Academic journal article Education Research International

Effects of Students' Effort Scores in a Structured Inquiry Unit on Long-Term Recall Abilities of Content Knowledge

Academic journal article Education Research International

Effects of Students' Effort Scores in a Structured Inquiry Unit on Long-Term Recall Abilities of Content Knowledge

Article excerpt

Academic Editor:Eddie Denessen

Z-MNU (Centre of Math & Science Education), Institute of Biology Didactics, University of Bayreuth, University Campus, NWI, 95447 Bayreuth, Germany

Received 1 October 2014; Revised 13 January 2015; Accepted 22 January 2015; 17 February 2015

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

The literature seems consistent in the fact that learning and achievement are affected by various student attributes (self-concept, prior abilities, and interest [1]; motivation, values, performance goals, and perceived ability [2]; learning strategies and the impact of learning environment [3, 4]; social interactions [5]; cognitive strategies, competence, learning goals, and so forth (see, e.g., [6]). Nichols [7] even narrowed the influence down and stated that, besides a variety of factors which are linked to success or failure, the most critical components for success concentrate on attitudes of ability and effort.

In a prior study, we have analyzed the effects of a structured inquiry-based lesson on the achievement of 9th graders. We showed that students increase their content knowledge through the inquiry unit, especially with regard to long-term retention (observed 12 weeks after the lesson) [8]. Therefore, it is of interest now to enquire how students rate certain aspects invested during lesson participation, which may have sustained their learning and long-term retention of content knowledge through structured inquiry-based learning. In particular their invested effort and their perceived usefulness of the lesson, as well as how they rated their perceived competence of learning during the inquiry lesson, were measured.

Characteristics of Inquiry-Based Science Courses. According to Yager [5], learning outcomes are interactive results depending on the kind of information encountered and how a student processes it. As learning is the product of self-organization and reorganization, knowledge requires the active participation of the learner. Linn et al. [9] define inquiry as "the intentional process of diagnosing problems, critiquing experiments, and distinguishing alternatives, planning investigations, researching for information, constructing models, debating with peers and forming arguments." Inquiry-based learning tasks are constructed to emphasize independent and critical thinking. In inquiry-based teaching students can work rather freely on their tasks, perform experiments hands-on, and make their own observations and conclusions upon them. The engagement of students with the learning content is multimodal. The learning content often is presented in a way that students can connect it to their everyday life. They also work without tight time constraints and in small groups with their fellows. They take responsibility for their learning. Additionally the teacher does not control every step students take to accomplish a task but encourages students to think of explanations for themselves (problem based thinking). The design of the learning activities and the distribution of authority are important structures in inquiry-based teaching, as these are two pillars of inquiry lessons that differ greatly from traditional, teacher centered lessons. Inquiry-based learning is a teaching approach based on problem-solving strategies [10]. The empowerment of students is taken into account in inquiry-based learning, as the teacher steps back to the role of a guide instead of presenting the center of attention for the classroom, providing all the answers. Inquiry-based learning can be accomplished in several levels in which the pregiven structures by the teacher and the autonomy of the students vary accordingly (see, e.g., [10]). The extremes to both sides have been critiqued: the too tight structures of teacher centered lessons, leaving no room for autonomous student actions and reasoning, as well as open inquiry (sometimes mistaken as discovery learning) with very few predefined structures but very high student autonomy (see, e. …

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