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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Study of teacher, methods, and cognitive style effects on achievement of science process skills Grimes, Alan David


The purpose of this investigation was to answer two basic questions, namely, (1) Is the mental factor of Field Dependence a significant predictor of achievement of science process skills? and (2) To which of the three different levels of Field Dependence, Global, Middle or Analytic, are the two major methods of teaching Science 8 in British Columbia schools, (ISC, Labtext) best suited? This investigation grew out of the author's classroom teaching experience. It was observed that in classes of grade 8 students using "Labtext in Science, Book 1" [Cannon et al., 1968] as a guide, some students seemed to experience difficulty in performing the investigations, while certain other students found these investigations to be exciting and rewarding. Similar observations were made in classes using the text "Introducing Science Concepts in the Laboratory" [Schmid, 1971]. The different learning styles appeared to have no relation to the "intelligence" of students as measured by standard IQ tests. Some students in both classes who experienced difficulty possessed a relatively high IQ. The writer sensed that Witkin's concept of Field Dependence [Witkin et al., 1962] could be a useful way of explaining why one method of science instruction could suit the learning style of some students and not others. In order to investigate this notion more systematically, two methods of teaching embodied in the two different texts identified above were, first of all, carefully delineated. Briefly, the Labtext method was described as a learning situation which allowed much freedom of individual action during an investigation, while the ISC method was described as a structured learning situation in which specific instructions were given and guiding questions were asked. On the basis of Witkin's findings [Witkin, 1969] it was felt that field dependent (global) students would function better with the ISC method while field independent (analytic) students would be more successful with the Labtext approach. Cognitive style was assessed by means of the Hidden Figures Test, and achievement was measured by means of the Test of Science Processes. The experimental phase of this study took place over a period of one complete school semester. At the outset students were randomly assigned to six classes of which the author taught four, with two classes assigned randomly to each method. A second teacher taught two classes, randomly assigning one class to each method. The involvement of two different teachers allowed a study of the effect of teachers on achievement, and the fact that one teacher taught two classes with each method provided a situation in which the effect of one teacher using the same methods with different classes could be studied. The expected superior performance of analytical students compared to global students in terms of achievement in science process skills was confirmed. No evidence of overall superiority of one method of teaching over the other was found. There was no significant overall teacher effect, however, the three-way interaction effect showed that the effectiveness of a particular teaching method for a particular cognitive style varied according to the teacher. No firm conclusion regarding the interaction effects could be reached due to several intervening variables. The possibilities of interaction between test format and the cognitive style of students, and the interaction between the cognitive style of the student with that of the teacher were discussed. The implications of the construct of cognitive style for junior secondary science education were discussed in terms of methodological reform, and much needed research to determine the nature of the effect of a teacher's cognitive style on classroom learning situations was suggested.

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