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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation of the effects of discovery learning on retention at two levels of mental functioning Kroeker, Leonard Paul

Abstract

It was hypothesized that greater mean retention would occur at the Knowledge and Application levels of mental functioning, as defined by Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, among students taught by a discovery method than among students taught by a more conventional, lecture-demonstration method. It was also hypothesized that greater mean retention would occur at the Application level than at the Knowledge level among students taught by a discovery method than among students taught by a lecture-demonstration method. Each of two ninth grade science classes in a single school was taught a heat unit using one of the methods mentioned above. The teaching methods were assigned randomly to intact classes, both handled by the same teacher. Two multiple choice achievement tests covering the content of the heat unit were constructed; one consisting of items in the Knowledge category and the other consisting of items in the Application category. A tryout of each of these tests was conducted upon 160 students in a single school thus allowing the elimination of unsuitable items, specifically, items whose discrimination indices were negative and those whose difficulty indices were either too high or too low. The resulting unit tests, with forty Knowledge and thirty two Application items respectively, were administered to the students of the two classes both immediately following and six weeks following the conclusion of the heat unit. The reliability coefficients of the Knowledge and Application tests, estimated by correlating the half test scores and applying the Spearman-Brown formula, were .82 and .80 respectively. Covariates, chosen on the basis of their correlation with loss scores (measures of retention), were used to adjust experimental and control group loss score means. The analysis of covariance showed a significant difference between Application loss score means and a non-significant difference between Knowledge loss score means at the pre-set 5 percent significance level. It was therefore concluded that this experiment provided evidence for the acceptance of the experimental hypothesis dealing with the retention of application objectives and for the rejection of the experimental hypothesis dealing with the retention of the knowledge objectives. Items, matched on the basis of content, difficulty index, and discrimination index were selected from the two unit tests to form Knowledge and Application subtests. Loss scores were calculated from the subtest results and the differential retention hypothesis was tested using a Z statistic. The analysis revealed a non-significant difference between differential loss score means at the pre-set 5 percent significance level. It was concluded that there was no statistical basis to support the hypothesis that greater mean differential retention (between Application and Knowledge) would occur among students taught by a discovery method than among students taught by a lecture-demonstration method. It was, however, suggested that further experimental refinements might possibly produce significant results when testing the differential retention hypothesis in a future replication of the study. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings were also discussed.

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