Action Research Paper Haily May University of North Texas ... · PDF file Running Head: ACTION...
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Running Head: ACTION RESEARCH PAPER 1
Action Research Paper
University of North Texas
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
Dr. Frances van Tassell, Professor
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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
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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
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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.
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-
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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
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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.
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.