Education is a big business in America.
We are constantly barraged with infomercials for products that
will improve our children’s ability to read or increase
their grades in schools. The U.S. education system has gone through
many short term “fads” in the area of language arts
instruction. For the better part of the last two decades, teachers
were told that teaching grammar was useless, maybe even harmful.
Conflicting opinions now exist as to whether we should even teach
topics such as grammar that were once considered staples of the
language arts curriculum (Vavra,2003). Teachers are desperately
looking for the “magic” formula that will help put
all of our students into the same box so that they will all achieve
equally on standardized tests. The politicians and the media
have sold the American public on every child achieving the same
thing regardless of the external factors that exist (parenting,
family situations, socio-economic issues, etc) (Berliner & Biddle,1995).
Because education has been politicized, schools are under tremendous
pressure to change. From our recent No Child Left Behind legislation
to a Nation at Risk in the early 1980’s, the American public
and elected political leaders are continually putting schools,
teachers, and students under a microscope by imposing stricter
standards on who is allowed to become certified to teach (Grossman,
2003, Russo, 2004). With the recent rave of increased accountability
in our school system, teachers and schools must find new ways
to teach our students in order to close the education gap between
high and low performing schools. Diversity and a focus on norms,
not achievement, are roadblocks that need to be jumped (Reeves,
Because of the pressure felt from society, language arts teachers
across the nation are abandoning what they know to be good
teaching methods because of the
pressure of the students to succeed on tests. These high stakes tests in
some cases determine what classes a student will be placed
in for the upcoming school
year. Our elected officials have spent billions of dollars “teacher proofing” the
classroom so that teachers are compelled to teach the test. The focus on testing
makes what used to be exciting classrooms boring and prevents our students from
learning in ways that have real meaning to them. Where once upon a time staff
development could focus on ways to teach, now it focuses on ways to teach our
students to pass the test. Our teachers know that they must do certain things
to help their students pass. If not, the reputation of both the school and the
teachers is unjustifiably tarnished (Santaman, 2002).
How are teachers going to teach so that our students are prepared
for standardized tests and still retain knowledge? Is offering
extra morning classes taught
in a lecture style going to work? Are smaller class sizes going to be put
The answers are uncertain, however, speculation suggests that something
different needs to occur in order to improve our schools.
Because of the current push for higher accountability in our schools, I
chose to do a study on the effects of Project Based Learning. Our government
that students are not succeeding despite the drop out rate being at an
all time low
and SAT math scores ringing in at a thirty six year high. Even scores on
national assessment tests have risen over the last twenty years. Despite
it is necessary to try new approaches in the classroom because the government
wants all students, regardless of socio economic or community conditions,
to achieve equally (Mathis, 2004).
In addition to retaining knowledge, our students lack the motivation
to learn topics that are not exciting and intriguing. In
schools where students
not successful, educators have given these students a heavy dose of the “basics” with
frequent writing exercises and an emphasis on worksheets as opposed to focusing
on discovery learning. Teaching in this way is demeaning for the students and
boring for the teachers. We imply that students lack the skills to write and
succeed when they are taught in this way (Johannessen, 2003). Everything around
them is exciting from the video games they play to surfing the net. They are
constantly being barraged with things that will pull in their interest. By focusing
on areas that our students do not think are interesting, educators can truly
test whether a constructivist approach (PBL) will help to motivate students to
learn and spark their interest in a way traditional teaching cannot.
As educators, we are always seeking to find new and exciting ways for
our students to learn. Using the computer to help our students learn
one of those
routes. At a middle school in the southeastern United States, using computers
to enhance student learning is a high priority. Students use computers
to assist them in learning about many topics such as learning how to
balance a checkbook
or completing Web quests to learn about history and science. A vast majority
of the students know how to use PowerPoint.
The instructional goal of the study was that students will
be able to demonstrate their knowledge of the parts of speech
by using PBL to design
game on each part of speech. Each student was placed in a group whose
to design a game on that part of speech. This encouraged them to think
using higher order thinking skills by comparing and discriminating
others ideas and to solve problems by using required skills and knowledge
1956). We wanted the project to help them not only gain knowledge,
but also to teach
them how to apply that knowledge.
My hypothesis’s were as follows:
1) Through creation, our students will be able to learn how
each part of speech functions and be able to apply it.
2) Their motivation to want to learn this will also increase because
of the social aspect of creating the games.
3) Students will be able to retain the knowledge that they learned
through the creation process after the project is complete.
Project Based Learning and PowerPoint Games in the Classroom
PowerPoint games allowed the students to create their own learning
environment for a given topic area. Once they were taught how to
use the programs
ability to hyper link, they were able to create games that helped
them apply what
they already know about their topic area and teach their peers
in a way that is
familiar to them. This was an excellent way for students to explore
a topic area since
PowerPoint was available in most classrooms and many students were
already familiar with games, such as Jeopardy, that their teacher
(Rieber,1998). Rieber asserts that students are capable of creating
their own games and
that it is a better use of class time. Project Kid Designer proved
that students are
capable of creating their own games and direct their learning (Rieber,
Luke & Smith,
The games that the students created included game pieces, virtual
or real game boards, and questions with correct and incorrect
answers. Creating the game
allowed the students to understand what it takes to teach someone
they themselves already know or were researching. It helped them
to understand the difficulty in teaching somebody else a concept
was not familiar
By creating their own games, students started to take ownership
of the topic area. By its very nature, project based learning
lends itself to
of self discovery by engaging the students in authentic problems
Marx, Krajick, Guzdial & Palincsar, 1991). It is important that what we are
teaching students is relevant to them in the context of their world, not ours
(Rieber, 2001). While we may want to teach in a lecture style because that is
what we know and it is how we were taught, it is not always to the greatest benefit
of our students. By letting the students learn the material in a way that has
meaning to them, they will comprehend and understand the material long past the
There has been much research done on
project-based learning and how it motivates the students to want
to learn in ways that they can relate to. This review of the
literature will include three areas of research:
a) What the constructionist theory states (because project
based learning is an off shoot of constructivism)
b) Arguments for and against PBL when using computer based
c) What motivates students to learn and how project based learning
ties into that.
Seymour Papert coined the term Constructionism. Papert says
that students learn best when the it is self-directed (Papert,
1996). Constructionism uses the idea
that the students “construct” knowledge and that the teacher serves
as a facilitator. They believe that environment around us helps to shape our
internal learning. Each individual will have their own experience and take different
things away from their experience (Labaron and Collier, 2001). It argues that
students learn best in an environment where they can share information with their
peers to create a meaningful artifact (robot, boat, game, etc). They construct
their knowledge by making meaningful artifacts (Kafai & Resnick, 1996).
The connection to learning through creation is a main constructionist
idea. Computers can serve as a highly effective way to facilitate
Many of our
most memorable learning experiences come through creation. Just like
wood or bricks, computers can be used as a construction material.
create things and expand existing knowledge through their use (Resnick,
Arguments for PBL
There is a significant amount of research that cites the positive
impact of PBL. This section of the review will focus on:
a) providing a definition
how PBL forces students to use higher order thinking skills. c) the
collaborative and grouping aspects of PBL and why they are
important, and d) the motivation
of students involved in PBL.
Definition of PBL
Borrowing from constructionism, PBL
focuses on authentic problems and tasks (Blumenfeld et al, 1991). “Project-based learning is a comprehensive
approach to classroom teaching and learning that is designed to engage students
in investigation of authentic problems” (Blumennfeld, et al, 1991, pg 369).
The characteristics of PBL within the context of multimedia learning, which is
what is being used for my study, are multi disciplinary, anchored in the core
curriculum. It involves student decision-making and collaboration that has a
real world connection to the students.
Higher Order Thinking Skills The tasks serve as a crucial link
to motivation and learning. (Blumenfeld et al , 1991). A typical
in many schools
today focuses primarily on lower order thinking skills such as
regurgitation of facts.
PBL allows students to put into practice the higher order thinking
skills required to solve complex problems. It offers the learner
to use many sources
of information, including their peers (Blumenfeld et al 1991).
PBL engages students at a level that traditional lecture and
take notes teaching cannot. It requires two steps:
1. A “driving question or problem that serves to organize and drive activities” (Project
Based Learning Space, 2004)
2. A culminating artifact
PBL breaks through the low-level task mode that many schools
are in. Performing tasks that are at the lower levels of
Bloom’s taxonomy contribute too many
students lack of understanding and even poor attitude towards
content (Bloom,1956). PBL helps them to pursue real world
problems that have meaning to them in their
social context. PBL helps to develop a sense of community
among the students (Blumenfeld et al, 1991). A positive
learning community will help students learn
because they will want to be a part of the community.
Collaborative and Grouping Aspects
Implementing a PBL unit
requires significant changes in the way that the students
interact with one another.
Despite this fact, PBL is becoming an increasingly popular
way to teach, particularly in the field of science. The very
engages the students
thinking about the topic that they are designing the project
for (Kafai & Ching,
2001). This can be applied to any topic. The students are encouraged to collaborate
with one another and make decisions in the presentation of their project (Kafai & Ching,
The collaborative aspect of PBL plays a huge role in the
effectiveness of the learning. Students work together to
find the best solution
to the problem.
Constructionists believe that students are using critical
thinking when they formulate their own
idea and solutions (Davis, Mahler, & Noddings, 1990).
Swortzel, Palmer, Peters, Streetman, Kafai and Ching have
all shown benefits of grouping students together. Swortzel
are more likely to take responsibility for their work.
They are likely to help
achieve a group goal so that everyone can receive a good
Grouping also helps students with critical thinking skills.
The students elaborate on their ideas within the topic
the positive and negatives
of each idea. The perspectives on the topic or issue
at hand are presented to the group, thus a more thorough
topic is created
for not only
the student who elaborated on an idea, but also for each
member of their group (Palmer, Peters & Streetman, 2003, Kafai & Ching, 2001).
There are more factors to consider. The amount of collaborative
experience and how positive the experience can
play a role in the type of learning
Research also shows that student led teams went
into much greater detail with their PBL projects as compared
more on the
conceptual aspects of the topic (Kafai & Ching,
Students are also more motivated to
learn when they use the grouping aspect of PBL. A research
conducted by the San
of Education in California said that their teachers
report that students become self-regulated learners,
their peers and
they take a greater interest in what is going on in
the classroom (Blumenfeld et al, 1991, San Mateo, 2000).
They also report
that technology integration
within PBL helped to increase the interest in the task
They also would help
each other learn new things, like different software
applications, to help each other (Kafai & Ching, 2001, San Mateo, 2000). The students also answer to
their peers whenever a project falls short of the expectations of the class In
addition, many teachers felt that lower level students were helped more by using
PBL and the test scores back up their opinions (Palmer et al, 2003, San Mateo,
2000). Students with low-test scores in San Mateo County were able to improve
them by using PBL.
Arguments against Project Based Learning
Like anything else, PBL does have a downside. After reviewing
the available literature, I have identified three potential
problems with PBL. They are
as follows: a) teacher planning, b) student resistance and the technology
factor, and c) discrepancies in the literature.
Teacher Planning PBL requires much more planning than a traditional lesson.
(Blumenfeld et al, 1991). The teachers may not be comfortable asking their
students open-ended questions that have no definite answers, but a multitude
of solutions. The facilitator needs to encourage them to find their own solutions,
outside of teacher given resources. The teachers may also need additional
training (Han & Bhattacharya, 2001).
Preparing the additional training of teachers requires many
steps, including showing them examples of excellent lessons,
evaluation of resources and the
creation of new resources. Hands on experience is also a must when training
the teachers how to implements PBL. The success of the training hinges
on the amount of time you allow the teachers to “practice, communicate and reflect”(Labaron & Collier,
The teacher is then also required to create other materials,
since the textbook serves merely as a resource and not the
guide for the instruction.
to creating new materials, the teacher may also find that he/she is uncomfortable
with not having a lot of control over the classroom. It is now up to
the students to learn the material within the context of
their project, not
responsibility to “teach” it all to them (Palmer, Peters, and Streetman,
2003, Blumenfeld et al, 1991).
Student Resistance and the Technology Factor
The students may
become resistant to PBL. In traditional teaching, the student
can come to class and get as much or as little as they want
out of a lecture or worksheet. In PBL, that option is not available.
They must work together with their group to attain the knowledge
that is required to complete the project (Palmer et al, 2003).
The potential also exists for the students to get so caught
up in the wizardry of whatever technology they are using
that they forget the actual purpose of
the project. (Kafai & Ching, 2001). They learn how to use the technology,
but that becomes the lesson as opposed to learning about the planets and how
they rotate around the sun. The focus becomes what the technology can do versus
how using the computer can help me to learn the characteristic of each of the
nine planets (Kafai & Ching, 2001, Blumenfeld et al, 1991).
Unequal access to technology (if it is being used) can also
cause an impediment to PBL. Nichols found that there were
significant differences in students
post test scores and homework completion rates among students who have
computers at home and those that do not. It found that students who had
the same technology
that the school had performed better in regards to their reading ability
keyboarding skills (Kafai & Sutton, 1999) If computer technology is utilized
in PBL, the student must be trained on how to use it effectively and properly.
Discrepancies in the Literature Some of the discrepancies in
the research come in the form of the positive or negative effect
of collaborative learning. Kafai & Ching (2001) point out
that during the first two sessions of their project, the students
stayed on topic in their discussions for a majority of the time.
By the third class, the amount of time spent discussing the topic
had been reduced by half. Blumenfeld et al (1991) also warned
of the same effect.
This is contrasted by other research that shows the positive
effects of the collaborative aspect of PBL. Blumenfeld et al
(1991) shows a clear relationship to learning and the positive
aspects of collaboration. The socialization aspect of PBL is
an important part of the process of learning.
How can the discrepancies be explained? It could depend on
the grade level of the students or the academic status of
It could also be a direct reflection on the teacher and how
they interact with the students or how the students interact
Student Motivation in Project Based Learning (PBL)
Quite frequently, students use their home computers for games
and educational software (Kafai & Sutton, 1999). What does this tell us about where our
student’s interests lay? In their own free time, they choose to use
their computers in ways that enable them to play in a style that they enjoy
and are comfortable with.
Why do schools not think of how students like to learn when
the curriculum is developed? Most people are more interested
in what they want to learn
versus what they have to learn in school. Learning and motivation go
hand in hand.
You can’t have one without the other. Motivation is the more important
part of the equation (Rieber, 2001). Teachers should want to inspire students
not only to learn what is in the curriculum, but also to want to learn.
How does PBL create a passion for learning? It meets the student
where they are at. It allows them to learn in a way that
they can relate to.
them to learn in the same way that they would play (Rieber, 2001). Students
get excited about playing. Through PBL, teachers can try to recreate
that excitement in the classroom.
One way to inspire to students is to have them develop the
very games that they love so much, but with a twist: it must
be on an educational
After all, games are embedded into our culture, “they are expert game players
and designers”(Rieber, 2001, pg 6). Games are to students what computers
are to adults: they require mastery of very complex concepts (Papert, 1997).
When designing the games, the kids’ ideas spring to life. The teacher
is there only to facilitate and encourage, not discourage. After all, it is
the students’ games, the creation of their imaginations.
Another question is what motivates students to learn? Many students
view school as a “job”. They do not view the assignments and procedures as
authentic. They feel it is something that they are forced into and don’t
understand why they are forced to attend. They only relate to needing to know
the material to pass the next test. Authentic material is material that matters
to the student at that moment (Rieber, Luke & and Smith, 1998). PBL creates
authentic tasks because it asks students to create artifacts that matter to
PBL allows students to learn the way every human being learned,
through exploration. Before we could talk, the only way we
were able to gain
knowledge was through
touching, feeling, observing. We were not capable of reading or communicating
any thoughts. As we got older, we were able to do more complex tasks,
choosing what to explore. We then assimilate it with the “direct experiences of
the world” (Papert 1997, pg 3).
Since students work collaboratively in PBL, they motivate each other.
What one student may lack, another may have. They teach each other
and techniques for doing various tasks. They get excited about learning
from each other as opposed to hearing a lecture from their teacher
The research clearly shows that PBL helps students to use higher
order thinking skills to learn (Blumenfeld et al, 1991, Kafai
and Ching, 2001). It also
encourages students to work collaboratively in groups, which again allows
them to challenge each other in ways a teacher cannot. Because they are
working with each other, it allows them to learn in the same
way that they play (Rieber,
The general trend in the research shows the positive impact
that PBL has on student learning and achievement. Students
are motivated to achieve
more than just cursory facts about a topic. PBL clearly is a way for students
to dive into a topic and explore it at a depth that a standard lecture
or even Web quest cannot match (Rieber,2001).
The research clearly leads us to the following questions:
1) Did the kids who experience PBL have an increased motivation
to learn (in my study it will be the parts of speech)?
2) Did PBL lead to increased retention of knowledge?
3) Through PBL, can the students apply what they have learned better
than had they been taught in a traditional way?
I believe that the research I did showed that PBL has a dramatic
impact on learners.
This study was intended to determine
whether learning the parts of speech by creating PowerPoint games
in a PBL environment lead to increased retention of the parts
of speech. The study also addressed whether the students were
able to apply what they had learned to their writing and also
whether they were more motivated to learn the topic area. This
chapter will summarize the methodology of my PBL in the language
arts classroom study. Pseudonyms are used throughout the entire
Two sample groups were studied. Before I expound on the groups,
I will include some background information on the school
and school system to give the reader
more information about the area and the types of students that attend the
The school (we will call it Reagan Middle) that participated in this study
is a diverse school that encompasses students from various racial and ethnic
Students at Reagan speak over forty different languages and cover all areas
of the socio-economic scale. Reagan Middle is part of a large southeastern
system. It receives money from the State Department of Education and the
The learners in sample group were the
ones that were targeted with our treatment. These students
were in the seventh grade
and came from the same class and
have the same teacher. There were 18 students in the teacher’s
class. They had 50 minute classes on Mondays and 80 minute classes
Here is the ethnic break down of the class:
7 African American
1 American Indian
The age of the students involved in the study ranged from eleven
to fourteen years old. The academic statuses of the students
were regular education students and students who were English
proficient and had successfully exited the English as a Second
Language Program. The class average of the treatment group was
The second sample group was from the same teacher’s Monday-Wednesday-Friday
class. They met at the same times as the treatment group. The
ethnic break down of this group is as follows:
1 Bi Racial
The academic statuses of the students were regular education
students and students who were English proficient and
had successfully exited the English as a Second Language
Program. The class average
of the control group was an 84.
Seven different tools were used to evaluate the effectiveness
of the treatment. They include three surveys that were
administered online: a survey of technology
in the home (TIH), a survey of the students’ use of the computers in
their school including attitudes towards learning via the computer (SACL),
and a survey of the students’ attitudes towards the topic area (SATT).
I designed the surveys (included in the appendixes).
There were also pre and post tests given on the actual
topic area to determine their knowledge. A surprise test
one month prior to the completion
of the study to determine the level of retention.
Sample group one: O1 X O2 delay O3
Sample group two: O1 O2 delay O3
The TIH survey was given to both sample groups so
that we can identify the similarities and differences
between the sample groups in regards to how much access students’ have
to computers outside of school. The survey let me know whether
they have a computer at home. If they did, they will continue
and answer questions in regards to the type of internet access
(dial up or cable/dsl), the type of web browser they use (internet
explorer, Netscape or other) and if they have Microsoft Word,
Excel or PowerPoint, or Microsoft Works on their computer.
I asked what other types of software they have on their computer
and asked them to submit some demographic questions include
their age and ethnic back round. If they do not have a computer
at home, I asked them where they use computers to do school
assignments (library, school, or a friend/relative’s
This survey was given to both sample groups to evaluate
how students use the computer at school. The survey used
was modified from one used by a United States school district.
survey identified where the students use computers (library,
classroom, etc), whether they ever discuss appropriate
use of computers, software and school databases used, search
whether they use the school server to save information,
whether they play games on the internet, use a digital camera/scanner/email,
whether they site sources, and whether they ever evaluate
quality of a website.
The survey also included questions to determine how motivated
they are to complete an assignment or project when it involves
computers. Using a Likert scale,
students were asked whether they like using computers to learn, are they
more motivated to learn a topic when computers are part
of the learning process,
and whether they like creating things on the computer (graphics, pictures,
This survey was given to both sample groups to identify
prevailing attitudes towards the topic area. Using a Likert
scale, the survey asked
if they like writing, reading, literature, grammar, and the parts of
speech. There was an open-ended part of the survey that gives them the
chance to express
things that they would like to study in language arts and if they could
change anything about the class, what would it be.
Pre and Post Tests Pre and posttests designed by the collaborating teacher
were used to assess knowledge of the topic prior to the intervention
(or for sample group two the teaching of the lesson) and their knowledge
of the topic
area after the intervention. A surprise post-test was given to both groups
one month after the intervention/lesson has been taught to evaluate retention
The students were told that the purpose of the project is
to evaluate different method of teaching to see whether they
enjoy it and also to
see if they remember
what was taught later on. The teacher read a statement to the students
that states that participation in this study is not mandatory and they
not to participate with out any kind of negative consequences.
Student numbers and names were not shared with anyone. Students were
asked to create anonymous pseudonyms for themselves and one for their
group to do
our follow up post-tests. Students were given examples of the types of
pseudonyms that they can use and be warned that they should not use names
that can be
traced to them.
When the surveys were administered, the students completed
them online. Once the submit button was hit, the surveys
were only accessible to me
via my log
in. The packets included a disclosure statement that will be read aloud
to the students. The administrator could not answer questions and was
to respond, “use your best interpretation to answer all of the items” (Leedy,
2001, pg 143).
Approximately two weeks after the study was complete, the
students were given a surprise test to evaluate their
retention and ability to apply
of speech. By making the test a surprise, students will not have the
ability to study for it. Therefore, it will truly test their retention
of what was
September 6,2004 Statement of the purpose of the study was read
to the students
September 13,2004 Pre-Tests and surveys were given to both groups
September 20 to October 11, 2004 The treatment is delivered to
one group. The control group is taught in a traditional style
October 28, 2004 Post-Tests are given to both groups
Data will be evaluated to determine it proves or disproves
1. Through creation, our students will be able to learn how
each part of speech functions and be able to apply it. The
pre and posttest gain/loss will determine
whether this hypothesis has been found to be true or false. Data
will analyzed in a spreadsheet program to ensure accuracy.
If the students’ post-test
scores increase, we can reasonably determine that this hypothesis is correct.
2. Their motivation to want to learn this will also increase
because of the social aspect of creating the games. The
pre and post treatment
determine whether they are more motivated to learn when computers
are involved. The online survey provider, Quia, will tabulate
this data. The tabulations
can only be viewed by myself. I must log in order to have access
to the results. I expect that the amount of students who respond
to liking technology will
increase after the treatment is delivered, thus validating the
3. Students will be able to retain the knowledge that they
learned through the creation process after the project
is complete. A
posttest delivered one
month after the completion of the treatment will be delivered
to both samples to determine which group retained the most
knowledge. The increase/decrease
in scores will be inputted into a spreadsheet. I expect that
scores from the treatment group will be higher than those of
the control group.
Results and Discussion
This section will focus on the results of each of the following: a) the three
surveys, b) the pre and post test, c) the additional post test only for the
control group the collaborating teacher implemented and d) an application evaluation
performed by the collaborating teacher.
Technology in the Home Survey
This survey was a nine question survey that was designed to give a better glimpse
of how much technology that both groups have access to. The first question
asked “When you use a computer, where do you use it?”. The following
table will allow you to see the results of both groups.
|At a freiend or relatives house
|At the local library
Question two asked: “If you use the computer at home,
please indicated the type of internet access, if any that you
|I don't have internet access
|I don't know
|DSL or Cable
Question three asked: “Please let me know what types
of software you use on the computer you use OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL.”
|I don't use a computer outside of school
Question four asked: “List any software that you have
on the computer you use outside of school”. This was a
free response question. Only five participants in the treatment
group listed actual software (AOL, paint and a general Microsoft).
Others in the treatment group listed nothing (six participants),
a website and “I don’t know” (four participants).
Six did not answer at all.
The control group did a little better with their understanding of software,
but still listed websites (one participant), web cam (one), AOL instant messenger
(one) and some Microsoft products such as PowerPoint and Word and Excel. One
person also listed Kidspiration and ten did not answer at all.
Question five asked the students:” I use the computer to do the following
|Surf the net
|Send instant messages
|Do homework or school work
|Look at pictures of my family and friends
|Design web pages
|Use educational software
Question six asked: “When
using the computer to do an assignment for school, where
do you use it?
|At a friend or relatives house
|At my local library
|I do not use the computer for school assignments
Question seven asked: “What kind of web browser do
you use when you are using the computer outside of school?”
|I do not use the computer outside of school
Questions nine and ten focused on the ethnicity and age of
the students. The results of this were mentioned in the
profile of the classes earlier in this paper.
Student Attitude Towards Computer Learning
This survey focused on how much students like or dislike
using computers to learn. It asks some of the same questions
as the technology in the home survey
but also delves into more specific questions regarding appropriate
uses of the internet and bibliographical information.
The treatment group will be
designated by the letter T and the control group by the letter
The first question focused on where they use computers. A majority
of both groups used computers in the computer lab (90%T and
70%C). 70% of the treatment
group stated that they used computers at home while 83% of the control group
used computers at home. A majority of both groups also stated that they used
computers in the media center and in school for projects. Only 20%T and 8%C
used computers in their actual classroom.
The students were then asked about the appropriate uses of
the internet and if it was discussed in their classroom.
95%T and 83%C said it was discussed.
On 5% of the treatment group said it wasn’t’ compared to 17% of
the control group.
When asked if they think of ways to do a more effective search
on the internet, 80% T and 17%C said they sometimes think
about it. 10%T and 38%C said that
they frequently thought about it. 10%T and 13%C said that they rarely
thought about it. 33%C said that they never think about it.
Both groups stated that they know how to save their work. 90% T and 96%C
said that they understood how to do this.
Students were asked if they surf the internet or play games
as a reward for good behavior. Only 5%T and 8%C said that
they frequently did. 35%T
said that they never did. 35%T and 4%C said that they rarely did. 15%T
and 17%C said that they sometimes did.
When asked about the types of technology they use at school, a majority
of the students (80%T and 92%C) had never used a scanner, digital camera,
video camera or a digital editor. 25%T and 8%C had used a digital camera
at school. 5% T and 4%C had used a digital video camera.
Students were asked if they had ever had to create a bibliography.
45%T and 25%C stated that they had never had to create one. 35%%T
stated that they sometimes had to create one. A small percentage
of both groups
that they either frequently or rarely had to create a bibliography.
When asked about evaluating the accuracy and quality of a website,
40%T and 25%C said that they frequently do.45%T and 49% C reported
or never do. 15%T and 21%C reported that they sometimes do.
The next set of questions asked students to rank on a scale
from one to five (one being strongly agree and five being
See the table below for the details.
|I like using the computer to learn
|I try harder and am more motivated to learn a lesson
when computers are part of the lesson
|I like using the computer to create things like PPT,
graphics, pictures, etc.
|I wish I had more time to use th ecomputer at school
|It is easier to learn when my teacher uses the computer or other technology to
|I dislike using computer technology to learn
Student Attitude Towards the Topic
This survey was designed to help measure the attitudes
of both classes before and after the unit was done. To
interpret the spreadsheet, please note that
a negative in the difference category actually means that the
students have increased in that answer between the pre
and post-test. A positive number indicated
that the percent of students decreased in that answer.
Click here to see the results.
In order to assess application, a rubric was created by my
collaborating teacher. The treatment group’s average on
the application evaluation was an 81. The control group had an
average of 64 on the application process.
The data that collected revealed some very definite trends.
This section will focus on disseminating the data to
come up with some conclusions. The analysis
will focus on answering the following questions:
1) Did students who experience PBL have increased motivation
2) Did PBL lead to increased retention of knowledge?
3) Through PBL, could students apply what they have learned
better than had they been taught in a traditional way?
This section will discuss: a) the pre and post test b)
the additional post test only for the control group
the collaborating teacher
implemented, d) the application aspect and c) the
three surveys that the students took.
The Pre and Post Tests
As the reader looks at the results of the pre and post-tests,
keep in mind that the two groups that participated in
this study came from the same teacher
and also have nearly the same ethnicity. The difference between
the two classes is clear in their academic achievement
and access to computer technology
(discussed in the survey results section). The class average
of our treatment group was a 62 versus an 84 for the
control group prior to the start of the
study. Keeping that in mind will help the reader see the effects
that this study had on the treatment group.
Averaging the scores on the pre and post-tests revealed
that our treatment group increased the average score
as a class
by twenty-six percentage points.
Their average score on the pre-test was a forty-seven. The
post-test average score was a seventy-three. This is
a tremendous improvement
when compared to
the initial score. This score is also eleven points above their
class average. This answers two of the questions that PBL
can lead to an increased retention
of knowledge and shows that the students can apply what they
How does this compare to control group (remember that the
control group has a higher overall class average- twenty-two
to be specific). The
control group actually performed much worse on the actual
pre-test, averaging only a thirty-one. The post-test
showed that they
too made a dramatic improvement,
increasing their average to forty-nine percentage points
to an eighty. The instruction that was given to them
in a traditional way, using
worksheets and lectures.
This begs the question that while the PBL group did show
an improvement between the pre and post-tests, it was not
as the improvement
that was made
by the control group. In this study, is it then more effective?
An argument can be made that due to the academic standing
of the treatment group, they would not have scored as well
the post-test had the instruction
been delivered in a traditional way. It is safe to hypothesize
this because their normal instruction periods consist of
traditional teaching methods. Clearly,
the control group responds better to traditional teaching
than the treatment group due to their class averages.
Another argument can be made that one of the weaknesses
of PBL is the time commitment that it takes. While our
stayed within the prescribed
five class period time frame, they were not able to have
five consecutive class periods to do this project. Their
was interrupted by other parts
of the curriculum that also had to be taught. Contrast
this with the control group that was able to have consecutive
on the parts of speech.
Having a concentrated period of time on a topic area
clearly gives the control group an advantage over the
What about the application process? The two groups had
vastly different application experiences. The treatment
able to create a game based on the parts
of speech. It was a highly collaborative process. The
students fed off of each others knowledge to create
games on the
parts of speech that they were very
The control group only did worksheets. There was no
collaboration. There was very little student involvement
with each other.
The teacher taught and the
students did the worksheets that supported the lesson.
Additional Post-Test for the Treatment Group
The structure of this project stipulated that the treatment
group would be broken up into eight groups, each working
on a specific part of speech. The
idea behind this was that each group would be able to create
a better game if they were not spread so thin be focusing
on all of the parts of speech.
At the end of the process, the groups would play the games
their other class mates had made, thus learning the other
seven parts of speech that they did
not work on during the project.
When the students were given a post-test that was based
on only the parts of speech that they worked on, the
very positively to effects of
PBL on the treatment group. They raised their overall class
average to an eighty-seven percent, which is forty-percentage
gain over the pre-test. The questions
were taken directly off of the first pre-test. Each member
of the group was given the questions that pertained directly
An interesting result of this is that only two of the participants
failed this post-test versus eleven on the pre-test. This
in and of itself shows the retention
of the knowledge. This test was give one month after the
completion of the project. This verifies that PBL did
indeed lead to increased
retention of their
parts of speech.
The results clearly show that the treatment group was more
successful at applying their knowledge when compared
to the control group.
The discrepancies in the
averages of the two groups were large. There was a seventeen
percentage point difference in the application area of
the project. These results occurred despite
the control group having superior academic achievement
Student Survey: Technology in the Home
Most of the students in both groups had a computer at
home. The computer seemed more of an integral part of
of the control
group than that of the
treatment group. The control group answered a higher
percentage in nearly every category. What was most surprising
the percentage of the control group
that had access to high speed internet. Nearly half of
the control group had access to high speed when compared
of the treatment group.
The internet connection gives us glimpse of the importance
of technology and computers in the lives of not only
the students, but also their parents. Studies
have shown that many parents consider high-speed internet
access an important part of their students education.
They are able
to access things they need
for school much faster. This might also explain the
discrepancy in academic status between the groups. If
they have high-speed
for educational purposes,
than they are probably more involved in the education
of their students.
Student Attitude Towards Computer Learning
One of the things that stood out in the results of this
survey was that students like when their teacher uses
the computer or other technology to aid their
teaching. The treatment group felt stronger about this than
the control group. This would indicate that theses students
are more receptive to lessons that
use technology. This may offer insight into ways to improve
the academic standing of the students in the treatment
Both groups stated that they like creating PowerPoint presentations,
graphics and pictures on the computer. They also said that
they are more motivated to
learn a lesson when technology is involved.
This survey indicates that the students at Reagan Middle
are very receptive to learning via technology. This offers
insight into the learning
preferences of their students. Teaching students in a way that
they want to be taught, a basic premise of PBL, will help improve
the motivation of the
students. This also proves that the students in the treatment
group were more motivated to learn this topic when compared
to the control group.
Student Attitude Towards the Topic
The students in the both groups showed an increased liking
towards grammar. Although the control group showed a higher
gain, the question that
must be asked is had the treatment group been taught in
the same way as the control group, would the response
Although no one can tell
the future, an educated guess can be made that due to the
academic achievement of the treatment group, they probably
have answered this question
The study also helped our control group gain a sense of
reality with where they are at in the understanding of
of speech. Prior to their participation
in this study, fifty-eight percent stated that they knew
how to use all of the parts of speech. At the conclusion
study, only thirty-seven percent
felt they knew how to use all of the parts speech. Convincing
students that they need to learn something can be the
biggest battle that teachers face.
PBL helped the students come to the realization that
they may need to brush up on their parts of speech.
The control group showed that a little over a quarter
felt that they knew the parts of speech at the conclusion
More than half were not sure.
When compared to the treatment group, the control group
had a greater percentage of students who were not sure
their parts of speech. The treatment
group had more students that knew conclusively one
way or the other whether they knew all of their parts
Given all of the data, it is important
to see what all of it put together means. Before coming to any
conclusions, it is important to remember that the study included
two groups of students who had the same teacher, but were not
on the same academic playing field in regards to their academic
achievement. This plays a huge factor in determining the success
or lack of success of this project.
I believe our study showed that the students who participated in the treatment
group showed an increased level of motivation. These students prior to our study
had demonstrated a lack of motivation to learn as evidenced by their failing
class average. The fact that they improved their overall post-test score to above
passing on an identical test to the pre-test (73%) indicates their motivation.
They also stated that they liked learning using the computer more than in traditional
teaching. Their score on the more specialized post-test (87%) also supports that
the students were very excited to learn about the parts of speech.
Their increase in retention of knowledge is also evidenced
by the same scores that were stated in the previous paragraph.
These students achieved at much higher
levels than they normally would in a traditional lecture/worksheet type
of classroom. While the control group made greater gains
percentage wise from the pre to the
post-test, they fell below their class average on the post-test while the
treatment group scored twenty five percent higher than
their class average on the post-test.
In the application area, the treatment group demonstrated
a noticeably higher level of application based on the assessment
given by the collaborating
This would support my hypothesis that PBL does indeed increase the students’ ability
to apply knowledge. The application process is the process that our students
will use the most in the future. PBL clearly outshines the traditional teaching
method in this instance. The students’ in the control group, despite their
overall better academic standing, were unable to outscore the treatment group.
One question that arises from the research is what caused
the scores to go up so high on the second post-test for
the treatment group? Was it the
process or just a great retention of knowledge? I think that this question
is best answered through the application vain. The two post-tests show
was a clear difference between the two. What was this difference? The difference
was that in the second, the students were tested only on what they learned
during the creation process while in the first post-test they were tested
on every part
of speech. They also scored substantially higher than their class average
on the application part of this process which goes hand in hand with the
aspect of project based learning.
For teachers that aspire to implement PBL, I would recommend
that you definitely allow for a large amount of time to
do the project. Try to incorporate
many different curriculum objectives within the same lesson. Plan out each
step for the students
so that there is never any doubt as to what they are supposed to be doing
at any given point in time.
To conclude, PBL is an effective way for students to learn
and retain knowledge. With the growing pressure of accountability
looming over every teacher’s
head at all times, it is important to come up with knew and innovative ways to
teach the curriculum that every student needs to know. In addition, the motivation
aspect of PBL has to be considered when deciding whether to use PBL or a traditional
lesson. PBL can help bring to life any topic, from social studies to math. The
research that I did clearly proves that retention, motivation and application
are enhanced when PBL is used in the classroom.
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