Problem solving and computer-assisted instruction in science education : analysis of research findings and the research process /
Skinner, Jennifer Anastasia.
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The quantitative component of this study examined the effect of computerassisted instruction (CAI) on science problem-solving performance, as well as the significance of logical reasoning ability to this relationship. I had the dual role of researcher and teacher, as I conducted the study with 84 grade seven students to whom I simultaneously taught science on a rotary-basis. A two-treatment research design using this sample of convenience allowed for a comparison between the problem-solving performance of a CAI treatment group (n = 46) versus a laboratory-based control group (n = 38). Science problem-solving performance was measured by a pretest and posttest that I developed for this study. The validity of these tests was addressed through critical discussions with faculty members, colleagues, as well as through feedback gained in a pilot study. High reliability was revealed between the pretest and the posttest; in this way, students who tended to score high on the pretest also tended to score high on the posttest. Interrater reliability was found to be high for 30 randomly-selected test responses which were scored independently by two raters (i.e., myself and my faculty advisor). Results indicated that the form of computer-assisted instruction (CAI) used in this study did not significantly improve students' problem-solving performance. Logical reasoning ability was measured by an abbreviated version of the Group Assessment of Lx)gical Thinking (GALT). Logical reasoning ability was found to be correlated to problem-solving performance in that, students with high logical reasoning ability tended to do better on the problem-solving tests and vice versa. However, no significant difference was observed in problem-solving improvement, in the laboratory-based instruction group versus the CAI group, for students varying in level of logical reasoning ability.Insignificant trends were noted in results obtained from students of high logical reasoning ability, but require further study. It was acknowledged that conclusions drawn from the quantitative component of this study were limited, as further modifications of the tests were recommended, as well as the use of a larger sample size. The purpose of the qualitative component of the study was to provide a detailed description ofmy thesis research process as a Brock University Master of Education student. My research journal notes served as the data base for open coding analysis. This analysis revealed six main themes which best described my research experience: research interests, practical considerations, research design, research analysis, development of the problem-solving tests, and scoring scheme development. These important areas ofmy thesis research experience were recounted in the form of a personal narrative. It was noted that the research process was a form of problem solving in itself, as I made use of several problem-solving strategies to achieve desired thesis outcomes.