Bird flight and uplift: Cognitive learning in working stations with regard to motivational aspects.

Abstract 

Bird flight is a complex and a difficult issue to teach in a school classroom. Open learning environments might overcome these difficulties. This study investigated different approaches of open learning environments with regard to the most effective learning environment to teach this subject to 6th graders of highest stratification level ("Gymnasium"). In this sense, "effective" includes the cognitive learning outcome and the motivation of the students.

Open learning environments comprise three dimensions: a thematic dimension, a methodological dimension and the institutional domain. In this study, the thematic level is given by the appropriate subject. Regarding the methodological level, two different instructional approaches were applied: a student-oriented versus a teacher-centred approach. Concerning the institutional domain, a student-oriented approach was implemented in two different locations: in a natural museum and in classrooms. The student-oriented approach focussed on a learning at workstations, where appropriate and adequate hands-on experiments helped to investigate aerodynamic features of different formed bodies. A considerable learning effect and a highly affective impact on the participating students were observed when experimenting with the hands-on model. Thus, the model is perceived to be of potential value for an implementation in school. The empirical evaluation of the different approaches showed following results: comparing the student-oriented and the teacher-centred approach, the latter outperformed the student-oriented approach in the learning outcome. However, when working on the learning stations the students indicated higher motivation scores. Considering the institutional openness of the learning environment, a comparison of the museum and the classroom environments resulted in a higher learning success of the museum group, but with equal motivational statements of the students.

Although the teacher-centred group showed a higher learning effect compared to the studentoriented approach, both instructional approaches increased significantly the cognitive knowledge. Because of the overall higher motivation, the student-oriented approach consisting of learning at workstations was considered to be the most effective learning environment to teach the difficult subject of bird flight and lift. In addition, an excursion in an out-of-school setting might enrich the curriculum based subject.

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