scie nce education course taught via distance learning (specifically through the use of th e Internet) was examined. The format and delivery of the course along with interac tions and relationships developed between student-student, student-teacher, and stude nt-material were examined. Some guiding principles for developing Web-based scie nce teacher education courses, grounded in these data, emerged from this study. It appears that distance education can f acilitate the needed changes in teacher education programs and through th ese changes, further encour age the reform needed to address the crisis that now exists in American science education. One might expect that many of the aspects of constr uctivism (a guiding principle for science education reform) can be encouraged through the use of Intern et-based learning experiences. Students in this learning environment can participate in sustained inquiry, work collaboratively, participate in authentic practices in areas of relevance, and be exposed to many different aspects of science and the sc ientific community. Through the use of computer-mediated communications, students can actively participat e in scientific discourse. This discourse can encourage creative and cri tical thinking skills and help students to develop an understanding of Science Technol ogy and Society issues as we ll as issues of the Nature of Science. In order for this to be possibl e, guiding principles must be in place to facilitate the development of distance educat ion opportunities that can help to bring about
18 needed changes in teacher education programs and further advance the process of reform in science education. This study led to th e generation of such guiding principles. The information gained from the study can be us ed to speculate about what will, or can, happen in the future, and what is needed to develop effective di stance learning courses for science teacher education. Guiding Research Question The study addressed the following question: To what extent does the di stance learning format of th e science education course, described here, incorporate the princi ples of science education reform?
19 Chapter 2: Research Plan This research took the form of a qua litative case study of two sections of a Science Technology and Society Interaction course offered via an online distancelearning format. The emergent design study us ed the constant comparative method as a means of developing grounded theory. Research Question The following is the research question investigated through this study was: To what extent does the distance-learning format of the science education course, described here, incorporate the princi ples of science education reform? The Researcher as an Instrument for Data Collection and Analysis of Data As stated by Merriam (2001), the primar y goal of all qualitative research is, in part, to elicit understanding and meaning, with the researcher serving as the primary instrument of data collection and analysis. This analysis leads to findings that are richly descriptive. Researcher Role As the researcher, the lens I used to co llect and interpret the data derived from, and was influenced by, many experiences th roughout my career in education. As a graduate with a degree in education from a university offering a traditional education experience, I spent seven years teaching in the public schools usi ng traditional science education methods. I then did graduate wo rk and taught in a college level biology program for seven years. During this time, I had the opportunity to be exposed to
20 scientists and science teache rs who were not well informed about (or were new to) science education reform. I then had the oppor tunity to study scie nce education reform and to participate as part of a team carrying out research involving the implementation of reform in a face-to-face setting. Along with th e courses offered using reform methods, I also participated in many traditional classes (both face-to-face, and in distance learning formats). From these experiences I became aware of, and came to understand and appreciate the differences in interpretation a nd implementation of the principles of reform between those individuals (both scientists and science teachers) who were new to, or resistant to, reform and those science edu cators who were involved in developing the reform. I came to realize that there is definite ly a continuum of interpretations of reform. I have recently taught science education cour ses at the college le vel in a class that modeled and implemented reform in a face-to -face setting. Further, I was involved in a cooperative learning experience as an instruct or in a university learning community. This community used several of the principles of reform in the design and implementation of the courses. (Again I saw the continuum of interpretations of reform.) In the learning communities we used the available technology, including bulletin board and email in the Blackboard shell, for asynchronous class communi cations. As an assistant professor in a university department of elementary and ear ly childhood education fo r one year, I have noted that my own students are predominantly dependent learners. This has made me even more aware of the need for shifting from the dominant reductionist paradigm in which student function commonly and leading them, through my course structure, to become autonomous learners functio ning within the holistic paradigm.
21 These past experiences a nd understanding of the concepts of reform in science education provide me with an appropriate lens for, and qualify me, to carry out this study. I have worked with Dr. Spector, the ST S course instructor, since entering the Ph.D. program at the University of Sout h Florida in August, 1998. She and I have collaborated on several research projects. Wh ile working with Dr. Spector in various research groups, I gradually became comfortabl e in the role of colleague and co-learner as opposed to the role of student with a teach er. Dr. Spector and I are able to discuss our differences. Neither she nor I take offens e when we disagree. I feel extremely comfortable disagreeing with her on interpre tations of issues and findings. We have always been able to use these disagreements to initiate discourse and to elaborate on our findings grounded in relevant data. I do not pe rceive Dr. Spector to be judgmental and I know she sees our discussions as opportuni ties to learn, clarify, and make valuable changes to programs and ideas. The relations hip that developed between me, as the researcher and Dr. Spector, the course in structor allowed me to develop a clear understanding of the course and the intentions and understandings of the instructor as the course progressed. I feel we can both saw th is as an excellent opportunity to initiate changes to the course studied here in orde r to make this a model course for science teacher education courses delivered on-line. The sample. This study focused on two sections of a five credit hour, interactive Science Technology and Society Interacti on courses offered during two different semesters. Both sections were presented via distance learning using a Web CT course shell. The course was designed as an open-e nded inquiry in which st udents were expected to answer the question Â“What is STS, and how does it relate to science teaching?Â” The
22 Web site provided students with access to a virtual resource center. Within the resource center there were three bins that contained information about the na ture and history of STS, examples of STS, and teaching STS. The sample was composed of students who participated in either of the two sections of the course. These students were upper level undergraduate students who had been accepted into the college of education. For the purpose of this study, data gathered concerning both sections of the course were treated as separate data sets and then combined. Data Sources Electronic data sources included th e Website as well as communications preserved in Web CT, including studentsÂ’ journals and projec ts, and student-student, and student-instructor interactive discussions. Other data sources included reflections from notes and interviews with the Web designe r and the course instructor. Sources for member checks included interviews and writt en communications with the instructor, designer, and students who part icipated in the classes. Research Design and Data Analysis The study used qualitative research te chniques. According to Merriam (2001), Â“qualitative research is an umbrella concep t covering several forms of inquiry that help us understand and explain the meaning of soci al phenomena with as little disruption of the natural setting as possibl e.Â” Terms for qualitative research include naturalistic inquiry, interpretive resear ch, field study, participant obs ervation, inductive research, case study, and ethnography (Merriam, 2001). Patton (1985) describes qualitative research as an effort to understand situa tions in relation to their context and the interactions that occu r in a specific setting (as cited in Merriam, 2001). The goal of this
23 type of research is to underst and the specifics of a certain s ituation and the nature of the setting, what it means for partic ipants to be involved in th e situation, what is going on for participants, and what meanings they gain. The analysis should be a search for deep understanding and communication of the understa ndings to others with interest in the situation under study. Format of the Study This was an emergent design study in which the data directed the research procedures. The Dictionary of Qualitative Inquiry by Thomas A. Schwandt (Schwandt, 2001) draws upon the works of Lincoln and Guba (1985) as well as others to describe emergent design research as a si tuation in which researchers Â…adjust their inquiry plans and strategies in response to what they are learning as their study unfoldsÂ… By both allowing for and anticipating changes in strategies, procedures, questions to be asked, wa ys of generating data, and so on, the (researcher) seeks to make his or her plan s (i.e., design) attuned and responsive to the circumstances of the particular study. Schwandt goes on to describe the design and pro cess as one that is circular, rather than linear, in nature. An emergent design st udy has a theoretical structure at the onset. Questions are developed that give the rese arch procedure focus and purpose. Further, decisions are made about the kinds of data sour ces and procedures to be used to generate relevant data. The actual analysis, however, is not tightly structured but takes the form of discovery. Schwandt (2001) continues, Analysis unfolds in an iterative fashion through the interaction of the processes of generating data, examining preliminar y focusing questions, and considering
24 theoretical assumptions. Analysis thus b ecomes a process of elaborating a version of or perspective on the phenomenon in question, revising that version or perspective as additional data are genera ted and new questions asked, elaborating another version, revising that version or perspective, and so on (Schwandt, 2001). The study described here took the form of a case study. Smith (Smith, 1978) notes that case studies are different from other types of qualitative studies in that they focus on a single unit or bounded system. Merriam (2001) describes this type of study as Â“an intensive, holistic description a nd analysis of a single entit y, phenomenon, or social unitÂ”. This study focused on the one semester Scie nce/Technology/Society Interaction course taught as a distance learning experience. The course was delivered via the World Wide Web using a Web CT course shell. The interest for a researcher carrying out a case study is in Â“p rocess rather than outcomes, in context rather than a specif ic variable, in discovery rather than confirmation. Insights gleaned from case studie s can directly influence policy, practice, and future researchÂ” (Merriam, 2001). This study took the form of an evaluativ e case study. This type of study requires Â“involved description, explanat ion, and judgmentÂ” (Merriam, 2001). According to Guba and Lincoln (1981), case study is the best form to use for reporting evaluations. It allows for information to be considered with an eye toward making a judgment. This portion of the investigation required the c ourse being studied be judged as it represents one example of a distance learning teacher education expe rience using reform principles as described in the current reform documents and consiste nt with the researcherÂ’s view of science education reform. The principles of constr uctivist teaching, as applied in the National
25 Science Education Standards (1996), were the sensitizing screen for this study. These principles include evidence that the course is inquiry-based and uses authentic practices. The course should be student-centered and student-driven as opposed to teacherand text-driven. Students should have opportuni ties for leadership, co llaboration, research, and action. Student thinking, expe riences, and interests should drive lessons. This would include allowing and encouragi ng students to initiate ideas and ask questions. These ideas and questions should be used to design e ducational activities. Cooperative learning strategies should be an integr al part of the learning envir onment. It should include openended questions and encourage elaborati on of ideas. Further, students should be encouraged to challenge the ideas of others This elaboration a nd challenge should be used to make predictions and suggest causes. An important part of the course should be opportunities for reflection and analysis as well as self-evaluation. Insights gained through the evaluation of th is course and the in teractions between participants in the classes were used to il luminate some guiding principles for developing science education courses taught via distance learning formats. The process that was used to carry out the case study took the form of an emergent de sign study using the constant comparative method as a means of devel oping grounded theory (Glasser & Strauss, 1967). Since little research is available dea ling with science teach er distance education specifically, this type of study is appropriate for this portion of the study. It should be noted that none of the steps in the research design, as descri bed here, happen in isolation. Design and Analysis Initially, the course syllabi and contents of the different portio ns of the Web site delivered via a WebCT shell as well as inte rviews with the Web designer and the course
26 instructor were used to develop a comprehe nsive description of the course. Following this, the communication database was tran sferred from WebCT to the QSR NUD.IST (1997) software program for qualitative data analysis. This program was used for management of the data throughout the resear ch process. At this time, messages were separated into line-by-line units and extrane ous information (such as names and dates) was deleted. The remaining data repres ented an exhaustive compilation of all communications between and among students a nd the instructor during the semester. All of the compiled data were read as a m eans of gaining an overview of the data and to help generate initial im pressions of things that might be important in the coding process. The data was then read lineby-line and a tentativ e coding scheme was developed as common concepts were realized. (Each new coding concept is referred to as a free node in the NUD.IST program). Constant comparison throughout the process led to adding, changing, replacing, or deleting nodes. As terms or phrases were repeated and emerged as important ideas, a string search for these terms was performed. In other words, a search for any noteworthy string of characters was done to find any references to a certain concept or point. (T his is a NUD.IST function similar to the Â“findÂ” procedure in any word processing program.) Once a term wa s identified, the researcher assigned it to an existing node, placed it in a new node, or ignored the term, as was indicated by the context of the string. Free nodes were grouped into categories. Th ese categories were grouped in the program using the formation of index trees These trees offered a method of grouping nodes into categories with common themes. Again, this was an iterative process and required constant comparison with previously coded data. Trees were altered as new
27 categories emerged and others were merged into previous ly existing categories. As indicated by Merriam (2001), th ese categories reflect the pur pose of the research, are exhaustive, are mutually exclusive, are se nsitizing, and are con ceptually congruent. Categories were described according to propert ies. This information was used in the development of hypotheses. Various relate d hypotheses led to the development of theories. The appendix contains more i ndepth description of the process used for analysis of the data and incl udes examples from this study. As theories were developed, findings we re checked by reviewing the database, and member checks. The findings are herein reported in a written report detailing them and include quotations from the students and in structor. The information gained from the study was used to speculate about what will, or can, happen in the future, and what is needed to develop effective distance lear ning courses for science teacher education. Following the development of hypothese s and preparation of the report of findings, a comprehensive literature search was conducted. In the book Research Design: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches (Creswell, 1994), John W. Creswell notes that, while there are different criter ia and methods for using litera ture in qualitative studies, the Â“inductiveÂ” process used for these studies lends itself well to completing the literature search at the end of the process. By using this method, Â“the literature does not guide and direct the study, but rather becomes and aide once patterns of categories have been identified.Â” The author furthe r explains that this approach is most popular with grounded theory studies. Researchers use the literatur e search as a means to support or negate theories that evolved through the study with those reported in the current literature.
28 Summary The study described here provides a revi ew and evaluation of a science teacher education course delivered via distance educ ation. The focus of the project was on the course design and implementation as it models and incorporates the concepts and ideals of science education reform. The study include s an investigation a nd description of the nature of interactions that took place duri ng the course and relationships that were developed between student-stude nt, student-instructor, and st udent-materials. Information gained was used to suggest guiding princi ples that should be incorporated when developing distance-learning courses for science teacher education.
29 Chapter 3: The Course The course syllabus provides an in-depth view of the course as a whole. As an evaluative case study this project requir es Â“involved description, explanation, and judgment (Merriam, 2001).Â” It is of valu e for this study to provide an exhaustive description of the course syllabus and study guide. These materials provide a window through which the course can be evaluated. Includ ed here is a descrip tion of the course as the researcher understands it from the material contained in the virtua l resource center in WebCT as it was provided to the participants in the class. Furt her understandings were gained as a result of interviews with the course instructor and the course designer. Reflections and responses to the course ar e addressed in subsequent chapters. The course described here was a five -credit hour Science Technology and Society Interaction (STS) course that was designed to be consistent with the paradigm shift from transmission teaching/learning to constructivis t teaching/learning in science education. It was structured as an open-ended inquiry in to the question Â“What is STS and how does it relate to science teaching?Â” The design of the course represented an opportunity to empower learners to take charge of their own meaning making by enabling them to make choices consistent with their own cognitive frameworks, learning styles, interests, and decision making relevant to their own learni ng. The course was delivered via a Web CT course shell. The Web CT site was deve loped as a virtual cl assroom. The virtual classroom was divided into four areas incl uding the syllabus and study guide, a virtual resource center, student headquart ers, and a communication center.
30 The Syllabus and Study Guide The syllabus and study guide section of th e website provided students with an interactive document that included a course de scription and objectives for the course as well as basic directions and definitions for use of the website. Further, a content outline, descriptions and organizati on of the learning activities, and grading criteria were included. Students were also given access to written assumptions for the design of the course. Course Overview The course overview included a course description, site organization and philosophy of the course. The course was described as follows: This course develops studentsÂ’ awaren ess of science and technology as human enterprises that take place in a social, environmental, and historical context. Various interactions of science, technology, and soci ety are explored in the context of STS issues relevant to the learners. The learner constructs a grounded theory about the nature of the interact ion of Science, Technology, and Society and its role in science education reform. The instructor models constructivist teaching strategies. The goal of the cour se is to enable learners to construct a historical and philosophical understanding of (1) the nature of the scie ntific enterprise, including the interaction of science, technology, and society; (2) the multiple dimensions and complexities of sample STS topics; and (3) how to teach STS to diverse audiences.
31 The site organization statement informed students about the organization of the material and the artificial and arbitrary natu re of the divisions. A part of the site organization statement is reproduced here. The major portion of this site is organi zed to serve as a resource center for studentsÂ’ investigation into the interaction among scie nce, technology and society. The resources are organized into three bi ns. It should be recognized, however, that the division into separate categories (bins) is artifici al and arbitrary. It is done for the convenience of study. The separati on does not exist in reality. Thus there is much overlap among the bins. Each bin is represented by a triangle with science at one point, technology at another po int, and society at still another point. One triangle addresses the nature of and history of STS interactions. The second triangle provides examples of STS issu es. The third triangle addresses teaching STS. The course philosophy stated the following: the course is designed for students to Â‘doÂ’ science, to do systematic inquiry to generate an understanding of STS. People in science us ually expect to be taught through a deductive approach, that is for a generalization to be stated followed by examples. In daily living, however, pe ople encountered examples and induce a generalization from them. This course ha s potential to meet the needs of students trained to learn deductively and those inclined to lear n inductively. The site is non-sequential and exploratory to enable learners to make interpretations, communicate interpretations periodically, develop crit eria for making choices, and design teaching materials. It makes no difference exactly which experiences
32 people have or in what order they have th em. The intent is for learners to have enough experiences to create a persona lly meaningful understanding of the interaction of STS. Pages can be accessed in several ways, what ever makes sense to a student. Products are due by the end of the course, but not with any particular prescribed order or deadlines. The intent of the course is to provide a holistic concept of STS. Course Goals and Objectives Goals and objectives for the course as they were presented to the participants in the course are listed below. The participant will be able to: 1. describe the nature of science from bo th current and historical perspectives; 2. describe the nature of technology from both current and historical perspectives; 3. describe the interaction of science and technology with each other and society; 4. construct an understanding of the nature of the scientific en terprise including the role of the intera ctions among science, technology, and society, and generate a grounded theory of STS; 5. use STS as the context to help learne rs construct basic science concepts; 6. use a constructivist approach to teac h diverse student audiences about the nature of the scientific enterprise and the interaction of sc ience, technology, and society; 7. explain the role of STS in the sc ience education reform movement 8. use computers and other communicati on technologies to teach STS.
33 Required Learning Activities The portion of the syllabus labeled learning activities included a list and descriptions of the activities. Prior to lis ting these requirements, students were provided with some suggestions to help with ti me management. These suggestions included allotting sufficient time during the week to pa rticipate fully in the course, reading all directions prior to and upon completion of a ny assigned learning activities, using notes on readings and resources to trigger journal en tries, studying all resources related to an assignment before attempting to complete it, and reading any glossary entries linked to terms in the readings to insure interpretation of the term was consistent with the use of the term in the course. Finally students were advised of the value of keeping track of specific due dates using the Web CT calendar provided for student use. Participants in the course were required to complete thirteen assignments throughout the semester. The assignments were described in this section along with a statement as to the intention of the assignm ent as it was designed. Descriptions of the assignments are reproduced below. Please no te that since information concerning the mechanics of how to post information for the class has no bearing on the study, it has been omitted. Also, information concerning changes in assignments to meet the needs of non-education majors has also been omitted. The following section (pages 35 50) is extracted from the syllabus. Biography. Create a homepage containing the following information: (a) Your Name, (b) Level of computer expertise, e.g. novice, usually func tional, expert; (c) Regional location, e.g. South Tampa, Tampa Palms; (d) Phone number; (e) Major and Career Directions, e.g. sec ondary education, middle school teacher, other; (f) Hobbies,
34 Avocations, Talents; (g) Color label for description that is most like you, and (h) anything about your background that might influence your perceptual screen, e.g. lived in many countries, second career, etc. This assignment is intended to provide information to (a) determine cooperative learning groups and (b) facilitate communication and transportation among community members. (N ote: Personal information listed in sections a, c, and d was deleted for the sake of this study.) Study plan. Use your first study time block to sc an all the materials on the web site in the virtual resource center to ascerta in what things are av ailable to you, how long each item is, and in what order you might like to experience them. Write a potential plan indicating the path you will fo llow and a tentative time line for doing so. This plan may be altered as you generate questions in the pr ocess of constructing m eanings for STS. Put your time line on your personal Web CT cale ndar in the appropria te boxes. Each time you examine a resource and each time you complete an assigned task, write the date on your Self-Assessment Check List. This assignm ent is intended to (a) empower you to build on your personal prior knowledge in a wa y that makes most sense to you, and (b) give you practice in designing learning pathwa ys, a skill you will need to help others learn. Exit memos. After each face-to-face class meetin g, please write a memo in which you answer this question. What would you say to your friends as you walk to the parking lot or to a person when you get home, about the experience during th e class meeting? This assignment is intended to provide a s pontaneous response gi ving insight to your experience in a class meeting.
35 (Note: Classes met a maximum of three times during the semester. Class meetings will be discussed in relation to each class studied.) Journals. Keep an extensive reflective jour nal/learning log integrating the meanings you are constructing from your variou s experiences related to STS. Include a list of resources examined during the week at the beginning of each reflection. Describe the way the date in the resources relate to other readings, videos, field experiences, and your daily life experiences. Identify prior knowledge upon which you are building and how you added, deleted, and, or, rearranged information in your cognitive framework. Questions that emerged for you and your specu lations about answers to those questions are also important. Remember that Â“lear ningÂ” involves thinking, feeling, and acting (Novak & Gowin, 1984). All three aspects are appr opriate inclusions in your learning log. If you indicate your opinion about something, please provide the evidence you used to substantiate your opinion. (Each reflection is not just a lis ting of statements from the reading, or viewing, or a summary report of its contents, nor is it just isolated comments just indicating you agree or disagree.) (Note: At this point a link was provided to give more information about writing a journal entry.) The course is iterative and recursive. The learner chooses resources and other experiences; explores and reads to gath er, organize, and analyze data; creates interpretations and shares interpretations and reflections in the journal; receives comments from this community of learners ; explores and reads more and revises interpretations. This assignment is intended to (a) serve as a lear ning log to let you and
36 others understand how you are making sense of STS experiences, and (b) be a stimulus for discussion among this community of learners. Concept maps (C-maps). Map your understandings of STS as they emerge using Inspiration software. As your maps expand, sm all sections of your map may be posted if you are working on one section only. Your base line maps should be done before examining any resources. They should answer these questions: What is the nature of science? What is the nature of technology ? What are the inter actions among science, technology, and society? Write a narrativ e about the thinking you experienced in developing the map. This is a way of reflect ing that may be covered already in your learning log. The succession of maps document the way you are enriching the meaning you have about STS as you gather more data throughout the semester. This assignment is intended to help you (a) think through the ma ny ways concepts can be connected to each other to construct meaning and (b) see how idiosyncratic cognitive frameworks are. Media watch. Report on one STS event from the media each weekÂ…Be sure to include a broad variety of media sources. Write the following: (a) name of the event of topic, (b) brief description of the item, (c) why you perceive it to be an example of STS interaction, and (d) a minimum of one basic sc ience concept inherent in the event. This assignment is intended to (a) demonstrate the extent to which you have developed a perceptual screen that sens itizes you to how ubiquitous STS is, (b) determine your ability to analyze an event for the basic concepts of science one must understand to make reasoned decisions related to the event, and (c) serve as a database from which you can design learning opportunities that help learners understand the relevan ce of specific basic science concepts to their lives.
37 Videos. View the video series Connections and The Day the Universe Changed (total 20 hours). Identif y one historical trail including f our linkages that you observed in each video you watch. Write one question per tape that you could ask someone to find out if the person watched th at particular videoÂ…In your weekly journal, post your reactions, interpretati ons, and commentary for each video relating the contents to other learning opportunities. This assignment is inte nded to increase your ability to construct patterns relating seemingly disconn ected events to the histori cal progression of science, technology and society. School site visits. Observe and interact with teache rs and students in secondary schools for a total for 15 hours. Use the concep ts in the Order Out of ChaosÂ… paper as one of your analytical frameworks to unders tand and describe what you observed in the schools. This assignment is intended to increas e your awareness of th e paradigm shift as it is occurring in schools in your area. Community site visits. Conduct at least one site visit to a business, industry, or government organization in the community fr om which you can learn about STS. Create a presentation about the site a nd your learning from the visit. You may elect to pair with a partner for this project. This assignment is intended to increase your awareness of (a) STS in the world of work, and (b) the ri chness of the community as a resource for teaching STS to any audience. STS issue. Investigate an STS issue of interest to you. Write a repor t, or construct a presentation, that explicates the science, the technology, and the societal aspects of the issue. This assignment is intended to actua lly teach someone about the STS issue enough so the learner would feel c onfident in his/her understanding of the STS issue enough to
38 be willing to teach about it. Be thorough e nough so that those who have not investigated the same issue can speak intelligently about the particular example of STS to their future audiences. This is an individua l assignment. This is intended to demonstrate the degree to which you can analyze the complexities involved in an STS issue and present them in a coherent story. Electronic project. Apply technologies you experien ced in this course. In particular, the use of internet web page s, and NASA/science resources found on the internet, as well as other electronic and non-electronic media including PowerPoint, Excel spreadsheets, other software programs from CDs, audio or video applications, databases, etc. This is a group task. Each group will be comprised of up to 4 members with the following possible ro les: (1) Project manager (2) Technical manager (3) Data specialist and (4) Curriculum/Standards specialist. This project is intended to demonstrate your ability to work as a research team to lo cate, review, evaluate and organize electronic media into an STS resource base on a comput er that others can use to design learning opportunities about a specific STS issue or to pic for an audience of their choice. One of the strengths of electronic media is the ability to ta ilor instruction to important student characteristics. There is no one best educational treatment for everyone and electronic media in science education may act as a supplement to the overall curriculum program. Therefore, this is a projec t that should be functional, applicable and relevant to your groupÂ’s goals as instructors. Each group will leave the course with their presentation, in addition to access to other presentations for future use. This is intended to be a linked and organized resource collection arranged to help a teacher make decisions
39 about what materials to use, where to find th em and explain how using them will help to accomplish state and national standards. Teaching/learning opportunity. Develop and present a teaching/learning opportunity that involves an STS issue and le arners taking action relating to this STS issue. This is a planned l earning opportunity for a target audience of your choosing in which learners conduct inquiry related to the chosen STS issue. The learners will take action to mitigate the problem of concern base d on the data they have acquired. Identify specific Sunshine State Standa rds and, or National Science E ducation Standards to which this unit contributes. This assignment is in tended to demonstrate your ability to design STS learning opportunities. This may be a group project. Final project. Develop an original format to assess the degree to which you have integrated information from the experience s in this course into your conceptual framework. You may get some ideas for uni que formats by calling upon your avocations, hobbies, talents and interests. Of particular interest in this secti on (Assignment descriptio ns) were the links provided to students concerning length of projects, writing a journal, concept mapping strategies and descrip tions and an explanation of media watches. These links provided information to students as aids to completing required sections. Assessment and Evaluation of Student Outcomes Assessment of student work was embedde d in instruction. Data for assessing students and thus determining grades for the course were collected from the assignments required for the students. These assignme nts, or learning opportunities described previously included, reading both electronic an d print material, watching required videos,
40 site visits, processes, and products. Included also was a written statement concerning the intent of the assignment. This provided th e framework for assessment and evaluation of student outcomes. Participants in the course were provided w ith a detailed descri ption of the grading criteria as well as a grading scale to be used for evaluation of students upon completion of the class. Three criteria fo r assessing quality of work were described. The criteria included the following: (1) The quality and quantity of class, field, and Web CT participation; (2) The qualit y and quantity of presentati ons; (3) The quality and quantity of journal assignments. Quality of work was assessed according to analytic, conceptual, and creative thinking as expressed through oral and electronic communications and written assignments. Quality was also asse ssed according to the Â“degree to which you demonstrate that you have Â‘tried onÂ’ the teach ing paradigm put forth in this course and have come to understand it form the pers pective of someone who acts within the paradigm. One requirement for the class was the completion of a self-evaluation based on studentsÂ’ progress at the midterm point of the semester. Students were provided with a chart on which to record information about the various learning activit ies associated with the course. In some cases students were as ked for a number to indicate how many, how often, or what percent. In other cases stude nts were required to an swer a question that asked to what extent something happened. For these, students rated their participation on a scale of 1 to 5. Students were expected to pr ovide evidence to show the extent to which their work provided data for the listed item. Items for assessment and self-evaluation
41 dealt with all aspects of the course including journals, media watches, responses to others work, concept maps, videos, site visits, pa rticipation, and overall course concepts. Instructions that accompanied the midterm self-evaluation and self-assessment explained that this was one option for evaluating a holistic endeavor embedded in an institution governed primarily by a mechanistic paradigm. In the spirit of using your self as a learning laboratory, this exercise pr ovides an experience with a reductionist/mechanistic tool to assess and evaluate the holisti c endeavor. In the current climate of accountability, administrators often ask, Â‘w hat did the syllabus say was required and did the student execute the required number of ac tions?Â’ This quantitative result does not provide opportunity to e xpress the depth of understanding made by a learner who has constructed meani ng through analysis and synthesis of information from a variety of sources. This may serve you as a teacher in a traditional school. The explanation goes on to note that stude nts will be practicin g analysis of the data, which is a step in scientific inquiry, and that analysis of data requires that judgments be made. Assumptions Assumptions that were considered duri ng the development of the course were made available to the students. The assumptions addressed a variety of issues related to this STS course. Included in this section we re assumptions about education reform, the audience for the course, cognition, teacher ed ucation, and STS. Also included in this section was a chart comparing the fundament al principals underlying the dominant
42 reductionist paradigm and the holistic paradigm (Spector, 1993). Those assumptions have been reprinted below. Assumptions about education reform. The paradigm of education must be consistent with the paradigm of society. Ther e has been a visible paradigm shift in North American society in the past thirty-five years (Toffler, 1990). It has shifted from a reductionist and mechanistic to a holistic pa radigm. Effective func tioning in our society, therefore, requires that the e ducation enterprise shift its paradigm to make it consistent with the paradigm shift in the rest of Nort h American society. The purpose of education should shift from transmitting information to empowering learners to make meaning (Novak & Gowin, 1984). Assumptions about the audience for the course. This course serves two audiences: (a) Students throughout the university who are taking this co urse to fulfill the general education requirement under major issues and major works, and (b) Students who are learners enrolled in a preservice sc ience teacher education program. They are completing, or have completed the equivalent of a major (about 50 semester credit hours) in one of the traditional science disciplines and are seeking secondary (middle and/or senior high school) certification from the stat e in a single science, or in integrated science. The science courses, and usually the methods courses, they have completed are taught traditionally. Both cont ent and delivery reflect the do minant paradigm, which is reductionist and mechanistic. As traditional students, learners act as recorders and memorizers of information from lectures pr esented by the professors. These learners subsequently believe that teaching scien ce is about transmitti ng the accrued body of
43 information produced by normal science (Kuhn, 1970) in the way that it is structured by researchers and traditional te xtbooks. Further, they beli eve that the teacherÂ’s job Table 5 Comparison of Paradigms Dominant Reductionist Par adigm Holistic Paradigm There is one objective reality independent of a person that can become known to an individual. Reality is constructed by individuals within their own minds. Therefore there are multiple realities. Truth is correspondent to the objective reality Truth is what a group wo rking in a field at a given time agrees to call reality (socially constructed). The whole is equal to the sum of its parts. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Parts are discrete, each having their own identity. Pieces are altered when they interact to become part of the whole. Cause and effect are linear and immediate. Cause and effect relationships involve multiple factors, are complex, and may be difficult to distinguish. Hierarchies are the prevailing model organizing information, people, and things. Networks dominate the organization of information, people and things. One can know the world by analyzing isolated smaller and smaller pieces One can know the world by examining the whole. Science, using this reductionist approach, is the legitimate way of knowing Science is one of several equally valid ways of knowing. The wholeness of the person, the union of the physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional aspects of the individual is acknowledged Process is product Note. From Â“ Order out of chaos: Restructuring sc hooling to reflect societyÂ’s paradigm shift,Â” by B.S. Spector 1993, School science and mathematics, 93, 1.
44 is to cover the material prescribed by some outside authority (e.g., a textbook or a school districtÂ’s scope and sequence). These student s have not yet had field experiences (a practicum or internship) in secondary schools. Assumptions about cognition. Human beings construct their own meanings. Knowledge, therefore, is socially constr ucted. The process of constructing meaning requires an integration of thinking, f eeling, and acting (Novak & Gowin, 1984). The meanings constructed are stored in the brain as cognitive frameworks. People continually alter their cognitive frameworks through assi milation. This assimilation of information into cognitive frameworks alters the mean ing people construct for themselves, their understanding of the world, and decisions they make. A personÂ’s cognitive framework serves as the perceptual screen, or lens, that filters what the person is able to perceive in any given situation. Â“You see what you are prepared to seeÂ” (Pasteur cited in Hurd, 1991) The perspective an individual has on an object or event depends on the personÂ’s pers onal perceptual scr een. People respond to their perceptions of the world, not to some obj ective reality. Varied pathways are needed to access the idiosyncratic frameworks of l earners. Different perspectives held by a variety of individuals about a situation can serve as pathways to access different frameworks. Each perspective may be thought of as a key to unlock a different door, a different framework. Assumptions about teacher education. Teacher education needs to demonstrate effective ways to access the idiosyncratic fr amework of each learner. It must provide multiple perspectives about an object or event. This can be done through diverse teaching-learning experiences. Teacher educatio n needs to be iterative because learners
45 can construct more detailed meanings and develop richer understandings each time they encounter new data about an object or event. The amount of data and the usefulness of these data increase w ith the number of diverse situations learners enc ounter. The more data they have the more likely they are to find patterns emerging from which to induce concepts. The more concepts they induce, the more likely they are to see connections and generate theory (Spector & Gibson, 1991). The Team assumes most teachers teach th e way they were taught. If teachers experience an alternative to tr aditional didactic teaching, th ey may choose to emulate the new approach. Thus, teacher education shoul d model how teachers should teach science in secondary schools as recommended by the National Science Education Standards, (1996) What Teachers Should Know and be Able to Do, (Dykman & Mandel, 2000) and Science for All Americans (American Association for th e Advancement of Science, 1989). It is assumed that experiencing teachi ng-learning procedures consistent with the desired approaches for secondary schools helps prospective teachers construct an understanding of the way different learners in their future cla sses may experience the integration of thinking, feeli ng, and acting. These insights hei ghten preservice teachersÂ’ awareness of, and sensitivity to, the needs of their future students. These insights can guide the teachers to design instructio n that is meaningful to students. Additionally, it is assumed that teacher education must focus on meaningful learning (meaning making) in contrast to memorizing. An environment that promotes trust is essential for learners to take the intellectual risks necessary to construct meaning. A class structured as a community of co-lea rners has potential to encourage trust. In
46 addition, the 5EÂ’s-engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate (Bybee, 1997) provide appropriate scaffolding to organize teach ing-learning experiences for prospective teachers. Assumptions about STS. The interaction of science, technology, and society illustrates the nature of the scientific ente rprise, because it engenders understanding the nature of science, the nature of technology, how they interact with each other, and how each separately and together interact w ith society. STS requires decision making, problem solving, and action. STS, as used he re, is the emerging paradigm for science education and is consistent with a holist ic worldview. The current paradigm shift encompasses what we teach, how we teach, a nd why we teach scienc e (including a shift from science for the elite few who will be career scientists to science for all Americans.). The Team does, however, recognize other in terpretations of STS, and that STS is defined and implemented in a multitude of different ways in schools. These manifestations of STS in Schools vary from STS being defined as a topic added to the end of a chapter or syllabus, to an instru ctional strategy using a traditional scope and sequence for science content, to an organizi ng template for an entire curriculum. The latter includes building on cons tructivism as an epistemolo gy, a learning theory, and a teaching-learning approach (Spector & Simpson, 1996). Virtual Resource Center The students were expected to conduct a se lf-planned investigation using a virtual resource center on the Website and the community beyond the university. Resources were intended to provide opportunities for st udents to be immersed in a variety of STS
47 interactions. Students were expected to dete rmine their own pathways for exploring the resources using their own time plan and sequence. The virtual resource center for the cour se consisted of approximately 275 Web pages including print matter, videotapes, gra phics, interactive media, and links to Web sites. It was arranged into three bins (1) th e nature and history of STS, (2) teaching STS, and (3) specific examples of STS. The nature and history of STS. The bin labeled the nature and history of STS was intended to address the following questions: (1) What is the nature of science?; (2) What is the nature of technology?; (3) What is the na ture of society?; (4) Wh at is the nature of the interaction among all three?; and (5) How doe s the history of STS provide insight into the nature of each of its components. Resources were divided into groups dealing with the nature of science, the nature of tec hnology, the nature of so ciety, and historical perspectives. Each of these included pert inent chapters from the current reform documents Science for All Americans (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989) and Benchmarks for Science Literacy (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993). The nature of science and the nature of technology sections also included readings from Science and Technology as Human Enterprises (Spector & Lederman, 1990). The nature of science section also included a paper entitled Â“The Biological Evolution as a Basis for Science.Â” Each of these resources was a print selection to be read by the students. The historical prospectives section incl uded four different series of videos. Two of the series were sets of ten videos from the Â“Connections 1Â” and Â“Connections 2Â” series (Jackson & Kennard, 1990). Â“Connections 1Â” and Â“Connections 2Â”, hosted by James
48 Burke, guided viewers through a sequence of interconnected historical events and inventions. The videos were intended to help illustrate the connec tions between history, science, and technology. Another series of videos, Â“The Day the Universe ChangedÂ”, (Lynch, 1995) also hosted by James Burke, pr ovided an overview of the evolution of Western thought beginning with the Greeks. Students were expected to view the entire series Â“The Day the Universe ChangedÂ” as well as 20 hours of vide o selected from the Â“Connections 1Â” and Â“Connections 2Â” series. Also included in the historical perspectiv es section were written selections from Â“Science 84Â” (Hammond, 1984) and Â“Science 85Â” (Hammond, 1985). Â“Science 84Â” dealt with twenty discoveries over the previous cen tury that changed peopleÂ’s lives. Â“Science 85Â” was devoted to twenty five discoveries th at could change peopleÂ’ s lives in the future. These selections were intended to give students some understanding of advances in science over the past century as well as an id ea of the forward thinking nature of science and future possibilities. Further, through these readings students could gain some insight into the extent of the advancements in scienc e over the past fifteen or twenty years. Teaching STS. The teaching STS portion of the virtual center was divided into four sections: (1) What and why?; (2) Samp le events; (3) How to strategies; and (4) Resources. This bin was intended to addre ss the following questions: (1) What is the concept of STS in teaching?; (2) Why is science education today equated with STS education?; (3) How has the societal paradi gm shift impacted science education?; (4) What are strategies to teach STS?; (5) Wh at are examples of events and materials available to teach STS?; (6) What is the re lationship between STS teaching and the nature of science?.
49 The resource available for addressing Â“What and WhyÂ” was the video Â“The Business of ParadigmsÂ” by Joel Barker (1990) This video explains the importance of being aware of, and open to paradigm shif ts using real-world examples. The other resources in this section were papers deali ng with paradigm shifts in society and the schoolsÂ’ needs (and/or attempts) to rest ructure in response to these shifts. The Â“Sample EventsÂ” section of the t eaching STS resource portion included a wide variety of resources for students to expl ore. These included examples of local STS events, such as a description of marine scien ce at a local marine aqua rium and a draft of a middle school curriculum. Further, many of the sample events were interactive programs, available either on laser discs, online, or as CD ROMs for use by students. These interactive programs included Â“The Adventur es of Jasper WoodburyÂ” (Center, 1992) and the Tom Snyder Production en titled Â“Decisions, DecisionsÂ” (Docklerman, 1991). The Jasper series, developed by the Learning T echnology Center at Vanderbilt University, was designed as adventures with embedde d teaching and opportunities for problem identification and problem solving while provi ding common content, authentic tasks, and opportunities to solve authenti c problems. The Â“Decisions, DecisionsÂ” series provides role playing opportunities to study and solve real-world problems while being asked to support their decisions and consider the consequences. Another resource included in the Â“Sample EventsÂ” section was a Web site called the Why Files ( www.whyfiles.org ). This site contai ns a broad range of articles related to current, real world science events and con cerns. The articles are timely, accurate, and broad in scope. Yet another resource for stude nts to experience was a written transcript of a conference presentation made by the c ourse instructor on M ADD (Mothers Against
50 Drunk Drivers) as an ideal STS topic. Also included in th is section were samples of student products from past courses. Th ese products provided students with more examples of STS events in the Â“real worldÂ”. The Â“How To StrategiesÂ” section was composed of eight reading assignments. These included chapters from Science for All Americans (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989) and Benchmarks for Science Literacy (American Association for the Advancem ent of Science, 1993). These chapters are devoted to science teaching and learning. Other readi ngs emphasize STS as a topic for science teaching and as a curriculum organizer, scien ce and technology as human enterprises, and STS equated to instruction. One reading also focused on the use of community resources as a path to meaningful learning. The fourth and final section under teaching STS was intended to introduce students to organizations for educators as we ll as the national and st ate science education standards. Examples of STS. STS examples were the third broad area in the Virtual Resource Center. This section contained four s ub-areas. These were designed to show the interrelationships between scie nce, technology, and society. Th is section was intended to illustrate the interactions between science/ technology/society stemming from changes in technology. It included written selections dealing with haza rdous waste, sick buildings, and movement deficits caused by the use of technology. The example provided for the effects of changes in society to technology was a written description of the issu es facing the city of Key Biscayne when the newly formed city faced replacing flora that was wiped out during Hurricane Andrew as well as a
51 sewage pipeline perilously close to rupt uring and polluting the recently reclaimed Biscayne Bay. An article entitled Â“The Impact of Technology on the NeurosciencesÂ” (Strong, 1999) was the only example relating changes in technology to science. A paper entitled Â“The Cost of Not KnowingÂ” (Holm, 1995) was the example provided to show the relationship of changes in science to tec hnology. The author describes one example of a situation in which understanding a problem in a hospitalÂ’s duct work could have saved tens of thousands of dollars a year. The AI DS situation was the t opic for both assigned experiences under the society to science section. St udents were required to read a paper entitled Â“The AIDS DilemmaÂ” (Strong, 1995) an d to view a video Â“And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidem icÂ” (Shilts, 1999). There were no examples provided for the section on the rela tionship of science to society. Student headquarters. The student headquarters por tion of the Website was essentially a help area for participants in th e course. Help, links, and advice for required activities such as designing Web pages, downloading material from the Web, and changing passwords was available. Further, st udents were provided with help in tracking their progress through the inquiry process. A checklist for recording which resources had been experienced and activities completed was included for student use along with the self-assessment and self-evalua tion form in this section. Communication center. The fourth bin on the Web CT site was the communication center. This contained an asynchronous bulletin board on which students were expected to each post a reflective journal entry once per week as well as comments
52 on and analysis of postings made by fellow stude nts. Course participants also posted inprogress and final products on the bulletin board. The communication center also contained an email forum. Messages delivered via the Website were available to participants in the course only. This email was used for one-to-one communications as we ll as delivery of products to the instructor prior to posting them for the entire class to view.
53 Chapter 4: Characteristics of Constructivist Learning Opportunities Exhibited in the STS Class Characteristics of Construc tivist Learning Opportunities Exhibited in the STS Class Learning Opportunities The learning opportunities for the stude nts in the STS class described here exhibited many of the characteristics of constr uctivist learning. It s hould be noted that the opportunities presented through learning activi ties does not imply that students reached the intended goals of the course. Student responses to the constructivist learning environment and success (or lack there-of) in reaching the goals of the course will be addressed later in this study. Provide multiple perspectives. The resources in the virt ual resource center that were made available for students to experien ce throughout the course were from a wide range of perspectives and a wide range of aut hors. Activities for the course gave students many opportunities to experience STS issues from multiple perspectives. These included the constant discourse between students in the form of journal entries and responses. Also, students were required to comment on me dia watches from a variety of sources and a variety of topics. School and community site visits also provided multiple perspectives. Students were required to vi sit schools for a minimum of 15 hours during the semester. In most cases, these hours were spent with multip le teachers. While they visited only one community site, experiences at these comm unity sites were pres ented to the other
54 members of the class and thus gave member s of the class exposure to many different sites. Projects for the course including the STS issue investigation; electronic project, teaching/learning opportunity, and final project were all presented to the class and made available for each member to investigate. Fu rther, with the exception of the STS issue assignment, these tasks were group activities. Working with other members of the course also provided students with multiple perspectives when preparing presentations. Authentic in nature (repre sent the real world). Many of the resources and learning activities represented Â“real worldÂ” issues. That is to say that the learning activities represented authentic events outside of the classroom that were not artificially staged. Issues addressed through these learni ng activities were connected to the world in which the participants lived as opposed to the explanatory issues that are currently incorporated into the science education proce ss. Written materials dealt with real events such as those described in the Key Biscayne issues, Â“The Cost of Not KnowingÂ” and those resources centered around the AIDS issu es. The resources dealing with teaching STS provided students with real world examples and information on how to teach STS and dealing with the need for a paradigm shif t in education (in rela tion to the paradigm shift in society). The required learning oppor tunities also exposed students to many Â“real worldÂ” situations. These included the media wa tches that were reports and discussions of issues that were currently be ing discussed in public forums Site visits to schools and community organizations also presented auth entic situations and allowed students to interact in theses settings. The project designed to present an STS issue gave students yet another opportunity to experience STS in an authentic situation. In this case, projects were based on actual issues that were rele vant for each student. Students were given
55 freedom to choose issues of interest to them. Other projects, including the electronic project, and the teaching/lear ning opportunity, also gave st udents the opportunity to experience STS in authentic situations. Not onl y did students select t opics that were of interest and relevant to them, they chose th e audience for which to prepare the project. Directing the projects to an audience of choice allowed the pa rticipants in the course to explore issues in a setting beyond the classr oom and with an authentic audience in mind as opposed to directed toward the te acher and his or her expectations. Allow for construction of knowledge. The course offered opportunities for students to construct their own knowledge. The de sign of the course to be an inquiry into the question Â“What is STS and how does it rela te to science teaching?Â” allowed students to develop their own study plan. This allo wed students to build on prior knowledge in ways that made sense to them. Journa l entries and exit memos gave students opportunities to explore experiences and to formulate explana tions of how these opportunities fit into and changed their understand ing of STS. Further, the discourse that accompanied journal entries allowed students to verbalize and defend their reflections and understandings. Examples and a discussion of this will be presented in chapter 5. Throughout the course, students were expect ed to develop three concept maps that illustrated their understanding of STS as they emerged during the course. These maps built upon each other and were intended to s how the idiosyncratic nature of cognitive frameworks. With the exception of the use of media, the resources for the course were highly text driven. This is an obvious inconsistency with the principals of constructivist science education. This was, however, an intentiona l reversion to traditional teaching methods.
56 The instructor and designer for this course knowingly made compromises as a means of bridging the gap between the holistic learning opportunities and the traditional learning opportunities to which the students were accust omed. Students in this course were enrolled in a traditional institution and were thus, for the most part, unfamiliar with constructivist learning opport unities. The use of some traditional methodology here allowed them to participate in the opportuni ty with some initial level of comfort and understanding. Beyond this text driven portion of the course, there was little evidence of the characteristics of traditiona l classes. There was no re quirement for memorization, no lectures, no competition, and no traditional assessment. The video series, however, did seem to force students into more traditional roles during the time spent watching and reporting on the videos. While a few examples of these videos may have been effective, students spent 20 hours during th e semester watching videos. Students were required to comment on the videos by tracing one path way and asking one question about the video (a method to check to see if students had indeed viewed the videos). This was not required for other resources as they were experienced by the students. Encourage collaborative and cooperative learning. The design of this course supplied many opportunities for collabor ative and cooperative learning. These opportunities included discourse through journal entries and responses, and several group activities. These group activities included site vi sits that could be done with a partner if desired as well as the teaching/learning opportu nity that could be done in a group. Also, the electronic project was designed as a group task with suggestions given for roles for the individuals in the group.
57 Build upon prior knowledge and experiences. The design of the course allowing students to design their own study plans was th e first evidence that students would build upon their own prior experiences and knowledge The fact that students could decide where to start and which direction to go in th eir study allowed students to base their plan on their own backgrounds. Information revealed in journal entries and responses were another opportunity to expre ss prior knowledge and describe experiences as a means of building on these. Further, the students construc ted an initial concept map in order to give them a base on which to build their representations of their understanding of STS. These maps, theoretically, provided a visual re presentation of this building process. Emphasize deep understanding. The overall design and intent of this course were to emphasize deep understanding of STS and how it relates to science teaching as opposed to emphasizing memorization and repetit ion of information. Journal entries were intended to allow students to explore all of their experiences throughout the course. Leading questions asked in response to jour nal entries directed students toward more intense exploration of comments made in res ponse to different aspects of the course. Further, four activities, the STS Issue activity, electronic project, teaching/learning activity and final project, were designed to help students complete in-depth studies of different aspects and issu es involved in STS. Provide opportunities for action and exploration. While there were many Â“assignedÂ” readings and video viewings for this course, there were also many opportunities for action and explor ation. Despite the fact that readings and videos were assigned, students were encour aged to explore them in th eir own order and their own
58 pace. Further, students were expected to vi sit sites (school and community) and be aware of STS issues through media watches. Projec ts such as the teaching/learning opportunity were intended to be developed (explorati on) around an STS issu e and learners taking action related to the issue. Further, the elec tronic project, STS issue, and final project were all designed as in-depth explor ations of different STS issues. Build upon previous activities with increase d complexity of skills and knowledge. This course was intended to be iterative a nd recursive. While st udents developed their own learning paths, they were expected to build current activi ties upon previous ones. Information and skills gathered from one as pect of the course were expected to be represented in future projects. Examples of activities that emphasize this are the concept maps, and electronic projects. The concept maps were supposed to be a way to illustrate these increases in knowledge and understa nding and to build upon earlier maps. The description of the elec tronic project states that student s are to Â“apply technologies you experienced in this courseÂ” to Â“locate, re view, and evaluate, a nd organize electronic media into an STS resource base.Â” Include a transdisc iplinary emphasis. In order for an educational opportunity to exhibit a transdisciplinary emphasis it must exhibit interconnectedness between different disciplines. Resources provided in the virtual resource center did encompass a variety of disciplines within the sciences, education, and society in general. Further, site visits, media watches, and required projects allowed students to experience STS from a variety of viewpoints and disciplines. Allows for alternative viewpoints. The design of the course was intended to encourage alternative viewpoints to be expr essed, debated, and va lued. Journal entries
59 and responses provided a forum in which stude nts were expected to express differences of opinion and understanding and explain their alternative vi ewpoints. Choices for media watches and subsequent discus sions (via the journals) al so provided for alternative viewpoints so far as what constituted an ST S issue and responses to issues discussed. Further, projects allowed stude nts to discuss their viewpoint s about different STS issues. Authentic assessment used for the course was designed to allow for alternative viewpoints as well. Students were not expect ed to Â“guess what the teacher was thinkingÂ” in final projects or evaluations. Encourage metacognition and self-analysis. The simplified definition for metacognition that is often heard is thinki ng about thinking. The Strategic Teaching and Reading Project Guidebook (Laboratory, 1995)stat es that metacognition consists of three basic elements. These elements include developing a plan of action, maintaining the plan and evaluating the plan. This cour se is designed to allow studen ts to participate in each of these steps in the self-regulation of cognitive processes. Planning their own path to completing the tasks associated with the course is the initial step in this process. It was further aided by continuous discourse and de scription of activities and actions in the journals and by the building and rebuilding of the concept maps. Further, self-analysis was aided by the use of the self-evaluati on process that student s were required to complete as part of the requirements for the course. Occur in an environment of trust and mutual respect (a community of learners). One of the apparent obstacles in teaching a distance class that represented one example of a constructivist course was the issue of de veloping a community of learners in the absence of face-to-face meetings. Students did have common goals and tasks to complete
60 which gave them some common experiences on which to construct re lationships. Also, in an attempt to help overcome the lack of f ace-to-face interaction, biographical pages were developed by students which included stat ements about their background, current situations, and personalities through the assi gnment of color labels to themselves. Further, students participated in ongoing disc ourse about the class a nd current events and were encouraged to express opinions but to back up any opinions expressed. Another way of building a community was through participa tion in group projects. Participants did not necessarily meet face-to-f ace, but they had to communicate among themselves to complete these group projects. Encourage questioning and reflection. A large percentage of the requirements for this course were based on stude nt reflections. These included reflections on all aspects of the course in the journal discourse. Students reflected on required experiences from the virtual resource center as well as on media wa tches and site visits. Further, students prepared exit memos following any face-to-face meetings and created concept maps that contained reflections on their understandings. St udents were encouraged to ask each other questions as part of the reflections for the course. Provide opportunities for discourse. Again, a major portion of the course was based on student discourse. Students were enc ouraged to respond to reflections in the journals and presentations with questions a nd comments. The instructor also interjected questions to help facilitate the discourse. Students were e xpected to comment on others reflections and this was intended to lead to discourse. Allow for the construction and reco nstruction of the cognitive map. The basic idea behind this course was to construct and reconstruct the cognitive map based on
61 activities and opportunities presented throughou t. Students were not only allowed to do this, but were encouraged and expected to be aware of and report on the Â“reconstructionÂ” as it occurred. The ultimate goal of the course was to develop a cognitive framework that exhibited understanding of STS and how it relates to science teaching. Concept maps, journals, and projects all we re intended to show eviden ce of students undergoing this reconstruction. Role of the Instructor The opportunities for the instructor of the STS class described here exhibited many of the characteristics of constructiv ist learning. It should be noted that the opportunities for the teacher to exhibit the characteristics of a constructivist learning environment do not imply that the instructor in this course capitali zed on the opportunity. Facilitate and coach student learning. The instructor for this course had many opportunities to serve as a facilitator of learning for the st udents. The format of the class, that of allowing the students to design their own learning pathways a nd explorations into the topic of STS, put the instructor in a situation in which traditional classrooms methods (lecture, tests, etc. either in person or through distance learni ng) could not be the predominant mode of delivery of informati on. Further, the designed learning activities were not based on traditional methods of a ssessment. The instructor instead was in a position to help students to develop thei r own learning experiences and to offer suggestions and guidance for enhancing th e experience. Opportunities for teacher interaction (which could offer time for facil itation and coaching) included participation in the journal discussions and the posing of leading questions to help guide student
62 discourse and work on required activities. Em ails and instructor comments on projects and presentations also offered opportunities for interaction. Monitor student progress. Throughout the course, the instructor had ample opportunity to monitor the progress of student s. One of the most striking means for monitoring student progress toward attaining the goals of the course was through the use of concept maps. Through these, the instruct or had access to a visual representation of connections made and rearranged throughout th e course. This could allow the instructor to gain a better understanding of student progress or lack there-of. This included participation in or monitoring of the discour se through the journals. Further, assessment of student projects and presen tations allowed for further m onitoring of student progress. Share control with students. The description of the course studied here clearly shows intent to share control with the st udents. Throughout this course students are expected to design their own learning pathway. There are opportunities to change the syllabus according to the needs of the students. Further, students are able to determine topics and formats for presenta tions of some of the assigned activities and to determine if they will be done individually or in a gr oup. Examples of this will be presented and discussed in Chapter 5. Role of the Student As with the role of the instructor, th e STS class described here provided the students with the chance to experience many of the characteristics of constructivist learning. It should be noted, however, opportuni ties for the student to spend time in a constructivist class do no t imply that the students took a dvantage of the opportunity nor
63 that they attained the stated goals of th e course. The studentsÂ’ responses and outcomes will be addressed later in the study. Control own learning environment. The description of the course studied here clearly shows intent to allow students to control their own learning environment. The very fact that this is a distance learning course allows students to choose a place and a time that is convenient for them. Choices of topics for learning activities and sites for visits are left up to the student. Throughout th is course students are expected to design their own learning pathway. Th ere are opportunities to change the syllabus according to the needs of the students. Also, students are able to choose to what extent many of the learning activities are individual or group work. Take responsibility for ow n learning experiences. Again, the fact that this is a distance course forces students to be respons ible for learning experiences. However, the question to be addressed is whethe r students go beyond the assigned learning opportunities. The course is almost entirel y self-paced; students must choose when to experience all of the learning opportunities and when to comp lete the required activities. Further, students were responsible for dete rmining appropriate sites for community and school visits, topics for media watches, and i ssues to be addressed in other projects and presentations On the other hand, suggested due dates we re posted for most required activities. While this is an obvious contradiction, this is a holistic course set in a dominant setting and students are conditioned to respond to the dominant paradigm. When dates are not given students responded to pressures from ot her courses and left this work until too late
64 in the semester. As the course progressed th e students could not use the activities as scaffolding to construct their knowledge. Learn actively. The concept of active learning su ggests that students are doing something as they gain knowledge and act upon it. This course was designed to provide many opportunities for active learning. All of the learning opportuni ties are designed to be active processes as opposed to passively taking in informa tion. Active learning includes reading, writing, discussion, probl em solving, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The sole example of passive learni ng in this course may be the reading and viewing of the many components of the virt ual resource center. However, the use of journals for comment and examination of thes e resources serves to move the students toward acting on the material and thus b ecome more active in their own learning. Participate in self-analysis and metacognition. This course is designed to allow students to participate in each of these st eps in the self-analysis and metacognition. Planning their own path to completing the tasks associated with the course is the initial step in this process. It is further aide d by continuous discourse and description of activities and actions in the journals and by the building and rebuilding of the concept maps. Further, students were required to comp lete a self-evaluation tool as part of the requirements for the course. Part of this self-evaluation was an assessment of the studentsÂ’ work for each assigned learning activity. Learn collaboratively and cooperatively. The design of this course supplied many opportunities for collaborative and cooperative learning. These included the opportunity for discourse through journal entries and responses, and several group activities. These group activities included site vi sits that could be done with a partner if
65 desired as well as the teaching/learning opportunity that could be done in a group. Students posted assignments before they were to be finalized to obtain suggestions for improvement from other members of the class. Also, the electroni c project was designed as a group task with suggestions given fo r roles for the individuals in the group. Become a reflectiv e practitioner. Reflection was a major component of this course. Entries in the journals as well as exit memos and the concept maps were all based upon reflection on the process that the student s were going through in completing each of the activities. Additionally, class members re flected on the content of the course, other studentsÂ’ understandings, and the e ffect of STS on science teaching. Assessment Again, as noted in other areas, the opport unity for assessment that is consistent with constructivist teaching is not intended to suggest that the partic ipants in the course were exposed to this type of assessment. That issue will be addressed at a later point in the study. Authentic. Students were advised that assessment was embedded in each task performed throughout the course. These required activities were of a Â“real-worldÂ” nature. Authentic opportunities include d site visits, teaching/lear ning opportunities, STS issues, and media watches. Negotiated. Students were offered the opportunity to make changes to the syllabus before it was considered a fina l document. Changes in the evaluation and assessment criteria were open to negotiation as well. Further, students were required to complete a self-evaluation form as a part of the course requirements. This allowed students to not only evaluate themselves by m eans of a grade for the course, but to give
66 evidence to support their evaluation. A discussion and examples of this will be presented in chapter 5. Rewards intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is described by John Marshall Reeve in Motivating Others (R eeve, 1996) as Â“the innate propensity to engage oneÂ’s interests and exercise oneÂ’s cap acities, and, in doing so, to seek out and master optimal challengesÂ”. Further, in the book 150 Ways to Increase Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom(Raffini, 1996), James Ra ffini states "Intrinsic motiv ation is choosing to do an activity for no compelling reason, beyond the satis faction derived from the activity itself-itÂ’s what motivates us to do something when we donÂ’t have to do anything." The design of the required act ivities, by allowing stude nts to choose the format for the presentations did reward intrinsi c motivation to some extent. Beyond this, however, intrinsic motivation does not appear to play a key role in the assessment component of the course described here. The tw o criteria for assessi ng quality work were Â“analytic, conceptual, and cr eative thinking as expressed through Â…communications in class and in other written assignmentsÂ”, and the Â“degree to which (the students) demonstrate that (they) have worked in project development and demonstrationÂ”. These seem to emphasize participati on and completion of the assign ed activities only. (It should be noted that intrinsic motivation is not evident in the course. Further, lack of consideration of intrinsic motivation in the stated assessment criteria should not imply that it was not encouraged throughout the course This will be considered at a later point in this study.) Included self-analysis and metacognition. As noted previously, this course is designed to allow students to participate in each of these steps in the self-analysis and
67 metacognition. Planning their own path to completing the tasks associated with the course is the initial step in this process. It is further aided by continuous discourse and description of activities and act ions in the journals and by the building and rebuilding of the concept maps. Further, self-analysis stud ents were required to complete a selfevaluation tool as part of the requirements for the course. Summary There are a few contradictions between the design of this course and the characteristics of a constructi vist learning opportunity. These included the requirement to list the connections and pose one Â“factual questionÂ” about each of the videos, specific due dates for learning activities, and assessment that emphasized participation and completion exclusively. While these contradictions do exis t, it would appear that these cases were accommodations made to help students succeed in this course atmosphere. Since students taking this course were, for the most part, experiencing a constructivist course for the first time, some adjustments were ma de to help maneuver the paradigm shift.
68 Chapter 5: Student Responses and Recognition of Their Responsibilities in a Cons tructivist Online Course Students Control Their Own Learning Environment The distance learning format of this course led students to expect to have control over their own learning environment Students understood that th ey would decide where and when they would complete the work for the course. However, there were some students in both sections of the course (sec tions a and b) who did express concerns over this control. Some where surprised at the ex tent to which the control was relinquished by the instructor. The amount of control given to st udents in this class seemed to be contrary to other distance or face-to-f ace classes that they had experienced. One student in section A mentioned a discomfort with the lack of structure and meeting on-line as opposed to face-to-face. In life, I am not usually such a structur ed person but when it comes to my classes I enjoy the constant face-t o-face interaction and daily feedback from quizzes, exams, and the professor! I do agree that it is rather refreshi ng to have a self paced program where we learn at our own rate and by interac ting in the forums. However, on the other hand I still really miss the extra perks of being in the good old-fashioned classroom. Other students in this same class expre ssed concern that they were not doing the assignments Â“rightÂ”. Comments in the journals included Â“if this isnÂ’t what the journal was
69 supposed to be please let me know, and IÂ’ll try to do it right next timeÂ”, and Â“well, here it is, I hope I am on the right path or at least in the right forest. Please be honest. Thanks for the help.Â” One student in section B expr essed her concerns as Â“I am not quite sure how I feel about this class. Mostly nervous and scared Â…I like being in a classroom setting and IÂ’m afraid that by taking a web class I will get lost .Â” Some of the concern in this class seemed to stem from some confusion about the initia l expectations for the class. Comments made by students early in the course often voiced this confusion. On e student wrote, Â“I am in my senior year, but I have neve r had a class set up like this one. If you could just let me know what I need to do by this Saturday at midnight, I would greatly appreciate it.Â” Another wrote, Â“I have done my best to car efully read everything I can on the web site, and I still do not exactly unde rstand what is expected from me to turn in Â… I would greatly appreciate your help in this matter.Â” Despite the concerns about th e nature of the course, some were able to see the value of the course design in the learning process. One student wrote (quoting another studentÂ’s journal entry) Â‘effective learning often requires more than just making multiple connections of new ideas to old ones; it sometimes require s that people restructure their thinking radically.Â’ This quote explains exactly what I feel I have to do for this class. I have to restructure my thinking radicall y. I am a hoop jumper and that is how I thrive, not by working for the grade or working to impress the teacher but working for myself, to do the best I can do. To follow instructions and think things through and now in th is class I cannot do any of that. The instructions are
70 so open ended that I feel like I am tryi ng to get somewhere I have never been without a map or directions. In short I have been feeling lost. I have had to restructure my entire study basis to fit th e new mold this class has for me. Will I be able to do it? I rea lly donÂ’t know. Right now all I know is that I may not make an A or a B, or even a C but I will l earn something new, I will learn how to operate outside the box and I will do th e best I can. Maybe I will simply crawl under the hoop or maybe I will soar over it but right now I only know that there will be no hoop jumping here. One student expressed an unde rstanding of the student co ntrol and lack of comfort with it when he described a conversation during a class meeting. The student said at our last class meeting it seemed everyone was lost as to what to do with the assignments. Some started to belittle th e program. I said to the group that some people like to be told exactly what to do and some people donÂ’t want to be told. This really stunned them and got their attention. Then, --(name omitted) said that he was afraid to do the assignmen t wrong. And they all agreed that they didnÂ’t trust that they were allowed to have the freedom offered by such openended assignments. They thought there was some hidden criteria that would give them a bad grade. I reassured them that it was ok to be creative and make their own decisions regarding the assignments. Bu t, I am still amazed at the distrust they had and most likely still have. You said trust was a problem, but I guess I didnÂ’t believe it until I seen (sic) it myself. Yet another participant expressed her understanding when she wrote
71 this is my first on-line class and I have to say I understand why people drop out of them more so than regular classes. I th ink the reason is because you are in control of your own learning and when you have been brought up in a system in which the teachers generally di rect your learning it beco mes difficult to switch. While student concerns over the control s eemed to be consistent for both of the classes, there were some differences in the ex tent of the concerns. Despite the fact that the course outline and content were the same for both sections, the students in section A seemed to be less confused and less concerned about the perceived lack of structure in the course. Several of the students were comfor table and excited about the opportunity for control over their learning e xperiences. This comfort and excitement seemed to help those students who were less co mfortable with the situation to relax and be more open to this new experience. Many students expresse d this excitement. On e student wrote Â“IÂ’m looking forward to the rest of the semester and the path IÂ’ll create.Â” Others said, Â“I enjoy the flexible nature of this course and after all we should arrive at the same level of knowledge no matter if we went through the fr ont door or took a det our around the back,Â” and Â“I feel that being given freedom to choose our own path is refreshing. I actually look forward to pick and choose where IÂ’ ll go next and at my convenience.Â” Over time students in both of the cla sses did begin to understand the control and to even appreciate the opportunity. In fact there were some cases in which students helped to encourage fellow participants in de veloping an understanding of the process. In commenting on the required reading entitle d Â“Factors Contributing to Preservice TeachersÂ’ Discomfort in a Web-based Course St ructured as an InquiryÂ” wrote Â“IÂ’m really not uncomfortable with our class design but I stil l really enjoyed the ar ticle. It helped me
72 to see what kind of reactions/problems I might be faced with when I start to teach. Also, when I read this article, I reflected on how this class is an inquiry.Â” One participant wrote in response to a fellow classmateÂ’s comment about on-line courses being an extreme amount of work, I donÂ’t think itÂ’s a trade-off. I think itÂ’s the difference between being an autonomous learner versus being spoon fed. In a class like this you have to take action to learn. In a class that meets twi ce a week for lecture, most often you get a feel for what is on the test and you review it a couple times before that test. Big difference between learning and passing a test. Many of the students seemed to grow to re ally enjoy the nature of the course and the control of their own lear ning environments. Some partic ipants began to reflect on why their attitudes changed over the course of the semester. I was a little skeptical at first, as most people are with something new, but as time wore on I began to thoroughly enjoy it. I fe el that IÂ’ve learned here, in a semester, what IÂ’ve learned during 3 semesters in a traditional educational curriculum. The ability to mold the material to my pr eferred learning style, I believe was key. Another student stated, The trepidation that each and all of us had at the start of this course was that it had a start, it had an end, but there was no Â‘mapÂ’ to guide from one to the other. We truly became Â‘travelersÂ’ of the mind. I think we all learned a lot, but perhaps more than anything we all saw that abstract methods of teaching can have a greater impact than what would normally be c onsidered the Â‘normÂ’. The interaction
73 among all of us was amazing, IÂ’ve never been involved in a class that held so much discussion among so few students. It was great!!! Other comments included, Â“This class allowed me to delve into the topics I desire, and did not force me to memorize information to regurgitate on a multiple (no-brain) testÂ” and Â“the scariest part of this class, was th e beginning, when I sat there and said Â‘Oh s***, what do I do now?Â’ But it all wo rked out, very well in fact!Â” Students Take Responsibility for Their Own Learning All of the students who completed th e two sections of this course took responsibility for their own learning environm ents to the extent that each student completed the required learning activities within the semester time frame. Some, however, went beyond the required learning oppo rtunities as well as encouraging others to do the same. For example, one student in the 2000 class worked part time at a local Museum of Science and Industry. She suggested that her fellow stude nts might like to go there to just see how it was organized and what was going on or that she could arrange for them to participate in a program offe red through the education department at the museum. Another student in the same class s uggested that her classmates read a book that reinforced a concept presented in one of the required readings for the course. She wrote, Â“Have you ever read Â‘Silent SpringÂ’ by Rachel Carson? If this ar ticle interested you, I think the book will also.Â” In section B, there were several incidences in which students were obviously going beyond the re quired learning activities. At one point a student described a discussion that she had with her hus band (not a participant in the class) about a required video. She described the unders tanding she had deve loped through this conversation and it became an important pa rt of the group discu ssion. Several students
74 related the fact that they had done some outside research on topics of interest or as a follow-up to required learning activities. On e student did some outside research on constructivism because it was of great personal interest. The student wrote in her journal IÂ’m currently doing some research on the c onstructivist approach. (ItÂ’s part of our objectives.) IÂ’ve found that if you get the students into the to pic and allow them to inquire and explore it firs t, then you can introduce the vocabulary because they will have something that they can connect it to. This approach also emphasizes the importance of making the material re levant to the students. I think this approach is great. I canÂ’t stop reading about it. Yet another student wrote Â“after watching the video NSF presentation, 1994, I thought I would see how things progressed since then.Â” Further, there is evidence that students were taking responsibility for their own learning in that they were willing to question the value and format of the learning activities and to even suggest changes that migh t be beneficial for the class participants. For example, during section A, there were so me problems getting one of the required sets of videos. Many of the students expressed fr ustration with having to come to campus (since it was a distance course) to get the vide os and then they were not available. One participant in the class took the responsibility of reading the book instead of the videos since he did not live in the city and the videos were not availa ble in his local library. Still other students suggested to th e instructor that these vide os should not be required and suggested reasons why this was the case and how the format of the class should change. Comments from students generally refl ected this frustration such as
75 the purpose of a distance learning course is to free the student from having to make a trek into a classroom/school locat ion. These videos for ce the student into doing this, which is in complete oppositi on to the concept of distance learning. Many students also suggested that the two sets of videos (Â“The Day the Universe ChangedÂ” and Â“ConnectionsÂ”) were so simila r that there was no real value in viewing both sets. The instructor pointed out her pe rspective on the differences between the two sets of videos. Following this explainati on of the reasoning behind the assignment, the decision was made to keep the assign ment as originally developed. The required videos also were an issue in section B and were an example of a situation in which students took responsibility for their own l earning environments in that they questioned the format of the required re sponses to watching the videos. In this case, students did not comment on be ing required to watch both se ts of videos, they were concerned with the required written res ponse to the videos. Students initiated and participated in a discussion of the value of being asked to trace one pathway through the video and to present one question that might s how that a student had viewed the video. A portion of the on-line discussion follows: I thought the reason I was required to read these messages was so that I could learn something from them. This is not happening; and I feel that reading the messages in regards to the videos are a wa ste of my time. I am trying to see what changes could be made so that I might be nefit from it. IÂ’m only trying to make the most out of my time and education. Another student responded
76 This isnÂ’t grade school. And the syllabus is not written in stone either. We are going to be teachers ourselves and be writing up our own syllabus one day. DoesnÂ’t this give us an additional righ t to voice our opinions about such? Sooner or later we are going to have to decide wh at activities are most beneficial for our class and what activities coul d be left out or modified. Eventually the discussion led to a sugges tion for a modification of the syllabus. The suggestion was for each of the videos give the title of the video and describe what was the most interesting part of it and why you think so. Does this video relate to any other course materials youÂ’ve read so far? If so, tell wh ich ones and how it relates. Since the nature of science involves as king questions and in order to be an autonomous learner one must know how to ask questions, write at least three Â‘what ifÂ’ type questions that relate to the video but prom ote further/deeper thinking. The response from the instructor was Â“The questions are to fulfill the assignment I gave. It asks for questions you could ask so meone to demonstrate the person watched the video. It is what I refer to as Â‘copÂ’ assignm entplaying police.Â” After further discussion, changes were not made to the syllabus. In th is case the instructor was pointing out that this assignment was indeed consistent with th e old paradigm. One thing that is of note here is that journal entries early in the course were ofte n merely responses to the Â“cop assignmentÂ”. However, as time and understa nding progressed, journa l entries began to be more reflective and to incorporate issues and learning that were beyond the videos and the given assignment. This demonstrated that eventually the students did get to the point
77 where they were taking responsibility for th eir own learning and these traditional type assignments became unnecessary after a time. Other examples of students taking respons ibility for their own learning included discussions of different topics that were of interest and led to further research and discussion. These issues included political i ssues, pet sports drinks and a discussion of the safety of drinking large amounts of diet soft drinks containing phenylalanine (among other topics). It was obvious from the discussions that th ese were topics that were relevant to the students and driven by their needs and interests. Participants in these discussions were motivated to do the research on topics of interest and to report on their findings to their fellow classmates. Active Learners Active learning is a process. Throughout this process, lear ners are actively involved in their own learning. The process can include activities such as reading, writing, discussing, solving problems, analysis synthesis and evalua tion. The course was set up so that students had to be actively invo lved in the learning process. There was very little opportunity to be a passive learner. Th e only requirement for the course that could be considered passive in natu re was viewing the video series. And, even in these cases students were expected to incorporate these into their discussion and synthesis of the material for the class. Journal entries, stude nt discussions, concept maps, and projects do reflect the fact that students were actively involved in th eir own learning. Journal entries often were much deeper than simply repea ting information gleaned from the resource material. Often reflections led to active di scussion among students in the class. These discussions and reflections re vealed that students were making attempts to use the
78 information available to them, integrate multiple sources of information, and draw conclusions in order to formulate deeper and more comprehensive understandings. For example, one media watch that was reported by a student in secti on A was about deaths caused by defective tires. This report led to a discussion of blame for the problems. One student wrote, Now that I have had a chance to think a bout it, I view the situation a little differentÂ… Firestone is bei ng blamed in over 150 deaths due to their tires tread peeling off the tire. The thought of 150 pe ople dying over such a small error like a tire design is tragic. In this case a small error in the interaction between science and technology had terrible consequences. I would hate to see the results of a major error in some of the technology that society depends on. When I thought about the error with the tire s I realized that neither science nor technology are to blame for the mistake. The blame falls on society for misusing the science (research) and or technology when developing the tire. Another discussion in the class centered ar ound the effects of deve loping technologies on our society. A participan t in the class wrote You have a great point that technology will not doom us, we will doom ourselves for what we have created. I do not think as an entire society people will change their ways of thinking, look how hard we liberated college stude nts had with this course and its different ways of doing things which makes us have to think differently about our whole learning pro cess. IÂ’m sure we have not totally accepted this way, we have to do it (at least for this semester) but that does not mean we all changed our ways of thinki ng and possibly our ways of doing things.
79 Journal entries prepared by students in section B also reflected studentsÂ’ active learning processes. One particular discussi on which stemmed from a studentÂ’s comments about the videos Â“The Day the Universe ChangedÂ” was an active discussion on the evolution of thinking. The discussion include d students expressing their own ideas and understandings as well as bringing in other sources that supporte d these understandings. One student stated he/she t hought that human beings had gon e from never questioning to always questioning. Several st udents responded to this line of thinking. One student wrote, You said, Â‘We went from not ever qu estioning to always questioning.Â’ I don't agree with this. I feel as the article Â‘The Biological Evolution of Humans as a Basis for ScienceÂ’ suggested that curiosity is natural for humans. It's inherently natural for us to question things. It may seem like what you said is true only because now we have more to question. The more you know the more questions you can have. What you said about teaching students that science don't (sic) have all the answers is so important. It's ev en stated in the SAA under the nature of science. Science can't answer all questions because science is progressive. Answering one question always leads to more questions. And as knowledge increases it may change some of our answers. Another student responded with I see this in both ways th at you two explain it. In th e beginning, we questioned through curiosity but kept the information internal. But as time passed with the increase in humans moving (traveling) the information began to be shared and we began to question in more of a public aren a. It is true that we have always
80 questioned through curiosity and always w ill but what is to be controlled by the structure of society is whether we will al ways share and question each other in the public. And yet another student commented Â“I think you hit the nail on the head. We have always questioned, but today we se em to voice and look for the answers more openly.Â” Throughout the course, students were e xpected to produce three concept maps. These maps built upon each other and reflected the students actively participating in the learning process. Figrues 1,2, and 3 below s how typical examples of concept maps produced by participants These represent st udentsÂ’ understanding of an STS issue, as well as the nature of science, the nature of technology, and the interaction among science, technology, and society. In each case students demonstrate an understanding of the issue as well as the interactions which contribute to the issue. For example, figure 1 shows an understanding of global warming, evidence that it is an issue of concern as well as interactions contributing to the problem a nd possible solutions. Figure 2 shows one studentÂ’s understanding of the nature of science. Through this map, the student demonstrates the understandings that science is changing and seeks to explain the world. Further, the student represents an idea th at science and new unde rstandings lead to changing paradigms and new discoveries. Figure 3 demonstrates one studentÂ’s conceptions of the nature of technology and its constant change. Further the student expresses an understanding of the relationshi p of technology to science and society. In each case, these maps help students to visu alize their understandings of the issue of
81 interest. By producing these maps, student s were actively involved in the learning process as opposed to the tradit ional lecture, notes, and tests. caused by consist of consist of consist of consist of are are are are solutions solutions solutions solutions proof of Global Warming Green House Gases ChloroFluocarb ons CFC'S Carbon Dioxide Methane Nitrous Oxide Human Culprits Industry Cars/Trucks Power Plants Deforestation use best technology Increase gas mileage of vehicles use cleaner fuel source stop overharvesting the World's Forest Evidence of Global Warming shifting ranges in infectious disease Rising ocean temperatures Rising sea levels unusual weather extremes (EL Nino) major shifts in temperatures and precipitation destruction of coral reefs Figure 1. Example of a Concept Ma p Showing StudentÂ’s Unders tanding of an STS Issue
82 a;ways because of because of because of sometimes because it seeks to need because it requires because of which require tries to lead to lead to lead to What is the nature of science? changing discoveries inventions changing paradigms difficult to understand explain world education biology chemistry physics difficult concepts predict new understandings Figure 2. Example of a Concept Ma p Showing a StudentÂ’s Understanding of the Nature of Science. it is always it is the it is which leads to because because leads to makes it created by help in lead to lead to leads to leads to leads to because leads to leads to can be solved by can be solved by will greatly help What is the nature of technology? changing basis of scientific knowledge not always understood problems people cannot fend for themselves learn more information new discoveries inventions lead to knowledge loss of ability of sustainment knowledge leads to inventions difficult to learn example is the plow in the first Connections video not enough learning/ teaching of technology shift in paradigm better education better understanding do not understand basis of life better education of educators better education of studentsFigure 3. Example of a Concept Ma p Showing a StudentÂ’s Understanding of the Nature of Technology.
83 Discussions of site visits to local scho ols and current educational situations were another area in which students were obviously working with the information they had gained (as opposed to simply going through the motions to fulfill the class requirements). Students were required to report on th e visits. Many, however, went beyond the requirement to consider how th e situations in the classrooms reflected (or did not reflect) how students learn and the best way to teach. Further, particip ants in the STS class often used the experience as a star ting point to reflect upon how the experience could be used to influence their own future teaching. Ma ny of these comments took the form of frustration over the current system and c oncern that their own teaching experiences would be difficult due to vari ous issues including lack of support for constructivist teaching, the need to help students to think fo r themselves and to be creative and curious (since traditional educational practices tend to discourage these), and time to implement practices in the classroom that reflect what is known about how best to teach science. One student stated To this day I donÂ’t think I have obser ved a single scienc e class conducting Â“inquiryÂ”. However, I HAVE specifically h eard a teacher say that he knew about inquiry-based learning years ago but didnÂ’t have the time to implement it, so he never did. Another student related, Â“Cr eativity and curiosity are natura l. However, by the time they get to middle and high school they have pack ed these away. You al most have to teach them how to be creative.Â” Some were encouraged by what was going on in the classrooms that they visited and reported on these, as well. One participant in the course stated, Â“Â…I see that the reward is the learning of explora tion of education, and not the
84 extrinsic candy or pencils. The schools I have been in today seem to be attempting to move into the right direction.Â” One result of the discussion of our current educational system was a call to action for bringing about change. Comments included, Â“Once you fi gure out how to push this reform faster, let me know and IÂ’ll help you. YouÂ’re right. IÂ’ve heard some big-wigs talking the talk; but I donÂ’t see much in the way of actions;Â” and Â“Â… societyÂ’s paradigm is changing. So businesses either have to be wi lling to change also; or be left behind. So, why donÂ’t the school systems wa ke up and get with it?Â” Students seemed to realize the responsibil ity was falling to them as future science teachers. Comments from students reflected this feeling. One student expressed her concern when she wrote Â“What happens if a really good teacher is trying to implement the latest scientific discoveries of human l earning and even the latest technology to help her but, the society surrounding her is rebuffi ng and reprimanding her every effort?Â” Students responded to this re alization through many observati ons about their futures as teachers. One student wrote, Â“I do agree with --when she said, Â‘As long as the ideas were welcome and the newer teachers do not fall into the ways of the old paradigm of their colleagues.Â’ To me it seems to be th e biggest obstacle for new teachers.Â” Yet another comment was Â…it would be very hard to completely change the school system right off the bat. I think that we are slowly changing to a more productive system. The way in which our teachers are being taught now (IE: usÂ…) is the way that we should be. I think that is one of the firs t steps to changing the system. But it will take time. It is also hard to coordinate such a vast span of schools to change at one time,
85 especially since we do not have a nationa l standard for our schools. But I think that we are just at the beginning of that change. I also believ e that it will be our job to help form that change when we become teachers and redirect teaching in the right direction. That is one of the main things that has fascinated me about his profession, is that we are going to beco me some of the leaders for the next generation of teachers. Despite the frustration with the current e ducational system, students did seem to be optimistic about their role in bringing about change. One participant in the class wrote, Â“One day, some of the future teachers of to morrow may be the future administrators of tomorrow and hopefully, we can all work toge ther to make a better school system.Â” Another student said Â“You have to be strong enough to go against the tide and not tire out. ThatÂ’s why we really should keep in touc h with one another. If nothing else then to encourage each other and hear each otherÂ’s experiences.Â” Self-Analysis and Metacognition The idea of Â“thinking about thinkingÂ” and self-analysis were clearly foreign to many of the students in both sections of the Science, Technology, and Society course. Early reflections tended to be simple reports of what students read or saw or experienced. For example, one studentÂ’s early media watc h was simply a description of the FIRST program. FIRST ("For Inspiration and Recogniti on of Science and Technology") is a nonprofit organization. The program works to in crease the interest of today's youth in science and engineering. They have an annual robot compe tition (since 1992) which exposes high school students to th e world of engineering. The competition
86 also helps build a sense of community among schools, universities, and business. Sponsors include big businesses such as, Ba xter International, Daimler Chrysler Corporation, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Motorola, Xerox, and more. Not only does this program help students learn and build community spirit, it gives students many more opportunities for their future. Students who compete in this competition have opportunities to r eceive scholarships. Fo r more information, check out the web site www.usfirst.org/ Later reflections on readings or experi ences reflected much more emphasis on meaning making and understanding as opposed to reporting. Further, there was evidence that students were relating current readings and experien ces with previous ones. One student watched a television documentary on tw o tribes in the Amazon basin of Brazil that did not use modern technology. As oppos ed to earlier media watches, this one included little information about the program its elf, but included a great deal of reflection on how this related to our society an d lifestyles. The student wrote, I started to think how our civilization would react if some thing catastrophic happened. We had the big blackout but ev eryone knew that was only temporary. This last week there was a big solar fl are that threatened communications and power grids but like Y2K is was just a th reat. I got to wondering if maybe there were huge and maybe permanent solar flares on our sun that permanently disrupted our power systems how would we as a society react. If the air was ionized enough where we could not co mmunicate via electronics, what do you think would be the results to our society? If we lost our power grids, could we adapt back to the pre-electric days?
87 This prompted the class to engage in an in -depth discussion of wh at would happen if our society did lose its electricity. As students became more comfortable w ith the idea of metacognition, there was evidence that they were actually asking th emselves (and answering) why they thought something and where the thinking could lead. Fu rther, they seemed to enjoy the process of digging into the why and how behind th e thoughts they were experiencing. In discussing the video Â“The Business of ParadigmsÂ”, one student wrote This video was very interesting. For t hose of you who have not seen it I highly recommend it. It clears up the term Â‘par adigmÂ’ and gives great examples of how paradigms affect people and the world ar ound us. I had learned about this concept previously, but the professo r termed Â‘paradigmsÂ’ as Â‘t erministic screensÂ’. People fit and see things in the world the way th ey think they should or the Â‘rightÂ’ way. This concept definitely gives you stuff to think about and perhaps evaluate some of the ways of thinking we have. Another student described her thinking about paradigms as Â“my paradigm of the way science education should be taught and learned is constan tly shifting. I feel like I am trying to incorporate two discourses to ove rlap in a meaningful and productive way. Wow, this really makes me think!Â” Many co mments from students exhi bited the fact that they were thinking about the th inking process itself. Comments included, Â“one thing that story made me think of as well are the comf ort zones of thinking people might get into;Â” Â“misconception of the things that surround us I believe, is caused by constricted thinking processes;Â” and Â“He got me th inking of how the connections were not direct and neither is the real world yet in th e traditional school the way s ubjects are taught makes topics
88 seem as though everything is so linear and di rect.Â” One student even joked, Â“Now I have to go to bed before I become another basket case from thinking a bout this too much.Â” The development of concept maps was benefici al in helping students to evaluate their own thinking, understanding, and meaning ma king. One student wrote the following in a journal entry, Â“I must say as I was creating and recreating my web this week, it is truly amazing how far you can go with it. I felt like I could sit there for hours and add and change and connect ideas. Once you put one idea down there is something else to connect it to then add a million more ideas.Â” Self-assessment proved to be much mo re difficult and uncomfortable for the participants in the classes. Throughout the class, students expre ssed a feeling of not knowing how they were doing. They were obvi ously used to having the instructor provide the assessment and feedback. Comments like Â“I think the thing that aggravates me most is that I do not really know how I am doingÂ”, Â“it unnerves me a bit not to know where I standÂ” were common at all times dur ing the semester. Many comments reflected the fact that students were looking for approval of thei r work. Some students did, however understand that assessment did not have to come from the instructor. One student wrote Â“itÂ’s almost as if we donÂ’t need a professor to tell us how weÂ’re doing because it is obvious in the interactions among us.Â” Students as Collaborative and Cooperative Learners The nature of this course and the asso ciated learning opportun ities naturally put students into collaborative groups. Beyond th e required group work, however, there is evidence that students were building learni ng communities and support groups within the class and as a class group as a whole. Section A may have built a community more
89 quickly due to the fact that one student in the class was extremely proficient with computers and was able (and willing) to help fellow students with problems that arose that were associated with the computer ba sed format of the course. He was always willing to either print out directions, or pos t assignments for students who sent them to him. For example, at one point a student was having a problem pos ting a PowerPoint on the web. He responded to the student Â“email your PowerPoint to me as an attachment, IÂ’ll turn it into a WebPages for you. Yours di d exist, I saw it, yep it was all gobbly-goop because it was a PowerPoint and not html.Â” In another situation he was willing to write out very explicit direc tions for posting something in the student presentation section of the website. Many of the comments from other participants in the class reflected their appreciation for the work of this comput er expert. Common types of comments included, Â“you are a lifesaver, and a wonderful teacher,Â” Â“I canÂ’t imagine taking this class and not having you around to helpÂ…Thanks so much for a ll your help!Â” Anot her student wrote, Â“How in the heck do you find the time to be so awesome!!! You have done a lot for this class and a lot to help those of us who are not quite computer geniuses yet! Thank you!Â” This studentÂ’s willingness to help fellow students as well as hi s openness about himself and his family seemed to help other student s to open up more and build a relationship with the members of the class. Openness among the students in the course al so seemed to help build the trust that is critical to building colla borative learning groups. In each class there were students who were willing to be very open with the class. This seemed to help open up other students to be a part of the class and not just look in from the outside. The same student in section A that was the computer expert also shared an experience with the class that he was going
90 through while participating in the class from New York. His wife was serving as a kidney donor for his sister-in-law. He kept the cl ass updated on their pr ogress and the class seemed to be truly concerned for them all. Students sent messages such as Â“I wish your wife and sister-in-law all th e best!Â” and Â“My prayers are with your family. Hopefully both your wife and her sister will have sp eedy recoveries from the surgery.Â” One participant in section B of the cour se also shared a lif e-altering experience with the class. I guess the most life changing experience I had was a little over a year ago when I was involved in a major car accident in a 15 passenger van wh ich took the life of my husband and one other young girl. I had suffe red the same type of injuries that they died from, but with major brain su rgery, I surprisingly survived. I was told that I would never be able go to colleg e again. After about six months, I had a neuropsychologist tell me that it would be very difficult but if that was what I was determined to do, that I could pursue a degree in chemistry. I suffered frontal brain damage, but God has brought me this fa r, and now I am in my final semester of classes before my final internship. Fellow students expressed their appreciati on of her strength and perseverance. One student wrote, I just wanted to say I think you're a remarkable person. I know of many people that look for excuses not to pursue their dr eams (goals). It takes a special kind of person to be determined not to let circum stances or what others think stop you and get you down. I am really looking forwar d to getting to know you better and working with you in class throughout this semester. Never give up!
91 As the classes progressed, there was ev idence that the students felt bonds with fellow participants in the class. At one point, students began to discuss their future plans. One student was interested in moving to Colorado to teach in the future. It was almost as if it became a class project to help her dete rmine where in Colorado she should plan to relocate (if at all). Other students discussed their activities with friends and families and other issues that were of a more personal na ture than just the Â“business of the classÂ”. Throughout the class students worked to encourage each other to complete the learning activities required for the course. Fo r example, early in the class when there was still confusion over what students were expect ed to do, one student offered the following: I have taken (this instructor) for the middle school science class and have a good idea about what kinds of things we ar e doing and what is due. If you need any help on what we are supposed to be doing I may be able to help. Another student wrote about one of the assi gned readings, Â“Â…If you havenÂ’t read this one, do it next.Â” By the end of the course, many students e xpressed the fact that they really felt close to the members of the cl ass. One student in section A wrote in a final journal entry, Â“Thank you everyone in this class. The intera ctions we have are wonderful. Even though we are not in a physical meeting I do f eel that we have made a good learning community.Â” Another participant in the sec tion B expressed the same in the comment Â“I actually somewhat know the students in this class. Probably more than I would know them in a regular classroom.Â”
92 There was one telling discussion between students in section A in which they examined the reason for the large amount of discussion among the students via the online journal postings. The initial comment that started the discussion was this class has more interaction than any class I've ever been involved with. Some figures: This class has 12 or fewer studen ts, yet there have been 989 posts to the bulletin boards. In another class I'm in, one that demands interaction, there are 53 students with a total of 354 posts. 4 times the students, 1/3 the posts. Students responded to this comment attempting to explain the reason. One student wrote, I think that we have so much interac tion among us because we are such a small group of students, like a close commun ity even though we are not all close geographically. Everyone part icipates in lending suppor t and insights into each other's postings. I have learned so much from everyone, which is something that I could never get from any textbook. We are a ll in the same boat since this is a new web-based course. It helps a great deal to hear from your peers about their experiences and thoughts about the course I feel more confident and better informed about the course than I have in any other web course. Another student stated the following, Â“I agree that this is one of the best web courses I have taken, and it is the result of our inte ractions. The conversations help keep me motivated.Â” And yet a nother student stated I have to say that it is not only the interac tion that brings us closer it is also the support that we have given to each other as well. For example, trying to figure out how to post projects, etc. There is always someone th ere to help to guide you
93 along. Also to give you insight to a topic or give more knowledge on it is great. Thanks! Students as Reflective Practitioners Reflection is a critical part of lear ning. Going beyond repeating what is read, reviewed, or experienced to address the why and how associated with these experiences assures that learning is taking place. The requirement that students complete journal entries and concept maps for this course gave them ample opport unity for reflection. Early in the course, students tended to post more reports than reflections. But with the help of comments and guiding questions from the instructor as well as discussion from fellow class participants, students tended to move toward being more reflective practitioners as oppos ed to reporters. Comments and guiding questions from the in structor fell into three categories. Categories included explanatory, expanding, and encouraging. Through these comments and questions there was evidence of the inst ructor exploring her perceptions of the studentsÂ’ understandings and expl oring her own understandings. Explanatory comments were intended to explain the class structure and learning activities or to explain concepts that came up during the discussions. Examples of explanatory comments and questions incl uded the following: Â“Can you rewrite the directions for the syllabus to accomplish wh at you want? Or, maybe write a list of criteria for the assignment or even a rubr ic that will accomplish what you are thinking about?Â” Â“The syllabus, with al l its attached items is not a one time read. Whenever you have questions about what you are doing, pl ease remember to check back in the syllabus.Â” Â“LetÂ’s look at the purpose of the a ssignment. In order to see how much your
94 ideas change as you progress through your data collection, you need to have a record of where your understandings were to begin.Â” Â“D oes this help interpret the ideas you folks have been sharing?Â” Â“Assumptions about cons tructivism: The following are assumptions about human constructivism, the theoretical ba sis for the design of this course.Â” (This was followed with a passage that described human constructivism taken from a previous publication.) Â“We need to differentiate between Â‘hands-onÂ’ and Â‘inqui ry activitiesÂ’ that are hands on. The robotics demonstrated an inquiry activity. Most Â‘hands-onÂ’ activities in schools today are still just cookbook.Â” When asked for tips on completing an assignment, the instructor responded Â“no I do not have any tips. This is entirely your creativity and what you WANT to do to shar e about your learning. If you can find a way to relax and think about the project, I think you will find it can be fun. Above all, donÂ’t stress out.Â” Many comments and leading questions fr om the instructor were meant to encourage students to expand more upon their own thinking and develop deeper understandings. Comments a nd questions included Â“your thoughts touch on the nature of science. How has technology and the curren t societal paradigm affected the way you came to these conclusions?Â” Following the explanation of a lesson presented to young students, the instructor asked Â“Have you tried that lesson with older kids? What does the teacher normally do for science and how doe s it compare with the STS paradigm?Â” Following a studentÂ’s comments about a read ing on faulty pipes in a building the instructor asked Â“can anyone identify any physic principles involved understanding why the engineering was faulty?Â” Many comments en couraged the students to dig deeper into what they were learning and how it related outside of the course itself. One such
95 comment was Â“what are you learning about the way your mind makes connections when left free to do whatever? What does this s uggest for the way different students may learn in a class you teach? How alike and how di fferent are the learning pathways are all taking?Â” Encouraging comments from the instru ctor were common. One comment was Â“you are not expected to nail down everything now for the rest of the semester. No reason to hyperventilate. Relax and enjoy the adventure.Â” Other comments included Â“what you did here is a wonderful example of how this course is supposed to work,Â” and Â“AMEN! That is what is supposed to happe n if this course is working correctly.Â” However, as a result of the feelings of cama raderie that developed in these classes, the majority of the encouragement for members of the class came from fellow participants. Student journal entries often included stat ements like Â“I know you can do it,Â” Â“hang in there,Â” and Â“you are doing great work.Â” Guiding questions and comments helped st udents to be more efficient reflective practitioners. There are many examples of reflection throug hout the journal entries. A few sample entries are presented here. Some of these reflect studentsÂ’ realization of the importance of reflection as part of teachi ng and learning. Â“I now understand the purpose of some of the activities we do. We must be writing thes e journals (or concept maps) because it has been found that self reflecti on helps build on our prior knowledge.Â” I see that this is what this class is, we are learning what we can learn so we can make good decisions later in life. Choosing things/events from the real world that students can relate to will certainly help them be more interested in science, rather than saying Ok read 25 pages and weÂ’ll talk about it tomorrow.
96 We lead such busy lives that we forget to leave time to reflect and I think schools often reinforce this for teachers and stude nts. Yet without the reflective time to appreciate what we have experienced, it may be as if things never happened. I donÂ’t think people are born good teach ers or not good teachers. The only teachers I know of that teach well and donÂ’t have a teaching degree are ones that have gone out of their way to learn new teaching skills. Teaching is more of a skill than a gift. The word connections in your journal made me think. In this class we are trying to connect how science, technology, and so ciety interact. We watch the videos on connections to help with this. We have to connect the inquiry of this course and how it is going to help in th e classroom. Even if I am l earning just plain facts like micro or something I have to Â‘connectÂ’ it to something like make up a story or something. I donÂ’t understand how someone c ould just read it and be able to remember the stuff without connecting it to different words or stories. I guess what I am saying is that Â‘connectionsÂ’ is a very key word to learning. Kids and adults that arenÂ’t able to make these arenÂ’t going to do well usually. Students Feelings about Dist ance Learning Opportunities Participants in these on-line courses e xpressed a variety of feelings toward distance learning in general. Some had part icipated in several online courses and felt comfortable in the setting. Others, however, either had bad experiences in previous courses, or had not participated in on-line co urses prior to this e xperience. Some of the comments were made early in the semester and reflected students concerns about the upcoming course. One student wrote,
97 I really do not like on-line courses. I can not function in this type of forum so I am very concerned about how I will do in this class. If I knew that this class was going to be online only, I would not have taken it but, unfortunately, I have no choice. Yet another student stated, Â“I do like the interaction and fee dback you get from others in a classroom. I think you can learn so much mo re from others being there discussing and exploring together.Â” One of the concerns was the lack of Â‘bo dy languageÂ’ associated with face to face communication. Others comments about distance learning were in response to a discussion of dropout numbers in on-line versus face-to-face courses. In this discussion the instructor wrote, I think the reason for the dropout in Internet courses is that students donÂ’t realize how much effort has to be put into maki ng meaningful sense of the material (in order for) the studentÂ… to grasp the information. Most students in the traditional classroom just rely on memory of what th e instructor said to get by in class. I agree with online classes, it does seem you get to know your classmates better, especially when there is a communicati on requirement compon ent of the course. Because the students are required to write about how the information relates to them and their cognitive framework (sic ). And of course everyoneÂ’s own little personal stories end up coming out in the course of the dialogue. Another comment indicative of student at titudes toward the online class was; What you said about online courses may be true for this class but certainly not for all. IÂ’ve had many Â‘never to repeatÂ’ experiences with on-li ne courses. Not that the
98 material was difficult, but that the lay out/design was inconve nient, frustrating, and boring. This is the best online course IÂ’ve ever taken. To some extent, statements about fee lings toward the onl ine courses were a function of time. Early in the course, many students expressed this frustration. However, as time passed and participants became more experienced with this type of learning and were able to create a pictur e of what they were supposed to do, they expressed more comfort with distance le arning opportunities.
99 Chapter 6: Literature Review Constructivism In light of current understandings of how people learn and how teachers could most effectively teach, Lunenburg (1998) suggest s that the most signi ficant recent trend in education may be construc tivism. ConstructivismÂ’s or igins can be traced to the Neapolitan philosopher Giambiattista Vico. Vi co argued that only God can know the real world since God created it. Humans construct their own realities and thus can only know the reality that they construc t. The only thing that humans can know is the constructed reality. This reality does not represent external reality (V on Glasserfeld as reported in (Vrasidas, 2000) According to Vrasidas (2000), there are five Â“major philosophical and epistemological assumptions of constructivism.Â” These are: 1) There is a real world that sets boundaries to what we can experience. However, reality is local and there are multiple realities. 2) The structure of the world is created in the mind thr ough interaction with the world and is based on interpretation. Sym bols are products of culture and they are used to construct reality. 3) The mind creates symbols by perceiving and interpreting the world. 4) Human thought is imaginat ive and develops out of perception, sensory experiences and social intera ction. 5) Meaning is a result of an interpretive process a nd it depends on the know ersÂ’ experiences and
100 understanding (Cobb, 1994; D. H. Jonasse n, 1992; Phillips, 1995 as reported in Vrasidas, 2000) Constructivism is not one single theory, but rather several schools of thought that exist across a continuum. Three broad categorie s can be identified across the continuum. These categories included c ognitive constructivism which is associated with the processing of information and the component processes of cognition. A second category, know as radical constructivism, contends that reality is unknown and there is an internal nature of knowledge. Accordi ng to radical constructivists, internal knowledge is not the same as external reality. Rather, internal knowledge represents a variable model of any given experience. The third category of constructivism has been labeled social constructivism. This theory emphasizes the so cial nature of knowle dge. Truth is not an objective reality (as is the theory behind cogni tive constructivism) or experiential reality (as is the theory behind radica l constructivism). Truth, accordi ng to social constructivists is a socially constructed a nd agreed upon truth (Doolittle, 1999). Candy (1991) stated that different learners will most likely perceive ex ternal reality differen tly and that a common meaning is constructed through social negotiation. Online Distance Learning Over time distance learning has assumed ma ny variations ranging from mail order correspondence-type courses to the currently predominant form at, online courses. Despite the method of delivery, distance learning has developed from a need to allow all students equal access to education (Bor deau & Bates, 1997). Of t hose institutions reporting the availability of distance c ourses during the 2000-2001 academic year, 52% offered thirty or fewer courses, 15% reported offering between 31 and 50 courses, 19% offered
101 between 51 and 100 courses, and 15% offered more than 100 cour ses through distance learning avenues. The number of postseconda ry degree and certificate programs offered totally through distance education has incr eased dramatically over the past decade. According to the U.S. Department of Educa tion, National Center for Education Statistics, the number of degree programs offered in 1994-1995 was 690 and had increased to 2810 by the 2000-2001 academic year. The number of certificate programs offered totally through distance education had risen from 170 to 1330 over the same period (Lewis, Snow, Farris, & Levin, 1999; Watts & Lewis, 2003) Online courses encompass a variety of met hods for delivery of the material. These methods range from classes which are tota lly text-based to those which provide opportunities for interactions between the students and the instructors as well as interactions between the students and othe r students and the students and the course materials. These more interactive course s may include graphics, video, and audio components prepared and collected by the instructor (Jones, 2003). In the most recent survey, the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for E ducation Statistics reported the percent of institutions using Â“primary technologyÂ” for delivery of at least one distance education course fo r the 1997-1998 year and for th e 2000-2001 year (see table 1 below). Institutions using technology for di stance delivery of courses reported using multiple methods of delivery. However, the majority of the institutions reporting the delivery of distance courses were using as ynchronous Internet courses by the 2000-2001 academic year. The increase and predominance of this type of delivery may be due to the desire for student control of time and location for participation in th ese courses. Student requirements for distance courses will be discussed later in this report.
102 The course studied here represents an undergraduate course for preservice teachers who are taught using asynchronous Intern et for delivery. As with the majority of institutions delivering distance courses, other courses are offered through more traditional face-to-face methods. Table 6 Primary Delivery of Distance Education Courses Delivery Method 1997-1998 2000-2001 One-way prerecorded video 48% 41% Two-way interactive video 56% 51% Asynchronous Internet courses 60% 90% Synchronous Internet courses 19% 43% Note. From U.S. Department of Ed ucation, National Center for Education Statistics. Who Takes Online Courses? In 2002, the National Center for Educati on Statistics reported that the actual number of students who chose to particip ate in distance education was below the expected number. The center found that in 1999-2000 8% of undergra duate students and 10% of graduate students took at least one for-credit course via distance education
103 (Sikora, 2002). Qureshi et. al (2002)report Â“it app ears that students who choose to enroll in distance education courses are motivated adults, age 18-40, mostly females, who because of their family and work commitments lack time to participate in on-campus studies.Â” Rogers (1989) and Cranton (1989) su ggested seven characteristics that describe the majority of distance learne rs. These characteristics include adult age, valuing learning as a continuing process, experienced, motiv ated, realistic, of ten holding competing interests and possessing pre-deve loped patterns of learning. More recent studies have suggested th at the distance education population is shifting toward younger students. Often these younger students combine distance education courses with on-campus courses (Wallace, 1996). The main reasons that students reported taking distance education courses were location and interest. Other reasons included the desire to earn a degree and the importance of the course in the studentsÂ’ chosen careers (MacBrayne, 1995). A study of distance education in trade and industrial education foun d that Â“students wanted to pursu e degrees without relocating to retain their current employment or because of family responsibilities (Zirkle, 2002)Â”. Wallace (1996) reported that control of time, place and pace of learning were most important in motivating students to regi ster for distance le arning opportunities. Levenburg and Major (1998) suggest th at online courses support certain personality characteristics. Students exhibi ting these characteristics tend to be selfdirected learners, efficient communicators, good at problem solving and comfortable with collaboration. Deal (2002) stat es that Â“not all learning styl es and personali ties are suited to a distance learning format. Special skill s necessary to be su ccessful in a distance learning environment include writing a nd communication skills, time management,
104 organizational skills, and the ability to work i ndependently.Â” Further, Regina G. Chatel in the paper entitled Â“T esting the Waters of Distance Learning: A Case Study in Constructivist Learning and TeachingÂ” (Cha tel, 2001) states Â“students taking online courses are risk-takers who do not appreciate the Â‘sage on the stageÂ’ in the traditional classroom and are open to changeÂ…Â” Participants in the course described he re were of varied ages and personality types. Students ranged from traditional college age to substantially older. Most of the participants did live off campus and some were living in different states than the university through which the c ourse was offered. All were pursuing a degree (most education degrees) and were taking this course for the completion of requirements toward that degree. This may have had an effect on the variety of students taking the course. The mixed responses to the distance course sugges t that not all of the participants were of the personality characteristics described above. However, it did appear that most students became more self-directed learners, effici ent communicators, good at problem solving and comfortable w ith collaboration. Student Satisfaction With Di stance Learning Experiences There are several factors which help to determine student satisfaction with a distance learning experience. These factors in clude the use of high quality visuals as a part of the instruction, the use of different instructional strate gies to aid in instruction, prompt and high quality feedback from the in structor, encouraging student participation in class sessions, ability to access the instructor outside of class time as well as materials needed for the class and clear communication of expectations for the course (DeBourgh, 1999).
105 Most studies of the effectiveness of on line courses have found that students report high satisfaction with distan ce learning courses regardless of the technology used for delivery of the course (Leonard & Guha 2001; Phipps & Merisotis, 1999; Smaldino, 1999). This is the case with the STS course described. Students did report satisfaction with the course offered through the WebCT cour se shell. The accessibility and feedback from the instructor as well as the materials fo r the class did play a role. While reports of dissatisfaction were minimal, they were most often associated with the need to access materials that were not readily available. Distance Learning Versus Face-to-Face Learning While there is a call for more research to determine the effectiveness of distance learning as compared to face-to-face learning (Liebowitz, 2002), the bu lk of the available research suggests that the tw o types of delivery are comparab le. A literature review of 248 research reports, summaries, and pape rs found that there was no significant difference in the outcomes of distance learni ng opportunities and trad itional face-to-face opportunities (reported in DeBourgh, 1999). Overal l, distance learning has been found to be as effective as face-to-face instruction. Th is seems to be especially the case when students perceive timely teacher feedback (Marquart & Kearsley, 1999). In one study which used a Â“Can-Do-Cannot-Do surveyÂ” to de termine if students in an organizational behavior course taught both face-to-face and on line felt they had accomplished the course objectives, Â“the online students believed that they had achieved the course objectives to, at least, the same extent (98 percent) as the face-to-face stude nts (Liebowitz, 2002).Â”
106 In some cases, students and instructors perceived that online courses were even more effective than face-to-face courses. This seems to be due to the ability to reflect on concepts before commenti ng. Chatel (2001) stated the physical absence of the teacher seem s to force students to reflect more on problems and concerns before asking a ny questions because there will be no immediate response as there would be in a traditional classroomÂ…students have time to reflect on the problem and often ar rive at a solution w ithout the assistance of the teacher or peers. An instructor new to distance learning stat ed Â“what impressed me the most about this format was the thorough, insightful, analytical and well-written paragr aphs and posts that the students posted on the bulletin board. I could tell that Â‘the wheels were turningÂ’!(Liebowitz, 2002).Â” The instructor went on to explain my perception was that being able to wa it a few seconds before typing what they would say allowed the students to put so me thought into their responsesÂ…before reacting to the other studentsÂ’ typed st atements. Being able to slow down the dialogue seemed to help the studen ts learn to apply their new people skills...(Liebowitz, 2002). Fran McCall, a 44 year old student at the University of the District Columbia stated Â“itÂ’s the typingÂ…that often forces mature discus sions. When people write their comments they pay more attention to detail and get to the m eat of the subjectÂ…itÂ’s even honed my ability to agree to disagree (Boser, 2003).Â” As was the case in the studies mentioned here, students and the instructor for this course did seem to feel that the format for th is course was as effective, if not more so,
107 than face-to-face courses. Students felt that they really built a sense of community and were able to more deeply expl ore new learning and understandings. Constructivism and Online Distance Learning Many have expressed the need for more re search to determine the effectiveness of distance learning in general as well as the possibility of delivering distance courses using constructivist learning principl es. According to Diaz and Ca rtnal, (1997) Â“research is indeed needed to determine the effectiven ess of distance learning versus face-to-face learning.Â” The Institute for Higher Educa tion Policy report entitled Â“WhatÂ’s the Difference? A Review of Contemporary Re search on the Effectiveness of Distance Learning in Higher EducationÂ” concluded th at Â“despite the large volume of written material concentrating on dist ance learning, there is a relative paucity of true, original research dedicated to explaining or predic ting phenomena related to distance learning (Phipps & Merisotis, 1999).Â” Several key shortcomings and gaps were identified in the extant research. A discussion of these follows. The concerns over the res earch (or lack there-of) ha ve reinforced some ongoing reservations about distance learning in gene ral. The American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution that stated that an undergraduate degree earned entirely through distance learning avenues is not as high in qual ity as one earned in a face-to-face setting (Carnevale, 2000). Further, in a report for The Tallahassee Democrat John D. McKinnon suggested that Â“even at Florida Gulf Coast University, a university Â‘built as a testing ground for Internet-based instructionÂ’, f aculty expressed serious concerns and reservations regarding th e effectiveness of distan ce learning (McKinnon, 1998).Â”
108 It stands to reason that if the research is not available concerning the impact of distance learning courses in general, then th ere is an even greater void concerning the possibilities for constructivist pedagogy in distance learning environments. As Gail Marshall stated in the work Â“Models, me taphors and measures: issues in distance learningÂ” (Marshall, 2000) at present, work in distance learning situ ations is based on pragmatic applications of one or another epistemology, behavioris t or constructivist but we have little systematically collected evidence of any d eep or lasting impacts. We cannot point to well-done models because few mode ls exist which have been thoroughly subjected to rigorous analysis/evaluation. The question that arises is whether on line distance courses support pedagogy that is based on these constructivist components. Those few studies of the presence of constructivist principl es in distance learning environm ents that have been conducted found that these principles were not present in most cases. As part of a study to identify the characteristics of constructivism and th eir presence in faceÂ–t o-face and distance learning courses, Tanenbaum and others (T anenbaum, Naidu, Jegede, & Austin, 2001) identified seven components of constructivi st teaching and learning. These included room for arguments, discussion, and debates; conc eptual conflicts and dilemmas; opportunities to share ideas; problem solv ing opportunities; reflection and investigation of concepts; meeting the needs of individual students; and opportunities for meaning making. This study found that, despite the in tentions of the instructor s in both settings, these components were not present to any great ex tent in either. According to Marra and Jonassen (2001), Â“very few online learning e nvironments that we have examined
109 throughout higher education enga ge learners in solving pr oblems. Rather, most online learning that we have examined replicates in structure and function of traditional classroom instruction.Â” They deduce that th e reason that these constructivist approaches to learning are not predominant in distance learning is that the Â“affordances of online course development, delivery, and manage ment systems do not support constructivist learning.Â” There are however, those who believe th at the technology that exists for delivery of online distance learning does lend itself to constructivist principles and that online courses can embrace constructivist philosophies Some researchers feel that there are many aspects of the available technology whic h support and even enfo rce the interactions necessary to help students in the construction of knowledge These include the use of synchronous and asynchronous communications such as email and threaded discussions, hypertext to allow for debate, and the availabi lity of information on Â“real life problemsÂ” (Chatel, 2001; D. Jonassen, Collins, Campbell, & Haag, 1995). Wagner and McCombs (1995) believe that students participati ng in online courses must work more independently, creatively, and actively than in many of the traditional face-to-face courses. The course described here does exhibit th e principles of constructivist science education. There is evidence of each of the seven component s of constructivist teaching and learning as described by Tabenbaum et.al. (2001) Student participants in this course are given room for arguments, discussion, and debates; conceptual conflicts and dilemmas; opportunities to share ideas; pr oblem solving opportunities; reflection and investigation of concepts and opportunities for meaning making. Further, the course
110 seems to meet the needs of individual student s by allowing them to determine their own course of study and to select issues of personal interest as the focus of the learning activities. While the literature noted indicates that the use of WebCT could be a barrier for learning. In this case the WebCT shell was used in such a way that it did allow for learning in a constructivist atmosphere. The way the course was designed using the WebCT shell did not hinder the experience. In fact, the format of the course using the WebCT shell seems to lend itself to these cons tructivist principles. While other types of technology such as streaming video and hypertex t and threaded discussion capabilities, may enhance the experience for participants, th e format here did not seem to hinder the experience for the students. Barriers and Problems for Online Learning One study on four students that particip ated in online distance learning and student strategies identified four main themes that emerged as the course progressed. These themes included Â“web site design flaws, cognitive and coping strategies, the effects of virtuality and learning differences (Sullivan & Lucas, 2001).Â” Galusha (1998) identified five categories of acce ss barriers to distance education. Cost motivators. The first of the five categorie s identified by Galusha was labeled cost motivators (Galusha, 1998). This suggests that cost was a factor in limiting student access and satisfaction to distance courses. However, a study reported by Zirkle (2002) found that neither cost nor individual financia l situations as significant barriers. As was the case reported by Zirkle, cost was not found to be a barrier for this course. However, since this course was studied beginning at a point after students had decided to
111 participate, there is no way to know if cost had an effect on students who did not elect to take the course through a distance avenue. Feedback and teacher contact. Another category identified by Galusha was the need for feedback and teacher contact (G alusha, 1998). Jones of Southwest Missouri State University School of Teacher Education suggests that faculty participation in online course delivery may have to Â“include a retoo ling of your skills to be come a facilitator of discussions and new strategies for deepening online dialogue in order to enrich learning opportunities rather than general questions often asked in tr aditional face-to-face classrooms (Jones, 2003).Â” Further, in a study of instructorÂ’s partic ipation in Internetbased instruction, Wang-Chavez and Branon found that one of the major difficulties experienced by instructors was finding the ti me to facilitate online discussions and provide quality feedback (Wang-Chavez & Branon, 2001). The course syllabus for any online course may be a crucial element in maintaining contact with students. Providing an in-depth understanding of the course structure and expectations may be one way to help to facil itate learning and help st udents to feel that the instructor is providing needed guidance for the learning experi ences (Chatel, 2001). Cyrs (1997) feels that the sy llabus is the Â“single most im portant communication deviceÂ” for students participating in distance educat ion experiences. Susan Jones (2003) suggests that instructors should provide students with Â“accessible information in order to function within the online communityÂ… (The informati on) can be written in a detailed syllabus and placed online for anytime, anyplace access. This syllabus should contain many of the same components of traditional syllabi with some additions but greater detail.Â”
112 The syllabus for this course was an integr al part of the learning experience. This extensive online document provided students with the information and guidance for completing the course. Information was not lim ited to the traditional list of class dates and assignments but also included instructions for using the technology, links to required materials, and guidance in planning a course of study among other things. Further, the instructor for this course ha d the ability to guide the cla ss through the online format. She found the time needed to successfully faci litate the online discussions and provide feedback as needed. Need for student support services. The third category of access barriers was the need for student support services (Galus ha, 1998). This includes the need for technological support services as well as othe r services related to the course. Technology that was inadequate, not working, or expens ive also presented obstacles to successful completion of online distance courses (" A view from the trenches: E-learning entrepreneur Matthew Pittinsky talks about the latest trends", 2004). There is definitely a need for an effective network of technical a ssistance for students participating in online courses (Kiser, 1999; Zirkle, 2002). Beyond th e need for technology support was the need for access to other types of materi als and tools (Marra & Jonassen, 2001). Many students express frustration over problems around library materials required for the courses. The student felt that the materials were either una vailable, or they were uncertain as to how to obtain the needed ma terials (Garland, 1993; Zirkle, 2002). While technology problems were present fo r students in these two sections, they did not seem to be debilitating. After the initial pe riod of getting used to the system and the technology, problems were rare. The c ourse instructor and designer were both
113 instrumental in avoiding the need for support se rvices for the students. The instructions for many technology requirements for the course were included in the syllabus. These instructions were in-depth and written in easily understandable terms. Thus, the need for assistance was reduced. When assistance wa s needed, students were told where they could call or contact on campus for technical assistance. Since most problems that were mentioned were only mentioned once, the tech nological support for students seemed to be sufficient. In one case, a particularly technologically savvy stude nt was able to help others in the class with any assistance needed. This easy accessibility of help did seem to relieve this barrier, and indeed students in that particular section of the course did not perceive the technology as a barrier at all. Alienation and isolation. Alienation and isolation were also identified as access barriers (Galusha, 1998). Early e xpectations for Â“instructorl ess educationÂ” were never realized and in fact those courses with limited personal contact and text-only type instruction via the Web suffered from dropout rates of as high as 60% (Boser, 2003). As stated in Â“E-learning: Working on What Works BestÂ” (Boser, 2003) Â“Â…perhaps ElearningÂ’s biggest irony, even with the best t echnology, (is) it will always need the human touch to be effective.Â” A review of the literature shows that the feelings of isolation are a predominant problem for particip ants in online courses. Social interactions that occur in traditional face-to-face courses are missing from courses taught through distance avenues. Students do not feel that they belong to a scholarly community (Fast, 1999; Galusha, 1998; McIsaac & Gunawardena, 1996; Zielinski, 2000; Moore, 1989; Wagner, 1994). Simpson and Galbo (1986) defined interaction as:
114 behavior in which individuals and gr oups act upon each other. The essential characteristic is reciprocity in actions and responses in an infinite variety of relationships: verbal and nonverbal, c onscious and nonconscious, enduring and casual. Interaction is seen as a continually emerging pr ocess, as communication in its most inclusive sense. Sorensen and Baylen conducted a survey of st udents participating in online courses and found that concerns over lack of interaction actually had tw o facets. Students expressed lack of teacher-student interactions as well as student-student interactions (Sorensen & Baylen, 2000). Learner-learner as well as learner-instructor interactions are extremely valuable and can help students deal with complicated situations for learning related to factors such as cultural differences, age, e xperience, and learner au tonomy (or the lack of autonomy) (Belanger & Jordan, 2000; Moore & Kearsley, 1996). Actually, Moore (1989) identified three types of interaction in dist ance education. The three types are: learner interactions with the instru ctor, learner interactions w ith the content, and learner interactions with other le arners. Hillamen Willis, and Gunawardena (1994)suggested a fourth type of interaction; that between the learner and th e medium (or learner and the interface). Fulford and Zhang (1993) suggest that the perception of interaction by students in distance courses was an importa nt indicator of student satisfaction. Students participating in online distance learning may need to develop new Â“study skills.Â” Skills which seem to be prominent in reports from students involved in distance learning are time management, task manage ment, and Â“electronic team skillsÂ” (Deal, 2002; Phipps & Merisotis, 1999; Vrasidas, 2000). It would appear th at development of these skills would alleviate the barriers. The Â“electronic team skillsÂ” would help students
115 develop relationships with fellow students and allow for collaborative and cooperative work as a part of the learning experience. In addition to studentÂ’s developing new sk ills to ensure the needed interactions, course designers can help to facilitate interaction by organizing courses that offer opportunities for all types of in teraction and planning instruct ional activities that provide the appropriate type of interac tion for that specific activity. Designers need to take into account the appropriate type of interaction for a specific learning goal or activity as well as the stage of growth and needs of i ndividual students (Murphy, Cathcart, & Kodali, 1997; Zheng & Smaldino, 2003). There are possibilities available through the courseware packages which do facilitate the social interactions necessary for successful online course presentation. Â“Electronically mediated communications, co mputer-supported collaborative work, casebased learning environments and computer-based cognitive toolsÂ” all help to provide the necessary interactions (Chatel, 2001). One student who participated in an online distance course actually reported that Â“she felt like she got to know the stude nts in the online class in a way that she seldom did in a face -to-face class (Sullivan & Lucas, 2001).Â” For those students who do not feel a connect ion with fellow students, instructors may find it necessary to provide opportunities for different types of in teraction which are appropriate for the specific tasks in a l earning opportunity. This may be made more difficult by the fact that, in many situations, on ly one medium is used for delivery of the course (specifically the type of media with which the instructor is comfortable or familiar). Instructors need to consider us ing a variety of media (Moore & Kearsley, 1996). According to Beverly Bower (2001)it is clear, however, that to create an
116 equivalent experience in the distance edu cation environment requires more planning on the part of the instructor and more effort on the part of the student. Students participating in this course di d not express feelings of alienation or isolation. In fact, many expre ssed more of a feeling of comm unity than they had felt in previous courses taught in a face-to-face environm ent. As a result of participation in this class, students seemed to be comfortable with Â“electronic team skillsÂ”. While the delivery medium for the course was for the most part text driven, students had many opportunities to interact with fellow participants. Th e class offered many varied opportunities for interactions with fellow students beyond the online discussion through the use of collaborative and cooperative group projects. Lack of experience and training. The final barrier iden tified by Galusha (1998) is the lack of experience and training. There are so me basic skills that are crucial in order for students to be successful in online courses. Nunes et.al. (2000) identified four basic skills that are necessary to succeed in the online learning environment. These skills include at least a low level of understandi ng of computer mediated technology, online etiquette, web navigation, and web searching. In the studies that ha ve been carried out concerning online distance learning, one of th e most frequently mentioned issues that affect success in distance learning cour ses is the technology skills required for participation (Chatel, 2001; Deal, 2002; Murphy et al., 1997). These studies suggest that the frustrations, anxieties, and negative att itudes toward the online courses as well as student dissatisfaction are caused most often by technical aspects of the courses (Chatel, 2001; Thomerson & Smith, 1996).
117 The technical aspects of this course did not seem to be a ba rrier. Participants seemed to have the basic skills necessary fo r success in an online course. While some students had to learn how to use new softwa re or how to create web-based products, the basic skills were not of issue. Faculty Concerns Design and implementation of online distan ce courses that provide students with constructivist learning ex periences lies directly on the shoulders of the teaching faculty. In the paper Â“Distance Education: Facing th e Faculty ChallengeÂ”, Beverly Bower states, Â“faculty have specifically expressed concern fo r the adequacy of institutional support, the change in interpersonal relations, and quali tyÂ” of distance educa tion (Bower, 2001). With this in mind, there is also a need to co nduct research which in vestigates faculty perceptions about distance educ ation and how these perceptions affect their participation in these courses (Gannon-Cook, 2002). It should be noted that Â“a good traditiona l professor doesnÂ’t automatically become an effective distance learning professor (Chatel, 2001).Â” Willis (1994) suggests special challenges which are present for distance lear ning instructors. These challenges include the ability to understand the need s and characteristic s of the students de spite the lack of face-to-face contact, cha nges in teaching style and course content according to the needs of the students, understandi ng the technology used for delivery, and a shift from a transmitter of knowledge to a facilitator and Â“ guide on the sideÂ”. In describing the factors that influence the success of an online course, Chatel (2001) states that in order for a course to be successful, the instructor must accept the fact that he or she is no longer in complete control of every aspect of the course.
118 Willis (2000/2001) points out that cla ssroom instructors can depend on visual cues in order to make adjustments in the c ourse delivery. Distance in structors he notes do not usually have access to visual cues. Furt her, with the use of online delivery, the spontaneous nature of the discussions is lost This changes the complexion of the course and presents a different set of obstacles wh ich must be maneuvered by the instructor. In the paper Â“Limitations of Onlin e Courses for Supporting Constructive LearningÂ”, Marra and Jonassen (2001) state that the many barriers facing distance learning faculty include the amount of faculty time requi red to patch the course together, the frequent lack of faculty technical comp etence, administrative pressures to use a particular course delivery package because of licensing agreements and technical support, not to mention the compromi ses in course effectiveness and communication problems resulting from these patches. UCLAÂ’s Higher Education Research Instit ute (HERI) found that 2/3 of college and university faculty rate the st ress of keeping abreast of in formation technology above the stresses associated with research and publishing demands, teaching loads and the tenure/promotion process ("Faculty survey", 1999). These stresses could be reduced with the design of a Â“support model for faculty end eavors that will enc ourage the brightest, best and busiest faculty to seriously consider Web-basing their coursework (Crawford, 2002).Â” In the 2000/2001 ASTD (American Soci ety for Training and Development) distance learning yearbook, Willis (2000/2001) lists five issues to which distance educators need to pay attention. First he suggests a variety of presentation methods
119 including discussions, presentations, and stude nt-centered activities. Second he suggests the use of many relevant and local examples to help students relate content to the Â“real worldÂ”. Next, he suggests that statements and questions be short and direct in order to compensate for the increased time for student s responses related to the use of technical equipment. He also suggests the use of ema il, phone and other strategies to reinforce, review and provide remediation for students. Finally, Willis urges the instructors to relax and allow students to become comfortable with the format. Once they have become comfortable, effective teaching and learning will be possible. The course studied here would suggest th at the faculty concer ns are valid. Faculty members who develop online courses need the support of the college or university in a variety of ways including time considerations financial considerati ons, and technological support. Further, the instructors and devel opers for these courses must appreciate the differences in delivery and requirements as co mpared to face-to-face courses. These instructors must also have the ability to f acilitate learning in this non-traditional format. Courseware Concerns As Web-based instruction becomes more and more common for delivery of courses, concerns about the capabilities of the available courseware packages are becoming more prevalent. As stated previousl y, the choice of courseware is often dictated by the college or university, and faculty members are locked into a specific package for delivery of online courses. Firdyiwek (1999) reviewed three online course packages including WebCT, TopClass, and Web Course in a Box. He concluded that all of the packages are capable of supporting Â“competenc y-based teaching of discrete information and processesÂ” and thus support the behavior ist pedagogy. However, these packages were
120 not capable of supporting more constructivist type instruction. The Center for Curriculum Transfer Technology (CCTT) reviewed 46 soft ware packages for online course delivery. The reviewers concluded that none of the p ackages provided support of assessment that could provide evidence of m eaningful learning. Assessment tools were limited to quizzes, multiple choice, long and short answer, true /false, matching and ordering (reported in Marra & Jonassen, 2001) claim Â“three major limitations of thes e systems create significant barriers to implementing constructivist learning principles in online courses.Â” These limitations were: 1) Â“The ability to efficiently and effectively accommodate multiple, alternative forms of student knowle dge representationsÂ…online course systems support only quizzes, online discussions (with no evaluative support), and the submission of word-processing documents;Â” 2) Â“The ability to provide and support authentic assessment (either with tools for the instru ctor or tools to he lp communicate these assessment data to students)Â…The over reliance on single forms of assessment (especially quizzes) precludes the assessment of meaningful learning;Â” 3) Â“The ability to support distributed tools for meaning makingÂ…on line course developers who require this functionality to support learning find it difficulty to provide ac cess to tools and to support the learning of the tools.Â” While reports that the delivery system s for online courses are insufficient for delivery of constructivist lear ning opportunities, the WebCT sy stem used here did seem to be sufficient for delivering a Web-based c onstructivist science education course. It appears that the lens through which these cour seware packages have been reviewed is more traditional in nature and does not view the courseware through the constructivist lens. While the courseware does not support th e constructivist principles for a learning
121 experience, the design of the course can. For example, many different forms of attachments can accompany the courseware and provide a variety of experiences for the participants. Students were able to use other software in order to elaborate and elucidate meaning making. Computer-based presentati ons and concept maps were developed and attached to the discussion and email deliver ed through the course system. Further, many links to streaming video and other We b-based material were available. More traditional aspects of the coursewa re (such as the support of online quizzes or other assessment tools) were not used as a portion of this course. Rather, assessment was embedded in the instruction and eval uation was based on this, and not on more traditional means. Those components of the courseware that did not support constructivist principl es were simply not included as part of the course design. Guidelines and Suggestions for Deve loping Online Constructivist Courses Despite the lack of research con cerning on-line courses and even less on constructivist online cour ses, there is no lack of writte n suggestions for developing these educational opportunities. One th eme that seems to run throu gh all discussions of online distance learning is the need to avoid some very common mistakes in presenting courses online. According to Schieman, Teare, a nd McLaren (1992) designers must avoid a Â“standby approach where tradit ional on-campus courses are re -worked slightlyÂ” and then offered as online courses. In 1999 The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) was commissioned to evaluate benchmarks which had been deve loped to ensure quality distance education. IHEP conducted a three phase study which c onsisted of a comprehensive literature search, identification of institutions with a gr eat deal of experience in Internet-based
122 distance education, and a study of six of the institutions with the experience. The study resulted in the identification of forty five (45) benchmarks which were combined to produce a list of 24 benchmarks that are esse ntial for the delivery of quality Internetbased courses. These benchmarks are categori zed into seven (7) specific categories. The categories include benchmarks for institutional support, course development, teaching/learning, course structure, st udent support, faculty support, and evaluation/assessment ("Quality on the line: Benchmarks for success in internet-based distance education", 2000) Traditionally, development of face-to-f ace instruction employed a linear model of curriculum development. This model is based upon objectivist philosophy and behaviorist learning theory. Â“A ll learners are expected to achieve those objectives and behaviors in the same manner (Vrasidas, 2000).Â” The linear m odel consists of four steps which are rigid and sequenced. The steps are: Â“1 ) Identify the objectives of instruction. 2) Select the useful learning experiences. 3) Or ganize the learning experiences in the best possible manner. 4) Evaluate learning (Vrasidas, 2000).Â” In order for distance learning to empl oy a constructivist ph ilosophy, the model for course development must change. Vrasidas ( 2000) suggests that a c onstructivist approach to distance education course design would have no distinct phases but the phases would be overlapping and ongoing. Jonassen (1992) sugg ests that the traditional imposition of goals and objectives would be replaced with negotiation. There can be no simple, best sequence for learning material. Further, th e system design process would not focus on determining specific instructional strategies to bring about specifi c behaviors. Finally,
123 evaluation would become less criterion referenced and more authentic and embedded in the instruction. When developing distance learning courses, several questions must be considered. These questions include: What are the charac teristics of the learners? What content, goals, and objectives are critical? What are the best learning/teaching strategies and type of technology? In what environment will l earning occur? And, how will learning be assessed and evaluated? (Simonson, Smaldi no, & Albright, 2000; Zheng & Smaldino, 2003). These questions represent five comm on themes that arise in discussions of distance education design; le arner considerations, conten t organization, instructional strategies and technologies, and evaluation. With the ex ception of the technology, these match general instructional design issues (Zheng & Smaldino, 2003). It seems that in todayÂ’s college class climate, however, technol ogy issues are often of concern even in face-to-face situations. Several groups have guidelines for de veloping distance learning opportunities. Suggested guidelines include: 1) Develop c ourses and consider the logistics well in advance; 2) Clearly articulate class assi gnment expectations and requirements; 3) Provide opportunities for collaboration; 4) Group students with different technology expertise in the same groups; 5) Provide st udents with training in the necessary technology; 6) Encourage and facilitate all types of in teractions; and 7) Provide reasonable access to other resources such as library, and technical e xpertise (Biner, Dean, & Mellinger, 1994; Daines, Egan, Jones, Seba stian, & Ferrais, 1994; Murphy et al., 1997; O'Connor, 2002; Shneiderman, 1994; St. Pierre 2002; Zirkle, 2002; Thomerson & Smith, 1996). Gibson (1998) feels that a ll distance courses should include content that meets the
124 needs of the learners, clear directions for re quired actions, learner control of the pace of the learning, means for comm unication of concerns, prompt and clear assessment and evaluation, and access to materials th at are relevant, and interesting. The need for structure is crucial for students to succeed in distance learning situations. Structure, however, does not necessarily suggest an objectivist approach to instructional design. Good planning is a ch aracteristic of good teaching regardless of philosophical paradigm. Clearly defi ned activities, student role, homework submission guidelines, course expecta tions, and evaluati on procedures are characteristics of any well-prep ared course (Vrasidas, 2000). Web-based instruction has been defined as the Â“application of a repertoire of cognitively oriented instruct ional strategies implemented with a constructivist and collaborative learning environment using the at tributes and resources of the World Wide WebÂ” (Patton, 1985 as reported in St. Pierre, 200 2) Perhaps it was be st stated by Matthew Pittinsky, cofounder and chairm an of Blackboard Inc. ( one example of E-learning software) when he said, Â“the distinction between totally online learning and in-class learning is going to go away, and itÂ’ll just be teaching and learningÂ” ("A view from the trenches: E-learning entrepreneur Matthew Pittinsky talks abou t the latest trends", 2004). Charles Dzinbam, director of the Resear ch Initiative for Teac hing Effectiveness at the University of Central Florida stated that Â“what works online isnÂ’t very different from what works in a traditional classroomÂ…Student s need to be actively involvedÂ…ItÂ’s true in traditional classes, and itÂ’s more true online (Boser 2003).Â” Schneider (Schneider, 1998)asked the questions Â“are the new models built on earlier learning? Or are educators
125 putting online a Â‘lecture-and-list enÂ’ model that never worked fo r most students in the first place?Â” He went on to state Â“We know student s of the new providers (i.e. those taking courses offered via distance avenues) are ge tting credit hours; are they getting an education?Â” These and many other questions remain unanswered. The need for research on the possibilities and effec tiveness of online constructiv ist learning opportunities is evident and should be addressed. Summary Current literature, while limited in amount and scope does support and is supported by the findings from this current study. This is an online science teacher education course that incor porates the principles of sc ience education reform. Findings from this study support and ar e supported by the literature in that students perceived it to be as effective, or even more effective, than face-to-face instruction. As suggested by the current litera ture, the make-up of th e class (i.e. the age and situation of the members) as well as th e opportunity to reflect on concepts before presenting them to the class and the availabil ity of feedback from classmates prior to formal assessment seemed to increase student sÂ’ perception of a Â“successful classÂ”. Student perception of success and satis faction with the course may be due, however, to other factors including the cons tructivist nature of the course and the extensive syllabus provided as a part of the Website. The fact that this class was a constructivist science teacher education course helped to encourage autonomous leaning and may have led students away from depende ncy on authority and the need for constant approval. Students in this setting would be more inclined to accept and be comfortable with more intrinsic rewards. This switch may have led to a perception of success based
126 on a paradigm shift. More autonomous, self-m otivated learners can enjoy the value of the varied learning opportunities for the sake of learning and not for the grade alone. As noted here, there is a need for more research on the possibility of delivering online distance courses using constructivist lear ning principles. What research that is available found that most online learning replic ates traditional instruction. Since most courses studied that are av ailable as online distance le arning opportunities were developed under the dominant paradigm, it is not surprising that there are few that exhibit the principles of constructivism. The c ourse studied here does, however, offer one example of a constructivist online distance le arning opportunity. The course is a science teacher education course, but it would appear th at the findings here wi ll translate to other areas as well. The fact that few constructivist dist ance learning opportunitie s are available and the difficulty developing online constructivist c ourses have been attributed to the lack of current technology for delivery of instruction that embraces constructivist philosophies. The course delivery system used here (Web CT) did provide the necessary attributes for delivering this constructivist science teacher education course Other currently available technology (available both commercially a nd as freeware) can even offer opportunities for face-to-face interactions. This can serv e to help ease the need to overcome the perception of lack of interact ion that may be present for some participants in online courses. This study reinforced the fact that ther e are several barriers and problems that accompany online learning which may not be pr esent in traditional classroom settings. However, the constructivist nature of the course and emphasis on autonomous learning,
127 as well as interaction among pa rticipants seems to have helped learners overcome or compensate for these barriers and problems and thus minimize the extent to which they were realized. While cost may remain a barr ier, other issues such as need for support services and training, isolation, and feedback concerns were not de bilitating problems for class members. This is not to say that a strong mechanism for support for students and faculty through the college or university is not essential fo r success in distance learning opportunities. In fact, this s upport is essential in order fo r these programs to survive. Some issues that remain of utmost importance in deve loping and delivering constructivist online c ourses are those concerning facu lty. Those involved in online courses must understand the learner, the learning, and the available technology for delivery using constructivist principles. Furthe r, it is important to understand that lack of face-to-face interaction time does not decrease (and indeed increases) the time needed for facilitation of the course. Overall, it would appear that the course studied here does represent one example of an online distance le arning science education course that incorporates the principles of science education reform. Furt her, it would appear that the lessons learned here can help in the development of other distance learni ng opportunities which e xhibit the principles of constructivism.
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140 Appendix A: Data Analysis Initially, the course syllabi and contents of the different portio ns of the Web site delivered via a WebCT shell were used to develop a comprehensiv e description of the course. Following this, the communication data base was transferred from WebCT to the QSR NUD.IST (1997) software pr ogram for qualitative data analysis. This program was used for management of the data throughout th e research process. At this time, messages were separated into line-by-line units and ex traneous information (such as names and dates) was deleted. The remaining data repr esented an exhaustive compilation of all communications between and among students a nd the instructor during the semester. All of the compiled data were read as a m eans of gaining an overview of the data and to help generate initial im pressions of things that might be important in the coding process. The data was then read lineby-line and a tentativ e coding scheme was developed as common concepts were realized. (Each new coding concept is referred to as a free node in the NUD.IST program). Constant comparison throughout the process led to adding, changing, replacing, or deleting nodes. As terms or phrases were repeated and emerged as important ideas, a string search for these terms was performed. In other words, a search for any noteworthy string of characters was done to find any references to a certain concept or point. (T his is a NUD.IST function similar to the Â“findÂ” procedure in any word processing program.) Once a term wa s identified, the researcher assigned it to an existing node, placed it in a new node, or ignored the term, as was indicated by
Appendix A (Continued) 141 the context of the string. Table 7 below re flects many of the initia l nodes that emerged from the student communications database. Nodes were not all identified during the initial process. The iterative nature of this process led to change s and rearrangements as the research continued. Each node that is listed below housed a variety of entries from the database which reflected the nature of that node as it related to the studentsÂ’ communications during the course. Table 7 Free Nodes that emerged from the student communications database Free Nodes from student communications Reflection Collaboration Â“I get itÂ” Feelings about distance learning in general Comrades Frustration about design of the course Metacognition/Assessment Frustration about current education system Understanding of goals of class Control and responsibility Frustration about assessment What learning looks like What schools can look like What students today look like Relationship to teaching Seeing beyond the class Going beyond assignments Insecurity about expectations Relating experiences out side of this class Active learning Scientific discourse among students Students drive the class Willingness to disagree Paradigm shifts Reason for direction of study plan Ideas from students Disagreements among students The students Excitement about activities Answers to questions Relief about expectations Frustrations about assignments Questions for instructor Examples of STS Computer help Basic concepts in media watch Teacher as facilitator Feelings about instructor Society in media watch Confusion about issues in readings/activities Misconceptions about ideas Problems with Web site Allowing the students to drive the class Feelings toward the class in general
Appendix A (Continued) 142 Free nodes were grouped into categories. These categories were grouped in the program using the formation of index trees These trees offered a method of grouping nodes into categories with common themes. Again, this was an iterative process and required constant comparison with previously coded data. Trees were altered as new categories emerged and others were merged into previous ly existing categories. As indicated by Merriam (2001), th ese categories reflect the pur pose of the research, are exhaustive, are mutually exclusive, are se nsitizing, and are con ceptually congruent. Categories were described according to propert ies. This information was used in the development of hypotheses. Various relate d hypotheses led to the development of theories. Table 8 below is a list of the categories that emerged as free nodes were grouped. Table 8 Categories that emerged as free nodes were grouped Grouped free node catagories Frustrations and Insecurities Interactions Beyond the class Feelings of independence and control Understandings General Student information Reflections Responses to the Class
Appendix A (Continued) 143 Figures 4 through 10 below are examples of the trees that emerged as a result of categorization of free nodes. Due to the iterativ e nature of this proc ess, the trees changed throughout the process. The trees represented in these figures are one s that evolved early in the process. Many of the trees branched further as the process continued. For example, control of responsibil ity (figure 5) evolved to include both positive and negative responses to the control. Further, th e willingness to disagree (figure 5) included disagreements with the instructor, with fellow students, and with the course materials. Not all of the free nodes that emerged were represented in the tree development. This is due to the fact that the iterative natu re of the process led to changes in the nodes and assignment of sections of the database to those nodes. Included in each figure are a few sample entries that were included in the node. These are not intended to be comprehensive listings of the entries included in each node. Rather, they are intended to be representative samples to help provide a clearer understanding of the process that was employed during the study. Following each tree is a brief description of the findings that emerged from each category. A more comprehensive reporting of the findings can be found in chapter 5. It should be noted that the characteristics of constructivist lear ning opportunities as summarized previously informed this resear cher about essential elements to examine when assessing the extent to which the di stance learning course studied here reflects constructivist science teaching practices. Findings associated with frustrations and insecurities (fi gure 1) included the following: 1) the instructor for this course was serving as a facil itator as opposed to a
Appendix A (Continued) 144 lecturer; 2) control was shared with the student s; 3) participants in the class were engaged in questioning and reflection; 4) students were rearranging their preexisting cognitive maps; and 5) students were engaged in active learning as opposed to passive absorption of information. The findings developed in response to th e understandings category (figure 2) were that students were actively engaged in th eir education, were co nstructing knowledge, were developing deep understa nding, were participating as reflective practitioners, and were indeed undergoing a paradigm shift. Interactions between students (figure 3) led to the findings th at this course had indeed been conducted in an environment of mutual trust and respect. Due to this, students felt comfortable expres sing alternative viewpoints. Further, it was found that students were working collaboratively and cooperatively and had many opportunities for discourse. Topics addressed during interact ions show evidence that students were engaging in reflection as well as self-analysis and metacognition.
Appendix A (Continued) 145 concerning include examples include examples include examples include examples include included included Nodes Frustrations/ Insecurities Assessment Expectations Assignments Issues in readings/activities misconceptions about ideas computer problems "It unnerves me a bit not to know where I stand." "The on-line classes are good, especially for those of us who live so far away, but I don't have a real good idea of my progress. I know what I think about it, but I don't bubble my grade in on the sheet at the end of the semester. "I do not know where to begin. Rather I feel like throwing my arms up in the air and saying I surrender today." "it is rather refreshing to have a self paced program where we learn at our own rate and by interacting in the forums. However, on the other hand, I still really miss the extra perks of being in the good old-fashioned classroom." "If this isn't what the journal was supposed to be please let me know, and I'll try to do it right next time." "I am worried that a complete shift toward a holistic paradigm will lead to teachers who don't teach and students that can't learn." Confusion about what was considered technology The difference between theory and law and between fact and theory "For some reason this attachment will not open." Problems with saving and attaching Power Point presentations Figure 4. Frustrations and Insecurities Tree as it Emerged from Student Co mmunication Database Including Some Sample Entries.
Appendix A (Continued) 146 concerning include example includes example includes examples include examples include examples include examples include examples include examples include examples include Nodes I Get It Frustrations about current education system What learning looks like what schools can look like relationship to teaching paradigm shifts reason for direction of study Relief about expectation understandings "I think that everyone here is on 'the right track' because there is no one right way of learning. Everyone will get that feeling 'I got it' in their won unique way." "The word 'paradigm' has finally been cleared up for me. It is true that people resist change because they have already established their boundaries and filter all incoming experience. I can definitely see how my 'paradigm' influences the way I see and experience the world." "To this day I don't think I have observed a single science class conducting 'inquiry'. However, I HAVE specifically heard a teacher say that he know about inquiry based learning years ago but didn't have the time to implement it. So, he never did." "I see our STS class as a precursor for us to this type of teaching, a perfect role model. We are seeing the teaching being modeling, we have to think for ourselves and take ownership of our learning." Goals of class I think show and tell is a great way to learn. My son was always a toucher. I learn better when I actually see results but sometimes this isn't possible." "My point is that we do have schools out there already that have started to make that shift. WE also have classes like this to make pre-service and even in-service teachers more aware...So even if it is moving slower than any of us would like, there is something to be said for it moving at all." "And the frustration we feel here is a good lesson to us all as to the frustration our students will feel as we teach them about biology or history or art. That's what I've learned this week. And, I am still learning more." "I like the flexibility of this course, but I am more of a systematic person. I put all the readings in a compiled list order and as I read them in that order I cross them off as I go along. The compiled list has the readings in any order so I come upon readings I wish I had read earlier, and some that are redundant at this point in the course." "I finally have an understanding as to what is expected of me and I think that I finally know how to approach this class. I'm excited about the projects." Figure 5. Understandings Tree as it Emerged from Student Communication Database
Appendix A (Continued) 147 concerning included examples included examples included included about from for about about example example Nodes Interactions Collaboration Comrades Scientific Discourse questions Computer Help Group projects throughout the semester "... I am glad I am not the only one feeling so overwhelmed and lost." "Hang in there, we'll get through it." discussions video games Pesticides blackouts fellow students instructor course design learning opportunities assessment "____ did a very good job explaining how the course was laid out and how to make the concept maps. This really calmed me and clarified many questions I had on how to complete the assignments." "If you save your file as an .rtf file, most word processing programs will be able to open it."Figure 6. Interactions Tree as it Emerge d from Student Communication Database
Appendix A (Continued) 148 in included examples include examples include examples include Beyond the Class Nodes Seeing Beyond the Class Going Beyond the Assignments Relating Experiences Outside of the Class "I have heard so much about management problems that I decided to watch a few videos on the subject. Then I decided to write up this little paper in response to the issue." "I wanted to mention two websites I plan on utilizing in the future." "After watching the video NSF presentation, I thought I would see how things had progressed since then." "Upon hearing the story I went home and went to The New England Journal of Medicine online to take a look at the article first hand." "I spent 6th and 7th grade in classrooms that were lacking electricity. (time of war, where country had electricity restrictions and etc.)...We used technological advances and methods of the previous generations to accommodate our needs..." Figure 7. Beyond the Class Tree as it Emerge d from Student Communication Database
Appendix A (Continued) 149 The category labeled Â“beyond the classÂ” (figure 4) brought to light the finding that students were taking re sponsibility for their own lear ning. Further they were questioning their learning and the connectio ns they were forming as a result of participating in the course. Experiences reporte d outside of the course requirements also reflected that students were constructing thei r own cognitive maps as they built on their prior experiences. Students felt that they were in control of their own learning environments and they took responsibility for their own learning (f igure 5). Further, there is evidence that they were comfortable with questioning the c ourse make-up and requi rements as well as expressing disagreement with the course and with information presented by participants in the class.
Appendix A (Continued) 150 in included examples include examples include examples include examples include Nodes Feelings of Independence and Control in class Control and Responsibility Students Drive the Class Willingness to Disagree Ideas from Students "I am looking forward to the rest of the semester and the path I'll create" "I enjoy the flexible nature of this course and after all we should arrive at the same level of knowledge no matter if we went through the front door or took a detour around the back." "I agree that I like the flexibility of this course, but I am more of a systematic person. "I know some of my classmates are not education majors, so I thought some background info might make it easier to understand many of our earlier discussions" "I wanted to mention this site because I wanted to get everybody's take on it." "You said...I strongly disagree with this one. Questioning and searching for answers is definitely a learned behavior." As for the STS curriculum, I am not sure if I believe what it states completely..." "Maybe it would be more useful if they would say why the video is particularly better than another for teaching STS." "I think it would be beneficial if there could be optional class meetings for those who learn better faceto-faceFigure 8. Feelings of Independence and C ontrol of the Class Tree as it Emerge d from Student Communication Database
Appendix A (Continued) 151 concerning examples include Nodes Reflections "Anyway, now I'm wondering if people can superficially shift but internally not really make that change. If so, they will no doubt eventually drift back to the old paradigm. How do you make student teachers shift to the new paradigm? Seems to me that in most cases you would have to get teachers who were raised with the new paradigm." "I see that this is what this class is, we are learning what we can learn so we can make good decisions later in life. Choosing things/ events from the real world that students can relate to will certainly help them be more interested in science, rather that saying O.K. read 25 pages and we'll talk about it tomorrow." Figure 9. Reflections Tree as it Emerged from Student Communication Database Reflections from students indi cate that students were participating in self-analysis and were reflective practitio ners throughout the course.
Appendix A (Continued) 152 included concerning examples included examples include examples include examples include Nodes Responses to Class Distance Learning in General Excitement about the course Feelings about instructor Feelings toward class in general "I've had many 'never to repeat' experiences with on-line courses. Not that the material was difficult but that the layout/design was inconvenient, frustrating, and boring." "Just like sailing, there are lots of negatives to these kind of courses, but I think there are a bunch of positives. One big positive is that in most classes everybody really seems to want to help each other." "As I was creating and recreating my web this week it is truly amazing how far you can go with it...It is really interesting and indepth." I find myself getting quite involved in observing STS interactions wherever I go. Grocery stores, post office, bank, restaurants, gas stations, etc. I think its following me!!!" "I look forward to the challenge this class is definitely going to provide." "i am impressed with our instructor. She is constantly on-line and answering questions. I've had a ton of courses where the pro. was never seen or heard." "It means a great deal to me when a professor actually cares enough to point out your behavior and lead you in the proper direction to correct it. I have had too many professors who haven't cared and I think this is to the detriment of the student population at large..." "I enjoy the class material and interacting with classmates online." "This is a really great class!!! I've been on a lot of Internet classes and I have to say that the interaction that happens between the 12 or so people in this class is far beyond anything I've ever seen in any class, regardless of size." Figure 10. Responses to Class Tree as it Emer ged from Student Communication Database
Appendix A (Continued) 153 Responses to the class showed that stude nts were actively involved in the class despite the distance. Further, they were ab le to work as colla borative and cooperative partners and even felt a strong sense of comm unity as a result of participation in this course. There was some feeling of di sconnect with the in structor, however. As theories were developed, findings we re checked by reviewing the database, and member checks. The findings are herein reported in a written report detailing them and include quotations from the students and in structor. The information gained from the study was used to speculate about what will, or can, happen in the future, and what is needed to develop effective distance lear ning courses for science teacher education.
About the Author Cherry Orr Steffen holds a bachelors de gree in elementary education from the University of Richmond, in Richmond Virgin ia. She taught sixth a nd seventh grades in Kilmarnock, Virginia and Fredericksburg Virgin ia before moving to Tampa, Florida to complete a masterÂ’s degree in Botany at the Un iversity of South Florida. During the time she was completing her Ph.D. she worked as a marketing director for a partnership between the University of South Florida, The Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida, and the Hillsborough C ounty School District. Her wo rk with this partnership centered on the recruitmen t of science and math teachers. Since leaving Tampa, Cherry has been an assistant professor of elementa ry and early childhood science education at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw Georgia.