ERIC Identifier: ED259939
Publication Date: 1985-00-00
Author: Blosser, Patricia E.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
for Science Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.
Meta-Analysis Research on Science Instruction. ERIC/SMEAC
Science Education Digest No. 1.
Even before the appearance of the various 1983 reports on the state of
education in American schools, science education researchers were interested in
learning how to improve the quality of instruction in science. Numerous
instructional techniques were investigated for their impact on student
achievement, use of process skills, attitudes, or other outcomes.
Howe and Ramsey published a two-part article in THE SCIENCE TEACHER about
research on instructional procedures (Part I -- outcomes of instruction, 56
studies; Part II -- instructional procedures, 103 studies) (1969). Since then,
Glass described a technique known as meta-analysis that is used to analyze the
results of a number of studies on a related topic. This Digest reviews several
meta-analysis studies focused on science instruction.
Kulik has described the four basic steps involved in meta-analysis: (1)
reviewers first locate studies of an issue, using clearly specified procedures;
(2) the outcomes of studies are characterized in quantitative terms; (3) as many
features of the studies as possible are coded; and (4) statistical procedures
are used to summarize findings and relate study features to study outcomes
Meta-analysis involves calculating a common measurement for each defined
variable within a study to compare the magnitude of difference between groups.
This measurement, known as effect size, enables researchers to measure the
difference in performance of two groups on a dependent variable (Kyle 1984).
Walberg and four colleagues (1980) conducted a meta-analysis of productive
factors in science learning for grades 6 through 12, using those grades because
science is usually either required or elective and because they considered the
grade levels involved to contain students at least at the onset of formal
operational thinking. Walberg considered that learning could best be explained
by a model that has eight constructs linked to learning outcomes: quality and
quantity of instruction; student ability; motivation, age, or developmental
level; home, peer, and classroom environments.
Boulanger (1980) focused on the first two constructs of Walberg's model for
his part of the meta-analysis project and examined 137 published studies related
to the quality of instruction construct and 3 on the quantity of instruction.
For his final analysis, Boulanger examined 52 quality of instruction studies
grouped into six clusters: preinstructional strategies, indirectness of
instruction, inductive vs. deductive strategies, training in scientific
thinking, structure in the verbal content of materials, and realism or
concreteness in adjunct materials. Achievement outcomes for which Boulanger
looked were factual learning, conceptual learning, attitudinal learning, or
Boulanger found significant positive outcomes for four types of instructional
interventions: the use of preinstructional strategies, training in scientific
thinking, increased structure in verbal content of materials, and increased
realism or concreteness in adjunct materials (1980). Although indirectness of
instruction or inductive strategies were not shown to be significantly superior
to direct or deductive stategies, Boulanger noted what he termed a "trend"
toward more effectiveness of indirect or inductive methods with pupils in grades
10-12 and direct or deductive approaches for students in grades 6-8.
He concluded that "... Combining the results of all clusters, systematic
innovation in instruction resulted in significant positive improvements over the
norm or traditional practice." Only three studies related to quantity of
instruction were identified. Boulanger wrote, "Taken as a whole, the three
studies indicate that simply expanding the amount of time spent on a given unit
of material holds no special relationship to amount learned ..." (1980).
Several meta-analysis studies resulted from a large meta-analysis project
coordinated by Anderson at the University of Colorado (1982).
Wise and Okey (1983) looked at the effects of various teaching strategies on
science achievement. They identified 12 categories of teaching techniques:
--Audio-visual --Focusing (alerting students to objectives or intent of
instruction) --Grading --Inquiry-discovery --Manipulative --Modified (usually a
revision in instructional materials) --Presentation mode --Questioning --Teacher
direction --Testing --Wait time --Miscellaneous
Willett and Yamashita (1983) looked at instructional systems in science
education, defining an instructional system as "... a general plan for
conducting a course over an extended period of time. It is general in that it
often encompasses many aspects of a course (e.g. presentation of content,
testing, size of study/groups)." Like Wise and Okey, they had 12 categories:
--Audio-tutorial --Computer linked, subdivided into computer assisted,
computer managed, and computer simulated experiments --Contracts for learning
--Departmentalized elementary school --Individualized instruction --Mastery
learning --Media based instruction, categorized into film instruction and
television --Personalized system of instruction (Keller PSI) --Programmed
learning, including branched and linear --Self-directed study --Use of original
resource papers in the teaching of science --Team teaching
After examining effect sizes they concluded that the most innovative
instructional systems for positive cognitive outcomes (as well as other
variables were mastery learning and PSI). Media based systems in general
appeared to perform at a lower level than the traditional instruction used as
the control group, and most of the remaining systems operated at a level very
little higher than the conventional instruction they replaced (Willet and
Lott's (1983) part of the Colorado meta-analysis project involved looking at
research on inquiry teaching and on advance organizers. After examining 39
studies, Lott reported that he found essentially no differences in mean effect
sizes between inductive and deductive approaches.
When advance organizer studies were analyzed, Lott said that the use of
advance organizers seemed to have been more advantageous with urban students
than those in rural or suburban schools but that there was little effect
depending upon grade level, style of oraganizer, or characteristics of materials
The previously-described meta-analyses were limited to K-12. Kulik (1983)
analyzed 312 studies of the effects of educational technology in college
teaching, involving five types of educational technology frequently used at the
college level: Keller's Personalized System of Instruction, computer-based
teaching, programmed instruction, audio-tutorial instruction, and visual-based
instruction. He concluded that instructional technology has a basically positive
influence on student examination performance. Although the effects of teaching
varied with educational level, the use of PSI produced stronger results than did
technologies used in other studies.
Yeany and Miller (1983) used meta-analysis to examine 28 experimental studies
(middle school through college) based on diagnostic-prescriptive instruction as
it influenced science achievement. Studies were classified into one of three
groups: I, no diagnosis, no remediation; II, diagnosis, feedback only; and III,
diagnostic feedback and remediation. They found the results from groups II and
III to be essentially equal in their effect on science achievement. Their
conclusion was that achievement can be significantly and positively influenced
through diagnostic remedial instruction, with the influence appearing to come
from the diagnostic feedback to students.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Anderson, Ronald D., and others. SCIENCE META-ANALYSIS PROJECT: OF NSF
PROJECT NO. SED 80-12310. Boulder, CO.: Laboratory for Research in Science and
Mathematics Education, University of Colorado, December, 1982. ED 223 476.
Boulanger, F. David. "Instruction and Science Learning: A Quantitative
Synthesis." In A META-ANALYSIS OF PRODUCTIVE FACTORS IN SCIENCE LEARNING GRADE 6
THROUGH 12, edited by H. J. Walberg, and others. Chicago, IL: University of
Illinois at Chicago Circle, 1980. ED 197 939.
Kulik, James A. "How Can Chemists Use Educational Technology Effectively?"
JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL EDUCATION 60 (November 1983):957-959.
Kyle, William C. Jr. "Curriculum Development Projects of the 1960s." In
RESEARCH WITHIN REACH: SCIENCE EDUCATION, edited by David Holdzkom and Pamela B.
Lutz. Charleston, WV: Appalachia Educational Laboratory, Inc., 1984. ED 247 148
Lott, Gerald W. "The Effect of Inquiry Teaching and Advance Organizers Upon
Student Outcomes in Science Education." JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING
Ramsey, Gregor A., and Robert W. Howe. "An Analysis of Research on
Instructional Procedures in Secondary School Science, Part I -- Outcomes of
Instruction." THE SCIENCE TEACHER 36 (March 1969):62-70.
Ramsey, Gregor A., and Robert W. Howe. "An Analysis of Research on
Instructional Procedures in Secondary School Science, Part II -- Instructional
Procedures." THE SCIENCE TEACHER 36 (April 1969):72-81.
Walberg, Herbert J., and others. A META-ANALYSIS OF PRODUCTIVE FACTORS IN
SCIENCE LEARNING GRADES 6 THROUGH 12. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois at
Chicago Circle, June 1980. ED 197 939.
Willett, John B., and June J. M. Yamashita. "A Meta-Analysis of Instructional
Systems Applied in Science Teaching." JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING 20
Wise, Kevin C., and James R. Okey. "A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Various
Science Teaching Strategies on Achievement." JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE
TEACHING 20 (1983):419-435.
Yeany, Russell H., and P. Ann Miller. "Effects of Diagnostic/Remedial
Instruction on Science Learning: a Meta-Analysis." JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN
SCIENCE TEACHING 20 (1983):19-26.