CONSTRUCTIVIST ANIMATED INSTRUCTION: AN INNOVATIVE INSTRUCTIONAL STRATEGY IN UNDERSTANDING COMPLEX, ABSTRACT AND DYNAMIC CONCEPTS IN THE TEACHING OF CHEMISTRY By Premachandran. P[1] & Dr. Sajna Jaleel[2]

Abstract  

Computer animations must be used to understand the complex, abstract and dynamic scientific concepts both at microscopic and macroscopic level. Thus it helps in the deeper understanding of scientific concepts. They serve as a bridge between the students’ existing ideas and learning of new ideas. It bridges the theory- practice gap in science education. Constructivist animated instruction has been developed, inspired from the constructivist view of teaching and learning approach. This paper describes about the design and development of constructivist animated instructional module, where knowledge is actively constructed in the minds of students. The CAnI was also found to have positive effects on the students’ conceptual change progress and was an effective alternative instructional method in the understanding of complex, abstract and dynamic concepts.

Key words: Constructivist Animated Instruction, CAD (Complex, Abstract and Dynamic) concepts, Instructional strategy.

Introduction

Presently, the science curriculum coming under integrated curriculum for secondary school give emphasis to problem solving processes through scientific process skills and manipulative skills, enabling students to solve the scientific problems. The aim of the science process skills is to provide a better understanding of the nature of science and the way scientists draw conclusions from process skills such as observations, collecting data, classifying and experimenting (Meerah, 1999: Lawson, 2000). Thinking skills are supposed to provide a framework of scientific thinking patterns in explaining scientific events or phenomena. This process requires students to manipulate knowledge and skills to find out the sequences of scientific phenomena in order to draw a conclusion. According to curriculum development centre (2000), “activities should be organized to provide opportunities for students to apply thinking skills in conceptualization, problem solving and decision making”. These types of thinking skills include grouping and classifying, comparing and contrasting, evaluating, analyzing, sequencing, making conclusions, making generalizations and generating ideas.

Presently, learning approaches under the term of constructivism are getting an innovation in science education in India. Under constructivist theory, pupils are to be actively engaged in the learning process, while teachers encourage students to analyze the knowledge taught to them. Learning is an active process in which students construct their own mental models based on their existing ideas and beliefs. Hanley et al. (2003) mentioned that the constructivist approach to teaching and learning has formed one of the complete models for explaining the progression of a student’s concept development and conceptual change. Researchers claim that in comparison to conventional methods of teaching, computer- mediated instruction can enhance a student’s conceptual change in understanding scientific conceptions (Reid et al., 2003; Ronen & Eliahu, 2000). The theoretical framework behind the constructivist animated instruction is based on the conceptual change model (CCM) proposed by Strike & Posner (1992).

In the case of chemistry education, Bruke et al. (1998) suggested the need of computer- mediated instruction, especially via computer animations. They considered that most conventional chemistry lectures emphasize the symbolic representation such as balancing chemical equations and the macroscopic representations such as change in state , but leave the microscopic representation unexplored. They suggested that computer animations may be used as an effective tool in presenting complex, abstract and dynamic chemical processes at the microscopic, symbolic as well as macroscopic levels, and therefore enhances the student’s conceptual change. Explaining the CAD phenomena, such as chemical kinetics, the concept of equilibrium, reaction rates and electrolysis, is difficult and time consuming. It is difficult to gain and even more, to sustain students’ attention if lectures lay on direct explanations with static transparency illustrations. Integrating the computer technologies into the teaching of science is supposed to be able to induce students’ experience and facilitate their discovery of CAD concepts, thus enhancing the understanding of macroscopic and microscopic phenomena in the world of science.

Conceptual Change Model (CCM)

Posner & Gerzog (1982) suggested the conceptual change model (CCM), which became one of the most influential and guiding theories to understand conceptual change in science pedagogical research. Based on the model, strike & posner (1992) stated four conditions of teaching and learning processes, which must be fulfilled before change, take place in students’ mind. They are:

  • The learner must be dissatisfied with his/her current conception.
  • The alternative conception must be intelligible.
  • The alternative conception must be plausible.
  • The alternative conception must be fruitful.

The revolution in the authoring software provides a golden opportunity for science teachers to utilize computer-animated instruction in order to develop and present intelligible, plausible and fruitful learning materials, thus enhancing students’ conceptual change in understanding CAD concepts. This will provide students with opportunities to directly observe the dynamic motion of chemical processes in the symbolic, microscopic and macroscopic levels, and so assist their conceptual change progress of CAD concepts.

Constructivist – animated instruction

The model of instruction designed and developed is a prototype model of an animation driven instructional tool, namely the constructivist animated instruction (CAnI). The CAnI differs from most interactive educational courseware because it directly uses animations to visualize CAD concepts as part of teaching activities rather than as supplemental material or learning aids for students. It uses powerful object- oriented animation features which are suitable for developing clear and concrete visual animations to facilitate students’ understanding of the CAD concepts at the symbolic, microscopic and macroscopic levels. Electrochemistry was chosen as the subject matter when designing and developing the CAnI because the topic is perceived by students as difficult to understand (Huddle & Margaret, 2000; Ozkaya, 2000).

Constructivist animations provide a situation in which students can ‘ see’ the connection and the logic between their existing ideas and new information presented to them as well as providing highly focused sequence- by- sequence chemical processes for class room discussion. It provides students to evaluate whether their existing ideas can serve as basis in making meaning of the new ideas. It provides step- by-step sequences of specific scientific processes or concepts instead of presenting them completely at once.

Animation can be created in a way where it creates discrepant events within the animation itself, in which students experience dissatisfaction or conflict with their existing knowledge or understanding. It helps to externalize the level of students’ understandings, resolve any discrepancies and finally replace it in their zone of proximal development as the whole animations proceed and complete. Engaging pupils in various instructional activities and the presenting of explicit sequences of animations as learning materials are expected to generate the students’ desire to learn.

The organization of CAnI was based on a theoretical framework namely constructivist approach of learning and consists of three stages- the identification, induction and integration stages. They provide the science educators the opportunities to:

  • Identify the students’ existing ideas through asking about the discrepant event.
  • Induce the students’ self- awareness of any cognitive conflict through collective discussion.
  • Integrate new ideas into the students’ existing cognitive structure by providing guidance or scaffolding with the help of constructivist animations presented to them.

The basic instructional strategy for every lesson is organized in five-step processes through the following activities.

  • Highlight the lesson objectives.
  • Start with the questions and ask students to give their own views on specific discrepant event.
  • Explain the fundamental concepts through animations by highlighting the events or phenomena which are hard to understand during the discussion.
  • Encourage collective discussion. and
  • Guide the students to the correct answer through specific animation.

Most of the lesson screens often begin with short questions or discrepant events based on the fundamental principles of in order to generate discussion and argumentation in the classroom. Lecture identifies the students’ existing knowledge and develops dissatisfaction in the students’ mind. Asking questions prior to the discussions are used as a strategy to help scaffold students’ understanding, uncover students’ existing ideas as well as to provide the context for collective discussion. The lesson screen consists of at least three buttons. These are the “play button”, the “restart animation” and “step back animation”. The instructor can control the animations by using these buttons, repeat any stage of the animations or restart the animations all over again whenever necessary. At this point, the instructor’s explanation- through discrete as well as complete animations – will facilitate and promote plausibility, intelligibility and fruitfulness of the new ideas, which enhance the conceptual change.

Conclusion

Constructivist animations as visual information have the ability to properly encode complex, abstract and dynamic concepts in more engaging and interesting ways. It is easier for the students to develop mental models and conceptualize the encoded concepts. It is also easier to retrieve the concepts from long-term memory when needed in the future. It served as an effective tool in identifying students’ existing knowledge and developing new understanding through conceptual change. It serves as a social tool in promoting collective discussion, scaffolding the understanding of new concepts and increasing the student’s curiosity to learn. It also serves as an instructional tool in resolving cognitive conflict by providing scaffolding and guidance to correct scientific concepts. In short, in bridging the gap between theory and practice, the constructivist animated instruction is a promising alternative tool in implementing the constructivist instruction in a lecture class setting. Thus we can say that a constructivist animation is one of the most innovative instructional tools for the teaching and learning of science, especially chemistry.

References

Talib, O; Mathews; & Secombe, M (2005) .Constructivist Animations for Conceptual Change: An Effective Instructional   Strategy in Understanding Complex, Abstract and Dynamic Science Concepts).Retrieved july18,2012,from://pppjj.usm.my/mojit/articles/pdf. 

Talib,O; Mathews, R; & Secombe,M(2005).Constructivist Animation : a promising alternative tool in binding theory- practice gap in science education .Retrieved july18,2012,from http:// www.rescame.edu.my/cosmed / cosmed05/AbstractFullpapers2005/pdf.

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[1] Junior Research Fellow, School of Pedagogical Sciences, M.G University, Kottayam

[2] Assistant Professor, School of Pedagogical Sciences, M.G University, Kottayam