Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

How Do Openers Contribute to Student Learning? *

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

How Do Openers Contribute to Student Learning? *

Article excerpt

Received: 20 August 2012 / Revised: 24 October 2012 / Accepted: 24 October 2012

Abstract

Openers, or brief activities that initiate a class, routinely take up classroom time each day yet little is known about how to design these activities so they contribute to student learning. This study uses technology-enhanced learning environments to explore new opportunities to transform Openers from potentially busy work to knowledge generating activities. This study compares the impact of teacher-designed Openers, Opener designs based on recent research emphasizing knowledge integration, and no Opener for an 8th grade technology-enhanced inquiry science investigation. Results suggest that students who participate in a researcher-designed Opener are more likely to revisit and refine their work, and to make significant learning gains, than students who do not participate in an Opener. Students make the greatest gains when they revisit key evidence in the technology-enhanced curriculum unit prior to revision. Engaging students in processes that promote knowledge integration during the Opener motivate students to revise their ideas. The results suggest design principles for Openers in technology-enhanced instruction.

Keywords: Technology, Science Education, Teaching Practices, Classroom Assessment, Formative Assessment

Introduction

Openers, or brief activities that initiate a class, routinely take up classroom time each day yet little is known about how to design these activities so they contribute to student learning. Teachers often give mini-lectures to remind students of what they studied in the previous class. Or, teachers may assign a short writing assignment. Technology-enhanced learning environments provide teachers with new tools to transform Openers from busy work to valuable learning activities. Openers can engage students in knowledge integration activities such as making predictions, critiquing a claim, assessing peer essays, or reflecting on progress-all activities that have been shown to improve student learning (Chiu and Linn, 2011; Linn and Eylon, 2011; White and Frederiksen, 1998). This study compares the impact of teacher- and researcher-designed Openers to no Opener in an 8th grade technologyenhanced inquiry science investigation. Questions include: How effective are Openers? How does the design of the Opener contribute to student learning? And, what are effective post- Opener revision processes?

Teacher-led Openers can play an essential role in the success of technology-enhanced inquiry science instruction. Several studies show that the quality of teacher implementation of technology-enhanced instruction predicts the impact of the technology on learning (Tamin, Bernard, Borokhovski, Abrami, and Schmid, 2011). In a second-order meta-analysis conducted on technology-enhanced instruction over the past 40 years, the authors conclude that the teachers' ability to monitor student understanding and help students sort out their ideas is essential to successful technology implementation (Williams, Linn, M, Ammon, and Gearhart, 2004). This meta-analysis found that as teachers asked more knowledge oriented questions during the course of a technology-enhanced science investigation as opposed to procedural questions, learning gains improved significantly. Further, to realize the potential of technology-enhanced instruction, teachers need to help students critically analyze visualizations relative to the conceptual learning goal as students often overestimate their understanding of dynamic computer visualizations, particularly in Chemistry (Chiu and Linn, 2012).

Technology-enhanced learning environments provide teachers with unique tools to structure effective Openers. The computer stores and organizes a record of each student's work including their multiple revisions, and provides ways to make examples of the student's work public to the whole class. This means teachers can purposefully select examples of the student's work for class discussion. …

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