The article under consideration is “Integrating Web-delivered Problem-based Learning Scenarios to the Curriculum” by Gossman et al. The significance of the article, the scientists’ experiment, and the analysis of the outcomes of the experiment should be presented. In fact, the necessity of the experiment conducted with the groups of students was aroused by several important factors related to contemporary teaching methodologies and strategies. They are as follows: the novelty of problem based learning and resulting scientist’s arguments and uncertainly of interpretation of the theoretical aspects connected with it, such as conflicting points of view about terminology and absence of decisive evidence for the validity of existing opinion (Newman 2003); the issues connected with the integration of information and communication technology in the process of teaching. Taking into account the topicality of the problems analyzed, the significance of the experiment under consideration is unquestionable. However, the experiment itself should be analyzed from the point of view of the methods used and validity of the results.
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Before starting any experiment, it should be analyzed, if the experiment corresponds to the existing ethical norms. It is not stated directly if the questionnaires used were anonymous or signed, but the aim of the experiment was to form a general pattern, this is why this option is insignificant. Among other ethical issues are the questions of permission and suitability of the participants of the experiment (Driscoll, 2008). Since the participants were randomly chosen among the college students and were informed about the planned flow of the experiment, it can be stated that the above mentioned demands were fulfilled. Te students of both sexes were involved in the test; this is why there was no gender discrimination. However, the number of male students was prevailing. Finally, the most necessary ethical criterion is the objectivity of the results and their analysis, it may be observed in the quantitative analysis of the statistical means used by the scientists.
First of all, it should be mentioned that statistics is the main method the scientists resort to while analyzing the results of the experiment. Statistics is defined as “the science of collecting, organizing, analyzing, and interpreting data” (Asadoorian and Kantarelis, 2005, p. 2). The term “descriptive statistics” may be understood as the means of organization, summarization, and display of data (Asadoorian and Kantarelis, 2005, p. 2). This is the basic method used in the analyzed experiment, as the analysis of the results is based on the quantitative difference between pre test scores and post test scores of the participants. The statistical results of the experiment were presented in the form of tables and diagrams (Gossman et al., 2007, p. 146). They cover the areas of case and control group mean test scores and evaluative questions mean scores. The presentation of the results in the form of bar graphs makes the results accessible and clear. Descriptive statistics also contributes to the formation of general picture of content analysis – PBL using information technology (Gossman et al., 2007, p. 147).
However, along with descriptive statistics, inferential statistics was used by the scientists. Inferential or inductive statistics utilizes probabilistic techniques in order to analyze sample information from a certain known part, to improve the knowledge about unknown whole (Asadoorian and Kantarelis, 2005, p. 2). The statistical test of significance deals with the content analysis of the web-delivered problem-based learning scenario applied in the course of the experiment. It covers the rate and nature of positive and negative responses about the scenario used, and it brings the scientists closer to the realization of their final aim: to analyze the process of learning instead of the content of the studied subject. The analysis of the open responses of the participants of the experiment shows the scientists the whole process of the students’ application of the scenario.
The results of the experiment cover three areas: the online test results, the evaluative questionnaire – scaled responses to the statements, responses to the open questions. The article states that paired t-test was conducted on the basis of the pre and post online test scores for both groups: case and control. However, the results showed no significant difference between the means (Gossman et al., 2007, p. 148). Chi-square tests produced significant information. On its basis the following conclusions were made: the students got the impression of more intense thinking process because of the greater engagement with the task that included a scenario; deeper and more motivated knowledge was gained due to the enjoyment of the problem-based learning; finally, problem based approach in teaching was more useful than conventional tutorial or guided reading approach (Gossman et al., 2007, p. 148). The analysis of the written comments vividly characterized the students and gave information about their cognitive and metacognitive development (Gossman et al., 2007, p. 148). The results also presented the relationship between the process of learning and the contents of the material, showing the stereotypical position of a student based on traditional teaching technique. It means that the students thought they had a task to learn the “correct content”. Some questions in the online test were aimed at this problem, but the scientists concluded that the results proved to be inconclusive (Gossman et al., 2007, p. 149). This means that the task given to the students was misapprehended by them as the task with one correct answer instead of the task that promotes the process of learning.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that the results of the experiment are, certainly, valuable, as they present empirical information about almost unstudied area in teaching. However, the validity of the results may be questioned, if we take into account misinterpretation of the main aim of the experiment by the participants. What is more, the participants’ awareness of their experimental role may have made the results distorted. The quantity of the participants of the experiment is not explained and justified by the scientists. However, the scientists have managed to show that though problem-based learning with ICT does not contribute much to the efficient study of the content, it helps to create and maintain the motivation and engagement of the students. These results are objectively supported by statistics.
Asadoorian, M.O., and Kantarelis, D. (2005). Essentials of Inferential Statistics. Maryland: University Press of America.
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Driscoll, D.L. (2008). Ethical Considerations in Primary Research. Web.
Gossman, P., Stewart, T., Jaspers, M., and Chapman, B. (2007). Integrating web-delivered problem-based learning scenarios to the curriculum. Active Learning in Higher Education, (8), 139 -153.
Newman, M. (2003). A Pilot Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis on the Effectiveness of ProblemBased Learning. London: Middlesex University.