The Effects of Classworks in the Classroom

10/1/2005 5:00:00 AM
Abstract

The purpose of the study was to examine the effects of computer-assisted instruction (CAI) in the classroom. Specifically the impact of “Classworks”, a computer-assisted instructional program, effect on student achievement. The study also examined teachers’ attitude toward using “Classworks” with their students. The quasi-experimental study involved 30 third grade students and two teachers over a 14 week period at a selected elementary school in Texas. The students who participated in the experimental group increased their posttest mean 9.06 percentile points more than the control group’s mean. This study has shown that “Classworks” increased student achievement in math and impacted teachers’ attitude toward CAI.

The Effects of “Classworks” in the Classroom

The need for improvement of student achievement has been the focus of many plans in education for many years. For example, legislators, administrators, and educational experts have sought to improve the school environment, curriculum, instruction methods, as well as attempting to strengthen teacher standards – all in the hope of improving students’ academic performance.

According to Lowe (2001), into the educational setting in the 1980’s came the computer. Proponents argued that this new technology in the classrooms was going to be the cure for all educational problems. Schools have since spent billions of dollars installing, maintaining, and upgrading computer technology with the goal of increasing student achievement.

Federal and state governments, along with institutions of learning, are making efforts to introduce and integrate computers into school. An estimated 4.4 million computers are now currently installed in America’s classrooms. By 1997 the ratio of students to computers had dropped from 125 students per computer in 1984 to 10 students per computer (Coley, Cradler, & Engel, 1997).

The Meridian Independent School District, a small rural school in central Texas, has spent over a million dollars of grant and local funds over the past decade toward computer technology. Meridian Elementary recently dedicated funds to replace its outdated network software. The elementary goals were to address objectives set by the 2003-2004 Meridian Elementary Campus Improvement Plan. The three strategies were: 1) technical training assistance for teachers 2) increase and integrate classroom technology 3) attain 90% or above for all students in the area of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) Math test.

A technology committee spent months researching and sampling computer-assisted instructional software for the campus. In January of 2004, the Meridian School Board accepted the recommendation of the committee to purchase “Classworks” designed by Curriculum Advantage. The school’s objective was to integrate technology into the curriculum, promote computer literacy for its students, and improve student achievement through the process.

Statement of the Problem

In efforts to improve student achievement, schools are merging computer-assisted instruction into their curricula. More research is needed to validate the spending of funds toward implementing CAI. The results of this study will provide vital information for administrators when deciding the future of CAI for their districts.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of “Classworks”, a computer-assisted instructional program, on student achievement. The study also examined teachers’ attitudes toward using “Classworks” with their students.

Research Questions
  1. Does “Classworks” impact student achievement for third grade mathematics students at a selected elementary school in Texas?
  2. Does “Classworks” impact teachers’ attitude toward computer-assisted instruction at a selected elementary school in Texas?
Methodology

Participants

The participants in this study included 30 third grade students at a selected elementary school. Of the 30 students, 57%(N=17) were Anglo, 37%(N=11) were Hispanic, and 6%(N=2) were African-American. Furthermore, 60%(N=18) of the students were females and 40%(N=12) were males. Fifty seven percent (N=17) of the participants were identified as economically disadvantaged, 23%(N=8) were in the Gifted and Talented program, and 23%(N=8) are in the English as Second Language program.

The participants in the teacher attitude questionnaire consisted of two Anglo females teaching third grade.

Procedure

Of the total population, 15 (50%) students, the control group, received the traditional Saxon mathematics instruction. The remaining 15 (50%) students received the traditional Saxon mathematics instruction with the addition of “Classworks” one hour per week.

We randomly placed participants in classes at the beginning of the school year in August and administered a pretest the first week of the school year. Both groups received the same traditional instruction following the Saxon mathematics curriculum and sequence. In addition, the experimental group used only the mathematic portion of “Classworks” in the computer lab for one hour per week. The experimental group used “Classworks” for 14 weeks. To keep the study ethical, the control group used the language arts portion of “Classworks”.

After 14 weeks, all participants retook the pretest, which now served as the posttest. We calculated the standardized mean difference of percentiles to determine growth in student achievement.

In order to determine teacher attitude, the researcher created and designed a survey questionnaire and administered this unstructured three-item survey to two teachers at the selected elementary school who used “Classworks” for the first semester. The questions involved the performance of “Classworks”. The information determined the teachers’ attitude toward using “Classworks” with their students.

Data Analysis

We employed the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS), version 11.5 to determine the results of the study. We found results for research question one by computing the percentile point increase or decrease for each student between the mathematic pretest and posttest. We found the percentile point increase for both the experimental group and control group. An independent t-test comparing the mean scores of the pretest and posttest between the experimental group and control group determined if a significant difference exsisted.

We computed the Pearson product moment correlation to determine the magnitude of the relationship between the pretest and posttest. We also used this Pearson product moment correlation to determine the degree of relationship between scores to students’ gender, ethnicity, social economic status (SES), and class (experimental/control).

The results for research question two were qualitative. The survey examined teacher attitude toward “Classworks”. The two teachers involved in the study completed a post experimental survey questionnaire. The questionnaire, developed by the researcher, consisted of 3 questions.

Results

The purpose of the study was to 1) investigate the impact of “Classworks” on student achievement for third grade mathematics students at a selected elementary school in Texas and 2) to determine the impact of “Classworks” on teachers’ attitude toward computer-assisted instruction at that school.

Research Question #1

Does “Classworks” impact student achievement for third grade mathematics students? We computed descriptive statistics for all students’ pretest and posttest. The means and standard deviations (SD) for the pretest and posttest are in Table 1. The overall mean for the students’ pretest was 35.83 (SD=9.649) with scores ranging from 15 to 59. The overall mean for the students’ posttest was 47.43 (SD=11.643) with scores ranging from 24 to 67. Table 1 indicates that the whole population participating in the study made an overall increase of student achievement.

Table 1
Descriptive Statistics for Pretest and Posttest

Test

N

Minimum

Maximum

Mean

SD

Pretest

30

15

59

35.83

9.649

Posttest

30

24

67

47.43

11.643

We computed a paired sample t-test to determine the paired differences between the pretest and posttest. Table 2 shows the mean of the paired differences was -11.60 (SD=8.846). The difference showed a t value of -7.183 with a p value of <01. The data results show there was a statically significant difference between the pretest and the posttest.

Table 2
Paired Samples test for Pretest and Posttest___

Mean Difference SD t Sig.(2-tailed)
Pair 1 Pretest-Posttest -11.600 8.846 -7.183 .000

We used a Pearson product moment correlation to determine if there was a relationship between the overall group’s pretest and posttest. We also used this Pearson product moment correlation to determine the degree of relationship between scores to students’ gender, ethnicity, social economic status, and class. The results are in Table 3. The Pearson product moment correlation showed that there was a strong relationship (r=.669) between the pretest and the posttest, which was significant at the .01 level. We found a strong relationship (r=.706) between social economic status and ethnicity, which was significant at the .01 level.

The most important information that Table 3 reveals is the relationship of the posttest scores between the experimental and control class. There was a correlation of -.381, which is significant at the .05 level.

Table 3
Correlations between Pretest, Posttest, and Students
Variables Pretest Posttest Gender Ethnicity SES Class

Variables

Pretest

Posttest

Gender

Ethnicity

SES

Class

Pretest

1.00

         

Posttest

.669**

1.00

       

Gender

-.265

-.177

1.00

     

Ethnicity

-.145

-.233

-.110

1.00

   

SES

-.235

-.355

-.027

.706**

1.00

 

Class

.018

-.381*

.000

-.162

.067

1.00

**Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed)
*Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed)

We used an independent t-test to determine the difference between means of the pretest and posttest of the experimental group versus that of the control group. Table 4 shows that the experimental group had a pretest mean of 35.67 (SD=8.966) and a posttest mean of 51.80 (SD=12.399). The control group had a pretest mean of 36.00 (SD=10.603) and a posttest mean of 43.07 (SD=9.285).

The experimental group had a 16.13 increase from pretest to posttest. The control group had a 7.07 increase from pretest to posttest. There was a 9.06 difference between the increases of the experimental over the control group. Table 4 reveals that the experimental group, which used “Classworks”, had a statistically significant increase of student achievement compared to the control group.

Table 4
Mean Differences between the Experimental and Control Group __
Pretest Posttest Mean Sig.

.Class

.N

.Mean

.SD

.Mean

.SD

.Differ.

.t

(2-tail)

.Experimental

.15

.35.67

.8.966

.51.80

.12.399

.16.13

.-7.485

..000

.Control

.15

.36.00

.9.285

.43.07

.9.285

.7.07

. -3.936

.001

Research Question #2

Does “Classworks” impact teachers’ attitude toward computer-assisted instruction at a selected elementary school in Texas? The two teachers involved in the study completed a post experimental survey questionnaire. The unstructured item questionnaire, developed by the researcher, consisted of three questions.

Teachers had positive responses to the advantages of using “Classworks”. One teacher thought “Classworks” provided reinforcement of skills and concepts taught in the classroom setting and provided students with extra practice time outside of the scheduled math instructional period. The same teacher stated that “Classworks” helped with the remediation of math concepts. “Classworks” reports were helpful as a diagnostic tool for analyzing the students’ strengthens and weaknesses.

The other teacher stated that one of the advantages of “Classworks” was the ability to practice math and reinforce keyboarding skills at the same time. She also stated that the flexibility of “Classworks” allowed her to individualize each student’s curriculum and goals.

The second question asked teachers to consider possible disadvantages of using “Classworks”. Both teachers thought “Classworks” should be used as a supplement to previous teacher instruction. They were concerned that teachers would rely on “Classworks” to replace teacher-led instruction in the classroom. Both felt new concepts should be taught by the regular classroom teacher before exposing students to the concept via “Classworks”.

The third question asked teachers their feelings about the amount of time “Classworks” took in their instructional schedule. One teacher responded there was not enough time devoted to using “Classworks”. The other teacher stated that every minute using “Classworks” was valuable. She stated “Classworks” gave each student individualized instruction, thus giving her time to conference with and/or observe individual students.

Overall, the teachers involved in the “Classworks” study had a positive attitude. They felt “Classworks” was one the best computer-assisted instruction products available for educational use. They stressed, however, that while “Classworks” was a great CAI product, it was no substitute for teacher instruction.

Discussion

The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of “Classworks”, a computer-assisted instructional program, on student achievement. The researcher in this study wanted to determine if third graders in a selected Texas elementary school would increase their achievement using “Classworks” versus third grade students not using “Classworks”. The study also examined the question of teacher attitude toward computer-assisted instruction.

The students who participated in the experimental group increased their posttest mean 9.06 percentile points over the control group’s mean. This suggests that CAI had a significant impact on student achievement.

While the results were extremely powerful, there are some issues to consider when interpreting them. The sample size of both groups was small, making it difficult to determine whether or not the results accurately represent a larger population. Another issue would be the short period of time for the project. The 14 week study may have shown different results if conducted over a longer period of time.

There were several factors that may have contributed to the positive results of this study. Having extra mathematics practice on the computer was a key component resulting in student achievement. When students receive additional CAI instruction time, the probability of concept and objective comprehension and retention increases.

“Classworks” provided an alternative instructional method that impacted student performance. It presents an instructional objective or concept in a variety of formats with continual reinforcement, whereas ordinary classroom instruction usually presents from one viewpoint based on curriculum standards. Students spent more time on task with “Classworks” because they enjoyed the variety of instruction and technology.

One benefit the researcher discovered in “Classworks” was its accessible form of monitoring student progress toward the completion of instructional objectives. The student automatically moved on to the next objective after they demonstrated mastery of the previous one. Without “Classworks” it is difficult to see whether teachers monitored the progress of student growth over curriculum objectives. “Classworks” automates part of the process of evaluating progress toward mastery of the classroom curriculum objectives.

Based on this study, the researcher has two recommendations. The first recommendation would allow more computer time with “Classworks”. Students need to increase CAI time from one hour per week to two hours. Increasing student CAI use would facilitate and increase the growth of student achievement.

The second recommendation would allocate more time for teacher in-service to facilitate understanding of “Classworks”. Teachers had only an eight hour introduction prior to the study. Teachers did not have the expertise to manipulate the curriculum scope and sequence of “Classworks” to coincide with the classroom curriculum. Additional in-service time would allow teachers to become accustomed to the dynamics and structure of “Classworks” and utilize it to the fullest potential for student achievement.

There should be future studies to strengthen the claim that CAI has a positive impact on student achievement. The researcher suggests that the scope and sequence of the classroom curriculum align with objectives presented in “Classworks”. At times during the use of “Classworks”, teachers would have to teach new objectives previously not introduced in the classroom. Matching the scope and sequence of the two curriculums would maximize student achievement and lessen teacher frustration.

Based on the results of this study, teachers and administrators need to be aware of the positive benefits that CAI can provide. Teachers would have a better attitude if administrators mandated and scheduled researched and successful CAI programs.

Damon Patterson

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