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master defences

June 8, 2007

I have spent half a day at master defences of our unit in Tartu University.
There were two studies about educational technology in teaching. Mario was investigating how students’ inquiry skills would develop as a result of studying in inquiry-based learning environment “Young Scientist”. His pre-and post-test indicated that the skills of formulating research question, hypothesis and doing analysis developed significantly. However, more notable for me was that during the learning process the students did not show very high level of inquiry skills in Young Scientist. This was in accordance with some of the results Evald Sepp, my master student has found in his study. I think the randomness of answering is actually more common than we think in these environments. Evald has investigated what do the students focus at, and the preliminary results confirmed the randomness.

In another dissertation, Kadi was investigating which kind of visual information works the best – models with arrows, models with bar diagrams, images with arrows and images with bar diagrams – to understand better biological processes. Her results indicated that the models and images with arrows were more effective, compared with bar diagrams. Secondly, she looked, which of these types of information would enhance solving problems in everyday context in post-test, and again the models with arrows were the most effective. Thirdly, which was i think the most interesting result, she studied translation phenomena between bar-diagram and arrow diagram. It was found that students, who worked with arrow model were later able to translate from arrow images to bar-diagrams and vice-versa, while the students who worked with bar-diagrams had problems in translating similar way. This seems to indicate towards some hierarchy. She explained these results with the dimensionality of images – the bar diagram has less dimensions than the arrow image, which shows also the direction of the processes. In her explanation – working with the images with more dimensionalities would prepare students better to cope with images with less dimensionalities. This leaves of couse open, should we always start teaching from complex information, and can all the learners cope with it. She mentioned that some students who were initially at lower level were more effective with still arrow images than with arrow models. However, one could argue, that arrow-models (which also demonstrated mitochondrian image) were more reality-bound than bar-diagrams which were abstract. In this case the arrow model seems less complicated than the bar model and the explanations might be different.

My own students did not defend this time, and i must still find some time in july to sit with them if they want to defend in august.

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