Evaluation of Cognitive Learning in Intermediate Students at the Central Wisconsin Environmental Station
Klippel, Judy K.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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During the 1983-84 academic year, a formal evaluation of cognitive learning was conducted at the Central Wisconsin Environmental Station. A modified pretest-posttest design was used to assess fourth, fifth, and sixth graders' achievement of performance objectives in ten of the center's 40 curriculum units. Comparisons were also made between student gain scores on the tests and their perceptions of the amount of fun they had and between gain scores and their perceptions of how much they learned in the onsite activity. Test scores were compiled by curriculum unit and grade level for data analysis, resulting in a total of 19 cases on which t tests were conducted. In 14 of the 19 cases, treatment groups experienced significant gains without showing a pretest learning effect (p<.05). There were several uncontrolled variables which variously influenced gains in the units. These included classroom participation in unit-related pre- and post-activities, classroom instruction in other environmental education activities, onsite instruction in other units with some of the same concepts, and initial academic status of participants. In seven of the cases, significant gains could be attributed to treatment variables which included the study unit and pre and post-activities. In the remaining seven cases, gains could be attributed to participation in treatment variables including the study unit, without pre- and post-activities. The results imply that instruction provided by a large teaching staff at the Environmental Station is an effective means of assisting students achieve cognitive knowledge objectives. The results also indicate that learning is occurring whether or not students are exposed to the pre- and post-activities. In two of the ten curriculum units there were significant differences in mean pre- to posttest gain scores between students who rated the activity as "really fun" and those who rated it "sometimes fun". In none of the curriculum units was there any significant diference in mean gain score between students who rated their participation in the activity as “discovered lots of new things”, "discovered some new things", and "did not discover anything new". Further inquiry is suggested to determine what aspects of activities students regard as having been fun and learned. Such information may have value for making decisions about program changes. A more complete program evaluation will require studies focusing on higher levels of cognitive thinking and on the affective and behavioral domains.