The effect of problem based learning instruction on 7th grade students’ science achievement, attitude toward science and scientific process skills

Serin, Gökhan
The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of instruction based on problem-based learning (PBL) on 7th grade students’ science achievement, attitude toward science course and scientific process skills. The study was conducted in May 2007 with 141 students and four science teachers from four middle schools in Gölbası district of Ankara. A total of eight classes were participated in the study. Four of them were assigned randomly to control group and four of them were assigned randomly to experimental group. There are two different experimental groups. One of the experimental groups was given the PBL instruction through individual work (PBL-I). The other group took the PBL instruction by making group work (PBL-G). Two classes were assigned randomly to PBL-I group and the remaining two were assigned randomly to PBL-G. Before starting the treatments a needs analysis was conducted to develop scenarios so that they can address students’ interests. Moreover, a pilot study was conducted in the previous academic year for the instructional materials and instruments developed by the researcher. Treatments, given by the teachers, continued up to five weeks. The control group was given traditional instruction, whereas, the PBL-I group took the PBL instruction through individual work, the PBL-G group took the PBL instruction via group working. The dependent variables of the study were attitude toward the course, scientific process skills, and academic achievement. The collected data were analyzed through MANCOVA. The analyses yielded that there is no statistically significant mean difference between groups on the scores of attitude, scientific process skills and academic achievement. In addition, aptitude-treatment interaction analysis was conducted. This analysis indicated that effect of the PBL instructions differ with respect to covariates. In other words, the PBL instructions work well in some levels of the covariates, while in other levels, traditional instruction yields better results. Qualitative data were obtained through students’ self-evaluations and interviews made with students and teachers. Document analysis was conducted for the data collected through self-evaluation form. This analysis showed that PBL students mostly engaged with doing research, designing and making experiments. However, students in the control group usually, listened to their teachers, write down definitions, formulas, graphs from their teachers, and solved problems requiring mathematical operations. According to the interviews, students in general are enthusiastic about the PBL instruction.