The Effects of Constructivist-oriented Instruction on Elementary School Students' Cognitive Structures
Ying Tien Wu
Prof. Chin Chung Tsai
|關鍵字:||建構主義;認知結構;認知結構發展階段;語意流程圖;Constructivism;cognitive structure;the stage of cognitive structure development;flow map|
Constructivism is a theory about ‘knowing’ and ‘learning,’ in which its perspectives have profound influences on the ongoing development of science curriculum and sci-ence teaching practice. This study mainly investigated the effects of the constructiv-ist-oriented instruction on elementary school students’ cognitive structures and their at-titudes toward science learning. Moreover, this study also explored the role of previous academic achievement on these effects. First, the theoretical foundations of philosophy, cognitive psychology, and social psychology about constructivism were carefully reviewed. Then, the important implica-tions and assertions of constructivism in science learning, viewed as the theoretical framework of this study, were summarized. Finally, based upon various constructiv-ist-oriented teaching strategies and models, the constructivist-oriented instructional ac-tivities used in this study were developed. This study was conducted with a quasi-experimental research design. The subjects were sixty-nine fifth graders. Thirty-five students in one class were assigned to a con-structivist-oriented instruction group, while thirty-four students in another class were assigned to the traditional instruction group. The research treatment was conducted for a semester (six instructional units); and the students’ cognitive structures were probed immediately after each unit’s instruction. In addition, their attitudes toward science and science learning were explored after the research treatment. In exploring students’ cog-nitive structures, the narratives were obtained through interviews coupled with a ‘meta-listening technique.’ Then, all the narratives were transcribed into the format of ‘flow maps.’ And, the information processing strategies were also investigated through a series of content analysis. A survey was also administered to assess students’ attitudes toward science learning both before and after the research treatment. Research findings revealed that the students in the constructivist-oriented instruction group attained significantly better leaning outcomes no matter in terms of the quality and quantity of their cognitive structures, the usage of metacognition, or the information processing strategies. Moreover, the findings also showed that both high academic achievers and low achievers benefited from constructivist-oriented instructional activi-ties, but in different ways. High academic achievers in the constructivist-oriented in-structional group displayed larger and more integrated cognitive structures, and better usage of metacognition and information processing strategies than those of high achiev-ers in the traditional group. However, low achievers only showed greater extent of the cognitive structures than their counterpartners in the traditional group. The study also found that students in constructivist-oriented instruction group showed significantly more positive attitudes toward science learning than those in traditional in-struction group after the treatment, but no significant difference was found on students’ attitudes toward science between both groups. The data gathered from this study likely suggest a four-stage model for the cognitive structure development under the constructivist-oriented science instruction. The stages include ‘cognitive development,’ ‘matacognition enrichment,’ ‘cognitive structure inte-gration,’ ‘cognitive structure refinement.’ Based on the research data in this study, low achievers in the constructivist-oriented instruction group were probably only in the first stage and they did not reach the second stage at the end of this study. However, high achievers may have experienced the four stages, and attained the fourth stage at the end of this study. As a result, it is argued that the usage of metacognition has a profound in-fluence on learner’s cognitive learning outcomes. This study also suggests that instructors should pay more attention to making the connections between students’ prior knowledge and instructional materials, or opportu-nities of cognitive apprenticeship should be provided for low achievers by mixing vari-ous academic achievers for group work. Moreover, instructors should utilize multiple teaching strategies and combine a variety of instructional activities to promote students’ concept learning and knowledge construction in science classrooms.