Washington, February 12: Turns out, web-based teaching can improve science understanding for struggling pupils. According to a new study, web-based learning tools can help deepen science knowledge among all the middle school students, and ease the science literacy gap for underachieving students. A team of researchers introduced four interactive online science units, which students and teachers accessed with computers or tablets, in 13 middle schools in two states of American.
The online units were tested in a randomised, controlled trial with over 2,300 students and 71 teachers. While all participating students improved their science knowledge, the results were particularly notable for less able students. Students with learning disabilities improved 18 percentage points on assessments of science knowledge from pre-test to post-test, and English language learners increased 15 percentage points. Pupils taught the same content with traditional methods, such as textbooks, showed only 5-point gains.
"These significant findings demonstrate that the online curriculum was effective in improving science knowledge for students who struggle with science", said Dr Fatima Terrazas Arellanes, the Principal Investigator of the project. The online units were structured with lessons and activities like textbooks, but the content was much more interactive. Guided by their teachers, students learnt science through watching videos, playing educational games, conducting virtual experiments, and collaborating with their classmates.
It was found that the content was especially beneficial to students, who struggle thanks to embedded eText supports, such as text-to-speech (hearing online text read aloud), pop-up vocabulary definitions, interactive diagrams, digital note-taking, and captioned videos.
Dr Terrazas Arellanes added, "Our work adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that instructional technology has a place in the classrooms of today and tomorrow -- especially for science and especially for students with learning disabilities. We have shown that these tools are not only effective, but can be easily integrated". Findings from the study are published in the International Journal of Science Education.