My proposed solution was to use novel, unique, hands-on, and computer based learning activities to grab student attention creating an intrinsic interest in their learning. I believe that for the most part my proposed solution did work especially in Cycle 1. As seen in the post surveys there was about a 40% increase of students who found science more interesting as well as a change in science interest from labs, chemistry, and dissections to Newton’s Laws of Motion and Physics because of the “cool” skit projects. I also had 86% of my students attain a proficient grade of 80% or better on the post test with none of my students receiving less than a 70%. I believe having the students participate in something new and unique took them out of their comfort zone just enough to have made more lasting connections to the world around them. As confirmed by Jensen (2008) in creating these connections students remembered Newton’s Laws of Motion in more detail and were able to demonstrate this knowledge in the skits they created. They also used dialogue amongst each other which created further engagement in the content (Keiner, 2008). The knowledge they demonstrated was seen in 76% of the students attaining an 80% or better with no students receiving less than a 70% in their rubric grades.
Cycle 2 was not as successful as I had hoped it would be. Only 65% of the students received an 80% or better in the post test showing that not as many of the students learned the content as well. I think this had to do in part to the time of year. When Cycle 2 was implemented we had just finished a week of state testing as well as Spring Break. This time of year in my experience has been rough for students and all 5 of my classes seemed to be struggling with the Energy content taught during this cycle. Students seemed to be more passively engaged in their learning and as discussed by Kelley & Calusen-Grace (2009) this was seen in less of the students being proficient. It is also hard for the educators to stay motivated and I am no different. Keiner (2008) described students mimicking teacher behavior in which my exhaustion could have been mirrored by the students creating a more passive environment than I intended. In the Roller Coaster Projects only 56% of the students received a proficient grade of 80% or better while 26% received a 0%. With all necessary materials being available to the students and much of the class time being given for the completion of the roller coasters receiving a 0% showed a lack of enthusiasm for the assignment even though 83% of the post surveys described that as their favorite part of the unit. It seemed that students in Cycle 1 were more engaged and participatory in the classroom environment and Schoology.com than those in Cycle 2 (Kelley & Calusen-Grace, 2009). The heightened engagement could have been that the skit projects were more highly visual than the roller coasters and as Hughes & Tolley (2010) discussed would have been more effective for keeping student attention and engagement. Creating/performing the skits for their peers was also more challenging which according to Kaufman, Robinson, Bellah, Akers, Haase-Wittler, & Martindale (2008) and Saleh (2011) created more engagement by challenging the entire brain.
In looking back at my AR Project I feel I put more enthusiasm into Cycle 1 than in Cycle 2. When I started Cycle 2 I had last minute audience and content changes and I believe that put me more into panic mode. This, I believe, was sensed by the students and created a more unintentional negative response to the content. I also believe I must make more of a conscious effort to stay enthusiastic until the very last day of school so the students might mimic this and engagement is not lost. The performance of content worked exceptionally well and in the future I plan to utilize this tool more frequently. Having the students collaborate to create a way to teach or demonstrate the content seemed to be something challenging that was really embraced by the students. I also saw that having all resources easily available to students via Schoology helped keep the students focused/aware of expectations which will keep me using it in the future.