Self-Directed Learning with Web-Based Sites: How Well Do Students' Perceptions and Thinking Match with Their Teachers?

By Ng, Wan | Teaching Science, June 2008 | Go to article overview

Self-Directed Learning with Web-Based Sites: How Well Do Students' Perceptions and Thinking Match with Their Teachers?


Ng, Wan, Teaching Science


With research consistently showing that students can be motivated to learn with ICT, this case study sought to investigate Year 7 students' learning about simple machines in an ICT-enhanced environment where they could self-direct their own learning with minimal intervention from the teacher. The study is focused on how well do students and teacher's perceptions of self-directed learning with ICT match one another. The results indicate several mismatches in this regard. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Introduction

The amount and variety of resources freely available on the World Wide Web (WWW) at no cost to students and teachers have increased dramatically over the last ten years. This makes independent research and learning possible for a wider number of learners. The potential applications of web-based technologies in science learning have been reviewed by Scanlon (1997) and Ng (2006). These applications include collaboration, virtual experimentation, virtual field trips, project work and distance education. Numerous reports, books and articles have been written on the impact of ICT on learning, the relationships between student engagement and interaction with Web-based resources and the nature of content understanding and pedagogy (for example Becta, 2002; Candy, 2004; Linn & Hsi, 2000; Trucano, 2005; Hoffman, Wu, Krajcik & Soloway, 2003). These reports indicate that the impact of ICT on learning remains debatable as measures to assess impact are still undefined. However there are indications that positive impact on learning can occur when ICT is linked to pedagogy (Awang, 2006; Kiboss, Ndirangu & Wekesa, 2004). The Becta (2002) report has also indicated positive associations between ICT usage and National test scores for science at key stages 3 & 4. A consistent report from many publications is that motivation to learn using ICT is generally high and positive.

This research paper reports on a case study that investigates the use of information communication technology (ICT) as a teaching tool for Year 7 students' learning of simple machines. It seeks to explore how the students will motivate and self-direct their own learning with the aid of selected websites and with little intervention from the teacher. The focus of the study is a comparison of the perceptions of the students with that of the class teacher's in terms of how they perceived:

* the usefulness of the websites,

* how well learning has taken place,

* how beneficial is self-directed learning in science?

Self-directed learning with technology

Two factors that characterise our society today are: the abundance of information on the World Wide Web (WWW) and the availability of information and communication technologies for easy retrieval of information and communication of ideas. Teaching students to capitalise on these factors and to be technologically literate to learn independently prepares them to be self-directed life-long learners. Being technologically literate combines both physical manipulation skills and mental processing skills and an understanding of the benefits and the limitations of computer-based tools or software in supporting learning (Ng, 2006). The mental processing skills of technology literacy is the ability of the individual to use technology appropriately to seek, manage, analyse, evaluate and integrate the information into problem solving tasks or to synthesise new information from web-based or software materials. Frequent opportunities should be created in the classrooms for these important skills to be developed to assist students to become independent learners with ICT.

A benefit of self-directed learning is the development of autonomous learners who are able to control and take responsibility for their own learning. Candy (1991) defines self-directed learning as an awareness of alternative choices and being able to pursue a learning goal without being affected by external factors. …

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