Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours

School

School of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Paul Newhouse

Abstract

This study examines the effect of learner control on the use of the software package Math Blaster Mystery (MBM) by low ability mathematics students. MBM is a mathematical software package which consists of four activities, each with four levels of difficulty, involving problem solving and worded problems. Each activity has four levels of difficulty. The purpose of the study was to answer the following questions; 1) Is the implementation of Math Blaster Mystery designed with a low level of learner control more effective with lower ability students than implementation with a higher level of learner control? 2) Do lower achieving students who are afforded a high level of learner control use the Math Blaster Mystery package more efficiently than students who are afforded a low level of learner control? The students chosen for this study came from two country district high schools in Western Australia. The schools were similar with respect to the funding allocated to them and the student population. The students were identified through the Monitoring Standards of Education Tests as being low achievers with respect to mathematics. The sample of students chosen for this study was not random as the focus of the study was on low achieving students. One group of students had a high level of learner control which enabled them to choose the content and the path of their learning. The other group of students had a pre-determined content and path. The data collected for the study took the form of anecdotal notes from observations of students using MBM, interviews with the students, and test results. In this study it appeared that the students used the software more efficiently when the software was implemented with a low level of learner control. While there were no differences in test scores between the two groups, the low level of learner control group used MBM more efficiently with a structured path ensuring the content was covered. The method user' by the low level of learner control group also ensured a logical method of completing the activities which ensured a more effective use of the package. Students with a high level of learner control displayed limited capabilities in monitoring and making effective decisions with respect to their own learning. The main implication of this research for teachers is that learning environments for low ability students need to be structured even when using computers so that effective learning can take place. Teachers need to take on the role of monitor in determining student learning as students lack the knowledge and motivation to do it themselves. Study into learner control needs to be more defined with respect to the features being examined so that more general findings can be established.

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