Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Bridging the Gap between the Science Curriculum and Students' Questions: Comparing Linear vs. Hypermedia Online Learning Environments

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Bridging the Gap between the Science Curriculum and Students' Questions: Comparing Linear vs. Hypermedia Online Learning Environments

Article excerpt

Introduction

The importance of student interest in learning has been widely acknowledged in the literature (Kaplan, Katz, & Flume, 2012; Krapp & Prenzel, 2011; Renninger & Hidi, 2011). However, in many cases, students' questions, which may express their interests, do not receive an adequate response in class. Among the reasons are time constraints on teaching, teachers' lack of confidence about their own knowledge, incompatibility between the topic and the students' level of understanding, or between the question and the requirements of the curriculum (Hagay & Baram-Tsabari, 2011).

In Israel, where the current study took place, a disparity was found between the high school biology curriculum and students' interests, as reflected by their questions (Hagay & Baram-Tsabari, 2011). In order to bridge this gap, Hagay and Baram-Tsabari (2011) suggested the implementation of a "shadow curriculum", a strategy for incorporating students' interest into the formal curriculum. The teacher asks students to anonymously write down questions they have about a certain topic. These questions are mapped to the most relevant milestones of the curriculum, and incorporated into teaching.

The study described below explored the effect of this "shadow curriculum" strategy on students' interest and intrinsic motivation in an elementary school setting, using two online learning environments that were developed based on students' questions. While differences in students' interest level using online learning environments have been studied (e.g. Barak, Ashkar, & Dori, 2011), here the two environments differed in terms of their pedagogical strategy. One environment provided users with a straight answer to the student's question (a linear environment--LE), whereas in the other, users were guided and provided with resources to look for the answer themselves using hypertext links (a hypermedia environment--HE).

The literature has reported mixed results regarding the effectiveness of hypermedia-based learning environments (Dillon & Gabbard, 1998; Scheiter & Gerjets, 2007). On the one hand, the main advantage of hypermedia environments, compared to more traditional forms of learning environments, is that learners have control over the order in which they access different information units (Shapiro & Niederhauser 2004), which may increase students' interest level (Scheiter & Gerjets, 2007). On the other hand, these same features may lead to disorientation, distraction and cognitive overload (Rouet & Levonen, 1996). Thus, comparing students' effective outcomes between the two types of environments may enrich our understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each environment in the context of students' science interests and intrinsic motivation.

Literature Review and Conceptual Framework

Interest in Science Learning

"The word 'interest' suggests, etymologically, what is between, that which connects two things otherwise distant", according to Dewey (1916, p. 88), who saw interest as a crucial factor in learning. In fact, interest has a strong influence on students' cognitive functioning (Ainley, Hidi, & Berndorff, 2002) and learning outcomes (Swarat, Ortony, & Revelle, 2012). Within science education, students' interest levels have been found to explain and predict their career choice (e.g., Ainley & Ainley, 2011; Cannady, Greenwald, & Harris, 2014; Koul, Lerdpornkulrat, & Chantara, 2011; Krapp & Prenzel, 2011).

Despite its importance, over the past decade, it has been widely accepted that students' interest in learning science is declining in developed countries and science professions are less attractive to young people (Potvin & Hasni, 2014). "Across OECD countries, close to 40% of high-school students who come top in science subjects have no interest in pursuing a science-related career" (OECD, 2009) A critical time period is the transition from primary to secondary education, in which many students rapidly lose their interest in science (Christidou, 2011). …

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