The Motivational Effects of Specific Teaching Activities and Computer Use for Science Learning: Findings from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)

Article excerpt

Several innovative approaches to instructional design have been proposed to meet the changing needs of schools and to incorporate current knowledge about learners' characteristics. Hawley (1997) has presented a systematic method for implementing broad-based modifications to school systems or districts that includes the involvement of facilitators, a design team, and stakeholders and articulates methods for designing new systems based on a vision for the transformed system. In a discussion of current instructional theories, the importance of several strategies were discussed (Reigeluth & Squire, 1998). These strategies included the role of open learning environments where learners solve problems in naturalistic contexts and progress toward their own learning goals, and problem-based learning situations that build upon current knowledge of cognitive processes. Further, the role of individual differences, such as cognitive style, for academic achievement has been explored (Clariana, 1997; Luk, 1998) and a method for designing flexible instructional modules has been developed (Nikolova & Collis, 1998). In addition to cognitive style, another learner characteristic that has been given consideration is motivation. Main (1993) has discussed the need to include students' affective characteristics when designing instruction while Spitzer (1996) presented several factors that can motivate students to achieve higher levels of learning outcomes. The importance of student attitudes and beliefs for effective learning experiences has been discussed (Romiszowski, 1989) while students' affective characteristics (motivation, attitudes, and values) were included as components of a cognitive system for an educational learning model (Tennyson, 1992). Consequently, it can be seen that student beliefs and attitudes are critical considerations when developing effective instructional experiences.

Several instructional practices have been used to improve student achievement in science and mathematics and to enhance student motivation for continued learning in those fields. For instance, the use of an instructional video for teaching health care topics resulted in improved student knowledge of disease characteristics and transmission (Lawless, Brown, & Cartter, 1997). Similarly, computer simulations have been developed for teaching several different science content areas such as earth science (Kelly, 1997-1998), introductory chemistry (Dix, Allendoerfer, Jones, Lacey, & Laurenzi, 1995-1996), and biological sciences (Ngai & Chan, 1997-1998; Zirkel & Kirkel, 1997). In addition, several innovative instructional programs have been designed to provide elementary and secondary school-aged students with hands-on opportunities to learn science material and laboratory techniques. In a program conducted by the University of California (San Francisco), medical students visit sixth-grade classrooms in San Francisco and provide instruction on topics related to health and biological sciences (Doyle, 1999). The sixth-grade students are given opportunities to conduct small-group investigations with the goal of enhancing student interest in science (Doyle, 1999). Similar results have been observed for middle school and high school students who are given laboratory bench instruction at the Boston University School of Medicine (DeRosa & Phillips, 1999); students who participated in the program indicated that their laboratory experiences produced higher levels of interest in medicine. In a program coordinated by the University of California (Los Angeles), high school students and teachers in Los Angeles are included in the use of integrated science learning and technology use (Palacio-Cayetano, Kanowith-Klein, & Stevens, 1999). This program incorporates goals for improved student problem-solving skills and science knowledge, with the longer-range goal of increased involvement in science careers. …