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 Keywords
- State Standards of Learning
- Collaborative research
- Teacher role
- Active learning
Date of Defense 1999-04-05 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe 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
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
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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