THE EFFECT OF TWO DIFFERENT CONFIGURATIONS OF A SOFTWARE TOOL FOR CONSTRUCTING GRAPHS ON SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE AND INQUIRY SKILLS
1 University of Cyprus (CYPRUS)
2 University of Twente (NETHERLANDS)
About this paper:
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:The aim of the study was to evaluate a newly developed software tool, the Data Viewer, for supporting secondary school students when constructing graphs in the context of a Go-Lab Inquiry Learning Space (ILS) on electric circuits. Two versions of the Data Viewer were developed, used and compared. The configuration of the first version (DV1) offered to students access to only one of the variables they handled during their experimentation process. For all the other variables the students had to retrieve them, along with their values, from previous activities (e.g.,notes taken previously). In the second configuration of the tool (DV2), all of the variables handled during the experimentation process were automatically retrieved and offered to the students.
The participants of the study were 30 tenth graders from two classes (N1=12, N2=18) of two public senior high schools in Larnaca, Cyprus. A pre-post experimental design was used, which involved two conditions: condition1/class1 (11 boys, 1 girl who used DV1) and condition2/class 2 (4 boys, 14 girls who used DV2). Students in both classes completed the activities of the same ILS, which focused on the simple electric circuit and circuits connected in series and in parallel. Specifically, the goal was for the students to learn about the differences between the two types of setup. All the experiments of the ILS were conducted through the use of the same virtual lab, which was also available through the Go-Lab learning platform. Students were using DV1 or DV2 right after the execution of an experiment in order to construct graphs from the data collected. The study’s data collection involved two tests, the knowledge test and the inquiry skills test. Both tests were administered to students before and after the implementation. The study lasted four class meetings, 40 minutes each. In the 1st and 4th class meeting students completed the tests and in the 2nd and 3rd meeting each student worked on a computer and completed the learning activities of the ILS.
The data analysis revealed that the two different configurations of the Data Viewer had quite divergent effects on student knowledge and inquiry skills. Significant differences between conditions in terms of both knowledge (Z=-2.58; p<.05) and inquiry skills (Z=-2.05; p<.05) were found. However, in DV1 condition when data had to be loaded by students themselves, the knowledge gains were significant (Z=-2.86; p<.01), while inquiry skills did not improve at all. In the case of the DV2, when all data were automatically loaded by the tool, no significant knowledge gains were found; however, students’ inquiry skills did improve substantially (Z=-3.18; p<.01). In order to make sense of these results we used Reiser’s (2004) theory on structuring and problematizing, because these two mechanisms might often be in tension. As structuring increases problematizing might decrease and vice versa. In this study it appears that DV1 promoted problematization and prompted students to reason retrospectively and better study the content of the ILS since they were looking for the variables and their values, whereas DV2 promoted structuring which in return rendered variable selection and thus enabled students to better focus on handling the variables at task during graph construction. The latter also enabled students to allocate more learning time on variable handling and graph construction, which could explain the fact that their related inquiry skill improved.
Keywords: Computer supported inquiry learning environments, virtual labs.