Monday, December 28, 2009

The Effectiveness of Online Interactive Standardized Assessment Practice Programs in 10th Grade Social Studies Learners

Greg Wright
Lamar Masters Educational Leadership
Educational Research

• Title
The Effectiveness of Online Interactive Standardized Assessment Practice Programs in 10th Grade Social Studies learners.
• Introduction and Background

Technology in education has grown as technology itself has developed. New online technology educational models have been identified as our utilization of technology in education improves. (Connolly & Stansfield, 2006) New categories are even being added as the abilities to enhance the learning experience grows with our knowledge of how to best utilize the awesome resources of online technology. (Connolly & Stansfield) With booming growth like this it is understandable that some problems arise along the way. One that bears considerable thought is the availability of sufficient internet bandwidth capabilities. (Hofer, 2004) Plagiarism and protecting the privacy of others is also critical where use of the vast information on the world wide web is involved. (Hofer) It will be assumed for this action research proposal internet accessibility and acceptable bandwidths are available in all schools in Denison I.S.D.
Specialized educational technology graduate degree programs are now available from many accredited universities testifying to the dynamic growth and the importance of efficient technology use in the educational field. The broader question then is raised “How do we (I) efficiently use this technology to positively impact our learners in the best and most efficient way possible?” With this thought to the forefront it is no wonder that entrepreneurial computer programmers and game developers have found a way to produce products that attempt to speak to the needs of:
• Schools and their need to stay on the cutting edge of technology
• Teachers who are always searching creatively for a better way (24 hr access-grades automatically sent to parent)
• Administrators (constantly under pressure to raise test scores) who like the fact that it exemplifies total effort from the district to do “whatever it takes within reason” to get the job done.
• Students (many who are computer gaming savvy) who struggle with engagement in traditional study methods.
• Parents who by and large want to give their children the best chance possible for success.
This is exactly what the developers of Study Island have done.

• Purpose
Standardized assessments are a huge part of our educational system. Whether we like the idea or not, the practice of using standardized tests as instruments for teacher accountability and enhancing the learning environment is a reality we all must embrace in our current system. In Texas the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) is the standardized test all students must prove proficiency in (according to State of Texas set standards) before they are rewarded with their high school diploma. The state of Texas reports these numbers each year and they are used to rate all state funded schools as academically unacceptable, academically acceptable, or recognized. Denison Independent School District like most all school districts in Texas gives great effort and is critically concerned about the achievement of all students especially pertaining to the TAKS tests. It was proposed to Denison Independent School District administrators that a program called Study Island was reaping rewards in local Dallas Fort Worth metroplex area. One teacher in our social studies department had high praises for the Study Island product as it was utilized by her previously while working in another district. Subsequently Study Island was introduced and their marketing and sales representatives made the Denison Independent School District a client on an interim basis agreement. If the product was acceptable the school district would purchase the product. The social studies department of the Denison High School was chosen first to try the product on this trial agreement. Improving learning and TAKS scores combined with the need to justify spending on this potential third party purchased product motivated the need for this proposal

• Literature Review
In looking at the vast technological field of educational games and online learning it was exciting to see so much available research. Prior research has proven that 3D online computer games in the area of geography have proven successful in 4th and 5th grade students. (Tuzun, Soylu, Karakus, Inal, & Kizilkaya, 2009) Students in this study also reinforced the use of collaboration and motivation concerning learning geography with 3D computer games. (Tuzun et al.)
Newer models of technology learning have also been identified. (Connolly & Stansfield, 2006) Generations of technology education were broken down by Connolly and Stansfield as follows:
• Generation 1 – Limited use of the internet. (Connolly & Stansfield, 2006)
• Generation 2 – Provide immediate feedback and assessment and create Virtual Learning Environments. (Connolly & Stansfield, 2006)
• Generation 3- Collaborative, reflective, real life like simulation experiences. (Connolly & Stansfield, 2006)
Other research has pointed to the fact that online learning and motivation is linked to the learner enjoyment of the game itself. (Fu, Su, & Yu, 2009) The authors’ of E Game Flow: A scale to measure learner’s enjoyment of e-learning games state “since enjoyment motivates the continuation of work and study, whether or not the player experiences enjoyment or flow should be seen as a key criterion in determining a game’s effectiveness.” (Fu et al., p. 103) A review of literature also further supported the idea of student connectedness and collaboration. (Rhode, 2009)
• Research questions
This proposal intends to find out the following: Is Study Island effective in improving TAKS performace in 10th grade social studies learners in Denison Independent School District? If so, what are some best teacher practices in using this instrument for student success? Are their certain pitfall areas teachers need to look out for or avoid? What can we expect in the future from Study Island and similar programs designed to engage learners in a unique gaming environment while teaching them core content material?
• Sample
The population will be drawn from five 10th grade world history classes in Denison High School. These classes offer a variety of learners and it is important to point out that none of these classes are advanced placement or pre-advanced placement. The total sample population (S) will be 117 10th grade Denison High School World History Students. The sample (S) will be further identified by gender identifying 60 female and 57 male participants. The ethnic breakdown of the sample population is 12% African American, 9% Hispanic, and 79% Anglo.
• Data Collection Procedures/Instruments
The data will be gathered utilizing several different instruments. Students from the sample group (A) will have their TAKS social studies scores from the 8th grade and the 10th grade compared and analyzed with those of sample group (B) those students who did not receive Study Island practice and training. A survey will also be used utilizing a 5-point Likert scale. The single question survey will ask: Was Study Island beneficial in your TAKS preparation? Learners may then be further categorized or broken down into three categories:
1. Very little or not beneficial
2. Somewhat beneficial
3. Very beneficial
Quantitative data is available also from the Study Island product itself. Learner data will be broken down individually to check for correlation to the percentage of total questions answered correctly while engaged online in Study Island. Field notes from the researcher will also be analyzed as will recordings and notes of group discussions to be held in each class after the completion of the TAKS test.
• Data Analysis
The 8th grade and the 10th grade TAKS scores will be analyzed and compared between the two sample groups: Group A (learners who utilized the Study Island program) - will have their 8th grade TAKS social studies scores compared to their 10th grade TAKS social studies scores looking for a significant improvement in scores from Group B (learners who did not utilize the Study Island program). Qualitative data gathered from the field notes and the group discussions from each class will be compared, analyzed, and reflected upon to gain further insight from the research. Triangulation utilizing these different data sources and data from the pre and post TAKS score comparisons using the mean, median, and modes to further analyze data should provide valuable insight as to the effectiveness of Study Island.
• Limitations
Limitations in this proposed research include lack of a large and fully stratified sample. Other concerns would be availability of the internet at home for students in the sample population(S) or the use of other similar products or games by learners in the sample population (S) which might lead to misleading results.
• Action Plan
Information of the results will first be shared with the Denison High School Social Studies Department Head and the Curriculum Director. Proper steps to further collaboratively analyze the findings and suggest best practices for the intended use of Study Island or non-use of the Study Island product will then be enacted according to the Denison independent School District and Denison High School team suggestions.

• References
Connolly, T., & Stansfield, M. (2006). Using Games Based eLearning Technologies in Overcoming Difficulties in Teaching Information Systems. Journal of Information Technology Education, 5, 459-476.
Fu, F., Su, R., & Yu, S. (2009). E Game Flow: A scale to measure learner’s enjoyment of e-learning games. Computers and Education, 52, 101-112.
Hofer, M. (2004). Technology That Supports Rich, Student-Centered Learning Experiences. Learning and Leading with Technology, V. 32 n. 2, 6-11.
Rhode, J. F. (2009). Interaction Equivalency in Self- Paced Online Learning Environments: An Exploration of Learner Preferences. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, V. 10 n. 1, 1-23.
Tuzun, H., Soylu, M. Y., Karakus, T., Inal, Y., & Kizilkaya, G. (2009). The effects of computer games on primary school students’ achievement and motivation in geography learning. Computers and Education, 52, 68-77.

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