Development of research questions
Surely science education is a field that concerned a lot of experts and therefore various studied were conducted, in order to find ways to achieve better understanding about its nature. As models and modeling are considered essential part of science, it is important to develop ways that the implementation of the modeling procedure is effective. Most researches that were conducted in the field of science modeling refer to the characteristics of the tool used and the way that they support teaching, while students’ various reactions and interactions with the specific approach, according to their individual characteristics, are ignored.
Consequently, by taking into account the existing literature, the current case study recognizes the need for individual support for every student. So, the purpose is to examine how students with different learning styles interact with two kinds of modeling approaches, one with the implementation of computer and one without. Specifically, the central research question that arises is “What are the different interactions of students with two kinds of modeling procedures when they are taught a scientific phenomenon and how they are related to their learning styles?” The subsidiary questions that will be examined in order for the central question to be answered are:
Which modeling approach can support better each student’ s understanding about the phenomenon and does this depends on students’ individual learning styles? Which characteristics of students with auditory/visual/kinesthetic preference are supported better with the computer-based modeling approach and which with the non-computer based modeling approach? Which of the two processes increase students’ motivation and engagement on learning science and does this varies among students with different learning styles?
Generally, in this study I seek to locate ways that can be supportive for students when they are taught a scientific phenomenon with two modeling approaches. Therefore, the differences as well as the similarities between students’ individual needs will be emphasized and taken into serious consideration. Moreover, the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and their effect on students’ understandings will be examined.
Introduction This chapter initially aims to describe and explain the methodological approach that was used in the current study. Also, the sample that participated in the present research is mentioned and later on the way of data collection, the way that the study was conducted and how the data analysis came up are elucidated. Besides, limitations of the study are presented along with important issues that arose in the conduction of the study, like those of validity and reliability as well as ethical issues.
Methodological approach This study has followed the qualitative method for several reasons. Qualitative study can be characterised as naturalistic, since things are studied in their natural settings having as purpose to understand a specific phenomenon according to how people react to it (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994). So, since the purpose is to develop detailed descriptions about students’ interactions with the modeling processes according to their learning styles, qualitative research will be valuable since the collected data and reports provide rich descriptions of the phenomenon under study (Bogdan and Bilken, 2003).
The current qualitative study follows the case study tradition, since it seeks to examine interactions of students in a specific case. A case study has as aim “to understand an individual case in its particularity” (Willing, 2001, p. 70) and since it is recognised as holistic it gives a complete and holistic description of the situation under study (Merriam, 1988 cited in Louca, 2004). Though, generalizations can’t be made, since the data might “be accurate for the group under study and unverified for extension to a larger population” (Adler and Adler, 1994, p.p. 381).
Sample In this study twelve fifth-graders from Italy participated. The sample was chosen to be appropriate for the purposes of the study. Because I wanted to examine how students react to two kinds of modeling procedures according to their learning preferences, I created two groups of six. Each group included two students with preference in auditory learning, two students with preference in visual learning and two students with preference in kinesthetic learning. Moreover, students’ previous knowledge about the subject that they were taught was examined, in order to clarify any differences they had.