|M.Sc Student||Be'eri Avital|
|Subject||Choosing Authentic Problems by Learners as Leveraging|
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisor||Professor Miriam Reiner|
Recent literature suggests that students’ motivation is increased if learning materials are grounded in the learners’ authentic environment. Yet what counts as authentic is not yet clear. Normally, authenticity of curricular materials is defined by curriculum designers. The goal of this study is to reveal authenticity and junior-high school students’ selection strategies The study was carried out as part of an experimental program of Project-Based Learning, in which the students themselves are allowed to select the topics for science learning. The methodology is based on the paradigm of Design-Based Research. The specific objectives are: 1) to investigate students’ cognitive processes in selection of learning authentic problems. 2. to identify the impact that teachers have on learners' selection; 3) to identify and characterize the attitudes of learners as to their active participation in determining the issues to be learned.
Data were collected by means of observations, questionnaires and interviews with students and their teachers. Qualitative tools were used to analyze the findings.
The findings show that a model of a relatively efficient process was developed. Students bring up their ideas, test them and focus on the learning of a real authentic issues. Three major patterns of group discussion were found in the decision-making process: focused, diffusive and dependent. The findings suggest that the style by which a teacher leads the process might have an effect on the type of discussion developed (efficient or not), and on the type of issues the students raise and choose (authentic or not). In most cases the students felt that the influence of the teacher on their choice was insignificant. The teachers felt that they were quite lenient as to the scope of choice allowed, and that they only set the guidelines and intervened on request. According to the findings, it can be argued that explicitly the learners are highly independent in making a choice, while the teacher is more of a facilitator than an authoritative figure dictating the subjects to be learned.
According to the findings it can be argued that the "right to choose" given to the students may lead to a real authentic problem-based learning, and it is a catalyst for promoting powerful learning. The learners perceive the freedom of choice of issues that stem directly from their lives as a motivating factor that contributes to a more acceptable attitude towards learning the formal curriculum at school.