Sabo, K.P. (2006). WebQuest:  A Tool for Motivating High School Physical Science Students. Instructional Technology Monographs 3 (2). Retrieved<insert date>, from

WebQuest:  A Tool for Motivating High School Physical Science Students


Kristen P. Sabo
University of Georgia




The purpose of this study was to compare the motivation of students that are present in a constructivist (active) learning environment with that of students who learn in a “traditional” type (passive) lecture environment.  The study compared two technical level physical science classrooms.  The experimental class was taught using a constructivist strategy, WebQuests, and the control class used more teacher centered lecture based formats.  Surveys, journals, and pretest/posttest scores were used to evaluate student attitudes and progress during the investigation.  Motivation towards the subject matter was noticeably higher with the constructivist classroom.  Students showed accountability for their actions and quality of work.  The WebQuest helped to provide an interactive and meaningful learning environment for the students.  It showed how science education can focus on content by using a problem solving approach that help the students experience and respond to relevant issues. 


Literature Review Methods Results and Discussion Conclusions References



As a fourth year teacher I constantly try to reinvent my teaching strategies in order to better suit the students.  I am lucky enough to have access to various types of technology, such as a mobile computer lab, smart boards, LCD projectors, and TVators.  I try to incorporate this technology, but feel as if my students still have a passive role within the classroom.  Because of their passivity, I sense that they are unmotivated and bored.  I believe it is my job as a teacher to do all that I can in order to help motivate the students so that they will take responsibility for their learning.  I want to create an environment where the students are excited about science.  I would love for an observer to come in my room and see a student centered environment, where they are actively involved and learning.

Shifting teacher styles from a traditional, teacher centered classroom to a student centered classroom would allow the students to take charge of their learning.  However, in order for the students to embrace their role within a student centered classroom they must be motivated to learn.  Steering students away from memorization of facts and towards concept based learning helps to promote motivation within a classroom (McCluskey, Parish, & Thomas, 1996).  Through concept based learning the students are learning concepts that have meaning to them and they can use them in real-life scenarios.

            When trying to find a trigger to help increase student motivation within a classroom, reforms in education have tried to address classroom problems.  According to Dalgarno (2001), the shift toward constructivist learning can be attributed to the transition from the behaviorist point of view to the cognitive point of view.  This suggests that teaching strategies are moving away from “repetitive condition of learner responses” into placing emphasis on the “learner’s cognitive ability” (Dalgarno, 2001, p. 184).  “Many of these  [constructivist] concepts have been reflected in the work of Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner, and other significant educational theorists and researchers” (Harris & Graham, 1994, p. 233).  

As emphasis is being placed on cognitive ability, an alternative view point known as constructivism has developed.  This type of teaching focuses on the idea that there is not one correct answer.  There could be several individually constructed answers, each of which is just as valid as the next.  The teaching strategy focuses on guiding students in a learner-centered environment and allowing them to develop and change their current knowledge.  Instructional approaches focus on “cognitively guided instruction, scaffolded instruction, and directed discovery” (Harris & Graham, 1994, p. 233).  The focus of constructivist teaching is “placed on knowledge construction rather than knowledge transmission” (Dalgarno, 2001, p. 184).               

In 1995, Bernie Dodge with Tom March developed WebQuests with hopes of to create an inquiry-based tool that allows learners to interact with Internet resources in order to gain knowledge through a guided learning environment.  The intent of WebQuest development is to have a web based instructional tool that allows for inquiry based learning activities that will engage higher order thinking skills (Dodge & Molebash, 2003).

The purpose of this study was to explore the differences in student attitudes and motivations, when exposed to two different styles of learning.  This study explored the depth of student motivation in a constructivist classroom environment with a more traditional teacher-centered classroom environment.  This study used Webquest as a constructivist strategy. I found no research that names a WebQuest as a constructivist activity, however many of the principles that Dodge believes a WebQuest should feature coincide perfectly with the constructivist foundation, as I will discuss in my literature review.  



Literature Review

A constructivist learning environment is based on students taking control of their learning.  Through constructivism, the students are learning concepts that have purpose to them which they can use in a real-life scenario.  Harris and Grahm (1994) describe students in a constructivist environment as, “self-regulating learners who construct knowledge in developmentally appropriate ways while interacting with a perceived world” (p. 234).

            Vermette et al. (2001) attempt to link constructivism to other more widely shared concepts.  Within a constructivist environment, students are given options with their assignments and assessments.  They have differentiated learning where they can choose the best way to facilitate their learning.  Students are able to create new understandings of their prior knowledge and connect it with their newly found knowledge.  Constructivism encourages “scaffolding to take place in the form of questions, prompts, suggested tasks, available resources, challenges, and classroom activities” (p. 89).  Another important aspect of constructivist strategies is the collaboration that can take place within specific opportunities.  Such opportunities include using cooperative problem solving that allows students to build motivation depending on group accountability.  Motivation is also peaked when the relevance of an assignment is made apparent to the students.  Students are asked to use inquiry-based reasoning in order to solve a problem.  This problem-based learning helps students to take responsibility for their own learning.   When students participate fully in their own learning, it is believed that the knowledge acquired reaches a deeper, more relevant understanding, thereby leading towards knowledge application (Harris& Graham, 1994).

            Chang, Sung, and Lee’s (2003) findings help to support the principles of constructivism.  They found that when using an inquiry-based activity, students are not as motivated when the topic was irrelevant to their lives.  They also found that students gained more knowledge and understanding when they were able to use a combination of strategies.  When collaborative learning, inquiry learning, and concept mapping were all used, the student felt more able to tailor the learning process in combination with a specific assignment.

            Resources found on the World Wide Web can be used to help engage an unmotivated student.  However, it is important that the technology being integrated serves as a means to meet the academic needs of the students and that the resources engage students in higher levels of thinking. WebQuests are web-based lessons that serve as a tool which allows students to explore and gather information on their own. 

How do WebQuests Serve to Meet Constructivist Needs?

The intent for WebQuests is for students of all ages.  Engagement of high order thinking skills is a necessity for any type of student.  WebQuests help more mature students prepare for what is to be expected of them in their future.  Peterson, Caverly, and MacDonald (2003) categorize WebQuests into four different topics.  The first category uses WebQuests to introduce a new course or to investigate career options.  By using WebQuests to this degree, learners are able to explore websites in search of real-world applications.  The second category uses WebQuests as an inquiry tool.  Through WebQuests, learners develop skills in how to “ask good questions about phenomena” (p. 38).  The third category uses WebQuests in a problem based learning environment (PBL).  A WebQuest could be set up in the format that has students investigate problems that are relevant to their lives.  A PBL type WebQuest should allow for students to discuss their prior knowledge with their classmates in order to generate a hypothesis based on that knowledge.  The fourth category allows learners the opportunity to create a WebQuest.  This gives them the opportunity to see the importance of “identifying a meaningful problem, crafting guiding questions, and selecting key websites,”  Peterson, et al.(2003), believes that usage of WebQuests in any of these areas can lead students towards further knowledge acquisition.

            Zhengl et al.(2005), discusses the four different learner constructs, characterized by Dodge, that support WebQuest learning: critical thinking, knowledge application, social skills, and the scaffolded learner.  Critical thinking is important in WebQuests because it allows the learner to be self-directed.  The goal of a WebQuest is to have students analyze information, make it their own, and demonstrate their knowledge by creating an artifact that is important to them and can be used as a real-life application.  Once knowledge is attained within a WebQuest, it is then applied to solve a problem.  Knowledge application is a key construct when using WebQuests.  True learning can be assessed by how students are able to use the concepts learned. The WebQuest design allows for students to engage in problem solving tactics which help to establish a deep learning and understanding of the material.  WebQuests foster social skills by encouraging group accountability.  The structured design of a WebQuest supports the practice of scaffolding in a classroom.  Students get out of a task what they put in with the scaffolding approach.  Figure 1 shows a sample task, where the students are given their assignment in a problem based manor that helps encourage student engagement.


Figure 1. Screen Shot of a Sample Task

 Screen Shot Simple Task


What Should an Effective WebQuest Include?

Using a previously created WebQuest is an option, but before implementation it must be reviewed and researched.  Teachers need to pay close attention to the practical aspects of WebQuest implementation.  Lipscomb (2003) developed a list of suggestions for wise choices of existing WebQuests, which includes looking out for design pitfalls, such as aesthetically pleasing WebQuests which lack substance.  Lipscomb adds to make sure WebQuests are organized in a way to make navigation easy for students.  Secondly, it is necessary to gauge a student’s level of technology proficiency.  Some students may need more guidance as they learn how to maneuver through the various sites.  Making assessments clear to the students is another strategy emphasized.  Students need to know upfront what will be expected of them as they complete the WebQuest.  It is a good idea to allow peer evaluations to take place, as well as teacher evaluations.

            Peterson et al. (2003) suggests several helpful strategies on how to build a successful WebQuest.  A designer will have to have access to a web-building program.  The beginning of a WebQuest should intrigue a student.  Creation of a story or scenario that motivates a student to apply their topic to a real-life situation shows them the relevance.  Once a topic for the WebQuest is selected, the designer then has to create objectives for learning.  It is helpful to provide guiding questions for the students to use. as they begin to learn independently the facets of their topic.  The WebQuest will end with a creative product that should show the knowledge gained by the student.  The goal of the product is to engage students to use their resources in order to draw conclusions.  It is also suggested that the instructor help students gather information from the web, arrange the findings through organizational means, and present the information (2003). 

            Once the selection or design of a WebQuest has been made, even further research must be done in order to make sure the chosen WebQuests will have an effective and positive outcome with the learners.  It is important to understand the concerns and pitfalls that await some WebQuest users.  Zheng, et al. (2005), show that “when teachers create WebQuests, they need to shift from creating prescriptive learning situations to developing environments that engage learners and require them to solve problems and construct knowledge that is most meaningful to them” (p. 47). 

            WebQuests have the potential to be an outstanding tool; however, issues have been raised concerning the effectiveness of WebQuest use within a classroom.  Zheng, et al. (2005), identifies that some researchers and classroom teachers are concerned with the inconsistent implementation of WebQuests into the curriculum.  Teachers that use WebQuests as electronic worksheets or URL resources are limiting the learners’ ability to problem solve, work within cooperative groups, scaffold, and learn using inquiry.  Teachers who implement WebQuests to this extent are taking a step backward into the more traditional style.  The benefits that WebQuests bring are not being used to their potential and the students are forced back into the rote memorization style of teaching. 

            A study performed by MacGregor and Lou (2005) revealed other concerns with WebQuest activities.  They suggest that the simple act of having Internet accessibility has no impact on student achievement scores.  Students need more than just exposure to the Internet in order create a deeper learning.  Issues that are related with WebQuest activities include the fact that some students can navigate through a web site but are unable to decipher relevant information needed to solve their problem. 

            MacGregor and Lou’s (2005) study mentions a previously performed study that they developed with two sets of pre-service teachers implementing a WebQuest.  “During the implementation, students found that their assistance was needed by the children more frequently than they expected.  Many of them commented about this experience and felt that they needed to design their WebQuest more carefully and provide more supporting activities and materials” (p. 163).  These data support the information presented by Zheng, et al. (2005) that WebQuest effectiveness is based on design.  Without well-planned design strategies, WebQuests can be a technologically advanced scavenger hunt. 

            MacGregor and Lou’s 2005 study was created to determine if providing students with explicit procedures, while completing their WebQuests, had an effect on the information the students retained.  Two groups of students completed a WebQuest that taught them important features of their community.  Both sets were responsible for turning in a brochure that showed interesting facts about their community.  The first group of students received a set of explicit procedures that identified what information should be included and how that information could be organized within the brochure.  The other group was spared the explicit procedures.  The study revealed that the students who were “given the explicit procedures acquired more community knowledge and created higher quality brochures” (p. 164).  The students who did not receive the set of procedures spent more time browsing through different websites and continuously navigated out of the WebQuest to external websites.  This study also supported the use of scaffolding tools such as study guides and concept maps.  The students were able to use these documents as a self guide as they navigated through the WebQuest. 

            WebQuests offer an inquiry-based learning strategy that allows students to analyze and decipher relevant information.  The effectiveness of WebQuests increases when students have more direction. Supportive documents, such as scaffolding study guides and concept mapping templates, aids students as they engage in student-centered learning. 

WebQuests can be used to enhance problem-based learning.  Gallagher, Stepian, and William (1995) suggest that in order to create an effective problem based learning implementation, the student must confront an “ill-structured problem” (p. 44).  An ill-structured problem lacks the information necessary to solve the problem.  It is important that, when teaching with problem-based strategies, the learning takes place after the problem has been chosen.  Many paths should exist in order to answer the problem.  This provides students with open ended choice of problem solving avenues. 

            With a further understanding of the WebQuest constructs that support constructivist problem solving, the more a teacher can practice constructivism. Teachers, who are already familiar with and/or use constructivist strategies within their classrooms, will be able to use that knowledge in WebQuest creations.  When teachers have a basic understanding of the constructivist concept, the incorporation of WebQuests can create an outlet that encourages critical thinking, promotes cooperative learning, and increases the usage of higher level thinking skills.

            According to Dodge and Molebash (2003), the most important part of the WebQuest is the task section.  The best type of WebQuest will “require a high level of synthesis, judgment, analysis, creativity or problem-solving” (p. 67).  This section provides the opportunity for students to take responsibility for their learning. 


According to the research I explored, if designed efficiently and used properly, WebQuests can create a wonderful bridge between constructivist strategies and technology.  Constructivist principles help to show students the relevance within a subject.  A constructivist environment will help to increase student motivation and allow them to take control of their learning.  WebQuests are great constructivist strategies that allow students to guide their learning.  A WebQuest is designed to be inquiry based and student oriented.  Encouraging students to take an interest in their learning and showing subject matter relevance will increase their motivation to learn.   





            The purpose of this study is to assess how physical science students react to a constructivist classroom, via a WebQuest activity, compared to a class that is exposed to a teacher-centered lecture style atmosphere.  This study was conducted to determine whether a constructivist environment has a positive effect on students in order to help increase motivation and understanding amongst my technical level classes. 

Research Context and Participants

            The study took take place at a rural high school in northeast Georgia.  The school has an enrollment of approximately 1,400 students, a majority of whom come from lower to middle socio-economic families.  The participants in this study include 37 voluntary, ninth grade, tech-level, physical science students (see, Table 1 and Chart 1).  Each participant was given a consent form which they signed and had signed parent or guardian (see Appendix A).

Table 1

Participants’ Gender 


Teacher-Centered Class

(n = 15)

WebQuest Class

(n = 22)








Chart 1

Participants’ Ethnicity




Research procedure

            The study was performed for seven days on a four-by-four semester block for an hour and a half.  The topics for the lessons cover the uses of nuclear energy.  The topic meets Georgia Performance Standard 3d: Describe nuclear energy, its practical applications as an alternative energy source, and its potential problems.

            No information was given to students relating to nuclear energy prior to the testing.  One class was taught the information through a lectured-based, teacher-centered format.  I taught the class using the textbook and Cornell style notes.  The WebQuest class learned the same material, but with exposure to more points of view. 

During the seven days of the WebQuest, students were responsible for participating in activities that follow constructivist principles (see Appendix C). Both classrooms were taught in my physical science classroom.  However, the constructivist centered class has access to laptops.  Each class covered the exact same material, but through different styles of learning. 

            The WebQuest was created based on research of constructivist principles and effective WebQuest design. The WebQuest begins with students learning that they are part of the County Research Team.  They have “received” a letter from the County Board Members informing them to find the pros and cons of nuclear energy.  They learn there is a chance that a nuclear power plant may be built near their town and they must find the problems and benefits that it has to offer.  The students were asked to research nuclear energy and decide on a unified opinion to share before the board at the next city council meeting. 

This scenario provides motivation to the students because it is based on something they care about, their city. The WebQuest was arranged to encourage collaboration among group members.  Each member was given the option to pick one of four different student roles including:  the historian, environmentalist, economist, and the scientist.  They were allowed to read through the criteria of each role and pick the role that best suited their individual needs.  Questions were provided as guides to help the students discover new information about their role.  Each member was held accountable for learning about his/her role.  In order to accommodate the scaffolding strategy, students researched individually and brought their opinion about nuclear energy to their group.  The group listened to each member’s opinion and decided on a unified opinion to present before the city board meeting.  This allowed for the students to describe what they learn to listen to other group members. Students were able to use their prior knowledge and their new found knowledge to make a unified decision.  

Data Collection Process

An identical pretest was given to each class to identify prior knowledge of the students (see, Appendix B).  The same test was given at the end of the unit in order to track improvement.  Improvement on those tests and posttest scores within each group were analyzed in order to note any significant difference between the two classes.  Once again, results were analyzed to note differences in the quality of work between the two groups.

            A Likert-type survey was given to both groups to determine whether positive or negative attitudes were experienced throughout the different lessons.  Open-ended questions were provided to the WebQuest classroom in order to analyze their feelings on using the WebQuest activity.  A journal was kept from the beginning of the study in order to record student observations.  I noted what the agenda was for each class everyday and jotted down comments that I overheard the students saying.  Notation was also made on how well the students interacted together and how well they stayed on task.  I made reference to student participation and motivation. 

Data Analysis

A descriptive analysis to compute mean and standard deviation for each group’s posttest was used.  A T-ratio was used to find the level of significance between the posttest in the two groups.  A journal was kept in order to note attitudes and motivation during the different treatments.  A Likert Survey was given to both groups in order to determine their opinions towards the two different learning styles.  Open-ended discussion questions were given to the WebQuest class in order to provide them with an opportunity to discuss their view about learning with WebQuests.

Limitations of the Study

            More research should be done to address the various methods of gathering data towards student motivation and the effectiveness of WebQuests.  Much of the research found deals with what is needed to create an effective WebQuest.  There was a lack of information found on the methodologies and variables used to actually test this effectiveness.   Only the technical level classes were involved in this study in order to control experimental conditions.  Therefore, it is important to realize that the findings from this study are not a generalization for all students in my classes or in the school.  During this research, I identified my biases up front. I have used my prior teaching knowledge in the creation of the WebQuest.  Since I developed the WebQuest, I tried to make sure my anticipation of its success doesn’t create a bias for the data interpretation.  In order to prevent any misinterpretations, I used numerical information from multiple-choice pre- and post-tests. I also used the same rubric when grading projects from each class.  As I kept the journals I did not form judgment.  I simply wrote down what I observed and analyzed the journals after the fact.  

Research Questions

            At the end of this research study, data was gathered through various means of assessments.  The major research question in this study is: How does a constructivist learning environment effect physical science learning?  Sub-questions include:

a.      Does a constructivist environment increase student motivation?

b.      Does the WebQuest meet the needs of a constructivist environment?

c.       What should an effective WebQuest include?

d.      Is there a significant difference in the pre- and post-test scores between the two classes?

e.      How does the quality of the students’ work differ between the two classes?


Results and Discussion


Qualitative Results


Qualitative data was collected by measuring student motivation through teacher based observations and surveys.  A journal was kept everyday in order to record student interactions and observations (see Appendix D).  All participants were asked to fill out different surveys.  The surveys included questions that were measured based on the 5-point Likert scale (see Table 2 &3). The WebQuest class rated their opinions on WebQuest, while the teacher-centered class rated their opinions on their experiences with note taking and lectures.  In addition to the Likert scale, the WebQuest class was asked to answer open-ended questions about their experience with the WebQuest (see Appendix E).

Table 2

Average 5 Point Likert Scale Survey for the Lecture-Based Class


Fill out the following information on a scale from 1 to 5.

(Strongly agree 1-2-3-4-5 strongly disagree)


1.) Notes and teacher lectures help to prepare me for the test.





2.) I learn the material from taking notes and listening to the teacher lecture.




3.) I enjoy working in groups on a problem, it helps me to learn.




4.) Taking notes helps me to learn the material.




5.) Giving presentations to the class about the assigned topic helps me to understand the information.




6.)  I would prefer to learn the material through other means than taking notes and listening to lectures.




7.) Notes and teacher lectures make me excited to learn.




8.) I am motivated to do my school work when I am excited about my topic.



Table 3

Average 5 Point Likert Scale Survey for the WebQuest Class



Fill out the following information on a scale from 1 to 5.

(Strongly agree 1-2-3-4-5 strongly disagree)


1.) The WebQuest helped me prepare for the test. 




2.) The WebQuest helped me learn the material.




3.) Working in groups on the presented problem made the material seem more interesting.




4.) Taking notes helps me to learn the material better than the WebQuest.




5.)  By presenting my opinion to the class I could understand everyone else’s standpoint better. 




6.) I prefer working on the WebQuest more than taking notes and listening to lectures.




7.) I was excited to be working on the WebQuest for the entire week.




8.)  The WebQuest motivated me to do my work.





The Likert scaled surveys showed participants’ reactions for test preparation, preferred learning style, and motivation.  Both groups agreed that their individual learning environment helped them to learn the material and prepare them for the unit test.  The lecture-based group agreed that they prefer to learn the material through other means than taking notes and the WebQuest group agreed that they preferred working on the WebQuest more than taking notes.  Both groups agreed that motivation towards their schoolwork comes when they feel excited about their subject.  The lecture-based students were not excited when asked to take notes and listen to lectures.  The WebQuest class agreed that the WebQuest excited them for the entire week. 

            These results show that the students wanted to learn and felt they could learn when they were engaged with the material.  Student engagement was evident with the WebQuest activity. Once the WebQuest class realized that their schedule for the week included working on the WebQuest activity they arrived into the classroom like a well-oiled machine.  Two students were in charge of getting the assigned computers distributed while another student passed around the WebQuest CDs.  The other class members waited patiently and talked quietly until their items had been handed to them.  Once they received their computer they immediately began booting up the CD and opening the WebQuest folder to begin work.  They knew what was expected of them each day and they new their end goal.  The students came in everyday anxious to begin work on the next task within the WebQuest, while it was a constant struggle to get the lecture-based class seated and ready to begin each day. 

The students enjoyed debating with each other about their picked role within the WebQuest.  One student commented, “Can we just pick both sides?  It is hard to make a decision about whether it [nuclear energy] is good or bad.”  The students found the WebQuest challenging and exciting.  The day of the presentations, the students were able to comment on the opinions presented in the discussions.  Many of the students began heated discussions about their opinions, based on the learned information. 

The lecture-based classroom created and presented a poster on the pros and cons of nuclear energy.  The students’ main resource for information came from their text books.  Due to the fact that the students were limited to their exposure of information, their opinions for nuclear energy did not vary.  The lack of varied opinions resulted in poor presentations and discussions

            The open-ended survey given to the WebQuest classroom showed an incredibly positive response towards the use of the WebQuest (see Appendix E).  The students showed an excitement through learning in their groups, “I had a lot of fun discussing topics.” The majority of the students felt like they learned a lot from the WebQuest while they were having fun, “It gave me an experience to learn new things.” Student accountability was demonstrated through their actions and comments, “You were responsible for your own work to give to the group.”  One student in particular was caught skipping school for three consecutive days.  He commented in his open-ended questionnaire, “I wouldn’t skip school to get my group worried.”  He felt a true responsibility for being at school during the WebQuest activity.  He knew that his group would be counting on him and he didn’t want to let them down.  This shows a true accountability within the group of people with which he was working.  His situation is an example of how powerful a meaningful activity can be for some students.

The difference in the quality of the group presentation was astounding.  The lecture-based group recited many facts from the text book and show very little enthusiasm for what they were presenting.  However, when the WebQuest group began with their presentations they first discussed their opinion on using nuclear energy.  Once their opinion was made clear, there was whispering and mumbling throughout the classroom from the students that disagreed with their opinion.  This showed that some students developed a passion for what they learned.  They were frustrated that some students disagreed with their opinion.  It was nice to see that the students cared enough about what they were learning to show signs of frustration with differing opinions.  At the end of the presentation the students could ask the group questions about their presentations.  The WebQuest group brought up points that they had researched.  The presenters were able to justify their position with factual information that had discovered.  It was very exciting to be a part of an environment when the students were getting heated with one another over school work. 


Quantitative Results


Quantitative data was collected using a pretest and a posttest, administered before and after the treatment was performed.  Percent improvement was calculated for each group.   A descriptive analysis was conducted to compute each group’s mean and standard deviation.  A t-test was conducted to detect the group difference.   

The mean posttest score for the lecture-based group (M=70, SD=8.3) and the WebQuest class (M=72, SD=13.47) showed a high standard deviation.  High standard deviation among these test results show there is a lot of variability within the posttest scores.  The t-test is t= .57 and p= 2.365 is not significant at the .05 level.  Therefore, it can be concluded that there is no significant difference between the two groups of students based on their posttest scores. 



Table 4 Statistics on Means and Standard Deviations for both groups.




Mean Percent Improvement









WebQuest Class







Lecture Class








Data Summarization

            Due to the fact that no significant difference was found between the pretest and posttest scores correlates with the Likert Survey results.  Both classrooms felt that they could learn the material with the different teaching styles and neither group out performed the other on the tests.  The teaching method did not affect the short-term retention for either classroom.  However, the interest in the subject matter was definitely peaked with the WebQuest classroom.  Student comments suggested that through using the WebQuest they actually enjoyed learning and using the information.  The quality of the group presentations improved with the WebQuest classroom.  Reasons for these results could arise from group motivation.  Students within the WebQuest classroom felt an accountability for their group.  An intrinsic motivation to support their group members and provide them with high quality work helped to drive several students’ actions. 




       In conclusion, the constructivist environment affected physical science learning in a positive manner.  Student motivation and group accountability were heightened within the WebQuest classroom.  The findings of this study indicate that a WebQuest can serve as an adequate constructivist strategy.  WebQuests meet the needs of a constructivist environment by improving motivation by building student accountability, using cooperative problem solving, and encouraging scaffolding through suggested task questions.  The WebQuest provided the students with a self-regulated learning environment.  They knew the final goal, but the strategies and time management to get to that goal were individualized to each student.  The students were presented with the assignment as if they were responsible for a nuclear power plant being built in the county.  This situation is somewhat relevant to these students because there is a nuclear power plant within an hour’s drive of their school.  Setting the WebQuest in a problem-based format helped the student to acknowledge the relevance of what they would be learning.  Scaffolding took place within the WebQuest.  The students first were given an assignment that did not allow much freedom for learning.  However, it gave the students familiarity with the project at hand.  As the student began to gain confidence with the assignment my guidance was reduced and student to student collaboration increased.  The accountability that the students felt for each other in the WebQuest classroom was encouraging.  The quality of work presented WebQuest group was much higher than the lecture-based group.  These students used a variety of information in order to form their opinions. The students were also able to recite factual information when debating with their fellow classmates.  No significant difference was found between the posttest scores of each group. 

            Administration at most any school is concerned with “numbers.”  Teachers need to make sure that students are passing state standardized tests; certain percentages of students are passing your class, and graduating.  Looking at the test scores from this study could prove to be disconcerting for some administration.  Technology resources were needed for this project, yet there was no significant difference in the class averages on the tests.  Some might look at these results and think that technology is a waste of time and money.  What is important to note from the findings is that student motivation within the WebQuest classroom increased.  By increasing student motivation and excitement towards learning at this stage in the student’s life increases the likeliness that they will be life long learners. 







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Peterson, C., & Caverly, D.C., & MacDonald, L. (2003).  Techtalk:  Developing        academic literacy through WebQuests.  Journal of Developmental Education, 26,         38-39.

Salovaara, H. (2005).  An exploration of students’ strategy use in inquiry-based computer          supported collaborative learning.  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 21, 39-       52.

Vermette, P., & Foote, C., & Bird, C., & Mesibov, D., & Harris-Ewing, S., & Battaglia, C. (2001).  Understanding constructivism(s): A primer for parents and school board members.  Education, 122, 87-93.

Zheng, R., & Stucky, B., & McAlack, M., & Mernchana, M., & Stoddart, S., (2005).              WebQuest learning as perceived by higher education learners.  TechTrends, 49,           41-49.



Appendix A


Parent Consent Form

I, ___________________________, agree to allow my child _____________________, take part in a research study titled, “Constructivist Strategies as a Tool for Motivating High School Physical Science Students”, which is being conducted by Mrs. Kristen Sabo, from the Instructional Technology Department at the University of Georgia (706-795-2197) under the direction of Dr. Michael Orey, Department of Instructional Technology, University of Georgia, (706-542-4028).

The reason for the study is to find out if integration of technology through the usage of WebQuests is effective in student motivation and achievement.  A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by students is online.  All internet links will be provided and supervised by the teacher. 

• The research is not expected to cause any harm or discomfort. I understand that my participation is voluntary. I can refuse to participate and stop taking part at any time without giving any reason, and without penalty. I can ask to have all of the information about my child returned to me, removed from the research records, or destroyed. My child’s grade will not be affected if I decide to stop taking part in the research.

• The study will be conducted for approximately 2 weeks. Throughout the duration of the study I may be asked to complete a survey and/or participate in an interview.

• Information collected will include pretest/posttest results, student surveys, journal observation, and assigned activity results.  Any information collected about me will be held confidential unless otherwise required by law. My identity will be coded, and all data will be kept in a secured location.  Video footage will be used in assistance with observations however; all video footage will be destroyed at the close of the study.

• The researcher will answer any questions about the research, now or during the course of the project, and can be reached by telephone or by email.  I may also contact the professor supervising the research, Dr. Michael Orey, Instructional Technology Department, at (706) 542-4028.

Additional questions or problems regarding your rights as a research participant should be addressed to Chris A. Joseph, Ph.D. Human Subjects Office, University of Georgia, 612 Boyd Graduate Studies Research Center, Athens, Georgia 30602-7411; Telephone (706) 542-3199; E-Mail Address:

I understand the study procedures described above. My questions have been answered to my satisfaction, and I agree to take part in this study. I have been given a copy of this form to keep.

__I DO give permission to you to reproduce responses that I may produce as part of surveys or questionnaires. No names will appear on any materials submitted by the teacher.

__I DO NOT give permission to reproduce responses that I may produce as part of surveys or questionnaires.

Kristen Sabo_______                    _______________________                    ______
Name of Researcher                            Signature                                             Date

Telephone : 706-795-2197                Email:

_________________________       _______________________                   ______
Name of Participant                               Signature                                             Date  

Please sign both copies, keep one and return one to the researcher.


Appendix B

Nuclear Energy Pretest/Posttest


Multiple Choice

Identify the letter of the choice that best completes the statement or answers the question.


____  1.   When the strong force is not sufficient to hold unstable nuclei together permanently, ____.

a. nuclear fusion occurs   b. a solid becomes a liquid   c. the nuclei decay   d. carbon-12 changes into carbon-14


____  2.   The stability of an isotope nucleus depends on the ____.

a. atomic mass   b. atomic number   c. number of neutrons   d. neutron-to-proton ratio


____  3.   Both a fusion reaction and a fission reaction ____.

a. causes chain reactions   b. produce energy   c. take place at room temperature   d. use hydrogen as a fuel


____  4.   Neutrons released in a fission reaction can strike other nuclei and cause ____.

a. a chain reaction   b. an electron avalanche   c. fusion reactions   d. radioactive decay


____  5.   When the ____ is not large enough to hold a nucleus together tightly, the nucleus can become radioactive.

a. electric force   b. strong force   c. tracer   d. isotope


____  6.   Unwanted radioactive products formed during nuclear reactions are called ____.

a. fossil fuels   b. nuclear fuels   c. nuclear reactors   d. nuclear waste


____  7.   Petroleum, natural gas, and coal are the three kinds of ____.

a. fossil fuels   b. nuclear fuels   c. nuclear waste   d. synthetic fuels


____  8.   The chain reaction in a nuclear reactor is controlled by inserting the ____.

a. boron or cadmium rods   b. core   c. heat exchanger   d. uranium


____  9.   Temperature is the biggest challenge in using ____ as an energy source.

a. nuclear fusion   b. nuclear fission   c. hydroelectricity   d. tidal energy


____ 10.   One reason alternative energy sources are needed is because ____.

a. the energy needs of the world are decreasing   b. there is no limit to the supply of fossil fuels   c. the population of the world is decreasing   d. the supply of fossil fuel is diminishing


____ 11.   Which of the following is common to both nuclear fusion and nuclear fission?

a. A chain reaction is needed to start the reaction.   b. The fuel must be in the plasma state.   c. Matter is converted into energy.   d. Temperatures over 1 million ºC are needed for the reaction to occur.


____ 12.   Which of the following is an example of a nonrenewable source of energy?

a. coal   b. the Sun   c. water   d. wind


____ 13.   The fuel used in a nuclear reactor usually comes from ____.

a. hydrogen and helium   b. uranium-238   c. coal   d. biomass


____ 14.   ____ offer the best hope for safe, long-term containment of radioactive wastes.

a. Ocean depths   b. Salt lakes   c. Polar ice caps   d. Deep, stable rock deposits


____ 15.   What holds the protons and neutrons together in the atom?


a. strong nuclear force   b. gravity   c. weak nuclear force   d. electric force


____ 16.   According to the information in the chart which picture best represents nuclear fission?

a.    b.    c.    d. 


____ 17.  

Nuclear fission of uranium-235 can start a chain reaction by

a. releasing enough heat energy to start nuclear fission in neighboring atoms   b. producing two smaller atoms that can then strike and split neighboring atoms   c. producing neutrons that can then strike and split neighboring atoms   d. combining two atoms with low mass to form one large atom


____ 18.   The diagram shows a typical nuclear power plant.  When a neutron strikes a U-235 nucleus, the nucleus splits into two smaller nuclei and a few neutrons.  What structure absorbs most of the neutrons produced so that a controlled chain reaction occurs?

a. containment structure   b. control rods   c. reactor vessel   d. turbine and generator


____ 19.  

The two graphs show the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the growth in fossil fuel consumption over a number of years.  A reasonable hypothesis based on these data is that if the consumption of fossil fuel increases, then __________.



a. carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will increase   b. carbon dioxide in the atomsphere will decrease   c. carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will remain constant   d. carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be converted to the more hazardous carbon monoxide


____ 20.  Which of these energy sources produces the least air pollution?

a. coal   b. natural gas   c. nuclear   d. petroleum


____ 21.   Which of the following is not a problem usually associated with nuclear energy.

a. disposal of radioactive waste   b. thermal pollution of rivers and streams   c. environmental damage from mining and extraction of uranium   d. emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere


Short Answer


          22.   Scientists predict that we might deplete all of our petroleum resources by the middle of this century.  Do you think that nuclear energy would be a practical choice for an alternate energy source?


Appendix C

WebQuest Screen Shots and Descriptions
























The introduction gave the students an overview of the WebQuest.  It described what their role in the project would be and what was found in each section of the WebQuest. 


















The task section of the WebQuest sets up the problem that the students will be in charge of solving.  The screen shot shows the letter that the students “received” and it describes their task.



Appendix D







Day 1

Lecture Based

  • Handed out pretest – some students finished in 5 minutes. 
  • Begin ppt notes over natural resources


Overheard students saying:

“Does this test count?”

“Do we have to take notes today?”

“I hate taking notes.”

I asked two students during note taking to keep their head up. 



  • Handed out pretest
  • Assigned laptops and  WebQuest CDs
  • Assigned groups
  • Allowed time for students to get familiar with the websites.
  • Students began filling out the overview worksheet.


“Is this test going to be for a grade?”

“Yeah, we get to use computers today!”

“I love working on computers.” 

“I hate computers; they never work when they are supposed to.”

Two people were assigned to hand out computers and to take up computers.

I had to monitor students to make sure they knew how to maneuver through the website. 

I answered small questions about the website.


Day 2

Lecture Based

  • Notes over alternate energy resources
  • Students read an article on Chernobyl nuclear power accident and had to write their reflections on the article.


“Ugh, we always have to take notes.”

“Do we have to read out loud?  I hate reading out loud.” 


The class participated, but did not seem enthusiastic about the given assignments. 



  • Students finished the overview worksheet
  • Students pick their role
  • Began researching and writing their opinion piece to go into the newspaper


The students that were in charge of handing out the computers did their job efficiently.  The other students waited patiently as their computer was delivered to them.  Once the students got the computers they immediately began to boot up the CD and began to work.  They needed very little assistance from the teacher to get started. 


 “Can we just pick both sides?  It is hard to make a decision about whether it is good or bad.”


Day 3

Lecture Based

  • Notes over the pros and cons of nuclear energy.
  • Students discussed the previous day’s article
  • Broken into groups & assigned a poster to create


As the students walk in it takes time to get them to settle down and ready for the day’s assignment.  I picked the groups for the students.  The assignment was for the students to describe different alternative energy sources and the pros and cons of nuclear energy.  Students were excited to be able to work in groups.  Students worked well together.  Encouragement to stay on task was given in order to keep the students focused on their assignment.  The main resource used for the poster cam from the students’ book.


  • Students finish their opinion pieces
  • Students decide within their group which side their group will take
  • Students begin researching their role to present to their group



Students need very little guidance to stay on task.  Questions dealing with information from the website were answered as the students worked.  Discussions within the group were on task and showed that the students were thinking about their opinions. 

Day 4

Lecture Based

  • Students took the day to finish their posters and their research. 
  • Students were asked to write about their opinion on whether nuclear energy should or should not be used. 


Posters didn’t have added research.  Information came solely from the book.  The majority of the opinions were against the uses of nuclear energy.  Many of the opinions brought reference to the Chernobyl incident.


  • Students continue researching role
  • Discussions amongst team increase and they begin to work on their display board.



Students still have a great transition from the moment they step into the classroom as they wait for their computers.  Once they get their computer they immediately begin work.  Supplies were given to the students to allow them to begin work on their display board.  Group discussions were on task and it was interesting to hear each student supporting his/her opinion.  Some students became heated about their opinion and tried hard to make sure that every person in their group saw their view point.

Day 5

Lecture Based

  • Students presented their posters and each person expressed his/her view point about nuclear energy.



Students within a group varied in their opinions about nuclear energy.  The reasons for their opinions became repetitive, because their opinions were based on book information. 


  • Wrap-up day
  • Students finish their display board
  • Students practice their speech



Students worked diligently to finish their work on time.  They practiced around the room and timed each other to make sure the group presentation lasted at least 7 minutes.  Some were nervous about presenting their information to the class; however group members encourage each other through out the period.


Day 6

Lecture Based

  • Review day- students reviewed for the test the next day.  A Jeopardy game was used to help review the students.



Students enjoy the review game.  They participated well.  It was apparent that some students knew the information much better than other students.


  • Students present their display board and their 7 minute speeches
  • Students fill out 2 surveys



At the end of the presentations students were given approximately one minute to field questions from the rest of the class.  There were good discussions.  Many of the groups that had different opinions began to bring up their point of views.  Debates were on task and showed various research information that the students had discovered. 

Day 7

Lecture Based

·        Students take the posttest

·        Short answer question on the test – Do you think that nuclear energy is good alternate energy source?  Explain.


Students took their time on the posttest.

10 out of 15 students just answered with a yes or no.  They gave no explanation of their answer. 


  • Students take the posttest
  • Short answer question on the test – Do you think that nuclear energy is good alternate energy source?  Explain.


Students took their time on the posttest. 

2 out of 22 students answered with a yes or no.  They gave no explanation for their answer. 


Appendix E


Open-Ended Survey given to WebQuest Group


1.)  Describe your experience while using the WebQuest computer lesson.  Was it a positive or a negative experience?  Explain.

Positive -18

  • “I learned a lot.”
  • “A lot of fun discussing topics.”
  • “Liked having our own computer and working independently and in groups.”
  • “Your not just taking notes once you have to read more than one source and then it’s easier to remember.”

Negative – 0


Both (Positive & Negative) – 4

  • “It was OK, but it could have been more fun.”
  • “I learned something new, but it was too difficult.”
  • “Good because you worked in groups and bad because it’s hard to find the information yourself.”
  • “Easier to learn without using a computer.”

2.)  List two things about the WebQuest activity that you liked and two things that you disliked.


  • “Computers are fun.”
  • “I learned good information.”
  • “I liked being able to work in groups and independently.”
  • “I like typing the opinion piece.”
  • “I liked picking my role.”
  • “I liked making my presentation.”
  • “You were responsible for your own work to give the group.”


  • “I didn’t like writing the opinion piece.”
  • “It was boring.”
  • “I don’t like that it was for a grade.”
  • “Too many questions.”
  • “Finding the information was hard and so was presenting it.”
  • “I didn’t like going to different websites to find information.”
  • “Having a bad group.”

3.)  Did you think you learned more by researching information on your own through the WebQuest format?

Yes – 17

  • “I learn a lot faster.”
  • “I learned more.”

No- 5

  • “It didn’t explain the information that much.”

4.)  Did you enjoy working in groups during this project?

Yes – 17

  • “I got to know people I didn’t know very well.”
  • “It made learning about nuclear energy easier.”
  • “I work better in groups.”
  • “It made it easier to see if I was on the right track.”

No – 2

  • “My group wasn’t very good.”

Both – 3

  • “Some people didn’t do their stuff.”

5.)  Would you want to work on another WebQuest in the future?  Why or why not?

Yes – 18

  • “It was really fun and I learned a lot.” 
  • “The next time it will be easier for me.
  • “I like looking up things on the computer.”
  • “It gave me an experience to learn new things.”
  • “I liked working in groups.”
  • “I wouldn’t skip school to get my group worried.”
  • “It’s easier to learn when you have to actually read it.”

No – 4

  • “I learn better with a teacher lecturing.”
  • “I think it would be more difficult.”
  • “It wasn’t that fun.”