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Vol.16 No.7
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VOLUME 16 NUMBER 7 July 2017

Table of Contents
Exploration of Conceptions of Assessment within High-Stakes U.S. Culture ................................................................ 1
Melanie A. DiLoreto, Ph.D., Christie Pellow, M.A., and David L. Stout, Ph.D.

Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Self-Efficacy in Military Cadets ........................................................................... 10


Ole Boe and Hans-Olav Bergstl

Differentiated Instruction in the High School Science Classroom: Qualitative and Quantitative Analyses ............ 30
Jane Pablico. Moustapha Diack and Albertha Lawson

An Evaluation of using Games in Teaching English Grammar for First Year English-Majored Students at Dong
Nai Technology University.................................................................................................................................................. 55
Lien Cam and Thi Minh Thu Tran

Abolition of Agricultural Science as a Single Subject in Basic Schools in Ghana: Implications for Basic Educational
Reforms .................................................................................................................................................................................. 72
Martin Bosompem and Theophilus Numo

Pre-defined Roles and Team Performance for First-year Students ................................................................................ 84


Jess Everett, Kaitlin Mallouk and Jenahvive Morgan

To What Extent Does the Medicalisation of the English Language Complicate the Teaching of Medical ESP to
Japanese Medical Students Learning English as a Foreign Language? ....................................................................... 102
Abdullah Alami
1

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research


Vol. 16, No. 7, pp. 1-9, July 2017

Exploration of Conceptions of Assessment


within High-Stakes U.S. Culture

Melanie A. DiLoreto, Ph.D., Christie Pellow, M.A., and David L. Stout, Ph.D.
The University of West Florida
Pensacola, Florida, United States

Abstract. Past quantitative research about students and faculty


members conceptions of assessment indicates that faculty believe that
one of the primary purposes of assessment is for improvement of both
teaching and learning. Students, however, associate a primary reason
for assessment in higher education for accountability of both students
and the institution. The present study aimed to determine if beliefs
were congruent between student and faculty responses to open-ended
survey items. Using a phenomenological approach to investigate
students and faculty members conceptions of assessment, the
researchers found discrepant results when qualitative data were
compared to the results of past quantitative studies (Brown, 2004;
DiLoreto, 2013; Fletcher, Meyer, Anderson, Johnston, & Rees, 2011).
Additional results of this inquiry and implications of these findings for
educational settings are discussed.

Keywords: conceptions of assessment; teaching; learning; higher


education

Introduction
Research suggests that conceptions are derived from past experiences.
Thus, ones past experiences with assessment influences how one conceives the
purpose of assessment. Multiple studies conducted in various low-stakes
environments around the globe have suggested that a primary purpose of
assessment is to improve student learning. However, when a similar study was
conducted in the high-stakes assessment and accountability culture found in the
United States, students reported a belief that a primary purpose of assessment is
to evaluate their performance instead of improve their learning. In order to
further investigate how students and faculty conceptualize assessment, this
phenomenological study sought to explore deeper meanings of the term as well
as the various activities that both students and faculty members associate with
it.

Review of the Literature


In the realm of education, the conceptions of educators and students
alike are often developed and refined through pedagogical endeavours.

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2

Specifically, conceptions of assessment are shaped by the attitudes, beliefs, and


perceptual experiences of the perceiver. These preconceived notions can
potentially negatively impact student outcomes (Struyyen et al. 2005; Fletcher et
al., 2011). Nonetheless, assessment serves a valuable and necessary purpose in
the hierarchical chain of higher education. Assessment data can be fundamental
to the continuous improvement of both teaching and learning. It is through the
use of assessments that data can be gathered to support needed changes in
academic courses and programs. Thus, the conceptions of assessment could be
considered as important to the current and future health of the academic
process.
Beliefs are meanings that are based on lived experiences and cultural
norms from which sense is made about these experiences (Ekeblad and Bond,
1994, 343-353). Furthermore, conceptions are defined as mental constructs or
representations of an individuals reality (Brown and Lake, 2006; Fodor, 1998;
Kelly, 1991; Lakoff and Johnson 2003; Thompson, 1992, 127-146). Consequently,
an individuals conception of assessment and its importance are thus invariably
connected to learning outcomes. Faculty members are not immune to these
predilections either, and their experiences affect the way in which they
implement their own assessments in the classroom. Indeed, past research
indicates that beliefs about assessment impact the way instructors teach and the
way students learn (Brown, 2004; Struyven, Dochy, and Janssens, 2005).
Therefore, because conceptions are filtered through an individuals belief
system, the conceptions of assessment held by students may be different from
those held by their teachers (Brown, 2004; Hidri, 2015).
Assessment serves multiple purposes for all stakeholders of institutions
of higher education. As such, assessment practices have evolved as a result of
the demands of external accountability measures imposed by various policy-
makers. One dilemma faced by stakeholders is the fact that the term assessment
is often used within different contexts and with different meanings (Shepard,
2000). Wang and Hurley (2012) indicate that an assessment movement in higher
education began in the 1980s with an emphasis on student learning. Since that
time, accrediting agencies have required institutions of higher education to
implement program-level and institution-level assessment procedures in
addition to documenting student learning. Wang and Hurley (2012) found that
the way assessment is perceived by faculty might impact student achievement.
In a quasi-experimental study, Brown, Chaudhry, and Dhamija (2015)
researched the beliefs of teachers about the purposes of assessment and found
that such beliefs were impacted by the perceived roles of assessment.
Due to a shift in various educational reforms, during the 1990s
institutions of higher education began placing a greater emphasis on research-
based practices and quantifiable evidence to demonstrate that students were
capable of attaining course learning outcomes. A common practice is to
measure the efficacy of students performances on various assessments in order
to identify the most effective institutions for subsequent funding and resource
allocations. Consequently, high-stakes assessment results seem to have become
the key measure of outcomes in todays educational climate.
Brown (2011) suggests that the increased accountability pressure to have
institutions show improvement in student learning outcomes has impacted the

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high-stakes classroom environment for teachers and students alike. Due to these
external pressures, it is possible that faculty may inflate test results to
demonstrate larger gains in student learning with an absence of true
comprehension (Brown, 2011).
While it seems that the disparity of belief systems and their effects on the
conceptions of assessment among the various stakeholders in education is real, it
is also clear that the increased accountability pressure (often politicized and
marketed as value added) to have institutions, schools, and teachers show
improvement in student learning outcomes advocated by politicians, public
policy, and parent populations, has impacted learning (Brown, 2011) and its
measurement in various ways. The multifaceted purpose of assessment includes
obtaining information about student learning, student progress, quality of
teaching, as well as program and institutional accountability (Brown, 2010).
Each facet of this purpose is affected by the beliefs of those who are
implementing the assessments as well as those who are being assessed. Clearly,
such research is complicated by these multi-faceted variables. However, Baird
(2014) suggests that a standardization of approaches to conducting research on
teachers views about assessment would be useful. Furthermore, it is interesting
to note that Oprea (2015) found that this complex field of research has produced
only a small number of studies that have delved into all the complexities of this
topic. An attempt to connect two fields of research was done by Xu and Brown
(2016) when they investigated the connection between educational assessment
and teacher education.
Brown, Lake, and Matters (2011) report that differences in policy,
cultures, and the purpose of assessment lead to differences in how assessment is
conceptualized by various stakeholders. Specifically, Brown et al. (2011)
hypothesize that when there is a high-stakes environment for students
associated with the use of assessments, teachers and students will report a
student-accountability purpose of assessment. Research studies completed in
New Zealand, where a low-stakes assessment environment is routine, confirm
that faculty members and students conceptions of assessment differ from those
belonging to more high-stakes assessment cultures, such as that of the United
States. According to Fletcher et al. (2011), higher education faculty view
assessment as an aid to the learning process whereas university students view
assessment as needed simply for accountability purposes or even irrelevant to
the educational process. The difference lies in the outcome of these assessments
based on the educational climate. In low-stakes settings, test scores have little to
no impact on students or schools, whereas these scores heavily regulate tenure,
promotion, and graduation rates in high stakes climates.
Prior research indicates that students, who conceptualize assessment in
terms of personal accountability rather than external accountability, achieve
more (Brown et al., 2011). Furthermore, researchers found that Australian
students became increasingly negative in their attitudes regarding assessment as
they progressed in education level and hypothesize that this shift may be the
result of students becoming more aware of the pressures and risks associated
with the result of assessment. However, research on the impact of students
beliefs about assessment is lacking (Brown and Harris, 2012). A simple wording
modification of Browns (2006) abridged Conceptions of Assessment III (CoA-

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4

III) instrument was initially intended to be used by the researchers to determine


faculty members and undergraduate students self-reported conceptions of
assessment. However, in order to gain further insights, to identify trends and to
explore faculty members and undergraduate students beliefs about the
definition of assessment, an open-ended question developed by the researchers
was also added. Specifically, participants were asked what the term assessment
means to them. Furthermore, as part of the researchers modification of the
CoA-III, participants were asked to select from a list of possible responses what
types of activities come to mind when they think of the term assessment.
Consequently, the present study used a phenomenological approach to
investigate the written responses of the participants in order to illuminate any
differences between students and faculty members conceptions of assessment.

Method
Participants. Undergraduate students (n = 404) and faculty (n = 156) located
within the Southern Association of College and Schools (SACS) region of the
United States were invited via email to participate in the study. Faculty
members were included in the present study if their primary duty was
pedagogy, research, program coordination, or academic dean. Additionally,
students were identified as undergraduate students attending one of the
institutions within the SACS region. One hundred and eleven institutions were
contacted to participate in the study. Of the 111 institutional contacts emailed to
participate, a total of ten institutions agreed to allow their students and faculty
to take part in the research.

Instrument. In order to explore students and faculty members beliefs about


the meaning of assessment, both faculty and students were asked to provide a
written response to the open-ended question, What does the term assessment
mean to you? Next, participants were asked to select all that apply to the
question, What types of activities come to mind when you think of the term
assessment? These two items were added by the researchers to the abridged
version of the CoA-III (Brown, 2006). These questions were used to gain further
insight into what these dichotomous groups conceptualize as the meaning of
assessment in a high-stakes testing culture.

Design. A cross-sectional design using survey methodology was employed for


this study. In an attempt to describe rather than explain the quality of
participants responses to written items on an open-ended items on the
questionnaire, the researchers used a phenomenological approach to explore the
differences, if any, that exist between student and faculty responses to what the
term assessment means to them. A phenomenological approach allowed the
researchers to identify the specific perceptions held by the participants

Procedures. Participation in this study was delimited to faculty members who


are employed by, and undergraduate students who attend, institutions of higher
education located within the SACS region of the United States. Participants
were offered an invitation to be included in a raffle for one of the newest
versions of an Apple iPad as an attempt to increase participant response rate.

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5

Participants responses were anonymous and any identifying information


inadvertently collected remained confidential. Thus, member checking was not
completed. Both student and faculty participant responses to the question,
What does the term assessment mean to you? were analysed separately and
then coded in order to develop themes. Colleagues familiar with such analyses
validated the coding and themes.

Conclusion
Summary of findings. Responses to the open-ended question demonstrate
distinct differences in how faculty members and students conceptualize the term
assessment. The word test, testing, quiz, and/or exam appeared infrequently in
faculty responses (9%) compared to students (36%). Thus, students used the
word(s) test, testing, quizzes, and exams nearly four times more often than
faculty. Faculty mentioned the term evaluation in either program contexts or
student learning contexts 40 times in the 146 responses (27%). Students, on the
other hand, mentioned evaluation only 77 times out of the 394 responses (20%).
The vast majority of the evaluation-related responses for both faculty and
students referred to the assessment of students knowledge and skill set. A
trend was observed where faculty connoted evaluation in respect to a course or
program, while students assumed more external responsibility for the purposes
of evaluation. Interestingly, faculty participants and student participants rarely
mentioned formative assessment, personal feedback, or improvement purposes
in their responses. In the overwhelming majority of responses, the term
assessment was defined as meeting external demands imposed by someone
within or outside of the educational institution. Thus, it is reasonable to
conclude that the findings of the present study have been impacted by the
students recent emersion in a high-stakes assessment culture.
In order to answer the second research question, a crosstab analysis was
employed. The selected responses to When you think of the term assessment,
what types of activities come to mind? were analysed. Participants were asked
to check all that apply from a list of 15 items (standardized test, self-reflection,
program evaluation, oral questions/answers, portfolios, homework, course grades,
written reports/research, conferencing, teacher made tests, tenure and/or promotion
dossier, performance evaluation, accreditation, student evaluation, other). Table 1
contains the frequency of responses to each item by faculty and students. It is
evident that the majority of faculty indicated standardized tests, program
evaluation, and teacher made tests as the most common activities associated with
assessment. Congruent with faculty, students also indicated standardized tests in
their conception of assessment most often, along with performance evaluation and
course grades.

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Table 1: Types of Assessment Activities


Faculty Students
Item # of Percentage of # of Percentage of
Responses Faculty Responses Students
(n = 158) (n = 404)
Standardized tests 122 77 357 88
Program evaluation 118 75 262 65
Performance evaluation 107 68 301 75
Student evaluation 110 70 262 65
Course grades 103 65 277 69
Teacher made tests 114 72 253 63
Written 109 69 191 47
reports/research
Homework 100 63 174 43
Oral questions/answers 98 62 185 46
Portfolios 98 62 139 34
Self-reflection 90 57 141 35
Accreditation 90 57 121 30
Tenure and/or 53 34 42 10
promotion dossier
Conferencing 52 33 70 17
Other 15 9 15 4

Researchers identified an unusual discrepancy in self-report responses in


the present study compared to previous quantitative research on the topic.
When asked to acknowledge the meaning of assessment from a personal
standpoint, faculty overwhelmingly indicated that assessment involves the
evaluation of programs and/or student learning. Yet, in past quantitative
research, faculty indicated that the primary purpose of assessment was for
improvement purposes. The discordance in faculty responses between the
current research and a prior study was highlighted when faculty were asked to
select from a list of activities about assessment. In their responses, standardized
tests were selected 77 percent of the time by faculty. Standardized testing
activities were followed by program evaluation and teacher made tests none
of which align to what faculty indicated in their responses to the open-ended
question earlier on in the survey. Students, on the other hand, were more
consistent in their responses to both the open-ended item and the list of
activities associated with the term assessment. These results align to both past
quantitative studies about students conceptions of assessment as well as the
current students definition of the term assessment.

Implications. An overarching purpose in the present research inquiry was to


understand if and how students and faculty differ in their conceptions of
assessment, if responses to survey items are congruent to past quantitative
research, and finally, if membership conceptualizations of assessment match the
represented activities that come to mind in a practical application. As past
research indicates, the term assessment has various contexts and connotations
dependent on the individual. Understanding attitudes about the purpose of
assessment can help inform policy makers regarding the impact of their policy

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decisions and the projected outcome. Knowing that attitudes, beliefs, and past
experiences with assessment can affect future learning and outcomes of students
(Ajzen 1991; Bandura 1986), and that the assessment practices of instructors can
improve student outcomes (Brown and Hirschfeld 2008; Struyven et al. 2005), it
is important for policymakers to take into consideration the conceptions of both
instructors and students if they expect these implemented policies to have a
positive impact on learning and achievement.

Limitations. The recruitment of participants limited to the Southeastern region


of the United States is a potential limitation in the current research.
Furthermore, there is a large disparity between the number of faculty members
(n = 159) and undergraduate students (n = 404) who participated in the study.
Finally, due to the nature of the data collection, member checking was not
possible. Future research should aim to collect a larger number of faculty
members to provide additional support for the underlying assumptions of the
population. It is also recommended that additional qualitative data be collected
via traditional means of data collection (focus groups, interviews, etc.) in order
to delve deeper into the meanings of the term assessment held by these
individuals.

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References

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Teaching, Learning, Curriculum and Assessment: Comparisons with New
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Brown, Gavin T. L., Lake, Robert, and Matters, Gabrielle. (2011). Queensland teachers'
conceptions of assessment: The impact of policy priorities on teacher attitudes.
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DiLoreto, Melanie A. (2013). Multi-group invariance of the conceptions of assessment scale
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Fletcher, Richard B., Meyer, Luanna H., Anderson, Helen, Johnston, Patricia, and Rees,
Malcolm. (2011). Faculty and Students Conceptions of Assessment in Higher
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2490-4198 Vol. 1, No. 1, 19-43.


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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research


Vol. 16, No. 7, pp. 10-29, July 2017

Theoretical and Practical Aspects of Self-Efficacy


in Military Cadets

Ole Boe
Department of Military Leadership and Management,
Norwegian Defence Staff and Command College,
Norwegian Defence University College,
Oslo, Norway

Hans-Olav Bergstl
Norwegian Military Academy,
Oslo, Norway

Abstract. Within the military profession the will to succeed and to strive
for results that go beyond what is expected, is the difference between
success and failure. The demands of war can be extreme and a crucial
factor for the will to succeed is the education of and training on self-
efficacy. Self-efficacy can be obtained either through theory or through
practice. The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether
officer cadets at the Norwegian Military Academy felt that there was a
correlation between theory and practice when it came to Banduras four
factors of how to increase self-efficacy. The four factors were enactive
mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and
physiological and mental states. Method: A self-developed
questionnaire with 14 questions was used in order to investigate the
research question. 10 questions related to theoretical and practical
aspects of self-efficacy was developed. The last question was intended to
find out which of the four factors that had the largest impact upon self-
efficacy, and respondents were forced to choose one of the four factors.
50 officer cadets at the Norwegian Military Academy participated in the
study. Results: A correlation between Banduras theory and the practice
was found. The factors enactive mastery experiences and vicarious
experience were found to have a high correlation between theory and
practice. The highest correlation between theory and practice was found
for the factor verbal persuasion. The lowest correlation between theory
and practice was found for the factor physiological and mental states.
However, when forced to choose which factor that in total had the
largest impact upon self-efficacy, a clear majority of respondents
indicated the factor enactive mastery experiences.

Keywords: self-efficacy; enactive mastery experiences; vicarious


experiences; verbal persuasion; physiological and mental states; military
officers; theory; practice; education

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11

Introduction
High standards are required for professionals and it should be obvious
that you need a strong self-efficacy to deal with the countless scenarios you may
find yourself in as a soldier and officer. Self-efficacy can be defined as; "... [The]
beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required
to produce given attainments" (Bandura, 1997, p. 3). This is not about the
abilities and skills one possesses, but about what one considers attainable with
the skills one possesses (Bandura, 1986). Believing in ones own capacities, skills
and abilities has been found to be important for Norwegian military officers
within diverse subjects such as increasing the will to kill (Boe & Johannessen,
2015), learning aggression and aggression control (Boe & Ingdahl, 2017),
preparing for a parachute jump (Boe & Hagen, 2015), and enhancing leadership
communication skills (Boe & Holth, 2017; Holth & Boe, 2017).
Bandura writes that self-efficacy is a very important factor for people in
order to perform (Bandura, 1997). Perceived competence is seen as a major factor
in all types of educational processes, and prior research in a military context
have found satisfactory concordance between self-reported military competence
and demonstration of effort and expertise in military personal (Adler, Thomas,
& Castro, 2005). Studying an American Stryker brigade, Hammermeister et al.
(2010) found that soldiers with well-developed psychological skills performed
better on physical tests than soldiers with less-developed psychological skills.
Similarly, in a study of a very physically demanding selection program in the
U.S. Special Forces, self- efficacy was found to have a significant impact as to
whether the soldiers completed the hard physical selection or not (Gruber,
Kilcullen, & Iso-Ahola, 2009). These studies lends support to the notion that
psychological skills are important for soldiers and officers. In addition, several
meta-analyses have suggested a positive relationship between self-efficacy and
performance (Gully et al., 2002; Moritz et al., 2000; Multon, Brown & Lent, 1991;
Sadri and Robertson, 1993; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). On the other hand, a
study by Buch, Sfvenbom, and Boe (2015) found that self-efficacy seemed less
important for an increased perception of military competence in cadets who
revealed a higher intrinsic motivation. The picture regarding self-efficacy in the
military context is thus not clear-cut.
"The rigors in combat can be extreme. In our profession, the will to
succeed and to strive towards results that exceed the expected, is the difference
between success and failure" (Forsvarsstaben, 2007. p. 160, our translation). The
quotation is taken from the Norwegian Armed Forces Joint Operational Doctrine
and gives a good picture of why soldiers and officers need a strong self-efficacy
when conducting their professional practice. Norwegian soldiers and officers
have been participating in several operations in different countries with an
increasingly difficult operational environment (Boe, Kjrstad, & Werner-Hagen,
2012). After a conventional "cold war" scenario where the Norwegian soldiers
only guarded its own borders, recent international conflicts are of a much higher
complexity. The conflicts that the Norwegian Armed Forces have participated in
the recent decades has evolved from regular combat operations through
stabilization operations to complex peace operations (Forsvarsstaben, 2014).

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12

Military leadership requires a robustness in order to think clearly and


effectively, and to master ones own emotions in the face of complex situations
(Forsvarsstaben, 2012). An important factor in the education of soldiers and
officers will be to create a high degree of belief in their own abilities (Eid &
Johnsen, 2006). The U.S. Armys field manual 6-22 on Army leadership
emphasize the self-development process of military leader. This includes
strengths and developmental needs as well as determination and goal setting
(U.S. Department of the Army, 2015). To educate soldiers and officer with faith
in themselves and their skills is crucial so that different missions can be solved
both at home and abroad. The Norwegian Military Academy (NMA) also
emphasizes the development of self-efficacy in its cadets. For instance, the
combat fatigue course that the cadets have to participate in during their three-
year education at the NMA is an arena aimed at improving the cadet's ability to
cope and to develop good and appropriate coping strategies (Krigsskolen, 2010;
2016). By constantly exposing the soldiers to more challenging tasks, it is
possible to increase the individual soldiers psychological as well as physical
fitness skills. This will increase the possibility to respond effectively when facing
a dangerous situation (Matthews, 2014).
Bandura (1997) believes there are four factors if one wants to achieve a
better subjective self-efficacy. The four factors are enactive mastery experiences,
vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological and mental states.
By understanding and using these, we can perform at our best. As a soldier and
officer, being able to perform at your best could be the difference between life
and death. It is therefore essential that when the urgency is the greatest, the
military professional manages to perform at his or her best.
Self-efficacy is not just about controlling your actions and surroundings,
but also about being able to control your own thought process, motivation and
physiological emotions (Bandura, 1997). Kaufmann and Kaufmann reinforced
this impression when they wrote: "research shows that this subjectively
experienced self-efficacy capability can often be just as crucial to a person's
achievement as the objective problem-solving abilities" (Kaufmann & Kaufmann,
1998, p. 30, our translation). This means that two individuals with the same skill
level can perform very differently, because the cognitive factor of self-efficacy
play an important role in the performance of the two individuals. Therefore, it is
rational to assume that individuals with high self-efficacy will perform better
than individuals with low self-efficacy (Wormnes & Manger, 2005). It is further
logical to imagine that individuals with a high self-efficacy will be more apt to
believe that they can meet labour challenges although various stressors are
present (Jex, Bliese, Buzzell, & Primeau, 2001). Much previously conducted
research has shown that certain psychological skills are critical in order for
experts to perform at their maximum in a variety of tasks and contexts (see for
instance Ericsson & Kintsch, 1995; Ericsson & Smith, 1991; Janelle & Hillman,
2003; Williams & Ericsson, 2005).
On the other hand, it has been pointed out that the belief in ones self-
efficacy is not necessarily a reflection of reality or the physical capacities that one
possesses, because of the tendency to subjectively judge ones abilities (Bandura,
1997). This means that having a high degree of self-efficacy will not solve all
problems. The level of self-efficacy belief varies widely from person to person,

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13

yet there are some characteristics that are more pronounced in both those with
good and those with poor self-efficacy. People with poor self-efficacy more
easily give up or lower their expectations and efforts in the activity where they
will perform the behaviour (Bandura, 1997). In addition, people with low self-
efficacy largely wish to refrain from taking part in the activity, and to call
attention to the possible consequences and disasters. Those with a strong self-
efficacy, however, will see challenges as solvable tasks. Instead of seeing the
challenge as a menacing obstacle, they see how it most effectively can be passed
(Bandura, 1997). Thus, the four factors may affect our self-efficacy both
positively and negatively, depending on how one interprets and relates to them.
The following sections will go into detail on each of the four factors in
order to give a deeper explanation of what they entail. Four factors are needed in
order to increase self-efficacy according to Bandura. He points out that there are
four factors that contribute. These are respectively: Enactive mastery
experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological and
affective states.

Enactive mastery experiences


Enactive mastery experiences are the factor that influences self-efficacy
the most (Bandura, 1997). An explanation for this is that the actions you have
mastered before, give a pretty good picture of whether you will be able to solve
similar tasks (Bandura, 1986). The successful, but also unsuccessful, coping
experience will be stored in your memory, so they later may affect your self-
efficacy belief. Stated differently, repeated success will build self-efficacy while
repeated failure will weaken it. Doss (2007) also places great emphasis on
enactive mastery experiences in order to build belief in oneself and ones
abilities. He explains that this way to build self-efficacy is one of the most
effective ways to boost your confidence and increase faith in your abilities. Doss
thus supports Banduras (1997) thinking and emphasizes that it is important for
both soldiers and instructors to understand that success comes from being
confident in your skills.
However, performing very simple tasks over time may result in small
defeats creating cracks in ones self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997). Therefore, it is
important to find a balance between difficult and easy tasks. As an example of
what this means, we can envision a cadet who has been a company commander
on an infantry exercise. He or she has mastered this role in a satisfactory manner
and has experienced success with the goals he or she had decided upon. In the
next exercise, the cadet is a platoon leader. The cadet has a good previous
experience from being in a leadership role and therefore feels confident in his or
her abilities as a platoon leader. At this point the cadet used the good enactive
mastery experiences from the company commander role, and therefore became
better suited to solve the platoon leader role. A positive experience such as this
one will allow the cadets to acquire more faith in themselves and in their
abilities when they know that they have mastered a similar role before.

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Vicarious experiences
The second factor regarding how to increase self-efficacy is vicarious
experiences. Seeing others succeed is also an important factor in order to achieve
a better self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997). The person who looks on will then be able
to persuade him- or herself to believe that he or she is capable of doing the same
or of performing even better (Bandura, 1986). In addition, if one is able to
identify with the person performing, this will provide an even greater impact in
achieving a better self-efficacy (Bandura 1997). Doss (2007) also emphasizes
observing others as a factor to improve faith in oneself and ones skills. He
writes that observing others can be a good strategy, especially if you can identify
with the person you are looking at. On the other hand, this way to build self-
efficacy is not thought to be as powerful as enactive mastery experiences (Doss,
2007).
As an example of how this factor works in practice, we can imagine a
cadet who is about to have his or her exam in close combat. In the beginning, the
cadet is looking at other cadets going through the exam situation. The cadet sees
one of his or her fellow cadets who performs in an outstanding manner
throughout the whole exam. The cadet may think that he or she is as good as the
other cadet in all the other things they do, and convince him- or herself that he
or she can achieve the same result. In this way, the cadet gained a better self-
efficacy, because of convincing him- or herself that it is possible to pass the
examination just as the other cadet did.

Verbal persuasion
The third factor dealing with how to increase self-efficacy is verbal
persuasion. To hear praise or encouraging comments is then the third factor that
affects self-efficacy. Support from others has been identified as a key element in
the NMAs leadership development program (Boe & Hjortmo, 2017). Verbal
encouragement is partly used to convince people that they possess skills that
will enable them to achieve what they set themselves as goals (Bandura, 1986).
Bandura (1997) explains that positive feedback at work or during an ongoing
task will encourage people to make a greater effort if the encouragement is
realistic. In order for the encouragement to be felt as real, the feedback must be
within the limits of what is feasible for the person. Experiencing failure because
you were encouraged to take on more responsibility than you yourself thought
was realistic could on the contrary have a negative impact on your self-efficacy.
Negative comments will also weaken your self-efficacy (Cox, 2007). For example,
an instructor or supervisor should avoid commenting on negative behaviour, or
refrain from giving negative feedback. On the other hand, there should be room
to give feedback that is not positive, but with the intention to help the person to
develop. Meanwhile, correct feedback and encouragement causes the focus to be
turned away from the difficult and over to how you should do your best to
resolve the challenges (Bandura, 1997).
An example in this context can be an instructor who encourage a cadet to
take on a task with more responsibility. The instructor explains that the cadet is
loyal, fair and full of effort and should therefore take on the task. Here the
instructor encourages the cadet and explains why he or she believes that the
cadet is fit to take on this task. The cadet experiences that the instructor has

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15

credibility and therefore this will increase the belief that he or she can cope with
such a task if he or she takes on the responsibility. Here the positive and
encouraging words may improve the cadets self-efficacy so that he or she will
take on the task.

Physiological and affective states


The fourth factor dealing with how to increase self-efficacy is
physiological and affective states. When people judge themselves and their
skills, they often consider information that comes from cognitive and emotional
impulses (Bandura 1986). This can be anything from feelings such as stress and
anxiety, or other characteristics such as butterflies in the stomach, a positive
mood or increased pulse. These cognitive and emotional impulses may over
time evolve so much that you will have difficulty functioning in a normal way,
or that these impulses will improve the way we function. Feelings and thoughts
can therefore contribute to either strengthening or weakening our self-efficacy
(Bandura, 1997).
An example of this is that a platoon leader who is highly stressed before
a mission can develop a weak self-efficacy for his or her abilities to solve the
mission, and for similar situations, where he or she repeatedly has failed to
control himself or herself. The feeling of stress will return in similar situations
affecting the platoon leader in a negative way, because he or she recognizes the
negative feelings. If the platoon leader repeatedly experiences this without being
able to control himself or herself or the situation, this may weaken the self-
efficacy (Bandura 1997). On the other hand, the development of personal coping
strategies and techniques can be very effective in order to win back control and
achieve a better self-efficacy (Yanilov & Boe, in press). For example, practicing
mindfulness for two weeks before their first parachute jump resulted in a higher
self-confidence in a group of cadets as compared to a group that did not practice
mindfulness before the first parachute jump (Boe & Hagen, 2015). In this study, a
conclusion was drawn that practicing mindfulness helped to reduce the
perception of stress in an acute stressful situation.

The purpose of the study


Our purpose in this study was to identify any relationships that existed
between theory and practice when it comes to Banduras four factors to increase
self-efficacy. The following research question was asked: To what degree does
NMA cadets feel that there is a correlation between theory and practice when it
comes to Banduras four factors to increase self-efficacy?

Method
To answer the abovementioned research question, a quantitative method
was used. This was done in order to find a pattern or a tendency among the
population (Kvarv, 2010). A questionnaire was given to 50 cadets at the NMA
taking part as respondents in the study.

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16

Participants
The population in the present study consisted of cadets from the NMA.
The total number of cadets at the NMA is classified information and will
therefore not be revealed in this article. Our sample consisted of 50 respondents.
When the sample size was evaluated, it was assumed that the population was
homogeneous and that the number should not be less than 30 respondents in
accordance with the guidelines provided by Johannessen, Tufte, and
Christoffersen (2010). Subsequently, a randomized selection procedure resulted
in five female cadets and 45 male cadets, which was quite representative of the
total population of the NMA cadets consisting of around ten percent women.

Procedure
The respondents filled out the questionnaire at the NMA. The
respondents were asked to consider their own experiences and perceptions and
then to indicate by putting a cross in a box how much they agreed or disagreed
with the statements in the questionnaire. The questionnaires were then collected
by one of the authors. As six of the respondents were not present when the
questionnaire was to be filled out, they were given permission to give their
responses via e-mail to one of the authors.

Materials
Our starting point for the study was first to interpret Banduras theory
(1997). Based on our interpretation of Banduras theory we then developed a
questionnaire. The questionnaire dealt with how much one would agree or
disagree that there were any correlations between theory and practice when it
came to Banduras four factors of increasing self-efficacy.
The questionnaire was designed in a structured way with the main
emphasis on pre-coded response options. A structured questionnaire contains
pre-coded answer alternatives (Johannessen, Tufte, & Christoffersen, 2010). The
questionnaire was designed with five categories. The five categories were
enactive mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion,
physiological and mental states, and a general category related to self-efficacy.
The first four categories each had two questions, where one question had a
theoretical context and the other question a practical context. The aim was to see
whether respondents believed that Banduras four factors were equally
important in theory as in practice, i.e. that theory and practice correlated. The
last category had one question more than the other categories and was intended
to capture the factor that our respondents believed had the greatest impact on
their self-efficacy. Finally, a last question about which factor would be the most
important for self-efficacy was included in the questionnaire. Table 1 below
gives an overview of the questions included in the questionnaire.
The self-developed questionnaire thus consisted of a total of 14
questions. They were structured as follows: Three initial questions were asked
about the respondent: First they were asked to indicate their gender, followed by
indicating which unit they belonged to at the NMA. In the third question, they
were asked to indicate if they had a good understanding of Banduras (1997)
self-efficacy theory. Here the answer categories were either yes or no. The
purpose of this question was to find out if the knowledge of Banduras self-

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efficacy theory would affect the remaining answers in the questionnaire. The
next eight questions (questions 4-11) dealt with the four factors of self-efficacy.
For each of the four factors the respondents were asked to ponder upon a
theoretical and a practical question. Finally, there were three general questions
(questions 12-14) related to self-efficacy. Question 14 was intended to identify
the most important factor contributing to self-efficacy. Here the respondents
were asked to choose one of five possible options that they thought had the most
impact upon their self-efficacy.
To measure the relationship between theory and practice, a five-point
Likert-scale was used in questions 4 to 13. Here, the respondents had the
opportunity to choose between a neutral answer category or two positive or two
negative answers. The five answer categories were: totally disagree, partially
disagree, neither agree nor disagree, partially agree, and totally agree. The use of
these five answer categories was based on the suggestion that five alternative
answers would give a respondent an opportunity to respond in a way that was
nuanced enough (Johannessen, Tufte, & Christoffersen, 2010). The answers that
were obtained from question 4 to 13 were converted to numbers ranging from 1
(totally disagree to 5 (totally agree). In question 14 the respondents could
indicate which one of five options they thought had the biggest impact on their
self-efficacy. They could only indicate one answer of the following five options:
1. Past experiences (example: I have mastered a similar task before), 2. The
achievements of others (example: Seeing that a fellow cadet succeeds with a
task), 3. Verbal encouragement from others (example: Positive feedback on my
own performance), 4. Physiological and mental states (example: Have a strategy
to cope with stress, negative thoughts, etc. so I feel calm and relaxed), and 5.
Other (meaning something else).

Table 1. An overview of questions given to the respondents.


General questions
Question 1. Indicate your gender
Question 2. Indicate which unit at NMA you belong to
Question 3. I have a good understanding of Banduras self-efficacy theory

Questions related to enactive mastery experiences


Question 4. Previous success has a positive impact on my own skills. Previous success
means tasks or actions I have succeeded in completing in an earlier stage in life 1
Question 5. A well-executed platoon leader role gives me an increased confidence that I
will succeed in a similar role after the NMA2

Questions related to vicarious experiences


Question 6. When I see others succeed with their performances, I experience an
increased self-efficacy belief in myself1
Question 7. When I see a fellow cadet, I identify with shooting excellently on a shooting
test, this increases the belief that I too will succeed2

Questions related to verbal persuasion


Question 8. Positive feedback on my performances gives me greater self-efficacy1
Question 9. When competent instructors give me encouraging feedback on my
leadership role, I become more confident in my own skills2

Questions related to physiological and mental states and a general category

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18

Question 10. When I get control of my physiological and mental body reactions, I
experience an increased belief that I will succeed in the present situation. (Examples of
such reactions may include: palpitations, increased heart rate, stress, anxiety, butterflies
in the stomach, nervousness, etc.) 1
Question 11. Good coping strategies give me greater self-efficacy when I am about to
give a speech in front of the entire NMA2

Questions related more generally to self-efficacy


Question 12. Self-efficacy is important for an officer to succeed in his or her profession 1
Question 13. A well-developed self-efficacy has a great significance for my
achievements2

Question intended to identify the most important factor in self-efficacy


Question 14. Which of these five options do you think has the largest impact on your
self-efficacy: (You can only indicate one answer).
1. Past experiences (example: I have mastered a similar task before)
2. The achievements of others (example: Seeing that a fellow cadet succeed with a task)
3. Verbal encouragement from others (example: Positive feedback on my own
performance)
4. Physiological and mental states (example: Have a strategy to cope with stress,
negative thoughts, etc. so I feel calm and relaxed)
5. Other (meaning something else)
1Theoretical question, 2Practical question. Answers to question 1 was either male or

female. Answers to question 2 was either 1, 2, or 3. Answers to question 3 was either yes
or no. Answers to questions 4-13 was on a scale ranging from 1 (totally disagree) to 5
(totally agree). Answers to question 14 was either 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.

The results from the questionnaire were based on the subjective opinions
of our respondents. To increase the validity of data three elements were
emphasized: (1) use of plain language. (2) Formulation of questions so that
respondents could intuitively understand what information they had to recall in
order to answer. (3) Giving the respondents a benchmark they could relate to
when they should respond. In the introduction to the questionnaire it was
emphasized that the questionnaire was anonymous. The idea behind this was to
influence the respondents to answer as honestly as possible.

Results
The data obtained from the respondents questionnaires were coded into
the statistical program IBM SPSS 23.0. Regarding question 1: Indicate your
gender, five respondents indicated female and 45 indicated male, as expected.
Question 2: Indicate which unit at NMA you belong to had three answer
options. The answers given by the respondents to these two questions were not
used in the data analyses simply because the sample of 50 respondents was so
small that it did not make any sense to conduct data analyses based upon
groups. The 50 cadets were thus treated as one group. The third question: I
have a good understanding of Banduras self-efficacy theory was intended to
rule out any respondents that had a good understanding of Banduras self-
efficacy theory as this might have affected the answers. However, this question
can be interpreted in an ambiguous way. Some of the respondents may have
thought that the question was directed towards their understanding of the
definition of self-efficacy, while the original idea was that this question should

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19

act as a filter question. Those with a good understanding of Banduras self-


efficacy theory were to be excluded from the study to avoid the influence of any
pre-understanding of the theory. Based upon this insecurity we chose not to use
this question as a filter question, and we did not conduct any data analyses
based upon this question.

Enactive mastery experiences


Two of the questions were related to the factor enactive mastery
experiences. Question 4, the theoretical question, was: Previous success has a
positive impact on my own skills. Previous success means tasks or actions I have
succeeded in completing in an earlier stage in life. Here, 70 % of the
respondents answered that they totally agreed, while 30 % answered that they
partially agreed. The practical question 5 was: A well-executed platoon leader
role gives me an increased confidence that I will succeed in a similar role after
graduating from the NMA. Here 42 % of the respondents answered that they
totally agreed, 52 % that they partially agreed, 2 % replied that they neither
agreed nor disagreed, while 4 % answered that they partially disagreed.
In general, we found that there was a tendency for the respondents to
agree more with the theoretical question than the practical question.
Furthermore, the greatest difference of response options, 70 % indicating totally
agree in the theoretical question, and 42 %, in the practical question,
corresponds to a difference of 28 %.
Questions 4 and 5 both refer to enactive mastery experience based upon
Bandura's theory. In general, the results of both questions indicated that
respondents agreed that this factor had an influence on their self-efficacy.
Probably, the found consensus between the two questions was a result of this,
and according to Bandura this factor has the strongest influence on our self-
efficacy (Bandura, 1997). On the other hand, a closer look at the results showed
that there was a difference between the theoretical and practical question. The
difference may be an indication that the respondents do not recognize
themselves in the practical question (question 5). Another reason may be that
many of the respondents have experienced repeated failures in the role as a
platoon leader, which may have led to a weakened self-efficacy. One successful
completion as platoon leader will therefore not be sufficient to affect the self-
efficacy belief enough. Bandura (1986) also points out that repeated negative
experiences will weaken ones self-efficacy belief.
Respondents think that enactive mastery experiences are an important
factor in order to improve self-efficacy. To carry out activities such as combat
fatigue courses and stress management exercises can make soldiers and officers
better able to believe in their own skills in similar conflict environments. With
repeated success in training, they can develop a mental confidence in themselves
and their skills, which likely will affect performance (Doss, 2007).
In summary, the respondents believed that enactive mastery experiences
were an important source for increasing their own skills. The mean score for the
theoretical question (question 4) was 4.70, and for the practical question
(question 5), the mean score was 4.32. The difference between the two averages
(0.38) nevertheless showed that there was a high correlation between theory and
practice.

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20

Vicarious experiences
Two questions were related to the factor vicarious experiences. Question
6 was the theoretical question related to vicarious experiences. Question 6 was:
When I see others succeed with their performances, I experience an increased
self-efficacy belief in myself. 4 % of the respondents answered that they totally
agreed, 40 % said they partially agreed, 34 % replied that they neither agreed nor
disagreed, 20 % said they partially disagreed, while 2 % responded that they
totally disagreed with the question.
Question 7 was the practical question related to vicarious experiences.
This question was: When I see a fellow cadet I identify with shooting
excellently on a shooting test, this increases the belief that I will succeed too.
Here 16 % of the respondents answered that they totally agreed, 50 % said they
partially agreed, 22 % replied that they neither agreed nor disagreed, while 12 %
answered that they partially disagreed.
In general, we can say that there was a tendency that respondents agreed
more on the practical question than on the theoretical question. The mean value
of the theoretical question (question 6) was 3.24 and the mean value for the
practical question (question 7) was 3.70. The difference between the two average
values at 0.46 suggest a somewhat larger difference than the one we found on
the first factor, enactive mastery experiences. The difference was also in the
opposite direction from enactive mastery experiences, with vicarious
experiences having the highest mean for the practical question (M=3.70). For
enactive mastery experiences, the theoretical question scored the highest
(M=4.70).
Questions 6 and 7 both refer to vicarious experiences in Bandura's (1997)
theory. In general, the results of both questions suggest that there were very
different opinions about the factors contribution to increasing the respondents
self-efficacy. The answers range from "totally disagree" to "totally agree".
Nevertheless, the averages of the two questions that respondents answered were
more agree than disagree in that others' success had an impact on their self-
efficacy. Bandura (1986) and Doss (2007) point to an explanation of why the
difference is so great. Bandura and Doss both state that the factor vicarious
experiences will have a greater impact and influence if one can identify with the
person one is observing.
Taking a closer look at the results, we find an interesting discovery,
namely the relationship between factors enactive mastery experiences and
vicarious experiences. Doss (2007) explains that observing others' success and
then modelling this is not as effective and powerful as the success with ones
own performance. This could be a possible explanation for why enactive
mastery experiences have been perceived as more significant than vicarious
experiences. This in turn is supported by Bandura (1997), who claims that the
enactive mastery experience factor is the strongest and most significant factor in
achieving an improved self-efficacy
The results show that the average respondent had the belief that other
people's success had an impact on their self-efficacy. For example, we can
imagine an infantry squad from the Norwegian infantry battalion heading out
on an assignment in Afghanistan. For this infantry squad to increase their belief

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21

that they will succeed, the other infantry squads performances can be an
important factor that affects the soldiers' self-efficacy. If the other infantry
squads in the platoon had previously failed to carry out their operations, this
would probably have influenced the self-efficacy beliefs of most soldiers in a
negative direction. The opposite would probably have been the case if the other
infantry squads had achieved success time after time. It is therefore important to
get a grasp on the success of others.
In summary, the respondents seemed to agree more than disagree that
others' success was important for their self-efficacy, despite large variations in
responses. The average difference between the theoretical and the practical
question (0.46) although in favour of the practical question, showed that there
was a relatively good agreement between theory and practice.

Verbal persuasion
Another two questions were related to the factor verbal persuasion.
Questions 8 and 9 refer to verbal persuasion within Banduras (1997) self-
efficacy theory. Question 8: Positive feedback on my performances gives me
greater self-efficacy was the theoretical question, whereas question 9: When
competent instructors give me encouraging feedback on my leadership role, I
become more confident in my own skills, was the practical question. For the
theoretical question (question 8), 74 % of the respondents answered that they
totally agreed, 22 % answered that they partially agreed and 4 % replied that
they neither agreed nor disagreed on the issue. Regarding the practical question
(question 9), 72 % of the respondents answered that they totally agreed, while 28
% answered that they partially agreed. In general, the results indicated that there
was a broad agreement that this factor affected the respondents' self-efficacy.
The reason for the high score of totally agree in both questions can be the focus
the NMA puts on feedback and feedback culture. The NMA attaches great
importance to establishing a good feedback culture to promote personality and
leadership growth (Andersson et al., 2009). For example, after the different
exercises, time is set aside to give and receive feedback. This culture may have
influenced the respondents while they were answering the questionnaire, and
may therefore be a cause of the high degree of correlation of the two questions.
On the other hand, the high score could also be attributed to the
respondents need for their opinions to be of importance and to be recognized.
Verbal persuasion is a factor that cannot be controlled by the respondents,
unlike the other three factors. For most of us it is important to get feedback,
because it gives us a sense of being valued or seen. The significance of this is of
course subjective, but probably it is important for most of us. As a cadet, it is
desirable to be recognized, just to get a confirmation on that matter, and this
may be one reason why this factor was so highly correlated on both questions.
The tendency among respondents showed that this factor was important for
their self-efficacy and it therefore supports Banduras (1997) self-efficacy theory.
Furthermore, another interesting finding can be seen by comparing the
mean values of enactive mastery experiences and verbal persuasion. The mean
values were 4.70 for the theoretical question and 4.32 for the practical question
related to enactive mastery experiences, and 4.70 for the theoretical question and
4.72 for the practical question related to verbal persuasion. When we put the two

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22

the mean values up against each other, we see that the factor verbal persuasion
has a higher degree of unity between the theoretical and practical questions than
the factor enactive mastery experiences. In Banduras (1997) self-efficacy theory
this has not always been found, as Bandura thinks enactive mastery experiences
is the one factor that aids in the strongest growth of self-efficacy. One possible
reason for this finding may be the poor wording of the practical question related
to enactive mastery experience (question 5), which could have caused the
respondents to give a lower mean score to enactive mastery experience in total.
The significance of the factor verbal persuasion in practice is not hard to
understand. In a combat situation with little food and water, positive feedback
could be a "boost" for ones self-efficacy belief and accomplishments. In
moments where you are exhausted, this form of self-efficacy could help to
provide an extra motivation to carry on and do your best.
In summary, the respondents highly agreed that verbal persuasion was
important for their self-efficacy. The mean score on the theoretical question
related to verbal persuasion was 4.70, and the mean score on the practical
question was 4.72. The difference between the two questions in average (0.02)
shows that there was a very high correlation between theory and practice
regarding the importance of the factor verbal persuasion.

Physiological and affective states


Two questions were related to the factor physiological and affective
states. Questions 10 and 11 dealt with the physiological and mental states within
Banduras (1997) self-efficacy theory. Question 10 was the theoretical question.
The question was: When I get control of my physiological and mental body
reactions, I experience an increased belief that I will succeed in the present
situation. (Examples of such reactions may include: palpitations, increased heart
rate, stress, anxiety, butterflies in the stomach, nervousness, etc.). Question 11
was the practical question. The question was: Good coping strategies gives me
greater self-efficacy when I am about to give a speech in front of the entire
NMA. Regarding question 10 (the theoretical question) 46 % of the respondents
answered that they totally agreed, 44 % replied that they partially agreed, while
10 % responded that they neither agreed nor disagreed with the question.
Question 11 was the practical question. To this question, 8 % of the respondents
answered that they totally agreed, 34 % replied that they partially agreed, 46 %
replied that they neither agreed nor disagreed, 10 % replied that they partially
disagreed, and 2 % said they totally disagreed with the question.
In general, we can say that there were wide variations in how the
respondents answered the two questions. Averages showed that the
respondents agreed more than disagreed, in that this factor had a positive effect
on their own skills. Probably the low scores result from what Bandura (1986)
wrote that people rely partly on information from their physiological state in
judging their capabilities (p. 401). This quote can be interpreted so that the
factor physiological and mental states can be seen as less meaningful than the
other three factors, and that it therefore gets generally low scores from the
respondents.
On the other hand, a closer look revealed that there was a big difference
between the theoretical and the practical question, which may have affected the

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


23

overall impression of this factor. For the theoretical question related to the factor
physiological and affective states (Question 10), 90 % of the respondents
partially or totally agreed. If we look further on the practical question related to
the factor physiological and affective states (Question 11), over 50 % of the
respondents answered that they partially disagreed or neither agreed nor
disagreed. These results showed a clear gap between theory and practice.
Intuitively, one reason for this could be that the practical question was not very
well developed so that the two questions were perceived to be unrelated. On the
other hand, it may be that the respondents believed that coping strategies did
not affect their performance. Another possibility may be that the respondents do
not use coping strategies or know what this is. If the latter option is the case, this
may have influenced the respondents to indicate neutral on this question.
In general, there were relatively large differences in the respondents
answers to the two questions. The largest difference is between the response
option; totally agree. Here there was a difference of 38 %. Average scores for the
theoretical question related to the factor physiological and affective states was
4.36 and 3.36 for the practical question. The difference between the two averages
was 1.0 indicating that there was a large difference between theory and practice
on this factor.

General questions related to self-efficacy


Three questions were more generally related to self-efficacy. Question 12
was: Self-efficacy is important for an officer to succeed in his or her profession,
and question 13 was: A well-developed self-efficacy has a great significance for
my achievements. Question 12 was the theoretical question, and 74 % of the
respondents totally agreed, while 26 % answered that they partially agreed with
the question. Question 13 was the practical question. 44 % of the respondents
answered that they totally agreed, while 56 % answered that they partially
agreed. Mean values for the two questions were respectively 4.74 and 4.40 with
the theoretical question getting the highest mean scores. The difference in
averages between the two questions was 0.34, which means there was a high
correlation between the theoretical and the practical question.

The most important factor contributing to self-efficacy in military


cadets
Question 14 consisted of the following: Which of these five options do
you think has the largest impact on your self-efficacy: 1. Past experiences
(example: I have mastered a similar task before), 2. The achievements of others
(example: Seeing that a fellow cadet succeeds with a task), 3. Verbal
encouragement from others (example: Positive feedback on my own
performance), 4. Physiological and mental states (example: Have a strategy to
cope with stress, negative thoughts, etc. so I feel calm and relaxed) and 5. Other
(meaning something else). To this question, 78 % of the respondents answered
past experiences, 0 % answered the performance of others', 4 % answered verbal
encouragement, 14 % answered physiological and mental states, while 4 % said
other, indicating that something else had a great impact upon their self-efficacy.
Most respondents answered alternative 1 (past experiences), which means that
enactive mastery experiences were the factor that had the largest impact on self-

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24

efficacy. This factor is known as the strongest of the four factors (Bandura, 1997)
and explains the tendency we found. It is nonetheless interesting that the factor
enactive mastery experiences did not receive the same weight as the factor
verbal persuasion received when looking at the four different self-efficacy
factors. Why most respondents chose the factor enactive mastery experiences as
the most important factor in question 14, but not when they answered the other
questions related to self-efficacy, may have several reasons. Despite this
discrepancy, these results eliminate the argument that verbal persuasion is a
larger and more important factor than enactive mastery experience.

A short overview of the results of the theoretical and practical questions


related to self-efficacy
Table 2 below gives a short summary of the answers given to the
questions related to the four factors of how to increase self-efficacy and to the
two questions that were more generally related to self-efficacy (questions 4-13).
For reasons of simplicity, the questions are not fully written out in the table (see
table 1 for the full wording of the questions).

Table 2. Mean values (Mv) of answers given to the questions


related to self-efficacy (n=50).
Questions
Mv
Questions related to enactive mastery experiences
Question 4. Previous success has a positive impact on my own skills1 4.70
Question 5. A well-executed platoon leader role gives me an increased
confidence that I will succeed in a similar role after
the NMA2 4.32

Questions related to vicarious experiences


Question 6. When I see others succeed with their performances, I experience
an increased self-efficacy belief in myself 1 3.24
Question 7. When I see a fellow cadet, I identify with shooting excellently on a
shooting test, this increases the belief that I will succeed too2 3.70

Questions related to verbal persuasion


Question 8. Positive feedback on my performances gives me greater self-
efficacy1 4.70
Question 9. When competent instructors give me encouraging feedback on my
leadership role, I become more confident in my own skills2 4.72

Questions related to physiological and mental states


Question 10. When I get control of my physiological and mental body reactions,
I experience an increased belief that I will succeed in the present situation 1 4.36
Question 11. Good coping strategies give me greater self-efficacy when I am
about to give a speech in front of the entire NMA2 3.36

Questions related more generally to self-efficacy


Question 12. Self-efficacy is important for an officer to succeed in his or her
profession1 4.74

Question 13. A well-developed self-efficacy has a great significance for my


achievements2 4.40
1Theoretical question, 2Practical question.

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25

As can be seen from table 2, the highest correlation between the


theoretical and the practical questions was found for the factor verbal persuasion
(Mv=4.70 and Mv=4.72), followed by the factor enactive mastery experiences
(Mv=4.70 and Mv=4.32). Regarding the correlation between the theoretical and
the practical questions for the factor vicarious experiences, the correlation was
high, but in the opposite direction of the three other factors (Mv=3.24 and 3.70).
The lowest correlation between the theoretical and the practical questions
was found for the factor physiological and mental states (Mv=4.36 and 3.36). It
was also found that the respondents to a very high degree agreed that self-
efficacy was important for an officer in his or her profession (Mv=4.74), and that
a well-developed self-efficacy had a great significance for their achievements
(Mv=4.40). Also for these last two general questions (questions 12 and 13)
related more generally to self-efficacy there was a high correlation between the
theoretical and practical question.

Conclusions
This article had the following research question: To what degree do
NMA cadets feel that there is a correlation between theory and practice when it
comes to Banduras four factors to increase self-efficacy? To answer this research
question, we used a self-developed quantitative questionnaire and gave this to
50 respondents at the NMA. The answers from the respondents were analysed
and then discussed against Banduras (1997) self-efficacy theory.
In general, the results showed that there was a good correlation between
theory and practice when it came to Banduras four factors to increase self-
efficacy, except for the factor physiological and mental states. In addition, there
was also a variation between the level of correspondence between the different
factors with regard to the theoretical and practical impact this had upon self-
efficacy.. The most noteworthy differences we found were between the
theoretical and practical questions for each of the four factors, with the exception
of the factor verbal persuasion, where the mean values were almost the same for
the theoretical and practical question. Respondents thus generally seemed to
believe that the remaining three factors of how to increase self-efficacy were
more important in theory than in practice. This may indicate a weakness in the
formulation of the situations in the practical questions. On the other hand, these
situations were constructed so that the respondents would be able to recognize
the situations.
The largest difference between theory and practice was found for the
factor physiological and mental states, while the smallest difference was found
for the factor verbal persuasion. Probably, the diverging results for the factor
physiological and mental states were large because of the uncertainty
surrounding the use of coping strategies. Meanwhile, it could also be a result of
the respondents struggling to recognize themselves in the situation. When
looking at the factor verbal persuasion, the low difference between the
theoretical and the practical question may simply be a result of the well-
developed feedback culture that the respondents are accustomed too.
The factor enactive mastery experiences revealed that the respondents
believed this factor to be of great significance in relation to their self-efficacy.

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26

The average values were not very different between theory and practice,
indicating that there was a relatively good correlation between theory and
practice.
The factor vicarious experiences showed that the respondents agreed
more than disagreed with how this factor affected their self-efficacy. Yet it
turned out that the practical question had a greater score than the theoretical
one. This may be because the respondents agreed more that the identification
element had more to say for ones self-efficacy belief, as compared to observing
a random person.
The factor verbal persuasion showed that respondents believed this
factor had a great influence on their self-efficacy. This factor scored higher than
enactive mastery experience when it came to the practical question, while the
score on the theoretical question was equal to the score on the theoretical
question for the factor enactive mastery experiences. The factor verbal
persuasion thus revealed a very high correlation between theory and practice.
The factor physiological and mental states had large variations in the
responses to the two questions. Nevertheless, respondents agreed more than
they disagreed, in that this factor had an impact on their self-efficacy. Despite
this, respondents agreed more to the theoretical question than to the practical
question. The reason for this may probably be a poorly formulated practical
question.
Regarding the questions that were more generally related to self-efficacy,
the results here also showed a high degree of correlation between the theoretical
and practical question. A clear majority of respondents totally agreed that self-
efficacy was important for an officer to succeed in his or her profession (the
theoretical question). For the practical question related to self-efficacy, stating
that a well-developed self-efficacy had a great significance on their
achievements, about half of the respondents totally agreed, and the remaining
respondents partially agreed to this question.
When the respondents were asked to choose which of five options they
thought had the largest impact on their self-efficacy, it was found that 78 % of
the respondents answered past experiences. This indicates that enactive mastery
experiences were the most important factor related to self-efficacy. However,
although most respondents choose the factor enactive mastery experiences as the
most important factor for this question, answering the other questions related to
self-efficacy revealed that the strongest factor with the highest correlation
between the theoretical and the practical question was verbal persuasion. We
draw the conclusion that enactive mastery experience in total was the most
important factor for increased self-efficacy. The reason for this is that when
forced to choose among the different factors it was very clear that the factor
enactive mastery experience had the largest impact upon the respondents self-
efficacy.
In summary, our findings illustrates that there is a connection between
theory and practice when it comes to Banduras (1997) four factors to increase
self-efficacy.
As this article has mapped the correlations between theory and practice
of Banduras (1997) four factors to increased self-efficacy, it could in turn be
interesting to make a qualitative study on the same subject. This might bring out

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27

the underlying thinking in the respondents and thus create a deeper


understanding of why they respond as they do. This would also at the same time
give a deeper understanding which factors increase self-efficacy and why this is
important for military officers.

Acknowledgements
This research work was supported by the Norwegian Military Academy
and the Norwegian Defence University. The views expressed in this article are
those of the authors and do not represent any official position by the Norwegian
Army or the Norwegian Armed Forces. The authors wish to thank senior
lecturer Merete Ruud at the Norwegian Military Academy for valuable help
with the language of this work.

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research


Vol. 16, No. 7, pp. 30-54, July 2017

Differentiated Instruction
in the High School Science Classroom:
Qualitative and Quantitative Analyses

Jane Pablico
Walker High School
Walker, Louisiana, USA
Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire, USA

Moustapha Diack and Albertha Lawson


Southern University and A & M College
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Abstract. This study aimed to determine the effect of Differentiated


Instruction (DI) on learning outcomes of high school science students
using a convergent, parallel, mixed method research. The qualitative
component of the research was a phenomenological approach which
explored individual beliefs, experiences and perceptions of teachers
about DI. The quantitative part involved a comparison in the End-of-
Course (EOC) performance of biology students exposed to DI versus
those not exposed to DI. Personal interviews with six science teachers
and survey results from 65 biology students revealed that teachers and
students alike have positive perceptions of DI. The teachers perceived
DI as an effective instructional method for improving student
engagement and academic performance. More students scored
Good/Excellent in the DI group (76.9%) compared with the Non-DI
group (67.6%). However, analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) suggests
that at 5% level, the DI group did not perform significantly higher than
the non-DI group (p=.12). This implies that there is no significant effect
of DI on student learning outcomes measured by EOC. Although the
quantitative result of the study did not show a significantly higher EOC
score in the DI group, differentiated instruction positively impacted the
learning process by increasing student engagement in class.

Keywords: differentiated instruction, high school science, teachers


perceptions, teaching strategies

1. Introduction

Students come to class bringing with them their diverse cultural background,
learning styles, interests, abilities and multiple intelligences. The diversity of

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31

students in the classroom can result in a significant challenge for teachers when
it comes to meeting the needs of all students. Some students may find the lesson
too easy while some find it too hard; some may find the topic interesting while
some find it boring. It is the goal of differentiated instruction (DI) to reach out to
each student and approach the lesson in a way that fits their learning styles,
interests, abilities or multiple intelligences.

Differentiated instruction has a strong theoretical basis that includes


constructivist theory, brain-based research and multiple intelligences (Felder &
Soloman, 2004; Gardner, 1993; Vygotsky, 1978). However, the philosophy of
differentiation is lacking empirical validation (Ducey, 2011; Subban, 2006;
Tulbure, 2011). Many of the studies are qualitative in nature indicating positive
emotional outcomes in terms of motivation, task commitment, and excitement
about learning (Burkett, 2013; Maeng, 2011). On the quantitative studies
determining the effectiveness of differentiated instruction, some studies revealed
the effectiveness of differentiated instruction over traditional instruction
(Aliakbari & Haghigi, 2014; 2010; Dosch & Zidon, 2014; Joseph, et al., 2013;
Stavroula, et al., 2011), but some showed no significant difference with the
traditional instruction (Ducey, 2011; McCoach, et al., 2013; Maxey, 2013; Vincent,
2012). Studies on differentiated instruction are mostly focused on the elementary
and middle-school level and are very rare on the high school level (Maeng,
2011). Furthermore, differentiated instruction occurs most often in reading,
writing and math classrooms and is seldom applied to other subject areas
including science (Eady, 2008; Tobin & Tippett, 2014).

The limited literature on the use of differentiated instruction in high school


science classes and the conflicting results of previous quantitative research calls
for more studies to be conducted. The gap in the literature has motivated the
researchers to conduct this study.

2. Research Questions

A public school district in southern Louisiana began implementing


differentiated instruction during the 2014-2015 school year. School
administrators were first trained, who in turn, trained the teachers in their
respective schools. Full implementation of differentiated instruction in the
district occurred in the 2014-2015 school year. During that school year,
differentiation strategies for content, process and product, were explicitly
described in the teachers lesson plans.

This study aimed to determine the teachers and students perceptions of


differentiated instruction after their exposure to it, and to determine the
effectiveness of differentiated instruction in improving student learning
outcomes. Specifically, it sought to address the following questions:
1. What are the science teachers perceptions of the effect of differentiated
instruction on student learning?
2. What are the students perceptions of differentiated instruction in their
science classes?

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32

3. Is there a significant effect of differentiated instruction on student


learning outcomes measured by EOC (end-of-course) test scores?

3. Review of Literature

3.1 Theoretical Foundations of Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction (DI) is a term introduced by Tomlinson in 1999 that


has gained popularity in education. It is a teaching philosophy that provides
different avenues in presenting the content, making sense of ideas and assessing
learning outcomes (Tomlinson, 2001). Although it is relatively a new term to
most educators in the regular classroom, DI is not a new concept at all
(Tomlinson, 1999; Roe & Egbert, 2010). Dedicated teachers may knowingly or
unknowingly practice DI in one way or another as they manifest their
commitment in educating their students. In differentiating the content, process
and product of instruction, the teacher needs to consider the students readiness,
interest and learning profile (Tomlinson, 1999; Tomlinson, 2001; Tomlinson &
Imbeau, 2010).

Differentiated instruction is a philosophy of teaching based on well-established


theories. One learning theory that supports DI is the Sociocultural Learning
Theory which is based on the work of Lev Vygotsky (1978), a Russian
psychologist. The Sociocultural Learning Theory holds that social interaction
plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. Another aspect of
Vygotskys theory is the idea of the zone of proximal development (ZPD). ZPD
is an area of exploration for which the student is cognitively prepared and for
which development is attained with the help of social interaction (Vygotky,
1978). The Sociocultural Learning Theory and the aspect of zone of proximal
development (ZPD) are the theoretical bases in differentiating instruction by
readiness level. There is a zone where the student is cognitively ready to do a
specific task where he can be successful with the help of his social support
system. If a student is not in that zone yet, the instruction needs to be adjusted to
a level that the student is cognitively ready to take. Strategies that can help
facilitate the intentional learning of a student include collaborative learning,
discourse, modeling, and scaffolding (Tomlinson, 2001).

The constructivist learning theory is another theoretical basis of DI. It is a


learner-centered theory that suggests that humans construct knowledge and
meaning from their own experiences. A constructivist classroom provides
opportunities for the students to experience multiple perspectives and
emphasizes authentic assessment rather than traditional paper/pencil exams
(Information Resources Management Association, 2015). Constructivism
supports the practice of DI. It provides the theoretical basis for differentiating
instruction by students readiness and interest.

Learning styles are the ways in which learners prefer to learn. In 1987, Neil
Flemming introduced the acronym VARK and it appeared in a publication in
1992 (Flemming & Mills, 1992). VARK encompasses four types of learning

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33

preferences which stand for visual, aural, read/write and kinesthetic. These
learning styles and modalities are being considered in differentiated instruction.
In order to maximize learning for everyone, the lessons should be adjusted to
accommodate these differences because learners with different styles might
benefit from different ways of presenting the material (Willingham, 2009).

Another source of differences in the classroom is the students multiple


intelligences. Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard University, published his
theory of multiple intelligences in the mid 1980s (Willingham, 2009). He
defined intelligence as a biopsychological potential to process information in
certain ways. He proposed that there were seven multiple intelligences, and later
turned into eight. The eight areas of intelligences include linguistic, logical-
mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical,
naturalistic and spatial (Gardner, 1993; Von Karolyi, Ramos-Ford & Gardner,
2003). Multiple intelligences inventory is a good way for teachers to get an initial
assessment for the students. This could be a tool to be used is designing
classroom activities that lead to differentiated instruction.

3.2. Related Studies

The studies being reviewed in this section range from 2007 to 2017, and are
comprised of journal articles and doctoral dissertations. The qualitative results
are presented first followed by the quantitative results.

In 2010, King examined teachers' knowledge and their perceptions regarding the
implementation of differentiated instruction. She surveyed 220 high school
regular education and special education teachers who were certified to teach
core academic subjects (English, math, science, and social studies) from 10 high
schools in middle Tennessee in Davidson and Rutherford counties. The findings
revealed that factors such as content knowledge/skills, teacher-student ratios,
availability of time and state standards and assessments, affect teachers
decisions to implement differentiated instruction (King, 2010).

Differentiated instruction occurs on a limited basis and only in a few content


areas (Eady, 2008). The respondents in Kings study expressed that their ability
to differentiate instruction was impeded by their lack of knowledge regarding it
(King, 2010). Differentiation is also perceived as time consuming and
challenging due to diverse populations (Maddox, 2015; Wan, 2017). Studies then
recommended professional development of teachers in the area of differentiated
instruction (Koeze, 2007; Langley, 2015; Maeng, 2011; Robinson, 2013; Sizemore,
2015). According to Dixon, Yssel, McConnell & Hardin (2014), teachers who had
more professional development in differentiation felt more efficient in
differentiating instruction in their classes.

Whipple (2012) conducted a survey to explore teachers understanding of


differentiated instruction and their perceptions of their ability to implement
differentiated instruction. Participants comprised of 88 teachers in grades
kindergarten through sixth throughout the Leighton Public Schools in southern

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34

Massachusetts. Overall, the participating teachers had a high level of


understanding of the concepts of differentiated instruction and the methods of
how to implement it in the classroom. The researcher also found that, although
the teachers had a high level understanding of differentiated instruction, their
rate of implementation was low. This shows a disconnection between
understanding differentiated instruction and implementing differentiated
instruction. In another study conducted by Wan (2017), the findings indicated
that teachers were more inclined to use teacher-centered approach although they
were generally ready for using DI strategies. University instructors also
struggled with implementing differentiated instruction, despite knowing the
importance of modeling it in a teacher education program (Lockley, J., Jackson,
N., Downing, A., & Roberts, J. , 2017).

Martin & Pickett (2013) conducted an action research study to increase student
motivation and engagement among 25 gifted students. During direct instruction,
the math and music teachers noted several off-task behaviors (hyperactive,
withdrawn, poor attention, disruptive, uncooperative). As an intervention, the
teacher-researchers implemented differentiated instruction by flexible grouping
and giving choices. After three months of differentiated instruction, student
motivation and engagement has improved. More students felt that they were
being appropriately challenged when they were given choices of assignments in
class. The teacher-researchers concluded that the intervention positively
impacted changes in students' perception of their engagement and motivation.

Quantitative Studies were also conducted to determine the effectiveness of


differentiated instruction in different subject areas and at different levels. A
study was conducted in a language institute in Iran to determine the
effectiveness of differentiated instruction in enhancing reading comprehension
among elementary students. This quasi-experimental research consisted of a
control and an experimental group, with each group having one male and one
female classroom. Results of ANOVA showed that students who received
differentiated instruction outperformed those who were exposed to traditional
instruction, with the female students performing better than the male students
(Aliakbari & Haghighi, 2014).

Koeze (2007) conducted a study to determine if differentiated instruction had an


effect on student achievement. The study consisted of both quantitative and
qualitative parts where the quantitative part was used to frame the qualitative
aspect of the study. Quantitative data were collected using student scores in the
Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) in math, reading, and
writing, and combined ELA scores. Correlation analysis and t-tests were
conducted to determine if the number of occurrences of differentiation had an
effect on student achievement. Qualitative data were gathered using classroom
observation and interviews. The population consisted of 4th grade students and
teachers in a public school in Michigan. T-test findings revealed that there were
no significant differences in MEAP scores in math, reading, writing and ELA
scores between the differentiated classroom and traditional classroom. However,
regression analysis revealed that one independent variable, which is learning

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35

style, was statistically significant to reading achievement. Since differentiating


for learning styles may also be seen by students as differentiating for choice and
interest, the researcher concluded that differentiating for choice, interest, and
learning styles all likely have an impact on student achievement (Koeze, 2007).

A quasi-experimental study conducted by Stavroula, Leonides & Mary (2011)


involving 24 elementary classes of 479 Cypriot students revealed that the classes
who received differentiated instruction scored significantly higher in the posttest
than those who were taught using traditional lecture method. Quantitative data
were analyzed using a one-way ANOVA. The researchers also discussed how
differentiated instruction promoted equity and quality for all types of learners.

Chamberlin & Powers (2010) examined the use of differentiated instruction in an


undergraduate mathematics course for improving students mathematical
learning. The participants were elementary education majors enrolled in a
mathematics course covering the topic of number and operations. The quasi-
experimental part of the study utilized the pretest-posttest control group design.
Results showed that students exposed to differentiated instruction performed
significantly higher in the posttest than the control group.

A study of differentiated instruction in a teacher education setting was


conducted by Joseph, Thomas, Simonette, & Ramsook (2013). The researchers
compared the final grades at the end of the semester of the students taught using
differentiated instruction (DI) and those taught using the traditional whole-
group instruction. A total of 434 students in the curriculum studies course on
two education campuses participated in the study. Findings of the study
revealed that the majority of students in the differentiated classrooms
demonstrated sound understanding of major concepts taught in the curriculum
studies course. The DI group performed better than the non-DI group based on
their semester grades.

Dosch and Zidon (2014) conducted a mixed-method research study to explore


the implementation of differentiated instruction in higher education. The
participants were two different sections of the same Educational Psychology
course taught by the same instructor. Thirty-nine students were in the
experimental group (DI group) and 38 were in the control group (NDI group).
The control group was taught in a teacher-centered, traditional lecture format
with students taking notes and did not have choices on how to complete
assignments. The experimental group was taught using a constructivist, student-
centered format with many hands-on activities, choices for completing
assignments, and instruction altered based on formative assessments. Results of
independent-samples t-tests revealed a significant difference in the aggregate
mean group scores on the six assignments and the three exams. This implied
that the experimental group outperformed the control group. The students in the
experimental group also shared that they appreciated having choices and they
felt it improved their learning of the material.

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36

Not all studies on differentiated instruction revealed its dominance over non-
differentiated instruction. In 2011, Ducey (2011) conducted a study to determine
the effectiveness of differentiated instruction as a classroom methodology for
high school physics students. Findings revealed that differentiated instruction
provided no significant advantage when compared to traditional instruction for
this group of students, regardless of course level (honors or standard).
Additionally, the students were surveyed regarding their perception of match of
the received differentiated instruction to their educational needs and values.
Ducey determined that differentiated instruction provided no significant
difference in student perception of match to educational needs and values.

An action research study entitled, The Effects of Differentiating Instruction by


Learning Styles on Problem Solving in Cooperative Groups was conducted by
Westbook (2011). A pretest-posttest control group design was used in the study,
with 28 students in both of the groups. The subjects of the study were ninth
grade students taking a Math I class taught by the same teacher. Students in the
treatment group were clustered by learning styles (auditory, kinesthetic, and
visual) and were exposed to differentiated instruction. Data analysis revealed
that the treatment group did not perform significantly higher in the posttest
compared to the control group.

In 2012, Vincent studied the effects of implementing differentiated instruction on


learners' reading achievement. A quantitative, ex post facto design was used in
the study. The reading scores of a treatment group comprised of 3rd and 4th
grade students from one school, were compared to the reading scores of a
control group comprised of the same grade levels from another
demographically-similar school. The students in the treatment group were
taught using the mandated implementation of differentiated instruction in one
school. The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) reading
achievement scores were compared for the control and treatment groups, taking
the 2nd grade Stanford Achievement Test Series 10 (SAT-10) result and
socioeconomic status as covariates. Results of analysis of covariance (ANCOVA)
revealed no significant difference between the reading achievement scores of the
treatment group and the control group.

Williams (2012) conducted a quantitative quasi-experimental research study to


examine the effects of differentiated instruction on seventh grade student
performance on standardized mathematics assessments using a repeated-
measures design. The study was inconclusive due to inconsistent results on the
test of significance on the difference in performance between the experimental
and control groups.

Using a causal-comparative design, Maxey (2013) examined the effect of


differentiated instruction in math achievement of students in primary school on
a U. S. military base overseas. Ten sections (about 20 students each) of second-
grade students and 12 teachers participated in the study. Five sections were
assigned as the experimental group that received differentiated instruction while
the other five served as the control group. The STAR Math posttest scores of the

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37

two groups were compared using ANCOVA, with the pretest scores taken as the
covariate. The researcher also examined math achievement of students in the
three ability groups within the treatment group to see if there was any difference
in the amount of progress students made over the course of the school year.
Results of ANCOVA revealed that there was no significant difference in the
math achievement between the control and experimental groups. This indicates
that differentiated instruction did not make a difference in end of the year
achievement for these students.

McCoach, Gubbins, Foreman, Rambo, & Rubenstein (2013) examined the impact
of implementing pre-differentiated mathematics curricula in algebra, geometry
and measurement, and graphing and data analysis on the achievement of grade
3 students, after controlling for pretest achievement scores. After a series of
three-level regression modeling using the Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM
7.01) software, the study concluded that, in general, the post-Iowa Tests of Basic
Skills (ITBS) scores of students in the treatment group were equal to those in the
control group. However, it appeared that high-achieving students in low-
achieving schools benefitted more from the differentiated curricula.

In 2011, Tulbure synthesized previous empirical studies from 1985 to 2010 and
investigated the impact of differentiated instruction upon the results obtained in
tertiary education. Among 16 studies, 10 concluded that differentiated
instruction based on personal learning styles leads to an improvement in the
level of learning results. Three of the studies found that differentiated
instruction based on learning styles does not affect the level of learning, and the
other three concluded that the lack of concordance between learning styles and
didactic strategies stimulates and makes the learning process flexible. At the
time of the research by Tulbure (2011), the results of studies concerning the
impact of differentiated instruction upon the academic success on the level of
tertiary education were controversial despite figures showing more research
results in favor of differentiated instruction.

Just like the reviewed studies in Tulbures synthesis research, the empirical
studies reviewed in this section also have different findings. In the quantitative
studies determining the effectiveness of differentiated instruction, some studies
revealed the effectiveness of differentiated instruction over traditional
instruction (Aliakbari & Haghigi, 2014; Chamberlin & Powers, 2010; Dosch &
Zidon, 2014; Joseph, et al., 2013; Koeze, 2007; Stavroula, et al., 2011), while some
showed no significant difference with the traditional instruction (Ducey, 2011;
McCoach, et al., 2013; Maxey, 2013; Vincent, 2012; Westbook, 2011; Williams,
2012). The limited literature on the effectiveness of differentiated instruction and
the conflicting results of previous research called for more studies to be
conducted.

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4. Methodology

4.1. Description of Subjects

Six high school science teachers and 65 students in a public high school in
southern Louisiana participated in the study. The teachers (four female and two
male) implemented differentiated instruction in their classes as required by the
school administration during the school year 2014-2015. All of the six teachers
are certified to teach one or more areas of science in the state of Louisiana and
have good knowledge of the tenets of differentiated instruction.

The student-participants were in three sections of biology classes taught by the


same teacher in the Spring of 2015. Out of 82 students, 65 of them participated in
the survey. The biology classes were purposely chosen since biology is the only
science course that undergoes the state-mandated End-of-Course (EOC) testing.
The EOC results were used by the researchers to measure student learning
outcomes.

The EOC results of the three sections of biology classes in Spring 2015 (82
students) were compared with the EOC results of three sections in Spring 2014
(74 students). Students in Spring 2015 were exposed to differentiated instruction
while the students in Spring 2014 were not.

4.2 Research Design

This study employed both qualitative and quantitative methods of research. It


particularly used the convergent, parallel, mixed method of research. In this
research approach, both qualitative and quantitative data are collected,
separately analyzed, and results are compared to see if they confirm or
disconfirm each other (Creswell, 2014). The qualitative part involved a
phenomenological approach that focused on individual beliefs, experiences and
perceptions of teachers about differentiated instruction. The quantitative part
focused on the effect of differentiated instruction on student learning. Figure 1
shows a flow chart that represents the research framework.

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Figure 1. The Research Framework.

Phenomenology is a qualitative approach in research that seeks to describe


rather than explain the experiences and perceptions of individuals from their
own perspectives (Lester, 1999). Qualitative phenomenological research aims to
describe a "lived experience" of a phenomenon. According to Creswell (2014), a
typical phenomenological research has participants that range from three to ten.

A variety of methods can be used in phenomenologically-based research,


including interviews, conversations, participant observation, action research,
focus meetings and analysis of personal texts (Lester, 1999). In this study,
personal interviews and review of documents such as lesson plans were used to
gather qualitative data. After implementing differentiated instruction, the
teachers were interviewed to explore the strategies they used, the factors that
influenced them to implement DI and their perceptions of DI based on their
experience.

At the start of the semester, the students in the three sections of Biology class
were asked to complete learning styles and multiple intelligences inventories.
Flemings VARK Questionnaire (Fleming, 2014) and McKenzies Multiple
Intelligences Inventory (McKenzie, 1999) were used. These inventories provided
insight for the teacher as to the appropriate grouping and activities that fit the
students learning preferences. At the end of the semester, after being exposed to
differentiated instruction, the students completed a survey questionnaire that
explored their perceptions of differentiated instruction.

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The purpose of the quantitative study was to determine if the implementation of


differentiated instruction had an effect on student learning outcomes as
measured by the EOC scores. The EOC scores in Spring 2015 were compared
with the EOC scores in Spring 2014, when DI was not yet fully-implemented. To
establish the comparability of the two groups, the same textbooks were used and
the same teacher used the same scope and sequence and the same lesson
materials. The only variation was the implementation of DI during Spring 2015
as opposed to traditional delivery during Spring 2014.

4.3. Statistical Treatment

A Survey Questionnaire on Student Perceptions of Differentiated Instruction


was validated by research and education experts and was found reliable after
pilot-testing to a group of high school students. The Cronbachs alpha coefficient
resulted to .808, which suggests that the instrument is appropriate for research.
Mean was used to analyze student responses to the survey.

To establish the comparability of the DI group to the non-DI group, initial


conditions such as the students Science LEAP (Louisiana Educational
Assessment Program) scores and proficiency pretest were compared using t-test.
The t-test resulted to no significant difference in the Science LEAP scores
(p=.272) of the two groups and a significant difference in their proficiency
pretest scores (p=.021). Table 1 shows the t-test summary.

Table 1. T-test Results Comparing the LEAP Scores and Proficiency Pretest Between
Non-DI Group (2014) and DI Group (2015)

Initial Non-DI DI t- t- p-
Conditions Mean Score Mean Score Computed Critical Value
LEAP 66.18261 67.61538 -1.10235 1.97823 0.27233
Proficiency
Pretest 30.86301 34.63077 -2.05629 1.98422 0.02119

The analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was used in comparing the EOC scores,
taking the proficiency pretest scores as covariate. This is due to the significant
difference in the proficiency pretest scores of the two groups. By using
ANCOVA, the comparability of the two groups is established by eliminating any
effects of the difference in the proficiency pretest. Science LEAP scores were not
anymore used as covariate because the t-test result revealed no significant
difference between the two groups.

4.4 Hypothesis

The following hypothesis is tested at 5% level of significance: There is no


significant effect of differentiated instruction on the learning outcomes of
students based on EOC test scores.

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5. Results

5.1. Science Teachers and DI Strategies

Six science teachers currently implementing differentiated instruction in a public


high school in southern Louisiana were interviewed for this study. The sample
was composed of two male and four female teachers. For the purposes of this
study, each participant was assigned a label to protect their identity.

Teacher A is a male teacher and has been teaching for twenty-four years, the last
five of which were in the current school. He has a bachelors and a masters
degree and is certified to teach General Science, Health and Physical Education.
He has taught Physical Science, Environmental Science and Physical Education
at the high school level. Teacher A describes differentiated instruction as
teaching to the individuals learning style, interest or readiness level. He says
its different from traditional lessons in the fact that individuals are given
choices and it is not a group lesson.

Teacher A differentiates the process of instruction by grouping students


according to readiness level and then assigning questions to each group based
on their readiness. He uses formative assessment as his basis for student
grouping. He also differentiates according to student interest by having different
roles within a group such as organizer, presenter and artist.

Teacher B is a female teacher who has been teaching for twelve years in the
current school. She holds a bachelors degree in Animal Science and received an
alternative teaching certification from Louisiana State University. She has taught
eight-grade Earth Science, high school Environmental Science, Anatomy and
Physiology, Biology I and II, and Advanced Placement Biology. Teacher B
describes differentiated instruction as being able to offer a child a different
option from what is considered traditional teaching method.

Teacher B differentiates the product of instruction mostly by providing choice


using a tic-tac-toe board. She also differentiates the process by using Socratic
Seminar on some relevant topics. She finds it difficult to differentiate content
because to her argument, science is such a content-based field. She said with
science, they (students) still have to know the information. Its really hard to
find DI stuff for science. Its not readily available like for English stuff, and its
really disappointing. She added it can be a challenge, but its getting better.

Teacher C has a masters degree in education. She is certified to teach elementary


grades as well as high school general science and biology. She has been teaching
for ten years and has taught students ranging from elementary, middle and high
school. She has taught Physical Science, Life Science, Earth Science, Chemistry,
and Biology I and II. She has been in the current school for three-and-a-half
years. Teacher C describes differentiated instruction as providing students with
a choice in their work. She adds its different from traditional lessons where
students complete the same assignments.

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Teacher C provides choice in some of her lessons as to the format of their


assignments. Students are given the rubric and guidelines and they choose what
they want to do for their project or activity such as making a poem, song, skit,
and others. She differentiates by readiness level by assigning different levels of
scientific articles to read, reflect upon, and discuss. She uses differentiated roles
in group and laboratory activities. To accommodate different learning styles,
teacher C also differentiates the mode of instruction by using video clips in
teaching and assesses students regularly by using different closing activities.

Teacher D is a female teacher who has been in the teaching profession for nine
years. She has a bachelors degree and masters units in Agricultural Science. She
has taught Agricultural Sciences and Environmental Science in the current
school. Teacher D describes differentiated instruction as varying instruction by
student interest.

Teacher D differentiates product by student interest. She lets the students choose
a topic to work on. One example was when she made the students choose traits
from 16 breeds to cross. She claimed that the students liked it. Teacher D said
she differentiates instruction depending on the topic and on the type of students.
If the students are weak, I dont differentiate the content, she said.

Teacher E has been teaching for five years and is in her first year teaching at the
current school. She holds a bachelors degree in Secondary Education with a
concentration in Biology. She has taught sixth-grade Science and high school
Chemistry and Biology. Teacher E describes differentiated instruction as
providing a variety of instructional strategies based on the needs of students, or
their interests and readiness. Her ideas of differentiated instruction include
providing the students a choice or assigning them assignments based on what
they need.

Teacher E differentiates by choice of assignment, choice of format of assignment,


by varying the complexity of questions, and by having different roles within a
group. She sets up small stations for the students to work in small groups.
Teacher E said, On a test, I give several questions that are asking the same
concepts and the students choose the questions to answer. Sometimes, even just
the wording of the question can make a difference for the student. Reviews of
lesson plans from Teacher E also revealed that she uses flexible grouping by
assigning students of varied ability levels in a group in order to facilitate peer
tutoring. Her lesson plan also reflects her use of Bingo activity to provide her
students with a choice of assignments.

The sixth teacher, Teacher F, is the second male teacher in the sample. He has
been teaching for one-and-a-half years at the current school. He has a bachelors
degree in Life Science. He teachers Robotics and Biology I. Teacher F describes
differentiated instruction as tailoring his teaching and assessment strategies to
meet the diverse learning styles, needs and academic abilities of his students. He

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43

said that differentiated instruction does not use a shotgun teaching method
where all of the students are learning and being assessed the same way.

Teacher F differentiates the process of instruction by using tic-tac-toe menus.


Each student must pick a low, intermediate and advanced assignment to
complete from a list. The students then choose depending on their interest and
learning styles. Teacher F also uses flexible grouping. He assigned
heterogeneous groups to allow for the possibility of peer tutoring.

5.2. Teachers perceptions of the effect of DI on student learning

Teacher A perceives differentiated instruction as an effective way of promoting


student engagement and class performance. He said, Over time, I noticed that
some students perform better when they have a choice. He believes that
student engagement has increased because the students had an opportunity to
express themselves. He also noticed that their grades improved, which means
learning has increased.

Teacher B thinks that DI has a positive effect on student engagement. Her


students got to choose their research and some topics, and according to her, they
really enjoyed it. I do see how the kids take ownership of their learning, she
pointed out. I think they got to show their creative side, and that increases their
engagement in the assignment. It was her first time to fully implement DI and
she self-reported not having issues or problems with it aside from the time
requirements. She just wished there were more DI strategies in science available
for reference. She likes doing it in her classes and she really thinks it (DI) has
merit.

Based on her experience with implementing DI, Teacher C said that DI promotes
a more positive learning environment. She said that students react to
assignments better when they have a say in what they are doing. The students
are more engaged in class if they get to choose an area of interest to them. She
definitely agrees that DI has increased student engagement in her classes.

Teacher D also noticed that DI has a positive effect on student engagement.


When she let the students choose a topic to work on, the students liked it. There
are more aha moments and the students get more out of it than the regular
uniform instruction for all. Teacher D said that kids are getting more into it,
they are learning more, they have less questions, and they are more engaged.
She has no issues in implementing DI. She said, I like doing it and the kids like
it too.

Teacher E thinks that students are more likely to buy in if they feel that they are
part of the decision-making process. She explained, If its just you telling them
what to do, they have the tendency to not care that much. If youre giving them
a choice, even though the questions are the same but just worded differently,
they care more and they engage more. She said that the hardest part of DI is it
requires some creativity to plan activities. The pressure of time is also an issue

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44

because of all the topics that need to be covered in the curriculum. Implementing
DI is sometimes time-consuming. Teacher E, however, said that DI is good and
she likes it. I definitely think it benefits the students and its worth the extra
time you have to put in to creatively plan something -- its definitely worth it,
she said.

Teacher F said that not every DI lesson is successful, but each time he tries, he
learns more about how to implement it more effectively. He has seen positive
effects on both student interest and academic achievement when he uses DI
strategies. He said, I find that when I use more DI strategies when teaching a
difficult topic, the test scores are generally higher than those of lesson in which I
dont use DI, or only use it sparsely. An issue he has with DI is finding the time
to do it effectively. He is positive, however, that the more experience he has with
DI strategies, the faster it will become to implement in his class.

Table 2. Summary of Teachers DI Strategies and Perceptions of the Effect of DI on


Student Learning

Teacher DI Strategies Perceptions of the Effect of DI


A -Assigning questions of varying Improves student engagement
difficulty Improves academic performance
-Formative assessment
-Flexible grouping
-Differentiated roles
B -Tic-tac-toe menus Improves student engagement
-Socratic seminar
C -Choice of assignment format Promotes positive learning
-Assigning different levels of environment
assignment Improves student engagement
-Differentiated roles
-Various teaching modes
-Formative assessments
D -Choice of assignment Improves student engagement
More student learning
E -Choice of assignment Improves student engagement
-Choice of assignment format It benefits the students
-Varying complexity of
questions
-Differentiated roles
F -Tic-tac-toe menus Improves student interest in
-Varying complexity of class
assignment Improves academic performance
-Flexible grouping

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5.3 Emergent Themes

Qualitative data analysis (QDA) involves the transformation of qualitative data


into some form of explanation, understanding or interpretation. It is based on
interpretive philosophy that aims to examine the meaningful and symbolic
content of qualitative data (Taylor & Gibbs, 2010). Qualitative data analysis for
phenomenological research involves the analysis of significant statements, the
generation of meaning units, and the development of an essence description
(Creswell, 2014).

After analyzing the statements from the six science teachers, common themes
were found to fully describe the teachers experiences with the implementation
of differentiated instruction. The following major themes emerged from the
study.

Differentiated instruction improves student engagement and academic performance in


class. All six teachers claimed that students were more engaged in class if they
used differentiated instruction. Teacher A mentioned that students performed
better when they have a choice. He added that student engagement increased
because the students had an opportunity to express themselves. Teacher B thinks
that there is positive effect of DI on student engagement. She added that when
she uses DI, the kids got a chance to show their creative side. Teacher F
specifically said that he had seen a positive effect on both student interest in
class and academic achievement when he used DI strategies in his lessons.

Differentiated instruction motivates the students. The teachers claimed that the
students enjoyed learning when the lesson was differentiated. Teacher B said the
students took ownership of their learning when they had a choice on their
research topic. Teacher C said that students react to assignments better when
they have a say in what they are doing. She added that differentiated
instruction promotes a more positive learning environment as they are given a
chance to choose an area of interest to them. Teacher D mentioned that there
were more aha moments for the kids when the lesson was differentiated.
Teacher E stated that differentiated instruction helps with assessment. She
explained that For students who do not do well in multiple-choice questions,
they have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning or progress. These
statements from teachers all point to the idea that differentiated instruction is
beneficial for the students. Through differentiated instruction, students enjoy
learning and are more empowered in the learning process.

Differentiating by choice is the most common way to differentiate. Five of the six
science teachers indicated their use of differentiation by choice. Teachers B and F
used tic-tac-toe menus to provide students with options according to their
learning styles, interests and multiple intelligences. Teachers D and E indicated
their use of assignment choices. Teachers C and E mentioned that they utilized a
choice of assignment format. In a lesson plan provided by teacher E, she used a
Bingo activity to provide her students with choices of assignments to do.

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46

Teacher A did not explicitly mention differentiating by choice when asked about
his differentiation strategies, but he mentioned in his observation that some
students perform better when they have a choice.

Administrative support has major influence in the implementation of differentiated


instruction. Teachers A, B and E said that they implement differentiated
instruction because of the school administration. Teacher B expressed that she
implements differentiated instruction mainly because the administration
requires the teachers to do it. The school administration has conducted
professional development trainings dedicated to educate teachers about
differentiated instruction and to equip them with strategies to implement
differentiated instruction. Teachers A and E mentioned that the professional
development trainings helped them to gain more knowledge about
implementing differentiated instruction. Teacher E said that her concept of
differentiated instruction was different before the school provided professional
development sessions.

Implementation of differentiated instruction increases teacher efficiency. Teachers C


and D indicated that they implement differentiated instruction because of
Compass evaluation. Compass is an instrument used in the state of Louisiana to
evaluate the performance of teachers. This is used by the school administrators
when they observe classes. The instrument includes differentiation and student
engagement on the areas to be rated. This means that if the teacher is
implementing differentiated instruction at the time of class observation, the
teacher is likely going to have a higher efficiency rating.

Differentiated instruction requires more time and creativity. Teachers B, E and F


expressed that the time required for preparing and implementing differentiated
instruction is a major issue. Teacher B mentioned that sometimes, she does not
have time to implement differentiated instruction, especially with seniors having
to leave two weeks prior to everybody else. Teacher C stated that, the greatest
challenge is the pressure of time, getting through the curriculum and covering
all the lessons before the students have to take the proficiency test. Teacher F
expressed that the obstacle he is facing with DI is finding the time to do it
effectively. Aside from the issue of it being time-consuming, according to
Teacher B, DI strategies are hard to find for science. She exclaimed, Its not
readily available like for English stuff, and its really disappointing. Because of
the limited availability of DI strategies for science, Teacher E said it requires
some creativity to be able to plan and design differentiated lessons.

5.4. Students Perceptions of Differentiated Instruction

A survey questionnaire was used to determine the level of students perceptions


of differentiated instruction. Sixty-five students in three sections of high school
Biology class participated in the survey. The survey questionnaire was validated
by research and education experts and was found reliable after pilot-testing to a
group of high school students. The Cronbachs alpha coefficient resulted to .808,
which means that the instrument is appropriate for research.

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47

The survey consists of 10 items describing perceptions of differentiated


instruction, each of which was rated using a five-point Likert scale described as
follows: 1 = strongly disagree ; 2 = somewhat disagree ; 3 = no opinion/not
applicable ; 4 = somewhat agree ; and, 5 = strongly agree. Table 3 shows the
mean of students responses on the survey.

Table 3. Student Perceptions of Differentiated Instruction

Mean Student
Perceptions of Differentiated Instruction
Rating
1. I learn more effectively if the lesson is delivered 4.06
using my own learning style.
2. I like it when my teacher uses materials that 4.12
present content in a variety of format (e.g., text,
video, audio, web-based).
3. I feel challenged when my teacher presents 3.39
content at varying levels of complexity.
4. I like being grouped with students who have 4.35
similar interest and abilities as me.
5. I am more engaged in the learning process if I am 4.13
given a choice of assignment to do.
6. I like working in a variety of group format in 3.81
completing assignments (e.g., small group,
partners, individual).
7. Learning is more fun if activities/assignments 3.94
have format options (e.g., write a paper, create a
model, design a poster, give a presentation).
8. All teachers should be aware of their students 4.31
interests, readiness and learning profiles.

9. All teachers should consider students interests,


abilities and learning profile when preparing
lessons and assignments. 4.46

10. The use of differentiated instruction has 3.72


stimulated my interest in the class.
Overall Mean 4.03

The mean ratings suggest that students liked the features of differentiated
instruction, such as having lessons delivered using their own learning styles
(mean=4.06) and in a variety of formats (mean=4.12). They liked being grouped

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48

with students having similar interests and abilities (mean=4.35). They also liked
being given a choice on the assignments (mean=4.13) and on the format of
groupings (mean=3.81) and assignments (mean=3.94). The students agreed that
all teachers should be aware of their students learning preferences (mean=4.31)
and that they should consider those learning preferences when preparing lesson
plans and assignments (mean=4.46). It is interesting to note that students neither
agreed nor disagreed when asked if they feel challenged when their teacher
presents content at varying levels of complexity (mean=3.39). Overall, the
students agreed that differentiated instruction has stimulated their interest in the
class (mean=3.72).

To interpret the students perceptions of differentiated instruction, the following


scale was used: 1.0 1.4 = strong negative; 1.5 2.4 = negative; 2.5 3.4 =
neutral; 3.5 4.4 = positive; and 4.5 5.0 strong positive. Table 3 reflects an
overall mean of 4.03 which implies that students have positive perceptions of
differentiated instruction.

5.5. Effect of Differentiated Instruction on Student Learning Outcomes


Measured by End-of-Course Test Scores

The end-of-course test scores served as a measure of student learning since it is a


standardized test administered at the end of the school year. In this study, the
researcher wanted to find out if the students in spring 2015 (DI group) scored
better than the students in 2014 (Non-DI group) in their EOC test. The statistical
test was based on the null hypothesis that there is no significant effect of
differentiated instruction on student learning outcomes as measured by EOC
test.

Comparison of EOC Results


60 52.7
Relative Frequency (%)

47.6
50
40
28.4 29.3
30
17.1 14.9
20 2014
10 4.1 6.1
2015
0
Needs Fair Good Excellent
Improvement

Performance

Figure 2. Comparison of EOC test scores between DI Group (2015) and Non-DI group
(2014)

Figure 2 shows that more students scored Good/Excellent in the DI group


(76.9%) compared with the Non-DI group (67.6%). The mean EOC score in 2014

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49

was 88.95 while it was 90.05 in 2015. T-test results reflect a p-value for one-tailed
test of 0.046 (p<0.05) which suggests that the DI group performed significantly
higher than the Non-DI group at 5% level of significance. Table 4 shows a
summary of the t-test results.

Table 4. T-test Results Comparing EOC Scores Between Non-DI Group (2014) and DI
Group (2015)

Result Non-DI (2014) DI (2015)


EOC Mean Score 88.95 90.05
t Stat -1.6947778
t Critical one-tail 1.6550074
P(T<=t) one-tail 0.0460894

The result of the t-test implies that at 5% level of significance, the EOC test scores
in the Spring of 2015 (DI group) are significantly higher than the scores in 2014
(Non-DI). However, a previous t-test also revealed that the students in the
Spring of 2015 had a higher proficiency pretest than the students in the Spring of
2014 (p=.021). This makes the two groups statistically not equivalent because of
the significantly higher pretest scores in the Spring of 2015. In order to make the
two groups statistically comparable, analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was
performed, taking the proficiency pretest as a covariate. This statistically
eliminates any possible effect of the pretest scores on the result of the EOC on
the two groups. Table 5 presents a summary of the ANCOVA test.

Table 5. ANCOVA Summary Comparing EOC Scores Between Non-DI Group (2014)
and DI Group (2015)

Source of Adjusted Adjusted P-


Variation SS df MS F value F crit
Between
Groups 0.0388999 1 0.03889987 2.42301 0.121672 3.9042017
Within
Groups 2.4081539 150 0.01605436
Total 2.4470538 151

The adjusted mean in the EOC scores in the Spring of 2014 was 87.81, while it
was 87.78 in the Spring of 2015. The ANCOVA test resulted in a p-value of .12,
which is higher than the selected level of significance (p>.05). This means that
there is not enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis. Thus, there is no
significant difference in the EOC scores in the Spring of 2014 and in the Spring of
2015.

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50

6. Summary of Findings

The following are the salient findings of the study.


1. Data analysis indicated that teachers have positive perceptions of
differentiated instruction. Teachers feel that differentiated instruction
improves student engagement in the class as they are being empowered
to choose activities that suit their interests and learning preferences. Just
like the other studies in the literature, differentiating by choice is a
common practice among the teachers in the study. A common issue
found was the amount of time required to plan and implement DI
strategies. The teachers need to be creative because there are not many
available resources for differentiating in the science classroom. The
following were the major themes that emerged from the qualitative part
of the study:
a) Differentiated instruction improves student engagement and
academic performance in class;
b) Differentiated instruction motivates the students;
c) Differentiating by choice is the most common way to
differentiate;
d) Administrative support has a major influence on the
implementation of differentiated instruction;
e) Implementation of differentiated instruction increases teacher
efficiency; and,
f) Differentiated instruction requires more time and creativity.
2. The student survey revealed an overall mean of 4.03 which means that
the students have positive perceptions of differentiated instruction.
Students have positive or strong positive perceptions on nine out of 10
components of differentiated instruction on the survey.
3. More students scored Good/Excellent in the DI group (76.9%) compared
with the Non-DI group (67.6%). However, t-test also revealed that at 5%
level of significance, the proficiency pretest of the DI group is
significantly higher than the Non-DI group (p=.021). Because of this, the
proficiency pretest was used as covariate in comparing the EOC scores of
the two groups. The mean EOC score for the DI group was 90.05 while
the mean for the Non-DI group was 88.95. A t-test revealed that at 5%
level of significance, the DI group scored higher in the EOC than the
Non-DI group (p=.046). However, when an analysis of covariance
(ANCOVA) was employed taking proficiency pretest as covariate, the
adjusted means changed to 87.78 for the DI group and 87.81 for the Non-
DI group. The ANCOVA resulted in a p-value of .12 which implied that
there was no significant difference in the EOC scores between the DI
group and the Non-DI group.

7. Conclusion

Based on the qualitative findings of the study, it can be concluded that teachers
have positive perceptions of differentiated instruction. When teachers use varied

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51

differentiated instructional strategies, student engagement and performance in


class are improved. Students also have positive perceptions of differentiated
instruction. They feel that they learn more effectively if the lesson is delivered
using their own learning styles and if assignments are in varied format. They
feel more engaged in the learning process if they are given a choice on what
assignment and activities to do, and on what type of group format to work with.
They agree that teachers should be aware of students learning preferences and
should use that information to design activities suited for them.

On the other hand, the quantitative findings did not confirm that differentiated
instruction improves student performance. The ANCOVA result suggests that
although the DI group performed higher on the EOC, their exposure to
differentiated instruction did not contribute to their higher EOC scores. At 5%
level of significance, there was not enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis.
Thus, it is concluded that there is no significant effect of differentiated
instruction on student learning outcomes measured by EOC.

8. Recommendations

Based on the results of the study, the following recommendations are made:
1. More teacher-training should be conducted focusing on DI strategies for
science classes. The science teachers in the study differentiated mostly
the process and product of instruction but seldom on the lesson content.
Teacher training should focus more on strategies to differentiate science
content.
2. Track student performance in the End-of-Course test for the next three
years. The effect of newly introduced teaching strategies may not be seen
in a year and may require a long term study.
3. Differentiated instruction should be continually implemented in high
school science classes. Although the result of the study suggests that
differentiated instruction did not significantly increase student learning
outcomes as measured by the End-of-Course test, it positively impacted
the learning process by increasing student engagement in class.
4. Further empirical studies should be conducted to determine the
effectiveness of differentiated instruction in improving student learning
outcomes.

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52

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International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research


Vol. 16, No. 7, pp. 55-71, July 2017

An Evaluation of using Games in Teaching


English Grammar for First Year English-Majored
Students at Dong Nai Technology University

Lien Cam and Thi Minh Thu Tran


Dong Nai Technology University
Bien Hoa city, Dong Nai Province, Vietnam

Abstract. English is taught as a compulsory subject from primary


schools to universities in Vietnam. When learning English, students
need to learn grammar. Grammar, as an integral part of a language,
plays a crucial role in the language learning process. Without some
knowledge of grammar, it would be impossible to have language
comprehension as well as language production. The lack of grammar
knowledge affects all the four language skills. Thats why grammar
learning is an important and indispensable part of any language
learning process. Actually, there are a considerable number of studies
examining how to use games in teaching grammar in many contexts.
However, a few articles address how effective games are in grammar
instruction. Therefore, the current paper aims to fill the gap by
analyzing the application of games in teaching grammar for English
majored freshmen at Dong Nai Technology University. A mixture of
both quantitative and qualitative methods was applied in the paper. The
finding indicates both advantages and disadvantages as teaching
grammar through games for teachers and students. Therefore, game
application is advised to be adopted by English teachers. It also proves
students attitude positively toward grammar lessons.

Keywords: teaching English; English grammar; games application

1. Introduction
In recent years, English has been considered as one of the most popular
languages. It is now the key factor of globalization- of political views,
international business as well as education (Johnson, 2009). Thanks to the
development of economic with oversea investment and tourism more and more
people spend time and money taking English classes at schools or private
centers with the hope that they can better their communication in English so that
they are able to study abroad, and look for good jobs with high income.
Realizing how important English is in education, Ministry of Education and
Training in Vietnam has many policies to develop both teachers and students

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56

English proficiency. For instance, the project of improving teachers English


proficiency following The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)
standard by the end of the year 2020 has been carried out recently to provide
further training for those who are not qualified enough. Furthermore, students
in Dong Nai province have opportunities to study with foreign teachers
especially Filipino teachers.
Teaching English has some improvement recently in the light of student-
centered approach in which students are involved in the learning process and
become committed to improving their English and in a student-centered
classroom, students get more talking time stated by Jones (2007, p. 40);
however, teaching and learning English at Dong Nai Technology University has
not developed students communicative abilities, motivation, and activeness.
Although there is a considerable studying time, many Vietnamese students are
not able to communicate in English fluently and confidently. According to
Nguyen (2008, p. 265) numerous learners in Vietnam have degrees of
competence level or advanced level; however they cannot produce correct and
meaningful utterance or sentences. In fact, in most public and private schools
in Vietnam, teachers who are in charge of giving instructions are the center of
the classroom, while students are interested in taking notes rather than speaking
up their ideas and taking part in the lessons. Pradeep (2013) also states that
grammar is a very important part that cannot be neglected in teaching and
studying English. Students are able to speak English more correctly if they are
proficient in grammar. However, Denham (1992) highlights the fact that teachers
instruct most of their lessons through Grammar Translation Method approach
(GTM) which is known as teacher-centered instead of giving students chances to
communicate in English. This suggests that its high time for teachers to teach
grammar in variety ways to allow students to accurately and clearly express
their ideas in English. Thus, it is necessary to carry out this study to make
practical benefits for students by applying games, and offer observations or
evidence proving whether games are helpful to the English language learning of
English majors in Vietnamese universities.
From the reasons mentioned above, the topic of using games to teach grammar
for freshmen at Dong Nai Technology University is clarified so that relevant
games will be used in order to help all students practice English more naturally
and accurately and help them know the way to use exactly grammar rules.
Furthermore, games also better students grammar acquisition as well as
motivate them to study English. Consequently, lecturers can design lessons, gain
experience and make more contribution to teach grammar better. Moreover,
students attitudes are addressed toward the application of games and activities
in classroom. In fact, it is also an evaluation of the effectiveness of teachers
pedagogy. The study firstly introduces the rationale and theoretical
perspectives. Secondly, it has a clear and straightforward description of the
classroom research. Thirdly, it clearly describes the use of different methods and
different data sets in the study. Fourthly, it presents the findings and discussion
of this study. Finally, it summarizes what the evaluation has found.

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57

2. Literature review
2.1. Rationale
Games have been applied broadly in instructing English, especially in teaching
grammar. When conducting grammar lessons, teachers utilize games or game-
like activities to develop students motivation and make the learners relaxed and
eager to take part in the lessons. The advantages of games in teaching grammar
have been demonstrated in several previous studies. Furthermore, there are
many articles which supply adequate games and activities that can be taken into
consideration when instructing grammar. This research will continue studying
about four innovatory reasons of using games in teaching grammar.
First of all, games provide good opportunities for students to use target
language in real life contexts. According to Yolageldili & Arikan (2011, p. 220)
students are engaged to the learning environment of target language when
participating in games. The students tend to use various language sources to
complete the given tasks, for instance, solving a problem. Moreover, games are
often designed within certain real life situations. It is true that when teachers
hold whatever games with clear objectives, students are able to get many
advantages. First-year students are not confident enough to communicate or
express ideas in English. They are accustomed to do exercises and take note
when teachers are giving instructions. Therefore, using games is a good solution
to provide students real life contexts in which they have to interact with others
in English.
In addition to the practice of English, using games helps students practice and
review on language use. Wang (2010, p.130) specifies that communicative
activities used as games construct context in which learners are involved in
practicing the target language for sharing information, negotiating meaning as
well as contacting with others in meaningful context . By this way, teachers can
use games to engage students in implementing the target language within all
skills like speaking, reading, listening and writing. Games can be easily applied
whenever necessary and appropriate, for example games can be used for
warming up, instructing new structures or revising previous language points,
and even using as follow-up activities to end a lesson. This implement supports
students a lot in learning like memorizing new words, or practicing new
grammar structures effectively in class.
Thirdly, games create a supportive learning environment with fun, enjoyment
and excitement. According to Wang (2010, p.131) teachers encourage learners to
contact in target language rather than fix up errors in game situations. This
could help students learn language more naturally and practically because
games can reduce the fear of making mistakes. In contrast, many students feel
bored and uncomfortable with tradition teaching approach. Inside non-stressful
learning environment, students are optimistic and confident to work with others
to learn new language freely. As a result, students will be more active to involve
in the lessons
Finally, games or game-like activities build up interpersonal relations among
students. According to Lee (1995, p. 1), games promote more interaction and
group work not only among students, but also between the teacher and
students. As a matter of fact, most classes are often divided into small groups or

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58

pairs when teachers conduct whatever games. In this way, students have many
chances to communicate with others naturally in order to finish the games.
Hence, students social and emotional development may be encouraged in the
light of such positive collaboration and companionship.
2.2. Theoretical perspectives
2.2.1. The position of grammar in instructing and learning English
Harmer (1987, p.12) points out Without some understanding of Grammar,
students would not be able to do anything more than utter separate items of
language for separate functions. The expression of functional language is only
possible through the use of the Grammar of the language
Firstly, instructing grammar helps learners know in which way the language
works. In addition to mastering vocabulary, students are required learn
grammar to understand how words are combined together in a sentence so that
they can understand the correct meaning. In fact, lacking grammar knowledge, it
is easy for students to get stuck with complicated sentences. Therefore, if
grammar is taught within communicative and meaningful contexts, it will
promote students communicative goals and sufficient accuracy and fluency in
language use.
Secondly, Larsen and Freeman (1986, p.13) also reinforce how important
grammar is in English teaching and learning. They affirm that grammar can be
considered as a skill rather than a language area. Obviously, learners store
knowledge language and its usage. Thus, they need to be provided
opportunities of real life situations to practice their grammar knowledge. It is
true to say that grammar is considered the fifth skill apart from four basic skills
speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Grammar need to be taught when the
students acquire a new language so that they can use the grammar item in
writing, listening, and speaking as well. Therefore, grammar is regarded as a
concrete foundation for mastering other skills.
In general, it is important to have a good knowledge of grammar because it is
hard to develop language skills without some knowledge of grammar. Teacher
should help students to acquire grammar knowledge through meaningful
contexts.
2.2.2. Benefits of games in teaching grammar
Normally, when studying at high school; students just sat on the desk, wrote,
corrected, and rewrote sentences in order to learn proper grammar structure and
usage in most grammar lessons. Though, many teachers still convey grammar
lessons by this way, there is an effort in instructing grammar through games.
Some research proves excellent value of games or game-like activities when
teaching grammar. "Games and problem-solving activities... have a purpose
beyond the production of correct speech, and are examples of the most
preferable communicative activities" said Saricoban and Metin (2000).
Obviously, students are more eager and motivated to join games than they are
with doing numerous exercises. The authors also state that students not only
enhance knowledge but also apply in their learning when studying with
relevant grammar games.

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59

Additionally, Ersoz (2000) illustrates that challenging and amusing games are
highly motivating. When teachers announced that it was time for games,
students were very excited. In fact, teachers can use games to create motivation
and enjoyment through competition or to make bonding among students in
class. According to Saricoban and Metin (2000) the use of such activities both
increases the cooperation and competition in the classroom." Games also allow
meaningful use of the target language in a real life context.
Generally speaking, using games is needed for promoting students motivation
and improving their comprehension of the lesson. It has been indicated that
language learning performed in a playful atmosphere resulted into a)
stimulating students motivation, b) making students feel confident and c)
creating their positive attitudes to foreign language learning stated Griva,
Semoglou and Geladari (2010, p. 3704). Teachers, however, have to be careful in
using games. According to Khan (1996), Teachers need to consider which
games to use, when to use them, how to link them up with the syllabus, textbook
or program and how, more specifically, different games will benefit students in
different ways. Therefore, successful games must be well- designed, well-
organized, clear, and funny.

3. The study
3.1. Description of the context
This study takes place at Dong Nai Technology University which is located in
Bien Hoa City. There are twenty five students in each grammar class. The
students attend grammar class twice a week. The tests almost pay much
attention to the acquisition of form or structure and the aim is to verify the
apprehension of the learners in grammar.
Nonetheless, a lot of students do not have clear awareness of the importance of
studying English; therefore they think it is not as stimulating as others subjects.
In addition, they have been studying English for seven years so far, but, their
English proficiency is quite inadequate.
The working environment supports continuously teachers teaching process.
Students are nice, easy to motivate and reflective. Moreover, great support from
all colleagues in sharing teaching experiences is notable. However, the budget is
restricted so it influences materials and the freshness of materials.
All of these pros and cons above are just the observations during the time
working here. Nevertheless, when this research is applied, it also has other
possible benefits and drawbacks. With the hope to help student better their
grammar knowledge, games and games-like activities are applied in teaching
grammar for the first year English majored students. This work plans to access
the impact of games on learners communicative skills, their grammar
acquisition and students attitude toward games by examining the answers of
the two research questions below:
1. How can games help students acquire grammar?
2. What are the learners attitudes to the games?

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60

3.2. Evaluation methods


3.2.1. Participant and materials
In this study, 25 freshmen who have been studying English for seven years at
class 16DTA3 were selected. The course book Grammar Practice for Intermediate
Students (Walker & Elsworth, 2000) was used. Besides, those students learned
with various activities or games related to a certain grammar lesson. Actually,
games and other activities were chosen from the books Games for Grammar
Practice (Zaorob & Chin, 2001) and Grammar-Focused Interactive ESL/EFL
Activities and Games (Kealey & Inness, 2008).
3.2.2. Methodology and methods
In this study, quantitative and qualitative methods were exploited. Definitely,
these methods are different significantly. However, there is a tendency for
researchers to practice more than one research method in a paper. According to
Hinchey (2008), it is possible for researchers to apply three methods in each
study which is named triangulation so that researchers can avoid ambiguity in
their study. Moreover, Garbarino & Holland (2009) point out that the connection
of both qualitative and quantitative research methods can help researchers have
accurate prediction as well as appropriate ideas classification. The following
data collection methods were used in this paper and all data for analysis come
from 25 freshmen in class 16DTA3 at Dong Nai Technology University.
Questionnaire (see Appendix 1)
In this study, questionnaire which consists of 5 closed questions was designed
and delivered to all students. This questionnaire had the partakers respond to
each items in a five point Likert scale which descend the meaning respectively
from strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree to strongly disagree. This model is
helpful to figure out students reaction, attitude, and opinion toward the
grammar games applied during 6 weeks. All of the questions were explained
very clearly so that students could understand all items clearly. In the last week,
the questionnaires were completed by 25 students. After that, all data was
synthesized and analyzed. Questionnaire was very useful collection tool because
researchers could reach many participants in a short time and it didnt cost
much. However, when using this method some students werent willing to
complete the questionnaire. So they just did it without any care. Consequently,
the result somewhat wasnt very consistent.
Observation (see Appendix 2)
Observation was another method used in this study. It was made in week 3and
in week 5. Two teachers from the faculty of foreign languages were invited to
observe and record the teaching as well. The observers used an available
observation form (appendix 2). Actually, four different lessons were observed (2
lessons with grammar games, 2 lessons without grammar games). Thanks to the
data collected from this method, the effectiveness of games was shown by
monitoring their communicative competence, practice, and cooperative learning.
One significant benefit of using observation in this case was that it provided a
direct access to the problem with the collected information from the observation
forms. Nonetheless, it still had unexpected shortcoming due to observers bias.

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61

In some cases, observers somehow didnt want to record what really happened
in class but what they wanted to see.
Semi-structured interview (see Appendix 3)
In additional to questionnaire and observation, the interview was conducted at
the 6th week. Six students were chosen randomly to answer several pre-set
questions. All questions were in Vietnamese so that all students could best
express their ideas (appendix 3). Each interview lasted 15 minutes and all
interviews were recorded with the aim to explore students attitude to games.
All the data showed how enjoyable students were with the games and how well
students were involved in the lessons. The information was used to reinforce
one of the aspects of research questions mentioned above. Like using
questionnaire, applying interview also had certain drawback. Some students
followed the crowd. They didnt express their own feeling because they
probably thought that their answers could affect their marks in class.
3.2.3. Ethical consideration
Ethical issues are considered as a very important part in any research. First of all,
a formal meeting was held to inform clearly the purpose of this research to all
participants. Meanwhile, all the participants completed consent form to make
sure that they took part in this research without any force. In this way, the
collected data was valid and reliable. At the same time, it is necessary to ask for
the permission of the Vice Dean of Faculty of Foreign Languages so that this
study could be handled freely. Additionally, all students were told about how
the paper was implemented, and in what way the result could support their
further learning. Next, participants confidentiality was guaranteed so that the
respondents felt comfortable and confident when joining the study. This means
their private information was kept in secret, and the findings were just used for
the aims of this paper. Besides, the environment was also important to make the
participants relax because Garbarino & Holland (2009, p. 20) stated that respect,
principles, and justice were the core of each research. The researcher had to not
only respect participants feedbacks, opinion, and feelings, but also be interested
in listening to respondents answers without any critiques. Moreover, the
research data must be reported and analyzed truthfully due to the fact that it
was considered unethical if the data were presented differently for researchs
purposes. Thus, the continuous section will clarify how the data were analyzed
in this research.
3.2.4. Data analysis
All the data was described and analyzed so that the reader knew what, where,
when and in which way something occurred. With the collected data from
questionnaire, Microsoft Excel 2010 program was used to insert and analyze the
data. Firstly, all the data were inputted so that this software calculated the
answers of the respondents. Then, the result was shown by percentages, pie
charts, bar graphs, tables and so forth. After analysis stage, participants attitude
toward grammar lessons was figured out.
Moreover, with the information from observation, the contraries between what
actually happened and what other people said were explored. At first, the video
record was opened to revise what had been taught and analyzed the findings.

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62

Then, via competitive relationships as well as opportunities to speak English in


class, the results could be evaluated. From the above comparison and evaluation,
it is easy to find out whether it was relevant or not when applying games in
teaching grammar. At the same time, teachers could make some changes to
improve students communicative competence.
Besides, the collected data from interview were useful in finding out how
strongly participants agree with using games in teaching grammar. The answers
were took notes and taped. Transcribing and arranging these responses into the
same groups of theme for analyzing was the most important stage.

4. Finding
4.1. Findings of questionnaire
From the answers of students through questionnaire, most of the students (76%)
strongly agree that grammar plays a vital role when learning English while 16%
of the students disagree with this idea. They might think that they can speak
fluently without mastering the grammar structure. 8% of the students think it is
neutral. To sum up, students realize how essential grammar is in English
learning process. However, the problem is that students cannot use it in their
utterance exactly and naturally.

Neutral 8%

Disagre
16%
e

Strongl
y agree 76%

Chart 1: Students ideas of the importance of grammar


Additionally, students can use English in real contexts by studying through
games, but it does not at the same rate. In fact, 16% of participants strongly agree
that there are more chances for them to use the grammar point in real life
situations while 36% of the students agree that they are able to apply the
grammar structure directly when they take part in the games. 28% cannot use
the learnt grammar structures in their speaking and the number of students
answer neutral is 20%. This means that most of students recognize the purpose
of using games is not only for creating excitement but also for providing
students opportunity to speak out in class. The data are shown as following

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63

40 36%

35

30 28%

25
20%
20
16%
15

10

0
Strong agree Agree Neutral Disagree

Chart 2: Students opinion of using English in real contexts


After grammar lessons, 44% students agree they can understand and practice
lessons in class better through games, while 40% of the students answer neutral.
Only 16% cannot understand right away and need time to revise. These figures
confirm that the understanding of students is rather low and they do not involve
much in learning new grammar structures.

Agree Neutral Disagree


0%

16%
44%

40%

Chart 3: Students understanding of the lesson


Furthermore, 64% of the students strongly agree that teachers teaching method
is effective and useful, 24% of the students agree with the idea and only 12% of
the students disagree. This indicates that most students like their teachers new
way of applying games in teaching grammar. As a result, they can better their
learning.

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64

0%

Disagree
12%

Agree
24%
Strongly
agree
64%

Chart 4: Students attitude to teaching method

Besides, the frequency of interaction among students through games is


highlighted. 28% of the students strongly agree that they use more English in
their communication with their classmates than learning grammar without
games. 56% of the students agree they are able to interact with other students.
12% of students say it is neutral and 4% of students disagree with this idea. The
data are interpreted as following
Table 1: Students interaction in grammar lessons

Strongly agree 28%


Agree 56%
Neutral 12%
Disagree 4%

In short, the above findings show that using games in teaching grammar can
create strong motivation for students to practice English as well as provide real
life situations so that students are able to apply what they studied to interact
between students- teacher and students -students in class.
4.2. Findings of observation
Lessons with grammar games:
Two grammar points in the course book were chosen and taught in 40 minutes:
- Comparative of adjectives (page 8)
- Conditional sentence type 1 (page 54)
The lessons with grammar games were conveyed as following
Lesson 1 (Game 1, about 10 minutes): comparative of adjectives

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65

Teacher prepares several pictures and put them in a box. Then, my class is
divided into 4 groups (five members in each group). Each group takes turn to
choose a picture inside the box. In 1 minute that group has to make two
sentences using comparative of adjective (for example: the red car bigger than
the green car and the red car is more expensive than the green car). However the
students are required to speak out and write down their answers). Which group
finishes first will get 1 point. Teacher gives comment and the winners will
receive a small presents.
Lesson 2 (Game 2, about 8 minutes) Introducing conditional sentence type 1
Teacher show one sentence on the board (for example: If I am free, I will go to
the movie theatre). After that I have the students work in groups of five. The
students are asked to elicit the tense and verb form in two clauses. Then, they try
to clarify the meaning as well as the usage of this type of conditional sentence.
Each group has 3 minute to prepare and then presents in front of class. Which
group has correct answers will win and get a gift. Teacher gives feedback,
explanation and asks students to draw out the form.
When watching the recordings which are recorded by observers, it showed that
students cooperate well and communicate with others frequently in order to
contribute ideas, discuss the answers, and make possible sentences. Also, during
the grammar game, the students attempt to complete the task as fast as they can.
These groups often compete to win the game. They sometimes give their
answers before teachers signals. From the information of observation form, the
interaction among students and competition is about 75% 85 %. Hence,
students speaking time is increased (about 70% - 79%). Obviously, most of the
students are very active from the beginning until the ends. They raise hands to
answer and other students clap hands to encourage. They can create meaningful
sentences using new grammar point. In addition, classroom environment is
lively and funny. It seems that 8 to 10 minutes is not enough for playing the
games. When time is up, some students even do not want to stop.
Lessons without grammar games
To begin the lesson, teacher invites 2 students to go to the board to check old
lesson. Then, two lessons are taught similarly by applying communicative
approach. The procedure follows present- practice- produce technique (PPP).
Firstly, teacher presents the meaning and structures of new grammar points by
setting situation. Secondly, the students practice the new grammar structures by
doing exercises in pairs or small groups without any games. Finally, it is time
for students to practice freely, and finish some more tasks: gap-fill, word/
sentence transformation
When comparing these lessons with those using games, students have less
chance to communicate and exchange ideas with others: about 45% 55% for
students spent too much time to do exercises. Moreover, here the atmosphere is
quiet and sometimes nervous but not funny and exciting. From the observation,
students are tired at the end of the lesson. In fact, competition rate is about 40
50% because do not compete to answer teachers questions.

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66

Furthermore, students motivation is identified through the atmosphere inside


classroom and students English speaking time. Needless to say, two lessons
using games create active and lively learning environment and students have
more chances to speak English than the ones without games.
Table 2: Comparison of students motivation through lessons

Motivation Lessons with games Lessons without games


Students English
70 79 % 45 55 %
speaking time
Competitive
75 85 % 40 50 %
atmosphere
To sum up, findings of observation show that games seem to be relevant for
students thanks to the extreme students English speaking time as well as the
collaborative learning. As a result, students can be successful in applying what
they studied to real contexts.
4.3. Findings of semi-structured interview
Via the information collected from the interview, students motivation is
clarified through their feedback as well as suggestion in grammar lessons and
emotion to those games used in class. After the interviews with six students, the
results are illustrated very clearly.
Nearly 83.3% of students say that I feel really exciting when studying with
games. Many students (66.7%) eagerly take part in more games and attempt to
win these games. Through the mentioned percentages, students enjoy the non-
stressful atmosphere, high motivation, as well as positive competition inside the
classroom which is created by games. In fact, the students try to win because
they receive the small gifts once they are winners. Sometimes, it is a lovely
pencil, a small notebook or even lollipop or candy but these presents stimulate
students to win the games. Indeed, 83.3% of the student answer I can
understand the games instructed by the teacher 16.7% of the students
sometimes cannot catch on the rules of the games so they do not know how to
play. I do not know how to play at first, so it is better to observe my classmate
say one student. Most of the students (66.7%) say that they are able to use new
structures into the games immediately, 25% of the students sometimes have
difficulties to do so, and 8.3% cannot apply. Despite the fact that games bring
many benefits, students have unavoidable problems when they join the games.
For more details, students difficulties with grammar games are clarified in the
below chart:

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67

83.3
100 33.3
80 16.7 16.7
60
40
20
0
Lack of Not know to Not know Other
necessary apply how to play difficulties
vocabulary grammar
structure to
the games

Chart 5: Students difficulties in playing grammar games

Students studying method is a vital part to determine to what extend students


can master teachers lectures and apply new grammar knowledge in speaking.
From the collected data, about two third of the students often take part in the
games positively and half of the students (50%) answer that they have more
opportunities to speak out what teacher instruct when they play the games
while 16.7% students share their ideas. As a matter of fact, 83.3% of students are
used to taking note and write down teachers explanations. We can see that
students are still influenced by Grammar Translation Method (GTM), and they
become passive in learning process. Students activities are shown in the
following table.

Table 3: Students activities in grammar lesson

Activities %
- Positively join the games teachers ask 66.7
- Take note and write down the lesson 83.3
- Speak out using new structures 50
- Contribute ideas eagerly 16.7

In general, games or game like activities encourage most of the students


positively to involve in grammar lessons which can be seen through their
motivation when playing games. Students feel confident and they are able to
communicate better at the end comparing to those who are in non-experimental
class. Although GTM still affect the way students learn English, a good sign is
that after the games students express their enjoyment as well as they think that
grammar games are beneficial for applying grammar features in their
communication.

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68

5. Discussion
The goal of this study is to investigate two research questions: 1) How can games
help students learn grammar? And 2) What are the learners attitudes to the
games in classroom?. The following pages will discuss more about how the
findings are combined together to address the mentioned research questions
The information from both questionnaire and observation illustrates that using
games help create enjoyment, motivation and reduce stress in learning grammar.
Also, collected data from interviews indicate that 84% of the students have
positive attitude to English grammar games, just four students (16%) have
difficulties when playing the games for the first time. On the other hand, all
students (100%) answered that those games was exciting. More importantly, the
answers from the interviews reveal that the students knew how to use
vocabulary in appropriate situations. The analysis of the data collected from
observation, questionnaire, and interview can be combined to answer the
research questions as games can better learners grammar acquisition.
Lastly, the experiment also expresses participants attitudes. The questionnaire
reveals that most students are pleased about games and activities that teacher
applied in teaching grammar. However, if teachers abuse games in teaching,
students might lose their interest. Therefore, it is believed that the combination
of Grammar games with some popular approaches like grammar translation
method (GTM), communicative language teaching (CLT), or task- based
language teaching (TBLT) and so forth could create more benefits for learners
than using each approach separately. Actually, those activities support learners
to use English in real situations and to make them energetic in learning, while
other approaches can help students to comprehend the contents. Thus, this
combination is thought as a good solution.
During six weeks of implementing the research, there are many difficulties when
using games in teaching grammar. Firstly, 83.3% of the students are not
confident enough to participate in the games as they lack necessary vocabulary.
Secondly, some students cannot understand the rules of the games or even how
to play it correctly. Thirdly, some find it is difficult to practice new structure in
their communication with their classmates because they are not familiar with the
structure yet. Finally, good students often dominate those who are shy to win
the games.
In order to overcome the problems above, the following part will recommend
useful tips to successfully apply games in class,
Organize the class, focus on learners age, level, and interest
Change activities if the class is getting disorderly and noisy
Choose activities appeal with all types of learning styles and vary the
things you want your learners to do.
Establish a routine and set up schedule for certain type of activities
in class
Make sure all rules are clear and understandable, and all learners
have to respect and follow the rules
Overall, applying games can be benefits for both teachers and
students. However, bear in mind to keep students involved and be sure that

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69

those games truly focus on the skill and make students become engaged and
interested in learning grammar.

6. Conclusion
This paper clarified the strong points of using games for first year students at
Dong Nai Technology University. The results from this evaluation expressed the
positive influences of games on students oral skill in relaxed surroundings.
Three kinds of datasets consisting of questionnaire, observation, and interview
gave researcher evidence-based judgments to the innovation. They have
promoted the trend of adopting games in teaching grammar for students at all
ages from young learners to adults in any levels. Vitally important, pertinent
games and activities should be examined to identify the most relevant ones for
studying grammar. The upcoming study of using games in teaching grammar
could be continuously investigated in different areas of Vietnam. Therefore, the
collected information is more valid and reliable.

References
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Ersoz, A. (2000). Six Games for the EFL/ESL Classroom. The Internet TESL Journal, 6(6).
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Garbarino, S., & Holland, J. (2009). Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Impact
Evaluation and Measuring Results. Governance and social development resource
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Griva, E., Semoglou, K., & Geladari, A. (2010). Early foreign language learning:
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Jonson, A. (2009). The Rise of English: The Language of Globalization in China and The
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Kealey, J., & Inness, D. (2008). Shenani Games: Grammar-Focused Interactive ESL/EFL
Activities and Games. Fredericksburg, Virginia: Sheridan Books.
Khan, J. (1996). Using games to teach young learner, Teaching English to children: From
Practice to Principle. England: Longman.
Larsen & Freeman, D. (1986). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford:
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Nguyen, T.N. (2008). English- A global language and its implications for students. VNU
Journal of Science, Foreign Languages, 24, 260-266.
Pradeep, K.B. (2013). The importance of Grammar in English Language Teaching a
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Saricoban, A., & Metin, E. (2000). Songs, Verse and Games for Teaching Grammar. The
Internet TEST Journal. Retrieved from http://itesij.org/Technique/Saricoban-
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Walker, E., & Elsworth, S. (2000). Grammar Practice for Intermediate Students. Longman
Wang, Y. (2010). Using Communicative Games in Teaching and Learning English in
Taiwanese Primary Schools, Journal of Engineering and Education, 7(1), 126-142.
Yolageldili, G., & Arikan A. (2011).Effectiveness of Using Games in Teaching Grammar
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Zaorob, M.L., & Chin, E. (2001). Games for Grammar Practice. Cambridge University Press.

Appendix 1: Students Questionnaire


(Strongly agree =SA, agree= A, neutral= N, disagree= DA, and strongly disagree= SD)

No. Questions SA A N DA SD

1 Grammar is very important in learning English

2 By studying grammar through games, you have more


chances to use English in real context

3 Via games you are able to understand and practice


grammar lessons better.

4 Teachers teaching method is effective.

5 You have more opportunities to interact with your


classmates through games

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71

Appendix 2: Observation Form

Appendix 3: Interview Questions


1. Do you enjoy the games instructed by teacher? Why/ Why not?
2. Are you able to use new grammar point when joining the games?
3. What are some obstacles as you participate in the games?
4. Do you have more opportunities to communicate using new structures in
class?
5. What do you often do in grammar lessons?

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72

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research


Vol. 16, No. 7, pp. 72-83, July 2017

Abolition of Agricultural Science as a Single


Subject in Basic Schools in Ghana: Implications
for Basic Educational Reforms

Martin Bosompem and Theophilus Numo


Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension
University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, Ghana.

Abstract. The implementation of new educational reforms in 2012


academic year in Ghana led to the abolition of Agriculture Science as a
single subject in basic schools and agriculture science course was
subsumed into Integrated Science. Concerns have been raised by
stakeholders as to whether the reforms give room for adequate covering
of agriculture needed in basic schools. A census of 107 Academic staff in
the School of Agriculture and selected Departments from the Faculty of
Education, University of Cape Coast, Ghana was undertaken to find out
their perceptions on the abolition of Agricultural Science as a Single
Subject in the Basic School Curriculum (ASSSBSC) in Ghana. Content
validated questionnaire was used for data collection and data was
analysed using descriptive statistics, chi-square test, Mann-Whitney U -
test and Binary Logistic Regression. The findings of the study showed
that majority (85%) of the respondents do not support the abolition of
ASSSBSC in Ghana. Majority (95%) of the respondents generally agreed
that Agricultural Science, like other subjects, should be treated as a
single subject in basic schools. However, few (27%) suggested that even
though it should be treated as single subject, it must not be a
compulsory subject but optional. The binary logistic regression analysis
showed that "agriculture science forms part of general science subject"
was the best predictor of respondents' reason for supporting or
otherwise, the abolishing of ASSSBSC in Ghana. The study
recommended that the issue of whether agricultural science should be
integrated into the general science in the basic schools or not should be
revisited and re-examined by the stakeholders. Future educational
reforms may use a tracer study as a major stakeholder participation tool
for making informed decisions towards sustainable basic education in
Ghana.

Keywords: Agricultural Science Education; Academic staff; Basic


Educational Reforms, Ghana

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73

1.0 Introduction

Agricultural education at the basic school level has been identified as vital for
training young ones in the basic principles of agriculture, changing their
attitudes towards agriculture and providing avenues for the development of
their skills towards sustainable agricultural development (GES, 1987).
Education, according to UNESCO, is an organized and sustained instruction
designed to communicate a combination of knowledge, skills and understanding
valuable for all the activities of life (Terry, Thomas and Marshall, 1979). Farrant
(2004) also describes education as the total process of human learning by which
knowledge is imparted, faculties trained and skills developed.

According to Anamuah- Mensah (2002), basic education is the minimum period


of schooling needed to ensure that children acquire basic literacy, numeracy and
problem-solving skills as well as skills for creativity and healthy living. The
Ghana educational system currently provides for an eleven-year free
Compulsory Universal Basic Education(fCUBE); comprising of 2 years of
kindergarten, 6 years of primary and 3 years of junior high school education
(Anamuah-Mensah, 2002). Agricultural education, as defined by Barrick (1988),
is the scientific study of the principles and methods of teaching and learning as
they pertain to agriculture. Maguire (2000) also defined agricultural education
as an applied discipline concerned with the preparation of agricultural workers
including farmers, teachers of agriculture, extension staff, researchers,
agribusiness practitioners etc to satisfy individual, community and national
needs in the field of agriculture and agribusiness.

The main purpose of the agricultural education at the basic level is to train
pupils in the basic principles of agriculture, provide them options for the
development of their skills and change their attitudes towards farming and
agriculture-related businesses (GES, 1987). Agricultural education also assists in
the development of desirable attitudes and interest, and in the development of
social sensitivity and resourcefulness of students (Addo-Quaye, Osei, Annor-
Frempong, Adam, and Ghartey, 2007).

Training of the younger ones in agriculture at the basic level is very crucial for
development of the future generation of farmers and agriculturists. They will
need basic technical, managerial and entrepreneurial skills to be able to establish
businesses that will ensure agricultural development and economic
development since Ghanas economy is agrarian-based (ISSER, 2014). In order to
achieve these objectives, the Ghana government has made significant investment
in curriculum development, development of instructional materials, and
training of teachers to improve the teaching and learning conditions in schools.
This is based on the public policy of education that seeks to provide equal and
adequate educational opportunities in all fields and at all levels for all
Ghanaians (Ghana Government Gazette, 1982).

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74

According to Kwarteng, Owens and Okorley (2002), agricultural education must


be viewed as a continuum of learning from basic through secondary and tertiary
education. Such education must also be at both the formal and non-formal
sectors. Even though agricultural education is an essential tool for development,
it still faces a lot of challenges in sub-Saharan Africa including Ghana. Maguire
(2000) noted that, agricultural education in Africa now faces swift and often
perplexing changes in the environments in which it exists. Though efforts have
been made in sub-Saharan Africa to give the necessary support to agricultural
education as part of the overall education development programmes, much
remains to be done to enable it responds adequately to new and emerging
challenges in the sector.

Various curriculum reforms have been made in Ghana even before and after
independence in 1957 (Anum-Odoom, 2008). The current reforms implemented
in 2012 academic year has led to the abolishing of Agriculture Science as a single
subject in basic schools and agriculture has been subsumed into Integrated
Science. The purpose of the reform was to ensure the formation of human
capital for industrial growth, for ensuring competitiveness in the global
economy; ability to make use of recent developments in Science and Technology,
especially Information and Communication Technology (ICT); radical
transformation in the field of work and employment; and the preservation of
cultural identity and traditional indigenous knowledge and creativity. The
reform intended to place high premium on technical/vocational education and
training and improving the quality of instruction and making it flexible enough
to accommodate diverse student abilities. (Ministry of Education, 2012).

The abolition of ASSSBSC has raised some concerns and controversies among
some stakeholders. While some support the government's decision, others stand
strongly against this decision. One of the effects of this abolition is that the
contact hours of instructional time for teaching agriculture has been reduced by
75%. This is because integrated science formerly combined the teaching of three
(3) disciplines namely biology, physics and chemistry, however, the new
curriculum added agricultural science to be part of the integrated science
making agricultural science the fourth discipline to be added to the integrated
science. Some stakeholders are of the view that the abolition has led to disunity
and lack of cohesion among agriculture topics, weaker foundation for higher
agricultural science education, reduction in the interest of pupils in agricultural
science and the current General Science syllabus has become very voluminous.
Hence, General Science teachers either do not teach agriculture topics very well
or neglect it all together. Some students even believe that if they do not study
agricultural science aspect of the integrated science, they could still pass
integrated science since it forms only 25th percent of the integrated science
subject. However, the advantages of teaching agriculture as a single subjective in
basic schools have been advocated by Addo Quaye et al (2007) and Essumang
and Bentum (2007). These includes: It ensures unity and cohesion like in any
other subject, helps to develop the interest of pupils/ students in Agriculture,
prepares and gives students stronger foundation for higher Agricultural
education and allows for an in-depth study as a single entity which allows for

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75

better evaluation. Moyo (2014) has also advocated that students should have an
appreciation of agriculture at an early age if they would take it serious in future.

One of the reasons advanced for the poor performance of agriculture in sub-
Saharan Africa is the weak system of agricultural education which also includes
basic education in agriculture (Oniango and Eicher, 1999). Zimbabwe, for
example, recently introduced agriculture as a single subject in basic schools in
2014 because Zimbabwean viewed their economy as agriculture-based and
therefore decided to teach agriculture as a single subject starting from basic
schools (Majoni, 2016). To engage in more meaningful discussion of the issue,
there is the need to identify the perception of major stakeholders in Agricultural
education in Ghana on the abolition of Agriculture Science as a single subject in
basic schools.

1.1. Objective of the Study

The main objective of the study was to investigate how academic staff (faculty)
of School of Agriculture (SOA) and Faculty of Education (FOE) in the University
of Cape Coast (UCC), Ghana perceive the abolition of agricultural science as a
single subject in basic schools and the factors that affect their reason for
supporting or otherwise, the abolishing.

2.0. Methodology

A census of all academic staff in the selected Departments concerned or having


direct link with agriculture and basic education was undertaken to investigate
their perceptions on the abolition of Agricultural Science as a Single Subject in
the Basic School Curriculum (ASSSBSC) in Ghana. In school of Agriculture, all
the academic staff in all the five Departments (Animal Science, Crop Science,
Agricultural Engineering, Soil Science and Agricultural Economics and
Extension) participated in the study while in the Faculty of Education the
following were included; the Department of Basic Education, the Department of
Educational Foundation, the Institute of Education and the Department of
Vocational and Technical Education. The total population was One Hundred
and Seven (107) respondents.

Content validated questionnaires were used in the data collection. The


Cronbach's alpha reliability coefficient was used to determine the internal
consistency of all Likert-type scales in the questionnaire. The Cronbach's alpha
coefficients for the 9 items on the Reasons for Supporting or otherwise, the
Abolition of ASSSBSC scale was 0.816 indicating that the scale was reliable
(Pallant 2010). Out of the 107 questionnaires distributed to all the academic staff
in the study area, 76 responded indicating about 71% response rate. With the
help of SPSS (version 21), the data was analysed using descriptive statistics,
Continuity correction of the chi-square test, Mann-Whitney U-test and Binary
Logistic Regression.

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2.1 Empirical Model Specification

In the following empirical model, specifiedin equation 1, Y =1 defines


respondents support for the Abolition of ASSSBSC; Y=0 defines otherwise. The
Xs define independent variables that explain the probability that the respondent
will support the abolition ASSSBSC and is error term. The equation is as
follows:
= 1
= 0 + 1 1 + 2 2 + 3 3 + 4 4 + 5 5 + 6 6
+ 7 7 + 8 8 + 9 9 +
(Equation 1)
The dependent variable was measured as dummy with 1 and 0 indicating
supporting or not supporting the abolition of ASSSBSC respectively.

The Independent Variables (determinants/predictors) were respondents


perceived reasons for supporting or otherwise the abolition ASSSBSC in Ghana
measured on the Likert-type format ranging from 1 to 5, with 1 indicating
strongly disagree on the statement/item and 5 indicating strongly agree on the
item. The nine (9) items are:

X1 = Qualified agriculture teachers are not available


X2 = Qualified agriculture teachers are not adequate
X3 = Agriculture. science forms part of general science subject
X4 = Agricultural Science is not relevant at the basic school level
X5 = There are no adequate teaching and learning materials/ resources
X6 = Agricultural science subject is too bulky/ voluminous
X7 = Agriculture is a boring subject
X8 = Without it pupils can still pursue agriculture at the Senior High
School level.
X9 = Agriculture is the backbone of Ghana's economy

3.0. Results and Discussion

3.1. Demographic Characteristics of Respondents

Table 1 shows the distribution of respondents by sex, age, working experience


and rank or position in academia. Majority (76%) of the respondents were males
and nearly 40% were above the age of 49 years. Majority (58%) of the
respondents were lecturers with about two-thirds having been working in
academia for less than 20 years.

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Table 1: Sex, Age, Working Experience and Rank of Respondents in Academia


Variable f %
Sex
Male 58 76
Famale 18 24
Age (years) f %
30- 39 28 36.8
40- 49 19 25.0
Above 49 29 38.2
Working experience (Years) f %
<10 29 38.2
10-19 23 30.3
Above 20 24 31.5
Rank / Position f %
Lecturer 44 57.9
Snr. Lecturer 21 27.6
Assoc. Professor 6 7.9

Professor 5 6.6
N= 76.

3.2. Awareness and Support of the Abolition of ASSSBSC

Table 2 shows the distribution of respondent on the awareness and support of


the abolition of ASSSBSC in Ghana.

Table 2: Distribution of Respondents by Awareness and Support of the abolition of


ASSSBSC
Item YES NO
f % f %
Awareness of the abolition of ASSSBSC in 64 86.5 11 14.9
Ghana
Support to the abolition of ASSSBSC in 10 13.5 63 85.1
Ghana
Agricultural. Science be treated as a 70 94.6 4 5.4
single subject in Basic Schools
N=74.

Majority (87%) of the respondents were aware that agricultural science had been
abolished as a single subject in the basic school curriculum. On the contrary, a
greater proportion (85%) of the respondents claimed they do not support the

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78

ASSSBSC. The main reasons given for non-support of the abolition of ASSSBSC
were: 1. Agriculture is the backbone of Ghanas economy 2. The interest of
pupils is developed in the study of Agriculture at the basic school level and 3.
Agriculture is not a pure science and therefore, must not be integrated into the
General Science subject. Approximately (95%) of the respondents generally
agreed that Agricultural Science, like other subjects, should be treated as a single
subject in basic schools. These findings seem to agree with the opinions of Addo-
Quaye (2007) and Essumang and Bentum (2007) who asserted that treating
agriculture as a single subject in basic schools prepares and gives students
stronger foundation for higher Agricultural education and allows for an in-
depth study as a single entity which allows for better evaluation.

3.3. Reason for Supporting or not supporting the Abolition ASSSBSC

Table 3 shows that respondents agreed (Mean=4.1, SD=1.13) that Agriculture is


the backbone of Ghana's economy therefore abolishing it at the basic level of
education is out of place.

Table 3: Respondents' Reasons for Supporting or not Supporting the Abolition


ASSSBSC

Reasons for supporting the abolition or otherwise


N Mean SD
Agriculture is the backbone of Ghana's economy
74 4.16 1.147
Agricultural science forms part of general science
76 2.83 1.237
subject
Without it pupils can still pursue agriculture at
76 2.55 1.351
the Senior High School level
There are no adequate teaching and learning
76 2.51 1.205
materials/ resources
Qualified agriculture teachers are not adequate 76 2.42 1.169
Agricultural science subject is too bulky/
76 2.08 1.105
voluminous
Qualified agriculture teachers are not available 76 1.84 1.033
It is not relevant at the basic school level 76 1.63 1.094
it is a boring subject 76 1.61 .865
Scale: 5-strongly agree, 4-Agree, 3-somewhat agree, 2-Disagree, 1-strongly
disagree

However, respondents disagreed to the assertion that qualified agricultural


science teachers are not adequate (Mean=2.4, SD=1.17) and Agricultural.
science subject is too bulky/voluminous (Mean =2.1, SD=1.11) as a reason for it
abolition. Respondents disagreed again with reasons such as qualified
agricultural science teachers are not available (Mean=1.8, SD=1.0), Agriculture
is not relevant at the basic school level (Mean=1.6, SD=1.0), and it is a boring
subject (Mean= 1.6, SD=.86). According to Evenson and Fuglie (2010) the rapid
agricultural productivity growth in Brazil and China was as a result of

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79

investment in technology capital, i.e., in agricultural research, education and


extension. They further stated that productivity growth entails much more than
direct physical capital in agriculture. Therefore, investments in agriculture must
focus in areas such as primary and secondary agricultural education, roads,
power and community and market institutions.

Table 4: Relationship between Awareness and the Support Abolition of Agricultural


Science in the Basic School
Abolition of
agric. science Aware Not aware Total Chi- Continui Sig.
as a single squa ty
subject in the re Correctio
basic school n
f % f % f %
Support 8 12.7 3 27.3 11 14.9

Dot not 55 87.3 8 72.7 63 85.1 1.572 .631 .352


support
Total 63 100 11 100 74 100

N= 74, p< 0.05

A crosstabulation of the relationship between awareness and support of


respondents towards the abolition of Agriculture science was done to examine
whether the fact that the respondents were aware or not of the abolition
influenced their decision to support it or not. Table 4 revealed that 85% of the
respondents were aware of the abolition but do not support and 15% of the
respondents were not aware but support the abolition. However, the continuity
correction test (.631) from the chi-square analysis was not significant (sig. 352) at
p< 0.05 alpha level. Yates Correction for Continuity was used instead of the chi-
quare value in other to compensates for the overestimate of the chi-square value
when used with a 2 by 2 table (Pallant, 2001). Hence, whether respondents were
aware or not of the abolition did not influence their decision to support or not
the abolition.

Mann-Whitney U -test was conducted to find out if significant differences exist


between the mean ranks of respondents in school of agriculture and faculty of
education on reasons for supporting or otherwise, the ASSSBSC. Table 5 shows
that there was significant difference in the mean ranks of school of agriculture
and faculty of education (sig.0.038) on the reason without agriculture at the
basic level pupils can still pursue agriculture at the Senior High School (SHS) at
p< 0.05 alpha level. This implied that whiles respondents in the subject area of
agriculture (SOA) feel that students can still pursue Agriculture in Higher levels
without doing it at the basic levels, respondents in the technical area (FOE) feel
that it is necessary to start agriculture at the basic level to enable them develop
interest at the younger stage. The latter seems to agree with GES (1987) assertion
that training at the basic school level can change the attitudes of the young

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80

children towards agriculture as they grow. It seems that respondents from SOA
are primarily focusing on the content of agriculture in Senior High School
Curriculum which they feel that student can pursue it without having to take
Agriculture as a single subject in basic school, whereas, those from FOE are
focusing on the need to also generate interest at the early stage and giving them
stronger foundation.

Table 5: Mann-Whitney U test between Respondents in SOA and FOE on Reasons for
Supporting or otherwise, the Abolition of ASSSBSC
Items Facult N Mann- Sig.
y/ Mean Sum of Whitney
School Rank Ranks U
Qualified agriculture SOA 33 39.35 1298.50
teachers are not 681.5 0.751
available FOE 43 37.85 1627.50
Qualified agriculture SOA 33 42.80 1412.50
567.5
teachers are not FOE .122
43 35.20 1513.50
adequate
Agricultura science
33 35.67 1177.00
forms part of general SOA 616.0 .312
science subject FOE 43 40.67 1749.00

It is not relevant at the SOA 33 36.97 1220.00


659.0 .536
basic school level FOE 43 39.67 1706.00

There are no adequate SOA 33 38.02 1254.50


693.5 .863
teaching and learning FOE
43 38.87 1671.50
materials/ resources
Agric. science subject is SOA
too bulky/ voluminous 33 36.62 1208.50
647.5 .493
FOE
39.94 1717.50
43
Agriculture is a boring SOA 33 37.79 1247.00
subject 686.0 .781
FOE 43 39.05 1679.00
Without it pupils can
44.30 1462.00
still pursue agriculture SOA 33 518.0 0.038*
at the SHS FOE 43 34.05 1464.00
Agriculture is the SOA
33 40.88 1349.00
backbone of Ghana's
565 .181
economy FOE
41 34.78 1426.00
*p< 0.05 . Scale: 5-strongly agree, 4-Agree, 3-somewhat agree, 2-Disagree,
1-strongly disagree.
SOA= School of Agriculture, FOE= Faculty of Education
N= 76.

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81

However, there were no significant differences in the mean ranks of respondents


in SOA and FOE at p< 0.05 alpha level on the rest of issue raised in Table 4 on
the reasons for supporting or otherwise the abolition of ASSSBSC.

3.4. Predictors of Respondents Decision to Support or otherwise the


Abolition of ASSSBSC

The result of the analysis in Table 6 indicates that Cox Snell R- Square and
Nagelkerke R- Square (pseudo R Squares) are .317and .599 respectively. It
implies that between 32% to 60 % of the variance in respondents reason for
supporting the abolition or otherwise is being explained by the predictor
variable (Agricultural science forms part of general science subject). The chi-
square test of the regression model was significant at alpha level 0.05 and this
means that the variable in the model has a significant composite effect in
explaining respondents reason for supporting the abolition or otherwise. All
other factors were not statistically significant in predicting the respondents
support or otherwise the abolition.

Table 6: Logistic Regression showing predictors of respondents reasons for


supporting or otherwise the abolition ASSSBSC
Explanatory variables Wald Sig Odd
coefficient Ratio
Constant -3.844 1.828 .176 .021
Qualified agriculture teachers are not
-.725 1.167 .280 .485
available
Qualified agriculture teachers are not
-.065 .009 .923 .937
adequate
Agriculture. science forms part of general
1.455 5.368 .021* 4.285
science subject
Agriculture Science is not relevant at the
.478 .620 .431 1.613
basic school level
There are no adequate teaching and
-.347 .585 .445 .707
learning materials/ resources
Agriculture science subject is too bulky/
.436 .355 .551 1.547
voluminous
Agriculture is a boring subject -1.304 1.839 .175 .272
Without it pupils can still pursue
.739 1.969 .161 2.093
agriculture at the Senior High School
Agriculture is the backbone of Ghana's
-.674 2.044 .153 .510
economy
Model
Summary
Cox Snell R- Square .317
Nagelkerke R- Square .599
Chi- square 27.482*
Sig. (p - value) .001
N= 76, p< 0.05

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82

In the Table 6, the Odd ratio of 4.285 of the best predictor variable (Agricultural
science forms part of general science subject) implies that the adequacy of
agriculture component in the general or integrated science subject in the basic
school curriculum is about 4 times more likely to positively influence the
respondents decision to support the abolition of ASSSBSC (Pallant, 2010).
Hence, if the agricultural science component of the Integrated Science subject is
adequate, well-covered and well- taught as part of the integrated science subject,
then there will be no need to treat it as a single subject in basic school. However,
the concern has been whether agricultural component of the general/integrated
science necessary for basic school is adequate and if it is, it could still be covered
adequately alongside other subject like physics, chemistry and biology which is
part of the integrated science subject in basic school (Addo Quaye et al, 2007)

4.0. Conclusions

The findings of the study revealed that majority (76%) of the respondents were
male and approximately (63%) are above the age of 40 years. Approximately
two-thirds have been working in the academia for less than 20 years.

Even though majority (87%) of the respondents were aware of the abolishing of
ASSSBSC, about 85% of the respondents do not support the abolition of
ASSSBSC in Ghana. The main reasons given for their non-support were: 1.
Agriculture is the backbone of Ghanas economy 2. The interest of pupils is
developed in the study of Agriculture at the basic school level and 3. Agriculture
is not a pure science and therefore, must not be integrated into the General
Science subject. Majority (95%) of the respondents generally agreed that
Agricultural education plays a vital role in basic schools and that Agricultural
Science, like other subjects, should be treated as a single subject in basic schools.
However, few (27%) suggested that even though it should be treated as single
subject, it must not be a compulsory subject but optional. The Mann-Whitney U-
test showed that there was no significant difference between school of
agriculture and faculty of education reasons for supporting or otherwise the
abolition of agricultural science at the basic school level except without it pupils
can still pursue agricultural science at the Senior High School (SHS) which was
significant at p< 0.05 alpha level. Results from the Binary Logistic regression
shows that agriculture science forms part of general science subject" was the
best predictor of respondents reason for supporting or not supporting, the
abolishing of ASSSBSC in Ghana. This predictor variable explained between 32%
to 60% variations in respondents' support or otherwise for the abolition of
ASSSBSC in Ghana.

The study recommended that the issue of whether agricultural science should be
integrated into the general/integrated science in the basic schools or not should
be revisited and re-examined by major stakeholders (University academic staff,
Curriculum Research & Development Division (CRDD), basic school teachers,
Ghana Education Service and other stakeholders). Future educational reforms

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83

should use a tracer study as a major stakeholder participation tool for making
informed decisions towards sustainable basic education in Ghana.

5.0. References

Anamuah-Mensah, J. & Towse, P. (1995). Bringing industry into the Science classroom
Problems, Concerns and Prospects associated with a paradigm shift: Retrieved from
http//www.ghanaweb.org.
Anamuah-Mensah, J., Asabere-Ameyaw, & Dennis, S. (2003): Bridging the Gap linking
School and the World of Work in Ghana: Retrieved fromhttp//www.ghanaweb.org
Addo-Quaye, A.A., Osei, B.A., Annor-Frempong, F., Adam, I. & Ghartey, W. (2007)
Introduction to Agriculture. Module, Centre for Continuing Education, University
of Cape Coast,Ghana, 293-295.
Annor- Frempong F., Zinnah M. and Adam I. (2003) Teaching of Agricultural Science at
the Basic Education Level in Developing Countries: A Case Study of the Nature
and Constraints at Cape Coast District of Ghana, AIAEE proceedings of the 19th
Annual Conference, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.
Anum- Odoom, A. K. M. (2008) Educational Reform in Ghana, 1974-2007
Barrick, R.K. (1988): The Discipline Called Agricultural Education. Agricultural
Department, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
Essumang D.K. and Bentum J.K. (2007) Man and His Environment. Module, Centre for
Continuing Education, UCC, 226.
Evenson, R. E., & Fuglie, K. O. (2010). Technology Capital: The Price of Admission
to the Growth Club. Journal of Productivity Analysis 33: 173-190.
http://www.springerlink.com/content/831m7u11q3875853/fulltext.pdf
Farrant J.S. (2004). Principles and Practice of Education. England : Longman Group
Impression, 18-28.
GES (1987) Ghana Education Service Suggested Syllabus for Agricultural Science for
Junior Secondary Schools. Accra: Curriculum Research Division.
Ghana Government Gazette (1982). Basic Educational Reform. Accra: The ministry of
Information, Ghana.
ISSER (2014).The state of Ghanaian economy in 2013. Legon, Accra: ISSER, University of
Ghana.
Kwarteng, J.A., Owens M. & Okorley E.L. (2002), Rethinking Agricultural Education for
Sustainable Development in Ghana. AIAEE proceedings of the 18th Annual
Conference, Durban, South Africa.
Maguire, C.J. (2000). Agricultural Extension in Africa: Managing Change. in Extension
Education: Reshaping African Universities and colleges for the 21st century.
Ed. J.A. Kwarteng. CASIN. Geneva.
Majoni, C. (2016). Introducing agriculture as a subject in the primary school curriculum
in Zimbabwe: Prospects and Challenges. International Journal of Information
Research and Review 3 (1), 1669-1671.
Moyo, D. (2014). Agriculture Lessons to Enhance Quality of Pupils lives. Downloaded
from www.sundaynews.co.zw/agric-lessons enhance quality.
Oniango, R. and. Eicher C. K. (1999). Universities and Agricultural Development In
Africa: Insights from Kenya.
Pallant, J. (2010). SPSS Survival Manual:Step-by- Step Guide to Data Analysis using SPSS
for windows (16). Australia: Allan and Unwin,
Pallant, J. (2001). SPSS Survival Manual:Step-by- Step Guide to Data Analysis using
SPSS for windows (10). Australia: Allan and Unwin,
Terry, P.G., Thomas. J.B., & Marshall, A.R. (1979) International Dictionary of
Education, Parker Street London : Pitman Publishing Ltd, 1st edition. . 112-113.

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84

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research


Vol. 16, No. 7, pp. 84-101, July 2017

Pre-defined Roles and Team Performance for


First-year Students
Jess Everett
Civil & Environmental Engineering
Rowan University
Glassboro, NJ, USA

Kaitlin Mallouk
Mechanical Engineering
Rowan University
Glassboro, NJ, USA

Jenahvive Morgan
Undergraduate Studies
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI, USA

Abstract. A framework for managing and guiding student teams in a first-year


engineering course is compared to less structured but commonly used methods.
In the new framework, students take on rotating roles during laboratory projects
throughout the semester. Furthermore, teams submit three versions of each
report: rough draft, draft, and final. Finally, students complete peer evaluation
on-line. On-line student and faculty surveys and multiple focus groups were
used to evaluate the framework, which was employed in 3 sections of a 16
section first-year engineering course. Results indicate that, compared to the
other common team scenarios, the framework results in improvements in
students self-appraisal of their teaming abilities at the end of the semester,
students writing a greater variety of laboratory report sections, student teams
more quickly entering the performing stage of the team adjustment phases,
and more students taking on a leadership role at least once during the semester.
The framework produced no reduction in free riders or increase in laboratory
report quality, at least as reported by students.

Keywords: Teamwork; Designated roles; First-year; multidisciplinary

Introduction
Engineering students should work in teams in college because most working-
world engineering is done in teams. Unfortunately, student teams are different
from working-world teams, especially with regard to free-riders, leadership, and
experience. Free-riders are people who try to ride a bus without paying. In
working-world teams, free-riders are underperformers who risk losing their job
when they are discovered. Student teams are much more likely to include free-
riders than working-world teams, where they only risk getting a lower grade--if
the instructor is able to identify them.

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85

A boss is a working-world leader with real control: able to assign work tasks and
influence hiring, firing, promotions and raises. Student teams do not have a
boss; at best they have a student leader who may be a planner, meeting
scheduler or facilitator, task assigner, mediator, the link between group and
instructor, and/or work collector or collator. The instructor may want all team
members to rotate through the leadership role.

The final major difference between student and working-world teams is the level
of experience. Working-world team members have proven skills and experiences
appropriate to the task at hand. Student team members learn skills as they go
along.

Over multiple years teaching an introductory Engineering course with


significant team activities, the primary author has developed a framework for
managing teams that helps students deal with these issues. The goal of this
paper is to introduce the framework and compare it to typical teaming
frameworks used in an introductory Engineering course. The remainder of this
paper consists of background, a description of the framework and comparison
study, results and discussion, conclusions, and references.

Background
A good engineering designer must be able to work on multidisciplinary teams
(Kojmane & Aboutajeddine, 2016). Unfortunately, though team-based learning
has been studied extensively in other disciplines, few studies have been
completed with engineering students (Najdanovic-Visak, 2017). Recent studies
with engineering students point to the effectiveness of team-based learning in
general (Najdanovic-Visak, 2017; Samsuri 2017), but do not explore the relative
effectiveness of different frameworks for team-based learning.

New teams may go through an initial period of adjustment. According to


Tuckman new groups go through four phases: Forming, Storming, Norming,
and Performing (Tuckman, 1965). During the Forming phase group members try
to size up each other, find the limits of acceptable group behavior, and clarify
the group task (Eide et al., 1998). In the Storming phase, there may be
disagreement among team members as each slowly comes to terms with solving
problems in a new environment, i.e., the new team. Things get better in
the Norming phase. Ground rules and team member roles are agreed upon.
Members begin to see how they can work together to accomplish the group task.
The final phase is Performing. The team is now firing on all cylinders and
significant work is accomplished to complete the group task. It is crucial for
team members to realize that all phases may be necessary ones, but to work
through the first three as quickly as possible to reach the performing phase.

Several studies have examined collaborative assignments in the classroom. The


contributions of Shuman et al. (2005), Dym et al. (2003, 2005), Felder and Brent
(2001), Smith et al. (2005), and Barrick et al. (1998) provide a summary of how to
instruct students using collaborative projects. Many times instructors use teams

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86

in an academic environment without much thought on how the development of


teams in their course influences the students abilities to learn the material.
Student teams are formed with minimal guidance on how to work together as a
team, build consensus and resolve any conflicts. This creates a missed
opportunity on the instructors part, i.e., failing to capitalize on the learning that
the students can gain on group dynamics and team collaboration.

The social aspect of engineering education is emphasized in ABETs general


engineering criteria, to prepare students to create engineering solutions that can
have a positive global and social impact. In order for students to achieve this, it
is necessary for the students to be able to work on multidisciplinary teams
utilizing effective communication skills. Developing teamwork skills is not only
important in an academic environment, but also to prepare students for the
professional work environment. Developing teamwork skills is key to students
success on future collaborative projects (Barrick et al., 1998).

Smith et al. emphasize that there are five key elements in creating successful
collaborative learning experiences for the students (Smith et al., 2005). These
elements are positive interdependence, face-to-face interaction, individual
accountability, developing teamwork skills, and group processing. Positive
interdependence relies on the belief in the group that one student cannot
succeed unless the group succeeds as a whole. This is what is often referred to as
the sink or swim mentality. In addition to positive interdependence, it is also
important to incorporate face-to-face interaction into collaborative assignments.
This allows students to discuss their strategies for success in completing their
projects.

In terms of developing individual accountability, it is important that team


members hold each other accountable for creating quality work. Smith et al.
(2005) suggest rotating the required roles for each project amongst the team
members and making sure that every member of the team has an equal say in
the team decision making. As students use this method to develop individual
accountability, students inherently gain teamwork skills. It is also essential that
groups process the results of their collaborative work, and emphasize
continuous improvement in what the group is able to accomplish, as well as
their ability to work together. Smith argues that the five elements previously
discussed assist in creating a successful collaborative environment.

Another aspect of fostering successful teams is helping students manage diverse


abilities and skills. Having a diverse range of abilities within a group of students
is very important in team formation and should be maximized when possible
(Dym et al., 2003). There are inherent difficulties for students working on a team
composed of weaker students, but a team of students with higher academic
abilities also struggle. According to Felder, teams of high-achieving students
often have difficulty collaborating, communicating and working together to
achieve their common goal. It is also important that the team hold positive
beliefs about their own capabilities and their ability to work together. Having a
belief in the efficacy of the team increases the cohesion and satisfaction of the

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87

team (Dym et al., 2005). While some questioning is important for group
productivity, so one student does not dominate the activity, a pervasive
negativity towards others contributions will keep the team from being
successful at any task (Felder and Brent, 2001). At the same time, it is important
that teams develop a strategy to compensate for any differences in personalities
as they form a team. This strategy is essential to their ability to effectively work
together.

Finally, it is crucial that the complexity of the collaborative assignment given to


the students is considered when using team-based activities in the classroom. It
is important for the project assigned to be complex enough to require the work
of the entire team and challenge the students that are involved (Shuman et al.,
2005). Time limits and deadlines that encourage the assignment to be completed
through collaboration are essential when completing a team project. If one
student can accomplish the task on their own, then there is no need for the team
to work together.

Several researchers have written about the use of assigned roles for student
teams. For example, Schaffer and Kimfong (2006) explored the advantage of
requiring students in a senior-level course to assign and define roles on teams
and found that students who were required to take on and rotate specific roles
had more interdisciplinary learning than those who did not, but that students
also tended to work across roles even after roles were specifically assigned.
Prince et al. (2011) note the use of assigned roles in teams but do not specify
which roles they used in freshman courses.

With these theories and observations in mind, we explore the effects of student
role assignment, role rotation, and a draft writing requirement on the
performance of student teams in a first-year engineering course. This framework
of assigned roles provides a way of evenly distributing the work between
teammates, to prevent group conflict and address students that do not fully
contribute to the group activities. Other literature provides guidelines on how to
deal with this lack of student participation after the team has attempted to
complete a group activity (Felder and Brent, 2001). The framework studied here
addresses these concerns before the team begins an assignment, with a clear
equal division of labor among the group members. This results in each member
being essential in the completion of each final product, and the group
developing an understanding that the group's success is dependent on each
student fully participating.

Teaming Framework & Study Design


The College of Engineering at Rowan University had five engineering majors:
Biomedical, Chemical, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, and
Mechanical when this study was performed. Students declare their major when
applying for admittance. The first-year curricula of the five majors are similar
and all students take a multidisciplinary two-semester Introduction to
Engineering course.

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88

Students in the first-semester Introduction to Engineering course work in teams


to complete a number of laboratory activities resulting in multiple team-
authored reports. In Fall 2014 teams in three sections of approximately twenty-
five students each were assigned to Treatment A and teams in thirteen similarly
sized sections were assigned Treatment B. In Treatment B, faculty of varying
experience and ability developed their own frameworks for forming, managing,
and evaluating teams. This makes the experiment somewhat un-controlled, but
there was no way to create a uniform framework in the Treatment B sections.

The sixteen sections had 12 different professors. Professor Everett used


Treatment A. Professors Morgan and Mallouk taught two sections each, using
Treatment A in one and Treatment B in the other. The remaining nine professors
used Treatment B in eleven sections. Professor Everett had over 20 years
experience teaching freshman through graduate level courses. Professors
Morgan and Mallouk were both instructors in their second year of teaching
primarily first and second-year courses. The remaining professors included
professors, instructors, temporary faculty, adjuncts, and teaching fellows
(graduate students) with a wide range of experience.

All sections of the Introduction to Engineering course used the same online web-
book, customized for the course {Everett et al., 2014). It included an example
laboratory report and a detailed description of the format and sections to be
used (Title Page, Abstract, Introduction, Background, Materials and Equipment,
Procedures, Results and Discussion, Conclusions, References, Appendices).

In Treatment A teams are formed by the professor based on Learning


Connections Inventory (LCI), gender, and major. The LCI is a learning styles
inventory based on the Interactive Learning Model (Johnston, 1996). The LCI
uses four styles to describe how an individual prefers to learn: Sequential,
Precise, Technical, and Confluent (Johnston, 1997). Teams are selected to
distribute learning styles as evenly as possible. Each team of 5 students has 0, 2
or 3 female members, to avoid isolating a single female on a team of 5, except in
the case where only 1 female is enrolled in a section. Students are assigned to
teams so that majors are distributed as widely as possible; ideally, each team has
5 different engineering majors.

Students do not create or sign a team contract. They are given a handout that
defines roles they will perform for each lab:
Before the laboratory
o Literature reviewer
During the laboratory
o Leader
o Data collector (Laptop or notebook)
o Operator (physically conducts the lab, with assistance from others
as needed)

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After the laboratory (Report Writing)


o Section writer (different ones for each report)
o Compiler
o Reviewer.
The complier and reviewer roles are described three paragraphs down.

Students are required to select different roles for each laboratory so as to take on
as many different roles as possible. By having students vary roles and section-
writing, they learn more skills and have less opportunity to settle into certain
roles. For example, every student completes a literature review and uses Excel to
enter and analyze data.

Treatment A is designed for teams of 5. Each laboratory session is completed


with a leader, 2 students physically conducting the lab, and 2 students recording
and analyzing data on the fly; thus, Treatment A may allow for an effective use
of larger teams.

To sponsor individual accountability, teams submit three versions of each


report:
The Rough Draft contains the raw sections as created by each section
writer and combined by the compiler with each section's author's name
placed next to each section title;
The Draft Report is the report after the compiler has addressed
grammatical and spelling errors, style issues, and missing information
(the compiler may send sections back to original author for a rewrite);
and
The Final Report is the report after the reviewer has corrected errors and
omissions left by the compiler.
Professors only grade the final report, but may examine earlier versions to look
for evidence of free-riding and poor performance, such as missing or poor
sections, or poor compiling or reviewing.

Students also identify their roles and evaluate themselves and their team
members online. The peer evaluation consists of a numerical grade adjustment
plus verbal justification. The average, maximum, and minimum of the peer
grade adjustments are provided to each student before the next team activity,
providing students with feedback that may lead to an improved effort on future
team assignments. Peer evaluation results are used at the end of the semester to
modify laboratory grades up to 10 % up or down.

In all three sections, the professors used class time to introduce students to
teamwork: 15 45, and 80 minutes, for the primary author and Professors Morgan
and Mallouk, respectively. Each professor also provided further guidance in
class as needed over the semester: 15, 30, and 50 minutes, respectively.

Professors Morgan and Mallouk used Framework B-1 in their Treatment B


sections. In the B-1 Framework, teams are formed as in Treatment A; however,
no pre-defined roles are supplied or required. Students are given a handout

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90

developed by R.M. Felder and R. Brent and reported by Oakley et al. that
outlines team policies and responsibilities including suggested roles and
procedures for completing group work (Kaufman et al., 2000). Team members
create and commit to a Team Expectations Agreement, develop their own roles,
and fill out a peer review form on paper after each laboratory report. The peer
review form was based on the survey developed by Kaufman et al. (2000). Peer
evaluation results were used to modify laboratory assignment grades as
described by Kaufman et al. (2000). In their B-1 sections, the two professors used
the same amount of class time as they used in their Treatment A sections to
introduce students to working in teams: 45 and 80 minutes, respectively. They
also used the same amount of time to follow up over the semester: 30 and 50
minutes, respectively.

In the remaining 11 Treatment B sections (B-2), professors used a variety of


methods to form, manage, and evaluate teams, based on their past experiences.
In 4 sections, students were allowed to form their own teams. In the other 7,
professors formed teams using major (6 sections), LCI (3 sections), gender (2
sections), and/or schedule (3 sections). In one section, the CATME survey for
team formation was used (CATME, 2015). In seven of the sections a handout was
given to students that provided guidance on working in teams. In the other four
sections, no handout was provided. In five of the sections, students were
required to develop and commit to team contracts, with little or no guidance
from the professor. In the other six sections, no contract was required. In all 11
sections, professors used class time to introduce students to working in teams:
ranging from 15 to 100 minutes and averaging 48. Follow-up time over the
semester ranged from 0 to 200 minutes and averaged 44.

The Treatments are compared using: (1) a student survey; (2) focus groups
conducted in Professors Morgan and Mallouks four sections at the end of the
semester; and (3) a professor survey. The survey questions were developed
jointly by professor Everett and reviewed for clarity and consistency by
professors Morgan and Mallouk. The student survey was completed online by
217 of 366 students, 59 %. The faculty survey was completed for all 16 sections,
100 %. Fifty students from Professor Morgans sections (98 %) and 37 students
from Professor Mallouks sections (84%) attended focus sections.

Statistical analyses were used to evaluate student survey results. T tests were
conducted to evaluate differences in mean responses. The Chi-squared
Goodness of Fit test was used when non-parametric tests were deemed more
appropriate.

The focus groups were conducted in a somewhat unique manner. Students


formed 4 or 5 groups of 4 to 5 students each. Professors made sure that the
groups were not similar to the teams they used during the semester. Each
student in a group was responsible for recording the groups discussion on one
of five questions (see Appendix). As a class, each question was then discussed in
more detail, to identify the differences in responses. Notes were taken to record

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91

the conversation, and the students notes were collected. The focus group
questions are:

1. What was your experience working on teams before coming to college?


2. What was your experience working on teams in this class? How did it
compare to your other college courses this semester?
3. Describe a time that you took on a leadership role in your group this
semester?
4. Describe your teams method of editing a lab report? How effective was
it?
5. How long did it take for your team to work successfully as a group?
Describe what your team was successful at accomplishing? Describe
what your team was unsuccessful at accomplishing? Did you meet in
person, and if so, how often?

Results and Discussion


The three Treatment A sections were compared to all 13 Treatment B sections.
Student quotes provided in this section are from the focus groups held in
Professors Morgan and Mallouks four sections.

Students were not assigned to sections of the first-semester Introduction to


Engineering course based on general academics or teaming abilities; thus,
sections were expected to NOT differ significantly at the start of the semester.
Two checks were made. The number of times students worked on a team to
create a major laboratory report before college is given in Table 1. Over 30 % of
the respondents reported no team reports, indicating the importance of teaching
students about team work early in their college career. There was no significant
difference between students in Treatments A and B (A/B: average=6.94/5.66;
standard deviation=9.20/10.4; p=0.365). The large standard deviations are due to
a relatively small number of student reporting very high report numbers. One
student claimed to have worked on 50 team reports! It is possible that some
students counted all team assignments, not just reports. Students were also
asked to self-appraise their ability to work in teams at the start of the semester.
The student responses were converted to numerical values: Very Poor = 1;
Poor = 2; Average = 3; Good = 4; and Excellent = 5 to estimate averages
and standard deviations and conduct statistical tests. There was no significant
difference between Treatment A and B students (A/B: average=3.7/3.6;
standard deviation=0.67/0.77; p=0.231). Based on report number and teaming
ability Treatment A and B students were not significantly different at the start of
the semester.

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Table 1: Number of times students worked on a team to create a report before college
Number of Reports Number of Students Giving Response
0 73
1 23
2 18
3 17
4 18
5 to 10 42
>10 32
Total 223

The average self-appraisal of teaming ability of ALL students increased


significantly over the semester, from 3.6 to 4.3 (Start/End: standard
deviation=0.74/0.66; p=0.000), indicating the students' entire first-semester
experience had the expected positive effect. If Treatment A is a more effective
method of teaching students to perform well on teams, one would expect
Treatment A students to end the semester with a higher self-appraisal of their
teaming ability. This was the case. Treatment A students self-appraised their
teaming abilities slightly higher (statistically significant) at the end of the
semester compared to Treatment B students (A/B: average=4.4/4.2; standard
deviation=0.60/0.68; p=0.049). This better self-appraisal occurred despite writing
slightly fewer reports (4.1 versus 4.3), serving on larger teams (4.7 versus 4.0),
and populating larger sections (25.3 versus 23.2) in their first-semester
Introduction to Engineering course. Furthermore, this difference occurred
despite the fact that the treatment only occurred in only 1 of 5 courses each
student took that semester.

Of the overall observations from the Freshman Engineering Clinic focus groups,
there are team examples that stand out. The first example is a team in Treatment
B-1. One team member, who was an underperformer, was dominating the work
of the entire team. Since their work was not meeting the requirements of the
course, the teams grades were suffering. Unfortunately, this student was also a
difficult personality to work with, while at the same time not producing quality
work for the team. Since roles were not assigned in this Treatment, this student
insisted on completing the Experimental Procedure and Results and Discussion
sections for each report, worth the most points, and as a result brought the
teams grade down. If this team had been in a Treatment A section, this student
would have been required to write different sections for each lab. The compiler
and reviewer would have also improved the students sections.

The best educational practices obtain good results without requiring a different
level effort from students. Table 2 is used to show students self-appraisal of the
effort they expended in laboratory-related team work in their introduction to
engineering course. The student responses are converted to numerical values:
Very Weak = 1; Weak = 2; Average = 3; Strong = 4; and Very Strong =
5 to estimate averages and standard deviations and conduct statistical tests. The
average for students in Treatment A is not significantly different than Treatment
Bs average (A/B: average=4.1/4.0; standard deviation=0.62/0.78; p=0.463).

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93

This indicates that the significantly higher end of semester ability is not due to a
higher level of student effort.

Table 2: Student self-appraisal of level of effort in laboratory-related team work


Answer Options Treatment A Treatment B
Very Weak 0 1
Weak 0 2
Average 11 33
Strong 36 76
Very Strong 18 45
Total 65 157

One objective of Treatment A is to motivate students to write different report


sections. Students were asked how many different types of report sections they
wrote over the course of the semester in their first-semester Introduction to
Engineering course. The average is significantly higher for students in Treatment
A (A/B: average=6.82/5.63; standard deviation=2.34/2.75; p=0.001), even
though Treatment B teams were smaller and wrote more reports. Furthermore,
42 % of Treatment B students wrote 4 or fewer different sections and only 35 %
wrote 7 or more. Contrast this to Treatment A students; only 16 % wrote 4 or
fewer while 56 % wrote 7 or more. This indicates that Treatment A compelled
students to write different sections, which should help them with future report
writing. Surprisingly, though required to edit other students work, Treatment A
students reported less editing of sections written by other students, but the
difference was not significant (A/B: average=2.27/2.10; standard
deviation=1.82/1.35; p=0.435). Some Treatment B students may have doubled
up on editing duties (multiple students editing the same work), something that
was not encouraged in the Treatment A framework.

Another observation from the Freshman Engineering Clinic focus groups was
from a student on a team in a Treatment A section. The student was pleased that
team roles were pre-defined and rotated, as they believed that in a less
structured environment they would have ended up doing most of the work.

Treatment A gives students a structure they use to responsibly conduct labs and
write, compile, and review reports. Consequently, Treatment A is expected to
accelerate teams to the point where they perform, rather than form, storm, or
norm (Tuckman, 1965). Student estimates of when their team started performing
are given in Table 3. The student responses were converted to numerical values:
First major report = 1; Second major report = 2; Third major report = 3;
Fourth major report = 4; and After the fourth major report = 5 to estimate
averages and standard deviations and to conduct statistical tests. An answer of
My team never performed was taken to indicate that a group had structural
problems that could not be overcome; such responses were not used to calculate
statistical parameters. The average for students in Treatment A is significantly
lower (A/B: average=1.60/2.00; standard deviation=0.78/1.09; p=0.002),
indicating that students in that Treatment believed their teams reached a high
level of performance sooner that Treatment B students. The guidance and

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94

structure provided by Treatment A may have produced this result; however,


student comments in the focus groups were similar between Treatments A and
B-1. For example, one focus group in Treatment A reported: It took only 1 to 2
activities to get used to our group members. The first lab, the solar lab, was
when we found success in working together. And a group in Treatment B-1:
For the first lab, no one really knew each other or what each other could do. As
we progressed, everyone quickly learned what everyone was capable of doing,
and those abilities were capitalized on.

Table 3: Major lab report on which laboratory teams began performing


Answer Options Treatment A Treatment B
First major report 27 60
Second major report 20 45
Third major report 10 34
Fourth major report 1 4
After the fourth major report 0 8
My team never performed* 5 3
Total 63 154

The three Treatment B students that claimed their team never performed are in
three different sections; thus, they are each the only member of their team
feeling that way. Perhaps they were disgruntled or had higher standards or
expectations than their team members. The five Treatment A students that
claimed their team never performed are in three sections: 1, 2, and 2 per section.
It could not be determined if the two pairs were on the same team.

Treatment A forces teams to create and submit a record of each member's


contributions, i.e., rough drafts. It also incorporates peer evaluations into grades.
This is expected to discourage students from free riding. Students were asked to
estimate the number of students on their team that free rode for at least one
major report. The number of free riders was not lower in Treatment A sections;
in fact, it was slightly higher though not significantly (A/B: average =
0.542/0.523; standard deviation = 0.543/0.524; p=0.438). Treatment A teams
were larger; this could be the cause of the slightly higher number of free riders.
It also may be that the better accounting for free riders within the Treatment A
grading scheme freed some students to free ride with less feelings of guilt.
Students in both Treatments A and B-1 noted the presence of free riders during
the focus groups: It can be very annoying when team members do not pull their
own weight (Treatment A) and Most of the class was all teamwork, and every
lab and final project was done in a team. Some people didnt work as hard as
expected (Treatment B-1). Treatment A does not appear to decrease student
tendency to free ride. However, students in Treatment B emailed their professors
almost twice as often to report or get help concerning problems with their
laboratory team (A/B: average = 0.286/0.587; standard deviation = 0.691/2.05;
p=0.027). Treatment A may reduce team conflict, perhaps by providing students
with an effective structure for completing reports and evaluating peers. Also,
Treatment A students may be more confident that grading will take free riders

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95

into proper account, because of the online peer evaluation tool and the
submission of the two draft reports.

The focus groups provide insight concerning the characteristics of successful


teams. Students noted that regular communication and collaboration outside of
class were important in working well as a team. In addition, no student
dominated team activities, and all members participated in both the experiments
and completing the finished report. Students on well-functioning teams
understood that, if they all cooperated, there was less work for each student to
complete. The teams that reported a lack of cooperation found it more difficult
to complete assignments.

Treatment A includes a laboratory leadership role. Each student is required to


take on that role at least once during the semester. This forces students to take
on more responsibility; it also prevents a single student from dominating over
multiple lab sessions. Students were asked how often they assumed the
leadership role (Figure 1). A Chi-Squared Goodness of Fit Test of the frequencies
(shown in Figure 1 as percentages) indicates that the Treatments influence how
often students take on the leadership role (p=0.000). To calculate the Chi-
Squared statistic, the top three categories were collapsed into a single 3
category, to ensure at least five observations per group. Over 50 % of Treatment
B students never led a lab. Surprisingly, almost 25 % of Treatment A students
also never led, indicating that this requirement should be emphasized more in
the future. This was reflected in one of the focus groups for Treatment A in
which a student noted: We were not as successful at sticking to just our roles;
we were trying to fill in too much and do other parts instead of our assigned
part. Treatment B students were also more likely to lead 3 or more labs,
suggesting that some students dominated their teams. Students in the Treatment
B-1 focus group indicated that assigning roles during lab tended to happen
organically. One group stated: Leadership was evenly distributed, and a single
person only took charge when it was necessary. Decisions were determined
through a more democratic system.

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96

Figure 1: Laboratory Session Leadership

If Treatment A is an effective method of teaching team skills it is expected to


lead to better lab reports and a better student experience. This was not the case
from the student perspective. Students were asked: "What OVERALL GRADE
does your laboratory team deserve on its Major reports in FEC I?" (Figure 2).
Students in Treatment A did not assign significantly different letter grades from
Treatment B students (Chi-Squared p=0.481). To calculate the Chi-Squared
statistic, the bottom seven categories were collapsed into a single B category,
to ensure at least five observations per group. It may be that Treatment A does
not result in lab reports of different quality, at least from the students
perspective. Alternatively, Treatment A professors may have had higher
expectations or standards, quite possible given their active participation in this
study. This may have led to lower grades which could have effected students
perception of the quality of their reports. In future work, the assessment of lab
reports by external evaluators should be used.

Figure 2: Overall Lab Report Grade

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97

Students self-appraisal of their teaming experience is given in Figure 3.


Treatment A students reported higher percentages of OK, Good, and Wonderful
assessments; however, a Chi-Squared Goodness of Fit Test of the frequencies
indicates that the two treatments do not influence students self-appraisal of
their team experience (p=0.678).

Figure 3: Student Appraisal of Experience with Teams in the Introduction to


Engineering course

The analyses were repeated comparing only students in professors Morgan and
Mallouks Treatment A and B-1 sections. Sixty-six percent of the students in the
4 sections responded to the survey. There was no significant difference in
student effort between the treatments (p=0.157). The major feature of the B-1
sections was the use of team contracts. Students completed peer evaluations on
paper rather than on-line. Roles were suggested, but not described. Role rotation
was not required. B-1 represents an alternative state-of-the-art team framework.

Many of the results were similar to the comparison using all sixteen sections
(Table 5). Treatment A students wrote more different types of report sections. It
also led to better leadership outcomes, e.g., 73 % of Treatment A students led at
least one laboratory, compared to just under half of Treatment B-1 students.

Some major differences were observed. Treatment B-1 students reported higher
teaming abilities at the end of the semester (p=0.100); however, they also
reported higher ability at the start of the semester (p=0.040). Treatment B-1
students emailed their professors LESS often to report or get help concerning
problems with their laboratory team, but the difference was not significant
(p=0.286). The average number of laboratory reports before teams began to
perform was slightly lower for Treatment B students (p=0.055). This suggests
that team contracts may be more effective than pre-defined roles at reducing
internal conflict, and team performance.

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98

The most telling differences in the student focus group results were in the
responses to the question regarding leadership roles. Students in Treatment A
were better able to articulate a time they took on a leadership role in their team.
For teams in one Treatment B-1 section, students ended up taking on leadership
roles when the experiments dealt mostly with their engineering discipline, since
this is an interdisciplinary class with experiments based on each engineering
field of study. Teams in Treatment A also reported having an easier time
working together, since they had assigned roles. More incidents of
miscommunication within the teams were reported in Treatment B-1, with
students needing to meet more in person to organize the work distribution
within the team. The teams in Treatment B-1 who failed to meet in person
reported difficulties in preparing and editing the lab reports.

Student responses to other questions asked of the focus groups brought to light
similarities between treatment groups A and B-1. This information could reflect
issues that face many student teams and could be used to help design future
interventions in team design/management. For example, students in both
treatment groups indicated that one of their major challenges was finding time
to meet in person with their teams. For example, a student group in Treatment A
noted: The unsuccessful part of group work was the communication and our
schedules, which were sometimes conflicting, A group in Treatment B had
almost the identical comment: We were unsuccessful when it came to figuring
out when to meet and communication was a little difficult at times over text
[messages].

The faculty survey had a 100 % response rate and thus represents the faculty
population for the course. Treatment B faculty met with an average of 1.2
individuals needing help or advice concerning problems with a laboratory team,
while Treatment A faculty met with only 0.7. Similarly, Treatment B faculty met
with an average of 0.9 teams needing help or advice concerning problems with a
laboratory team, while Treatment A faculty met with only 0.7. On the other
hand, Treatment A faculty remembered 2.3 emails from students seeking help or
advice concerning problems with a laboratory team, versus only 0.9 for
Treatment B faculty. Similarly, Treatment A faculty indicated that on average 2
of their laboratory teams had at least one significant conflict over the semester,
versus only 1.1 for Treatment B faculty. It may be that the Treatment A faculty
were more attuned to team performance, given their active participation in this
study. Finally, Treatment A faculty observed an average of 2.7 reports before
their teams began performing, versus 2.4 reports for Treatment B faculty. This
contrasts sharply with the student reported averages of 1.3 and 2, respectively.
Again, it may be that the Treatment A faculty had higher expectations or
standards, quite possible given their active participation in this study. External
evaluation of student reports should be used to assess this in future research.

Conclusions
A framework for managing and guiding student teams was developed,
described, and compared to less structured, but commonly used, methods. The
framework (Treatment A) was used in three sections of a 16 section first-year

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99

engineering course and involved guiding students to take on rotating roles


during laboratory projects throughout the semester. Three versions of each
report were submitted--rough draft, draft, and final--to make it easier to identify
free-rider behavior during the report writing process. After each team
assignment, students completed peer evaluations that were used to adjust final
course grades.

When compared to all 13 Treatment B sections the Treatment A framework


resulted in improvements in students self-appraisal of their teaming abilities at
the end of the semester, students writing more varied sections of laboratory
reports, student teams more quickly entering the performing stage of the team
adjustment phases, and more students taking on a leadership role at least once
during the semester compared to the Treatment B framework. The Treatment A
framework produced no reduction in free riders or increase in laboratory report
quality, at least as observed or evaluated by students. While the submission of
two draft reports does not appear to have significantly reduced free riding, in
combination with online peer evaluation it may have reduced team conflict.
Treatment A is recommended as a team framework.

Some of the differences observed between the three Treatment A sections and all
thirteen Treatment B sections disappeared when only comparing Professors
Morgan and Mallouks A and B-1 sections. This might indicate that some of the
differences observed in all sixteen sections may be teacher effects. Alternatively,
the techniques used in the B-1 sections (primarily team contracts, role
description, and paper peer evaluation) might be as or even more effective than
Treatment A. Treatments A and B-1 are complimentary. Combining them is
recommended as a team framework.

The results from this research can be used to encourage faculty members to
provide guidance to their student teams on ways to manage teamwork.
Providing specific roles for each team member to rotate through gives students a
basis for organizing their teams. It also makes them practice the typical roles
employed by members of successful teams and gain experience writing a wide
range of laboratory report sections. Enhanced team organization may also ease
student communication and reduce team conflict, which helps team productivity
overall, and provides students a strong foundation for working-world
teamwork. Finally, requiring students to turn in specific drafts and having
students evaluate each other may reduce team conflict and increase student
confidence and comfort regarding team grading.

The results also brought to light some common issues that student teams face
that warrant further exploration. These issues include struggling to
communicate well and finding times to meet in person. While the advent of
programs such as Dropbox and Google Drive have made online collaboration
easier, they do not necessarily serve as total replacements for face-to-face
meetings. Finally, to determine if the quality of laboratory reports is affected by
the treatment described here, external uniform evaluation should be employed
in future research.

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100

Acknowledgements
This paper is an expanded version of a conference publication ( 2015 American
Society for Engineering Education, ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings,
Seattle, WA). This expanded version is published with the permission of ASEE.

The authors express their gratitude to Dex Whittinghill, Associate Professor of


Mathematics at Rowan University, for feedback regarding the statistical
evaluations.

References
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102

International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research


Vol. 16, No. 7, pp. 102-110, July 2017

To What Extent Does the Medicalisation of the


English Language Complicate the Teaching of
Medical ESP to Japanese Medical Students
Learning English as a Foreign Language?

Abdullah Alami

Abstract. A detailed literature review was carried out in order to ex-


amine the current base of literature regarding the extent to which the
medicalisation of the English language creates additional complications
when teaching medical ESP to Japanese medical students. It was re-
vealed that there is indirect evidence to suggest that students could po-
tentially mistake medicalised English for medical ESP. However, it ap-
pears that no direct studies have been conducted on this subject. There
is a dearth of literature about the medicalisation of English in general,
and substantial gaps within the current base of knowledge. There are al-
so deficiencies in some of the current studies into related areas. Further
research is required in this area in order to fill the knowledge gaps and
account for the weaknesses of previous studies.

Keywords: ESP; medicalisation; Japanese; medical linguistics; EFL


course.

Introduction
At some Japanese universities, medical students are required to take EFL classes
to equip them with the necessary language competencies that are required to
engage in global innovation and help to push the field of medicine forwards.
Implementing evidence-based medical practices also requires the reading of
English language literature (Takada, 2012). Furthermore, English is generally
regarded as the lingua franca of the medical world (Frnculescu, 2009), and be-
coming fluent in it enables participation in international collaboration with oth-
ers within the field. A mastery of English is considered an integral facet of a
rounded medical education.
In addition to standard English words and phrases, students are also
taught medical ESP (Takada, 2012). ESP stands for English for Specific Pur-
pose, and is a term that is used to describe English words, phrases and gram-
matical constructions that are associated with a specific discipline or purpose
(Sherko, Shumeli & Mine, 2014). The medical profession contains complex ESP
that students are unlikely to have encountered elsewhere, hence the need for
teaching it as part of medical courses (Faraj, 2015).

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103

However, there is now a growing trend in English towards using lan-


guage that is typically associated with the medical world to describe non-
medical situations. This is known as medicalisation (Anderson, 2012a). This
creates the potential for confusing medical ESP with other similar figures of
speech. The current study provides a detailed review of literature that sheds
light upon the medicalisation of English in general, any issues that it might pose
for EFL students, and any issues that are specific to Japanese learners has been
carried out. It also includes an evaluation of the gaps within the current body of
research and discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the texts that are re-
viewed.

Literature Review
Anderson (2012b) has acknowledged the global and topical reach of medicalised
English. It is used throughout the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Austral-
ia, most commonly by the media. Examples include the phrase economically
dyslexic to mean people who lack basic financial expertise, the term on stero-
ids, which usually follows a noun to indicate that a person or object is an exag-
gerated version of its usual form, and the word workaholic, which is used to
refer to someone who is addicted to his or her work (Anderson, 2012b).
According to Anderson (2012b), the medicalisation of English typically
entails figuratively reinterpreting common non-medical conditions as diseases
or illnesses that require treatment. This can lead to misunderstandings in which
people believe that they are afflicted with an illness when in reality their prob-
lem does not have medical roots. If such miscomprehensions can occur for na-
tive English speakers, it is highly likely that EFL learners will mistake instances
of medicalised English for references to genuine medical conditions.
Anderson (2012b) has pointed out that scholars have attributed the ten-
dency to speak about non-medical conditions as if they are caused by an illness
to industrialised Western nations with socio-political foundations in Europe.
This means that EFL students from other parts of the world are likely to be less
familiar with this type of language. Whilst Japan is an industrialised nation, its
socio-political foundations are distinctly Asian. Therefore, Japanese students
might fail to recognise that medical ESP is being used to refer to non-medical
contexts, and believe that medical conditions are being described in situations in
which they are used as metaphors for non-medical conditions. See Figure 1 for a
table showing examples of medicalised English, their meanings, and potential
genuine medical characteristics that Japanese students might mistakenly perce-
ive are being spoken about.

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104

Figure 1: Examples of Medicalised English

Medicalised word or phrase Meaning Medical condition that Japa-


nese students could poten-
tially mistakenly believe it
refers to

Economically dyslexic Lacking basic financial exper- Dyslexia


tise

Calendar dyslexic Never able to keep appoint- Dyslexia


ments

Workaholic An individual who habitually Addiction


works hard and/or long
hours

Catatonically repeated narra- Story that is repeated over Catatonia


tive and over again

Economically cancerous Extremely bad for the finan- Cancer


cial situation of the nation

Warts and all Including features that are Warts


not attractive or appealing

Gave me a heart attack Scared me a lot. Heart attack.

Source: Anderson (2012b).

However, there is nothing within Andersons (2012b) writing to suggest


that he can speak multiple languages or that he is familiar with a large number
of foreign idioms. This suggests that his assertions about the countries that med-
icalised English are most commonly used in could be based upon conjecture. A
more detailed study of idioms across a variety of different languages is required
in order to shed light upon the validity of his statements.
According to Rizq (2015), EFL students typically tend to find it particu-
larly difficult to learn English metaphors and figures of speech. This is due to the
strong link between figurative language and culture. English figures of speech
are often inextricably interlinked to aspects of English culture that EFL learners
might be unfamiliar with. Idioms can require knowledge of social norms and
attitudes, beliefs and traditions associated with the country in which they origi-
nated. This means that many learners are likely to find medicalised English con-
fusing, as they are less likely to understand the contextual elements that are re-
quired in order to make sense of it. Such confusion might mean that they are un-
able to differentiate it from medical ESP.
Rizq (2015) references a plethora of previous studies to support his asser-
tions, and also cites anecdotal evidence from EFL classes. He also uses docu-
mented cases of teachers failing to teach idioms to EFL learners in support of his
statements. It appears that his paper is grounded in a wealth of evidence, both
research-based and linked to real-world experiences.

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105

Xiao (2016) has noted that EFL learners frequently make the mistake of
taking figures of speech literally. This is due in part to the fact that English
words and their literal meanings typically form the central basis of learning it as
a second language. This is to the exclusion of potential idioms and metaphorical
usages.
Research indicates that EFL students are able to determine that common-
ly used figures of speech are not to be taken literally to a greater extent than rar-
er figures of speech (Xiao, 2016). This means that some pieces of medicalised
English are likely to be more problematic for them than others. Whilst terms like
workaholic and mondayitis are in common use, phrases like economically
dyslexic are arguably considerably rarer.
Confusion in this area could potentially lead to EFL medical students
who are learning medical ESP believing that words and phrases that are derived
from medical terms but are not actually medical in their nature are examples of
medical ESP. They might end up incorrectly using these terms. It could also re-
sult in them assuming that some examples of medical ESP are actually meta-
phors and that they do not refer to medical conditions.
However, there does not appear to have been any studies that have ex-
amined which items of medicalised English are the most frequently used. This
represents a substantial gap within the current body of research. If it is truly the
case that such phrases are likely to be more confusing to EFL students then there
is value to be gained from identifying them so that extra attention can be given
to teaching them to medical students.
Littlemore, May and Arizono (2016) have noted that Japanese EFL learn-
ers are particularly bad at understanding humorous English figures of speech.
Many of the examples of medicalised English that were put forward by Ander-
son (2012b) are humorous in their nature, for example the phrase catatonically
repeated narrative, which has been used to refer to a genre of books that is ex-
tremely repetitive with regards to its content. It has humorously been compared
to the repetitive actions that are sometimes carried out by individuals who suffer
from catatonia.
Another example of a humorous piece of medicalised English is the
phrase calendar dyslexic. It has been jokingly used to refer to people who are
never able to keep appointments (Anderson, 2012b). It is likely that some pa-
tients might be more prone to using humorous medicalised English in a medical
setting, given the fact that the environment would remind them of such turns of
phrase. It is arguable that Japanese medical students should be made aware of
such phrases when they are learning English so that they can tell them apart
from genuine medical ESP.
Littlemore, May and Arizono (2016) also noted that Japanese EFL learn-
ers are not adept at identifying the meanings of figures of speech that are used
for the purpose of hyperbole. Many of the pieces of medicalised English identi-
fied by Anderson (2012b) also fall within this category. An example of this is a
comatose career Anderson, 2012b). Claridge (2011) defines hyperbole as ex-
ceeding the credible limitations of fact within the given context in order to em-
phasise a specific characteristic of a given person, object or concept. In this case,
the extent to which a career is inactive is made to exceed the realms of possibility
by suggesting that it has actually fallen into a coma.

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106

This means that Japanese medical students could potentially confuse


hyperbolic medicalised English with phrases used to describe genuine medical
conditions. It suggests that special attention should be given to teaching them to
recognise the use of hyperbole in English so as to avoid such confusion. It im-
plies that they could benefit from being taught a list of commonly used hyper-
bolic pieces of medicalised English so that they are aware that they are not med-
ical ESP.
However, it is notable that Littlemore, May and Arizonos (2016) asser-
tions are based upon a study of only 22 Japanese EFL learners. It is possible that
their findings cannot be generalised to Japanese learners as a whole. Further re-
search with a larger number of subjects is required into the ability of Japanese
EFL students to learn figures of speech involving humour and hyperbole.
Azuma (2009) studied the relationship between general competence at
English and understanding of English metaphors in Japanese EFL students. He
concluded that students who have a worse overall grasp of the English language
also tend to have a poorer understanding of English metaphors (Azuma, 2009).
This suggests that Japanese medical students who are perhaps not achieving at
as high a standard as their peers in terms of learning English could be particular-
ly confused by medicalised English. It indicates that they are especially vulnera-
ble to misunderstandings in which examples of medicalisation are misinter-
preted as references to genuine medical conditions.
According to Azuma (2009), Japanese EFL students are more likely to fail
to recognize figures of speech and take them literally in instances in which they
are presented out of context. Medicalised English is unlikely to be used in this
manner in a medical setting. It is more probable that it would be used within full
sentences, which gives the students a better chance of differentiating it from
medical ESP.
This suggests that if medicalised language is taught to Japanese medical
students so that they can tell it apart from medical ESP, it might not be useful to
present them with a list of medicalised English terms and ask them to identify
the meanings. It would be better to use both medicalised English and medical
ESP in context within conversations and ask them to differentiate between the
two. This would not only be easier, but would also be more similar to a real-life
situation. However, it is notable that Azumas (2009) statements derive from re-
search that only included 109 participants. This means that the findings might
not necessarily be applicable to Japanese EFL students as a whole.
There is also evidence that people who are learning English as a second
language can often be familiar with English figures of speech, but unable to use
them in context within a sentence (Shleykina, 2016). This indicates that Japanese
medical students could benefit from being taught to use instances of medical
English in their own speech. However, care should clearly be taken in order to
ensure that they avoid ambiguous phrases that could be interpreted by others as
referring to medical situations.
David (2014) has pointed out that many scholars believe that the con-
struction of metaphors and figures of speech in Japanese is radically different
from their English counterparts. This could make it harder for Japanese learners
to recognise when medicalised English is being used and when medical ESP is
being used. It implies that Japanese medical students learning medical ESP

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


107

should be taught to recognise English metaphors before specifically tackling the


subject of medicalised English. This will provide them with a foundation of
knowledge from which they can base their subsequent learning.
However, David (2014) has questioned the views of the previous scho-
lars, and claimed that the view that Japanese metaphors and figures of speech
are substantially different than those of the West is an exaggeration. He has
stated that
a lot of observations made about Japanese language and culture, ones
that are routinely claimed to be unique or even bizarre, can be explained
away by pointing out the common embodied underpinnings of those
conceptualizations, which are shared by all human beings of whatever
cultural persuasion, but which have different surface manifestations,
(where surface refers to overt linguistics forms and overt customs) (Da-
vid, 2014, p. 5-6).
Although this suggests that the metaphors are frequently rooted in the same
concepts as their Western equivalents, it still indicates that the form in which
they appear is often far removed from that of English figures of speech. This
supports the notion that Japanese learners might struggle to recognise such radi-
cally different constructions for metaphorical expressions.
It is possible that the fact that Japanese medical students have been
taught medical ESP will help them to recognise medicalised English phrases, as
it will mean that they are familiar with the composite words. However, accord-
ing to Kim (2015), if idioms contain familiar words, it can sometimes make EFL
learners think they are familiar with the idiom in spite of them not actually
knowing what the metaphorical meaning associated with the combination of
those words is. This is another factor that could potentially lead to Japanese
medical students confusing medicalised English with medical ESP. The fact that
they have seen the medical terms involved in medicalised English phrases might
cause them to assume that they have come across the phrases before in whilst
learning medical ESP, which might cause them to mistakenly believe that they
refer to genuine medical situations.
Another point to consider is the fact that many pieces of medicalised
English are used to convey controversial opinions, for example the phrase eco-
nomically cancerous, which can be used to denote someone who is extremely
bad for a countrys financial status (Anderson, 2012b). Comparing someone to
cancer is not only disrespectful, but also expressing a somewhat extreme opi-
nion. In Japan, strong, controversial opinions are often left unexpressed in order
to preserve harmony (Cutrone, 2015). This could lead to Japanese medical stu-
dents assuming that English speakers would feel the same, and that they must
have been using a term literally because its figurative meaning could potentially
lead to offence being taken.
It is also worth taking into consideration the fact that the medicalisation
of language is not unique to English; Cherry (2017) and Ishida (2011) have iden-
tified a number of different Japanese phrases that are derived from medical con-
ditions, and could potentially be confused with them. These phrases are pre-
sented in Figure 2. This means that the notion of medicalised language is not
likely to be entirely foreign to Japanese medical students. It suggests that they
will have at least some knowledge of it as a concept, which could be an asset

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


108

when learning to differentiate examples of medicalised English from medical


ESP.

Figure 2: Examples of Medicalised Japanese Phrases

Phrase English translation Meaning Medical condition that


non-Japanese students
could potentially mista-
kenly believe it refers to

Parasaito shinguru Parasite singles Unmarried men in Parasitic infection


their thirties who
depend upon their
parents whilst liv-
ing a carefree life

Sekkusu shinai sokogun Celibacy syndrome The trend towards One of a number of dif-
Japanese men and ferent conditions that
women refraining leads to loss of sexual
from having sex, appetite
leading to a declin-
ing birth rate

Koshi o nukasu Collapse ones hips Be paralysed by Broken hip


fear or surprise

Koshi ga nukeru Ones hips collapse Be paralysed by Broken hip


fear or surprise

Source: Cherry (2017) & Ishida (2011).

Discussion
Although there is a great deal of literature available that indirectly shed light
upon the topic of the medicalisation of English and EFL speakers potential for
confusing it with genuine medical terminology, there appears to be a dearth of
research that directly studies this phenomenon. There is also a lack of informa-
tion about the medicalisation of English in general. The only reputable academic
sources that deal with this issue are by Anderson, and he appears to have made
some assertions about the nations in which it is used without sufficient evidence
to back up his claims.
Some of the studies that indirectly shed light upon how the medicalisa-
tion on English is likely to impact upon Japanese EFL medical students also in-
clude a small number of participants, which is likely to skew the results. There is
also literature available that uses a firm foundation of evidence to draw its con-
clusions from, for example Rizq (2015). However, it fails to cover issues such as
the role of hyperbole and humour in misunderstandings involving the medicali-
sation of English.
A number of different possible sources of complications to the teaching
of medical ESP associated with the medicalisation of the English language have

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109

emerged from the literature. There is evidence that students with a poorer over-
all grasp of English might be particularly poor at interpreting English figures of
speech (Azuma, 2009), which could result in them struggling even more when it
comes to differentiating medicalised English from medical ESP. EFL learners
also find it more difficult to learn rarer idioms, and some pieces of medicalised
English fall within this category as well (Xiao, 2016), which might compound the
issue. In addition to these points, EFL learners can sometimes mistakenly think
they know what figures of speech mean if they contain words that they are fa-
miliar with, and medical students will clearly know much of the medical ESP
involved in medicalised English. The fact that Japanese speakers sometimes
avoid expressing controversial opinions, and numerous examples of medicalised
English are aimed at doing this complicates this issue even further.

Conclusion
In conclusion, there have been no studies to date that have extensively examined
the extent to which the medicalisation of the English language complicates the
teaching of medical ESP to Japanese medical students learning English as a for-
eign language. Whilst there have been some papers written in this vague area,
there is clearly a need for additional research. However, there is still some indi-
cation that this phenomenon might lead to confusion. It has the potential to be
confused for genuine medical jargon when it is spoken in hospital settings.

Recommendations
It appears that Japanese medical students could benefit from learning medica-
lised English so that they can differentiate it from medical ESP. In particular,
they should pay attention to humorous and hyperbolic medical English. They
could also be trained in recognising when medical terminology is used in figures
of speech and when it is to be taken literally. This would help to avoid misun-
derstandings, which can sometimes be extremely costly in a medical setting.
Research could also be carried out that directly addresses the question of
what the precise impact of medicalised English upon Japanese medical students
grasp of medical ESP is. The extent of medicalised language in non-English-
speaking countries could also be studied, and further research aimed at ascer-
taining which items of medicalised English are the most commonly used could
be conducted. This could potentially influence the way in which medicalised
English is taught to EFL learners.

References
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view, 14(11), 1.
Anderson, J. (2012b). Sick English. Seattle, WA: CreateSpace.
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terpretation of figurative expressions. Papers in Linguistic Science, 15, 165-192.
Cherry, K. (2017). Womansword: What Japanese words say about women. Berkeley, CA: Stone
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