The Effects of Inter-Schools Collaboration on Student Written Product Scores in a Problem-Based, Constructivist Environment

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Virginia Tech

Recent studies indicate that American high school students are not performing adequately on standardized tests in the area of science. In response, there has been a call to reform science education in the United States. These reform efforts coincide with advances in electronic communication and information technology that have revolutionized knowledge sharing. This study describes an effort to assess the effects of inter-school electronic collaboration on the quality of student final written products. In this study, students ranging in grade levels from 9-12 completed a problem-based earth science module delivered via the Internet.

The module presented students with an ill-structured problem, problem-solving model, resources, and recommendations for further inquiry, all related to an authentic environmental issue. Students were also given a set of guidelines for a final written product and a minimum of 4 weeks to complete the project. While all students worked in cooperative groups within their classrooms, selected cooperative groups worked with cooperative groups of students in other schools via e-mail. These groups were collectively referred to as parallel groups. Cooperative groups of students who did not work via e-mail with other groups were collectively referred to as nonparallel groups.

A team of evaluators scored the written products of parallel and nonparallel groups. The results were unexpected: The nonparallel groups scored significantly higher than the parallel groups on the final written product.

Constructivism, Problem-Based Learning, Electronic Collaboration, Constructivist, Collaboration