Students' Views of Their Learning:

Bloom's Taxonomy, and the Computer

By

John Bedell, Marilyn Moore and Gayle Sorensen-Nuņez

California State University, Fullerton

 

________________________________________________________________________

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but a lighting of a fire." (Yates)

 

The subject of how students learn is not new. Learning theories abound and often are contradictory. The research reported in this paper utilizes aspects of several learning theories in an attempt to understand the relationship, if any, among learning sociology, using computer technology, and Bloom's taxonomy

In recent years the computer has become an increasingly desirable tool for the classroom. The growing demand to produce a population skilled in technology has put pressure on educational systems to incorporate technology into the learning environment with a primary goal of producing students who are proficient in computer skills and able to function in society at a competent level. Andrew R. Molnar, of the National Science Foundation in Washington D.C., states, "Research shows that educational technology, when properly applied, can provide an effective means for learning." It has been asserted that technology advocates have not been held accountable, however, and, in the business world computers will help corporate productivity and in education, the benefits accrue to the individual learner (Mueller, 1997). But just what are these benefits? Unfortunately, in today’s world, the work place is about performing and not about learning new skills. This makes it especially difficult for today’s students to understand the relationship between academic exercises and real world benefits.

The desire for computer proficient students has been married to the long-standing objective of educators to enhance academic performance. Technology is being proposed for use as a tool to improve academic performance and enhance test scores, especially at the elementary level (Woodall, 1998). Many K-12 classrooms now have computers. Some are used rarely, if at all, if the teachers are not trained. Others are used to do drillwork, rote memorization, or simply to type that monthly book report. If educators, from primary grades through university level education, are going to use the computer as an instructional tool, one must ask, does the computer impact grades? John Anderson of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University found that students’ grades went up one letter if they used his intelligent, computer-assisted instructional tutorials in geometry, algebra and teaching programming languages (Anderson, 1993).

To increase the contact between young people and computers, volumes of software have been designed to allow academic skills to be practiced and independent learning to be done by individual students. The touted success of this dual objective has become the foundation for educational institutions to promote the enhancement of the learning environment by including computer exercises in classroom curriculum. Does an individual, computer-based academic skill-building format produce a learning environment of maximum quality? Kulik’s analysis of many studies found that one could achieve a 10-20-percentile point increase in scores through computer-based education. What is of special interest is Kulik’s finding that peer tutoring was even more effective than the computer in enhancing performance. (Kulik, 1991).

As vital as it is to encourage computer proficiency in this information-driven millennium era, it is important to keep in mind that the primary goal of education is to promote learning. Using the computer for instruction presents unique challenges for educators related to student lack of motivation, varying levels of computer literacy and shortages of time for adequate orientation to a new medium of instruction (Lynch and Petruzzi, 1998). The amplification of student’s thinking and over-all cognitive skills by using tools such as the computer must be constantly analyzed to ensure that actual changes in learning outcomes are being accomplished. A tool is only useful if it increases one’s ability to produce quality work. The responsibility of an educator is to teach students how to learn. Academic skills, drills and many text-related details will fade from students’ memory after graduation, however the tools provided to help students understand how to continually develop their ability to learn is emerging as the primary focus of successful education (Sasse, 1998).

While there has been considerable attention focused on the computer enhanced learning environment for elementary students, little research has been done to assess the effectiveness of incorporating the use of the computer into the college learning environment. Many campuses are becoming pioneers, offering online degree programs and internet classroom options without sound empirical evidence that student do actually learn via this more impersonal method. Institutions of higher learning are, by nature, less personal than traditional high school style classrooms. Sheer size by enrollment numbers and limited teaching personnel place students in a more self-responsible learning mode than their previous experience. Within this context, it is vital to understand the actual benefits and role of advanced information technology related to teaching and to learning outcomes. It is becoming increasingly clear that traditional classroom settings are becoming outdated. Lectures, dating back as far as the classical Greeks, have been supplemented by the creation of texts and other printed material; neither of these teaching methods lend themselves to individualized learning, especially with today’s larger class enrollments. The added difficulties of students who must commute long distances, or whose employment or family responsibilities limit the time they have available for classroom participation can potentially be eliminated by flexible virtual classroom participation. The question of the quality of education these "invisible" students are receiving, as well as questions about academic ethics and economics must be addressed (Arenson, 1998).

There is a strong perception, especially at higher levels of education, that the computer is an excellent tool for the conveying and managing large volumes of information. This is especially useful from the instructor’s point of view, but may not be highly productive from the learner’s perspective. . The major problem with learning today is that there is a tendency to confuse information with learning; making information available does not guarantee that students will learn from it. An alternative mode, however, is emerging allowing students to take greater control of the computer, interacting with the machine and concurrently confronting new ways of thinking and new subject material. This type of interaction with the computer is believed to encourage higher order skills (Owen, 1996).

Within this context, the computer could significantly alter the learning environment, transforming the passive learner into a proactive participant. Students participating in this study were simply placed at the door of access to additional classroom support, information and study aids. The choice to enter, explore and benefit from what was beyond the door was left to the students’ discretion; each had to determine if it was personally beneficial to extend the extra effort required accessing the WebCT portion of the curriculum. Studies related to cognitive strategies indicate that there is increased learning when the student is encouraged to interact with the learning environment in a way that a allows him or her to incorporate previous knowledge into the new material being presented. In other words, with the aid of the computer, the student is able to assign meaning to lecture or textbook material that is relevant to their own level of understanding and combine it into a new thought using previous learning experiences. This transforming of ideas and concepts produces new understanding and learning that is unique to that particular individual (Stahl, 1984).

 

 

 

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND:

The Learning theories that guided this research and its hypotheses are: Behavioral, Cognitive and Constructivist theories. Each was selected because it describes how student learning happens.

Behaviorists like Skinner focused on student outcomes, externals that could be seen, e.g. grades and grade improvement. They were and are interested in what stimulus caused what outcome. Parents, seeing an "F" on a report card, restrict privileges. The next report card is all "A's" and it is assumed by the behaviorists that the student learned the material in response to restricted privileges. If the goal of advanced education is to provide a learning environment that produces better student outcomes, what is the relationship between bottom line productivity and learning and knowing? Landauer, in 1996, asserted that monies spent on technology research rarely yield the bottom line gains hoped for. Do they yield learning gains? It is important to note that there is no research that shows that computer use is associated with negative outcomes (Owen, 1996).

Cognitive theorists, who are currently enjoying respectability and popularity, stress that to describe how student learning takes place, one must "look in the head" of the student as he or she takes experiences and information and constructs or makes sense of it. They theorists distance themselves from the "external" behaviorists by going "internal." These theorists also have a respectable lineage that includes such persons as Dewey, Piaget and Vygotsky. Piaget’s notion that children learn by discovery and Dewey'’ view that one learns best by doing are central to understanding cognitive theory as it relates to this research. Piaget reiterates Dewey’s assertion that children’s basic involvement in manipulating information is a key to their success in learning. Vygotsky’s claim that learners who are guided in their collaborative work become effective learners is important as well. The construction of something external is a dynamic process. It is the relationship between the student trying to explicitly express his or her ideas in physical or visible actions and to implicitly absorb what is perceived and understood from the outside world.

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning. Knowledge recall and the intellectual skills to construct knowledge demonstrate cognitive learning. Bloom identified six levels within the cognitive domain, form the simple recall or recognition of facts, as the lowest level, through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels, to the highest order, which is classified as evaluation. More specifically, the six levels of Bloom's taxonomy allow the student to create a relationship that can be interconnected in an organized structure and applied in a variety of ways. The six levels of Bloom's taxonomy are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Though controversy has followed Bloom’s theory, studies have shown that the elements of higher cognition fit well with the experience of the student, using technology, to reach beyond traditional rote memorization of text material. The knowledge objective is viewed as a single frame, whereby students learn to memorize certain pieces of information (Ross, 1993). This cognitive skill allows the student to know specific information on its own without having to use critical thinking. At the comprehension level, the learner moves away from the single frame model and into the linear model. Students are able to understand the information and recognize it in other forms. Relationships between events, facts, problems, or solutions are important. Linear layouts are designed to force this process. The linear model is in comparison to a horizontal line, where directions are given and followed, not allowing for critical thinking skills to be mastered (Ross, 1993).

The third level of the cognitive objective pyramid takes the learner to the jump linear model of application, which is the first level of higher order thinking (Ross, 1993). The level of application allows the learner to apply the knowledge and understanding of sociology to new situations that may lie outside the baseline definition of the concept. At the next level, analysis allows individual learners to further work with the same information, but in different patterns and with opportunities to compare one set of information with another. By breaking down the information into understandable components, the learner is able to continue branching by comparing and contrasting the information. The students must be able to relate these facts to a problem in an analytical way using both inductive and deductive processes (Murray, et al, 1996). The students' role at this level is to know how and when to put the parts back together so that the organization of the whole becomes clearer. Computer technology allows the learner to jump from branch to branch in exploring the material necessary to meet his or her own needs. At this level, using the "back and forth" technique is used to access information. Synthesis in Bloom's taxonomy is discovery (Ross, 1993).

 

SUBJECTS:

The subjects represented in the study consist of a non-random sample enrolled in a freshman Introduction to Sociology class (N = 160) and, for the purposes of comparisons related to age, maturity and development, included a similar sample of students enrolled in a Sociology of the Family class (N = 66). The 101 class was taught in a traditional-style setting and consisted of 62.5% males (n = 101) and 36.9% females (n = 59). The upper-division class was composed of 83.3% females (n = 57) and 16.7% males (n = 9).

Ethnic diversity in the mass class was distributed in the following proportions: African-American, 6.9% (n = 11); Hispanics, 35.6% (n = 57); American Indian, .6% (n = 1); Asians, 15% (n = 24); White, 39.4% (n = 63); two persons declined to state their ethnicity. The breakdown in diversity for the upper-division class was as follows: Hispanics, 27.8%, (n = 15); Asians, 14.8% (n = 8); White, 57.4% (n = 31); those not listing their ethnicity or those with missing information were listed as "system missing" (n = 11).

The ages of the participants from both classes ranged from 18 to 44, with a median age of 18 in the freshman class and a median age of 22 in the upper-division class.

 

METHODS:

A 25-item pretest questionnaire was administered on the first day of class. Questions were asked relating to demographic information, as well as students’ self-assessment of their own level of computer and Internet experience. Respondents were also asked about their opinion related to the best way to learn about computer technology.

The curriculum consisted of the use of standard classroom elements such as textbook and lecture materials, as well as information technology, Bloom’s taxonomy and tutorial support in the classroom curriculum. The course work was designed to help students comprehend sociological concepts in a way that synthesized course material with the social environment that they encountered on a daily basis. A software program called WebCT (Web Classroom Technology) was used as an instructional tool to introduce students to an interactive supplement to the classroom learning environment and also to the Internet. A staff member was brought into the classroom at the beginning of the semester to instruct the students on the basic skills and techniques needed to access the class web site. A teaching team format of instruction in the classroom and in related activities demonstrated a student-centered learning environment. Students were given a variety of options to show that they were learning the material, and using Bloom’s Taxonomy, were able to develop and refine their application, analytical and synthesizing skills. A metaphor was used in giving the students a visual aid in learning Bloom's taxonomy. The taxonomy was referred to as a tree and the lowest level of the taxonomy was the trunk of the tree. This is where the foundation for learning was laid, essentially, it became the base of cognitive learning skills.

Traditional and non-traditional assessment styles were used in order to tap a variety of students learning styles. Vocabulary terms, drawn directly from textbook chapters, were listed on-line without definitions. Students were encouraged to create possible test questions applicable to each term. Objective questions that were comprehension and application-oriented were used for assessments. In addition, a vignette addressing lecture materials was created twice during the semester. This portion of learning assessment was key in determining actual learning outcomes. These vignettes contained hypothetical descriptions of persons and sociological situations that required a familiarity with course materials and elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy to make sociological sense of what was being presented. Students were asked to analyze the vignettes with a special emphasis on the synthesis level of Bloom’s.

An additional option was given of doing a sociological analysis of a movie like Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, with a requirement that students go online to find an example of a professional movie review. This assignment required that students apply the concepts from course material to the content of the movie; again they were asked to use the elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy to show that they grasped the higher levels of synthesis. Questions, via WebCT, were given after each assigned chapter of the text, as well as links to other sociological material relevant to the chapter readings. These questions were framed in a Bloom’s format in order to encourage students to explore the concepts fully rather than merely find the answer to a potential exam question. Students were asked to post their answers on the bulletin board of WebCT and/or use the chatroom to share their thoughts, and thereby, construct knowledge. Teaching associates for tutoring and course help also used bulletin boards and were available, at regularly scheduled times, in chatrooms. In addition, funds were allocated to provide specially scheduled study group sessions led by the teaching associates. Attendance ranged from one to forty-five students at each session, with additional sessions scheduled before each exam time.

A 30-question post-treatment questionnaire was given at the end of the semester. Students were asked to rank elements of the traditional and computer portions of the curriculum using a Likert scale, with four response choices ranging from "very important," "important," "not very important" and "not important." A similarly ranked question asked students to evaluate the specific benefit of the computer in assisting their learning skills, such as writing, comprehension, describing and applying information and developing new concepts and opinions. These learning skills were paralleled directly with the levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, but not clearly stated as such in the wording of the question. Several open-ended questions allowed students to give their own definition of learning, the impact of influential faculty, and opportunity to give their interpretation of a student-centered learning environment. Students were asked to evaluate the benefits of Bloom’s Taxonomy related to their learning of sociological concepts. Questions also asked students to rate the relevancy of this learning environment to other university coursework, the value of computer knowledge for their future and their over-all comfort with the use of the computer.

 

RESULTS

The WebCT software enabled the Teaching Team to track student interactions on the computer web site on a daily basis. In the freshman class, 97% of the students accessed the computer at least once during the semester (N = 135) with a range of web site hits from 0 – 834. In the Sociology of the Family class, 93% went on the internet site at least once (N = 51), with a range of 0 - 810 hits. Many students from both classes appeared to access the web site on a regular basis, however it is important to note the difference between students’ entering the site and looking at the various icons and those students who actually opened links to read the material that was available there. A frequency distribution was run on actual counts of material read and those are the data responses used in the assessments of computer-related learning. A total of 6.3% of the lower-division class read materials on the WebCT site only one to two times during the course (n = 10). The activity of these students can be related to the fact that study terms, required for the objective exams, were posted and students could print them for later use. 26.3% of the freshman class did not open and read any course materials on the computer (n = 42). A frequency distribution run on this group showed a normal distribution of final grades which reinforced the research condition that it was possible to pass this course without using the computer; as stated previously, there was no academic penalty for students making that choice.

The early analyses of data drawn from this study revealed that some traditional sociological constructs related to learning and the computer are not good predictors of actual outcomes. It has been assumed that males are more comfortable and more competent in the area of technology, and that they appear to use the computer more often than females. This research showed no significant differences between males and females in either the experience level with the computer, with the Internet, or with the amount of computer use related to their jobs. Also, no significant correlation was observed related to differences in the age or ethnicity of students and their level of computer experience, or with those factors and Internet experience levels. Initial correlations run on students’ assessment of the importance of the computer to the learning of specific skills revealed that only one significant relationship related to gender and that was between gender and memorization skills. The students rated the importance of the computer to their learning of memorization skills, from very important to not important. A crosstabulation, showed that 60.8% of the males rating the computer as important for their memorization skills, compared to 51.8% of the females rating it as not very important to their learning related to memorization skills. This nine-percent difference was found to be statistically significant. [c2 (3,134) = 20.001, p<.001]

The first attempt to understand the relationship between the computer and learning looked at the students’ use of the computer to access course material and the academic performance of the freshman class. A correlation was run on the relationship of computer use and their objective and vignette, or essay scores, as well as with their final course grade. Table 2 shows a positive correlation between all test scores, the final grade and the students’ use of the computer to access course material. All correlations were significant at p<.01, supporting the study premise that course materials formatted in a way the forced students to interpret them within the higher cognitive levels of Bloom's taxonomy resulted in increased learning outcomes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 1 Means, Standard Deviations and Correlation of Students’ Use of the Computer to Access Course Material, Objective Test scores, Vignette Test Scores and Final Class Grade

 

Use of Computer

First Objective Test Score

Second Objective Test Score

First Vignette Test Score

Second Vignette Test Score

First Objective Test Score

.565

       

Second Objective Test Score

.636

.670

     

First Vignette Test Score

.609

.619

.657

   

Second Vignette Test Score

.669

.547

.690

.635

 

Final Course Grade

.553

.625

.689

.541

.664

_

X

2.87

2.81

2.64

2.34

3.21

SD

2.71

.80

.98

.82

1.16

N = 160

Note. All correlations are significant at the .01 level

 

A similar analysis was run on students from the Sociology of the Family class in order to assess the possible impact of maturation and development (see Table 3). It is interesting to note the lack of computer use by upper division students related to the classroom lecture material assessed by the vignette-style testing (r(64) = -.195) and the significant change in the correlation coefficient seen with the second vignette score (r(64) = .292, p<.05). It is possible to attribute this dramatic change to their experiential knowledge of consequences and a desire not to have a poor grade outcome.

Behavior theory states that knowledge of negative consequences promotes behavioral change. The common assumption is that freshman enter the university somewhat detached from the learning environment and must be drawn in to participate in all aspects of the learning experience. This analysis demonstrates that the upper-division students felt that the computer, while substantially correlated with their ability to pass the objective portion of the assessment, was irrelevant as a tool for their understanding of the lecture material. It appears that they only became motivated to include its use in all areas of studying course materials after experiencing the fear of getting a poor grade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2 Means, Standard Deviations and Correlations of Upper Division Students’ Use of the Computer to Access Course Materials, Objective Test Scores, Vignette Test Scores and Final Course Grade

 

Computer Use

First Objective Test Score

Second Objective Test Score

First Vignette Test Score

Second Vignette Test Score

First Objective Test Score

.257*

Second Objective Test Score

.327**

.475**

First Vignette Test Score

-.195

.264*

.042

Second Vignette Test Score

.292*

.295*

.424**

.299**

Final Course Grade

.421**

.498**

564**

.306*

.748**

_

X

2.34

3.38

3.55

2.62

2.8

SD

2.38

.68

.64

.49

.83

Note. N = 65

Note. * Correlation is significant at the .05 level (two-tailed)

Note. ** Correlation is significant at the .01 level (two-tailed)

Although all of these correlations are substantial, it is difficult to assess actual learning results using student grades, especially using final course grades as a measuring instrument. Many educators do not regard grades as an accurate predictor of learning results. There are many factors that can distort the perceptions of grades including the common practice of allowing extra credit in order for students to compensate for low test scores. Students can potentially raise grades by a full letter by using extra credit opportunities, making a mid-range "B" student appear to have achieved an outstanding academic performance. In light of this understanding this study attempted, through carefully crafted testing designs patterned after Bloom’s application, analysis and synthesis levels, to measure actual learning outcomes, as well as the students’ opinions of the quality of their learning experiences.

Objective assessments were created using applications of textbook vocabulary rather than simple memorization of definitions. Also, only a list of the vocabulary words were given to students in the computer link to study terms in the WebCT Class Home Page; students had to attempt to create a potential test context for each term as they studied for the objective exam. To further discern actual learning outcomes, the students were asked to write, during practice session and, interpret for assessments, a vignette using the cognitive elements of Bloom's taxonomy to combine sociological concepts related to the lectures and readings. The vignette encouraged students to suggest causes for events and situations and encouraged them to think of explanations and to predict outcomes.

In addition, specific skills related to the cognitive levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy were incorporated into the computer-based portion of the curriculum, enabling students to reach a higher level of understanding by posting answers to Chapter Orientation points on the Bulletin Board and using links to other material available on WebCT. To measure the results of computer-assisted learning, students were asked to rate the importance of the computer, as it was used in this class, to specific learning skills. These responses were scaled into a single variable and run in a multiple regression analysis with independent variables that assessed student views on elements of their learning experience, related to this course and to other university coursework. The results of this analysis, although statistically significant, were confounded by the problem of multicollinearity. The scaled variable reflected students’ perceptions about learning that was too closely related to the other perception variables. There was also a concern that scaling the students' ratings of the importance of the computer to learning skills might distort the resulting variable's accuracy. However, since there was a significant positive relationship between all of these factors, a new regression was run that would measure actual student computer activity with their perceptions of learning. Using the variable that measured students’ actual use of the computer to access course materials with their perceptions about learning, both in this course and in other university coursework. Table 3 shows a significant relationship between the importance of using the computer, the students’ personal definition of learning, the benefit of Bloom’s taxonomy for understanding sociological concepts [R2 =.83, F(4,155) = .193.6, p<.001]. The same significance relationship appeared related to learned skills and the students’ increased ability to use them to access material for other university courses, and also with the perception that they had learned more from this course than they had expected to learn.

 

Table 3 Multiple Regression Analysis of the Use of the Computer, Students' Definition of Learning, the Benefit of Bloom’s Taxonomy for This Course, Ability to Use New Skills in in Other University Classes and Students’ Learning Expectations

Independent Variables

B

Beta

t

Student Definition of Learning

Benefit of Bloom’s Taxonomy for This Course

Ability to Use New Skills in Other Classes

Student Expectation of Learning

.226

.124

 

.446

 

.173

.241

.160

.465

.210

5.40*

3.98*

8.71*

4.30*

R2 = .83, F (4,155) = 193.6*

*p < .001

Acknowledging that grades may not always be an accurate indicator of learning outcomes should not discount the students’ belief in the relationship between their definition of learning and their grades serving as an indicator of how much they have learned in any course. A total of 73.5% freshman students rated getting a high grade as "very important," and another 25% ranked it as "important" (n = 100 and 34 respectively). All other cases involving non-answers or missing information were listed as "system missing" (n = 25). In the upper-division class, 71.7% (n = 43) ranked getting a high grade as "very important," while another 25% (n = 15) ranked it as "important." Five cases were listed as "system missing." This intrinsic importance of getting a high grade has the potential to be utilized by the instructor to enhance the motivation of students to maximize learning opportunities. The results of a question asking students if they would use the computer more if it impacted their class grade showed that 86.6% of them affirmed this potential value. A crosstabulation of students’ actual use of the computer to access course materials and the variable related to computer use and grade incentive. While not statistically significant, it showed that 48.5% 0f students who used the computer occasionally to access course materials would do so more often if there was a grade incentive (See Table 4).

Table 4 Bivariate Table Showing Relationship Between Attitudes Toward Grade Incentives for Using the Computer and Use of the Computer to Access Course Materials

 

Students would use the computer more with a grade incentive

 

Students’ use of the computer to access course materials

Yes

No

Totals

Often

39

29.5%

8

6.1%

47

35.6%

Sometimes

64

48.5%

8

6.1%

72

54.5%

Never

12

9.1%

1

.8%

13

9.8%

Totals

87.1%

12.9%

100%

Note. Missing values listed as system missing, n = 28.

 

 

DISCUSSION

The new learning environment encountered in WebCT was a challenge for students who were unfamiliar with navigating in a virtual environment. In contrast to the learning style they had experienced in previous classroom environments, instructional materials were presented in a way that forced students to use unfamiliar tools to construct a new understanding related to sociology. Knowledge was built by the learner, not provided by the teacher (Papert, 1993)

Bloom's taxonomy was used as a guide for cognitive learning outcomes related to computer technology in this project. Computer technology is able to parallel Bloom's taxonomy in that they both facilitate an increase in cognition. Bloom's six distinct levels of cognitive development can be incorporated in expressing the use of database searching as a thinking process and linking these levels to systematic problem solving processes. Instructing students in Bloom's taxonomy and in the techniques of database searching allowed them to bridge the two activities, thereby developing an understanding of the correlation between critical thinking and problem solving and how technology supports these endeavors (Murray et al, 1996).

Using Bloom, each level is higher in the order of thinking skills, but all remain in the cognitive domain of learning objectives. For example, the lower level skills knowledge and comprehension, involve knowing or understanding certain facts. In the traditional classroom, students are taught to memorize and recognize facts and then recall the information. Using computer technology, students are taken away from the linear model of rote memorization and enter a new learning environment called "the global classroom". The globalized classroom has the potential to individualize instruction, allowing instructors to provide their students with opportunities to exercise higher order skills (Ross, 1993).

The computer learning environment or structure, as it was used in this sociology course, and Bloom's taxonomy, in the way that students were introduced to it in the classroom and collaborative study session settings, may be best understood using the illustration of a tree. However, it is very important to differentiate between the two uses of this object as a visual aid. While it is helpful to see the components of the computer learning environment arranged in the structural form of a tree (see Figure 1), the students in this course were never directed to view the computer in this manner. The difference between these two illustrations is that students were asked to use the concept of a growing tree as a metaphor, a visual tool for learning how to combine ideas and concepts of sociology using Bloom's behavioral verbs. These verbs and this method of visualization to connecting concepts provided a stable structure that guided the students through a successful learning process.

Knowledge: At this lowest level, students were exposed to "real life" sociology by attending class and listening to lectured material. Lectures presented "real life" situations involving marriage, divorce, family violence, poverty, gender life choices, education, and many more interesting topics. Some students opted to avoid the computers and focus primarily on lectures. This created a restricted learning environment for them. Some students voiced that "finding time to get on the computer was difficult, especially if they had to use the school computers." Away from the computer, face-to-face study sessions were conducted using a "Bloomian" technique in assisting the students’ development of recalling of information from textbook readings and lecture materials. If the learner is lacking a motivation to learn, the computer can present challenges the learner is not willing to embrace, especially if skills, equipment, and time are limited (Lynch and Petruzzi, 1998).

To introduce the metaphor of the tree in the collaborative learning environment, a diagram was drawn on the chalkboard of a tree and the trunk represented a sociological concept. This is the point where the students were asked to remember key concepts; the learners were asked to describe the "who, what, when, where, how…" in recalling information. This was the foundation of sociology, that single-frame knowledge base. It is important to note that especially at this point, the study sessions were instrumental in assisting students unfamiliar with accessing computer technology and gave them continuous guidance and support.

Comprehension: At this level, computer technology was used to access class material and the course syllabus. In order to pass the objective test, it was important to access the computer to download the undefined study terms. Also, to try to understand Bloom's taxonomy independently, a list of behavioral verbs were available online, as were question types based on Bloom's taxonomy. As their understanding of the concepts increased, a basic foundation began to develop, encouraging students to attempt to access paths representative of branches sprouting out of the trunk. The use of the web connects knowledge and allowed students to create knowledge as they surfed the net and connected to other web sites. This promotes intellectual growth and gave the learner control over learning. The WebCt software gave students general guidance, but encouraged and allowed independent exploration. The teaching team found the less motivated students accessed the computer once to create a hard copy of these materials, never to access the computer again. One of the students commented, "why get online more than once when you can make a copy of the materials." This attitude prohibited these students from experiencing the benefits of participating in a global classroom. As a result, their grades suffered because they were unable to grasp the hidden benefits of Bloom's taxonomy that were built into the computer learning environment. For these students, the computer was merely a tool to obtain necessary classroom information; they did not identify this element of the class curriculum as useful to their learning process. To simply go online, follow a particular path to specific information is really no different from the linear, drill and practice method used in elementary education and is not conducive to long-term student learning. In the future it will be necessary to consider the importance of using the grade incentive as a motivator.

In the collaborative learning environment, at this level students were continuing to strengthen their foundation of understanding sociological concepts and creating a "strong trunk" for their metaphorical tree. Students were prepared to applying their understanding of sociology at a higher level. To develop this level, the Teaching Team asked the students to describe a sociological concept, which was discuss in lectures and/or reading material, in their own words. In interpreting their knowledge, they were able to receive feedback from their peers and the Teaching Team, which added to their previous knowledge, gaining further understanding of sociology.

Application: Learners are taken away from their traditional model of thinking patterns and begin to make sense of sociological concepts presented to them in the lectures and readings. Students in this study were asked application-style questions on the objective assessment, therefore they needed to break away from the limits of the lower levels of Bloom and apply their sociological knowledge and understanding of the concepts. It is at this level of understanding that the student begins to be able to address real life problems. The learning environment on the web was user friendly in that the layout design welcomed students to begin to explore their creativity in "surfing" the net. By using the computer, a jump linear model allows a user to return to a central place and, from this location, choose other paths. However, learners are not restricted or required to return to the central location before heading in a different direction along the learning scheme (Ross, 1993). This kind of freedom is highly conducive to increasing critical thinking skills. On the web, students were able to access chapter orientation questions and post their response on the bulletin board. Doing this allowed the student to process new information and adjust it to what he or she already knew, strengthening their knowledge of sociology. Chapter orientation questions were purposely placed online to enhance student learning of sociology from the textbook. The questions were created using Bloom behavioral verbs to continue the reinforcement of reaching for higher levels of critical thinking.

In the collaborative learning environment, learners were asked by a member of the Teaching Team to take their knowledge and understanding of a sociological concept and illustrate "how is …related to …?" Students simply plugged various concepts into these question types and worked to understand a variety of complex relationships. In order for the students to continue using the metaphor of the tree, this relationship-connecting technique was illustrated by drawing a branch sprouting out of the trunk. In using this technique, learners were able to problem solve by applying information to produce some result. In order for the students to identify and move through specific cognitive levels, the Teaching Team encouraged the students to adhere to the behavioral verbs related to each Bloom’s level as a tool to guide and direct them in preparing to write the vignette.

Analysis: The web fosters development in writing skills and the ability to work collaboratively through the use of the bulletin board. The bulletin board was instrumental in allowing students to interpret their understanding of sociology. The student created knowledge in the process of accessing and preparing it for others to read. They married Bloom with the computer by funneling their understanding of sociology into writing of sociology. This was the key to successful posting on the bulletin board. Those who commented regularly learned and gained a new perspective to combine with their original understanding of sociology. This process refines the original as he or she takes into consideration what the other has responded with. This allows the individual learners to discover the same information, but in different patterns and with opportunities to compare one set of information with another. By breaking down the information into understandable components, the learner is able to continue branching by comparing and contrasting the information. The students' role at this level is to know how and when to put the parts back together so that the organization of the whole becomes more clear. Computer technology allows the learner to jump from branch to branch in exploring the material necessary to meet his or her own needs. Questions posted on the bulletin board were answered in an indirect manner to encourage the use of applying Bloom's cognitive skills. The Teaching Team encouraged the learner to find the underlying structure of their question, which allowed them to build their verbal skills and think about sociology from a higher level. The student was then able to think about the question and interpret their knowledge of sociology to create their own answer. Having continuous access to the thoughts and ideas of other students' responses to the material further elevated the process of learning, expanding and strengthening their knowledge of sociological concepts. One student was quoted as saying, "I like the computer because it allows students to meet outside of class time to exchange ideas (bulletin board). This is crucial, especially at this "commuter school" where we never see each other after school."

The collaborative learning environment encouraged students to break down material into its component parts. This cognitive skill required them to not only understand the content of the material, but its underlying structural form as well. At this level, learners were asked to "examine the parts or relationship of…", or simply "classify…according to…". By using behavioral verbs, the students were automatically taken to this higher level of critical thinking. Using the tree metaphor, this level was illustrated by the drawing of twigs shooting out of the branch. Several twigs represented the subdivision of a branch to show how it was put together.

Synthesis: Using computer technology, the students created their own path of exploration and discovery to enhance their own style of learning. This exploration gave them a broader understanding of their own framework of knowledge. At this higher level of thinking, the learner is taking their knowledge of sociology and creating a cluster of ideas to create a new whole. When the students engage in synthesis, they are combining parts to form a unique solution to an instructional problem. Computer technology was an important tool for helping them develop the bigger picture using these higher skills. Chatrooms were available, however, most students shied away from accessing them. Many students responded that "if they knew how to use chat room, they would use them." Students were unfamiliar with the protocol of communicating via computer technology and opted for face-to-face study sessions . However, those students that did access the chat room did so successfully and collaborated with other students in setting up their own session at their convenience. The students actively collaborated during study sessions in the development of the ideas that formed the branches. In reviewing their lecture notes, they would search for verbal cues that would demonstrate their understanding of the key concept; each cue represented another branch containing information that was analyzed and interpreted again in light of the most recent material. Students demonstrated their ability in this area during the essay assessments when they were instructed to use sociological concepts to construct a vignette using the cognitive tools from Bloom's taxonomy. Prior to these exams, students practiced this technique by collaborating in small groups or one large group in developing the growth, over-arching sociological concepts into a fully developed understanding of sociology at the macro level.

The learning environment stressed the importance of reaching this level in order to write a unique, structured vignette. At this level, students took their knowledge and understanding of a sociological concept, broke it up into component parts, and then combined this information to create a new whole. A majority of the students were able to predict an outcome, and construct a new package.. Again, the behavioral verbs gave them the guidance and direction that was necessary in reaching this higher level. This is the level students were expected to reach in writing the vignettes. As quoted by a student, "Without knowing the Bloom verbs, it would be really hard to stay focused in writing a vignette. They guided me and kept me focused." The writing of the vignette provided a framework that allowed the student to see events in new ways, and Bloom's taxonomy assisted the students in achieving this goal. Metaphorically speaking, this is where the twigs produced leaves, giving the student a new perspective of knowledge. In looking at the "tree of knowledge", the student is given the perspective of standing directly under the tree and looking up into all of its components. The student sees the trunk, branches, twigs, and leaves - all of which make up the tree.

Evaluation: The students' were challenged to create a sociological web page. Using the WebCT program, students' were asked to create a web page that contained a sociological theme. The key component in conducting an effective database search was planning. The page contained text, sociology links, graphics related to the text, and a counter showing the creator how many times their page had been visited. This project took the students' to the highest level of Bloom. This project showed students they could link information without a specific order and could explore the material in many ways. They learned they could browse and discover their own knowledge. A limited amount of the learners actually created a complete web page using all the levels of Bloom's taxonomy. One student created a web page on Family Violence. Her page contained several animated, hot links, text that combined theory and facts on abuse, and graphics. It took the readers to the highest level of Bloom's taxonomy. Many students commented that they "liked the idea of making a web page because it made learning fun."

The collaborative learning environment did not focus on the development of this level, since the goal of mastery was focused on synthesis. This level required students to judge definite criteria based on supported facts, data, and "proof" of statement. In the collaborative learning environment, students' perspective of the "tree of knowledge" was seen from a distance in its entirety, without development of opinions, judgements or decisions based on clearly defined criteria.

Students' perceptions of quality teaching, as well as their own definition of learning, have an influence on key elements of the learning environment. At the university freshman level, learning was defined in the post-term questionnaire, as receiving new information and was synonymous with recall and memory. The Teaching Team changed the traditional model of learning by changing the way this Sociology course was taught. The computer was introduced into the curriculum as a tool to encourage the students to develop a deeper approach to learning. By using the computer as a tool, motivated students were able to access course material, challenged by Chapter Orientation questions, able to navigate through the hypertext framework, and use strategies in collaborating with their peers via chatroom and bulletin boards. The computer was used to "post" their knowledge and to get others’ responses, which encouraged other students to express their thoughts. Students were able to jump around creating their own knowledge at person-specific levels of ability. This jump model, in turn, encouraged the students to move out of their traditional linear model of learning and achieve a higher level of critical thinking. The perception from earlier studies that the computer can be used as a tool that assists in the management of information appears accurate. Students, when allowed to take greater control of the learning environment found that the computer provided a new way of communicating as they confronted new ways of thinking and new subject material. This interaction with the computer drew students into using higher order skills. By combining Bloom's taxonomy with computer technology the students were given both the opportunity and the method to access information necessary for attaining the higher levels of critical thinking. Acquisition and mastery of these skills will follow them beyond the classroom experience and into the workplace.

The global classroom motivated students to seek information that would benefit their grade. One student hesitated in accessing the computer until after midterms, when he realized his assessments were not producing good scores. He got online and begin getting involved posting on the bulletin board, accessing links from the Chapter Orientation questions, and reading materials. At the close of the semester, his objective and vignette scores were substantially improved from the midterm scores. He said, "My scores are proof that accessing the computer increases learning outcomes." He was excited about learning and the tremendous improvement in his scores.

The Web can play a prominent role in encouraging the development of critical thinking, problem solving, written communication, and the ability to work in collaboration with others. As part of the free-wheeling environment of the Internet, teachers can encourage students to explore the Web with the goal of having them weigh evidence, judge the authenticity of data. Students will be able to compare different viewpoints on issues, analyze and synthesize diverse sources of information, and construct their own understanding of the topic or issue at hand. By doing so, teachers will be well on their way to having students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills (Owston, 1997). The global classroom offers up-to-date information that is instantly available, and presented in a more motivating format for students to explore. "Students today tend to be more visual learners than previous generations because their world is rich in visual stimuli…So it is on fitting that we design learning materials and opportunities that capitalize on what we know about how our students learn (Owston, 1997)."

The global classroom provided students with a classroom that extended beyond traditional walls, and a traditional level of thinking. Through the bulletin board, students had virtually unlimited and constant contact with the Teaching Team. Questions related to any part of the course material could be asked, responded to, and asked again for even deeper understanding. This advantages the students' who are unable to answer a question on the spot when called upon in class. By being able to process the information at their own rate allows them to think creatively and thoroughly in developing a skill necessary for strong verbal communication and written communication. Technology access is, in and of itself, creating knowledge. The fact that a student can access classroom material online gives them the advantage of learning it more rapidly and at a deeper level then before.

Many educators who have worked with technology in the classroom report that it can turn students on to school in a way traditional teaching tools usually cannot match. (Sandham, 1998). According to Carolyn Thorsen, the director of technology programs for the college of education at Boise State University in Idaho, "Technology is motivational because it's interactive. Computers give students a lot of feedback that you don't get from a pencil and paper."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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