At the time
this study was conducted, I had a total of 23 years in a vocational
education laboratory (lab) environment (also known as career and
technical education) teaching construction skills to high school
students. One constant in all of those years of teaching experience was
the phenomenon of unacceptable student behavior. There were two
versions of poor behavior which I most frequently encountered. One type
of behavior consistently manifested was that of the vandalism of tools
and expensive equipment. The other type of behavior was the malicious
act that was committed to disrupt or distract from the educational
process or to inflict psychological distress upon me, the authority
the motivations behind students committing these acts, whether it is to
get attention, oppose authority, or to be playful, there seemed to be a
common deterrent factor. It is an unwritten rule of students that one
must commit the disruptive or vandalistic act without being caught and
receiving the punishment for the behavior.
It did not
matter whether the reason to elude detection stemmed from a dislike of
the consequences if caught or to have the bragging rights of having a
more clever intellect than the authority figure. I determined that the
most economical way to deal with disruptive behavior was not to seek to
understand a disruptive student's motivations, but rather to reduce, as
much as possible, the opportunities to commit such behaviors
construction lab environment, sustaining student surveillance has been
very difficult to achieve for several reasons. For one reason, the
preponderance of the student enrollment in my construction classes is
14 to 16 year old males. Out of a class of 18 to 28 students, there
were at most three females. Usually there were no females. Adolescent
males were most often the source of disruptive behavior in my
construction classes. I had a higher than average concentration of that
portion of the student population, compared to other high school
classes. There were also more students that matched the description of
an at-risk student in my construction classes than was typical of most
other high school classes. This matched the trend that is seen in most
high schools that offer career and technical education. One of the
characteristics of at-risk students continues to be their propensity to
engage in disruptive behavior (Ensminger, & Slusarcick, 1992;
Gottfredson, Gottfredson, & Hybl, 1993; McDill, Natriello,
& Pallas, 1986).
population factors increased the frequency that disruptive acts would
occur in my construction lab compared to other classes. This fact
increased need for proactive vigilance.
was a greater likelihood that I would experience disruptive behaviors
in my class due to the class makeup, there were other contributing
factors as well. These factors included the nature of construction
training, and the environment in which that training took place.
Located in my
construction shop were tools and devices which, when used properly,
produced attractive and/or useful results. These same items were ideal
for inflicting damage and disabling otherwise attractive equipment and
furnishings when in the hands of a vandal. Most of these items were not
available in a regular classroom setting. It followed that the optimum
time of misbehavior for someone who had a propensity to commit acts of
vandalism of any sort was when he was in my construction lab.
environmental factor also had to be considered along with the
activities that took place in my lab. This was not a sit-down
environment. Students had to move around, work in temporary groups, and
obtain tools and materials. They created a lot of noise and debris.
This structured chaos was a medium akin to that found in a Petri dish,
except that it was not bacteria that were being encouraged to grow, it
was disruptive behavior that was cultivated.
construction lab activity was the result of my assigning a series of
practice exercises or projects to students. I designed these projects
to help students attain the educational standards for construction
education established in my state. The project sequence began with
simple and easy-to-perform tasks and progressed into increasingly more
challenging ones. The progression continued through three to four
semesters of high school training. Toward the end of their construction
training experience, students could tailor their education experience
by choosing from a range of advanced level course selections. Having
students advance through a sequence of projects through which they
acquire skills and insights into approaches for various tasks, is also
the foundational premise of the Project Method
which was a curriculum framework that was developed at the beginning of
the twentieth century (Knoll,1997).
As I had to
make allowances for the various ability levels of students, I usually
had two to three clusters of students identified by their project
progress. One cluster would be continuing to work to complete a project
that another cluster of students had completed. A third cluster might
be two projects ahead of the rest of the class. This also added to the
challenge of managing the lab environment.
environment, I frequently needed to conduct demonstrations about
processes, such as using tools or working on various types of material.
At other times, I needed to provide some technical assistance to
someone who was attempting to acquire a new skill and was seeking to
put what I had demonstrated into practice.
two scenarios, I was unable to focus upon the area of safety or
instructional concern and, at the same time, adequately scan the lab
area to keep tabs on everyone's behavior. I had sought remedies to
diminish these two time periods of vulnerability.
solution was the use of an electronic surveillance system, such as a
matrix of video cameras installed in the lab. That would be an obvious
solution to removing those blind spots and detecting disruptive
behavior. Some of my professional colleagues have already installed
this equipment in some institutions. Such a construction lab management
component could be a good solution, except that the administrators
under which I have served adamantly opposed their use.
Having been a
school administrator for three years with student disciplinary
responsibilities, I could understand their resistance to such a
surveillance system. Although it could have produced what appeared to
be objective evidence - a video tape - the results might be subject to
a wide spectrum of interpretation resulting in conflict. A conflict
over video evidence does not occur when no surveillance system exists.
evidence might become a point of contention in another way. Sometimes a
responsible adult could display excessive or unacceptable behavior in
responding to a situation. Even if comparatively minor compared to the
behavior of the disruptive student, that adult’s behavior
would be amplified as an issue until it completely obscured the
behavior of the student. The tape, in that case, might become a major
liability and source of embarrassment to the school system.
surveillance systems are not as prohibitively expensive as they
initially were because costs for installation and components have
dropped significantly. While cost was no longer a major concern, one
final consideration of an electronic surveillance system was the amount
of time it would take from instructional preparation. To be effective,
most incidents recorded by the system must be prosecuted. A
surveillance system lost its deterrent effectiveness if was not
consistently and substantially instrumental in exposing vandals and
disruptive persons. Therefore, the teacher would be obligated to spend
time looking through a tape or tapes to pinpoint when vandalism or
disruption occurred, even if the teacher might have desired to handle
the situation in some more expeditious manner.
classroom or lab management device provides passive support for
educating students. I was convinced that it was more prudent to
concentrate on minimizing the conditions that fostered unwanted
behaviors rather than to adjudicate them after the fact. It was
preferable to expend time, effort and other resources to create a
construction lab management system that supported students more
directly. Such a system could help high school students develop their
ability to find, interpret and apply information related to a variety
of real-life or occupational simulated situations. These were the
skills that could sustain a student entering the workforce.
surveillance not a realistic possibility, I began to consider another
resolution to my problems that also utilized video tape. During my
classroom management assessment, I realized that there was information
that the students needed which did not have to come directly from me. I
also realized that when I was asked for technical assistance, I had
frequently provided that information in the initial demonstration.
creating video-taped demonstrations of shop tasks to diminish the
problems that live demonstrations created. I analyzed all the
information that I thought should be included in the recorded
demonstrations and sought to anticipate answers to questions that were
frequently asked. Each taped demonstration was concerned with a small
discrete task or skill concept.
this taped format became immediately apparent. In the past, students
were expected to stand en masse around the demonstration area to view
techniques for tool and material manipulation. Those in the back of the
group did not always have an unobstructed view to the area of focus.
With the taped demonstrations, each person in the class could have an
excellent vantage point while being seated. When producing the tape,
the attention focus area could be enlarged and specifically featured
for even greater clarity.
the tape, I was able to monitor student behavior. This reduced the
conversational undercurrent which always existed during live
presentations. The poking, prodding, and occasional projectile launch
were also greatly diminished.
taped demonstrations had their limitations. They were vulnerable to
damage and vandalism, so I had to control the viewing times. Because
the tapes were in an analog and mechanical format, getting access to
specific portions of information was inconvenient.
video media, one of the lab management vulnerability situations was
reduced but still remained a problem. Students would forget or did not
acquire all the information on the first viewing. Showing the tapes
again consumed too much activity time, and students complained about
viewing a rerun of old information.
While in the
process of producing these video demonstrations, I began to collect
operable computer cast-offs from around the school which were destined
for the public auction. At first, I planned to use these as devices to
test student knowledge. The tests were to be implemented using software
that I had created, using a common programming language application.
that the video taped demonstrations I was creating could be digitized
and then archived on several of the computers which had central
processing units capable of handling video files. As I sought to
determine how this technology could fit into the overall understanding
of classroom or lab management, I stumbled onto the term learning
object(s). I was seeking to find a working definition for
how I intended to include digital technology into my instructional and
lab management scheme. It became apparent to me that I would be
involved in creating and archiving discrete informational portions that
could be accessed at any time and as often as desired. The term for
such an information portion, learning object, surfaced as the most
appropriate term to be applied to how I intended to organize and
present construction information.
The use of
learning objects offered the potential to reduce the bottleneck that
video tapes created. Students could access the appropriate
demonstrations when they had arrived at that instructional point in the
course. If they had technical questions, they could be redirected to
the presentation and told where the specific content was located. Only
a few questions would require my specialized attention.
potential benefit remained in the domain of speculation. As with the
study of any amalgam, using learning objects as part of construction
lab management could yield results that differed from those desired or
expected, based upon an understanding of management methods. It was
possible that the use of learning objects could insert their own set of
unacceptable management difficulties. Equipment may be too vulnerable
to the wear and tear of the lab activities. Students might tend to
resist having instruction delivered through a computer instead of from
a teacher. The list of potential problems was lengthy.
What were the
main considerations for using learning objects in a construction lab
management scheme? I had considered the dynamics of classroom or lab
management and the characteristics and inclinations of students in the
class. I had also considered the merits of specific technologies to
deliver construction training content, and the curriculum framework
that the proposed learning objects would augment. Research existed that
added to the understanding of these four areas of consideration:
classroom management, student characteristics, instructional support
from technology, and effective curriculum structure. What was not well
researched was how these four areas of educational concern would
coalesce while attempting to introduce learning objects into a
construction lab management scheme.
purpose of this ethnographic study was to describe the experience that
I and my students had in using learning objects as part of a
construction training management scheme at a high school located in
Northeast Georgia . In this study, the use of learning objects as part
of a construction management scheme was generally defined as the
production and digitized archiving of construction training
demonstrations that were made available for immediate and random access
by construction students. This provided construction training in
conjunction with a prescribed set of teacher-developed learning
exercises which resembled the project method.
The pursuit of
research that related to my study about using learning objects as part
of a construction training management scheme was a formidable task
because there were many dependent variables that could be considered.
These studies singled out a particular variable of my intended study,
but there was a paucity of research that examined the interactions
among all of these within a particular environment.
The use of
learning objects in occupational training is still in its infancy.
Lynna Ausburn (2002) refers to them as part of the future trend in
pre-employment education. Based upon Delphi studies from 1999 through
2001, she indicated that the use of learning objects as part of an
educational scheme will be necessary to meet the expectations of the
educational consumer. She predicted that these consumers would expect a
quick response to their information queries, and would self-regulate
and self-motivate their learning (Ausburn, 2002). There was research to
indicate that learning objects were being used in various settings with
various age groups and ability levels (Azevedo, Cromley, Winters, Moos,
Levin, & Fried, 2005; Choi, Kim, Jung, Clinton, & Kang,
2004; Hasebrook & Gremm, 1999; Snow, 2003; Veronikas, &
Gremm (1999) pointed out that multimedia learning objects could
potentially support the learning process by increasing student
self-reliance and provide an avenue for closer interactions between
students and teachers. Choi et al. (2004) indicated that such uses of
media could reduce the teacher’s workload and allow the
teacher to provide assistance and support for the more complex problems
students may encounter.
Maushak (2005) noted in their findings of the use of screen captures,
along with audio explanations, that students preferred to use a
computer for materials that relied upon the use of sight and hearing.
The participants of that study also expressed an opinion that a
learning exercise, project, or an interactive portion built into the
presentation would improve their ability to remember procedures and
difficulty in applying these studies to my situation was that these
study results were not concerned with an educational setting as
peculiar as mine, and they did not specifically look at the effect that
the inclusion of learning objects had upon classroom or lab management.
There was little data available in regard to these two areas of
I must note
the term learning object did not appear in these studies, but the
variable in the studies did conform to the definition of a learning
object that I am using. I must also state, based upon some studies,
that I am using the term learning object advisedly and should alert the
reader that some would object to how I have appropriated it.
the definition for the term learning object is not fixed and is a
matter of debate (Muzio, Heins, & Mundell, 2002; Sosteric
& Hesemeier 2002). This debate centers upon how these chunks of
educational or instructional content might be archived for access
(Muzio, Heins, & Mundell, 2002; Sosteric & Hesemeier
2002). The term object is frequently used with a
different meaning in the discipline of computer science and
specifically in computer programming languages. In this context an
object refers “... to controls, forms, menus, and various
other items on the screen and in the code” (Perry &
Hettihewa, 1998, p44).
science educational community, with its distinctive definition of the
word object, wants the definition of a learning object to reflect how
it is manipulated by various computer platforms and made available to
persons seeking access to the information from any point of origin
(Sosteric & Hesemeier 2002). For the purposes of this study,
Sosteric & Hesemeier’s (2002) definition of a
learning object was used. They defined a learning object as,
“... a digital file (image, movie, etc.) intended to be used
for pedagogical purposes, which includes, either internally or via
association, suggestions on the appropriate context within which to
utilize the object” (Sosteric & Hesemeier, 2002,
Conclusion, ¶ 3).”
While the use
of learning objects is recent to vocational or career and technical
education, the use of the project method was not. The project method
was described extensively by Knoll (1997). It enjoyed widespread
popularity in the United States in the past, and it continues to have
strong support as a valid teaching method in European career and
technical education training (Knoll 1997). As conceived by John Dewey
in the early 1900s, the project method was designed to use a hands-on
approach to learning, allowing development of constructive skills
One of its
advocates, Calvin Woodward, used a sequence of small projects to
develop skill sets in vocational learners at the Manual Training School
that he founded in St. Louis , Missouri . These small projects lead up
to the required execution of a comprehensive project of the
student’s choosing. The project entailed the application of a
broad based skill set and a range of creative design and fabrication
approaches, using problem solving skills acquired while working through
the smaller exercise projects (Knoll, 1997)
the project method, which came to be more broadly defined by William
Heard Kilpatrick, Dewey’s student, to mean “whole
hearted purposeful activity carried on in a social context”
(Waks, 1997, p 396), fell into disrepute at the beginning quarter of
the twentieth century.
popularity of the project method diminished in this country because of
Dewey’s and Boyd Bode’s criticism of
Kilpatrick’s concept broadening extension (Knoll, 1997). This
extension reduced the reliance of the project method upon the
teacher-directed activities. These activities were the lead-in
knowledge and skill building exercises that were to culminate in a
comprehensive project of the student’s choosing (Waks, 1997).
The project method, as originally conceived, was not criticized for
being an ineffective curriculum framework (Waks, 1997).
method is being revived under the label of Project-Based
Learning (Waks, 1997). Project-based learning (PBL) involves
the use of a student selected project to encourage investigation,
problem solving, and other higher order thinking skills. However, the
smaller lead-in exercises that were part of the project method,
especially Woodard’s version of it, had been replaced in PBL
by teacher facilitation during the execution of the comprehensive
project (Waks, 1997).
or Lab Management
curriculum framework such as the project method or PBL requires adroit
classroom or lab management skills. While many different techniques and
skills had been the topics of research, the ones that were most
relevant to my situation were those which were initially reported by
Jacob Kounin (1970) and subsequently revisited (Brophy, 1983; Copland
1983; Irving & Martin, 1982; and Van der Sijde & Tomic
1993). Kounin (1970) identified several teacher characteristics and
behaviors that distinguished teachers that exhibited effective
classroom management skills from those who did not.
from these studies that relate to my situation in the construction lab
were withitness and overlapping.
Withitness is the ability of the teacher to be aware of all of the
activities and behaviors occurring in the classroom at a given time.
Overlapping is the ability of the teacher to process cognitively two or
more classroom situations simultaneously (Van der Sijde &
Tomic, 1993). Overlapping and withitness are considered to be
interrelated (Van der Sijde & Tomic, 1993).
indicated that an effective classroom manager was someone who, among
other things, exhibited substantial ability in these two areas. Some
studies had indicated that it was difficult to effectively define ways
to measure these two aspects of classroom management (Copland, 1983;
Irving & Martin, 1982; Van der Sijde & Tomic, 1993).
This made incorporating these aspects of classroom management into
teacher training more problematic (Irving & Martin, 1982).
issue of effectively defining withitness and overlapping, these two
aspects of classroom or lab management had gained wide acceptance as
areas for teachers to focus upon and make improvements in (Brophy,
1983). Though they appeared to have significant relevance to my lab
management situation, issues relating to withitness and overlapping in
a career and technical education environment were not discussed.
of classroom computers
classroom or lab management is considered, the inclusion of computers
adds more complexity. Most studies revealed complaints of insufficient
numbers of computers and the excessive time wasted moving to and from a
computer lab (Strudler, Mckinney, Jones, Quinn, 1999) Another
management issue rose out of computer use for drill and practice where
students game the system (Baker, Corbett,
Kenneth, Koedinger, Wagner, 2004). Gaming the system is a term that
refers to the ability that students manifest in completing a computer
practice exercise without knowing the material concepts that are
supposed to be required for successful exercise completion.
system can be a concern with the use of some learning objects. This was
not a concern for my construction training because the types of
learning objects that would be included were not vulnerable to this
management would not be affected by concerns about computer access. The
collection of several old computers for exclusive use in my lab made
this problem irrelevant.
examining how repairing and maintaining computers, and creating and
installing files, could influence classroom management were not
accessible. These aspects of computer management would have been
relevant to my study, as the rescued computers I used were no longer
supported for maintenance by the school district.
discussion of the use of learning objects and computers was part of a
larger domain of educational concern known as Computer Assisted
Instruction (CAI). The effects of CAI upon learning outcomes had been a
matter of debate since the latter quarter of the twentieth century
(Clark, 1983, 1994; Hastings & Tracey, 2005, Kozma, 1991, 1994;
Kulik & Kulik, 1991). As this technology improved and the
precision of its application within the classroom increased, gains in
learning, that could only be attributed to the use of computers and
related media, had been noted (Hastings & Tracey, 2005; Kulik
& Kulik 1991; Snow, 2003). Snow (2003) stated that a
meta-analysis of research regarding the use of CAI indicated that it
could be an effective resource, except in reading and writing, in
helping at-risk students make academic gains.
Students in Career and Technical Education
It is the
at-risk students in my construction lab who often pose the greatest
challenge to my lab and instructional management approach. These
students can range from 5 to 40 percent of the class composition.
truancy and disciplinary problems are prominent characteristics of
at-risk students and were indicators of student disengagement from a
portion of the school setting (Miller, Leinhardt, Zigmond, 1988). Oakes
and Guiton (1995) reported that vocational classes were often perceived
as the default "dumping grounds" for low achieving students, especially
those with behavioral problems.
experiences in the vocational setting had left me with the same
impression. Jeff Claus’ (1990) qualitative study, of managing
a food service vocational educational program in New York State , that
had several at-risk students, mirrored some of my experiences. The
study also described some of the strategies that I had adopted in the
past in working with classes consisting of several at-risk students. In
the study, Claus (1990) observed teachers frequently used negotiating
as part of the classroom management strategy to reduce behavior
difficulties. In Claus’ view, this led to excessive
dependence upon the teachers and avoidance of critical thinking and
decision making on the part of students.
did not include any discussion of the use of computers or learning
objects as assistive tools in helping at-risk students become
independent thinkers. The study’s ratio of girls to boys
(eight males, 12 females) and the number of males in the class also did
not align with my typical enrollment.
and Gender Considerations
and disciplinary problems were not just characteristics of at-risk
students. These problems were characteristics of adolescents in
general. Steinberg and Cauffman (1996) asserted that, on average,
persons who had not attained the age of 17 are not fully capable of
adult moral decisions and therefore prone to poor behavioral choices.
In this age group, the rate of risk taking peaks in late adolescence
and the rates of various types of crimes amongst teens rises until it
peeks at age 18 (Arnett, 1999).
to adolescence, being male was also more frequently linked with
unacceptable or criminal behavior (Steffensmeier & Allan 1996).
Boys commited more acts of delinquency than girls (Shover, Norland,
James, Thornton, 2001) Even when characteristics associated with
childhood educational difficulties, such as hyperactivity-impulsivity
and inattentiveness, for both genders were factored into the
consideration, males were still likely to commit more crime than
females (Babinski, Hartsough, Lambert, 1999).
students might have been the most frequent source of disruptive
behavior, the not at-risk adolescent male population in a typical
construction class I teach is also responsible for a good portion of
instructional interference. When issues of age, number of males, ratio
of males to females, and risk for dropping out of school were
considered together, no study of classroom management phenomena
appeared to be that closely representative of the challenges I face.
How could all
these isolated portions of information about learning objects, the
Project Method, classroom management, CAI, and student characteristics
be made into a comprehensive whole? The process had to begin with the
two aspects of classroom management of withitness and overlapping.
These teacher abilities were not sufficient in themselves to create a
well-managed classroom where learning could take place. They were
dependent upon thorough instructional planning, as well as established
classroom routines that minimized loss of time and enabled smooth
instructional transitions (Bear, 1998; Bropy, 1983).
activities for a construction lab to increase the likelihood that
withitness and overlapping could be used effectively was quite
different from a math class or even a laboratory science class. Long
range planning had to occur to insure that the course could be
adequately supplied for the entire year, as funds must usually be
committed within the first few weeks of the school year.
to this constraint, it occurred to me several years ago that I should
design low-cost activities which provided incremental training. This
allowed me to predict what my annual instructional expenses would be.
It also gave both my students and me a concrete focal point for skills
I was not
aware, back then, that I had embarked upon using the project method. I
cannot say that it is implemented exactly like Calvin
Woodward’s Manual Training School . Progress through my
construction training took several semesters of exposure before I was
satisfied that students could be trusted not to turn out expensive
scraps. Students in my lower levels of construction training did not
have a choice about which projects they could choose to satisfy course
requirements. It is in the latter semesters, when students could make
more individual choices about what projects to work on and what skills
to apply, that my courses more closely resembled the project method and
It was in my
lower level classes with younger male and at-risk students where many
of my behavioral problems were most acute. The use of the project
method was a helpful organizational tool for planning construction
training. Using it increased my chance to engage in withitness and
overlapping. However, using the project method was not sufficient to
reduce undesirable behavior to the extent that I desired.
It is at this
point that the use of computers, with digitized multimedia learning
objects, in my lab came into consideration. With this classroom
management device, I was essentially seeking to replicate myself, to a
small extent, through the creation of digitized video demonstrations.
I did not
believe that the use of such learning objects would transform my
construction students into the self-regulated, self-motivated learners
that Ausburn (2002) envisioned. Research indicated that the
metacognitive skills of students in career and technical education
courses were insufficiently developed to allow for adequate
self-directed progress (Warner, Christie, and Choy, 1998) (Smith,
A study of
students using software for science investigation (Azevedo et al.,
2005) indicated that self-regulation had to be supplemented with
external regulation for optimal results. It also indicated that
students did acquire and use some self-regulation skills (Azevedo et
al., 2005). This indicated to me that students using learning objects
in my construction lab setting would probably require my assistance and
motivating supervision, but could also have an opportunity to display
self regulation which was a concern of the Claus (1990) study.
learning objects in the lab had the potential to allow my attention to
be more global; it could enhance my withitness and overlapping. In
addition, it could add further to the thoroughness of the planning
aspect of classroom management.
that because at-risk students showed gains when CAI is considered as
whole, they could be receptive to using a computer for training
purposes and might stay in contact with the instruction to acquire
significant amounts of information. As the content of the proposed
learning objects would require a minimal amount of reading and writing,
I anticipated that those created for my lab would be supportive of
It was my
belief that using learning objects in association with a hybrid of the
project method in my construction lab management scheme had the
potential to enhance the level of instructional planning and
organization. It could also release time that formally could not be
devoted to lab surveillance, withitness, and overlapping. This
surveillance is sorely needed considering the size, age and gender
characteristics of my typical lower level construction classes. The net
effect on educating students, especially at-risk students, was that
they could become more self-regulating, and engage in more critical
thinking and decision making. They could acquire more and higher
quality education because less disruption would occur. Because of this
potential, I believed this warranted further study.
a study could make beneficial contributions to the understanding of
classroom management and the practice of teaching. It could provide
insight into the merits of using learning objects and computers as part
of a classroom or lab management scheme. It could indicate whether the
inclusion of learning objects in course content would be accepted by
high school students in a career and technology education setting. It
might point the way toward future instructional trends in construction
I elected to
investigate the relationship that learning objects had to the
management scheme of my construction lab through a type of qualitative
research known as ethnography. This study concentrated upon the shared
experiences that I and my students had in my construction training lab
before and after learning objects were introduced in the training
process. I sought to follow the prescription that Hughes, King, Rodden,
and Andersen (1994) give regarding ethnographic research; it should
create a picture of life as seen through the perspective of the
participants within the setting of the study.
span of the study, I kept a journal of my experiences as a construction
instructor. To verify that experiences I recorded provided a holistic
picture of the effect that learning objects had upon my lab management
scheme, I had planned to collate these experiences with statements that
students make during weekly meetings with me. As an additional measure,
the quality of the workmanship that is produced by the students was
checked for consistency over time.
From the data
collected, I sought to determine what, if any, changes occurred in my
classroom management activities and the subsequent student response to
those actions. If significant changes had occurred, I planned to
determine if they could be attributed to the inclusion of learning
objects in my construction management scheme.
The study was
conducted in the construction lab in which I teach. The lab was part of
a comprehensive high school in Northeast Georgia . The high school was
located in a rural area of the state. It is surrounded by middle to
upper middle income communities. The school was ethnically mixed with
the most prominent minority group being Hispanic. I chose this setting
because my construction training environment required the least amount
of preparation time and expenditures for the purposes of my study.
the possibility of asking another teacher to use the training materials
that I had developed. The difficulty in pursuing that possibility lay
in the fact that, like me, each construction teacher developed his own
instructional plan based upon the unique set of circumstances he faced.
The course structure that I had developed was tailored for my
personality, my management style, and even my available resources and
of the study was to explore what happened to my classroom management
experience when my students used learning objects, developed by me to
meet curriculum needs, within a first semester level of my construction
training program. It was within this training level that had the
greatest number of students and behavioral issues.
lab activities, student behavior, and evaluated student project
workmanship. Student opinions were solicited and their observations
were collected. During the course of this investigation I sought
information to answer questions which included:
- Did there
seem to be a perceptible difference in my ability to manage the
construction lab when I relied upon learning objects to deliver
- Did the
students appear to accept learning objects as a viable way to obtain
relevant information about project processes?
- When learning
objects are implemented, what kind of workmanship quality did the
- How much and
what kind of supplemental student support did I need to add when
learning objects were implemented?
The training exercises that I developed and
sequenced in a manner similar to the project method were designed
primarily for this training level. Each project consumed approximately
one to five class periods to complete and required the use of one or
two new skills in conjunction with some skills previously mastered. The
learning objects that were used in this study were demonstrations of
new skills and the best approach for completing the practice exercises
within this training level.
Design and Procedure
The study had two stages. In the first stage,
learning objects were not used. Instead, content in the form of
technical demonstrations was delivered to the entire class face to
face. In the second stage, the students were directed to use the
At the onset of each project, the new skills
would be demonstrated and any relevant diagrams, drawings, and written
instructions were posted on a display board. The most straight forward
method to accomplish this during stage one was to have the students
gather around an observation area while I performed the processes that
I wanted the students to be able to replicate.
During that demonstration, I provided
information about safety procedures and orally described my reasoning
as the demonstration progressed. I also called attention to the focal
area that I wanted them to observe.
After a demonstration had been given, students
were issued appropriate materials and allowed to have access to hand
tools and portable power tools. They executed the project that was
featured in the demonstration. I was available to answer questions and
engaged in mini-demonstrations to support the students’
efforts at skills acquisition. Although I originally planned to have a
proficient peer at some times assist the occasional questioning
student, especially one who was absent on the day when a demonstration
was given, I scrapped that plan when I considered student safety.
When the second stage of the study was
initiated, the learning objects were loaded onto two computers with
sound capabilities. These computers had been incorporated into the
construction lab in an area that was separate from where construction
activities took place. The construction lab computers were not
connected to the internet, so the learning objects were a set of
archived digitized video files, pre-loaded on the computers, which were
available for student access.
I was the featured presenter on the learning
object demonstrations in the second stage of the study. The video had a
similar demonstration format to that of the face-to-face demonstration,
with a few important exceptions. In the video demonstrations just a
small portion of my body, such as a hand or an arm, was visible.
Instead of my having to call attention to a focal area, the video
demonstration featured an enlarged area of observation. In the
construction lab, the video demonstrations were available for viewing
from a seated position and more than one student viewed the content at
the same time. The students were allowed to have repeated access to the
learning objects throughout their execution of their project. The
diagrams, drawings, and written instructions that were associated with
the project were posted on a display board.
As stage two of the study was implemented, I
was available to answer questions as students worked on their projects.
If a question had already been answered in the learning object
demonstration, the student was referred back to the video
demonstration. I had planned to assist the students in finding the
specific information on the learning object, if needed, but that was
not necessary. I directly answered questions about content that was
unaddressed to the student’s satisfaction in the learning
object. An absent student, who is behind the rest of the
class’s previous progress, was able to access the learning
object upon his arrival.
I used observations as a data collection
technique to provide an understanding of the conditions that existed in
my construction lab prior to and during the time that learning objects
were introduced as a primary source for technical information to
complete lab activities.
To initiate the process for conducting the
study in my teaching setting, I obtained permission from the
appropriate authorities within the system prior to the
Pseudonyms were used to protect
students’ identity. No specific student quotations or other
personal information was included in the study.
I monitored the quantity and quality of
workmanship that the students produced. As the projects were submitted
for evaluation, I assessed them according to the workmanship quality
that was described in the demonstration and written instructions. I
evaluated quantity and quality over time by checking to see if the
number of acceptable project submittals changed during each stage.
Data Collection Strategies
Throughout the time span of the study, I kept a
log of recollections about the student management activities in which I
engaged. Through this ongoing journaling, I documented events and my
responses in my construction lab.
To validate my observations of lab management,
I obtained commentary from students. These comments were in the form of
observations and opinions about their experiences in the construction
lab. I had planned for this collection of commentary to be elicited
from the students in the two stages of the study. The first stage was
to be the collection of commentary and opinions during the time period
that learning objects were not being used in the construction lab. The
second collection stage was to occur when learning objects were being
A major impediment during the study was to
obtain students’ substantial and cross-sectional commentary.
Based upon past experiences, I expect the students to not be adequately
forthcoming if asked to write about their opinions and experiences.
Although I frequently had a few very capable and literate students in
my class, the majority were incapable or unwilling to adequately
express themselves in writing to the extent I was seeking.
I noticed that the same students were usually
able to express themselves adequately when speaking. For this reason,
to obtain a much richer and in-depth commentary, I intended to hold
class discussions and video tape them. These discussions were planned
to occur at the end of class at set intervals such as on a Tuesday and
a Thursday of each week. In this manner I planned to elicit adequate
commentary in a short amount of time and was not concerned with taking
I was compelled to make a change in my plan
which is described in the narrative of my study. I continued with my
plan to use open ended questioning to obtain responses that were not
coerced. The class responses were monitored to insure that reticent
students, or those who may had academic or behavioral issues, were also
included in the response solicitation. This was done by a show of
upraised hands. Questions were directed towards students’
impression of and preference for a particular instructional delivery
The tapes were reviewed and relevant student
comments were archived and compared with the observation notes. As
trends and themes appeared to emerge in my observations compared to
student comments, they were indexed categorically. This comparison was
developed and reported in this study.
Limitations of the Study
The characteristics of each study group changed
over time. As described later in the study, some of the key actors
during the study either stopped coming to school or got into so much
trouble that they were compelled to control their behavior or risk
removal from the school. This influenced how difficult it was to manage
Another contributing factor to the
study’s limitations is the fact that the lab environment
changed during the course of the study. My other class, that was not
part of the study, worked on several large-scale projects. Gradually, a
good portion of the lab space was consumed by items being built and the
materials that needed to be temporarily stored. It is likely that this
had a psychological effect upon the members of the classes being
Over time the projects that the students
encountered in the course became more demanding upon students. This
change was most pronounced in the second phase of data collection. This
may also have had some undetermined underlying effect upon students
that skewed results.
The ambient noise level of the lab activities
was described as an interfering phenomenon in the use of the video
demonstrations. This may have produced discouragement on the part of
impatient learners. It may have also influenced the accuracy of
information that the students received and acted upon.
The format of the learning object was a series
of slides accompanied with narration. Several students in the morning
class indicated that they thought a motion picture format would have
been preferable. It is possible that the students could not envision
the movements and manipulations that would have been necessary to carry
out the processes depicted in the slides. When the afternoon class was
asked about still versus motion for a video format, the class was
The learning objects may have been ignored as
an electronic media source because they lacked what I will call the
“ Sesame Street ” factor. By this I mean
commercially available educational products for children from preschool
into the teenage years have been designed for maximum marketing appeal.
These products contain flashy color fields, deliberate exaggeration of
concept presentations, a rapid pace, and sometimes rely upon name or
My learning object creations had none of these
competitive features. It is possible that for young participants in
this study there was an expectation, like a conditioned reaction to
educational media, to see some sort of high energy or intense
stimulation. My learning objects may have been ignored, at the
subconscious level by some students, not based upon content but upon
Despite these limitations I remain convinced that this study provided
valuable information about how the use of learning objects could
influence a construction lab management scheme. It can also provided
insight into the receptivity of students to the use of learning objects.
Results and Discussion
goal in creating learning objects for use in construction training was
to find a means to significantly reduce undesirable student behavior
which interfered with instructional delivery. In past years, this
behavior had been significant in scope and compromised lab safety.
extrapolated from early attempts using an analog video format providing
instruction about woodworking machinery that digital videos could
provide tangible improvements in my ability to sustain withitness and
overlapping. If these aspects of my lab management could be
sufficiently increased, a possibility of reducing unwanted behavior and
I was also
seeking to expand the training video format to train students in the
use of various tools through the production of several small projects.
The projects were designed to use combinations of real-world
collection occurred in one construction laboratory environment in two
different classes. One first semester construction class was held from
8:30 to 10:00 AM , the other was taught from 2:00 to 3:30 PM .
class had an enrollment of 27 and the afternoon class had 25. I had no
females in either class. Based upon previous experiences, I expected
these two classes would be the most challenging to manage. These were
my largest classes and were composed of a large group of students I did
not initially know.
class was atypical for a class in that time slot. I had an unusually
larger number of higher functioning students in that class the first
semester. There were 11 out of 25 students in the afternoon class
versus 8 out of 27 in the morning class. My basis for this assertion is
the number of students in the class whose (a) classroom work test
scores were consistently 80% or above, (b) who produced consistently
good workmanship throughout the data collection period, and (c) who
evidenced desirable self control.
class has it own distinctive personality, or feel, I concluded that the
best approach in data collection would be to give both classes the same
treatment in the same sequence. At the start of the research, both
classes received live demonstrations of the projects for the first half
of the study’s time span. When Phase 2 began, for the
duration of the study, both classes used the learning objects I had
Collection Phase 1
collection for Phase 1 began, I conducted demonstrations of how the
projects were to be undertaken at one of the lab worktables. Students
were to gather around the table to view the demonstration.
during this phase played out as I had encountered dozens of times
before in previous years. I had to wait to begin the demonstration
until everyone had moved into a position where they could see the
important features of the demonstration.
several minutes because some of the students would deliberately stay as
far back as they thought I would tolerate. At the beginning of each
demonstration, I had to insist that some students reposition
constrained by a need to avoid delay, I proceeded with the
demonstration even though the relocating students’ position
was changed but not better. Through experience, I came to realize that
delay caused more students to lose focus on my instruction. There was a
risk that others would decide to misbehave if allowed time to
contemplate the possibility.
underway, I had to stop the demonstrations when I became aware that the
class was distracted by conversation or subversive behavior. I had to
remind the class that they were not going to proceed into the lab
activities until I had finished my demonstration. I did not continue my
demonstration until I had their attention.
had to call out the offender(s). I hoped that peer pressure would be
sufficient to get the person(s) back in line.
pressure did help as most of the students were anxious to get busy. On
three occasions, twice in the morning and once in the afternoon, a
student enjoyed his power over the group and prolonged his distracting
behavior. The interference/disruption game was played out in both
classes at least once and sometimes up to three times in all but the
hour long lab activity time, there were three constants. I had to
manage all student activities while engaged in giving more
demonstrations, or grading student work, or distributing project parts.
start of a marathon race, all the students began together at the onset
of the semester. As time went on there became a greater disparity
between those that were finished and ready to proceed to the next
project, and those who were still in process.
classes receiving treatments, I provided filler work for early
finishers. I did this to delay the performance of the next
demonstration. I wanted to have the maximum number of students ready
for advancement. Stragglers did not retain the elements of a
demonstration when it was given several days prior to their starting
the next project.
lagged behind for several reasons. Even with their best efforts, some
students were not adept in the manual arts while others excelled at
them. Several could have been more productive but chose not to take the
demonstrations seriously enough and got bogged down because they missed
A few took
the “race between the tortoise and the hare”
approach. When I challenged them, they expressed confidence that they
were skilled enough to catch up to the others. With extended
postponement, forgetfulness and uncertainty would often creep in.
Three of my
students in the morning class and four in the afternoon class had been
conferred with an exceptional child status because of their easy
distractibility. Other students’ language skills were below
grade level. To avoid accusations of unfairness, I did not try to
discriminate between them and others who should have been verbally
chastised for their lack of progress due to character flaws. With
safety a concern, and to keep as many on task as possible, students
asking for assistance were given refresher demonstrations or verbal
reviews. At times, unsolicited demonstrations had to be given to
correct well intended but erroneous actions. This combination of needs
meant that I had to repeat the same information given in the
demonstration at least five to ten times.
I also graded
project work while lab activity occurred. I did this to provide
immediate feedback. I have found, through my past experiences, that I
needed to take the time with the submitting students to evaluate
completed projects while the experience was still fresh in their minds.
In this way, the review of qualities my grade was based upon and my
suggestions for improvement could have maximum benefit.
demonstration was completed and the project activity commenced, for one
or two days I spent about one fifth of the lab time distributing parts.
I stored these in my office along with tools I wanted to be certain
would not suffer abuse.
constraints would not allow students to have an unlimited supply of
materials. The students were told that they would only be issued the
materials for one project attempt. It would be necessary to pay careful
attention to the demonstrations, work cautiously, and recheck
this limitation, a student in my lab that made a legitimate effort to
complete a project did not receive a failing project grade despite
workmanship that did not meet trade standards. Even though my grading
was lenient, and had always been my grading policy, I found in past
years that I could not allow students to have free access to materials.
difficulty I encountered when students had free access to materials was
that many students took more than their allotment. I did not want to be
tied up with such minutia. Prior to the study, even when I had
attempted to put responsible students in charge of distribution, they
were either conned out of materials or had been too soft-hearted to
refuse a request.
work-around, some of the filler activities for early project completers
included parts division into student portions. When I responded to a
request for project parts I could go to my office, grab a
student’s portion, and get back out into the lab.
The start of
a new project was chaotic because of parts distribution. If I attempted
to deliver them while students were seated, the parts became drum
sticks. The racket of 5 to 15 students ensued.
If parts were
distributed immediately before use, then I was swarmed or followed like
a mother duck with her ducklings. These clamoring students blocked my
view or distracted me from my intent to keep monitoring the lab area.
unscheduled demonstrations, project grading, and parts distribution
were conducted in the presence of three distinct student groups. There
was a group of students working towards completing their projects. On
any given day, there were also two randomly organized student groups
with interchangeable members. I had to stay appraised of their
always one group of students milling around. They wasted time talking.
Another group, with another agenda during lab time, was the same three
to five students displaying the tendency to engage in horseplay or
years experience, I have deduced that students who were engaged in
their assignments were not looking at me to see what I am doing or who
I might be looking at. Those caught frequently looking at me are
seeking to warn a friend that my attention is in that direction, or
they were trying to gauge when they might be able to start or continue
the teacher’s whereabouts was the frequent behavior of the
horseplay group and, to a lesser extent, the talker’s group.
That was one of the behaviors I keyed in on in order to identify these
groups. Each group would disband when challenged or when I moved closer
to it. Sometimes this was sufficient to get most of those students on
task. In several instances the students would coalesce again soon after
my attention was diverted to other supervisory tasks.
constantly aware of these groups, I conducted the demonstrations,
grading, and parts distribution, and monitored the lab activities. At
times, I would be talking to the student needing attention but would
not be looking at him. I would be looking around the lab to keep
students on the alert that I was watching them. My intention was to
keep students on edge about what I was aware of in the lab, thus
keeping their behavior circumspect.
proper technique such as component and tool manipulation must be
demonstrated with focused attention, I was constrained to narrow my
view upon what was immediately in front of me when I was demonstrating.
I needed to maintain safety and to insure that I modeled techniques
accurately. I tried to compress the customized demonstrations as much
as possible because of my dread that students, not closely supervised,
could get hurt or misbehave.
At the end of
the first phase of data collection, some students were two projects
behind because of absences or having a slower learning pace.
in the first period class was a chronic unexcused absentee. In the
afternoon class a student was receiving almost daily medical treatments
and therefore left class early.
it seemed, these students would be absent when I gave a new project
demonstration. I was constrained to provide a customized demonstration
for these students to keep them busy. I could not delegate the
demonstration to a knowledgeable student because of the need to insure
thorough safety instruction in order to avoid liability issues should
an accident occur.
Collection Phase 2
The use of
learning objects allowed me to avoid a problem. Because of increasing
complexity, my projects required the use of tools or fixtures of which
I did not have a supply sufficient enough to accommodate all 25 plus
students in both classes. I was compelled to run two to three projects
within the same class at the same time.
Having had to
do this in prior years, I knew I could expect difficulties in student
recollection. In the past, classes would be divided into two groups,
each with a different project to complete. Two back- to- back
demonstrations had to be given to the entire class. After viewing the
demonstrations, the groups would begin. Early finishers in each group
would cross over and begin work on the other project. Gradually all
class members would complete both projects. As more time passed, errors
increased because the correct techniques or task sequence were
forgotten or mentally garbled.
that in moving into the second phase, much of the difficulty in
recollection would be eliminated. After initially viewing the video,
the students could return as often as necessary to refresh their
When the data
collection moved into the second phase the students who were lagging
behind were no longer a major concern. I could direct then to watch the
appropriate project video. At one point, I found the afternoon student
who frequently left for medical treatments and was still behind the
progress of the rest of the class sitting in front of one of the
computers with his current project sitting to the side. He was trying
to work on the project as the video was playing. I had to insist that
he move to a worktable to avoid damaging the computer equipment and to
keep from monopolizing the workstation that other students needed to
have access to.
The use of
learning objects did not do away with lab management difficulties and
setbacks. A new problem emerged that I could not address during the
performed at average or above on portions of the course that required
traditional academic metacognitive skills, such as self pacing and
commitment to thoroughness and excellence, were able to be patient
enough to watch the videos and complete projects with a minimal amount
of intervention. Their workmanship quality would meet construction
standards or be close to it.
did not display those metacognitive skills tended to ignore the videoed
demonstrations in favor of attempting to guess at the correct approach.
Many of them seemed to wait to begin until they could watch or ask a
student who appeared to know what he was doing. Usually they chose to
rely on one of their buddies. In several instances the results were
akin to those depicted in Pieter Brueghel the elder’s 1568
painting of The Blind Leading the Blind. What
made matters worse was that the disinformation seemed to be compounded
1, while grading I detected a few attempts at copying another
student’s work or methods and the resultant use of
disinformation. This was not as frequent as it was in Phase 2. What
reduced the amount of information degradation under Phase 1 was the
fact that they were able to get a repeat demonstration performance from
me when they encountered a problem. They balked when I insisted, during
Phase 2, that they could get the information from the video and
realized that no personalized demonstration was forthcoming.
during the grading process, when I asked about how video use had
contributed to their project’s results, several producers of
low quality projects had not viewed the relevant video. This reception
of learning objects occurred despite the fact that both live
demonstrations and the video demonstrations took the same amount of
time to view and I was the speaker in both situations. I was not able
to come up with an adequate means to compel the students to view, and
benefit from, the videos.
of the amount of quality workmanship produced was that it remained
consistent from Phase 1 through Phase 2. The students, who could not
produce good quality workmanship under the first phase of the
treatment, were unable to do any better under the second part of the
treatment. They did not do any worse either.
about lab management remained constant from phase to phase. There were
parts to distribute, and projects that were graded. The three group
phenomenon continued to exist. I had instances of serious behavior
problems to deal with.
experience an increase in withitness and overlapping. Demonstrations
did not have to be repeated to the same extent as in the first phase.
Freed to keep a better watch on the entire lab, I was able to more
consistently track the behaviors of students who gave me cause for
concern. This improvement was not sufficient to prevent severe
misconduct that occurred during the application of the treatments and
the collection of data.
in the Morning Class . At the start of Phase 1 I had a
student, known as Ronnie for the purposes of this study, who came into
my first period class three days after the start of school. He had been
in a level one class in an afternoon time slot in the second semester
of the previous year. He was identified as an exceptional child. This
was a slight misnomer as he was 18. He had been a behavioral challenge
as had many others in that class.
morning class was dismissed to start the first project, he turned on a
saw that level one students were not permitted to operate. I did not
see him do this, but in recognizing the sound of the saw I knew
immediately where to look and how gauge how far the person seeking to
elude suspicion could have traveled. Ronnie was the only one who fit my
I sat the
entire class back down and warned it that the next such incident would
result in a week’s worth of classroom work exclusively. I
wanted peer pressure to help me prevent Ronnie or others who might
follow his example in a repeat performance.
had a chance to misbehave any further, he transferred to the school he
had come from in the previous year. This was due to his
father’s declining health.
A few days
after that incident with Ronnie, the class was working on its second
and third projects under Phase 1. I stayed tied up with demonstrations
and parts distribution. A student I will call Bill decided that one of
my wood glue containers needed to be slashed with a knife that was used
and remained in the lab.
While I was
moving to a different observational vantage point, closer to students
that needed to be made nervous, I noticed the bottle hemorrhaging the
yellow liquid on a worktable top.
I had the
students return to their seats and announced that we would commence
with our one week’s worth of class work. I heard several
exclamations seeking to know if I would accept the identification of
the culprit in lieu of the seat work. I said that I would and we played
the “cheese game.”
were told to write the name of the person who they had seen cutting the
container on a piece of paper and then fold it. If they had seen no
one, they were to write the words “I don’t
know” on the paper and turn it in. In this way, the guilty
person could not easily determine who to retaliate against if he was
Bill’s name came up on six sheets, so to the office he went.
The assistant principal in charge of disciplining sophomores was conned
by Bill, who ended up receiving a minor in-school suspension and was
not ordered to replace the value of the damaged item.
in-school suspension was served, Bill returned to class but continued
not do his class work and was consistently found in one of my
“needs to be watched” groups. Prior to the
container incident, Bill had been suspended by another assistant
principal responsible for freshmen discipline.
When the data
collection moved into the second phase, he got into trouble but not
while the class was engaged in lab activities. He hit me in the crotch
with a paper hornet, a tightly rolled and folded paper cylinder
propelled by a rubber band. I had dealt with several of these items in
the afternoon class three days prior and thought that the activity had
played itself out.
I did not
actually see him do the shooting but saw the blur come from his
direction and received confirmation through initiating the cheese game
once again. Bill saw the inevitable and confessed before pen was put to
that he was actually aiming at another student and did not intend to be
disrespectful towards me. Nevertheless, I sent him for his third time
to the freshmen assistant principal.
end of Phase 2 collection, Bill got into another fight in the
school’s cafeteria. He was suspended for seven days for that
incident. Any further serious infractions on his part meant that he
would be barred from further school attendance for that school year.
Bill’s behavior from that time forward was much subdued.
class of past years was usually the more sedate one of the three I
taught each day. Students were not as awake as they were later in the
day. In that regard, the morning class under study was similar to
previous morning classes. I did not deal with any other major incidents
during the study period. During the second phase I had a few students
that gave me some concerns but I was able to keep good oversight upon
manageable student behavior. I credit the use of learning objects for
some of that success.
in the Afternoon Class . Despite the larger number of
higher achieving students compared to the morning class, I had more
incidents to deal with in the afternoon session. The first incident
involved another repeating student from that previous
semester’s afternoon class.
Bob, his name for this study, had been even more of a behavior
management problem for me than Ronnie. Once, when he had been
disciplined due to my referral, he angrily confronted me, demanding
that I rescind my referral, which I refused to do.
with Allen. Allen, also not his real name, was a freshman. He displayed
antisocial behavior from the first day of school. He would be
dismantling a pen or some similar small object at his desk when he was
supposed to be doing class work. He acted as if he could not hear me or
did not understand me when I would politely yet firmly tell him to get
back on task. At times he would turn in work and other times there
would be nothing from him.
occurred about two weeks into the start of the semester. I had to step
into my office to obtain a paper for another student toward the end of
the class period. The class was seated as was my standard procedure
prior to dismissal. I heard a commotion coming from the back part of
the class area and observed students were looking toward where Bob and
Allen were sitting.
By the time I
emerged from my office, whatever was taking place had stopped. Bob
complained that Allen had hit him in the back with a student desk. This
was verified by the student witnesses.
principal responsible for freshmen discipline had to deal with the
situation. She discovered that during the altercation Bob had pushed
Allen up against the wall and had held him by the throat prior to the
desk being used.
principal did not tell me what had provoked the incident. She did show
me a thick file folder on her desk and indicated that Allen’s
middle school disciplinary record contained more of the same behavioral
issued a three day in-school suspension for his part in the incident.
He quit school a few days later, never serving the suspension.
given a five day out of school suspension for his more serious offence.
A few days after he returned to school, he struck another student in
the ear with a stick, causing the student’s ear to bleed.
occurred during Phase 1. It happened while the class was engaged in lab
activities. I was assisting another student and saw the tail end of
assistant principal metered out a seven day suspension to Allen, but
was also compelled to discipline the other student with a five day
suspension. He had been goaded by insults about his mother into a
physical response. The student had struck Allen first who, in turn,
felt justified to retaliate with the stick. Both students went to
juvenile court for the incident.
I made the
comment to the assistant principal that Allen did not need to be in my
class. Two days later, she came to me and stated that another teacher
had agreed to take Allen into a solely classroom environment. On the
day he returned, the assistant principal came to me once again and said
that, because the court had arbitrated the situation between Allen and
the other student, Allen was returning to my class.
returned at the beginning of Phase 2 of my data collection. I had two
projects in process. One project was the assembling of a simple
electrical circuit; the other was the assembly of a small wooden box
with a sliding lid that required the use of a hammer and some small
As Phase 2
began, despite the availability of the learning objects, I found it was
difficult to monitor Allen’s behavior. This was because I had
to constantly respond to the myriad other requests for project parts
and stay current with project grading.
after the start of the second phase of my data collection, some
students had finished the first of the pair of projects and wanted to
proceed to the next one. I was in the midst of the grading process.
that Allen was engaged in working on his project. His methods were not
in keeping with the video explanation, were unorthodox, but were
logical for the task at hand. I made a positive comment about his
creativity in the hope that he would stay engaged in the assignment.
I turned my
attention for a brief time to respond to more requests and to continue
grading. A few minutes later a distraught student came up to me. He
asked me if there was a hole in his head and indicated that I should
look on his forehead. I saw only the faintest of marks and told him his
wound was not severe.
I thought he
had been hit by someone’s small nail that probably went
flying off when improperly struck. He seemed unconsoled as he walked
I turned to
respond to another student’s needs. A minute later, the
complaining student came back stating that he found the nail that had
struck him. As I turned to listen to him I could see a severe angry red
welt where the nail had struck him while he showed me a large nail that
had been bent into a tight U shape. It was a metal version of a paper
hornet. The intensity of his complaining had not been in keeping with
the force that he must have been struck with. I immediately exclaimed
that I wanted to know who had done this.
standing close by said that he had seen what had happened. He then
explained that Allen had waited until my attention was diverted, had
taken the bent nail and launched it with a big rubber band. The nail
had struck the other student in the forehead. The student was a random
This time the
administrator had Allen permanently removed from the school and placed
in an alternative educational setting. In her interrogation of Allen,
she discovered that another student had taken matters into his own
hands and had punched Allen in the face breaking his glasses. I was
unaware of this incident. The vigilante, who was making good progress
in the course and not considered an at-risk student, was given a five
day out-of-school suspension. This second student was not normally a
behavioral problem in the lab.
At 45 school
days into the study, and five days before my study concluded, I dealt
with my last major incident. The last project featured on video
entailed the use of one half inch copolyvinyl chloride, CPVC, plumbing
This was an
ideal material to use as a blowgun to propel roofing nails. Through lab
monitoring, I caught three students in the act of shooting nails across
the room. In the process of dealing with the situation, I found out
that a student had also been targeted.
assistant principal who dealt with the prior incidents had to deal with
the last offenders. She also had to deal with a serious situation that
occurred on a school bus that involved some of the pipe.
student had taken a piece of pipe and some nails and given them to
another student who was not in the class. The other student had pelted
fellow bus riders. The passenger complaints plus the bus video tape
revealed who that outside offender was.
as a consequence of the volume and severity of the discipline that she
metered out to students in my classes, the assistant principal appealed
to the principal for a video surveillance system to be installed in my
lab. She told me to research the cost and report to her. I had not had
the chance to complete her directive at the time of this writing.
I did not
receive an official sanction from the school district to conduct this
research until the first phase was over. I felt it prudent not to
interview students during that time, but I did keep a journal of
observations from the onset of the semester. I felt I would be entitled
to do this as a conscientious teacher, even if research was not being
To respond to
this minor setback, I changed my planned inclusion of student opinions
and comments to a one time occurrence at the end of the study and to
questioning as I was grading. I collected comments in two videotaped
sessions, one for each class being observed. I made notes of student
responses when grading occurred.
collective voice of each class was almost completely opposite of the
other. In the morning class about three quarters of the class preferred
the use of the live demonstrations as their means for getting the
information. Several responses indicated that the videos were too long
that the live demonstrations were just as long or longer in duration.
The personal feel and/or the action of the live demonstrations is what
appealed to them. They also indicated that it was too noisy in the lab
to clearly hear the presentations.
I objected to
the students by pointing out the class’s general rudeness
toward me when I attempted to conduct the live demonstrations. Their
response was that I should just meter out discipline and move on. Those
that got the information could progress and those that did not, well
suggestion was made that I should create motion picture videos, or that
I should use the live demonstrations and supplement them with the
learning objects for recall assistance. The archived demonstrations, it
was stated, could also be used for those who were absent.
class, as a whole, expressed a preference for the learning object
format because they could proceed to work on the projects at their own
pace and repeatedly refer to the video for clarification. The students
collectively responded, when queried, that they were able to hear the
presentations sufficiently, although the volume had to be turned up
quite a bit.
I noted with
great interest that in both classes, the majority of those that
expressed preferences for the live demonstrations were my marginal or
poor performers and those that were behavioral challenges. I
established this through a show of raised hands. Most of my higher
functioning and better behaved students preferred the video format.
I also asked
individual students as they were turning in their projects for grading
whether they had viewed the video for the project or not. I believe I
got honest answers.
who stated that they did not watch the video turned in work that had
mistakes on parts that the video specifically addressed. With just one
or two exceptions, those who turned in acceptable to superlative work
had taken the time to watch the video.
Some of the
few students in both classes that were able to execute the projects
well, even though they did not view the video, revealed that they had
prior experiences with similar materials outside of the class. Other
individuals were adept at picking up on the quality aspects of the
project and appeared to be naturally inclined toward the use of manual
arts after watching others.
Both the live
demonstrations and the learning object demonstrations ran about five to
ten minutes in length. I preferred the use of the learning object
format even though it initially took much longer to create than the
time needed to give a live demonstration. Preparation time of the
learning objects was spent in a non-stressful environment. Once done, I
did not have to repeat myself ad nauseam in the lab.
whose attention seeking behavior included interrupting my live
demonstrations, or being disrespectful, no longer had a venue in which
to misbehave. Towards the end of the data collection time period,
student behavior was much less difficult to manage. Conversely, without
having to put out small behavioral fires, I became aware that the
quality of my interactions and instruction were, to a limited extent,
more pleasant and effective. I felt that I could keep up with all the
requests that were frequently being brought to me.
demonstrations also provided a specific focal point for instructional
improvement. If several students consistently needed help in
understanding a portion of a video demonstration, I knew where to make
editorial changes. Providing live demonstrations created more of a
hit-and-miss instructional quality that was not consistent from class
chose to use a slide show format because it was the easiest to produce
and edit. Creating motion pictures with sound was problematic for two
reasons. The lab environment created undesirable sound results, and
motion pictures were more difficult and time consuming to edit. If it
was determined that new information needed to be inserted into a
demonstration, it would not have been easy to accomplish in a motion
At the onset
of this study, it was noted that Ausburn (2002) believed the demand for
the use of learning objects by a technology savvy society, for
instructional purposes, would continue to increase. I used this
information as a springboard to investigate the use of learning
four learning objects that aligned with Sosteric &
Hesemeier’s (2002) definition and used them in my
construction lab environment. These were designed to coincide with the
use of sequential projects based upon the project method.
surmised that compared to the use of live project demonstrations, such
use of learning objects could increase my withitness and overlapping as
defined by Kounin (1970). Prior to the study, I felt that this increase
could help to suppress student misbehavior and improve the
the behavioral results from this study, the use of learning objects did
not sufficiently improve either my classroom or lab management. I
believe that I had increases in withitness and overlapping, but not in
sufficient amounts to make a difference given the environmental
constraints I worked in.
additional touch of irony, the school’s administration
reversed its stance regarding the use of a camera surveillance system
in my lab based upon the number and type of behavioral incidents that
occurred during this study. I do not believe this action reflected an
opinion about my competence as a teacher. I contend that this was a
recognition of how challenging it was to manage an educational
environment such as the one I work in.
I continue to
have confidence that learning objects can be used to provide
information and enhance the management of a lab environment. Deployed
in a different environment, the use of learning objects may be
effective in increasing the ability of a teacher in managing a class.
Considering (a) the size of the construction lab, (b) the number of
large objects that could obscure viewing misbehavior, (c) the amount of
tools and materials that had to be managed, (d) the lab housekeeping
process, (e) the constant need to respond to student questioning, and
(f) the extreme antisocial behavior of a few key individuals, all
conspired to produce project quality results and student behavior
results that did not differ between the two applied treatments.
contention that could be raised is that the second phase of data
collection included more complex projects, plus, two projects were in
process at any given time. When this is considered, it is possible that
if the learning objects had not been used at the time of the study,
much more unacceptable behavior would have surfaced.
serious misbehavior incidents occurred when I used learning objects as
part of a construction lab management scheme. When compared to all the
activities that occurred in my lab, these were few and brief. Most of
the time, I felt that I had a significant amount of activity control,
and my interactions with students did improve in the second phase of
were intent on benefiting from the construction educational experience
in my lab responded favorably to the use of learning objects. They were
able to execute the projects with the same amount of effort that was
required during the time when learning objects were not being used.
did not enter the class with a focus on learning did not perform well
on lab work in either data collection phase. They tended to resist, and
expressed dissatisfaction with, the use of the learning objects as a
delivery system for instructional information.
objects did not anticipate the informational needs of all the students.
There were times when I had to help individuals using brief verbal
explanations. There were one or two instances during each project time
period when a student needed to view an impromptu live demonstration
for further clarification. These sessions were greatly reduced in
frequency when compared with the number that I had to deliver after the
initial live demonstrations during Phase 1.
issue of the use of learning objects in my construction lab is the
issue of the limit of the use of learning objects with certain types of
students. Warner, Christie, and Choy(1998) and Smith(2003) indicated
that the maturity level of metacognitive skills of the career and
technical education student was often insufficient to enable him to be
a self-directed learner. The response of many of my students to the use
of learning objects indicates that these types of learners are
resistant to acquiring and using metacognitive skills which would
enable self-directed learning even using a novel approach toward
the results of their research on the use of learning objects in a
science class, Azevedo et al.(2005) indicated that some of the students
in their study had to have teacher prodding to complete the learning
activities. In my study I obtained similar results.
perspective, the use of learning objects to deliver construction
training cannot be given an unreserved recommendation. Because
educational efforts must encompass the needs of all learners, the use
of learning objects for training students, such as those I teach, will
have to undergo further study and refinement.
may be that with expanded understanding, the use of learning objects
for construction training can be made compatible with students who
display lower levels of metacognitive skills. Based upon the results of
my study, I do not believe that Ausburn’s (2002) observation
can legitimately include learning objects produced in-house for
construction training, because, at present, they are not compatible
with learners having lower levels of metacognitive skills.
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