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Evaluation and Educational Research
The project will make a major effort to provide evaluation data of value to policy decisions. Since this is a pilot study, its value to policy-makers concerns its implications in other similar situations. We, therefore, need to know not only how well students were able to master these materials, but also whether improvements based on atomic-scale modeling might be expected in other subjects and contexts. Questions that address these issues can be divided into four areas: student performance, materials design, implementation considerations, and curriculum implications.
The questions addressed by this part of the study include: How well do students learn using this approach? How well do students achieve the stated learning goals? Can the use of atomic-scale models be traced to student learning?
Our design can be described as an open-ended design without tight controls. The evaluation studys will generate learning goals for each WISE activity that, according to practicing teachers, are appropriate. Student evaluation will center on measuring the extent to which students in the study achieve those goals. Pre- and post-tests for each project will be administered to determine the change in knowledge that can be attributed to the materials. We will also give the post-tests to a representative group of comparable students at each participating institution who do not participate in the project. This will provide a comparison group that indicates how well students typically master the project's learning goals.
We will develop a sub-set of items for the pre- and post-tests that measure general understanding about atoms and molecules. This sub-test will provide evidence about the impact of this approach on student understanding of the atomic world and its connection to macroscopic phenomena.
The questions addressed by this part of the study include: Was the underlying model sufficiently accurate? Did the hypermodels capture features of science and technology that are important to this audience? Were the projects designed at an appropriate level for this audience? Was there the right balance of open-ended exploration and exposition? Did the instructional materials address the learning goals?
These data will be gleaned from an analysis of the XML-tagged data returned by Pedagogica and the student responses collected by WISE. This methodology allows us to know how long students spent on each page, their predictions and observations, as well as their ongoing reflections on their own learning.
We will also present the materials to panels of experts for analysis. Different panels will look at the accuracy and appropriateness of the software, the fit of the materials in core science courses, and the applicability of the activities in technical areas.
The questions addressed by this part of the study include: Are there technical or organizational problems in implementing the materials? Did students have adequate access to computers to complete the materials at home, school, and work? How reliable was Internet access? Were students able to take advantage of the ability to run models locally? How difficult was it to make the materials available to students? Were there problems with downloading applications, uploading responses, and caching material locally?
These questions will be addressed through questionnaires administered to some participating students and technology coordinators at all participating colleges. Most students will respond online, but a paper version will be available for students with serious connectivity problems.
The questions addressed by this part of the study include: Are there places in the typical two-year college curriculum for materials like these? What subjects and topics are most applicable? Is there too large a gap between the abstractions of the models and the exigencies of the short curriculum? Do standards, license exams, and other requirements make it difficult to fit in new materials such as these?
These questions will be addressed through phone interviews and online questionnaires addressed to participating faculty.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EIA-0219345. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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