LEARNINGJoseph Krajcik and Maria Varelas, Section Coeditors
Ninth-Grade Student Engagementin Teacher-Centered andStudent-CenteredTechnology-Enhanced LearningEnvironments
HSIN-KAI WUGraduate Institute of Science Education, National Taiwan Normal University,Taipei, Taiwan 116
YA-LING HUANGChien-Chen Junior High School, Kaohsiung, Taiwan 806
Received 13 November 2006; revised 13 March 2007, 21 March 2007;accepted 21 March 2007
DOI 10.1002/sce.20216Published online 21 May 2007 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com).
ABSTRACT: Engagement has been viewed as an important construct to understand stu-dents learning performances in classroom settings. Taking an interactive perspective,the study investigates ninth graders cognitive, emotional, and behavioral engagementin teacher-centered (TC) and student-centered (SC) technology-enhanced classrooms. 54students from two science classes in Taiwan participated in this study. Multiple sources ofdata were collected during a 3-week instructional unit. The statistical results showed thatalthough students in the SC class reported having significantly higher emotional engage-ment, the emotional engagement level had no impact on students learning achievement.Analyses of qualitative data showed that students in both classes spent a majority of classtime on cognitive involvement in learning activities, but there were qualitative differences
Correspondence to: Hsin-Kai Wu; e-mail: email@example.comContract grant sponsor: National Science Council of Taiwan.Contract grant number: NSC 93-2251-S-003028.
C 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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in cognitive and behavioral engagement between the two classes. One type of activitiesthat did not occur in the TC class was making reflections in which students in the SCclass self-assessed what they did. In addition, the SC class usually interacted throughgroup discussions provoked by the simulations, whereas the TC class frequently inter-acted through initiationresponseevaluation sequences and engaged in student-initiateddiscussions. The findings suggest that both instructional approaches promoted studentsconceptual understanding and provided students with different opportunities to engage inscience learning. C 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed 91:727 749, 2007
INTRODUCTIONMany researchers in educational technology advocate the importance of integrating
technologies into science teaching and learning (Kozma, Russell, Jones, Marx, & Davis,1996; Linn & Hsi, 2000). Extensive use of technology in classrooms has the potential tosupport students exploration of scientific ideas (de Jong & van Joolingen, 1998) and toenable student-centered learning (Brush & Saye, 2000; M. J. Hannafin & Land, 1997).Many studies on the effectiveness of technology-enhanced learning have used studentsunderstandings about scientific concepts and their reasoning skills as primary measures(White & Frederiksen, 1998; Wu, Krajcik, & Soloway, 2001). Relatively little researchhas directed at investigating student engagement in technology-enhanced classrooms, inspite of the fact that student engagement has been viewed as an important construct tounderstand and predict students learning performance (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris,2004; Greenwood, Horton, & Utley, 2002; Lau & Roeser, 2002; Singh, Granville, & Dika,2002).
In addition, past studies have found that when some teachers integrate technology intoinstruction, their use is to sustain their existing practice and to support a teacher-centeredinstructional approach (Cuban, Kirkpartick, & Peck, 2001). This finding is somewhat dis-appointing because technology is expected to transform the way science is taught (Dwyer,Ringstaff, & Sandholtz, 1991). Yet, in a technology-based classroom, a teacher-centeredapproach that emphasizes direct guidance, lectures, and demonstrations of teaching materi-als is sometimes more effective than a student-centered approach that allows students to doself-paced learning and to freely interact with technological tools. For example, having ex-amined the impact of two instructional approaches of computer-assisted instruction (CAI)on student science learning, Chang (2003) found that students in teacher-directed CAIclassrooms performed significantly better than those in student-centered CAI classroomson achievement and attitude measures. In addition, some studies showed that studentsunder a learner-controlled environment performed more poorly on cognitive tasks thanon teacher-directed or program-controlled situations (R. D. Hannafin & Sullivan, 1996;Morrison, Ross, & Baldwin, 1992). However, little is understood about how students inter-act with class members and technological tools in classrooms with different instructionalapproaches. Thus, the purpose of the study is to investigate ninth-graders engagementin teacher-centered and student-centered technology-enhanced classrooms where studentsused computer simulations to learn concepts about force and motion.
Following Herrenkohl and Guerra (1998) and Nystrand and Gamoran (1991), we take aninteractive perspective to investigate students engagement in technology-enhanced learningenvironments. In this study, engagement refers to students involvement and participationin learning activities (Ryan & Patrick, 2001) and involves behavioral, emotional, and cogni-tive aspects (Fredricks et al., 2004). In addition to characterizing students engagement, weare also interested in possible interactions among engagement, conceptual understanding,and students achievement level. Thus, the research questions are as follows: (1) Which
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instructional approach does support students to develop better conceptual understandingsabout force and motion? (2) In what ways do students in two classes emotionally, cog-nitively, and behaviorally engage in technology-enhanced learning activities? (3) How dostudents achievement levels interact with their conceptual understanding and engagementin the two classes?
THEORETICAL BACKGROUNDEngagement has long been viewed as a useful indicator of the quality of school learn-
ing and a predictor of student achievement level (Capie & Tobin, 1981; Nystrand &Gamoran, 1991; Tobin & Capie, 1982). Student engagement in classrooms contributes totheir cognitive development (Greenwood et al., 2002; Lee & Anderson, 1993), and student-engaged time has a significantly positive correlation with their academic achievementmeasured by standardized tests (Capie & Tobin, 1981; Tobin & Capie, 1982). Although theconcept of engagement has garnered much research attention in years, it was defined andmeasured in various ways in research literature. For example, Tobin and his colleaguesdefined engagement as students involvement in learning activities (Capie & Tobin, 1981;Tobin & Capie, 1982). They regarded it as a quantitative construct that was related to theamount of time when students demonstrated cognitive behaviors such as attending, recall-ing, comprehending, and planning. On the other hand, Lee and Anderson (1993) focusedon students cognitive process as well as their motivational status and employed qualitativemethods (e.g., classroom observations and informal interviews) to measure students en-gagement in classroom tasks with the goal of achieving better understanding of science inspecific situations (p. 590).
Having reviewed definitions and measures of engagement in the existing educationalresearch, Fredricks et al. (2004) indicated that engagement is a multifaceted construct andimplies behavioral, emotional, and cognitive participation in learning experiences. Behav-ioral engagement refers to involvement in classroom and extracurricular activities, suchas positive classroom behaviors (Greenwood et al., 2002; Skinner & Belmont, 1993) andthe amount of time spending on homework (Singh et al., 2002). Emotional engagementincludes positive and negative emotions to school, teachers, or academic activities (Lau &Roeser, 2002). Cognitive engagement involves students intellectual investment and effortto understand complex ideas and use thoughtful strategies (Blumenfeld & Meece, 1988;Corno & Mandinach, 1983). This multidimensional definition allows for richer charac-terizations of how students learn. Therefore, this study focuses on the three aspects ofstudent engagement and aims at understanding how instructional approaches and studentsachievement levels have impact on students engagement.
Previous research has shown that instructional variables such as task design are closelyrelated to student engagement. When students work in small groups or when tasks areprocedurally complex, students demonstrate lower cognitive engagement (Blumenfeld &Meece, 1988; Nystrand & Gamoran, 1991). Nystrand and Gamoran (1991) also found anegative effect of small-group time on engagement and suspected that small-group time mayhave failed to include solving challenging problems collaboratively but instead involvedanswering textbook questions and filling out worksheets. These findings suggest that astudent-centered approach that provides students with many opportunities to work andinteract with peers in groups may not increase students engagement in learning if thelearning tasks are not well designed.
The issue of whether students engage more in a student-centered learning environmentwas also explored by researchers who were interested in learner control and choice. In
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a student-centered learning environment, students are expected to take an active role intheir learning and the responsibilities of planning, organizing, and synthesizing the subjectcontent. They have more choices about what they learn and how they learn, but do theyengage more in such a learning environment? Findings from previous studies suggest thatthe answer is yes and no.
It has been known that greater perceived control results in a higher level of intrinsicmotivation (Enzle & Anderson, 1993) and positive emotion (Patrick, Skinner, & Connell,1993). In Flowerday and Schraw (2003), when a group of college students were givenchoices on how to complete a reading task, their emotional engagement was significantlyhigher than the no-choice group. However, Flowerday and Schraw also found that short-term choice had no effect on cognitive engagement measured by students performances onthe task. When students were given a choice of how long to study, they spent less time onlearning and performed more poorly on cognitive tests than students who worked throughthe materials in the order and time frame given by the researchers. Similarly, several studiesshowed that students under a learner-controlled environment performed more poorly oncognitive tasks than on other controlled situations, such as teacher-directed (Chang, 2003)and program-controlled environments (R. D. Hannafin & Sullivan, 1996). Taken together,these studies indicate that there is a close relationship between student engagement andinstructional approaches and that an instructional intervention may have different effectson different aspects of engagement.
In addition to the instructional variables, students characteristics also interact withtheir cognitive and emotional engagement in classrooms. Lee and Anderson (1993) foundthat students in the same classroom demonstrated different patterns of task engagementand experienced and interpreted the academic tasks differently, even though they weretaught by the same teachers using the same curriculum materials. This is similar to theobservation made by Gallagher and Tobin (1987) about differential engagement; whilesome students in classrooms seemed to be overly engaged most of the time and an-swered a majority of questions asked by teachers, remaining students were passivelyengaged or disengaged. Greenwood et al. (2002) suggested that student achievement levelmight be one of the student characteristics that interact with engagement. They foundthat although students engagement showed no significant differences among the high-,middle-, and low-achieving groups, the low-achieving group showed significantly moreinappropriate behaviors. Greenwood et al. (2002), therefore, concluded that students en-gagement was differentially accelerated by instructional situations and interventions(p. 328).
In summary, the studies reviewed above show the importance of treating engagement as amultidimensional concept and considering all three aspects of engagement (i.e., behavioral,emotional, and cognitive engagement). Engagement should be viewed beyond the behaviorof individual students and indeed involves interactive processes among students, teachers,and the learning environment (Herrenkohl & Guerra, 1998). However, none of the studiesinvestigated all three aspects of engagement and little is known about students engage-ment in technology-enhanced classrooms. Thus, this study examines students behavioral,emotional, and cognitive engagement in classrooms with different instructional approachesand investigates possible interactions among engagement, conceptual understanding, andstudents achievement level. We used a self-report questionnaire to measure students emo-tional engagement and analyzed discursive interactions between a teacher and her studentsin two technology-enhanced science classrooms. Below we provide a detailed account ofthe research design.
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This study was conducted in a public junior high school (grades 7 through 9) located inTaipei city, serving approximately 2500 students. The school was one of the largest publicjunior high schools in the district and drew students from a majority of middle and upper-middle class families with a wide range of educational backgrounds. About one third of thestudents commuted to the school from across the Taipei city because the school graduatesscored high on the senior high school entrance examination.
Fifty-four ninth graders in two classes participated in the study. Both classes were taughtby the second author who held a master degree in science education and had taught scienceat junior high schools for 3 years. Before the study was conducted, the teacher had taughtthe two classes for a year during which she used computer simulations and animationsoccasionally and took a teacher-centered approach in both classes. She frequently askedquestions to check on students knowledge, modeled problem-solving processes, invitedstudents to express their own ideas, and discussed conceptual questions raised by students.Prior to the study over 70% of the class instruction involved lectures, recitations, and guideddiscussion.
Student-Centered and Teacher-Centered ClassesOf the two science classes in the study, one class was randomly assigned as the student-
centered (SC) class and the other, the teacher-centered (TC) class. In the SC class (25students, 11 males), the...