ERIC Identifier: ED315063
Publication Date: 1989-12-00
Author: Roblyer, M. D.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information Resources Syracuse NY.
The Impact of Microcomputer-Based Instruction on Teaching and
Learning: A Review of Recent Research. ERIC Digest.
This digest is based on "Assessing the Impact of Computer-based Instruction:
A Review of Recent Research," by M. D. Roblyer, W. H. Castine, and F. J. King.
INTRODUCTION: A RATIONALE FOR RESEARCH ON COMPUTER
The term MICROCOMPUTER REVOLUTION, frequently used to describe the
widespread use of microcomputers in schools since 1980, seems to imply that
recent computer use has dramatically improved classroom methods and
instructional effectiveness. However, society has some very specific measures
for the effectiveness of its educational system: student achievement, attitudes,
dropout rate, learning time. After nearly 25 years of computer use in education,
including nearly a decade with microcomputers, the impact of this technology on
these measures remains largely unknown.
As educational decision-makers face the fiscal challenges of maintaining and
expanding the instructional computing movement, they need current information
about the past and potential impact of computer applications to help them invest
their resources wisely. In an effort to provide this information, a review of
instructional computing research was done which analyzed studies between 1980
and 1987 and which used statistical summary procedures to enable the reviewers
to focus on impact in specific areas and with specific kinds of students.
The review described here used a
meta-analysis procedure, a method for statistically summarizing data from
research reviews which has come into fairly common use in recent years and which
has been used in many reviews of instructional computing research (Kulik, Kulik, & Cohen, 1980; Bangert-Drowns, Kulik, & Kulik, 1985; Kulik, Kulik, &
Bangert-Drowns, 1985). Meta-analysis calls for calculating a measure of impact
(an "effect size") for each study included in the review. This measure is then
summarized across studies, and the relationship of effects with various factors
(e.g., impact at various grade levels and content areas) is calculated. Methods
used in the current review, however, used recently-developed means of
calculating and comparing effect sizes which made meta-analysis results more
meaningful than those of past reviews of instructional computing research.
Studies were located through traditional means: online searches of ERIC and
DISSERTATION ABSTRACTS, manual searches of more recent journal issues,
bibliographies from past reviews, and contacts with experts in the field for
unpublished reports. Of the over 200 complete studies located, 38 published and
unpublished studies and 44 dissertations met the criteria necessary to include
them in the meta-analysis. Effect sizes were calculated for each study, and
these effects were summarized across studies and compared in a number areas.
TRENDS IN STUDY RESULTS
An overall finding was that
computer applications had a
statistically significant positive effect (p<.05) in a majority of the
areas examined. However, there was a wide variation in the focuses, procedures,
materials, and findings among the studies included in the meta-analysis, as well
as a paucity of acceptable studies in many categories. Therefore, the results
given here must be interpreted cautiously until more studies of similar types
and with similar reporting styles are available to confirm or deny these trends.
The following sections provide tentative answers to some questions being
asked about the effectiveness of computer-based instruction.
ARE COMPUTER APPLICATIONS MORE EFFECTIVE AT CERTAIN GRADE
Significant effects were found at all levels. This review found
larger effects at college and adult levels than at elementary and secondary
ARE COMPUTER APPLICATIONS MORE EFFECTIVE WITH CERTAIN TYPES OF
Computer applications seemed to have slightly greater effects with
mathematics than with reading/language skills, but this difference was not
statistically significant. Using computers to teach cognitive skills (problem
solving and critical thinking) had an overall effect about equal to that for
mathematics and for reading/language. One of the highest effects observed in the
entire review was that for science, but the number of acceptable studies was
ARE COMPUTER APPLICATIONS MORE EFFECTIVE WITH CERTAIN KINDS OF
This study found no statistically significant evidence of a
relationship between student ability level and the effectiveness of
computer-based applications. Neither was there firm evidence that effectiveness
is linked to a student's gender. The issue of differential effects for these
populations bears further study.
DO STUDENT ATTITUDES IMPROVE AS A RESULT OF USING
Student attitudes toward school and subject matter was the most
studied variable and seemed the most affected by computer use. Improving
students' self-image and self-esteem, while much talked about in the literature,
was not much studied, but the trend in the data was positive. Only a few studies
were located which compared attitudes toward computer instructional methods with
non-computer ones, and the data seemed to indicate that there was no difference
in student attitudes.
WHAT IS THE COMPARATIVE EFFECTIVENESS OF VARIOUS APPLICATION TYPES (DRILL, TUTORIAL, AND OTHER)?
Only applications in mathematics and
reading/language skills were analyzed, since these were the only content areas
with enough studies to support comparison. While effects seemed slightly higher
for tutorials in reading, statistical results allow no firm conclusions about
the superiority of any type of application. Trends in the data do indicate the
need for further study of whether or not drill applications are better for
lower- level skills (e.g., word analysis) and tutorials for higher-level skills
HOW EFFECTIVE ARE COMPUTER APPLICATIONS IN TEACHING ENGLISH AND READING TO ESL STUDENTS?
Effectiveness was low overall and was even
found to be negative in studies involving Hispanic students. Because there were
very few studies in this area, however, results must be viewed with caution.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS WORD PROCESSING IN IMPROVING WRITING
Word processing seems to have a positive effect on student attitudes
toward writing. No firm conclusions can be drawn, however, about the effect of
word processing on writing quality, length of composition, and number and kind
HOW EFFECTIVE ARE LOGO AND CAI APPLICATIONS TO TEACH PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS?
The effects of Logo applications on
problem-solving and general thinking skills were found to be significant.
Effects achieved with so-called problem-solving CAI were not different from
zero. On the basis of these findings, Logo shows promise as a method of
enhancing cognitive skills of various kinds, and it looks especially good in
comparison with unstructured, discovery- learning CAI applications.
CAN COMPUTER APPLICATIONS INCREASE STUDENT CREATIVITY?
usable studies in this area were Logo-based and showed an overall effect higher
than any other found in this review. These results, while promising, are in need
of further study, preferably with larger sample sizes and control groups which
use other forms of instructional treatment.
IMPLICATIONS OF FINDINGS FOR FUTURE USE IN THE FIELD
review indicates, not surprisingly, that computer-based instruction is
potentially effective in most educational applications. However, computer-using
educators should keep the following in mind when choosing applications:
* Since significant results have been found at all grade
levels, current data cannot be used either to increase or
decrease use of computer applications at any particular
* Computer uses in all content areas except ESL seem
productive, and science may be an especially promising area.
However, the type of application and the use to which it is
put seem to dictate how great the impact will be.
* While using computer applications does seem to significantly
improve student attitudes toward school and subject matter,
administrators and teachers should not expect to justify
computer purchases with these kinds of findings. To date,
insufficient data exist to indicate that better attitudes
have any impact on achievement or on drop-out rate.
* Most types of skill can profit from computer applications,
but word processing and uses of Logo to enhance creativity
and problem-solving skills are especially promising.
* Until further studies explain the negative effects found in
this review, special caution should be used when
contemplating computer methods to teach English language
skills to Hispanic students.
The single greatest problem facing a systematic
assessment of the impact of the microcomputer revolution on teaching and
learning is the lack of sufficient numbers of studies in key areas. Findings
indicate that computer applications have an important role to play in the future
of education, but the exact nature of that role has only begun to be explored.
Opportunities for using technology to make an impact on education have never
been greater, and neither have opportunities for research. The next decade must
be a time for taking full advantage of both.
Bangert-Drowns, R. L., Kulik, J. A., & Kulik, C. C. (1985). Effectiveness of computer-based education in secondary
schools. JOURNAL OF COMPUTER-BASED INSTRUCTION, 12, 59-68.
Kulik, J. A., Kulik, C. C., & Bangert-Drowns, R. L. (1985). Effectiveness
of computer-based education in elementary schools. COMPUTERS IN HUMAN BEHAVIOR,
Kulik, J. A., Kulik, C. C., & Cohen, P. A. (1980). Effectiveness of
computer-based teaching: A meta-analysis of findings. REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL
RESEARCH, 50(4), 525-544.
Roblyer, M. D., Castine, W. H., & King, F. J. (1988). Assessing the
Impact of Computer-Based Instruction: A Review of Recent Research. Binghamton,
This digest, based on Assessing the Impact of Computer-Based Instruction: A
Review of Recent Research by M. D. Roblyer, W. H. Castine, and F. J. King, was
prepared for the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources by M. D. Roblyer.