An examination of some effects of pupil self-instruction methods compared with the effects of teacher-led classes in elementary science on fifth grade pupils
Gleason, Walter Patterson
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The purpose of this study is to determine some of the effects of self-directed learning in elementary science on the growth of fifth grade pupils. It was attempted to measure pupil growth in four areas: A. Fact absorption B. General Science Knowledge C. Liking for science D. Learning to generalize Printed materials instructed pupils in the use of simple apparatus to collect data and solve elementary science problems. The approach was inductive and required making generalizations on observed phenomena. A need exists for facilitating the use of activity science in classes where the teacher is unfamiliar with the content and process of science. Teachers who are unfamiliar with science do not deal adequately with the tactics and strategy of science investigation. Materials directed to the student which lead him through the experience of actual investigation might help to overaome some of the reluctance to engage in science activities evidenced by teachers untrained in science. If it can be shown that students are able to learn as much factual material by self-instruction as through the average textbook oriented study, then schools might be able to carry on a science activity program using the processes of science investigation without extensive teacher retraining programs and without loss of subject matter learning. Four self-directed science studies were tried on 128 students of six classes selected at random from schools of a mixed factory-suburban town. One hundred thirty-two students in seven classes were used as a control group. The study was conducted over a period of six months. Experimental and control groups were equated as to I.Q. ratings and scores on a standardized reading test. Teachers were equated on the basis of a town wide supervisors' survey. It was decided to investigate the comparative performance of the experimental and control groups using four different measuring instruments. 1. Growth in specific subject matter knowledge as measured on a prepared fact test. 2. Growth in general science knowledge as measured on a standardized science test. 3. Changes in possible liking for science as measured on a standardized attitude survey. 4. Growth in ability to generalize as measured on an organizational ability test. The four different tests were administered before and after the study and the change in performance was compared across groups for statistical differences. experimental and control groups were also compared in upper and lower I.Q. halves and by sex. The results of the experiment were as follows: 1. Fact absorption There was no significant difference between the experimental and control groups in gain of factual knowledge, nor was there difference when groups were compared according to sex and I.Q. 2. General Science Knowledge The upper I.Q. pupils of the control group enlarged their general science knowledge significantly more than did the experimental group. Between the two main groups there was no significant difference in gain of general science knowledge. 3. Liking for Science. After self-study activities the upper I.Q. groups expressed a liking for science significantly greater than the corresponding control group. The girls of the experimental groups gained in choices for science more than did the girls of the control group. There was no significant difference in the scores of the total groups. 4. Learning to Generalize. There were no significant differences in gains in organizational abilities between the experimental and control groups and none between the sex groups and I.Q. groups. SUMMARY: Although the present study showed no advantage for self-study activity science over traditional science studies,there is indication that the students learn the factual content as well when learning by themselves as when taught by a teacher. If longer exposure to science self-study activities is needed to show results in behavior of the students, there is much to gain and little to lose by allowing the student to pursue his science studies on his own.
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