Title page for ETD etd-041999-163152

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Akers, Julia B.
URN etd-041999-163152
Title Confronting the Realities of Implementing contextual Learning Ideas in a Biology Classroom
Degree Doctor of Education
Department Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hoerner, James L. Committee Co-Chair
Kelly, Patricia Proudfoot Committee Co-Chair
Harris, Larry A. Committee Member
Niles, Jerome A. Committee Member
Welford, John M. Committee Member
  • Discipline
  • State Standards of Learning
  • Collaborative research
  • Teacher role
  • Active learning
Date of Defense 1999-04-05
Availability unrestricted
The purpose of this study was to describe the implementation of contextual learning

practices in a biology class. Research contends that contextual learning classrooms are active

learning environments where students are involved in “hands-on” team projects and the teacher

assumes a facilitator role. In this student-centered classroom, students take ownership and

responsibility for their own learning. This study examined these assertions and other factors that

emerged as the study developed. The research methods used were qualitative.

The subject for this study was a biology teacher with twenty-six years of experience who

implemented contextual learning practices in two of her biology classes in the 1997-98 school year.

As the teacher confronted contextual learning, we engaged in collaborative research that included

fourteen interviews transcribed verbatim for analysis, classroom observations and the teacher’s

written reports.

Throughout the study, factors developed that adversely affected contextual learning

practices. These factors were discipline, curriculum, and administrative decisions over which the

teacher had no control. These are examined along with their consequences for implementing a

contextual classroom.

Successful practices that worked in the teacher’s classroom were also determined and

included the teacher’s “failure is not an option” policy, mandatory tutoring, behavior contracts,

high expectations and teamed projects. Besides contextual learning, a key component of the study

was the collaborative research process and its meaning to the subject, the researcher and future

researchers who attempt this collaborative approach.

The study’s conclusion indicate that scheduling, multiple repeaters, discipline and the state

Standards of Learning moved the teacher away from contextual learning practices to a more teacher-directed classroom.

Two recommendations of this study are that further research is needed to study how the

state Standards of Learning have affected instructional practices and the effect of administrative

decisions that influence the level of teacher success in the classroom.

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