The Implementation of Collaborative Learning Model in Online Theme-Based Learning for Music-Talented Elementary School Students

Chih-Kang Yang

National Hualien Teachers College, Hualien, TaiwanChina

Tel: 886-3-8227106 EXT 1050  Fax: 866-3-8237100  E-mail:ckyang@sparc2.nhltc.edu.tw

 论著选摘  

    

This study is to examine the implementation outcomes of using collaborative learning model in online theme-based learning for music-talented students.  In order to implement this study, an online theme-based learning platform, called “Theme-Based Learning Island”, was used to help 19 music-talented elementary students to learn what the most interesting subject in computer and technology was. In the learning area of “Theme-Based Learning” have five learning steps which include setting learning topic, focusing on interesting issues in the learning topic, collecting related information on the learning topic, synthesizing information into usable knowledge, and finishing final report. According to the findings of this study, it shows that most students satisfied using online theme-based learning strategy to finish their learning topic, even though they did not like the user interface of the learning area of “Theme-Based Learning Island”. In addition, these students showed that they learned how to ask help from their team members and assistant mentors, when they faced unknown questions. Furthermore, this study found most students responded that their computer skills (such as using Internet to search information, typing skills, knowing how computers works) improved significantly after they joined the online theme-based learning ..

Keywords: Online learning, Theme-based learning, Music-talented, Collaborative learning

1  Introduction

The advances of computer technologies have changed the way of teaching and learning.  In order to take the advantages of modern computer technology in helping learner to learn, the following sections will discuss online learning, theme-based learning, and collaborative learning model, respectively.

Owing to the convenience and availability of Internet, online learning becomes a new trend for learning. Therefore, the traditional way for teaching and learning must be changed to accommodate the learner needs.  Otherwise, it will be difficult to catch up the information era. Online learning involves the delivery and administration of learning opportunities, which support by computers, networks, and Web-based technologies, for everyone willing to learn. The benefits of online learning are: (1) accessibility—online learning provides immediacy of information, which is accessible seven-day a week and twenty-four-hour a day at anytime and anywhere (the learner only needs a computer and Internet accessibility); (2) learner-centric—the materials of online learning are organized for convenience to the learner, based on the learner’s lifestyle, learning style, and ability. Therefore, the online learning learners are not passive participants, but a proactive searcher and finder of information (Block & Dobell, 1999)[1]. (3) retainability—online learning can facilitate learner to retention more information because of the learning environment that the learner can get immediate feedback from instructor and share personalized learning experience from the learning community (Urdan and Weggen, 2000)[2]; (4) risk-free—online learning allows the shy learner, the insecure learner, and verbally challenged learner to flourish in the blindness (or non-judgment) learning engagement. Thus, it can minimize the learner’s bias, increase learner’s confidence, and empower learner’s motivation ; (5) interaction—online learning can provide an engaging and stimulating learning experience with different types of media, and simulations of real world events (The Campaign for Learning, 2000)[3];and (6) collaboration—online learning allows and encourages the learners to cooperate with other learners or their instructor over Internet (e.g. email, discussion forum, or instant messages).

A theme can be a topic, concept, problem, or issue that provides both a focus and organizing framework guiding the development and implementation of cohesive, interrelated series of lessons or activates (Ackerman, 1989)[4]. Therefore, applying a theme-based learning model allows the learners to share a common core of distinctive characteristics. Such characteristics may include learner-centered construction of understanding, integration of prior knowledge and experiences, reflective practice, a project or activity approach, and often cooperative and collaborative learning.  As opposed to traditional teaching methods, theme-based learning views knowledge as contemporaneously constructed rather than reproduced, provisional rather than absolute, and applied rather than stored (Bauer & Daugherty, 2001)[5].In addition, using theme-based leaning strategy would be an effective learning method because it requires the learners to active engagement with subject content, collaborate learning with their peers and environments, and have many problem solving opportunities (Bruner, 1985[6];Marton & saljo, 1988[7]; Ramsden,1992[8]).

Collaborative learning model is a teaching methodology that focuses the learners’ concerns on how to collaborate with peers in order to reach their learning goals.  Collaborative learning is well-developed strategies for teaching students in small-group settings.  Kassner (2002)[9]addressed three main goals for collaborative learning model: (1) to enhance student learning and retention through group learning, (2) to develop positive attitudes toward subject matter and learning in general, and (3) to increase interpersonal and social problem-solving skills.  Furthermore, Johnson & Johnson (1999)[10] also addressed five basic elements which distinguish collaborative learning from traditional learning groups: (1) positive interdependence so that students believe in their hearts that they are responsible for each other’s learning as well as their own, (2) individual accountability so that students do their fair share of the work, (3) face-to-face interaction in which students promote each other’s learning by assisting and encouraging, (4) appropriately using the interpersonal and small-group skills needed to work effectively, and (5) processing how well they are working together and what they could do to improve .

Based on the above discussion, it is clearly to see that there are many benefits for applying online, theme-based, and collaborative learning theories to help learners to learn. In order to integrate these three learning strategies, it is necessary for a research project to implement in a real educational environment. The goals of this study as follows:

To evaluate the implementation outcomes of collaborative learning model in theme-based learning.

To make suggestions for implementing collaborative learning model in theme-based learning.

2  Research Methods

The case study research method was used in this study.  How this study was implemented will be showed in the following sections.

The participants: since this study needed a field testing, a cooperative school and class would be necessary for this study. In order to find a suitable school and class, the researcher visited several local schools in the Hualien County and consulted with several online learning experts in Taiwan.  A fifth grader class with 19 music-talented students in a large size elementary school at Hualien County was chosen. The main reasons for choosing music-talented students as following: (1) these students had computer lesson once a week since third grade; (2) these students had many collaboration learning experiences since first grade (because they needed to form different groups and to play different music instruments together); and (3) the computer teacher and the class mentor willing to learn how to implement online theme-based learning model in their school.

The research tools and materials: Theme-Based Learning Island(please browse

http://tbl.nhltc.edu.tw

 for more details) was used as the online learning platform.  TheTheme-Based Learning Island was designed by the Hualien Teachers College research team and provided many online learning activities which are under the theory of theme-based learning.  In the learning area of Theme-Based Learning have five learning steps (please see Figure 1 for more details) which include setting learning topic, focusing on interesting issues in the learning topic, collecting related information on the learning topic, synthesizing information into usable knowledge, and finishing final report.  In addition, in order to evaluate the participants’ computer skills and final learning outcomes, there were three different research materials were developed by the researcher. Two test materials were developed to evaluate the students’ computer skills. One was computer literacy test which contained the basic computer software and hardware skills; and the other was typing skills. Furthermore, a survey questionnaires was used to do final evaluation which included the students’ preference between the traditional teaching model and online theme-based learning model, the interactions between each team member, the interactions between each team member and his/her assistant mentor, and the lengh of online time.

 

Figure 1  The Five Learning Steps in the Learning Area of Theme-Based Learning Island

The research procedures: first, the researcher asked the participants to take computer literacy test and the typing skill test; second, based on the participants’ two test scores and whether the participants had a computer with Internet access at home or not, these 19 students would be divided into four groups and each group would be assigned an assistant mentor. these assistant mentors not only needed to help the participants’ familiar the learning platform, but also to monitor the interactions between each group member; third, after each participant learned how to use Theme-Based Learning Island, these students followed the five theme-based learning steps mentioned to finish their learning goals; forth, after each group reached to the last theme-based learning step, which each group need to finish a final report, the researcher reviewed the final report and decided which group did the best work; and finally, each participant needed to fill out a survey questionnaires mentioned to evaluate what he/she had learned.

Data analysis: the researcher would use SPSS 10.0 for PC to analyze score of computer literacy test, score of typing skill test. The interactions ,including the email messages, instance messages, and discussion messages from the Theme-Based Learning Island) between each group member and between each group member and the assistant mentor, would use qualitative data analysis tools to evaluate the cooperative learning outcomes.

3  Results and Discussions

The results of the computer literacy test (N=19; M=68.4; SD=13.1), and results of the typing skill test (N=19; M=8.24; SD=3.97). Based on the above information, it shows that these two scores were varied wildly among these 19 students’ computer skills.  Therefore, to put higher computer skills and lower computer skills students into a group would be necessary; otherwise, it could ruin the participants’ learning outcomes if all lower score students were assigned in the same group.

The results of survey questionnaire is shown in the Table 1:


Table 1 The Results of Survey Questionnaires (N=19)

Items

The statement of question

Results

agree

neutral

disagree

no answer

1

I am satisfying my typing speed.

26.3%

52.6%

15.8%

5.3%

2

I felt that my typing speed was faster than last semester.

84.2%

15.8%

0%

0%

3

My typing speed could affect my interest on using computer as learning tools.

68.4%

21.1%

10.5%

0%

4

In this semester, I liked every Thursday’s computer lesson very much.

78.9%

10.5%

10.5%

0%

5

I used Internet a lot, even though I did not have a computer lesson.

73.7%

26.3%

0%

0%

6

I felt confident when I used Internet to search information.

52.6%

47.4%

0%

0%

7

I felt that I have excellent computer skills.

36.8%

57.9%

0%

5.3%

8

I have ability to use MS Word finishing a report.

42.1%

42.1%

10.5%

5.3%

9

I felt to use the chat room of the “Theme-Based Learning Island” could increase my communication skills with my team mates.

94.7%

5.3%

0%

0%

10

I felt the user interface of the “Theme-Based Learning Island” was too difficult for me.

26.3%

21.1%

52.6%

0%

11

I would use the “Theme-Based Learning Island” learning tools (including discussion room, email, meeting room, and instant message) to ask questions as well as solve my problems.  

89.5%

5.3%

0%

5.3%

12

When I confronted a computer problem, I would try to solve by myself first. If I could not resolve, I would ask for someone’s help.

84.2%

15.8%

0%

0%

13

If I had a chance to become a group leader, I would happy to lead my team mate using the “Theme-Based Learning Island” learning strategy.

52.6%

42.1%

5.3%

0%

14

I felt my Internet search ability had improved significantly since I participated this research project.

73.7%

26.3%

0%

0%

15

I liked the learning model of the” “Theme-Based Learning Island” better than traditional lecture model.

68.4%

31.6%

0%

0%

16

When I had a computer question, I liked to ask my computer teacher directly.

42.1%

47.4%

10.5%

0%

17

I liked to learn computer lesson using the” “Theme-Based Learning Island” with my class mates.

84.2%

15.8%

0%

0%

18

My learning strategies had improved a lot, when I discussed the learning topic with my other group mates.

78.9%

21.1%

0%

0%

19

My problem solving skills had improved a lot, when I discussed the learning topic with my other group mates.

78.9%

21.1%

0%

0%

20

I felt that my team had agreed on choosing a learning topic.

52.6%

47.4%

0%

0%

21

I totally understood the learning topic which was decided by the group.

47.4%

52.6%

0%

0%

22

I felt that using the” “Theme-Based Learning Island” to learn computer lesson was more interesting than the traditional lecture lesson.

52.6%

42.1%

5.3%

0%

23

I would like to share my learning experience to other team member during the group meeting.

84.2%

15.8%

0%

0%

24

I would like to help my team mates if he/she had computer problems.

57.9%

42.1%

0%

0%

25

I felt that assistant mentor gave me a lot of helps.

84.2%

15.8%

0%

0%

 

P.S. The statement of questions in Table 1 was translated from Chinese to English.

According to the Table 1, most participants felt that they like to use Theme-Based Learning Island learning model, even though there are ten out of nineteen students (52.6%) felt that the user interface was too difficult for them.  In addition, these participants liked to use the learning tools to ask, discuss, and share information with their team mates.  Therefore, these participants can collaboratively learn together from how to select an appropriate topic to how to finish a final report.

         

In the interactions between each group and the assistant mentor, most participants felt the assistant mentor gave them a lot of helps. From the assistant mentors interviewed data, it also shows the role of assistant mentors could be an essential element for collaborative learning model in online theme-based learning. Because of without the assistant mentors’ help, the participants could stay in one learning step forever. In addition, the more interactions between the group member and his/her assistant mentor, the better of the group learning out comes would be.

         

Overall, these 19 music-talents students were positive regarding many aspects of the implementation outcomes of the collaborative learning model in online theme-based learning.  They liked many learning tools and activities in Theme-Based Learning Island. Especially, they liked most was to gain the “learning experience scores”, which was given automatically by the learning platform based on how many email messages, discussion messages, and instant message were send by the learners’. They also felt that participating in the online discussion allowed them to learn from their team mates and the five learning steps helped them to better understand the content of learning subjects.

         

Since this collaborative learning model was only implemented for a semester, the researcher suggests that there are two critical issues need to be addressed in the future study: one is the learner’s motivation issue, and the other is the evaluation system for the learner’s learning outcomes.

Reference

[1] Block H., & Dobell B. (1999). The e-Bang Theory, Bank of America Securities Equity Research.

[2] Urdan, T.A., Weggen, C. (200). Corporate E-learning: Exploring a new frontier, W R Hambrecht Co.

[3] Campaign for Learning (200).  Attitudes to E-learning: A national survey (executive summary), Southgate Publishers.

[4] Ackerman, D. (1989). Intellectual and practical criteria for successful curriculum integration.  In Jacobs, H. (Ed.), Interdisciplinary curriculum: Design and implementation (pp. 23-38).  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and curriculum Development.

[5] Bauer, W. I., & Daugherty, J.F. (2001). Using the Internet to enhance music teacher education. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 27-32.

[6] Bruner, J.S. (1985) Models of the learner, Educational Researcher, 14, 5-8.

[7] Marton, F., & Saljo, R. (1988) On qualitative differences in learning, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 4-11.

[8] Ramsden, P (1992). Learning to teach in higher education, London: Routledge.

[9] Kassner, K. (2002). Cooperative learning revised: A way to address the standards. Music Educators Journal, 88 (4). 17-22.

[10] Johnson, D.W., & Johnson, R. (1999). Learning together and alone: Cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

 

 

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