- Thesis: This research paper presents an analysis of two articles from peer-reviewed journals; these are ‘”Learning with Technology: The Impact of Laptop Use on Student Achievement” by James Cengiz Gulek and Hakan Demirtas and “Engaging Students in Multimedia-Mediated Constructivist Learning – Students’ Perceptions” by Mai Neo and Tse-Kian Neo. The articles are analyzed and compared in terms of their problem and purpose statements, research questions, literature reviews, theoretical frameworks, and designs.
- Problem and Purpose Statements
- Research Questions
- Literature Reviews
- Theoretical Frameworks
A number of articles present research on different topics in education. Education is a sphere of human activities which always readily accepts changes and innovations this is why the aspects of it discussed by researchers in their articles are almost incalculable. The issue of using technologies in education is one of the most widely discussed, because it is able to bring tangible changes into the sphere of education and bring benefits to the students all over the world.
This research paper presents an analysis of two articles from peer-reviewed journals; these are ‘”Learning with Technology: The Impact of Laptop Use on Student Achievement” by James Cengiz Gulek and Hakan Demirtas and “Engaging Students in Multimedia-Mediated Constructivist Learning – Students’ Perceptions” by Mai Neo and Tse-Kian Neo. The articles are analyzed and compared in terms of their problem and purpose statements, research questions, literature reviews, theoretical frameworks, and designs.
Problem and Purpose Statements
The article ‘”Learning with Technology: The Impact of Laptop Use on Student Achievement” is dedicated to a study of the positive impact of technology (namely computer technology) on students’ achievements. Its problem statement is “Over the past decade, rapid technological advances have sparked interests in utilizing laptops as an instructional tool to improve student learning.” (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005)
The problem the article deals with is vital, because laptops can assist in the learning process helping the students increase the level of their skills and, correspondingly, meet or even exceed the state’s standards. (Ireson, 2007) The authors of the article support their problem statement with the evidence using the data obtained from The New Lab for Teaching and Learning’s Dalton Council Task Force Report in Laptop Technology.
They describe the usage of laptops during the classes by students in the South Carolina in 1994, in California and New York in 1996, in the state of Maine in 2000, and in Virginia in 2001, (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005) as well as outcomes of this program for both students and teachers. According to the study presented in the article, the students who used laptops started to be engages in collaborative work, taking part in project-related assignments, directing their own process of learning, developing active learning strategies, and improving their research skills. (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005) The teacher outcomes, in their turn, included developing a constructivist approach to teaching, becoming more self-confident, and spending less time for lecturing. (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005)
The purpose statement of this article is “The study presented in this article examines the impact of the Harvest Park Middle School’s laptop immersion program on student learning.” (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005) By this statement the researchers define the scope of their studies and let the reader know what exactly their research is aimed at. They narrow this scope to four main research questions which directly follow the purpose statement.
Another article under consideration, “Engaging Students in Multimedia-Mediated Constructivist Learning – Students’ Perceptions,” studies the influence of multimedia on the students who have little or no experience of working in constructivist-based learning environment. The problem statement of this article is “The Infusion of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and, in particular, multimedia technology into education has created a significant impact on the instructional content development and the methods of communicating information to learners.” (Neo M & Neo T-K, 2009)
The problem discussed in this article is no less important, because multimedia can have both positive and negative impact on the learning process. (Mayer, 2005) This article may at least to some extent clarify this issue. The authors of this article also support the problem statement with related data, but unlike Gulek & Demirtas, they limit their evidence to a separate country, namely Malaysia. They mention that this country used to keep to a traditional mode of learning but “in the context of introducing technology and multimedia in learning, the Malaysian Government is echoing this learner-centered learning initiative with a call for Malaysian institutions of higher learning to integrate ICT into their classrooms.” (Neo M & Neo T-K, 2009) The purpose statement of the article is:
This study was intended to show that, through their perceptions and feedback on the project, the students would be able to reveal their ability to acquire skills integral to the demands of the workplace relevance: skills such as collaborative and team work, problem-solving, learning motivation, and critical thinking and understanding of a topic area. (Neo M & Neo T-K, 2009)
This purpose statement gives an idea of what the study is going to be about and helps to understand which results the researchers expect from the study. The statement also shows that the students’ participation is necessary for the study and that their activities will directly influence the findings of the article.
Research questions or hypotheses are an integral part of any study. They direct the researchers and narrow the study to a specific topic. Research questions are expected to pass the “so what?” test, (The Research Assistant, 2002) which means that they should evoke a certain response in the reader inducing him/her to think over a problem and to realize how important the issue is for a separate sphere of studies. The research questions guide a study creating an outline of the issues for discussion. Thus, the article “Learning with Technology” has the following research questions:
- Does the laptop program have an impact on students’ grade point average?
- Does the laptop program have an impact on students’ end-of course grades?
- Does the laptop program have an impact on students’ essay writing skills?
- Does the laptop program have an impact on students’ standardized test scores? (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005)
These research questions give the reader an idea of what will be discussed in the article. It is clear that the researchers will study the implementation of a laptop program and its impact on the students’ academic achievements (through tracing the changes in their grade point average, end-of-course grades, and standardized test scores) and the development of their essay writing skills. Apart from the tests which the researchers mention in the research questions, they provide a list of other tests which will measure the impact of the laptop program on students’ academic achievements; these tests include “District Writing Assessment results for sixth and eighth grade students, results of the Standardized Testing and Reporting, Norm-Referenced test, and California Standards tests in English-language arts and mathematics.” (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005)
The article “Engaging Students in Multimedia-Mediated Constructivist Learning – Students’ Perceptions” does not have distinct research questions. The introduction of the article is followed by a brief description of the essence of constructivist-based learning environment which flows into the discussion of the research process. However, the introduction is quite informative and allows discovering several hypothesis of the study.
Therefore, the researchers assume that the students can develop problem-solving, critical thinking and team skills when technology is integrated in their learning process. What’s more, they suggest that constructivist learning environment with the usage of technology helps the students to collaborate and work together as a team. Finally, the researchers suppose that incorporating of the multimedia technology into a constructivist learning environment may improve classroom learning. (Neo M & Neo T-K, 2009)
The fact that the article lacks a separate section with research questions makes it somewhat confusing. Though the problem and purpose statements are clear and exact, they do not fully inform what will be considered in the study. Ignoring the research questions makes it unclear which areas the researchers wish to focus on and how they are going to measure their hypotheses. Their assumptions are quite definite, but the research questions would have made the article more organized.
The absence of the research questions is not compensated for in the article (for instance, by a corresponding hypotheses section). It is possible to define the assumptions of the researchers only from an informative introduction and purpose statement. Comparing these data with the results of the study allows the reader to find out whether his/her suppositions regarding the research questions of the article were correct.
Literature review is one of the most important parts of any scholarly work. It allows considering how much outside sources the researcher has used for the study. Without a literature review the researcher “will not acquire an understanding of the topic, of what has already been done on it, how it has been researched, and what the key issues are.” (Hart, 1998) It is not enough to simply summarize the sources used in the research; any literature review is “a conceptualization of the various theories, methods, patterns of findings, conclusions, and limitations of previous empirical work that set the stage for current study.” (Conrad & Serlin, 2005) Nevertheless, none of the articles under consideration contains a literature review, though the researchers of both of them frequently utilize other sources.
The authors of the article “Learning with Technology” refer to more than forty other researchers in their study. For instance, they refer to various sources when providing statistics to support their problem statement. They cite the National Center for Education Statistics to inform that “the percent of students using computers at school more than doubled between 1984 and 1997,” (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005) as well as to Technology Counts to note that “98 percent of nation’s schools have used laptops as an instructional tool” and that “38 states standards for teacher certification include technology, 15 states require technology training or coursework for an initial teacher license, and 9 states require a technology test for an initial teacher license.” (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005)
Likewise, Neo M & Neo T-K refer to Agnew, Kellerman, & Meyer to support their problem statement and to note that “multimedia technology has been shown to affect students’ motivation and self-esteem levels, as well as to allow them to become creative and self-directed thinkers.” (Neo M & Neo T-K, 2009) This article contains references to about thirty researchers or research centers the information from which is used throughout the study.
Despite the fact that the absence of literature reviews does not make the article worse, it creates a feeling of incompleteness. The reader is unaware of how the researchers obtained the information they used in their studies or what the other authors’ opinion regarding this issue is.
Knowing about the methods other researchers used when exploring the same topic would help in analyzing the studies in question. It would be possible to determine with who of the previous explorers of the topic the researchers did or did not agree with and why. This could help to find out how reliable the articles are and how valuable the information presented in them is. Therefore, the absence of literature reviews in the articles under consideration hinders their comprehension and points at the fact that the researchers’ ideas presented in the study may be biased.
The aim of a theoretical framework is to guide the research and to determine what the study is going to measure and which statistical relationships the researcher will look for. Any theoretical framework “frames” the study and is used throughout to develop questions, design method, and analyze data.” (Thomas, Nelson, & Silverman, 2005) A framework can be characterized as a structure of the ideas used in the research and the way they are put together. A theoretical framework may be regarded as an essay in which the theories involved into the research interrelate.
Therefore, the section with the theoretical framework of the article “Learning with Technology” may be identified at the end of the introduction. It is namely in this part that the researchers develop questions regarding the topic of their research and review previous studies on this topic. Referring to the works of other researchers, Gulek & Demirtas analyze the outcomes for laptop teachers and students who participated in the learning program.
They evaluate the findings of these researchers and enumerate the benefits which students and teachers who used laptops in the classroom got. Among these, there are spending more time doing homework, increased collaboration, high levels of motivation, and writing samples of higher quality for students and developing a constructivist approach to teaching, having fewer problems with managing the class, and getting more engaged learners for teachers. (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005)
Referring to the previous research on this topic, the authors of the article state: “As seen in the evaluations conducted by Rockman et al. (1997, 1998, 2000), many of these outcomes were observed when students were provided with their own laptop through the Anytime Anywhere Learning Project.” (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005) This section allowed the authors of the article to support their problem statement with evidence from other sources and to define which results they expect to obtain from the study presented in their article.
Unlike Gulek & Demirtas, Neo M & Neo T-K placed their theoretical framework in a separate section under the heading “The Constructivist-based Learning Environment.” In this section they give definitions of the constructivist learning environment comparing the views of different researchers on this issue. Thus, they note that “Wilson (1995) defines a constructivist learning environment as “a place where learners may work together and support each other as they use a variety of tools and information resources in their pursuit of learning goals and problem-solving activities.” (Neo M & Neo T-K, 2009)
Further, they develop this researcher’s point of view by explaining what exactly this environment is all about according to their own idea. In this section, Neo M & Neo T-K frequently refer to the work of Jonassen who explored the issue of constructivist learning environment prior to them. They even mention that his “framework for designing a constructivist learning environment” (Neo M & Neo T-K, 2009) was adapted for their study, because it helped to design a proper learning environment, as well as “a multimedia project embedded into this environment to form the core learning problem of the study.” (Neo M & Neo T-K, 2009)
Research design defines the structure of research uniting all the elements of it and helping to perceive them as a whole. It allows controlling the outcomes and manipulating independent variables in order to see their effect on the corresponding dependent variables. According to Thomas, Nelson, & Silverman, “A well-designed study is one in which only explanation for change in the dependent variable is how the participants were treated (independent variable).” (Thomas et al., 2005)
Designs of the research can be experimental (they use random assignment) and quasi-experimental (they use random selection). Random selection takes place when the researchers use a sample of people from a population for their study. Random assignment is the assigning of such an assignment to groups of people explored in the study. The studies can utilize both random assignment and random selection or they may use none of them, which is usually typical for nonequivalent groups design.
At large, the body of the article “Learning with Technology” is divided into seven main sections. They are Introduction, Examining the Impact of the Harvest Park Laptop Immersion Program, Data Collection Measures, Laptop Immersion Program and Student Achievement, Examining Prior Achievement and Impact of the Laptop Immersion Program, Model-Based Statistical Analysis, and Discussion. Each of these sections (except for Introduction) is divided into several sub-sections addressing separate issues or different aspects of one and the same problem. The article contains a number of tables in which the authors organize data from their research and the research previously conducted by other researchers.
For instance, there is a Table “Student demographics – Laptop Immersion Program Versus School-Wide” which helps the researchers to conclude that “the demographic composition of students enrolled in the program closely mirrors those of the entire school population” (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005), the Table “2003-04 End-of-Course grades by Subject, Grade, and Program” which “displays the percentage of students receiving each end-of-course grade for English and mathematics by grade level and by program enrollment” (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005), etc. The study uses random assignment for this research, because it is a field-based educational research and because it “compares student-learning outcomes from the year prior to the students’ participation in the program,” (Gulek & Demirtas, 2005) which is typical for a random assignment.
Unlike “Learning with Technology,” the article “Engaging Students in Multimedia-Mediated Constructivist Learning” uses nonrandom selection for the research, which testifies to the fact that it has a nonequivalent groups design. The study presented in the article does not compare the achievements of the students of different grades; it explores the difference of approaches to multimedia applications used by students of different groups but of one and the same age.
The researchers are interested in the impact of these approaches on the students, rather than in contrasting the data obtained in different periods of time. However, just like the article by Gulek & Demirtas, this article is divided into main sections (Introduction, Methodology, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion) and sub-sections, as well as it utilizes several tables to show the results obtained from the investigation.
Thus, the article contains such tables as “Results for Students’ Motivation,” “Results for Students’ Understanding of the Subject Domain,” “Results of Students’ Skills Acquisition,” and “Results for Students’ Teamworks and Collaboration Skills.” These tables reflect the findings of the researchers through the information obtained from the questionnaires compiled by the students who participated in the program. The tables also include the students’ comments which express their attitude towards the approach used in the class, as well as their remarks regarding the benefits they obtained from the class.
After analyzing the articles under consideration it was discovered that they have more differences than similarities. The articles are similar in presenting clear problem and purpose statements and in lacking literature reviews. However, the article by Gulek & Demirtas has research questions, while the article by Neo M & Neo T-K does not have them; at this, the latter has a separate section for theoretical framework, whereas the former outlines the framework in the introduction.
Lastly, the articles differ in design. They both are divided into main sections, sub-sections and utilize tables, but “Learning with Technology” uses random assignment for the research and “Engaging Students in Multimedia-Mediated Constructivist Learning” uses nonrandom selection.
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