Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An Integrated Contextual and Web-Based Issue Quest Approach to Improving Students' Learning Achievements, Attitudes and Critical Thinking

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An Integrated Contextual and Web-Based Issue Quest Approach to Improving Students' Learning Achievements, Attitudes and Critical Thinking

Article excerpt

Background and objectives

In this technology-rich era, people need to face new information, knowledge and problems every day. Consequently, they need to have the abilities to organize new and previous knowledge as well as to cope with the problems encountered (Chu, Hwang, Tsai, & Chen, 2009). Several studies have shown that the abilities of "using technologies and information" and "engaging oneself in independent thinking and problem solving" are helpful to students in terms of fostering their critical thinking competence (Johnson, Archibald, & Tenenbaum, 2010; Sendag & Odabasi, 2009). Critical thinking is a form of higher order thinking that people use to solve problems encountered in the environments in which they are situated. It consists of three aspects, that is, skills, mental process and procedures. Ennis (1985) indicated that "critical thinking is reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do." Educators have indicated that critical thinking is becoming increasingly important owing to the rapid advancement and growth of information and communication technologies (De Leng et al., 2009). Therefore, it is important to develop learning strategies that situate students in an environment of "using technologies and information" and which engage them in independent thinking and problem-based learning tasks (Kuo, Chen, & Hwang, 2014).

Among various instructional strategies, Web-based Issue Quest (WIQ) has been recognized as an effective way of fostering students' abilities of searching for, selecting, abstracting and summarizing the information on the web to answer a series of questions regarding a particular issue (Harskamp & Suhre, 2007; Hwang, Kuo, Chen, & Ho, 2014; Lo, 2009). It is an instructional method that guides students to learn through a procedure of seeking information on the web to complete problem-based learning tasks (Hwang & Kuo, 2011). It emphasizes the provision of "a series of questions related to a specified issue" during the learning process, such that students are guided to investigate the issue via searching for information and exploring the ways of finding answers to the questions.

However, previous studies have mainly focused on engaging students in searching for information on the web to investigate specified issues, while the real-world contexts related to their daily life experiences have been ignored. Without connecting what they have acquired from the web to what they have experienced in their daily life, students' learning attitudes and learning performance could be significantly affected (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Heath, 1992; Wu, Hwang, & Tsai, 2013). Therefore, it has become an important issue to develop a learning strategy that integrates web-based issue quest activities with practical applications or daily life experiences.

Contextual learning is considered as an instructional method that engages students in a learning process by connecting the learning tasks with real-life situation issues or with contexts that guide them to seek meanings; moreover, it provides students with a context for clarifying how things are correlated or interrelated (Johnson, 2002; Zheng, Perez, Williamson, & Flygare, 2008). During a contextual learning activity, the students are guided to construct meanings based on their own experiences related to the issues proposed by the teachers. Such learning activities may enhance not only the students' learning outcomes but also their critical thinking.

In this study, an integrated contextual and web-based issue quest approach is proposed to instruct and guide students to investigate the issues raised by teachers and find answers from both the web and real-world environments; moreover, a web-based issue quest environment has been implemented based on the approach. To evaluate the effectiveness of the approach, the following research questions are investigated in this study:

(1) Does the contextual learning approach improve the students' learning achievements in comparison with the conventional approach in the WIQ environment? …

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