Science outdoors : does the learning environment influence student interest, engagement, and cognition?
Garver, Jason Robert
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Lack of motivation and engagement are common problems in many high school classrooms. In addition, this apparent lack of interest may lead to low achievement. The purpose of this study was to determine whether bringing students outdoors to learn science can increase student motivation, cognitive engagement, and achievement. A secondary question investigated in the research was the effectiveness of remaining on the school grounds, and within a fifty minute class period, while learning outdoors. A small student population limited the number of study subjects to seven (N=7). The small population allowed me to treat the research as a case study and acquire detailed information about each participant and their progress. Research involved two half-day field trips to a local river access and at least sixteen outdoor, on-campus events during student's normal class periods. Data collection techniques incorporated into the study include: a science motivation survey, individual student interviews, time-on-task tally sheets, pre-and-post tests and quizzes, field notes, observations, and a teacher's journal. Data was collected before, during, and after treatments in an effort to monitor change throughout the process. Results from this study indicate that there is a positive relationship between student interest, engagement, and achievement with going outdoors to learn. Class size, age, maturity, and proximity are factors that should be considered when planning such events. Drawbacks included individual student aversion to science as a whole, and applicability of certain domains within science.