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International Journal
Learning, Teaching
Educational Research
p-ISSN: 1694-2493
e-ISSN: 1694-2116

Vol.16 No.5
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VOLUME 16 NUMBER 5 May 2017

Table of Contents
The Sustainability of Inclusionary Practices: A Case Study .............................................................................................. 1
Catherine Richmond-Cullen, Ed.D., Dona Bauman, Ph.D., Vanessa Ferrance, D.Ed. and Sonya Kunkel, M.S.

The Mathematical Beauty .................................................................................................................................................... 14

Van-Tha Nguyen and Ngoc-Giang Nguyen

The Implication of Distance Learning in Competence-Based Maritime Education and Training ............................ 31
Yanning JIANG and Quan LI

Education in Iran: Limitations Imposed by Theocracy .................................................................................................... 42

David V. Powell and Simin Cwick

Enhancing Interactivity in Online Classes: A Framework for Enhancing Instructor-Student, Student-Student, and
Student-Content Engagement ............................................................................................................................................. 53
Carl Kalani Beyer, Stephen Brownson and Suzanne Evans

How a Hands-on BIONICS Lesson May Intervene with Science Motivation and Technology Interest .................. 72
Marth Michaela and Franz X. Bogner

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 5, pp. 1-13, May 2017

The Sustainability of Inclusionary Practices:

A Case Study
Catherine Richmond-Cullen, Ed.D., Dona Bauman, Ph.D.
and Vanessa Ferrance, D.Ed.
The University of Scranton
Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Sonya Kunkel, M.S.

Capital Region Education Council
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A.

Abstract. In this article the authors describe a qualitative study that

researched the sustainability of responsible inclusive practices in a public
elementary school in Connecticut. Through focus group sessions that
included teachers, administrators and support staff, five themes were
identified that demonstrate importance in the sustainability of inclusion.
The data revealed the following five consistent themes as integral to
responsible inclusive practices: (1) Public Service with a Moral Purpose,
(2) Culture and Commitment, (3) Data-Driven Decision Making. (4)
Leadership Qualities and (5) Co-Teaching and Community Involvement.

Keywords: responsible inclusion; sustainability of inclusion; leadership


The purpose of this study was to answer the question what are the key
factors that have sustained responsible inclusion?. The Silver Lane Elementary
School, located in the East Hartford Public Schools in East Hartford,
Connecticut, was the site at which the study was conducted. Focus groups that
were comprised of teachers, administrators and support staff were selected and
represented a mix of veteran and non-tenured educators. Some of the educators
at Silver Lane Elementary School were committed to inclusion initiatives for a
longer period of time than other educators who became involved during the
phase in which more inclusive practices were required and implemented at the
The data was analyzed by the researchers to determine definable and
consistent themes. The following five themes were independently identified by
each of the researchers through the transcript analysis: (1) Public Service with a

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Moral Purpose, (2) Culture and Commitment, (3) Data-Driven Decision Making.
(4) Leadership Qualities and (5) Co-Teaching and Community Involvement.

Public Service with a Moral Purpose

The issue of moral purpose of a leader is particularly interesting as it

includes the implementation by the school leader of aspects of its context: 1)
raising the bar for student learning; 2) treating people with respect; and 3)
altering the social environment for the better (Fullan, 2002).
Loehr and Schwartz (2003) base their leadership discussion on four
principles one of which is; to build capacity we must push beyond our normal
limits, training in the way that elite athletes do (p.13). School leaders need to
work consistently at developing a school climate that fosters collegiality and
cooperation. The metaphor of the athlete is important as it indicates the
importance of diligent and consistent dedication to the advancement of the
school in order to positively affect student achievement.
Fullan (2004) elucidates the importance for leaders to develop new
leaders in order for continuity of direction. In order for reform or change to alter
the context of schools, a critical mass of people who understand, accept and are
willing to continue the change must be cultivated. Random change needs to
become system change. System change ensures that programs will last beyond
their inceptor or creators. Leaders who affect the entire district ensure that
change and reform initiatives will be pervasive within the district. Continuity of
culture and vision are important to sustain new ideas and concepts.
Fullan (2004) describes the necessity for leaders to be energy creators.
The use of skillful and balanced management of energy is a key to effective
leadership. Energy creators are enthusiastic and always positive, use critical
thinking, creativity and imagination, stimulate and spark others, practice
leadership at all levels, are able and willing to scrutinize their practice and
willing to make their practice accessible to others and wish to improve on their
previous best (p. 37).
In his powerful summary statement regarding energy creators as leaders,
Fullan (2004) states, We know the sources of energy creation: moral purpose,
emotional intelligence, quality relationship, quality knowledge, physical well-
being-all mobilized to engage the mind and heart in attempting to solve complex
adaptive challenges (p. 38). The importance of an emotional connection to
leadership and the people with whom the leaders work is integral in her success.
Brain research indicates that when humans learn new content, the emotional
area of the brain is the first to receive new information. It is in this mid-brain
that decisions are made as to the importance of the information. Leaders who
consider the emotional intelligence of those whom they lead have a distinct
advantage over those leaders who do not. The human resource in organizations
is precious and should be cultivated. Through moral and emotional
connections, the leader can make a difference in how her team receives and
accepts new ideas and information.
Boylan (2016) states that the increasing importance of educational
collaborations and networks that blur organizations boundaries (p. 57). The
importance of engaging in collaborative leadership leads to an ethical approach

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to school improvements for schools and the learners (p. 64). Altruistic and
moral purposes are innate in collaborative leadership models. Moral leaders
take on an identity that is driven by moral decision making. Boylan indicates
that, Movement leaders influence identity formation through the development
of meaning for others (p. 66). The new attitudes of all stakeholders begin to
transform the school and foster educating and leading with a moral purpose.
Perkins (2003) reflects on leaders with organizational intelligence and
reports that process smart and people smart are two separate and district
characteristics of great leaders. A process smart leader has an exceptional
knowledge base while a people smart leader identifies emotionally with people
and their values. Transformational leaders effect change in group as well as in
the individuals within the group (Heifetz, 2003). Perkins (2003) notion of
developmental leaders is concerned with leaders functioning as exemplars,
facilitators and mentors within a group, helping to move it toward a progressive
culture (p. 219). Developing human interactions through support and effective
communication is a key to becoming a true leader.
Referring again to types of challenges leaders face, adaptive challenges
require the deep participation of the people with the problem. In other words,
one must engage teachers and parents as representatives of the community in
school reform. Teachers may not have the knowledge or training to implement
reform tactics and can be part of the reason expected changes are not being
implemented. Additionally, parents may not know or understand how to effect
growth in their children. Effective leaders communicate with groups
throughout the system, thereby ensuring effective understanding and
acceptance of change of reform initiatives. By building communities of
constituents and leaders through effective discussion and communication, a
leader can positively affect the implementation of new ideas. People who feel
included, who feel important, who are offered chances to express their thoughts
and ideas are more likely to buy into change initiatives.

Data-Driven Decision Making

Since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act, school improvement
initiatives have been fueled by data (Goren, 2012). This is the age of
accountability within the American school system. To respond to this call for
accountability, data-driven decision-making has emerged as one of the primary
school improvement strategies (USDOE, 2010). With the increasing amount of
data that is being collected by schools, educators are faced with the challenge of
how to best make sense of it (Anfara & Donhost, 2010). In conjunction with the
many other responsibilities that teachers hold, data analysis and its application
to teaching and learning can be a very complicated, dense process for teams of
educators. To assist educators with this complicated task, Anfara and Donhost
(2010) outline five primary phases in the data-driven decision-making process.
The five primary phases in the data-driven decision-making process are: (1)
organizing for success, (2) building assessment literacy, (3) identifying data
sources, (4) aligning data systems, and (5) altering instruction (Anfara &
Donhost, 2010). These five phases are not meant to be sequential, but rather to
highlight the important areas to be considered.

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Anfara and Donhost (2010) assert that educators must organize for
success by ensuring that they have time, teams and trust when engaging in any
data-driven decision-making process. Assessment literacy is a crucial
component in the process, as raw data by itself provides little information to
educators. Educators must be proficient in the act of interpreting the data
(Anfara & Donhost, 2010). This brings more meaning and purpose to the data-
driven decision-making process (Schildkamp & Kuiper, 2010). Educators must
also be cautious when identifying data sources, as there are many shortcomings
associated with state accountability tests (Peterson, 2007). Anfara and Donhost
(2010) promote the use of periodic assessments to increase student achievement
and enhance data-driven decision-making practices. To ease the data-based
decision-making processes, data systems within the building level must be
aligned. Otherwise, educators find themselves in a very complicated process of
trying to make sense of disparate, unaligned data systems, since there are so
many sources of data available to them (Anfara & Donhost, 2010). The final
component outlined by Anfara and Donhost (2010) in the data-based decision-
making process is the use of data to inform instruction. Collecting and
analyzing data is not enough to ensure improvement of student learning or
teaching practices. The data must be used to alter instruction. This component
may be the most complex piece of the process, as the connection between data
and instructional practice changes is the most absent in the literature (Anfara &
Donhost, 2010). Goren (2012) highlights this aspect in his research when he
asserts that our understanding of how data lead to improvement in education is
vastly immature.
Goren (2012) asserts that educators must have a deeper and better
understanding of data, its use, how practitioners make sense of the data, and
conditions that are most conducive for using data well. To do so, it is necessary
to understand the context in which data is used within the school system as well
as the meaning that teachers make of data (Timperley, 2008). Goren (2012) also
argues that educators must take a closer look at what data are actually
measuring and why. Once performance measures are introduced to the public,
they take on a life of their own, and their intended purposes get merged with
public interest.
Todays principal is expected to be able to gather, examine, translate and
use data in order to improve instruction (Fox, 2013). In addition to these
responsibilities, the principal must also support data-driven decision-making
among his or her staff. Principals play a fundamental role in promoting the
valuable and resourceful use of data for school improvement (Skalski & Romero,
2011). The leadership practices that principals embrace set the tone for how data
will be used by the school staff. They can establish a culture that embraces data-
based decision-making practices by all employees.
Due to the tremendous amount of data that educators must sift through
and the use of data to evaluate the performance of students, teachers and
administrators, it is all too often the case that educators have learned to become
defensive and shut down when it comes to data usage. Principals can help
educators to overcome this protective stance by modeling the advantageous uses
of data to inform the educational process and also by creating a culture that
makes it secure for educators to acknowledge that some practices are

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unsuccessful (Skalski & Romero, 2011). Skalski and Romero (2011) also support
the role of the principal in providing teachers with the structured times to meet
for discussions of the data.
Most educators are faced, not with a lack of data, but rather decisions
regarding which data make the most sense for them. The principal must assist
the data-based decision-making processes in his/her school by helping the staff
to identify which data are most informative. He or she can do this by asking
about the needs of his or her staff members and students while also asking how
the data can be used to address those needs (Skalski & Romero, 2011).
A principal can also support data sharing among their teachers by
creating opportunities for teachers to share data between grade levels and
providing professional development as well as support for his or her teachers
(Skalski & Romero, 2011). Additionally, the principal must keep data reports
understandable to parents and staff so that the reports can be used in a
meaningful way for program improvement and enhancement of student
learning. By maintaining objective and just teacher accountability, the principal
can ensure that data are not used to penalize teachers for things that are outside
of his or her control (Skalski & Romero, 2011). All of these efforts can contribute
to a school culture that uses and values data.
Fox (2013) identifies the following nine attributes of an appropriate
mind-set for data-driven decision making in a principal: (1) The principal
believes data is vital for sound decision-making and effective problem-solving.
(2) The principal understands the classroom is the critical point of impact for
student learning. (3) The principal believes one of his or her primary
responsibilities is to establish a culture of continuous improvement. (4) The
principal focuses on variables over which the school has control. (5) The
principal understands that data is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
(6) The principal distinguishes between change and improvement. (7) The
principal establishes a but-free zone for problem solving. (8) The principal
understands the difference between a situation and a problem. (9) The principal
realizes hope is not a strategy.

Leadership Qualities that Promote a Positive School Culture

Successful school leaders evidence certain personal and professional

qualities that enable them to guide the work of those to whom are under the
authority of administration. Research about inspired leadership and those
qualities that effective leaders possess is abundant. The Council of Chief School
Officers (2002) named strategies for school improvement as manifested through
successful principal leadership. They are setting high expectations for all
students, sharing leadership and staying engaged, encouraging collaboration
among staffing, using assessment data to support student success, keeping the
focus on students, addressing barriers to learning, reinforcing classroom
learning at home, employing systems for identifying interventions and defining
special education as the path to success in the general education program
(Fullan, p. 3).
Significant change in school culture, student achievement, professional
practice and community and parental involvement is contained in the research
on effective leadership in school settings. According to Ouchi (2003) the keys to

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developing and sustaining effective school leaders are that every principal is an
entrepreneur, every school controls its own budget, everyone is accountable for
student performance and for budgets, everyone delegates authority to those
below, there is a burning focus on student achievement, every school is a
community of learners and families have real choices among a variety of unique
schools (Fullan, p. 10). Matthews (2015) states that best practices in inclusion
involves the general aspects of school reform and requires a distribution of
leadership actions, delegated work and expertise across a school (p. 1001).
Day, Gu and Sammons (2016) discuss transformational leadership. They
state, Transformational leadership has traditionally emphasized vision and
inspiration, focusing on establishing structures and cultures that enhance the
quality of teaching and learning, setting directions, developing people and
(re)designing the organization (p. 224). Their research cites studies that have
determined that it is essential to engage teachers in dialogue that enables them
to participate in decisions about learning and the craft of teaching. Effective
leadership includes practice that focuses on the internal states of organizational
members as well as addressing instructional leadership (p. 225). The need for
transformational leaders in a culture of outcomes based learning is still
pervasive. The school administrators attention to school culture is important
for the promotion of school improvement (p. 231). School ethos and high
expectation for faculty are considered integral to effective transformational and
instructional leadership strategies (p.246). Shared leadership and the
distribution of leadership responsibilities extended trust and fosters a more
highly personalized and enriched curriculum (p. 249). Day, Gu and Sammons
state, The work of successful principals is intuitive, knowledge informed and
strategic. Successful principals build cultures that promote both staff and
student engagement in learning (p. 253).
Fullan (2004) reports that solutions to developing and sustaining
effective school leaders require a systems approach to school reform and a
practical strategy to engage new concepts with an action plan. Fullan (2004)
illuminates the new theoreticians as people working on real problems and
solutions at the school level. His discussions include the concept of the different
challenges faced by school leaders. Adaptive challenges are those issues that
have solutions outside of the normal and tried methods of operation while
technical problems can be solved within the context of that which is currently
happening in schools. He lists eight elements of leadership which may influence
sustainability of new ideas and solutions. They are completing public service
with a moral purpose, creating a commitment to changing context at all levels,
developing the lateral capacity and building solidarity through networks,
incepting intelligent accountability and vertical relationships, crafting a culture
for deep learning to take place, having a dual commitment to short-term and
long-term results, ensuring cyclical energizing for all and the applying long
lever of leadership (Fullan, 2005).

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Using a case study design, the purpose of this study was to answer
what are the key factors that have sustained responsible inclusion for the

Study Group

In order to avoid the possibility of teachers perceiving coercion by

administrators, a statement was included in the consent form that outlined the
voluntary nature of participation in the focus groups. The groups were
comprised of educators who had more extensive experience with inclusionary
practices and those who did not. The representative sample included six general
educators, two special educators, one executive coach, one education specialist,
two special education paraprofessionals, one speech-language pathologist, and
one administrator.

Instruments and Process

Each of the focus group sessions were approximately one hour in

duration. Each group was asked the same questions which promoted dialogue
and reflection and maintained reliability and validity. The research literature on
sustainability of school reform guided the researchers on the development of
questions asked in the focus interviews. The questions were given to practicing
school leaders for their review and suggestions from administrators were used
to edit the questions. The focus group questions are included in table 1.

Table 1
Focus Group Questions
What is the history of inclusionary practices in the school?
How did the school decide to become inclusive?
Who were the original planners and change agents and are they still part of
the school today?
How were decisions made about inclusion?
How were parents part of the planning process?
What kind of training and consultation were provided to teachers and staff and
is that professional development still ongoing?
What types of problem solving mechanisms are available to staff?
Do you have co-teaching and how is it maintained in the school?
How do you as a leader sustain your schools inclusion initiative?
How do you maintain energy and renewal for yourself to sustain your focus on
all learners?
How do you incorporate the need to improve reading and math scores with
inclusive practices?
All of the focus group sessions were audio recorded and transcripts were
typed by a research assistant from the University of Scranton. Following each of
the focus group sessions, a summary form was completed by each of the
researchers who managed the focus group. The summary form included details

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about the locations and time schedules of the interviews, information on the
educators who participated in the sessions, and descriptions of the content and
emerging themes. The summary form was completed in a timely manner after
the sessions were concluded and were then attached to the transcripts.

Data gathered from the focus group interviews was analyzed by each of
the researchers through an independent coding and theme identification
process. Through robust discussions among the researchers, the following
themes were revealed: public service with a moral purpose, culture and
commitment, data-driven decision making, leadership qualities, and best
practices. Please see Tables 2 through 6 for reference to themes, categories, and

Public Service with a Moral Purpose

The first theme was identified as public service with a moral purpose.
This theme includes the establishment of a caring learning community involving
all constituents (educators, school personnel, parents, students, community
members) within the public school setting. The vision of this theme involves the
guiding principle of teaching all children from the heart. Educators and staff
have a moral obligation to provide the necessary tools for all students to be
successful in school. All constituents have an equal responsibility for student
success. Special and general education students are the shared responsibility of
all service providers.

Table 2
Theme: Public Service with a Moral Purpose
Theme Categories Subcategories
Public Service Student Centered That which happens has a great
with a Moral Focus effect on students
Purpose Heart Centered Vision Teachers instruct children from the
Inclusive Philosophy Educators need to provide the
necessary tools for all students to be
successful in school
Moral Obligation Educators have an obligation to all
students that supersedes legality.
All students receive excellent and
appropriate services regardless of
whether or not they have an IEP.
Student Responsibility Students take ownership of their
and Reflective Practice learning. They learn to make life
choices and to self-advocate.
Professional All service providers, including
Development paraprofessionals receive
substantive and ongoing
professional development

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Culture and Commitment

A collaborative culture where professionals share strategies and

communicate in a natural, positive manner about the progress and successes of
all students is pivotal in the theme of culture and commitment. Helping
students to understand their strengths and needs while becoming thinkers,
problem solvers and self-sufficient learners is a strategic aspect of a collaborative
culture. In this culture, educators empower children to become all that they are
created to be. Through courageous conversations, educators facilitate a positive
community for all stakeholders. A collaborative culture is driven by a
philosophy that includes sharing strategies to promote student success.
Through shared responsibility, strong leadership, and the development of equal
partnerships, all teachers are responsible for the success of all students. There is
a pervasive culture of collaborative communication among school staff in which
teachers are ambassadors and a voice for the program. Faculty and staff
dedication helps to keep the program vital, although educators know that there
will be both successes and failures. Teachers focus on student progress and
empower students to become thinkers, problem solvers and self-sufficient
learners by assisting students to better understand their strengths and learning

Table 3
Theme: Culture and Commitment
Theme Categories Subcategories
Culture and Collaborative There is a collaborative culture
Commitment Teachers and stakeholders practice sharing
Ambassadors Teachers are ambassadors and a voice for
the program.
Communication There is a pervasive culture of natural
communication among school staff.
Dedication and All faculty and staff are dedicated to the
Intensity success of the program.
Leadership Strong and effective leadership is key to the
success of the program.
Focus on Student There is a need for all students to be more
Progress successful.
Shared Stakeholders take equal responsibility for
Responsibility/Equal special education students.
Empowering All stakeholders are assisting students to
Thinking Children understand their challenges and become
thinkers/problem solvers/self-sufficient.
Staff Keep it Alive The staff realize full inclusion is a process
and will have successes and failures.
Proactive Pre- There is movement away from re-teaching
Teaching to pre-teaching; resetting the student so
that he/she can learn successfully.

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Data Driven Decision Making

The theme data-driven decision-making is defined as the practice of

collecting and reporting out on data. Data drives teaching practices, including
co-teaching. An ongoing process of assessment enables teachers to reflect on
grouping strategies and make adjustments. In the collection and reporting
process, the principal makes presentations to the teachers and data is analyzed
by a team. The teachers present at the board of education meeting to appeal for
financial resources to support effective practices. Data team meetings provide
staff with an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process whereby
individual student achievement is analyzed. In a collaborative co-teaching
environment, data-driven decision-making involves everyone on the team,
including administrators, teachers, the school board, parents, paraprofessionals,
and the student making adjustments to the curriculum and instruction based on
the data that has been collected. Teachers and principals collect and analyze
data through data-team meetings where all school staff has a choice and a voice
in the process. After an initial presentation from the principal and a completed
analysis by the data team, the teachers present at school board meetings to
appeal for additional money in support of resources needed to drive student
progress. The data drives the co-teaching practices, as teachers reflect on and
make changes in an ongoing process in the classroom. Teachers make formative
assessments and create instructional adjustments based on individual needs.

Table 4
Theme: Data-Driven Decision Making
Theme Categories Subcategories
Data-Driven Collect Data and Teachers collect data
Decision Report Out The principal makes a presentation to
Making teachers the team analyzes the data.
The teachers present at the board of
education and appeal for financial
support to what has been effective.
Data Team Meetings The meetings provide school staff with
choice and voice.
Individualized Each childs data results are analyzed.
Decision Making
Data Drives Practice The data drives the co-teaching
Educators reflect on and change
grouping strategies.
The process is ongoing.

Leadership Qualities

Effective leadership that empowers teachers and staff is another theme

that emerged in the transcripts. Professional development communities are
established to encourage buy-in from school personnel. The school

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administrators provide resources to all educators and staff in order to promote

equal education for all children. The school leader values her staff and
acknowledges their ideas as well as their strengths. Resources such as co-
planning time and financial support are provided in order for the educational
program to be successful.

Table 5
Theme: Leadership Qualities
Theme Categories Subcategories
Leadership Empowering Teachers The process uses teachers in a
Qualities collaborative way so that the principal
can get input and make decisions.
The process energizes the school staff.
The process makes school staff feel
Empowerment acknowledges the
knowledge and abilities of staff.
The process is a give and take process
between collaborators.
Empowerment encourages leadership
through professional development
Decision Making The principal must occasionally make
the hard decisions i.e., this is how
its going to be
Promotes Buy-In The principal encourages school staff
willingness i.e., a reason or
Providing Resources All teachers receive resources
including general and special
education teachers.
Professional development for general
education teachers on special needs
services and strategies.
Scheduling Time to Many models are reviewed.
Collaborate/Co-Plan Time for co-planning is deliberate and
built into the schedule.
The schedule becomes more fluid.
Promotes Range of There are many delivery options.

Co-Teaching and Community Involvement

The best practices identified in the research study were co-teaching and
strong and effective parent-school relationships. Co-teaching is based on co-
ownership of the classroom between the educators responsible for instruction
and assessment. Collaboratively developing an IEP based on the academic and
common-core standards is a salient element of best practices. Administrative

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input into developing a schedule which allows teachers to have co-planning

time is essential. Through mutual respect and collegial participation, co-teachers
learn to work well together to foster a passionate attitude toward their students.
Part of the school culture is the development of strong parent-school
relationships which enable the constituents to share strategies that foster student
success. Parents talking to teachers and teachers talking to parents create a
child-first philosophy where the students faces drive the process. The focus is
on continuous development of student strengths and the efficient delivery of
related services, which helps every child to reach his or her highest potential.

Table 6
Theme: Co-Teaching and Community Involvement
Theme Categories Subcategories
Co-Teaching Co-Teaching Co-teachers work well together.
Community The teachers are passionate.
Building a reasonable schedule allows
for co-planning time.
Embedding IEP goals into the general
education curriculum is a key
The teachers have co-ownership of the
Standards-Based/Common Core

Parent-School This collaboration makes a difference

Relationships for a school.
Sharing strategies, talking, and
decision making is part of the process.
Child First The students faces drive the process.

Related Services All stakeholders are not focusing only

on student challenges but become
familiar with the aligned curriculum.


The data that was analyzed from the focus groups revealed the five
identified themes which enhance the sustainability of inclusionary practices in
an elementary school setting: (1) Public Service with a Moral Purpose, (2)
Culture and Commitment, (3) Data-Driven Decision Making. (4) Leadership
Qualities and (5) Co-Teaching and Community Involvement. The stakeholders
in this culture that is designed to promote inclusion have successfully
implemented the concepts and practices identified in the themes. This case
study provides an exemplary model for school leaders to implement and sustain
responsible inclusionary practices.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 5, pp. 14-30, May 2017

The Mathematical Beauty

Van-Tha Nguyen
Phung Hung High School
14A, Street 1, Ward 16, Go Vap District,
Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam

Ngoc-Giang Nguyen
Dr of Banking University Ho Chi Minh,
36 Ton That Dam, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1,
Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam

Abstract. Mathematics is a science. However, Mathematics has

exceptional features that other sciences can hardly attain; for instance
the beauty in cognitive development, in Mathematics applied in other
fields such as Physics, Computer Science, Music, Fine Art, Literature,
etc Mathematical beauty manifests itself in many forms and is divided
into many different categories. Mathematical beauty can be divided into
inner and outer beauty, or it can be categorized by fields or divided into the
beauty in method, in problem development, and in mathematical formulas.
The charactersitics of mathematical are repetition, harmony and Non-
monotonicity. Beauty is a vague concept. It is not easy to define, measure,
or estimate.
Keywords. Mathematical beauty, outer beauty, inner beauty,
mathematical formula.

1. Introduction
Mathematical beauty is the notion that some mathematicians generally use to
describe mathematical results, methods, which are interesting, unique, and
elegant. Mathematicians often regard these results and methods as elegant and
creative. They are often likened to a good poem or a passionate song.
Mathematical beauty manifests itself in a variety of ways. It might be cognitive,
or it might be in the form of symmetrical shapes. It might be visible or hidden
away. This is a broad notion that involves a large number of aspects of life, in
science and in art.

2. Main results
2.1. The concept of beauty
It is quite difficult to define beauty. It is an aesthetic category. It affects the
human senses and brings about feelings of joy and excitement, and creates
perfection and meaningfulness.
Mohammed said: If I had only two loaves of bread, I would barter one to
nourish my soul. (Huntley, 1970)
Richard Jefferies wrote: The hours when we absorbed by beauty are the only
hours when we really live These are the only hours that absorb the soul and

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fill it with beauty. This is real life, and all else is illusion, or mere endurance.
(Huntley, 1970)
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary states that, beauty is That quality or
combination of qualities which affords keen pleasure to the senses, especially
that of sight, or which charms the intellectual or moral faculties. (William, 2002)
Aquinas said Beauty is that which pleases in mere contemplation (Viktor,
According to an English proverb, Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Whether something is beautiful or not is dependent on a persons perception.
One might regard a painting as pretty and meaningful, while another regards
the same painting as ugly and meaningless. A beautiful painting or statue is not
likely to be loved by all. On the other hand, when it has earned the love of all
people, whether the painting is beautiful or not is of little importance. Beauty is
a vague concept. It is not easy to define, measure, or estimate.

2.2. The concept of mathematical beauty

There are many different views on mathematical beauty. It appears in a variety
of fields, from natural sciences to social sciences, and in everyday life. According
to Bertrand Russell, mathematical beauty is defined as follows: Mathematics,
rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty a beauty cold
and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker
nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure,
and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true
spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the
touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as
poetry. (Russell, 1919)
Edna St. Vincent Millay said Euclid alone has looked on beauty bare (Huntley,
Rota wrote: We think to instances of mathematics beauty as if they had been
perceived by an instantaneous realization, in moment of truth, like a light-bulb
suddenly being it. All the effort that went in understanding the proof of a beautiful
theorem, all the background material that is needed if the statement is to make any
sense, all the difficulties we met in following an intricate sequence of logical
inferences, all these features disappear once we become aware of the beauty of a
mathematical theorem and what will remain in our memory of our process of
learning is the image of an instant flash of insight, of a sudden light in the darkness
(Viktor, 2012)
From our point of view, the aesthetic element of mathematical beauty depends on our
outlook on the perfection of methods, problems, as well as on the perspective of the
mathematical subject. Mathematical beauty is the result of discovering both the inner
and outer link between mathematical objects and phenomena.

2.3. The characteristics of mathematical beauty

2.3.1. Repetition
As stated above, Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but the creator of a problem,
a formula or a drawing can only be considered successful when his creations are
acknowledged as being beautiful.
The first characteristic of mathematical beauty is repetition.

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Picture 1. Pythagorean Tree

A piece of music has repetitive beats in addition to choruses. A poem has repetitive
The most common and obvious feature of repetition is symmetry, which is when an
object has similar parts that can rotate or swap places without changing the overall
shape of the object itself.
There might be no other field in Mathematics that has as beautiful symmetrical
shapes as Fractals. The Pythagorean Tree above, as well as the following Mandelbrot
set, expresses the captivating beauty of repetition.

Picture 2. Mandelbrot set

2.3.2. Harmony
Harmony is an abstract concept. There is a combination of elements that gives off the
impression of being beautiful. Any two things are considered harmonious when they
are in tune with each other.
For example, if the movements of a swimmer (hands, legs, breathing, etc.)
correspond, his posture will look graceful and elegant; on the other hand, if his
movements are messy and out of tune, which indicates a lack of harmony, it is
difficult to stay afloat. In a painting, if the most important visuals are shoved into one
corner while the rest of the painting is blank, it is inharmonious, since the size of the
piece is not proportionate to the content. In a piece of music, it is common that there
are multiple notes sounding together at one time, rather than only one single note. If
all those notes resonate (in a physical sense), they sound pleasant and harmonious,
while separate notes not resonating make lousy sounds. A harmonious mathematical
problem must have a graceful way of wording, creating a number of meaningful
results. Take Fermats Last Theorem as an example: Prove that the Diophantine equation
x n y n z n has no integer solutions for n 2 and x , y , z 0. A problem is
inharmonious when it has excessively complicated wording, and the solution uses too
many unnecessary tricks.

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2.3.3. Non-monotonicity
Amateur artists can imitate famous works of art; for example, the Mona Lisa by
Leonardo de Vinci has been recreated numerous times by various artists. However,
no matter how similar they are, the copies are always inferior to the original in some
way. A great piece of art ought to have something new, different from its
Even in the same piece of art, if a single motif, however interesting it might be, is
repeated time and again, it can become monotonous. Therefore, it is necessary to
change, to create an element of surprise, in order to generate interest among the
audience. In Mathematics, applying a single method to a multitude of problems
would be far more monotonous than using different methods for different problems.

2.3.4. Human-relatedness
It is easier for people to grasp things that can be linked to information already existing
in their heads. Meanwhile, strange and random things that have no connection to
anything cannot stir up emotions within a person. That is the reason why many
paintings and sculptures have the human body as their main theme, since it is the
most familiar thing to people. A painting or a sculpture of a Martian, no matter
how beautiful, could hardly garner interest, as a Martian is a foreign concept to
Mathematical problems as well as topics have to be suitable for the person solving it.
If he has the ability to understand the results, his interest will be piqued, and he will
want to put more effort into his study. On the other hand, if he is unfamiliar with the
knowledge, it is easier for him to give up. According to Vygotsky, a person who
solves mathematical problems is only interested in the knowledge that is in his Zone
of Proximal Development. Problems that are too familiar are simple and
uninteresting, while ones that are too unfamiliar are too complex, and therefore also

2.4. Categorizing mathematical beauty

There are many ways to categorize mathematical beauty. It can be divided into inner
and outer beauty, or it can be categorized by fields, such as mathematical beauty in
Art, Computer Science, Physics or Music, etc. Or it can be divided into the beauty in
method, in problem development, and in mathematical formulas.

2.4.1. Categorizing mathematical beauty according to method, problem

development, and mathematical formulas
Mathematical beauty in method has the following characteristics:
- A proof that uses the additional assumptions or previous results.
- A proof that is quite simple.
- A new proof.
- A proof based on original insights.
- A proof can easily generalize to solve similar problems.
- A proof that might be long, but results in new, interesting and insightful results.
The following example illustrates the beauty in method. Our new proof for the
Bouniakowsky inequality is as follows (published on Romanian Mathematical

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Problem 1 (The CBS inequality)

Given x1 , x2 , .., xn ; y1 , y2 , ..., yn . Prove that
x 2
1 x22 ... xn2 y12 y22 ... yn2 x1 y1 x2 y2 ... xn yn .

The new solution is as follows

Case 1
If x12 x22 ... xn2 0 or y12 y22 ... yn2 0 we have Q. E. D.
Case 2
If x12 x22 ... xn2 0 or y12 y22 ... yn2 0 then we let
Rx2 x12 x22 ... xn2 ; Ry2 y12 y22 ... yn2 (1)
We have
x1 Rx sin 1 sin 2 ...sin n 2 sin n 1
x Rx sin 1 sin 2 ...sin n 2 cos n 1
x3 Rx sin 1 sin 2 ...cos n 2

xn Rx cos 1
y1 Ry sin 1 sin 2 ...sin n 2 sin n 1

y2 Ry sin 1 sin 2 ...sin n 2 cos n 1

y3 Ry sin 1 sin 2 ...cos n 2 .

yn Ry cos 1

We have
n2 n2
x1 y1 Rx Ry sin k sin k sin n1 sin n1 ; x2 y2 Rx Ry sin k sin k cos n1 cos n1 .
k 1 k 1

x1 y1 x2 y 2 |x1 y1 x2 y 2 | Rx Ry sin
k 1
k sin k . cos( n 1 n 1 )

Rx Ry . sin k sin k .
k 1

From this relation, we have:

x1 y1 x2 y2 x3 y3 |x1 y1 x2 y2 ... xn yn ||Rx Ry |(2).
From (1) and (2), we have
1 x22 ... xn2 y12 y22 ... yn2 x1 y1 x2 y2 ... xn yn . (Q. E. D)

x1 x 2 x
The equality happens if and only if ... n .
y1 y 2 yn
The beauty in problem development is the beauty of creativity in Mathematics.
Assimilating, specializing, and generalizing mathematical problems bring about a
deep understanding about a subject and help a person to discover the hidden link
between things. Through the results, the person will be able to realize the good and
exciting things that are normally hard to see.

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The following example demonstrates the beauty in mathematical problem


Problem 2
ABCD is a rectangle. Let M be the midpoint of AB , let H be the foot of the
perpendicular from C on BD , let N be the midpoint of DH . Prove that
CNM 900 .
The following are some solutions
Solution 1 (The synthetic method)

From N , draw NG // DC . By the midline theorem, we have:

NG // DC , NG
Thus NG // MB and NG MB or NGBM is a parallelogram. We have
MB BC , so NG BC. Thus, G is the orthocentre of the triangle NBC . Thus,
BG NC. It follows MN NC , i.e., CNM 900.
Solution 2 (The synthetic method)

Let P the midpoint of CD. We have PNB PMB PCB 1v. Thus, five points
P , N , M , B, C lie on a circle with the diameter MC. Thus, we have CNM 900.
Solution 3 (The vectorial method)

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We have
1 1 1
MN . NC ( AD BH ) . (DC HC ) ( AD BH ) . ( HB BC DC )
2 2 4
AD . HB . cos AD2 BH . BC . cos BH 2 BH . DC . sin
1 HD 1
(CH 2 BH . DC . ) (CH 2 BH . HD) 0.
4 DC 4

Thus, CNM 900.

Solution 4 (The trigonometric method)

In order to prove CNM 900 , we need to prove that MBCN is a concyclic

Indeed, we have
tan BMC tan BNC BMC BNC.
Thus, MNCB is a concyclic quadrilateral, which is CNM 900.
Solution 5 (The coordinate method)

Consider the system of Cartesian coordinates Dxy as the above figure. We have
b x y
D(0 ; 0), C(b ; 0), A(0 ; d), M( ; d), H( x1 ; y1 ), N 1 ; 1 .
2 2 2
The equation of the line MN is
x x1 b
x 1
2 2 2 x x1 x1 b y y 1 . x1 b
y y1 2 y1 2 d 2 y1 2 d
y 1 d
2 2
y 2d y x y 2d
y 1 x 1 1 . 1 .
x1 b 2 2 x1 b
The equation of the line NC is
x b x1 2 b y1 y1
y xb. .
y y1 x1 2 b x1 2 b

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The necessary and sufficient condition for MN NC is

y1 2 d y1
. 1 2 dy1 y12 x12 3bx1 2b 2
x1 b x1 2 b
2 dy1 x12 y12 3bx1 2b 2 .
Consider the equality
2 dy1 x12 y12 3bx1 2b 2 2 dy 1 DH 2 3DH 2 2(DH 2 HC 2 )
2 dy1 2DH 2 2(DH 2 HC 2 )
dy1 HC 2 dy1 HD . HB
y1 HB
cos ADB cos HBC .
This is obvious. Thus, we have MN NC , which is CNM 900.
Solution 6 (The transformative method)

Considering the vectorial rotation 900 , we have

DA DA ' x . DC
HB HC ' y . HC.
Since x y k.
1 1
NM (DA HB) NM ' k(DC HC ) kNC.
2 2
Hence MN NC , which is CNM 90 . 0

Solution 7 (The complex method)

Suppose that A( a), B(b), C(c ), D(d), M(m), N(n), H(h).

We have 2m a b ; 2n d h.
We need to prove m n i(c n)
Or we need to prove m n i(c ) 2(m n) i(2c d h ).
We have 4(m n) 2(2m 2n) 2( a b d h).
Thus, the thing which needs to be proved is equivalent to
2( a b d h) 4ic 2i(d h).

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By the hypothesis, ABCD is a rectangle and CH BD , so we have

(b ic )(1 i ) b c i(b c )
b h i(c h ) b h ic ih h
1 i2 2
2 h b c i(b c ).
The thing which needs to be proved is equivalent to
2( a b d ) 2 h 4ic 2id 2ih
2( a b d ) 4ic 2id 2 h(1 i )
2( a b d ) 4ic 2id b c i(b c ) (1 i )
2 a 2b 2 d(i 1) 4ic (b c )(1 i ) (i 1)(b c )
b c ib ic ib ic b c
Or we need to prove that
a d(i 1) ic 0 a d i(c d).
This is obvious. Thus, we have m n i(c n) , which is MN NC , or
CNM 900.
By drawing byroads, we obtain the similar problems of the problem 2. If we take
the point K on the opposite ray of the ray CD such that C is the midpoint of
CK , then CN is the midline of the triangle DHK (the figure).

Thus, NC // KH .
By the proof 1 of the problem 2, we have BG NC .
From two these things, we have KH BG.
Thus, we have just proved the similar problem of the problem 2 as follow
Problem 3
Given a triang1e BCD with C 900 ; the altitude CH . Let G be the midpoint of
CH. Let K be the point symmetric to D with respect to the point C . Prove that
Combining the problem 2 with the problem 3, we see that KH BG. On the
other hand BG // NM . Thus, KH MN.

We obtain the following problem

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Problem 4
ABCD is a rectangle. Let CH be the altitude of the triangle BCD. Let M be the
midpoint of AB, N be the midpoint of DH. Let K be the point symmetric to D
with respect to the point C . Prove that KH MN.
Using the parallel lines to AM or BN , we obtain problems which are similar to
the problem 2. Connect AH. Let E be the midpoint of segment BC , F be the
midpoint of segment AH (the figure).

We have CNFE being a parallelogram, so EF // CN. Because CN BG ,

EF BG. Thus, we have just proved the similar problem of the problem 2 as
Problem 5
ABCD is a rectangle. Let H be the projection from C onto BD. Let G , E, F be
the midpoints of segments CH , BC and AH , respectively. Prove that EF BG.
We now combine the problem 2 and the problem 4, then we see that NM // BG
and BG EF.

From this, we have the new following problem

Problem 6
ABCD is a rectangle. Let H be the projection from C onto BD. Let M , N , E, F
be the midpoints of AB, DH , CB, AH , respectively. Prove that MN EF.
From the problem 2, we generalize it to the problem in the space as follow
Problem 7
SABC is a pyramid with ABC is isosceles at A . Let D be the midpoint of
segment BC. Draw DE such that DE AB( E AB ). Know that SE ( ABC ).
Let M be the midpoint of DE. Prove that AM (SEC ).
Indeed, we have SE ( ABC ) , so SE AM.

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By the problem 2, AM CE.

From two results, we have AM (SEC ).
A generalization of problem 2 is as follows
Problem 8
ABCD is a parallelogram. Let H be the projection from C onto BD. Take the
points M on AB , N on HD and K on HC such that . Prove
that MN // BK.
The beauty in mathematical formulas is that mathematical results in different areas
are connected, which is hard to realize at the very beginning. This connection is
described as deep.
The example for the previous statement is the following Eulers identity: ei 1 0.
Physicist Richard Fetnman has regarded this as our jewel and the most
remarkable formula in mathematics.

2.4.2. Categorizing mathematical beauty into inner and outer beauty

Outer mathematical beauty is the visual feature that affects a persons senses. A
drawing, a formula, or a problem interests a person and makes him pay more
attention. This is the outer mathematical beauty.
In contrast to outer beauty, there is inner mathematical beauty. It is impossible to see
this beauty at first glance. The person has to spend a large amount of time
contemplating, thinking, and studying in order to discover the inner connection
between things, as well as the outer connection. When he has discovered these results,
he feels happy and satisfied.
Both inner beauty and outer mathematical beauty are important. However, the inner
beauty is harder to see, and a person has to have adequate ability to do so. In many
cases, the discovery of the outer and inner beauty of a mathematical problem is
synonymous to mathematical creativity.
For example, Fermats Last Theorem: Prove that the Diophantine equation x n y n z n
has no integer solutions for n 2 and x , y , z 0, the outer beauty is the simplicity of
the equation, and the inner beauty is that it is an interesting and surprising theorem
about the combination of integers in a formula. These integers are dancing
harmoniously in the musical piece that is the formula, and this is the true beauty of
Fermats Last Theorem, expressed by mathematical symbols.

2.4.3. Categorizing mathematical beauty into different fields

a) Mathematical beauty in Computer Science
There is a close connection between Mathematics and Computer science. There are
two applications of Mathematics in Computer Science. The first one is the
mathematical theories models that are the basis for the development of Computer
Science. The second one is using Mathematics to solve Computer Science problems
and applications, finding mathematical theories and tools and putting them into use.
Mathematics makes Computer Science more beautiful and profound. Most problems
in Computer Science need the use of high to very high level modern Mathematics.
An example of mathematical beauty in Computer Science is the following algorithm

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Problem 8
Write code that sums according to the expression S 1 2 3 ... (n 1) n.
The algorithm for this problem is:
1. S 0; i 0.
2. Input natural number n
3. While ( i n )
3.1. Increment i by 1
3.2. S S i.
4. Repeat from step 2
5. End algorithm
However, for this problem, we can use Mathematics to produce a result much
n(n 1)
faster. We have 1 2 3 ... (n 1) n . So the algorithm can be:
1. Input natural number n .
n(n 1)
2. Output .
Above is only one example of mathematical beauty in Computer Science. Using
Mathematics, one can simplify a great number of programming problems. This
illustrates the close link between the two fields. Mathematics makes Computer
Science more beautiful.
b) Mathematical beauty in Physics
mathematics and Physics are closely tied to each other. Without Mathematics,
Physics wouldnt have developed so rapidly. Many physicists have built their
theories on mathematical background. A typical example is Albert Einstein, who
built his General Theory of Relativity based on mathematical background and
non-Euclidean geometry. There is an entire subject called Equations of
Mathematical Physics for students studying Physics.
Einstein once remarked that, beautiful theories are often accepted more readily,
even if they have yet to be proven. An example is one of his own, most famous
equation, E = mc2. In a lecture at Oxford University in 1933, Einstein said that
mathematical beauty was what guided him as a theoretical physicist. In other
words, finding the simplest, most mathematically correct relationships, and then
applying theories about how they operate. According to Einstein, the pinnacle of
science is beauty and simplicity.
Newtons laws can be expressed in the form of the following equation:

Beauty is eternal. So are beautiful equations. They are always true as they reflect
what is inherent in nature, although previously hidden. Everything has its own
law, which can be expressed in equation form and is comprehensible. One just

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needs to spend time looking into it, like Einstein said Look deep into nature,
and then you will understand everything better. (Cesti)
c) Mathematical beauty in interior design and in everyday life
Geometric beauty can be observed in many aspects of life. An example of this is
ratios which are considered harmonious. A ratio in mathematics is a relationship
between measurements of different things or different parts in one thing. For
instance, the ratio between body measurements of someone who is 1.7m tall
with a 90cm chest, 60cm waist and 90cm hips is 170:90:60:90, which is equal to
17:9:6:9. If one wants to make a 17cm tall figurine looking exactly like that
person (or in mathematical terms, the figurine is geometrically similar to that
person), the bust-waist-hips measurements of the figurine must be 9cm, 6cm and
9cm respectively, which are the real persons measurements divided by 10.
(Nguyen, T., D)
Homothety, as well as the Thales theorem is directly related to ratio and
similarity. Homothety preserves ratio and maps a straight line into a straight
line parallel to it. A cinema projector actually uses homothety to project films
onto a big screen.
While mentioning ratio, it is crucial not to leave out the golden ratio since it
appears in patterns in nature and plays an important role in human society.

Consider two segments, a is the length of the longer segment, b is the length of
the shorter segment and a + b is the sum of a and b. When these quantities satisfy
ab a a
, the ratio is said to be the golden ratio. Solving a quadratic
a b b
equation gives the value of the ratio, which is 1.61803398875 (approximately
1.62). The Greek letter phi ( ) is used to represent the golden ratio.
Now, consider a golden rectangle (the ratio of the longer side to the shorter side
is ), theres some kind of connection to the natural essence in it. It appears that
compositions displayed in a golden rectangle can make people feel at ease. They
are also regarded as being well-organized and pleasing to the eyes.
Should the quantities a, b which satisfy the golden ratio be generally extended,
one of them is the Fibonacci sequence. The Fibonacci sequence is defined by the
recurrent relation Fn Fn1 Fn2 with F1 F2 1, n N * . This sequence is of
great importance because it represents numerous laws of nature. Arranging
rectangles based on the Fibonacci numbers in ascending order results in the
image of a spiral depicting the sequence - the golden spiral. The golden spiral
occurs a lot in nature.

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In interior design, the use of the golden ratio mainly focusing on golden
rectangle can create spatial harmony. This ratio helps to design furnishings by
keeping their widths and lengths in proportion. Furthermore, it suggests which
part of the room should be decorated, which should be used to store the
furniture, etc... (Ahd)

d) Mathematical beauty in poetry

The four lines of this poem is very known:
A Book of Verses undernearth the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, A Loaf of Bread and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
The four-line stanza above is a poem written by Omar Khayyam in Persian in
the XI-XII centuries and was translated into English by Edward Fitzgerald (1809-
1883) in the IX century. Of the millions of people who know Khayyams poems,
only a few know that he was a brilliant mathematician and astronomer in his
time. In 1070, when he was only 22, Khayyam wrote a notable mathematical
book named Treatise on Demonstrations of Problems of Algebra. In this book,
Pascals triangle (a triangular array of Newtons binomial coefficients) and a
geometric solution to cubic equations the intersection of a hyperbola with a
circle - were found. Khayyam also contributed greatly to non-Euclidean
geometry with a book titled Explanations of the Difficulties in the Postulates of
Euclid. In the book, he proved some non-Euclidean properties of figures (though
it is unknown whether or not non-Euclidean spaces really existed).
In Persia, Omar Khayyam originally achieved fame in the role of an astronomer.
He was the one who introduced detailed astronomical tables (or ephemeris,
which gives the positions of naturally occurring astronomical objects) and

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calculated the precise length of a solar year (365,24219858156 days). Based on

these calculations, Khayyam proposed the Jalali calendar. The Jalali calendar is
even more accurate than the present calendar.
People whove always seen mathematicians as impassive, unemotional people
might be surprised if they find these sayings of none other than the dry
mathematicians themselves:
A mathematician who is not also something of a poet will never be a complete
mathematician. - Karl Weierstrass.
It is impossible to be a mathematician without being a poet in soul. - Sofia
But why do mathematicians need to be poets in soul? Its simply because
Mathematics is in accordance with poetry. The ultimate aim of both
Mathematics and poetry is creating high aesthetic values. Therefore, only
beautiful poems can last for a long time. The same goes for Mathematics; only
beautiful mathematical works with high value can withstand the power of time
and become classics. As Godfrey H. Hardy (1877-1947) once said: Beauty is the
first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.
Both Mathematics and poetry are symbols of creativity. To create, one must have
inspiration. If a muse is a poets source of inspiration, a maths muse must
be the inspiration of mathematicians. Although they might serve different
subjects on different occasions, muse or maths muse, they are in fact the
In Mathematics, not only can creativity result in new theorems, but also new
areas of mathematics growing over time. Its no different in poetry, various
poetic styles have been created through the course of history as old styles are not
necessarily used.
Mathematics and poetry both require vivid imagination, perceptive creativity,
language coherence, a thorough grasp of grammar and rules and so on. The
language used in poetry is the normal language, while Mathematics has its own
language with special concepts and symbols. However, they both use language
to express ideas.
Theres an especially significant quality which Mathematics and poetry share,
that is succinctness. As British poet Robert Browning (1821 1889) once said: All
poetry is putting the infinite within the finite. Voltaire (1694 1778), a renowned
philosopher also said: One merit of poetry few persons will deny: it says more and in
fewer words than prose. Mathematics, too, is succinct. The mathematical concepts
and theorems can be very short, but comprehensive. Its as if they contain a
whole universe in such few words and because of this, its not always easy to
understand Mathematics, or poetry. (Nguyen, T., D.)
e) Mathematical beauty in other fields
Mathematics has a tremendous impact on all life aspects nowadays, from natural
environment to social life. For instance, thanks to simulation modeling,
engineers can predict and solve many technical problems. Mathematics has
undoubtedly become extremely important in the modern world.

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


6. Conclusion
Mathematical beauty is a relatively abstract concept. Theres no one who can
quantify or measure it. It is also highly subjective. Whether or not a
mathematical problem is beautiful really depends on the perspective of the one
who solves it. Some fundamental traits that mathematical beauty possesses are:
repetition, symmetry, harmony, non-monotonicity and human-relatedness.
There are various ideas of categorizing mathematical beauty. It can be
categorized based on problem developing, problem solutions or mathematical
formulae. Beauty can be on the inside or outside. But no matter how
mathematical beauty is categorized, its undeniable that Mathematics is truly
beautiful and there needs to be more in-depth researches on the beauty of it.

Aharoni, R. (2014), Mathematics, Poetry and Beauty,
World Scientific Publishing Co.
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Educational Publishing House.
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The Vietnamese Educational Publishing House.
Dowson, M. (2015), Beginning C++ Through Game Programming, Cengage Learning PTR; 4
Hoang, C. (1997), The arithmetic The Queen of mathematics, The Vietnamese Educational
Publishing House.
Hoang, C. (2000), Solving elementary problems on the computer, The Vietnamese
Educational Publishing House.
Hoang, C. (2000), What is the fractal geometry?, The Vietnamese Educational Publishing
Hoang, Q. (1997), Mathematical Romance, The Vietnamese Educational Publishing House.
Huntley, H., E. (1970), The divine proportion, A study in Mathematical Beauty, Dover
Publications, Inc., New York.
Nguyen, C., T. (2003), 74 stories on learning mathematics intelligently and creatively, Nghe
An Publishing House.
Nguyen, T., D. (2016), Maths and Arts, The Vietnamese Literature publishing.
Nguyen, X., H. (2015), The creation in Algorithms proggramming (Volume 1), The
Information and Media Publishing House.
Nguyen, X., H. (2015), The creation in Algorithms proggramming (Volume 2), The
Information and Media Publishing House.
Nguyen, X., H. (2015), The creation in Algorithms proggramming (Volume 3), The
Information and Media Publishing House.
Polster, B. (2004), Q.E.D. Beauty in mathematical proof, Bloomsbury USA.
Russell, B. (1919), The Study of Mathematics, Longman, p.60.
Sinclair, N. (2006), Mathematics and beauty, Teachers College Press.
Stewart, I. (2008), Why Beauty is Truth, First Trade Paper Edition.
Tran, V., H., Nguyen, M., H., Nguyen, V., D., Tran, D., H. (2017), Basic geometry 10th, The
Vietnam Educational Publishing House.
Tran, V., H., Nguyen, M., H., Khu, Q., A., Nguyen, H., T., Phan, V., V. (2017), Basic
geometry 11th, The Vietnamese Educational Publishing House.
Van, N., C., Pham, K., B., Ta, M. (2017), Advanced geometric exercises 11th, The Vietnamese
Educational Publishing House.
Viktor, B. (2012), A definition of Mathematical Beauty and Its History, Journal of Humanistic
Mathematics, Vol 2.
Vu, Q., L. (2015), The hapiness of creation, The Vietnamese Educational Publishing House.

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William, R. T, (2002), Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press; 5th
The Vietnamese Childhood Mathematics magazine 2.
The Vietnamese Maths and Youth magazine.
Ahd. Retrieved from: http://www.ahd.com.vn/article/thiet-ke-noi-that/ty-le-vang-
Diendantoanhoc. Retrieved from: https://diendantoanhoc.net/topic/5729-
Cesti. Retrieved from: http://www.cesti.gov.vn/muon-mau-cuoc-song/nhung-
Danviet. Retrieved from: http://danviet.vn/tin-tuc/nhung-sieu-y-tuong-lam-

The address:
1. Dr student Van-Tha Nguyen, Phung Hung high school,
14A, Street 1, Ward 16, Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam
Email: thamaths@gmail.com
2. Ngoc-Giang Nguyen
Dr of Banking University Ho Chi Minh,
36 Ton That Dam, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city,
Email: nguyenngocgiang.net@gmail.com

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 5, pp. 31-41, May 2017

The Implication of Distance Learning in

Competence-Based Maritime Education and
Yanning JIANG
Deputy Director, Ministry of Transport,
No.11 Jiangguomennei Avenue,
Beijing, China

Quan LI
Lecturer, Dalian Maritime University,
1st Linghai road,
Dalian, China

Abstract. According to Section B-I/6 of the Seafarers Training, Certification and

Watchkeeping Code (STCW Code), using distance learning and e-learning method to
train the seafarers may be approval by the contracting parties considering the standards
of training and assessment set out in section A-I/6 of the STCW Code (IMO, 2011).This
paper will focus on the implication of distance education in competence-based Maritime
Education and Training (MET).

Firstly, this paper will briefly introduce the background of competence-based MET,
which is connected to the real shipping practice and may be referred as standards or
performance based. Then this paper give the background of distance learning, which the
learners and instructors are in different places. It will also introduce the fast
development of the emerging technologies in the distance learning area.

Furthermore, this paper would discuss the implication of distance-learning in

competence-based MET. Some suggestions would be made in order to enhance MET,
including the revision of related regulations and domestic laws in order to recognize the
implication of distance learning in competence-based MET. A thorough quality
standards system that monitors the competence-based MET and the whole process of
distance-learning should be implemented.

Keywords: STCW; Competence-based; Maritime Education and Training;

Distance-learning; Quality standards system

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1. Introduction

According to the statics of International Maritime Organization (IMO), human

errors contribute to about 80% of the maritime accidents. The poor competence
of seafarers is one of the main reasons that lead to the loss of life, large number
of injuries and extensive financial loss (Ziarati, 2006). Therefore, it is important
to have more reliable and effective MET system capable to overcome the
problem of human errors and be able to keep face with shipping industry
updates (Ahmed, 2016).
The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and
Watchkeeping for seafarers (STCW Convention) try to give the international
minimum standards for maritime education and training and the minimum
requirements for the competences of seafarers. In 1995, the STCW Convention
was totally amended to emphasis on the minimum competence of seafarers. In
2010, this the minimum competence of seafarers were clearly enhanced by newly
Manila Amendments of STCW Convention. The use of distance learning and e-
learning in MET is encouraged by the new amendments once again (Ruan, 2013).
Distance learning and e-learning for training of seafarers are suggested under
approval in Section B-1/6 of STCW Code.
In order to be well prepared for distance education in Maritime Training and
Education (MET), it is quite essential to understand its implication. As the
seafarers are on the first line to implement the conventions and regulations
developed by the shipping industry, therefore, to improve the competence of
seafarers by all means would help the shipping industry to enhance the safety of
navigation and marine environment pollution prevention.
This paper tries to explain the development of distance education in
competence-based MET and the future challenges that MET institutions would
face. Some advices were concluded for well preparing the distance education for
MET institutions and the Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) to improve
MET practices.

2. Competence-based MET

2.1 Competence

Competence has very border meaning and usually refer to the minimum
requirements of a worker to do the job. Competence can also be defined as the
worthy performance. That is to say, in order to fulfil or exceed the objectives for
their personal work, team, even the organization, it is the competence that
describes the basic skills, knowledge and attitudes that people have to obtain
(Gilbert, 1978). Therefore, the competences integrated with knowledge, skills
and attitudes in the learning process are the basis in education and training.
Some countries, such as England, Scotland, Wales, Australia and New Zealand
even integrated competence-based training into their national vocational
qualification system. Currently, there are two main competence-based training
model, the US model and the UK model. US model often put competences into a
training program and take the priority for how to use the competences during
the whole learning process. However, the UK model regard the competence as
the units of assessment of workplace of activity. The International Maritime

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Organization (IMO) adapted the UK standards model of competence-based

training for STCW 95(Emad& Roth, 2008).

2.2 Competence-based MET

The STCW Code Section A-1/6 Training and assessment item 3 on Qualifications
of instructors, supervisors and assessors says:
Each party shall ensure that instructors, supervisors and assessors are
appropriately qualified for the particular types and levels of training and
assessment of competence of seafarers either on board or ashore, as required
under the Convention
In the Code, the numerous tables each have four columns: competence is in
column 1, knowledge, understanding and proficiency (KUP) are in column 2,
methods for demonstrating competence are described in column 3 and column 4
shows the criteria for evaluating competence.
Competence-based MET is a kind of method to approach MET that focus on
seafarer can do, in respect to meeting specific standards rather than a seafarers
achievement. In competence-based education, student progress through learning
objectives as they demonstrate mastery of content, at their own pace. It allows
them to show what they know as soon as they know it. It is focused on what
seafarers can do rather than on the course they have learnt (Deibinger &
Hellwing, 2011). The main difference between competence-based education and
traditional education are stated as following. First, for the curriculum, it can be
variable in class structure as stated in the STCW where the management level,
operate level and support level are listed. However, traditional education has
standardized structure regardless of prior knowledge. Besides, all the
competence must be mastered in competence-based education. In tradition
education, some concepts may not be mastered by the student

3. Distance education

3.1 Definition

Distance education is an educational process and system in which all or a

significant proportion of the teaching is carried out by someone or something
removed in space and time from the learner (UNESCO, 2016). Therefore,
distance education is a broad approach characterized by a high degree of
variation of space and time. There are a considerable number of researchers
analyses that the concept of distance learning as additional mode of
acquiring/transferring knowledge and skills in maritime education (Ng et al.,
2009; Bauk et al., 2012; Buzadija, 2011; Flatcher and Dodds, 2003; Hanzu-Pazaraet
al., 2010; Kadioglu, 2008).
With the rapidly developing of information technology, the new electronic
teaching methods particularly through the internet, and different types of media
and platforms narrow the distinctions between generations.

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3.2 Reasons for integrated distance education in MET

Distance education has its own advantages and disadvantages like any kind
other educational program. Before the distance education program start to enrol
students, carefully consideration should undertook by both students and
teachers in order to make sure that the distance education program meets the
minimum requirements illustrated in STCW.

(1) Distance education advantages

As the traditional classroom training program require the seafarers to fix time
and location, however, distance education program in MET can give a flexible
alternative on time and location. Distance education can also relatively reduce
the training fees and allow the students to learn without entering school. Besides,
with the highly change of maritime technology and legal requirement, many
refresher courses can also be delivered through distance education.

(2) Distance education disadvantages

However, there exist some disadvantages for the distance education in MET.
Lack of social interaction is one of the main disadvantages. Although the student
can have some interaction through email, chat rooms and other on-line platform,
however, it is quite different than traditional classroom education. Besides, not
all course can be offered online. Some courses directly with practical skills are
hard to deliver by distance education.

4. Distance education in competence-based MET

4.1 Development distance education program in competence-based MET

According to STCW Code Section B-1/6 Guidance regarding training and

assessment, each party has the responsibility to supervise the objectives and
outcomes of distance and e-learning programs meeting the minimum
requirements on the competences. Besides, unambiguous and direct instructions
should be made to the distance education program to help the trainees
understand the subject well. At last, professional and timely support through
web, email, telephone and all other possible means should be provided by the
teachers to help the seafarers systematically and effectively learning in the
One of the challenges that the distance learning may pose to competence-based
MET is meeting the requirements of STCW in addition to the issue on quality
assurance (C.Swapp, 2001). Therefore, on the basis of guidance from STCW, this
paper develop the Figure 1 that shows the process of how to develop a distance
education program in competence-based MET.

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Prepare others for Develop learning
CBMET program activities

Identify/obtain Determine the

Design your CBMET Get materials and
Start competency features of DE for
program resources
standards CBMET

Ensure registration
Develop as a training
Organize the
management provider and
procedures accreditation of
your course

Learner(s) enter(s) your DE for CBMET system

Continually monitor your DE for CBMET planning and development

Fig 1: Development distance education program for competence-based MET

The crafting of distance education program in competence-based MET needs

much careful planning and designing and continuous quality monitoring during
the whole development process.

The first step is to identify the competences required in STCW Convention. As

the STCW convention divided the seafarers into 3 categories, which is
management level, operational level and support level. Each level would have
their own competences required in the STCW Convention, thus it is the first step
to identify and check the competences of the distance training program.
Secondly, it is also important to illustrate the course delivery tools to the
seafarers as different training providers may have different ways to delivery
their own subjects.

Then, the learning environment through distance education must be stated and
materials and resources should be provided for the learners. The program
should also give the detail information on how to assess and the minimum
requirement for passing the assessment.
At last, the management of distance education program and all the procedures
should be covered by a quality standard system.

4.2 Learning in distance education program

In distance education program of competence-based MET, the learner has more

responsibility in the learning process, however, the teachers must be qualified to
guide the learner as well as assessment procedures. Figure 2 shows the whole
process of learning in distance education program of competence-based MET

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enter(s)your DE for
CBMET system

instructions and
procedures In the Are all required
competence(s) competences
achieved completed

Trainer assess
Learner identifies a
competence(s) to
work on
against criteria
Learner attempt
the competence
preferably in the
Learner exists with a
Learner engages in Learner self-assess
recognized credential
various learning performance
or statement of
activities in DE against criteria

Continually monitor your DE for CBMET system

Fig 2: Learning in distance education program for competence-based MET

Although the distance education program provides a self-paced mode of

learning and flexible delivery of competences under STCW, however, it does not
mean that learning is totally unstructured.
Firstly, it is very essential to identify which competences the learner wants to
achieve. This includes analysis how many competences already gained and
which still need to learn.
Secondly, the learner undertakes the learning activity engages in various
competences based performance is measured according to specific criteria stated
in STCW.
At last, assessment will be conducted to confirm whether all required
competence have been achieved. If some competences are already achieved, the
learner can step back to enroll this program again unless all the competences
listed in STCW are gained and relatively statement or recognized certificate will
be issued.

4.3 Example MET programs through distance education

4.3.1 Current MET programs through distance education

Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA) is deemed as the pioneer using distance

education in MET. Around 2000, SMA developed an e-learning program based
on CD-ROM to provide a training course regarding launching lifeboat.
Nowadays, more and more MET institutions and shipping companies have
involved in developing distance education programs in MET.
For Example, California Maritime Academy offers on-line training course for
maritime security awareness from 2006(Webster, 2006). Plymouth University in

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UK have made a lot efforts in distance education and provide some course
delivered by distance education. Some Non-government organizations,
Classification Society and maritime training centre also provide some training
courses by distance education.

4.3.2 Establish a competence based training program through distance


Since the International Ship and Port Facility Code (ISPS) was agreed at the
International Maritime Organization in December 2002, the issue of security
amongst shipping and port industries has become of paramount importance, not
least due to the rise of piracy in several areas of the world (for example, the
Somalia Coast, the Gulf of Aden and the west coast of Africa).
The STCW 2010 Manila Amendments came into force on 1 January 2012. Ship
security training is becoming mandatory requirements for all seafarers. We have
developed a range of courses to meet the requirements of the STCW Convention
and ISPS Code.

Module 1: Proficiency in Security Awareness(2 days)

Under the STCW 2010 Manila Amendments, this course shall be undertaken by
all seafarers employed or engaged in any capacity on ships which are required to
comply with ISPS Code (Table A-VI/6-1, STCW Code).
1. Contribute to the enhancement of maritime security through heightened
2. Recognition of security threats
3. Understanding of the need for and methods of maintaining security
awareness and vigilance

Module 2: Proficiency in Designated Security Duties (3 days)

Every seafarer who is designated to perform security duties, including anti-
piracy and robbery-related activities, shall be required to demonstrate
competence to undertake the tasks, duties and responsibilities listed following
(Table A-VI/6-2, STCW Code):
1. Maintain the conditions set out in a ship security plan
2. Recognition of security risks and threats
3. Undertake regular security inspections of the ship
4. Proper usage of security equipment and systems, if any

Module 3: Proficiency as Ship Security Officer (7 days)

Every candidate for a certificate of proficiency as a ship security officer shall be
required to demonstrate competence to undertake the tasks, duties and
responsibilities listed following (Table A-VI/5, STCW Code):
1. Maintain and supervise the implementation of a ship security plan
2. Assess security risk, threat and vulnerability
3. Undertake regular inspections of the ship to ensure that appropriate
security measures are implemented and maintained
4. Ensure that security equipment and systems, if any, are properly
operated, tested and calibrated
5. Encourage security awareness and vigilance.

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5. Challenges and suggestions

5.1 Challenges

As current practice in MET, distance learning is not applicable and popularized

for mandatory certification of seafarers due to the lack of approved training
facilities, approved examination and assessment systems and quality standards
system to control the MET activities.
(1) Technical challenges
Distance education tools and technology were agreed to be effective
supplements for the traditional learning styles (Suresh& Anne, 2014). In recent
times, advanced software programs, associated hardware and simulation tools
have enable multi-mode distance learning options (Lokuketagoda,
Ranmuthugala and Jayasinghe, 2015). However, in some countries, it might be
very difficult to access the Internet. The limitation of computer and IT
technology to some extent may hamper the using of distance education. In such
a circumstance, the above provisions in the amendment constitute important
technical support, and more and more distance learning and e-learning activities
may come up then.
(2) Assessment in distance education
Assessment in distance education is also one of the key issues. Summative and
formative assessment are the two main categories of assessment based on the
function each serves and the timing of its application (William & Black, 1996;
Harlen & James, 1997). In traditional classroom education and training,
assessment can be through assignments, exams, and tests. It is important to
design valid and reliable competence-based assessment that resemble situations
that starting professionals or trainees can confronted with in real working life.
Competency-based assessment is a collection of evidence to demonstrate that the
seafarer can perform or behave according to the minimum competences in
STCW Convention (Sharon, 2012).
(3) Quality assurance
Regulation I/8 emphasizes that all training, assessment of competence,
certification, including medical certification, endorsement and revalidation
activities are continuously monitored through a quality standards system
(STCW, 2011).
Monitoring of all the processes of distance education program to improve the
accreditation standards, guidelines and procedures for quality assurance
regarding learning, faculty, students, scale and access should be fully
(4) Competence standards
The core feature of a competence-based MET program is the minimum
standards of the competence. Therefore, it is quite essential to identify the
training needs under STCW. However, for a cadet pursuing his/her certificate
may not have all the mandatory courses available through distance education as
it is not suitable for all competences. For example, some practical skills cannot
learn and perform through distance education.

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5.2 Suggestions

(1) Improve the legal framework

It is suggested that related administration to amend or improve the current law
and regulations under the requirements of STCW Convention to promote the
distance education as a recognized method for MET. Distance education for
seafarers has to be recognised as an authorised form of education (Jerzy & Pawel,
2014). IMO and the administration are responsible to arrange a proper transition
process to distance education(Gholamreza & Wolff, 2008).For example, it is very
important to develop a legal framework that allows certification and
examination system under distance education in MET.
(2) Promote international cooperation between MET institutions
Nowadays, the number of maritime institutions providing distance education
program is small after all. For the most of MET institutions, challenges will be
encountered during the implementation of distance education program in
respect of maintaining qualified maritime expertise, installation of training
simulators and equipment, etc. The theme of 17th Annual General Assembly of
International Association of Maritime Universities was working together: the
key way to enhance the quality of maritime education, training and research.
Therefore, co-operations and networking between MET institutions, thus, is
recommended in such a case. Likewise, the recognition of credits between two
different MET institutions may also be an issue to consider.
(3) Establish lifelong distance education platform
With the rapid development of maritime conventions and application of modern
maritime technologies, sustainable refresher learning would occur among the
whole shipping industry. Distance education may be the most flexible method to
provide this kind training. Therefore, it is suggested to establish lifelong distance
education platform with various and quality courses.

6. Conclusion

The STCW 78/10 Convention requires levels of knowledge, understanding and

skill for all seafarers on each level, and distance education is one of the methods
recommended to achieve this outcome. This paper firstly give the definitions of
competence-based MET as well as distance education. Some advantages and
disadvantages for integrating competence-based MET through distance
education were illustrated. Secondly, this paper also provides the developing
process and learning process in distance education of competence-based MET.
At last, some challenges in technical, assessment, quality assurance and
competences standards are detailed analyses and some related suggestions are
given for improving.

While distance education is growing, it may be not as good as the traditional

training programmes to some extent. This paper would welcome all maritime
academy to collaborate in coming up with solutions for seafarers training by
distance education in competence-based MET.

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from https://www.csum.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=791038cc-71bd-4873-af62-
William, D., & Black, P. (1996). Meaning and consequences: a basis for distinguishing formative and
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Authors Biographies

Yanning JIANG is the deputy director of the department of personal and education
department of the Ministry of Transport of China. She got her Masters degree at the World
Maritime University, Malm, Sweden where she is specializing in Maritime Safety and
Environment Administration.

Quan LI is a lecturer at the Navigation College, Dalian Maritime University, where he has
been employed since 2012. He is a certified navigational officer and got his Masters degree
at World Maritime University, Malm, Sweden where he is specializing in Maritime
Education and Training.

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 5, pp. 42-52, May 2017

Education in Iran: Limitations Imposed by


David V. Powell and Simin Cwick

Southeast Missouri State University
Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA

Abstract. Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the shift to a fully

theocratic state radically changed society, including the structure,
culture, and intellectual focus of education. Under clerical
guardianship of the jurisprudent, curriculum at all levels became a
tool for political and ideological propaganda, with as much as 25% of
the day devoted to Shiite religious instruction. Systematic changes
completely reversed any hint of modernization from pre-revolutionary
days, institutionalizing a significant discriminatory bias throughout
society. Religious minorities are sanctioned and systematically harassed
with impunity. The Islamization of education included forced
conformity of all courses of study and textbooks to Shiite rules and
values, suppression of any non-Shiite beliefs or historical context, the
institution of religious loyalty tests for teachers and students, and
mandatory segregation of schools by gender. Despite almost equal
attainment at every educational level, massive educational inequities
persist for women, who are officially excluded from many high-paying
technical fields. Rigid theocratic control ultimately limits attempts to
modernize or democratize education and any associated opportunities.
Keywords: Iran; democratization; education; gender; discrimination.

The Rise of the Theocratic State

In modern society, it is rare to find a country that has gone from a constitutional
monarchy to a complete theocracy. Just decades ago, Iran was considered the
Europe of the Middle East, a model of modern western social and cultural
identity, but in less than four decades this has completely changed. This paper
presents a brief analysis of the effects of these changes on access to education
and democratic opportunities for women and minorities in Iran.
Although Iran is a modern republican state with a popularly elected parliament
and president, Muslim traditions and practices of Sharia supersede modern
standards of secular law and civil rights. The Assembly of Experts, a group of
clerics elected by popular ballot, appoints the Supreme Leader, who serves as
Commander-in-Chief, appoints judges, and has the final say in selection of key
government ministers. However, all candidates for the Assembly and positions
of national leadership must be vetted by the Guardian Council (Cole, 2015),
twelve experts in Islamic law, chosen directly or indirectly by the Supreme

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Leader. Hence, any action by the President or Parliament depends by law

largely on the willingness of the Supreme Leader to permit it (Kagan, 2012,
para. 4).
In 1979, following the overthrow of Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, the Grand
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became Supreme Leader. Khomeini decried
secular nationalism as a tool of the devil, (Cole, 2015), exhorting, We will
break all the poison pens of those who speak of nationalism, democracy, and
such things. (Alexander & Hoenig, 2008, p. 26). Khomeinis is popularly
associated with the 12th Imam, a messianic figure in Shiite theology (Cook,
2011). Although he never explicitly identified himself as the 12th Imam, he
styled himself as guardian of Muslims in the first government of God on
earth (Ahdiyyih, 2008, para. 3), invoking the principle of velayt-e faqih, or
guardianship of the jurisprudent.
At the same time, the Shiite clergy undertook draconian measures to limit the
power and influence of Iranian intellectuals, many of whom had developed
close associations with Western ideas and values. Many students and academics
who were previously allies of the radical clergy began to challenge Khomeini,
calling for democracy and nationalism. By 1980, universities re-emerged as
centers of resistance. Khomeini declared Daneshgahi Jahadeh, Universities Holy
War, to ensure the prevalence of Islamic faith in every aspect of university life
(Tamer, 2010, p 65). All schools and universities were closed, including primary
and secondary schools as well as all foreign-run schools. Thousands of teachers
were expelled or forced to retire. Textbooks and instructional materials were
completely revised to purify them from un-Islamic influence. Many courses in
the humanities were eliminated and religion courses added instead. Behavior
and dress were regulated and in many cases, students and faculty were required
to affirm belief in Islam and the authority of velayt-e faqih. In 1983, Iranian public
universities began to reopen, but many teachers and intellectuals had already
fled Iran to escape persecution, which weakened the quality of education,
further undermining any chance of reversion to a democratic culture (Afshar,
1985; Tamer, 2010).
Following the death of Khomeini in 1989, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who had
served as President since 1981, was elected Supreme Leader. Khamenei further
consolidated the unity of theological and secular rule, involving the office of
Supreme Leader more intimately in daily political affairs (Nasr, 2007). In the late
1990s, President Mohammad Khatami briefly challenged the supremacy of
Khameneis clerical rule in favor of popular sovereignty, personal liberty, and
freedom of speech (Cole, 2015. However, this challenge was quickly sidelined, as
Khamenei reasserted personal control (Nasr, 2007).
Islamic conservatives regained the presidency in 2005, with the election of
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a populist hardliner and leader of a faction advocating
an Islamic government free from democratic pretenses and devoid of modern
concepts of human rights and the equality of the sexes (Adhiyyih, 2008, para.
17). In 2009, Ahmadinejads re-election to a second term was briefly opposed by
the relative liberals of the Green Movement, who accused the government of
stealing the election. However, Khamenei affirmed the results and announced
that he would not tolerate the Green Movement or its agenda (Milani, 2015). For

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


the next six months, the Greens staged protests and demonstrations in favor of
popular rule, but the Khamenei regime soon reasserted control, suppressing
opposition (Cole, 2015). With the election of Hassan Rouhani as president in
2013, there once again appeared to be a chance for reform but, without support
from the ruling ayatollahs, changes have been largely superficial (Nader, 2015).
Rouhanis re-election as president on May 20, 2017, has been widely acclaimed
in Iran as a populist victory legitimizing a mandate for reform, defeating hard-
line cleric Ebrahim Raisi with a 57% plurality (Erebrink, 2017). Reformists and
moderates won all 21 seats in the Tehran City Council, and major gains in
several other cities, including Mashad, Raisis home town. However, as Erebrink
noted, hard-liners have their own centers of power and Iranian activists are
already bracing for a possible wave of arrests, as happened after Mr. Rouhani
was elected in 2013 (para. 24).
Modernization of education in Iran
Traditional Iranian education was completely under the control of the clergy,
existing solely to teach the Quran and Islamic law (Curtis & Hoogland, 2008). In
1907, Reza Pahlavi Shah established a Ministry of Education with a mandate to
promote nationalism through education, patriotism, civic responsibility, and
rule of secular law (Tamer, 2010). The mandate of this Ministry was threefold, to
modernize, secularize, and Westernize education as a public institution of the
state, free of clerical control. Additional measures such as the abolition of veiling
and opening of the labor market to women enlisted still more support from the
growing class of urban educated elites for modern, secular reforms.
Each faction of Iranian society viewed the importance of education reform
differently. The Shah viewed education reform as a tool for nation-building, to
blunt the influence of Islam, and establish a monopoly of power (Khaki &
Baht, 2015, p. 47). Intellectuals and educators regarded reform as a goal worthy
in itself, which would ultimately democratize society. Urban families regarded
education as a tool for upward mobility, reserving the highest levels of
education for themselves. Rural families were torn between the potential of
education to secure their childrens futures and fear of moral corruption from
modern secularized schools. The merchant class regarded education as a drain
on productivity, creating idle parasites, while the clergy, most of whom came
from the merchant class, opposed nearly all educational reform as an effort to
undermine the authority of religious rule (Tamer, 2010).
From the beginning, the Shiite clergy were powerful vocal opponents of
attempts to democratize and modernize education. Secular Western values were
condemned as corrupt and un-Islamic and, in the end, public education failed to
equalize opportunity in any significant way. Children from the provinces and
lower classes could not compete with richer urban rivals for highly contested
university seats. Urban elites and the clergy resented reforms that might
jeopardize their political and economic power, while rural dwellers and the
merchant class were afraid of losing their traditional status (Tamer, 2010).
In January 1963, in response to political unrest and economic destabilization, the
Shah announced a national reform billed as the White Revolution, which
included the establishment of a Literacy Corps of young men working as village

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


literacy teachers in lieu of military service. This radically increased the teaching
force, especially in remote rural areas (Metz, 1987). These teachers were not
rigorously trained and the education they offered was of inconsistent quality
(Tamer, 2010), but they had significant effects on literacy. In 1976, three years
before the Islamic Revolution, the literacy rate for adult females was 24.42%, half
that of adult males (48.18%). However literacy rates for the youngest adults,
aged 15-24, were much higher, 42.33% for females and 70.90% for males, and the
disparity between genders had closed by 10% (Index Mundi, 2012).
Structure of Education in Iran
Basic education is compulsory, with free public schooling up to the eighth grade.
Students take exit examinations at the end of the fifth and eighth grades. Those
who fail the eighth grade examination are required to repeat the entire academic
year and if they fail a second time, must enroll in basic vocational training or
seek employment (World Education Services [WES] Staff, 2017). Upper
secondary public education is also free, but not compulsory, and lasts three
years. Students are tracked into an academic, technical, or vocational program,
depending on the results of the eighth grade exit examination. The academic
track is further specialized into humanities and literature; mathematics and
physics; experimental sciences; or Islamic theology. The technical track includes
technical/industry, business and service industry, or agriculture specializations.
Qualifying graduates of the academic or technical track can go on to a pre-
university year of schooling or seek employment with an upper secondary
diploma. Some students can also opt for a five-year integrated Associate
Diploma (WES Staff, 2017).
University admission is based on a very competitive national entrance
examination, with only as few as 12% of applicants awarded admission to a
public university (WES Staff, 2017). In recent years almost 60% of those accepted
have been women. Tuition at public universities is minimal (a few dollars) or
free in exchange for a commitment to work two years in government service. All
private universities except Islamic Azad University also use the national
entrance examination, but there is much less competition for admittance at
private institutions than at public universities. Excluded from the highly
competitive public higher education system, the vast majority of Irans 4.5
million university students enroll as fee-paying students (WES Staff, 2013).
According to Article 30 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, The
government must provide all citizens with free education up to secondary
school, and must expand free higher education to the extent required by the
country for attaining self sufficiency (1989). An introductory section, Woman
in the Constitution, promises an augmentation of rights in contrast to the
previous regime, asserting, Not only does woman recover thereby her
momentous and precious function of motherhood, rearing of ideologically
committed human beings, she also assumes a pioneering social role and
becomes the fellow struggler of man in all vital areas of life. This rhetoric
implies, but does not actually meet the standard of equality; instead, it
underscores the traditional role of motherhood and steward of future
ideologically committed generations.

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


In 2000, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization

(UNESCO) launched the Education for All initiative to generate worldwide
commitments to six core goals for basic learning needs,as outlined in the
Dakar Framework for Action. In particular, Goal 1 pledged a commitment to
[e]nsuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult
circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and
complete free and compulsory primary educaton of good quality (p.15). Goal 5
advocated [e]liminating gender disparities in primary and secondary educaton
by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015 (p. 16). According
to the Islamic Republic of Iran Ministry of Education report on progress toward
these goals (2015), by 2013 pre-primary and primary enrollments were equal by
gender. However, by junior high and high school, the gender parity index
ratings declined to 0.91 and 0.94 respectively. The Ministry of Education report
identified several challenges to reaching the Education for All goals of full
equality, including (a) dropout rate of girls, especially in transition from one
level to another, (b) cultural resistance to girls pursuing a secondary education,
(c) lack of access to higher education, especially in rural areas, (d) limited
recruitment of female teachers as role models, (e) early marriage for girls,
especially in rural areas, (f) incompatibility of educational programs with the
needs and features of students including girls, (g) cultural resistance to girls
and women in the workforce, and (h) lack of alternative educational delivery
methods for girls, such as remote and media education.

By The 2016 the World Economic Forums Global Gender Gap Report indicated
full parity for both primary and secondary enrollment (female to male ratio of
1.01 for both levels); although tertiary enrollment remained at 0.93. The 2017
Global Competitiveness Index ranked the quantity of education in the Islamic
Republic of Iran 6.1 out of 7.0, resulting in a global rank of 38 out of 138
countries. However, the quality of education was ranked much lower, (3.3 out of
7.0), ranking 97 out of 138.

The pervasive focus on Shiite ideology represents a significant discriminatory

pressure inherent at all levels of Iranian education. Gender discrimination is
evident in school structure and organization as well as the curriculum. By law,
both primary and secondary schools are segregated by gender (Mouri, 2014),
with daily schedules staggered so boys and girls never intermingle. In 2011, this
policy was extended to preschools as well (Iran to Extend Gender Segregation,
2011). In 2012, the Ministry of Education also announced the publication of
separate textbooks for male and female students (Bazhan, 2012). Even at the
university level, male and female students in the same classroom are segregated
into separate rows (Shahrokni & Dokouhaki, 2012). The government-mandated
Iranian curriculum is very clear in its support of Shiite doctrines regarding
inequality and enforced separation of the sexes. Men are defined as superior and
women as secondary to men with each sex assigned to gender-specific roles in
all contexts of life (Paivandi, 2012).

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


Religious Discrimination in Iranian Education and Public life

Since the 1979 Revolution, the hegemony of the Islamist state and supremacy of
Shiism has permeated all major institutions, including the educational system.
Systematic changes in education law, curriculum, school organization, and
teacher training completely reversed any hint of modernization or de-
secularization lingering from the pre-Revolutionary era, as educational
institutions became a place of political and ideological propaganda (Paivandi,
2012, p. 2). Dissident teachers were dismissed, restrictions were imposed on
female students (including mandatory veiling), and religious practices such as
mandatory prayers were incorporated into daily school activities. The office of
Educational Affairs was created to instill Islamic culture in all students, with
designated political officers in every school to oversee and enforce compliance
by teachers and students. As the Cultural Revolutionary Council mandated a
systematic revision of school curricula to create a virtuous believer,
conscientious, and engaged in the service of the Islamic society (Paivandi, 2012,
p. 3), the proportion of the school day devoted to overt religious studies
doubled, from 6.4% in 1975 to 12.7% by 1994. However, the Islamization of
textbooks was not limited to religious studies. All textbooks in all subject areas
were re-written, adapting academic knowledge to the rules and values of
Shiite beliefs, and to the political vision of the Islamic state (Paivandi, 2012, p.
4). As a consequence, 25% of the average school day is devoted to the
indoctrination of Shiite beliefs.
Members of officially recognized religious minorities are allowed to open their
own schools and receive religious instruction designed by members of their own
community in non-Persian languages. However, the directors of such schools
must be Muslim and the Ministry of Education must approve all textbooks,
including religious texts (United States Department of State, 2012). Non-
religious texts must be those mandated by the state-approved curriculum, with
full integration of Shia doctrines and perspectives, which radically oppose the
traditions and beliefs of religious minority groups (Paivandi, 2012). Even the
10% of Iranians who are Sunni are cut off from their own historical and
theological heritage. Textbooks represent Islam exclusively from the Shiite
viewpoint and avoid the presentation of any examples of the significance of
Sunni history or culture (Paivandi, 2012).
Irans 300,000 Bahais are particularly targeted for suppression and persecution,
expelled by government order from public universities. The same order
specified that Bahai children should be enrolled in schools which have a strong
and imposing [Shia Islamic] religious ideology (United States Department of
State, 2014, p. 5) and only if they do not identify themselves as Bahai. Since
denial of ones faith would violate a major tenet of Bahaism, this effectively
excludes adherents from the educational system in Iran (United States
Department of State, 2014). As of February, 2017, at least 90 Bahai were held in
prison solely for their religious beliefs and dozens more had been arrested in the
past year (U. S. Commission on International Freedom {USICRF], 2017).
In December 2016, President Rouhani released a non-binding Charter on
Citizens Rights with provisions to respect freedom of thought and religious

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


belief for all citizens. However, this had little effect, as even members of
constitutionally protected minority non-Muslim religions and dissident Muslim
clerics continue to be subjected to official discrimination and persecution
(USICRF, 2017). As of December, 2016, at least 90 Christians were under
arrest and detained, awaiting trial. Antisemitic messages remain
pervasive in mosques and the state-run media, and even Zoroastrians
have experienced an increase in repression and discrimination. Fellow
Muslims are not exempt. At least 120 Sunni Muslims are currently in
prison on charges solely related to religious beliefs and activitiesand in
August, 2016, 22 were executed for enmity against God.

Education of Women in Iran: Extreme Patriarchy in a Modern World

Following the Islamic Revolution, the role of women changed dramatically, not
just in Iran, but in the Muslim world at large. Women were required to wear
veils, forbidden to serve as judges, and segregated or excluded in many public
venues, including universities. Yet, the proliferation of new provincial schools in
Iran resulted in significant advances in literacy for both sexes, especially for
females (Cole, 2015). By 2012, overall adult literacy rates had risen to 79.23% for
females and 89.36% for males; literacy for the youngest adults was nearly equal
by gender, with 97.7% for females and 98.34% for males. (Index Mundi, 2012).
The increasing literacy of the youngest segment of the population continues to
raise overall literacy: as of 2017, literacy had increased to 91.2% for adult males,
82.5% for females, and 86.8 % overall (Central Intelligence Agency, 2017).
Twice as many women are unemployed than men, yet women constitute one-
third of doctors, 60% of civil servants, and 80% of teachers (International
Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 2015). According to the World Economic
Forum (2017), Iran ranks 137 out of 138 coiuntries in female participation in the
labor force. Both clerical leadership and government officials consider female
education a threat to Islamic values, due to postponement of marriage for
women and competition for education with potential husbands (International
Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 2015). In 2009, Irans Science Minister
announced segregation of the sexes in Iranian universities, and exclusion from
gender-specific fields in accordance with the Islamic worldview (Iranian
Minister Backs Gender Segregation, 2009). In August 2012, 77 academic subjects
were closed to female applicants, including high-paying fields such as
engineering and applied sciences. Not all universities followed suit, but in some
provinces, the exclusion of female applicants meant that women who wanted to
pursue these careers had to move to other regions of the country, where they
were less competitive (Samadbeygi, 2012).
The search for credible and highly valued university credentials exerts
increasing stress on an already-strained higher education system in Iran, fueling
a boom in international enrollment. Between 2008 and 2010, the number of
Iranian students studying abroad increased 42.5%, from 26,927 to more than
38,380 (WES Staff, 2013). By 2016, this number had increased to 50,053

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


(UNESCO, 2016). Overseas study has become a means to meet the needs of the
highly skilled modern workplace, as well as provide an important link to the
outside world, despite sanctions and world-wide isolation of the ruling regime.
However, this option has become more expensive in the past decade, due to
falling oil revenues and discontinuation of government subsidies for currency
exchange (WES Staff, 2013).
Iranian education imposes a belief system on students that they do not have the
freedom or right to criticize (Paivandi, 2012, p. 8), which ultimately limits any
attempt to modernize education or the society which that education supports.
Shiite Islam is predicated on fundamental concepts of inequality under the
universal government of Shia as the standard bearer of worldwide Islam. This
affects not only women, but all religious and ethnic minorities. In 2014, the
United States Department of State reported, All non-Shia religious minorities
suffered varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, especially in
employment, education, and housing (p. 6). Persecution and harassment of
religious minorities occurs with impunity (United States Department of State,
2012). Official support for intolerance and discrimination, with reverence for
martyrdom and jihad, create a rhetoric of violence and isolation that infiltrates
every aspect of Iranian society, including education (Paivandi, 2012).
Policies that exclude women from educational advancement, political positions
and full employment are indicative of anti-democratic gender discrimination on
a much larger scale that predates the Islamic Revolution. Despite almost equal
educational attainment by gender at every level of education, massive inequities
persist. Iran ranks 140 out of 144 in overall economic participation and
opportunity and 136 out of 144 in political empowerment (World Economic
Forum, 2016). As of 2015, at least 50 womens rights activists were in prison as a
result of their advocacy, so public criticism is often guarded (Alidarami, 2015).
Nevertheless, many Iranians privately acknowledge a growing pressure for
modernization and reform through peaceful resistance, if not overt activism
(Vick, 2015). According to news commentator Leila Alikarami, Iranian women
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2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 5, pp. 53-71, May 2017

Enhancing Interactivity in Online Classes: A

Framework for Enhancing Instructor-Student,
Student-Student, and Student-Content

Carl Kalani Beyer

Ashford University
San Diego, California

Stephen Brownson and Suzanne Evans

National University
San Diego, California

Abstract. In the 21st century, the main issue facing education is

preparing students to be competitive in the global marketplace. For
online higher education, this research demonstrates that the solution to
this issue is to provide a deeper level of interactivity to increase student
satisfaction and retention by applying best practices in online
instructional strategies, and research related to 21st century skills and
technology. The purpose of this article is to provide research-based
practical strategies related to online instruction, 21st century skills, and
technology to updating Interactivity in online classes.

Keywords: E-learning, interactivity, 21st century skills, student

satisfaction, retention

In the 21st century, the main goal of k-12 education is preparing students
to be competitive in the global marketplace. It is our contention that this goal
should also apply to higher education as well. For online higher education, this
research demonstrates that the solution to this issue is to provide deeper level of
interactivity to increase student satisfaction and improve the retention of
students in online programs. Applying best practices in online instructional
strategies along with research related to 21st century skills that are being used to
achieve being competitive in the global marketplace for k-12 students is the
means to resolve this issue (Anderson, 2003; Bandura, 2001; Brianthaupt, Fisher,
Gardner, Raffo, & Woodward, 2011; Croxton, 2014; Herbert 2006; How online
education, n, d.; Preparing 21st century, n. d.; Virtual schooling, 2006). The
overall purpose of this article is to provide research-based practical strategies
related to developing 21st century skills and increase use of technology to update
the framework for interactivity that was first proposed by Terry Anderson and

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D. Randy Garrison (1998). The learning outcomes for this article are fourfold:
Firstly, develop a philosophical framework that helps lead us towards meeting
the needs of 21st century education. Secondly, review the literature for specific
strategies related to online instruction, the 21st century skills (communication,
creativity, collaboration, critical thinking), and use of technology; thirdly, apply
these strategies to the three interaction modalities (instructor-student, student-
student, and student-content); and lastly, provide recommendations linking
strategies connected to best practices in online instruction, 21st century skills,
and technologies to the framework for interactivity.
In the 21st century, eLearning promises to provide a means to improve
student satisfaction and retention by joining technology and online interactivity
with the 21st century skills of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and
communication (How online education, n. d.; Preparing 21st century, n. d.;
Robb, 2012; Virtual schooling, 2006). Online students require a deeper social
connection with interactivity, increased levels of student satisfaction in the
online curriculum, and higher student retention rates. Over the past two
decades, interactivity has been the way online programs have determined how
to improve student satisfaction, academic discourse, retention rates, and
dialogue (Grant & Lee, 2014; Na Yi 2003). In utilizing the interactivity construct
of student-student, student-instructor, and student-content created by Anderson
and Garrison (1998) as the fulcrum of interactivity, curriculum designers have
experimented with the means to improve each of the interactivity schema.
However, the results have not been encouraging due to the continuing high
rates of online students dropping out of their online programs.
There are three sections to this article. The first section provides the
philosophical framework for this study. The second section provides a review of
the literature on the 21st century skills of communication, creativity,
collaboration, and critical thinking; on the role of technology in changing
student interactivity; and the changes in the framework of interactivity. The
third and final section provides a summary for improving each of the three tiers
of interactivity, including instructor-student interactivity, student-student
interactivity, and student-content interactivity, in terms of the 21st century skills.
We are in an era of engaging in self-reflection to improve the exchange with
instructors, content, and classmates to meet the challenge posed by the desire to
retain students (Grant & Lee, 2014; Na Yi 2003). Thus, taken all together these
sections lead to the introduction of strategies that will lead to greater student
satisfaction and higher retention rates.

Philosophical Framework

When considering ways to improve online instruction, one must also

develop a philosophical framework that helps lead us towards meeting the
needs of 21st century education. It involves creating a model consisting of a
climate of shared learning that collaboratively supports creative inquiry,
brainstorming techniques, creating and demonstrating originality, and refining
and evaluating ideas (AACTE, 2010, p. 1). This model is a response to the
arguments on core principles, a blueprint of what educators should do that
appeared in the AACTE white paper, written by The American Association of

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Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and the Partnership for 21st Century
Skills. According to these two organizations, new teacher candidates must be
equipped with 21st century knowledge and skills and learn how to integrate
them into their classroom practice for our nation to realize its goal of
successfully meeting the challenges of this century (AACTE, 2010, p. 2). This
will involve including in course work the 4Cs of 21st century education, which
are namely: communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking
(AACTE, 2010; Preparing 21st century students, n. d; Robb, 2012; Virtual
schooling, 2006). Even though these resources pertain to k-12 teacher education,
the intention of this article is for use by higher education online instructors in all
disciplines and not just education. The authors of this article feel that what is
being done in education to prepare teachers to teach in the 21st century is
apropos for all online instructors in higher education as well.
A further element of the philosophical framework necessary for this
work of achieving 21st century skills is the need to create an education system
linked dynamically to self-driven learning of the students themselves. According
to Steve Denning (2011),
Education must abandon accountability through the use of detailed
plans, rules, processes and reports, which specify both the goal and the
means of achieving that goal. Instead, what is needed is dynamic
linking, which means that (a) the work is done in short cycles; (b) the
teacher sets the goals of learning for the cycle; (c) decisions about how
the learning is to take place is the responsibility of the students; (d)
progress is measured in terms of the questions the students are able to
generate, not merely answers that they are able to regurgitate; (e)
students must be able to measure their own progressthey arent
dependent on the teachers tests. (p. 2)
Furthering the philosophical framework also involves research about what best
instructors do in their college classes. Based on a study done by Bain (2004) on
what best college teachers do in face-to-face classes, Brianthaupt, Fisher,
Gardner, Raffo, and Woodward (2011) confirmed Bains assertions with research
from online instructors. These authors discovered that the following from Bains
General Categories of What the Best Teachers Do were verified by their research
on online instruction:
Fostering student engagement
Create a community of learners
Foster student-to-faculty and student-to-student interaction
Judicious and strategic use of humor
Use of blogs to facilitate reflective thinking, collaborative learning,
and knowledge construction
Stimulating intellectual development
Create natural critical learning environments
Generate provocative acts, inaccurate and incomplete
preconceptions or mental models
Use technology to create engaging and authentic context
Building rapport with students
Understand ones student population and determine the amount of
help needed

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Let the students get to know the teacher

Keep written records of communication that includes relevant
student information
Provide individualized feedback on assignments and activities (p.
These components of the philosophical framework work together in this study
by producing the foundation for this study to develop an updated version of the
Three-tiered Framework for Interaction based upon best practices in online
instruction with the 21st century skills and the use of additional technology.

Literature Review of 21st Century Skills

Communication. Communication is a process. It can create a shared

understanding between people at linear, interactive, and transactional levels
(Analysis of communication, 2011, p. 1). In addition, communication is the
process of sending and receiving messages through verbal or nonverbal means
including speech or oral communication, writing or written communication,
signs, signals, and behavior (Nordquist, 2017, p. 1). This communication must
be across the life cycle, be a model for communication that produces unity, and
practice a culture of cooperation, respect, and civility (Who is welcome here, n.
d., p. 1). Organizations need to set as its goals the following that demonstrates
this commitment to open communication: address the diverse needs of
learners; enhance student literacy; foster a respectful learning
environment; and provide students with skills for the 21st century (Fostering
a respectful, 2010, p. 1). In online instruction, communication is a very important
means to build rapport with students by helping students to get to know one
another and the instructor. This can be done by using introductory videos or
other self-disclosure resources and keeping records of communication that
include relevant information (Brianthaupt, et al., 2011).
Communication needs to be two-way, which refers to situations where
both parties share thoughts and respect each others opinions (Analysis of
communication, 2011; Best practices, 2009). In online education, more so than in
face-to-face instruction, there must be communication from instructor to student,
student to student, and student to content. Too often schools and colleges are
places where communication is one-way or top-down affair. Interaction
between students and between instructor and students, and between the student
and the content can encourage everyone to actively participate in two-way
communication. One of the factors that makes communication in online
instruction possible is the use of technology. According to McGilvery (2016),
[i]nteraction through the use of communication technologies is vital to a quality
online education because it allows teachers to promote active online learners,
and that engagement translates to better learning outcomes and greater
satisfaction with online learning, both for student and educator (p. 1). With the
proliferation of technologies capable of being used in online education,
instructors need to make their selection in ways that promote the learning of
students, satisfy their interest in the course, and keep them in the program.
However, communication in online courses is also promoted by the ways in
which online courses are developed and structured. The following are ways in

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which this can occur: discussion forums; presentation of material; structuring of

assignments; assessment choices made available for students; feedback by
instructor and by students of student work, including peer assessment and self-
assessment; developing literacy skills; addressing diversity issues; and fostering
a respectful environment (Analysis of communication, 2011; Best practices,
Instructors also need to utilize communication strategies to provide an
environment that fosters diversity. This would entail understanding the nature
of the experiences that students bring to their online classes to make connections
and provide support between learning within and outside the course (Beyer,
2010, p. 116). Moreover, instructors must make their delivery systems
responsive to how diverse students learn (Beyer, 2010, p. 116). Finally,
instructors need to use multicultural education methods. This would involve
students making decisions about what is best for their given place, time, and
circumstances with respect to cultural diversity (Beyer, 2010, p.116); using
multicultural infusion, which is adding a cultural diversity component to a usual
activity or assessment; and helping students identify stereotypes and
inaccuracies and reduce prejudice (Banks, 2001; Beyer, 1996-1997; Beyer, 2010;
Zeichner, 1992).

Creativity. Creativity necessitates researching best practices used by

instructors in teaching for equity and social justice. It means teachers need to be
prepared to utilize instructional strategies that lead to being the best in
accomplished teaching and learning in order that all students have equal
opportunity. Educators need to examine how they address issues of diversity
and to develop innovative and creative strategies that will increase their
effectiveness. As a result, there is a need for cultural and linguistic competence.
Cultural competence is defined as a complex set of cognitive, affective, and
behavioral skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate
interaction in a variety of cultural contexts especially with others who are
linguistically and culturally different from oneself (Fantini, 2006, p. 12). It is an
ability to step beyond ones own culture and function with other individuals
from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. First, with the increase in
the ethnically, culturally, linguistically diverse populations, it is a necessary
response to the changing immigrant patterns within the United States. Second,
it is a tool to improve the success of schools offering equality of opportunity to
students of diverse backgrounds. Cultural competency is a great strategy to
level the playing field so that all students have a chance to be successful learners.
Culture competency practices can provide educators with an instructional
strategy in providing more success in working in a diverse school community
(King, Sims, & Osher, 2013).
While multiple perspectives as a concept is generally used to teach
history in k-12 schools, it is also a principle central to strategies based upon
creativity. Educators can expose students to their own perspectives and teach
students how to accept other alternative perspectives. In recent decades,
educators have begun to question the validity of singular (one-sided) narratives
(Multiperspectivity, n. d., p. 1). Instead of just focusing on dominant groups
and communities, the idea is to recommend the drafting of multiple

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perspectives. When this approach is applied to students from groups outside of

the dominant culture, it provides them with validation of who they are and
reveals that their groups are part of the curriculum (Multiperspectivity, n. d.).

Collaboration. Americans have throughout its history prided

themselves on being self- sufficient individuals. This has especially been true in
the school setting. One of the important 21st century skills is collaboration.
Employers demand that candidates for employment learn new tasks through
working collaboratively with more experienced peers. Thus, educators must
change the inclination of schools to promote individual activity while
considering collaboration as cheating. The net result of this tradition of
individuality is that students are underprepared to work as part of a team when
they graduate from high school. Teachers need to be taught how to develop
collaborative peer interaction, which includes making decisions about group
size, the use of rewards, or what kinds of tasks to assign (Williams, 2009, p. 1).
Not only do teachers or curriculum designers need to understand collaborative
learning techniques and how to select one that is appropriate for their goals,
they also need to coordinate activities in order to design effective learning
environments (Williams, 2009, p. 1).
Collaboration is also a way to foster student engagement. This would
begin with creating a community of learners within the classroom through
student to student and instructor to student strategies. Another way to
accomplish this is by using technology to facilitate collaborative learning and
knowledge construction (Brianthaupt, et al., 2011).
Collaboration involves synergy. When people work together toward a
joint goal, they can accomplish something larger, greater, and with more impact
than something done in isolation (Synergy through collaboration, n. d., p. 1).
Instructors need to work with their students to build a collaborative community.
Educators may select projects that involve individual students, teams, or the
whole class working with a partner, team, or class (Synergy through
collaboration, n. d., p. 1). Instructors need to consider whether they will just
share or whether they will work towards a joint goal. In other words, a
cooperative project would involve each partner sharing their findings or
conclusions. However, a collaborative project requires interaction and creation
of something larger than the sum of the individual pieces (Synergy through
collaboration, n. d., p. 1).

Critical Thinking. According to Rick Medrick (2010), sustainability as a

means to furthering student critical thinking is one of the critical issues in
todays world (p. 1). As a result, it is one of the predominant themes facing
education in the 21st Century. How we make viable choices, what values guide
these choices, and how we can live in harmony with nature and with one
another will determine our future survival as a species (Medrick, 2010, p. 1).
This requires that educators and students must develop new awareness, hone
new personal and technical skills, and learn to function on a systems-wide basis
to develop new options (Medrick, 2010, p. 1). To practice interacting in a
sustainable and transformative manner, we must create new learning
environments based upon critical thinking. A culture based education model can
produce a learning environment that enhances critical thinking. The authors of

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this article have all experience this through our previous work at Pacific Oaks
College. Culture Centered Education (2010) was a white paper based upon over
50 years of experience of educators at Pacific Oaks College in California in using
a culture based education model. From the instructors work with developing the
Culture Centered Education model, they discovered that once children feel
respected for who they are and what they know, their own intrinsic motivation
led them towards successfully merging their own knowledge with the
knowledge required by the learning outcomes of their coursework. Through this
transformational process, their students became bi-cultural and/or bi-lingual,
their confidence grew, and they were even more eager to learn. In the
transformative learning environment, the teacher and/or learner exhibited the
following traits: exhibit self-actualization, self-efficacy, and risk-taking among
learners; teachers believe in the process of the learner as teacher and teachers
as learner; teachers utilize the learners vernacular language; learners
welcome the use of the dominant language; teachers and learners grow on a
developmental continuum that begins with awareness of their own cultural
identity, cultural values and cultural assumptions, and their identity and value
orientation affect their practice and relationships; teachers and learners
continue movement to congruent, culturally literate behaviors and attitudes;
teachers and learners require a commitment to individual personal growth by
challenging ones social conditioning and cultural incompetence; teachers and
learners learn to value and respect cultural differences, and attempt to find ways
to celebrate, encourage, and respond to differences within and among
themselves, while they pursue knowledge about social justice, privilege and
power relations in our society; teachers and learners learn about themselves
and the world around them within the context of culture; teachers and
learners honor and respect each other for who they are and what they know;
teachers facilitate, mentor, guide, instruct, and advocate for learners; and
learners transform themselves by becoming self-confident, self-directed, and
proactive (Culture centered education, 2012, pp. 3-4).
Other research has also shown that critical thinking can best be achieved
by promoting self-actualization, self-efficacy, and risk-taking among learners. In
earlier discussions of these traits, often self-esteem was the catch phrase. John
Shindler (n. d.) defines self-esteem in three ways: first, ones locus of control;
second, ones sense of belonging and acceptance; and third, ones sense of
competence or self-efficacy (p. 1). More recent studies use the idea of
motivation and learning as the concept encompassing all these traits, especially
the act of intrinsic motivation. An intrinsically motivated student works for
himself/herself, and for the pleasure, opportunities and the feeling of success it
gives (Motivation and learning, 2010, p. 1). The article, Motivation and
Learning, relates that the following are sources of intrinsic motivation:
individual goals and intents; biological and psychological motivation and
needs; self-description, self-confidence and self-esteem; individual needs,
expectations, and descriptions of success and failure; self-awareness, self-
experiences and self-efficacy; personal factors like risk-taking, coping with
anxiety, curiosity; and emotional state and level of consciousness (p. 2). These
student traits originate from the following environments: setting goals by
instructors, student, and peers; identifying and respecting student learning

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styles; use of rewards and punishment systems; providing educational

stimulants that enables critical thinking; and instructors holding high
expectations of the students (Battalio, 2009; Motivation and learning, 2010).

The article, Motivation and Learning (2010), also suggests that instructors
can do a number of things to prepare the learning environment to optimize these
circumstances. They include the following:
Give students a reason behind instruction in order to motivate them
for the instruction.
Ask interesting questions that provoke curiosity in the beginning of
Both teach concepts or principles effectively and provide attention-
drawing examples.
Use previously learned concepts in examples or applications.
Make sure that all students know how to do what and how to reach
targets. (p. 4)

Literature Review of Technology

Technology being used by Americans has soared over the past two
decades. This increases the potential of using technology in education as a
means towards improving communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical
thinking skills. Speak Up, a national initiative of Project Tomorrow, has made
its goal to empower student voices in education using technology (Learning in
the 21st century, 2007). It is the belief of this organization that technology would
engage, enable, and empower students to a new level of learning, leading them
to develop the requisite skills they need to compete in the 21st century global
economy (Learning in the 21st century, 2007, p. 1). Through this infusion of
technology, there will be a chance to lead our nation to increase efficiencies and
productivity, and become a catalyst for defining a totally new approach to
teaching and learning that is more relevant to the lives of students in this new
knowledge-based economy and world (The new 3Es, 2011, p. 1). Based upon
the research being done by Speak Up, it was discovered that students have a
very distinct vision of the power of socially-based, un-tethered and digitally-rich
learning to improve their academic performance and prepare them to participate
and compete in the global knowledge economy (The new 3Es, 2011, p. 1).
Through the infusion of technology, we can look forward to a future when
schools have access to a rich and varied set of digital tools and resources that
provide gateways to new learning experiences not bound by their classroom
walls (p 1). Finally, the use of technology can bring into the classroom the
personal experiences of students and collaboration between peers and experts
(Friedman, 2015; Loly & Willington, 2002).
The promise of technology raises a few questions for the authors of this
article. How will technology serve to realize communication, creativity,
collaboration, and critical thinking skills to help students take advantage of the
opportunities that present themselves through globalization of the workplace?
What are the most effective ways to integrate technology in online instruction to
improve instructor to student, student to student, and student to content
interactivity? (Edutopia, n. d.; Prensky, n. d.).

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The answers to these questions require an in-depth inquiry into

interactivity in online courses and the development of higher cognitive skills,
especially with 21st century learners, and through the use of technology (Lynch,
Debuse, Lawley, & Roy, 2009). There are many tools that can be used to enliven
an online course with the overall goal to improve communication, creativity,
collaboration, and critical thinking. Instructors and students can use Voki for
animation; Eyejot for videocasts; Vocaroo for podcasts; Glogster for collages;
Kahoot.it for games; Nearpod, Prezi, and Microsoft PowerPoint for
presentations; Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, GoToMeeting for online live
presentations; and Facebook and Edmoto for social networks. Embedding social
media increases the level of the three-tier interactions of instructor-student,
student-student, and student-content in distance learning courses using social
learning (Bandura, 2001) and collaboration (Slavin, 1988). Research has shown
that students who were in the higher levels social media usage showed stronger
abilities to complete the assignments intrinsically and 85% of students overall
remained on task during each lesson (Callaghan, & Bower, 2012, p.15).

Literature Review Framework of Interactivity

Over a decade ago, research on best practices in online instruction had

offered ways to improve online courses. Bill Petz (2004) developed three
principles on how to accomplish this task. Principle 1 suggested that the
instructor should let the student do (most of) the work (p. 33). This would
involve students leading discussions for them to learn how to ask thought-
provoking questions; students finding and discussing web resources that they
share with their classmates; students helping each other as peer assistants;
students grading their own assignments; and students creating their own case
studies. By the standards of 21st century skills, this Principle would involve
communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills.
Principle 2 suggests that interactivity is the heart and soul of effective
asynchronous learning (p. 37), which involves interaction between students, the
student and instructor, and the student and content, with the entire class, in
small groups or teams, or one-on-one with a partner (Petz, 2004, p. 37). This
would entail using collaboration of the 21st century skills.
Principle 3 suggests that the instructor strive for presence (p. 41). While
this presence may involve offering feedback to assignments, the primary means
for this occurs with the discussion forums. In sum, this involves promoting the
collaboration skill. Presence in discussion responses includes social, cognitive,
and teaching categories. Social presence occurs when an online class establishes
a community of learning. The instructor and the students work together by
expressing their emotions, feelings, and mood through interactivity, and a
commitment to the group and the common goals and objectives. Formal
techniques used to promote collegiality includes using an introductory
discussion forum, providing discussions that involve interpersonal interaction
not connected to the content of the course, and the use of an asynchronous chat
room. Cognitive presence is the extent to which the professor and the students
are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained discourse
(discussion) (p. 42) that aids the communication skill. This presence is
demonstrated by introducing factual, conceptual, and theoretical knowledge

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into discussion (Petz, 2004, p. 42). Teaching presence is the facilitation and
direction of cognitive and social process for the realization of personally
meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes (p. 44). Petz
(2004) includes two areas of activities undertaken to develop Teaching presence.
The first area involves facilitating the discussion by identifying areas of
agreement and disagreement, seeking to reach consensus/understanding,
encouraging, acknowledging and reinforcing student contributions, setting a
climate for learning, drawing in participants/prompting discussion, and
assessing the efficacy of the process. The second area involves using direct
instruction by presenting content and questions, focusing the discussion,
summarizing the discussion, confirming understanding, diagnosing
misperceptions, injecting knowledge from diverse sources, and responding
to technical concerns (p. 44).
While online courses have weekly written assignments, the central
instructional strategy is the discussion forum (Craig, 2015). According to
Mastering Online Discussion Based Facilitation: Resource Guide (2009), using
primarily discussion threads can lead to a minimalist approach by students,
potentially have lower levels of interactivity, and problems with retention and
student satisfaction (p. 1). According to Cheryl Hayek (2012), instructors should
facilitate a discussion forum as if they are the hosts at a party. This would
include the following actions: welcome everyone, be present in the forum, keep
volume of participation consistent, make sure every person feels comfortable in
the new environment, and invite them back. However, if discussions are
asynchronous very few instructors can follow through on these suggested
actions (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer 2000; Friedman 2015). Another set of
suggested strategies call for the use of positive reinforcement by instructors
creating a teaching environment that involves the following: open
communication, demonstrate ways to support ongoing discussions, establish
guidelines for giving students credit (instructor provide, self-evaluation, and
peer-evaluation), use of small group activities to help build community and
establish peer communication and connection, encourage students to interact
informally, and create discussion threads or areas for personal introductions and
social interaction (Mastering online, 2009).
A new concept in the success of the use of the discussion forum is the
100 percent Response Model (Ryan-Rojas & Ryan, 2013). Applying this model
involves the instructor responding to every student when they provide their
initial response. It can even prove more fruitful if the instructor in his/her
response ends with a question. This opens a conversation between the student
and the instructor that continues when the student responds to the instructors
question. In practice, the exchange of discussions between classmates is also
usually more robust as the student-instructor exchange provides a model for the
students to follow in their own conversations. The most important result of this
dynamic conversation is that an online community is forged. Research has
shown that traditional online classrooms tend to not engage student interest.
When online courses encourage the use of social media, interaction in the course
increases and students exhibit higher levels of creativity (Bernard, Abrams,
Borokhorski, Wade, Tarmin, & Bethel, 2009).

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Summary of Improving Framework of Interactivity - Tier One: Instructor-

Student Interactivity
Presentation of this final section is based upon the literature review as
well as the authorsteaching experiences. Thus, there are no citations to material
in this final section since they were already covered in the previous sections or
represent our own ideas but verified by the literature review.
Communication. In the effort to improve instructor-student interactivity
communication, there are several strategies to which instructors can use. Frist,
instructors should adhere to a 100 Per Cent Discussion Board response. This
means that the instructor responds to every student when they respond to the
prompt(s) of the discussion forum and any other time to which the student
addresses the instructor. Second, coupled with this practice, instructors should
require that students respond to more than the usual two classmates and they
should be encouraged to at least read the responses of most classmates to
discover what others are saying. Third, the instructor should respond to the
students initial response that connects to what the student stated and end with a
question. The student should respond to the instructors question as part of the
requirement to obtain full credit for the discussion activity. Fourth, the instructor
should provide timely feedback, which in classes with high student satisfaction
and retention rates means within the first 24 hours of the student response. Fifth,
instructors should help identify areas of agreement and disagreement to reach
consensus/understanding between student and instructor. This can be
accomplished by instructors reading the responses between the students but not
responding. Instructors also should use direct instruction by presenting content
and additional resources, sharing his/her experiences, asking questions,
focusing the discussion, summarizing the discussion, clarifying misperceptions,
and responding to technical concerns. Sixth, communication between the
instructor and students needs to include addressing diversity issues. This can be
accomplished, by including in the introduction discussion, prompts about the
students diversity background and attitudes towards prejudice and

Creativity. Instructor-student interactivity can be improved by

instructors using creativity strategies. First, instructors can pave the way for
students to learn and demonstrate cultural and linguistic competence. This can
be accomplished through the discussion forums, especially through what the
students are required to include in their introductory discussions. Second, the
instructor could encourage use of technology to develop conversations between
students and instructors such as offering an option to use a presentation
software to do the introduction discussion or as part of one or more of the
discussions. Third, it is important that the instructor fosters student thinking in
terms of issues related to equity and social justice by tapping into their own
experiences with these concepts. Fourth, instructors should embed within the
discussions a means to use social media in discussions between students and the
instructor. Fifth, instructors should address issues of diversity and to develop
innovative and creative strategies that will increase their effectiveness. Finally,
the instructor should encourage multiple perspectives through prodding within

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discussion responses to students initial responses and in questions to which the

instructor poses to students.

Collaboration. Instructor-student interactivity can be improved by

creating a collaborative community of the members of the class. First, instructors
could respond to introductory discussions of all students in promoting a
community of the classroom. Through this means, students see the importance
of getting to know each other and the instructor. Second, the instructor works
with students to encourage the sharing of emotions, feelings, and mood by being
a role model. This will require that the instructor shares his/her experiences
whenever possible so that the students become comfortable with taking the risk
to share their own experiences. Third, the instructor should develop
collaborative peer interaction by mentioning in response to one student what
other students have said as means to encourage students to read other students
responses and respond to more classmates. Fourth, the instructor should foster
collaboration that requires interaction and creation of something larger than the
sum of the individual pieces. This can be accomplished by developing
cooperative group activities and using direct instruction that was mentioned in
the Communication section above. Fifth, the instructor should help students to
see the value of accepting the diversity of the class. Finally, the instructor should
encourage students to share their commonality. While accepting differences is
important to form a community, it is also very important that with all the
differences there is many things to which the students have in common.

Critical Thinking. Instructor-student interactivity can be improved by

fostering a critical thinking environment. First, instructors can foster critical
thinking by getting students to think in terms of multiple perspectives.
Instructors may need to illustrate the concept of multiple perspectives and
whenever possible to identify its occurrence in discussions and student work.
Second, instructors should encourage interactive social conversations and
dialogues using technology. This can be accomplished by using digital software
to host synchronous conversations. Third, instructors should make viable
choices available and promote an environment that values choices. Fourth,
instructors should promote transformation of the students by modeling his/her
own transformation and encouraging students to identify how they are being
transformed by the course. Fifth, instructors should foster an environment
where the student performs as teacher and the instructor perform as a learner.
Finally, instructors should promote self-actualization, self-efficacy, and risk-
taking among learners.

Summary of Improving Framework of Interactivity - Tier Two: Student-

Student Interactivity

Communication. In the effort to improving student-student

communication interactivity, there are several strategies to which instructors can
use. First, instructors can create a means for students to lead discussions with
their classmates. Obviously, instructors must build into the course design the
flexibility for students to develop the prompts for discussions. This may work
best in using synchronous meetings either involving video conferencing

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technology or just an open chat forum. Second, instructors could make it

possible for a continuous conversation between students to take place. In part
this can be achieved by instructors offering part of the grade for discussions to
make this happen. Third, instructors can encourage students to provide
feedback to classmates in both their discussions and assignments. Both the
continuous conversations and offering feedback could also be accomplished by
using cooperative learning groups to have continuous dialogue between group
members. Fourth, instructors need to provide opportunities for students to share
their diversity with their classmates. Multicultural infusion activities that add a
diversity element to the usual content would be a means to achieve this goal.
Fifth, students should be encouraged by instructors to share the technology they
use when they meet the literacy requirement. Students can do this by using
social media as well as when they post their work. Sixth, students need to be
encouraged to offer peer- or self-assessment of their work and the work of their
classmates. Finally, instructors need to foster a respectful learning environment
that identifies areas of agreement and disagreement and promotes seeking to
reach consensus among students.

Creativity. Student-student interactivity can be improved by instructors

using creativity strategies. First, instructors should provide the means for
students to help each other as peer assistants. This could include making it
possible for students to partner with a peer or a group of peers, aiding when
needed. Second, instructors should engage students in sharing cultural and
linguistic competence with each other. This should begin with the introductory
discussion but can continue to occur during the discussion forums, and when
students are working on the assignments. Third, instructors should encourage
the use of technology to develop conversations among students. This can be
accomplished by providing access to social media. Fourth, instructors should
involve students in conversations about equity and social justice. Just as students
may have opportunities to share cultural diversity through multicultural
infusion activities, students should be able to share their experiences with equity
and social justice.

Collaboration. Student-student interactivity can be improved by creating

a collaborative community of the members of the class. First, students should be
encouraged to respond to the introductory discussion to more than the
minimum required of classmates and read introductions of all classmates.
Second, through the access to social media or synchronous or asynchronous
chats, students should be encouraged to express their emotions, feelings, and
mood to build empathy and trust. Third, instructors should help students
develop collaborative peer interaction through the discussion forums. Fourth,
the instructors should allow students to collaborate through interaction that
builds upon the creation of something larger than the sum of the individual
pieces. In other words, students can be assigned a part of an assignment and
work together to produce a group version of the students assigned part. Fifth,
students should be encouraged to share their multiple perspectives. This can
occur when the directions in the Guided Response for discussions ask students
to respond to students that have a different perspective. Finally, students are

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encouraged to share and inquire as to each others culture. This can also be
accomplished by using the same method used to share multiple perspectives.

Critical Thinking. Student-student interactivity can be improved by

fostering a critical thinking environment. First, instructors should provide
opportunities to help students identify each others multiple perspectives.
Second, instructors should engage classmates in social conversation and
dialogue using technology. Third, instructors should promote an environment of
students making choices in how they do discussions and assignments by
encouraging student to share how they made their choices and access to the
alternative choices they made. Fourth, instructors should create an environment
where students can practice interacting in a sustainable and transformative
manner. This can best be done by following the Culture Centered Education
model, which calls for students honoring each others self-efficacy and triggers
their innate curiosity and intelligence. Fifth, instructors should provide a means
for students to perform as teacher and learner. This can best occur when
students are teaching and learning from each other. Finally, instructors should
create an environment where students can share efforts to promote self-
actualization, self-efficacy, and risk-taking. This works best in an environment
that have its members respect each other.

Summary of Improving Framework of Interactivity - Tier Three:

Student-Content Interactivity

Communication. In the effort to improving student-content

communication interactivity, there are several strategies to which instructors can
use. First, build into the course a means for students to provide feedback on
their classmates work. One practice that can make this possible is to use
technology like open chats either synchronous or asynchronous to provide
feedback by students of their classmates work. Second, introduce a mixture of
multiple intelligences within the content to open communication based upon the
learners learning styles. Third, when students respond to the question the
instructor asks in response to the students initial response, include their
response as part of the grade of the discussion. Fourth, instructors should build
assessment opportunities based on the student using a variety of technologies
such as websites, blogs, and presentations or using social media. Fifth,
instructors should offer students opportunity to critique the content and self-
assess their work and assess the work of peers. Sixth, instructors should employ
instruction based upon students having choices. While offering a technology
option in terms of completing the assignment is one way, the choice could be a
different set of prompts to cover the learning outcomes. Finally, instructors
could either host a synchronous meeting or create video vignettes for each week
of the course that further prepares student for the content and assessments.
Creativity. Student-content interactivity can be improved by instructors
using creativity strategies. First, develop curriculum that involve students
researching best practices used to obtain equity and social justice. Using an open
forum through social media or chats synchronous or asynchronous, and
assessing through a required journal might be an option. Second, instructors

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should address issues of diversity and develop innovative and creative

strategies that will increase student effectiveness in working in a diverse global
marketplace. Third, activities should be provided by instructors that encourages
students to create some of the resources for the course such as finding and
sharing websites, videos, or research studies. Fourth, content should encourage
students to exhibit cultural and linguistic competence. This can be accomplished
through discussion forums or embedded in the prompts for journals and essays.
Finally, instructors should build technology into teaching content and assess
learning. This practice can be connected to offering choices of technology
options as well as the course embedding video vignette lectures, audio-visual-
kinesthetic activities, and synchronous lectures using a delivery systems like
Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, and GoToMeeting.
Collaboration. Student-content interactivity can be improved by creating
a collaborative community of the members of the class. First, provide
discussions that involve interpersonal interaction between students that is not
connected to the content of the course. This could be accomplished by offering
social media sharing, opening a synchronous delivery system like Zoom,
Blackboard Collaborate, or GoToMeeting to give students a chance to exchange
ideas as a required part of the curriculum. Second, provide asynchronous chat
room as means to encourage students to get to know each other. Third, an
opportunity should be given peers to replace individual work with collaborative
work. Students could select projects that replace individual student work with
teams, or the whole class working with a partner, team, or class cooperative
projects. Finally, instructors could create content that encourages cultural
sharing and inquiry, investigating equity and social justice, and culture centered

Critical Thinking. Student-content interactivity can be improved by

fostering a critical thinking environment. First, provide students with the
opportunity to use choice to trigger their own intrinsic motivation by allowing
them to determine their own assessments. This can be done by making meeting
a course outcome as the assignment and leaving the means to meet the outcome
up to the student. This would make a great final project and earlier assessments
could be built to scaffold towards creating the final project. Second, instructors
should build multiple perspectives and multicultural infusion activities into the
course work. Third, create assessments that involve social conversation and
dialogue using technology such as blogging or social conversation. Fourth,
instructors could provide content that uses scaffolding leading to a
transformative experience for students. Fifth, instructors could create content
designed to encourage students to perform as teacher and learner. Finally,
instructors could provide content that include ways to promote self-
actualization, self-efficacy, and risk-taking among learners.


Through the search of the literature on best practices in online instruction

and strategies connected to the 21st century skills of communication, creativity,
collaboration, and critical thinking along with new technologies, this article

2017 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.


provides ways to increase student satisfaction and retention by improving the

framework for interactivity. Earlier research (Anderson & Garrison, 1998) had
provided the framework for interactivity to structure successful online courses.
Over time, other research on online instruction (Grant & Lee, 2014; Robb, 2012,
modified and added to the framework for interactivity. Some changes have
taken place through the years but online education continues to have low
student satisfaction and retention rates. Since the goal of American education
has been to better prepare its students to be competitive in the global
marketplace, it made sense to borrow the 21st century skills from k-12 education
and apply it to higher education online instruction. At a future date when the
recommendations made in this study have had a chance to be implemented,
research will still need to be done to see what if any improvements there are in
the student satisfaction and retention rates. Both the institutions with which the
authors are associated are already implementing many of the recommendations
presented in this study. We look forward to updating this study with a future
report of the outcomes related to student satisfaction and retention rates when
using the framework for interactivity from strategies based upon best practices
in online instruction and 21st century skills of communication, creativity,
collaboration, and critical thinking.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research

Vol. 16, No. 5, pp. 72-89, May 2017

How a Hands-on BIONICS Lesson May

Intervene with Science Motivation and
Technology Interest

Marth Michaela and Franz X. Bogner

ZMNU (Centre of Math & Science Education),
Department of Biology Education,
University of Bayreuth

Abstract. Science is supposed to raise and support young childrens

interest as early as possible, at the latest at the beginning of secondary
school. Our empirical study monitored individual motivation levels
towards science of 6th graders by applying established measures to 324
students (age M=12.2 years, 189 girls, 135 boys). The first empirical
measure consisted of the Science Motivation Questionnaire (SMQ), the
second of the Technology Questionnaire (TQ). Our lesson consisted of a
student-centered outreach module about bionics within a zoological
garden in combination with related exhibition. Measurement was
conducted two weeks before (T0), directly after (T1) and six weeks (T2)
after program participation. The factor structure of the SMQ-II we
obtained showed a major difference to the published structure: our
young sample couldnt differentiate between intrinsic motivation (IM)
and self-efficacy (SE). Moreover, the expected two subscales merged into
one which we labelled self-confidence (SC). The other subscale grade
motivation followed the expected factor structure of the original scale.
While this latter subscale was unaffected by our intervention, the sub-
scale SC peaked directly after program participation, but unfortunately
did not sustain this shift over a six week time period. There were no
gender differences at any testing point. Science motivation correlated at
a low level with technology interest but failed to correlate with social
implications of technology.

Keywords science motivation; factor structure; gender issues;

technology interest; bionics module

Science and technology are omnipresent in daily life (Ardies, De Maeyer, Gijbels,
& van Keulen, 2015). Therefore, a scientific understanding is needed, young
people need to familiarize themselves with the increasing penetration of science
and technology in our lives (DeBoer, 2000). The scientific literacy paradigm
seems an appropriate framework with its potential to support individual needs,
as any level of scientific literacy may affect decisions related to science (Miller,

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1983). Understanding dependencies is of importance for both the societal and

the individual levels (Laugksch, 2000). Scientifically literate individuals tend to
feel more competent regarding technology and science in everyday life,
although the social, moral and intellectual attainments may need separate
attention (Laugksch, 2000). School curricula should prepare children
appropriately and sufficiently (ISB, 2004). In consequence, the aim of science
education must be to support scientific literacy: DeBoer (2000) declared teaching
science and building scientific literacy as the most important goal to prepare best
for working life as well as for most other circumstances including becoming a
critical consumer of information. It also may help to better understand public
discussions about science as well as potential relationships between science and
technology. It is alarming that interest, attitudes and motivation of students in
the scientific fields seem to drop consistently during school attendance
(Osborne, Simon, & Collins, 2003).
Motivation is a well-researched issue with over 100 different definitions even 35
years ago (Kleinginna & Kleinginna, 1981). Today there is general agreement on
three major issues: (i) many internal aspects contribute to motivation
(psychological and phenomenological), (ii) other aspects deal with functional
processes, and (iii) the comprehensive nature of motivation. Motivation in the
literature is also understood as dependent on self-efficacy, on beliefs in control
as well as on the capability to perform a duty, and self-responsibility building
upon individual achievement potential (Pintrich & De Groot, 1990). Self-efficacy
is assumed to effect academic accomplishment in various ways (Pajares, 2002).
While self-regulated learning is supposed to influence motivation (Zimmerman
& Schunk, 2008), its integration into teaching approaches is regarded an essential
need. Although motivation to learn science` is defined as an internal state that
arouses, directs, and sustains science-learning behavior, its impetus often seems
to be lost during school time (Glynn, Brickman, Armstrong, & Taasoobshirazi,
2011, S.1160). Therefore, educators need to support motivation and to bring
interest into classrooms again. For designing educational programs, knowledge
about presumed levels of motivation may support learning and understanding
science. A brief and valid assessment is welcome in any classroom. Glynn,
Taasoobshirazi, & Brickman (2009) developed a 30-item Science Motivation
Questionnaire (SMQ) (originally for students in college courses; Glynn, Shawn
&Koballa, 2006), providing the possibility to measure science motivation of
university students. A later reduction to 25-items yielded a modified SMQ-II
covering five subscales: intrinsic motivation (IM), self-efficacy (SE), self-
determination (SD), career motivation (CM) and grade motivation (GM) by
following a well-defined theory of human learning (Albert Bandura, 1986).
Schumm & Bogner (2016) first applied this SMQ-II to high school age groups.
Similarly, Schmid & Bogner (2017) used three sub-scales of the SMQ-II for older
secondary class students who followed an inquiry approach in an
interdisciplinary lesson-unit.
Technology is another trigger in science education as it is present nearly
everywhere in our daily life (Ardies et al., 2015). Young people in particular
grow up in a society pervaded by social media and communication technology
(OKeeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011). Thus, the education sector needs to care of
using that tools appropriately (Ardies, De Maeyer, & Gijbels, 2013). It is

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important, too, that younger students be interested in technology and science.

To measure interest in technology and its social aspects, we used the revised
short Technology Questionnaire of Marth & Bogner (2017a). We know from the
literature that school students with positive experiences at young ages are more
successful later in the technology sector (Akpnar, Yldz, Tatar, & Ergin, 2009).
Especially the transition phase from primary to secondary school is regarded as
important for science and technology education as this time is one of the most
crucial in the lives of children (George, 2006). Motivation for science and
technology needs specific promotion to counteract its tendency to decrease
during adolescence (Vedder-Weiss & Fortus, 2011). Elementary school children
are often not free in their choice of science or even science related activities, as
the classroom teacher often decides the content (Simpkins, Davis-Kean, & Eccles,
2006). In high school, students are able to choose science courses as well as out-
of-school activities, interacting with free time options like hanging out with
friends, working or doing other more interesting things (Larson & Verma, 1999).
There is also a distinction between cultures and economies: Asian children tend
to attend after-school activities in addition to school commitments leading to
better achievement effects (Larson & Verma, 1999). This transition passage,
including adolescence, is one of the most crucial periods of supporting interest
in science. Larson, Wilson, Brown, Furstenberg, Jr., & Verma (2002) described
that transition passage as socially versatile where the most prejudices originate
regarding science and learning science. It is worth spending time on science
courses and science out-of-school activities to improve the general thoughts and
beliefs of young students. Teachers have to be more motivated as well, and need
to make experiences more meaningful for school students (Mc Robbie, 2000). It is
therefore important to bring school students into contact with technology in
science with a variety of programs and educational efforts.
There are in general gender differences in science motivation (Akpnar et al.,
2009). Marth & Bogner (2017a) for example showed for boys in low secondary
school higher technology interest scores and more social implications of
technology. This trend has also been observed with freshmen and adult teachers.
Only the social implications of technology seem similar within the teacher
cohorts. As science traditionally is still a male-dominated field, women in
academic fields like math, science or technology may feel discriminated from the
beginning until their graduation, compared to a female-dominated area like art,
education or social sciences (Steele, James, & Barnett, 2002). Thus, the likelihood
of choosing science careers drops as further constraints like the flexibility of jobs
and the traditional role combining family and career aspirations also impact
(Frome, Alfeld, Eccles, & Barber, 2006). Moreover, women choosing a science
career and participating in a doctoral program may show a lower career
aspiration and also a lower academic self-concept (lk-Steiner, Kurtz-Costes, &
Kinlaw, 2000). This trend is well-known in STEM (Science, Technology,
Engineering and Math) (Blickenstaff, 2005). Despite many available jobs in this
sector the number of employed women remains low (Dasgupta & Stout, 2014).
A good possibility to overcome the above shown risk might strictly connect
science with technology. Bionics is a substantial research area combining the
biology, technology and related sciences to find suitable solutions for the
improvement of technology problems, therefore nature can act as a model for

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technical advantages (Nachtigall & Wisser, 2013). Bionics might be a possibility

as it combines science and technology in an innovative way. More and more
inventions can be expected. The lotus-effect, for example, is one of the most
famous examples with its self-cleaning mechanism due to a wax-coated surface
(Neinhuis & Barthlott, 1997). A further example is the shark skin with its
optimized longitudinal body axis where small parallel riblets reduce drag
Oeffner & Lauder (2012), which reduces wind flow in aircraft (Bechert, Bruse,
Hage, Van Der Hoeven, & Hoppe, 1997). Existing technologies may be improved
or invented through the inspiration of nature. Bringing these interesting and
exciting new areas of science and technology into classrooms may create interest
in and motivation to learn science.
Given this background, we derived four research questions: 1) Is the SMQ-II
Questionnaire suitable for younger age students? 2) Does a one-day intervention
influence science motivation? 3) Are there gender differences? 4) Do motivation
towards science and interest for technology interact?

Intervention bionics in the zoo
Our bionics module took five complete school lessons in a zoo (see table 1).
Firstly, an instruction booklet containing the relevant material and instructions
for the day ensured a similar pre-knowledge. A lesson day started with a
teacher-guided unit where the general aims of the day were discussed, and an
introduction to the bionics given. Familiarity with the basics of bionics and of
biology and technology were assumed for all participants. Each student wrote
relevant information into that book and so had a portable guide, as the rest of
the day in the zoo was student-centered and teachers only gave answers if
needed. Students were organized into small groups of three or four. The
following student-centered module was divided into two hands-on sub
modules, the Aquarium Module (=AM) and the Seminar Room Module (=SM).
Both sub-modules consisted of four workstations.

Table 1: Module phases and description

phase of teaching description students activity Time

pre-group phase introduction to teacher-guided 25

bionics learning

Seminar room seminar room hands-on 85

module activity

Aquarium concentrating on the hands-on 85

module living animal directly
in the zoo

post-group phase exhibition Repetition 30


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In the post-group phase, the exhibition `BIONICUM` provided the option to

rearrange newly acquired knowledge from the pre-group and group phases by
building new cognitive structures with examples from the interactive exhibition:
experiments, videos, hands-on and computer-guided learning. For instance, the
rodent self-sharpening teeth effect was shown in a video as well as its technical
application in self-sharpening knifes. Finally, a dancing and singing robot
presented bionics directly as human model. All interventions were guided by
the same teacher and tutor in order to ensure equality of the module application
for all classes.
Sample and study design
324 6th graders (age M=12.2 years, 189 girls, 135 boys) participated in a hands-
on guided learning module. The students completed the Science Motivation
Questionnaire-II (intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, grade motivation) three
times (see figure 1). The first measurement point was two weeks before our
intervention, the second directly after participation and the third six weeks after
participation. At T0 additionally the shortened Technology Questionnaire (TQ)
consisting of the two subscales interest in technology and social implications
of technology was completed (Marth & Bogner, 2017b).

Figure 1: Schedule of questionnaire implementation

Statistical analysis
Statistical analysis was conducted using SPSS Version 23. Using the central limit
theorem we used parametric testing methods.
First, we applied an explanatory factor analysis to the SMQ-II item set for
visually inspect the similarity to the original scale following a principal factor
analysis with oblim and varimax rotation. The suitability of our sample for
factor analysis was tested using the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin test (KMO) (Kaiser,
1970) and Bartletts test of sphericity. The Kaiser-Guttman (Kaiser, 1960), was
employed to determine the number of factors to extract.
For the analysis of the different testing points of the SMQ-II, we used for each
subscale (SC = self-confidence, GM = grade motivation) a repeated measurement
ANOVA based on mean scores. For pairwise comparison at the different testing
points, we applied post-hoc testing with the Bonferroni correction. For the
measurement of significant differences between the genders, at each testing
point for each subscale we used also the repeated measurement ANOVA above.
For the test-rest group we also used an ANOVA for each subscale of the SMQ II.

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The Pearson Correlation coefficient was used to quantify the relationship of the
SMQ II and the TQ subscale (IN = Interest, SO = social implications) mean

Exploratory factor analysis
We subjected the 15 items of SMQ-II (T0) to principal axis factor analysis (PAF).
In contrast to the original three sub-scales IM, SE and GM, our analysis extracted
two, merging the first two into a factor we labeled self-confidence (SC). The
Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measurement of .923 is high (Hutcheson & Sofroniou, 1999),
as is Bartlett`s test of sphericity (chi-square= 2436.649; p=<.001) (Field, 2013). By
using the Kaiser-Guttman criterion, 51.52 % of the total variance were explained.
Oblique and orthogonal rotations yielded essentially the same solution. The
varimax factor loadings are shown in Table 2, loadings below .35 are not shown.
The percent of variance explained by self-confidence (SC) was 42,286%, and
9,243 % for grade motivation (GM).The reliability scores were reasonable for
all sub-scales at all testing points, ranging from .80 to .89 (SC: T0 (T0= .897), T1
(T1=.868); T2 (T2=.907); GM T0 (T0=.844), T1 (T1=.897), T2 (T2=.895)).
Table 2: Factor loadings from the PAF of the pre-test values of the SMQ II (T0)
(Scores under .35 are suppressed)
N= 325 F1 F2

Factor 1: Self-confidence

1 Learning science is interesting .727

2 I am curious about discoveries in science .734

3 The science I learn is relevant to my life .391

4 Learning Science makes my life more meaningful .448

5 I enjoy learning science .677

6 I believe I can earn a grade of A in science .673

7 I am confident I will do well on science tests .708

8 I believe I can master science knowledge and skills .815

9 I am sure I can understand science .752

10 I am confident I will do well on science labs and .762


Factor 2: Grade Motivation

11 Scoring high on science test and labs matters to me .581

12 It is important that I get an A in science .803

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13 I think about the grade I will get in science .791

14 Getting a good science grade is important to me .904

15 I like to do better than other students on science tests .461

The mean knowledge scores (M) and standard deviation (SD) differ significantly
between the 3 different testing points for the sub-scales from the SMQ II (see
Figure 2).

Figure 2: Mean knowledge scores of the 2 different sub-scales SC and GM to testing

points T0, T1 and T2; Bars are 95% confidence intervals

The sub-scale SC showed significant differences in the repeated measurement

ANOVA (F(1.969,513.930)=6.188, p=.002, omega=.90). For the chi-square of the
sub-scale SC (2)=7.157 Mauchly`s test showed violation of the assumption of
sphericity, therefore degrees of freedom were corrected by using Huynh-Feldt
estimates of sphericity (epsilon=.985). The knowledge mean scores increased
from T0 (M=2.36 ; SD=.751) to T1 (M=2.45 ; SD=.692) and dropped at testing
point T2 (M= 2.32; SD= .772) (Figure 2). The post-hoc pair-wise comparison with
the Bonferroni correction showed similar results. SC increased short-term (TO to
T1; p=.029 and dropped again at testing point T2 (T1 to T2; p=.034). Testing point
T0 and T2 showed no significant differences (T0 to T2; p=1.00).
The sub-scale SC was also analyzed for differences between the female and male
participants (see Figure 3). There was no significant effect of gender
(F(1.969,513.930)=.263, p=.766, omega=.83), indicating that the mean scores from
male and female students were similar (male: T0 (M=2.43; SD=.806), T1 (M=2.55;

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SD=.701); T2 (M= 2.42; SD= .765); female: T0 (M=2.28; SD=.686) to T1 (M=2.35;

SD=.670), T2 (M= 2.24; SD= .772)).
For the sub-scale GM, the repeated measurement ANOVA yielded no significant
differences (F(1.950,571.275)=.035, p=.963, omega=.90). For the chi-square of the
sub-scale GM (2)=10.699 Mauchly`s test showed violation of the assumption of
sphericity, therefore, degrees of freedom were corrected by using Huynh-Feldt
estimates of sphericity (epsilon=.975). Knowledge mean scores stay constant
from T0 (M=2.57; SD=.915) to T1 (M=2.56 ; SD=.823 ) and also to T2 (M=2.56 ;
SD= .906) (Figure 2). The post-hoc pair-wise comparison with the Bonferroni
correction showed similar results. GM stay constant short-term (TO to T1;
p=1.00) and also to testing point T2 (T0 to T2; p=1.00; T1 to T2; p=1.00).
The sub-scale GM showed no difference between female and male participants
(see Figure 3): (F (1.950,571.275)=.692, p=.497; omega=.80), indicating similar
mean scores for male and female students (male: T0 (M=2.63; SD=.922), T1
(M=2.66; SD=.812); T2 (M= 2.60; SD= .888); female: T0 (M=2.50; SD=.905) to T1
(M=2.46; SD=.825), T2 (M= 2.52; SD= .924)).

Figure 3: Mean knowledge scores of the 2 different sub-scales SC and GM to testing

points T0, T1 and T2 split by gender; Bars are 95% confidence intervals

A non-participant test-retest group yielded in a repeated measurement ANOVA

no difference at the different testing points in each sub-scale (SC:
(F(1.883,92.250)=.223; p= .787 omega=.90; GM: (F(1.901,285.210)=.711; p= .711

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The correlation matrix of the SMQ-II sub-scales between each other and with the
modified TQ is displayed below. The linear slope shows the interrelation among
the single correlation factors.

Figure 4: Pearson correlations matrix between the sub-scales SC and GM and sub-
scales interest and social of the TQ: plot showing the distribution of the correlations
and the positive interrelations

In addition to Figure 4 above the other testing points T1, T2 and T3 were
analyzed. The intercorrelation of the SMQ II sub-scales (SC-GM) showed
significant effects for all correlations (T0: r=.573 ***, p=<0.001; T1: r=.644 ***,
p=<0.001; T0: r=.664 ***, p=<0.001).
The bivariate correlation of the SMQII sub-scales SC and GM with the modified
TQ showed no significant differences. The sub-scale interest showed only a
very low correlation with the sub-scale SC at testing point T0 (p=.024; r=.124; r2=

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.015). The sub-scale GM shows no significant correlation either for interest or for

Science motivation of 6th graders seems to originate in different concepts
compared to adolescent or adult subjects: Career-motivation and self-
determination still seem far away from reality for 6th graders compared to older
samples (Schumm & Bogner, 2016). The umbrella term may not need three
sub-scales to explain its meaning (intrinsic-motivation, self-efficacy and grade
motivation), since younger subjects seem to combine two to form single one: the
umbrella factor structure for the 10 item-set (intrinsic motivation and self-
efficacy) in our younger age-group differed from the earlier reported older
structure (freshmen, 10th graders). Apparently the young do not discriminate
between intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. This was an unexpected result as
no previous studies have suggested this pattern (Glynn et al., 2011).
Even Ryan & Deci (2000) had built upon self-determination and explained this
with the importance of humans development of personality. The original factor
analysis was obtained from university students and not for younger participants
as in our study. This difference may present the largest effect in the disparity
with Glynn et al. (2011). This dependency might be the cause of the merging of
intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. Pintrich & De Groot (1990) have reported
self-efficacy and intrinsic values as positively supporting cognitive performance.
Also Zimmerman & Kitsantas (1999) reported a high correlation between self-
efficacy and school students intrinsic interest. We labeled this umbrella of
intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy as self-confidence (SC).
Confidence in ones abilities generally enhances motivation, making it a
valuable asset for individuals with imperfect willpower (Benabou & Tirole,
2002 p.871). Philosophers, educators and psychologists see self-concept as the
main root of motivation, emotion and social influence; and self-confidence in
skills and efficacy may help to increase motivation for different ventures
(Benabou & Tirole, 2002). Kleitman & Stankov (2007) reported self-confidence to
be a solid predictor of performance accurateness. Its the key to good
performance and the power of endurance in different circumstances to work
hard and believe in ones skills, to win a medal, for example, or perform on
stage, be accepted by college, write a great book, do innovative research, set up a
company, reduce weight, find a mate, and so forth (Benabou & Tirole, 2002). For
us, self-confidence may trigger the ability to reach goals in science and increase
self-efficacy beliefs and intrinsic motivation. The connection between self-
confidence and motivation is described by Ryan & Deci (2000) who postulated
intrinsic motivation and well-being as needs different psychological
requirements namely competence, autonomy and relatedness. These
components are the key to motivation and achieving goals.
Bandura (1977) pointed to the importance of self-efficacy for reaching a goal and
how long motivation needs to last in order to achieve a target. School students
may not have belief in self-efficacy in the context of science, as science is not
included in primary school syllabi. As self-efficacy is defined as people's beliefs
about their capabilities to produce effects (Bandura, 1994 p.71), it is largely the
perception of the impact of someones action that seems affected. Self-efficacy is

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one of the most important predictors of motivation and success in learning

science: as Zimmerman (2000) saw it as basis for achievement resources
depending of what the self-efficacy beliefs should measure. In our case, the
measurement focus is science motivation, but school students couldnt express
self-efficacy belief for motivation for school careers without knowledge of
science. Bandura (1997) pointed out that students with high self-efficacy beliefs
show more efforts in challenging a task and work consistently, harder and with
greater persistence.
The self-determination theory of Deci & Ryan (1985) differentiated types of
motivation, distinguishing between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: intrinsic
motivation is doing something with an inherent will, and extrinsic motivation
has to do with goal oriented actions driven by external circumstances. The first
may exist in every human, but not every person is intrinsically motivated
towards similar tasks or fields (Ryan & Deci, 2000). However, intrinsic and
extrinsic motivations belong together: Lin, McKeachie, & Kimm (2001) described
intrinsic motivation as linked with better grades as highly extrinsic motivated
students do. Therefore, educators should regard not only knowledge as the main
educational goal, but also see lifelong learning as an enhancing variable
supporting perception and motivational sites to better learn science (Vedder-
Weiss & Fortus, 2011).
Sturm & Bogner (2008) for example used the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory
(IMI) to demonstrate that a student-centered approach is more internally
motivating than a traditional school setting. Gerstner & Bogner (2010) on the
contrary found no link between motivational aspects and a traditional or
student-centered approach. Another study of hands-on learning as opposed to
learning in normal school settings showed more well-being and more self-
determination in the former (Schaal & Bogner, 2005). The sub-scale interest and
enjoyment of the IMI showed positive relations to the attitudes towards a
cooperative learning setting (Geier & Bogner, 2011). In an outreach laboratory
unit, Goldschmidt & Bogner (2015) found higher achievements scores for short-
and long-term knowledge for higher motivated participants. In a student-
centered learning study of the risks of smoking, Hedler & Bogner (2013)
reported a creative learning environment as increasing autonomous motivation
and decreasing controlled motivation. Therefore, the self-confidence towards
science may provide the possibility to catch someones interest again and focus
the main features of science. In sum, the connection between self-efficacy and
intrinsic motivation may offer a good chance for young secondary school
students to build the self-confidence in science.
For promotion of science motivation with a one day learning program, a
learning intervention might improve the science motivation with respect to self-
confidence, as the significant increase after our intervention showed. This is
quite in line with Brickman, Gormally, Armstrong, & Hallar (2009) where an
increase in self-confidence after an inquiry lab course was reported. In our study
in a zoological garden with living animals student-centered learning
environments and hands-on material seem to supply an optimal way to increase
knowledge (Mayer, 2004). Hands-on learning not only promotes knowledge, but
it also effectively supported motivation and interest (Poudel et al., 2005). This
conclusion is supported by a meta-analysis of 65 studies where cooperative

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learning was shown to generate better cognitive achievement and attitudes

(Kyndt et al., 2013). Nevertheless, the self-confidence shift we initially observed
was not maintained six weeks after participation. Repeated interventions, or
especially promoted science related courses and out-of-school activities might
keep shifts consistent over time. Science activity participation for example has
been shown to predict science perceptions in high school (Simpkins et al., 2006).
Parental support provided also needs attention, as parents pass their own
attitudes and feelings about science and math on to their children (Jacobs &
Bleeker, 2004). The STEM field meets with low interest and motivation in the
view of the general public. Especially during the secondary school it dropped
enormously, one reason being teacher-student interactions (Kiemer, Grschner,
Pehmer, & Seidel, 2015).
Grade motivation was irrelevant to our intervention as a program day in a zoo
earns no grades. One point of such a program is to enjoy the intervention day in
the zoo without the anxiety of grade or judgment from the classroom teachers.
Terry, Mills, & Sollosy (2008), however, showed students to be more motivated
when they do earning grades in such a context. Ryan & Deci (2000) described for
extrinsic motivation as referring, making something just because of an expected
result. Nevertheless, we generally need to mention that our low scores for self-
confidence and grade motivation might be explained by in the age of our
participants: young students may show low self-confidence and grade
motivation for science because their science education started only one year
before the intervention. Schumm & Bogner (2016) worked with cohorts four
years older than our sample) and reported much higher science motivation both
intrinsically and extrinsically. Similarly, Glynn et al. (2011) reported much
higher science motivation for university students. Taken together, self-
confidence could be influenced in the short-term and grade motivation
unaffected by our intervention.
The lack of gender differences finds support in other studies. Zeyer (2010) or
Zeyer & Wolf (2010) reported similar results, concluding that motivation does
not matter for learning science by gender. Conradty & Bogner (2008) for example
showed for 8th grade girls higher intrinsic motivation scores in scientific topics
while Schumm & Bogner (2016) and Obrentz (2012) reported lower self-efficacy
scores for girls. Glynn et al. (2011) worked with university freshmen, Obrentz
(2012) with college freshmen and Schumm & Bogner (2016) with 10th graders.
Our 6th graders represent a transition between childhood and early adolescence
with all the biological, physical and metacognitive changes in this stage of life.
Differences in lack of self-confidence may suggest this. Similarly, Wigfield (1996)
reported for primary school children equal confidence scores in math and
science, while middle school children already showed a gender gap. In the
literature, a gender difference with lower science motivation scores is expected
(e.g., Obrentz 2012; Glynn et al. (2009)) where in first case girls show less self-
efficacy and trust in science. As most studies worked with high school or
university subjects, our reported lack of a gender gap may convince.
Relationships between technology and science seem complex: Science
motivation with its sub-scales self-confidence and grade motivation correlated
significantly, in agreement with Glynn et al. (2011) when the different factor
structure is not taken into account. Moreover, Glynn et al. (2011), Obrentz (2012)

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and Goldschmidt & Bogner (2015) have reported a dependence of science

motivation on achievement scores. Schumm & Bogner (2016) found small
correlations between the motivation of self-determination and the sub-scales of
the big-5 consciousness and neuroticism. Our small correlation between
self-confidence and interest in technology supposes to connect both
variables anyway as technology and science are related fields especially in the
bionics field (Bannasch, 2009). Mistler-Jackson & Songer (2000) also reported a
motivational influence in a technology-driven intervention. Similarly, scientists
and public thoughts may exert a big influence on the motivation of science and
technology (Martn-Sempere, Garzon-Garcia, & Rey-Rocha, 2008). Also,
Aikenhead & Ryan (1992) concluded that science included a technology site in
our Science-Technology-Society as both are belonging together and
approximate each other. Fields like bionics build up an appropriate interface as
teaching science and technology should be not separated in school classes.
Teachers and educators should try also to combine these fields to enhance
students beliefs and knowledge and to build new cognitive structures
supporting scientific literacy and technological know-how.

Knowledge about science motivation offers useful and consistent information in
a classroom. Extrinsic motivation (including the motivation to earn good
grades) seems to be one of the biggest predictors of school success, a factor
which outreach interventions cannot exploit since they do not give grades.
Nevertheless, outreach experience offers a chance to raise the general motivation
for science. Intrinsic motivation as part of the self-confidence concept in
combination with self-efficacy can be exploited with appropriate activities such
as field-days, extracurricular programs or out-of-school courses. Innovative
issues such as bionics may interact with the variables described (at least our
study supported this). When students are interested in STEM in school they
were able to take it home and persuade parents or friends of the need for science
in modern society. Even if they only inspire themselves, school needs to
incorporate STEM education in education of the young generation. Our study is
another option to bring science into the school context especially in the students
minds, but it may represent another approach to supporting STEM.

We are grateful to the BIONICUM` for assistance as we are to all schools,
teachers and students for participation. Similarly, we thank the Bavarian
Ministry of Education for permitting the study within schools (X.7-
BO4106/453/9, 03.02.2015). Financial support was granted by the CREATIONS
Project (European Union Grant Agreement, No. 665917), by the University of
Bayreuth as well as by the LfU (Landesamt fr Umwelt).


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