The effects of increased vocational hands-on instruction in an academic science/technology classroom
Wilson, David John Howard
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This project was conducted at Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School (PRVTHS), where students receive a regular high school academic education, as well as vocational instruction in a designated technical program area. This vocational instruction is largely hands-on instruction. This project examined whether increasing that style of learning into a science/engineering classroom would increase student learning as well as student engagement in the subject of technology/engineering. Problem based hands-on teaching has been shown to provide a sound foundation for instruction and student engagement. Hands-on experimental activities have been at the core of science classrooms and administration has lobbied teachers to expand hands-on integration between academic and vocational departments. This study covered four technology/engineering frameworks, (thermal systems, electrical systems, fluid systems and communication technology), and worked with four vocational areas to help cover that content, (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, Electrical, Automotive Technology and Electronics). The treatment groups received hands-on instruction in a vocational area, and the comparison groups received traditional classroom learning. Quantitative data showed that both the treatment and comparison groups increased post-assessment scores; however the treatment group did not significantly outperform the comparison group. That said, qualitative data gathered from student journals, surveys and interviews delivered an overwhelming response that hands-on instruction heightens student engagement and is the preferred method that students which to be taught. It is essential to increase this style of learning between the vocational and academic departments at PRVTHS to help with student enrollment, as well as increasing student engagement to improve student performance.