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Transcript of Action Research Paper Haily May University of North Texas ... · PDF file Running Head: ACTION...


    Action Research Paper

    Haily May

    University of North Texas

    Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for

    EDCI 5720

    Dr. Frances van Tassell, Professor

    Spring 2013




    This action research study investigated the effects of Problem-Based Learning situations on fifth-

    grade science students who have not been previously exposed to a Problem-Based Learning

    situation during science learning engagement in grades kindergarten through fourth. Seventy-

    two fifth grade students from a specific elementary school in one local school district

    participated in this study. Each student was given a pre-knowledge and interest survey that was

    used to determine their prior knowledge of wind energy, as well as their interest in the subject.

    Following the survey, students were then exposed to various laboratory activities to build their

    background knowledge about wind energy and scientific processes. The background knowledge

    was used to help them construct a wind turbine to determine What type of wind turbine blade

    produces the most energy? Students collected data and presented their conclusions in a final

    student-produced project displaying their knowledge and understanding of wind energy and

    scientific processes. The pre-knowledge and interest survey results were then compared to the

    final student-produced projects to determine the overall student growth. The study revealed that

    Problem-Based Learning situations are highly engaging and may result in stronger student

    mastery levels when utilized appropriately.

    Keywords: problem-based learning, science, fifth-grade



    Chapter 1


    Real world application is a major struggle in our schools today. With the current push for

    high scores on standardized tests, teachers are forced to focus on what some call teaching to the

    test. The problem with this new trend in curriculum is that teachers have less time to provide

    students with real world learning situations. Students are neither exposed to Problem-Based

    Learning situations nor are they provided opportunities to apply their learning through real world

    application. The crisis that is being created due to this shift of focus is posing a world of

    problems for both colleges and businesses. Students pursuing higher education through a

    university are not prepared to problem solve and disentangle situations at the college level. This

    is also true for the business world; students are not equipped with the skills necessary to

    rationalize and fix issues and disputes that arise in their line of work. Providing elementary

    school students with exposure to collegial collaboration, focused research, and practice with

    Problem-Based Learning situations will ultimately prepare future generations for success in this

    continually changing society.

    Problem-Based Learning situations engage students in the steps necessary for real-world

    problem solving. As we strive to build twenty-first century education systems that reach the

    needs of all students, we need to focus on more than just changing the state standardized tests.

    To effectively prepare students for their future, educators need to enhance education with

    experiences that ensure student growth through application. What purpose are we serving by

    testing students over standards that only extend baseline knowledge in a specific content?

    When, in reality, for students to become successful in today’s world, they must be innovative and

    able to provide new state-of-the-art ideas to enhance our systems and processes. The only way


    to prepare students for their future is to train them as children in ways to realistically solve

    problems and present valid conclusions.

    Statement of the Problem

    In a specific elementary school in one local school district, fifth grade students were only

    provided science learning through normal lecture and laboratory experiences during grades

    kindergarten through fourth. Most of these students had no previous exposure to a Problem-

    Based Learning environment. Many students had a hesitation toward science content because it

    was relatively unfamiliar to them. In preceding grades, students had less exposure to science

    content due to the curriculum focus of mathematics and language arts. The reason for the lack of

    science content is due to the fact that science is not a tested content until students reach the fifth

    grade; therefore, teachers do not feel pressured to teach the concepts as thoroughly. The

    educator wanted her students to feel successful with science investigations. Because students

    typically struggle with self-confidence at the beginning of the year, the educator chose to build a

    foundation of inquiry-based learning through the use of a Problem-Based Learning situation.

    The problem of this study was to determine the effect of Problem-Based Learning situations on

    the science achievement of fifth grade students.

    Research Question

    What is the effect of Problem-Based Learning on the science achievement of fifth-grade


    Purpose of the Study

    The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of Problem-Based Learning

    situations on fifth-grade science students who have not been previously exposed to a Problem-


    Based Learning situation during science learning engagement in grades kindergarten through


    Significance of the Study

    This study provided awareness on the effects of using Problem-Based Learning situations

    with fifth-grade science students. Teachers desire to provide students with meaningful

    experiences that prepare them for a successful future. The results of this study may give teachers

    unconventional options for teaching through Problem-Based Learning situations.

    Assumptions of the Study

    The researcher assumed that students were able to work effectively with a group, given a

    common goal and deadline. It was assumed that students could accurately analyze data to form a

    valid conclusion provided guide sheets used while recording data. The comparison of Problem-

    Based Learning and fifth-grade science students’ success is assumed to be tied to the

    incorporation of Problem-Based Learning situations in classroom routines.

    Limitations of the Study

    This particular study had only a few limitations. The researcher was provided with a

    scripted curriculum and was not able to vary the lessons taught or to alter student experiences.

    The researcher was only provided data on students taught at one specific elementary school in

    one local school district. Due to the restraints with the curriculum department, no additional data

    were available for collection. This study is considered an experimenting action research study.

    It has never been constructed before by the researcher and has been used by the researcher for

    the first time in this study to determine the effect of Problem-Based Learning situations on the

    science achievement of fifth-grade students. One of the potential causes of invalidity may be the

    result of a single group; therefore, there was no control group or comparative group. Because


    this study was conducted at the beginning of the school year, students may have been more

    engaged due to the fact that they have not become bored or burnt out with learning.

    Pertinent Terms

    The following terms used in this study are defined below.

    Problem-Based Learning Situation (PBL). Student-centered learning approach in

    which students learn through experiences during problem solving.

    Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). State of Texas learning targets

    developed to ensure students are mastering specific standards of education for each grade level

    and content taught in public schools throughout the state.

    State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR). State of Texas

    developed standardized tests used to measure student academic readiness in grades three through

    twelve in various testing contents.

    High Socioeconomic Status (High SES). Area within a school district of affluent


    Special Education Services (SPED). Special services offered from the Special

    Education department to students who have met the requirements set by the state.

    Wind Turbine. Student-created plastic turbine for the purpose of collecting data on

    wind energy production.

    Scientific Process. Steps needed to conduct a scientific inquiry investigation during a

    problem-based learning situation.

    Inquiry Based Investigations. Science learning approach that requires students to

    investigate scientific reasoning from an inquiring position.