Exploring the Effects of Self-Paced Learning, Inquiry-Guided Learning, and Collaborative Learning on Middle School (6-8) Students' Interest in Pursuing STEM/CS

December 2023
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The purpose of this quantitative study was to determine any correlations between an increase in knowledge from activities which utilize self-paced learning, inquiry-guided learning, and collaborative learning pedagogical strategies and students’ intentions to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and computer science (CS). The students were comprised of underserved, underrepresented middle school (6-8) students from the Southeast Texas area who took part in computer science and STEM-themed summer programs at Lamar University, in Beaumont, TX. Data for this study was analyzed using descriptive statistics, correlational statistics, parametric tests, and non-parametric tests. Tests included paired-samples t-tests, Wilcoxon signed-rank tests, comparison of means reports, and Kruskal-Wallis tests.

Results from this study indicate that all three of the selected learning strategies, self-paced learning, inquiry-guided learning, and collaborative learning, produced positive effects on student self-perceived CS knowledge and interest in STEM/CS. The results suggested that overall, self-paced learning may have the least amount of effect. However, none of the three learning strategies seemed to indicate no effect or negative effects. Additionally, it was shown that when ethnicities were compared, inquiry-guided learning showed the highest average gain in student self-perceived CS knowledge among the three learning strategies for all ethnicities. All ethnicities also showed a higher average interest in CS courses than CS careers. There were varied interest levels in terms of CS careers when comparing by grade level, however, all grade levels showed similar interest levels in terms of CS courses. Implications for practice were offered including the suggestion that middle school CS educators might consider incorporating the learning strategies independently or in combination while developing CS curriculum. Also, it was suggested that middle school CS educators might focus on developing students interest in CS courses in middle school more than their interest in CS careers. Recommendations for future research were made including ways to expand the generalizability of the results of future related research. Though the relatively small sample size of the study’s participants cannot fully reflect full representations of the experiences of the studied demographics, the study still offers insights into the effectiveness of the targeted learning strategies.

Education, Technology