American education has been reported as average when compared to other leading countries. Finland has a top ranked education system. More than half a million 15-year-olds around the world took the Program for International Student Assessment in 2012. The test is administered every three years and focuses largely on math, but includes minor sections in science and reading. It is often used as a snapshot of the global state of education. The results, published today, show the U.S. trailing behind educational powerhouses like Korea and Finland (National Center for Educational Statistics).
However, the strategies and policies of US and Finland education system are quite different. Recently, in past two to three decades, many reforms are being brought in the American education system. Stanford declares these reforms as more of systemic reforms in which policy from grassroots level is being changed (Natz, 2013). However, the ideological foundations of American education, like other institutions and departments, are the same and that is neoliberal ideals of free market zone, least governmental intervention, and productivity based improvements (Elliot, 2011). Thus, based on that ideology, the education policy currently has the following underscoring principles and objectives: “equality, efficiency and liberty” (“United States Education Policy,” n.d).
The recent reforms has touched various departments and brought about many changes in the US education policy. However, funding was a big problem for implementing them. Hence, following the neoliberal principles, the policy opted to outsource or privatize given that funders follow the agenda set by the government (Smith, 2013). President George W. Bush inaugurated the policy of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (Smith, 2013). Thus, once funding problem was resolved, the policy started to be implemented and large scale reforms started to be implemented.
One of the major components of the reformed system was the use of technology. Policy makers continuously have emphasized on the use of technology for generating better outcomes (American Enterprise Institute). Technology has been introduced to teachers as well as students for better education. Over the past two decades, schools have been spending increasing proportions of their discretionary funds to acquire computer equipment, software, and related supplies and services (Pelavin, 1997), and they are under continuing pressure to make those expenditures count. Some policy panels are recommending dramatic increases in spending rates with the expectation that the result will be clearly improved student academic accomplishment.
Research conducted by Fairbanks (2013) revealed that districts are experimenting with one to one digital technology. One to one digital technology means every student is assigned a computer to take home. Similarly, as educators expand classrooms with virtual environments and simulations, students are seeking choices outside the brick and mortar school building. Waters (2011) says, approximately 45,000 K-12 level students in the country studied at least one online course in 2000, a number that rose to 3 million in 2009. Another growing idea is of virtual labs in which with the help of technology, students are taken out of textbooks and encouraged to apply their learning in the practical or real world.
Furthermore, an idea that is emerging as popular force in education system is STEM schools. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These schools basically emphasize heavily on these fields and polish students’ skills rigorously to make them come up as prominent people in the field (Subotnik, 2010). However, this takes the shining students in separate sections and brings different approaches for them, which is creating lines between students.
This dividing of students and placing all the top students in one “Crown jewel” school creates a very unfair playing field. Standard bench mark testing then compares all the schools, and ranks them as above or below state standards. Unfortunately, only one school will be the “Crown jewel” (Subotnik, 2010) while everyone else struggles to improve academic achievement. It appears standardized test data is being used to divide our students into Charter schools, and STEM schools; those that don’t test well will attend the general public school. However, it remains unanswerable at the moment.
In short, large scale reforms have been and are being brought in the US education system. There is an increasing role of technology in teaching and learning. Several different programs at different levels opt for the use of technology. However, how effective the system or comparatively how better results it produces is not something much researched and analyzed.
The reason why technology is being used so much in the United States for education, yet its results are perceived controversial is that policy makers have not measured effectiveness of technology keeping other variables constant. Therefore, technology may or not be an effective tool. However, little could be said about it as little research analyzes effects of technology. Thus, there is a need for a thorough research on the effectiveness of technology especially when used as a teaching assistive tool. This can only be done by comparing its results with the results of traditional teaching methods. Moreover, the differences of sex, ethnicity, precociousness and other background relate variables ought to take into consideration to comprehend and examine the effectiveness of technology in education.
Thus, technology’s effectiveness as an assistive tool for improving academic achievement in the secondary science classroom is the problem to be researched in this study. The problem in the study is going to be addressed in following three domains: First, student achievement gap between computer-assisted instruction and traditional method instruction is a problem and will be the focus of this study. Second, there is a gap between schools with affluent student population and title one schools, predominately black schools and white schools, as well as between STEM schools and public schools. Third, the difference in student achievement between (a) instruction type (virtual lab/simulation instruction and traditional method instruction), (b) sex (male, female), and (c) ethnicity (African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, and other) is another and last problem this paper shall address.
Purpose of Proposed Study
The primary purpose of the study is to analyze whether the overwhelming use of technology while keeping other variables constant producing any significant positive outcome on students’ results. It would give a detailed analysis of the efficacy of technology in education department. The results and conclusions of the study shall be very useful not even in evaluating but for future policy making.
The results of this study may document the collaborative model employed to achieve this success and become a recommendation as one to be experimented with in other districts. Moreover, should an increase in student achievement not be displayed, improvements that may be made to the teaching model will be analyzed. Eliminating unsuccessful teaching practices should improve the teacher delivery model. The study will be shared with the National Science Teacher Association; the National Science Teacher Association connects science teachers all over the country. The ultimate success would be increased academic achievement across the board regardless of gender and ethnicity using virtual labs and simulations. There are several degrees of success to include achievement in males and not females or vice versa, or achievement with one ethnic group and not another. These results could provide new information and will contribute to the science literature.
Significance of the Problem
Technology is entering today’s classrooms to meet the needs of the 21st century learner.
The expense is enormous, in Georgia the funding is supplemented by the state lottery commission. A review of the literature revealed a void in benchmark data. There is very little data comparing benchmark testing outcomes from Traditional direct instruction vs. Computer-assisted instruction using virtual labs and simulations. This research will add data to the literature and actually measure the effectiveness of the supplemental instruction in the suburban physical science classroom.
As mentioned above, the driving force for current policy is to uplift the education standards and outcomes by upholding equality, efficiency and liberty in education. The policy makers decided schools should be accountable and held to the same standards, although they serve very different student populations. Every school, regardless the type of school or dominant ethnicity of the school, is now searching for innovative strategies to increase student achievement. In this innovation, to impress the government for getting more funds and higher ratings, technology use seemingly serves the purpose. It is supposed to also increase the outcomes of the student. Tablets in the hands of students, teachers using projectors and computers and assignments to be submitted online and many other formulae that involve technology is being adopted by different schools.
However, these schools have diverse populations, since America is a very diverse country. From rich to poor, white to black, southern to northern, and male to female, there are many different categories and the use and effectiveness of the technology may be different for them. Thus, the primary significance of the study is in analyzing where technology works and where it does not. Its significance may also be extended to policy making level as it would, based on results, recommend different programs and strategies for better outcomes with or without the use of technology. Moreover, the analysis of various technology based teaching programs could be helpful for the policy makers to regulate those programs that are ineffective or counterproductive. Above all, the importance of the study stands out in comparing the traditional and recent modern methods of mixing technology with traditional approach of teaching as it tells which one produces better results.
Brief Literature Review
Despite many advancements and innovations especially technological improvements in education, the education quality in the United States does not seem to be rising. Charter schools, Voucher schools, online courses, virtual teaching, STEM and so many other programs are working at the same time in the country that it has become a mess. In fact, Tschudi (2014) argued that the standing of US on PISA test before 2000 till 2014 is more or less the same. Thus, this raises concerns and questions about these reforms. Interestingly almost all of them emphasize on the use of technology. Therefore, in this literature review, different reforms in the United States education policy particularly involving technology are reviewed. Then with the help of various empirical studies the effects of technology on education standards is analyzed. It is noticed that various different reforms are primarily to equalize the education standards, increase the productivity and give a free environment to students for choosing the subjects they are passionate about and learning them in a better and effective space.
There are various technology based reforms and programs being introduced by schools at their level and by government as well. First of all, Fairbanks (2013) talk about one to one technology based teaching. It is when each student gets a computer for studying by the school. Although, there is no strong empirical study supportive of such program, however, it is theorized as a strong motivator as well as result producing strategy. Even parents perceive tablets and such MacBooks to be influential and motivating for their children as they find them happily spending time doing homework (Fairbanks, 2013). But there is a doubt of computers being stolen or misused, so, Fairbanks (2013) delineate that to secure the $1.3 Million investment in MacBooks parents were charged for issuing schools’ provided laptops for taking them home.
Similarly, there is another program name STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) schools. These are specialized schools at public high school level which carry another name of ‘crown jewel’ (Subotnik, 2010). The purpose or objective of these schools is pick up the cream of various schools, students who are academically top performing ones, and bring them to this specially deisgned school where their talent and skills in technological fields can be enhanced and boosted strongly and effectively. These schools along with top students also keep top teachers for better productivity (Subotnik, 2010).
However, Demski (2009) counters and somehow furthers the approach of STEM schooling by arguing that it is not simply the top level teaching that may keep these top performing students at ultra level in the fields. Students’ interest in the field creates a thirst for knowing more that ought to quenched by giving them practical and real life experiences rather than simply making them learn bookish material. Thus, Demski (2009) thinks that this is what STEM may further improve by taking students a little to the outside world to make them learn books and apply or practice in real circumstances.
This idea has led to the formation of Virtual labs based learning. The underlying idea of virtual labs is to have science classrooms in such a way that can connect students’ learning to the real world application. Sauter (2013) while writing in favor of virtual labs argues that such labs give students scientific experiences. This is something that is not quite accessible in normal learning environment. Virtual labs fulfill the lag that schools face in providing students with learning adequate and applicable to the real world matters (Sauter, 2013).
Virtual labs idea basically stemmed from virtual or online teaching. Online teaching began in early 2000s (Walters, 2011) and number of students using this program is continuously increasing. Walters (2011) argue the from 45,000 to 3 Million in 9 years, 2000 to 2009, was the rise in students taking at least one course online. And by this growth rate, by 2019, about 50% of high schools students are expected to study through online courses, thus making technology the major tool for learning in the country.
Thus, there are various programs and theories related to education style and standard that may be improved in America. All of these involve technologies; in fact, they consider technology as the primary tool for effective and productive learning. However, based on these programs, some of the researches that give the productivity of the students or programs’ achievements in various ways are reviewed below.
First of all, there are many positive reviews about the technology based teaching programs. Study by Güzeller (2011) concluded that although, technology based teaching does not necessarily or significantly motivate the students for studying; however, an improvement in the academic achievement of the students was discovered. However, a study done by Hoyle (2008) analyzed college completion time and rate of students. His study concluded that historically Massachusetts has held top place in college completion rate. However, even in such a state only the successful college completion rate for student studying in 9th grade was 29% (Krueger, 2006).
Similarly, Tam (2000) argues that technology based learning is very effective. Especially when it comes to online learning, technology becomes a strong assistive tool. Teachers may use it very effectively and efficiently for communicating and teaching to their students. And students may study in their own liked space and time for better and focused learning. However, Diaz & Cartnal (1999) argue that online or virtual learning cannot work for all students. its effectiveness vary from student to student and depends on their personality traits. A major personality trait required is self motivation for studying without any external involvement and influences.
Similarly, Barbour & Mulcahy (2008) has analyzed virtual schooling outcomes in detail. They argue that such programs work in a very strictly controlled environment. The results of the study also conclude that self-motivation as well as characteristics of independent orientations, time management and technological capability is a significant and important factor in online learning. Students who lack those characteristics do not show much success at virtual schools. Thus, Barbour & Mulcahy (2009) also argue that for many students at high school level, virtual learning may not be an effective tool, because at this age many students are used to of studying only under external influences and pressures.
Furthermore, a report based on US virtual schooling performance and effectiveness recently came (Molnar et al. 2014). The study shows that as for the legislation and policy making new funding methods, different accountability structures, improved certification standards and guidelines need to be formed. Similarly, this study reveals that there are significant practical level disconnect between the policies and research evidences. It suggests that policies need to be in accordance with scholarly research. Also, there ought to be less focus national policy, but more focus on localized policies. The reason being, it would make schooling more effective at grassroots level. In this way different ethnicities and social backgrounds of every local settings could be dealt with effectively. (Molnar et al. 2014)
Most importantly, a review based study conducted by Fletcher-Finn and Gravatt (1995) showed that the comparison of traditional teaching methods with computer assisted instruction has not been done adequately in the past. Thus, his study does a meta-analysis and concludes that there are significant improvements in the achievements of the students who are taught using computer assisted instruction method. They emphasizes on the fact the computer assisted studies do not bring radically improved results. however, the results as compared to traditional teaching methods are usually better. Therefore, they recommend a computer assisted teaching method in the classrooms for better outcomes of the students. (Fletcher-Finn and Gravatt 1995)
However, even though the results improve, but another study done by Shaw and Marlow (1999) show that the attitudes of students towards a new method of teaching, computer assisted teaching, is usually unwelcoming. The students at the start do not feel very comfortable and do not value the use of technology. But as time passes, they start adjusting with the technology based teaching and mould themselves into the given environment (Shaw and Marlow 1999). It should be noted that this study was conducted with college level students.
Similarly, the review of literature regarding gender differences in outcomes of technology based learning shows some no important differences. Astleitner and Steinberg (2005) combined 14 studies on Web Based Learning (WBL) and did a meta analysis to analyze the gender based differences in the outcomes of students’ achievements. Their study concluded that there are no statistically significant differences in the achievements of male and female students studying through technology.
Moreover, a study conducted by Hawkins and Paris (1997) analyzes the differences in familiarity and usage of computer among white and black people. The study showed that there were significant differences and thus, level of comfort and ease with computers in the two ethnic groups. The blacks were significantly on the lower side than the Whites. This is primarily because of the differences in their respective schooling. The social background and the schooling the black students receive usually does not involve computers and hence, the use of computers becomes difficult for them (Boozer et al. 1992). Although, these differences are reducing over the years, but they still exist (Boozer et al. 1992).
In short, there are many evaluations of teaching programs. Most of the researches have been about online and virtual learning. While many find them effective, however, the empirical studies also show that their effectiveness depends vastly on their implementation. Therefore, it is not the technology itself, but the use of the technology in a proper way that enforces the productivity. Moreover, what could be noticed is that none of the studies separately takes technology and analyzes its role in uplifting or degrading the education outcomes.
- Statistical analysis: ANCOVA
Hypotheses and Related Methodological Components
In this study, a quantitative quasi-experimental research deign will be used. This study is a direct comparison of “blended learning” (computer-assisted instruction supplementing direct instruction) and traditional classroom instruction. It will use benchmark testing to directly compare students within the same school and educator being tested after receiving traditional instruction, to those that have received the same instruction plus the supplemental virtual labs and simulations.
The research method adopted for the study is quantitative. This design includes an existing group of participants, who receive an intervention consisting of virtual lab/simulation instruction, and another group of participants to serve as a control or comparison group, who will receive traditional method instruction. Participants are not randomly assigned to conditions, but rather are assigned to the treatment or control conditions according to their class registration. One class receives the intervention, while the other class will not. The classes will cover three units with testing conducted after each unit. An ANCOVA analysis will be used to measure the academic achievement of each group.
Finally, ethical values in such research are very important. The personal information would be kept confidential. Similarly, there shall be no prejudice or bias against any individual or teaching method. Parents of the students will be given an informed consent form that will give the child permission to participate in the study. The invitation letter for the control group will state your child will participate in a curriculum study, no names, district data, or personal information will be used or needed. Students study group will measure the effect of Traditional Science Instruction and will be used to compare other methods of instruction. The experimental group will receive a similar letter with the exception of the enhancement of computer-assisted instruction being added to their curriculum.
Population, Sample, and Sample Size
The population will consist of tenth grade students in suburban high schools of the same school district. The groups will be adjusted again according to the number of students that have permission to participate in the study. The sample in each group will reflect the larger population of the school. The study will occur in two physical science classrooms with two teachers. This will give an experimental sample size of 30 students and a control group of 30 students, a total of 100 students.
Procedures and Measures
These students will be taught physical science in the classroom using Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) and compared to students being taught in the classroom without the use of computers, Traditional Method Instruction (TMI). The students will be administered a pre-test to determine their pre-achievement and a normality range of 3 standard deviations from the mean would be determined. The classes will be adjusted for normality, as well as for the experimental and control groups for the study. The students that fall in the normal range will form the study group. From a starting pool of one hundred students, I’m expecting to get sixty students to participate in the study.
Data will be generated from pre and post testing for each unit. The test will consist of thirty multiple choice items. The students will take a pretest for three units, Force and Motion, Work and Power, and Energy. The material will be taught for three weeks and the students will take a post test. The study will measure the growth from the score on the pretest to the score after the students have been taught using the two methodologies.
Level of Significance
The amount of evidence required to accept an event is unlikely to have arisen by chance is determined by using a critical p-value. Alpha will be set at .05, while a p-value of .05 or less is required to reject the null hypothesis and establish statistical significance. Meaning if an intervention is effective and the study succeeds in rejecting the null, or if a treatment really has no effect and the study fails to reject the null, the study's result is positive.
An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) will be used to determine the difference in student achievement between (a) instruction type (virtual lab/simulation instruction and traditional method instruction), (b) sex (male, female), and (c) ethnicity (African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, and other), after controlling for pre-achievement. ANCOVA will statistically control for the effects of other continuous variables that are not of primary interest, and these effects are known as covariates. ANCOVA will adjust for preexisting differences in nonequivalent groups. ANCOVA aims at correcting for initial group differences prior to assigning the groups. The groups will also undergo (Homogeneity of Variance) Levene’s test of equality. This will allow the study to estimate the effect of one continuous variable (instruction) on a given outcome (achievement), adjusting for a factor thought to modulate this relationship (sex and ethnicity). The data will be analyzed on the SPSS statistical software.
Databases and Keywords
Databases: Comparisons of each group’s mean score on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) will be used to determine if there is a statistically significant difference in scoring by each group. The CRCT is a statewide benchmark test given to middle school students every year. This test will be used to identify outliers within the two groups.
Computer-assisted instruction (CAI): CAI is computer-assisted instruction using computer programs, slides, tutorials, and simulations to guide the classroom instruction (Hussain, 2011).
Traditional method instruction (TMI): Traditional classroom teaching focuses on a number of elements where learning is conducted in a synchronous environment. The instructor and the students must be in the same place at the same time in order to derive motivation and instruction from the teacher as well as from the other students. (D. Simon, 2013)
First of all, this study does not carry out any psychological based testing that may measure the effects of CAI as compared to the traditional teaching methods. It rather simply takes the quantitative results and analyzes them with the help of social factors.
Moreover, it also does not carry out an examination over the use of different technologies and their respective effectiveness in improving students’ results. It takes only one style of computer assisted teaching and analyzes its effectiveness. Therefore, its results would not be applicable to other technological teachings and learning methodologies.
Finally, the study takes a particular subject and a particular grade students or age group previously and currently taught in a particular setting. Therefore, its results may not be applicable neither to outside USA, nor to a significantly different age and grade. However, to high school and students from 15 to 18, its results should be applicable.
In the chapter 1, it has been presented that education is a fundamental right and schools need to improve education as much as possible. Many studies have been carried out to analyze what motivates’ students’ learning and how a better and more effective teaching can be done. One of the reforms being brought in the USA in education department is the increasing use of technology based learning/teaching. However, there is a gap in literature in comparing the results of computer assisted instruction with the traditional teaching methods.
Thus, basing the problem of the study on this gap in literature, the study puts the basic question of analyzing the effectiveness of computer assisted instruction and for that its first questions compares CAI with TMI (traditional method instruction). Similarly, the second question compares the achievement differences based on gender and the third questions ethnicity based differences in results. The hypothesis is that CAI produces better results than TMI.
The study is going to be a quantitative research study. However, based on the results it will also take a qualitative approach for recommending programs and reforms for better teaching and improving results of the students. The study would take students in control and experimental groups of students with the consent of their parents. And the results obtained would be analyzed using SPSS, EXCEL and other analytical tools.
Thus, based on that, in the next chapter, a detailed literature is reviewed on the topic and the questions presented.
- Fall Semester- (2014) Complete Prospectus and Proposal.
- Spring Semester- (2014) Gain district approval and implement study
- Summer (2014) - Analyze data and complete dissertation study.
- Fall (2014) –Defend Dissertation study and become a candidate for graduation.
- Finish in May of (2015) at the latest.
Astleitner, H., & Steinberg, R. (2005). Are there gender differences in web-based learning? An integrated model and related effect sizes. AACE Journal,13(1), 47-63.
Barbour, M. K., & Mulcahy, D. (2008). How are they doing?: Examining student achievement in Virtual Schooling. Education in Rural Australia, 18(2), 63.
Barbour, M. K., & Reeves, T. C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers & Education, 52(2), 402-416.
Boozer, M. A., Krueger, A. B., & Wolkon, S. (1992). Race and school quality since Brown vs. Board of Education (No. w4109). National bureau of economic research.
Diaz, D. P., & Cartnal, R. B. (1999). Students' learning styles in two classes: Online distance learning and equivalent on-campus. College teaching, 47(4), 130-135.
Elliot, B. (n.d.). Neoliberalism in the classroom: The political economy of school reform in the United States. Academia.edu. Retrieved August 26, 2014, from http://www.academia.edu/1881707/Neoliberalism_in_the_classroom_The_political_economy_of_school_reform_in_the_United_States
Fletcher-Flinn, C. M., & Gravatt, B. (1995). The efficacy of computer assisted instruction (CAI): A meta-analysis. Journal of educational computing research,12(3), 219-241.
Hawkins, R., & Paris, A. E. (1997). Computer literacy and computer use among college students: Differences in black and white. Journal of Negro Education, 147-158.
Molnar, A., Huerta, L., Rice, J. K., Shafer, S. R., Barbour, M. K., Miron, G., & Horvitz, B. (2014). Virtual Schools in the US 2014: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence.
Natz, S. N. (2013). Reshaping U.S. Public Education Policy (SSIR). Stanford Social Innovation Review . Retrieved August 26, 2014, from http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/reshaping_u.s._public_education_policy
Shaw, G., & Marlow, N. (1999). The role of student learning styles, gender, attitudes and perceptions on information and communication technology assisted learning. Computers & Education, 33(4), 223-234.
Smith, G. A. (2013). Dispelling Three Decades of 'Educational Reform'. Monthly Review, 65(04). Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://monthlyreview.org/2013/09/01/dispelling-three-decades-educational-reform/
Tam, M. (2000). Constructivism, instructional design, and technology: Implications for transforming distance learning. Educational Technology & Society, 3(2), 50-60.
Tschudi, E. A. (2014, April 22). Finlandâ€™s Education System Through Foreign Eyes. Brown Political Review RSS. Retrieved August 26, 2014, from http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2014/04/finlands-education-system-through-foreign-eyes/
United States Educational Policy - The Basics of Educational Policy, The Pressure for Reform in American Education, Defining Policy. (n.d.). Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.com - StateUniversity. Retrieved August 23, 2014, from http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1937/Educational-Policy-United-States.html