New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

We Planned Impact Research and Landed in Curriculum Reform-Meta Experiences and Insights from a Mobile Learning Project

Gottfried S. Csanyi, Vienna University of Technology (Austria)


While smartphones and tablet computers are widely used among students, the educational potential of these mobile devices are not exploited yet. (Participants of last year’s conference might know this introducing sentence.) This is where we wanted to step in with “BOKU grasp”, a mobile application enabling students to actually comprehend the relationships between individual variables within a formula and their influence on the final result while working in situated learning (in the forest) [1].
But we had been naïve. We had thought in terms of development – application – evaluation – report. Evaluation was conceived as a comparison of test group and control group with existing examination methods. Looking back we are able to recognize two major mistakes of our original concept referring to application and evaluation of our app: (A) BOKU grasp was not applied and could not be applied in a meaningful way. (B) Its influence on learning outcomes was not and could not be measured because learning outcomes were not checked at all.
We already gave some hints about our mistake (A) last year [1]. Meanwhile we know a lot more about the particular circumstances that have to be thought of when you try to integrate a new didactic concept into a traditionally designed course – whatever the tradition might be. We proposed to let students solve problems with al little help of our app although they were used to be taught and shown things by teacher (who also were used to this job). (More details to this mismatch in the paper.)
But still more important and far-reaching is our mistake (B). We planned to compare the learning outcomes (in terms of competencies) of a test group (using our app) and a control group (learning in the traditional way). First problem: The course was not decorated with intended learning outcomes and assessment procedures at all. The underlying assumption of teachers (and Austrian federal administration) seems to be: “If students participate in this course they will learn something that contributes to the respective qualification profile.”  Consequently, to participate is equal with to pass. 
The consequences for our further research are rather clear and sufficiently radical. If our apps (meanwhile a second one is ready for use – dealing with the “universal soil loss equation”) shall be integrated in existing courses there will have to be two major changes in (most of) these courses. They will have to be planned on the basis of clearly defined intended learning outcomes (and explicit assessment). And they will have to develop a didactic design that is – at least partly – based on problem solving activities of the students – and not on traditional teaching (didactic spoon feeding).
In some cases the discussions resulting from these requirements could lead at least to minor curriculum revisions because clarifying unconscious or hidden learning outcomes might change the position and importance of specific courses and the relations between them. In the paper will be elaborated in detail what we consider the minimal necessary changes and what could result from them in terms of curriculum revision.
[1] Michalek, C.R. & Csanyi, G.S. (2016): Forget the Formula, Reflect Your Results! How to Learn Complex Correlations with Mobile Apps. Proceedings of “New Perspectives in Science Education”, Firenze, 17.-18.03.2016  
[2] Bloom, B. S.; Engelhart, M. D.; Furst, E. J.; Hill, W. H.; Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.
[3] Boshuizen, H.P.A. (1999): Development of Medical Expertise: lmplications for the Curriculum. ZSfHD 2/99, 30-40.


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