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The ASEAN Journal of Education ASEAN Journal of Education

Activity-based Learning by Using a Social Network Critical Reflective Practice Together with Project-based Learning: A Case Study of the General Education Subject, Suan Dusit University


Arpaporn Angsachon, Saisuda Puntrakool,


Abstract

This research aimed to study the learning achievement of students before and after activity-based learning by using a social network critical reflective practice together with project-based learning. The sample population consisted of sophomore Suan Dusit University students studying the early childhood education curriculum who were enrolled in the information technology course (general education subject). A total of 115 second-year students in the Early Childhood Education faculty, from Section I1 and J1 of the Information Technology course during the first semester of the 2013 academic year, were selected. Research tools were composed of: 1) the teaching plan, 2) the students’ behavior observation form, 3) the achievement test, and 4) the satisfaction evaluation form. The data was analyzed using percentage, mean, standard deviation, and independent t-test. Research results demonstrated the following: 1) there were four stages in students’ behaviors observation which were planning stage, operation stage, presentation stage, and evaluation and future learning stage; the results demonstrate the activity and project-based learning stage preferences of the majority,2) the achievement evaluation found that most students had higher learning achievement outcome after attending class (p<0.05), and 3) the overall satisfaction of the students was neutral; ranked from the most to the least were the creation of an atmosphere in the classroom and the participation in learning activities among students and teachers.

Introduction

  Applying information technology as teaching tools in Thailand has increased rapidly in order to prepare students readily for the digital age and the 21st century skills. The reform of Thai education in order to arise in the future as a nation of wealth, stability and dignity, capable of competing in the age of globalization is needed (Office of the National Education Commission, 1999). According to the National Education Act, B.E. 2542 (1999), the learning process shall aim at acquiring the thirst for knowledge and capability of self-learning on a continuous basis with lifelong education for all, and the principle organization system shall be mobilization of resources from different sources for provision of education. In order to prepare and teach the students to use information technology for their future education and interests, classroom teaching needs to enable everyone to succeed at the same level. 

 A social network or online community is a website, a virtual community or a profile site, that brings people together to talk or connect with friends and family, share ideas and interests, make new friends, share photos, videos, music and other personal information with either a select group of friends or a wider group of people, depending on the selected settings. It is the active-based network, in the form of web services, designed to support the exchange of  data  among  computers  in  the  network  and  support  sharing  of  information. The  most popular activity carried out on mobile devices by internet users was communication through social network sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, and LINE at 82.7 percent (Electronic Transactions Development Agency (Public Organization), 2016). This type of collaboration and sharing of data is often referred to as social media platform. There are tons of different social networks that you can join for free. Examples of social networks are Bebo, Classmates, Facebook,  Friendster,  Google+,  Instagram,  LinkedIn,  MySpace,  Orkut,  Path,  Pinterest, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, Twitter, Yik Yak, and YouTube (Affilorama Group, 2016; Chaleaysab et al., 2012; Computer Hope, 2016; Whatis.com, 2016).  

  An important innovation in education for the 21st century is Activity-Based Learning (ABL) which applies new techniques or technologies to transform teaching and learning in order to provide students a way to experience and interact with ideas and information. Instead of transmitting information to the student as is commonly done in a lecture, activity-based learning  connects  students  with  real  situations  and  practical  problems,  increases  student engagement, and creates opportunities for meaningful collaborative work. In general ABL   is  convenient,  easy  to  use,  and  transform  the  traditional  teaching  methods  aligning  and blending  with  pre-existing  education  pedagogy,  competency  mapping  and  assessment   (Gupte et al., 2016). ABL has been proved successful teaching model in the field of medicine, engineering and science, and also business schools. ABL as a tool integrates learning within students’ knowledge by exposing them to a variety of activities that help them learn how to learn. As ABL  requires  high  degree  of  participation,  essential  instructor  skills  involve facilitating, motivating, enabling and coaching rather than simply presenting facts and figures didactically. The integration of ABL elements are aimed at enhancing learners’ management knowledge,  skills,  and  problem-solving  abilities  (Singh,  Sharma,  &  Sapam,  2014).   ABL focuses on the real action and learning from actual experience. Sripatum University   of  Thailand  has  announced  the  new  designed ABL  oriented  curriculum  in  order  to   produce  the  smart  human  resource  graduates  and  serve  the  growing  global  business   (Lertpaitoonpan, 2014).  

Critical Reflective Practice is a reasoning process to make meaning of an experience with descriptive, analytical, and critical faculties. It can be articulated in various presentation patterns  such  as  in  written  form,  orally,  or  as  an  artistic  expression.   In  short,  critical reflective practice adds depth and breadth to an experience and builds connections between course content and the experience. Reflection models are based on a philosophical approach to assist students develop and understand of critical reflection. There are four steps to create critical  reflection:  1)  Identify  the  student  learning  outcomes  related  to  the  experience,   2) Design the reflection activities to best achieve the outcomes, 3) Engage students in critical reflection before, during, and after the experience, and 4) Assess their learnings. It is a form of reflection that is  complicated  as  well as challenging for the learner and the educator. (Lucas, 2012; SkillsYouNeed.com, 2016; ThinkAchieve: Creating Connections, 2016).   

Project-Based  Learning  (PBL)  is  a  teaching  method  focused  on  student  learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration,  and  self-management.  PBL  stimulates  learners’  knowledge  and  skills  by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and  complex  question,  problem,  or  challenge  (Buck  Institute  for  Education,  2016).   PBL increases long-term retention of content, helps students perform as well as or better than traditional learners in high-stakes tests, improves problem-solving and collaboration skills, and improves students’ attitudes towards learning (Vega, 2015). During working in project-based learning, students will be assigned alternative projects that require their diverse skills such  as  researching,  writing,  interviewing,  collaborating,  or  public  speaking  to  produce various kinds of output such as research papers, study reports, project proposals, multimedia / videos / animations / illustrations or mixed patterns of presentation, or musical and theatrical performances. In project-based learning, students are usually given a general question to answer,  a  concrete  problem  to  solve,  or  an  in-depth  issue  to  explore.  Teachers  act  as facilitators to encourage students to choose specific topics that interest or inspire them, such as projects related to their personal interests or career aspirations (Coffey, 2016; Project-Based Learning, 2013). 

 There are varieties of knowledge sharing on social network. Students can study at any time by themselves. This necessitates the teacher to handle learning differently in the digital age. The role of the instructor changes to facilitate learning, rather than direct tuition. This research applied with the constructivism of Piaget’s theory via activity-based learning. The stage in cognitive development for this research was the formal operational stage, which is the proper level for adolescence and adulthood (Huitt & Hummel, 2003; McLeod, 2015). The project-based learning researched learning and how to improve the creativity of the students. The researcher, an instructor of Information Technology course, was interested to do classroom research about activity-based learning by using a social network critical reflective practice together with project-based learning with students of Suan Dusit University.      

Objectives

  The objectives of this study were: 1) to study the learning achievement of students before  and  after  the  activity-based  learning  by  using  a  social  network  critical  reflective practice together with project-based learning and 2) to explore the students’ satisfactions with this method.

 

Methodology

  This  classroom  research  used  a  case  study  in  the  activity-based  learning,  social networking, together with a review of the technical project-based learning with Information Technology course (general education subject) of Suan Dusit University.   

  1. Population and samples

    1.1  The  population  in  this  study  was  the  sophomore  students  from  the  Early Childhood Education programs who were enrolled in the Information Technology course (general education subject) during the first semester of the 2013 academic year; the total number of students was 115 (58 students from section I1 and 57 students from section J1).     

1.2  The required sample size was 92 students, determined by Yamane formula at 95% confidence level; 46 students were obtained from each section using simple random sampling.

  1. Research tools

  Four research instruments used in this study were: 1) the Information Technology teaching  plan,  2)  the  students’  behavior  observation  form,  3)  the  achievement  test,  and   4) the satisfaction evaluation form. Development of the tools was as follows:

    2.1  Tool designing and qualities assessment

      2.1.1  The Information Technology teaching plan 

      The teaching plan of the activity-based learning by using a social network critical reflective practice together with project-based learning of Information Technology course had been organized by:  

        1)  Study and detailed analysis of the course contents for planning the weekly  teaching  and  learning  activities,  the  expected  outcomes,  and  the  assessment processes.

        2)  Creation of the teaching plan of 8 chapters for 16 weeks, excluding the pre and posttest. The lessons were: 

          2.1)  Chapter 1: Computer technology

          2.2)  Chapter 2: Data communication technology  

          2.3)  Chapter 3: The Internet  

          2.4)  Chapter 4: Social network

          2.5)  Chapter 5: Online database and retrieval

          2.6)  Chapter  6:  Information  and  knowledge  management technology

          2.7)  Chapter  7:  Laws,  ethics  and  safeties  in  using  information technology

          2.8)  Chapter 8: The applications of information technology for life

        3)  Consultation  with  the  educational  expert  to  check  the  finished learning plan, edit, and receive suggestions for the improvements, the content validities, the relevance of expected learning outcomes, and the correction guides.     

        4)  Test  the  teaching  plan  by  calculating  the  average  level  and comparing it with the acceptance level. The average range of 3.51-5.00, “high suitably” to “highest suitably”, signified a good teaching plan.

        5)  Revision and improvement of the teaching plan according to the expert’s comments before experimenting with the sample group. 

      2.1.2  The students’ behavior observation form  

      Researchers designed the observation form to collect the behavioral data of students during the semester instructions and activities. An analysis and summary of the observation data was provided in the descriptive report for teaching assessment and feedback improvement information to develop future teaching plans. The design steps were as follows:

        1)  Review of various styles of the observation technique to create the study observation form.

        2)  Definition of the scopes of study about the atmosphere of activities class and students’ behaviors.

        3)  Creation of the observation form

        4)  Elicitation of advice, feedback, and approval from the expert.

        5)  Revision and completion of the students’ observation form before use with the target group.    

        6)  Data collection by observation and recorded students’ behaviors.    

      2.1.3  The achievement test

      The  achievement  test  had  a  total  30  questions  and  each  question  had  5 choices. It was used to assess students’ learning outcome with the pretest before joining activities  and  the  posttest  after  attending  the  course. The  achievement  test  preparation procedures were:  

        1)  Research information about patterns, purposes, and examples of the classifications of achievement test.

        2)  Composition  of  the  achievement  tests  (2  papers:  pre-test  and   post-test)

        3)  Determination of the scoring criteria of the test: 

          -  correct answer = 1 point

          -  wrong answer/ no answer/ more than one answer = 0

        4)  Evaluation  of  the  content  validity  of  the  questions  with  the professional expert to find the Index of Item-Objective Congruence (IOC) of the test with the expected index greater than or equal to 0.5. The index result of all questions was 0.5-1.  

The achievement test was qualified.

        5)  Pilot test of the qualified questions to measure their effectiveness with 30 students external to the study; all answers were checked in order to analyze the difficulty  and  the  discrimination. The  report  showed  that  the  difficulty  (p)  was  between   0.07-0.95 and the discrimination (r) was between -0.01-0.66. After that, 30 questions were selected with the difficulty range of 0.24-0.94 and the discrimination range of 0.10-0.56. 

        6)  Measurement  of  the  reliability  of  the  30  questions  test  with  non-sampling students by using Kuder-Richardson formula 20 (KR-20); the result was 0.892.

        7)  Improvement and correction of the complete achievement test for use with the target students.

      2.1.4  The satisfaction evaluation form 

      At the end of the course, there was the assessment of students’ opinions about the  satisfaction  level  of  the  activity-based  learning  by  using  a  social  network  critical reflective practice together with project-based learning. The satisfaction evaluation form had been constructed as follows:   

        2)  Determination  of  the  aims  and  scopes  of  the  evaluation  issues according to assess the acquiring methods for knowledge.

        3)  Study of the relevance information and related researches.

        4)  Creation  of  the  evaluation  questionnaire  based  on  research objectives; responses were constrained to a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from strongly agree to  strongly  disagree. The  evaluation  topics  consisted  of  3  facets  with  a  total  18  items:   1)  the  creation  of  an  atmosphere  in  the  classroom  with  6  items,  2)  the  activities  in   project-based learning with 7 items, and 3) the participation in learning activities among students and teachers with 5 items.

        5)  Consultations with the educational expert in order to elicit advice, critique the form, and obtain comments for improvement.

        6)  Arrangement and improvement of the satisfaction evaluation form before applying it to the study group.

    2.2  Data collection

      2.2.1  Observation and recording students’ behaviors had been done during the semester.    

      2.2.2  The  pre-test  for  the  critical  thinking  skills  was  delivered  at  the beginning of the class and the post-achievement test was delivered at the end of the semester. 

      2.2.3  Collection of the students’ satisfaction evaluation data at the end of the course.  

    2.3  Data analysis

      2.3.1  Qualitative  data:  content  analysis  was  used  for  the  behavior observation data and presentation consisted of a descriptive summary.

      2.3.2  Quantitative  data:  statistical  values  were  computed  for  percentage, average, standard deviation, and t - test dependent.

Results

  The study results of the activity-based learning by using a social network critical reflective practice together with project-based learning can be summarized as follows:

  1. Students’ behaviors of Information Technology course

  There were four stages in students’ behaviors observation – planning stage, operation stage, presentation stage, and evaluation and future learning stage.

      1.1  Planning stage

    From  the  observation,  it  showed  that  Information Technology  course  was  an interesting subject and the majority of students had attended with interest, curiosity, and eagerness to share ideas and discussions. When the class set up the activities via the social network under the working project, learners enjoyed the participation and could select the study topics based on their own interests in order to find the answers or gain knowledge from project-based  learning.  During  the  project  work,  students  engaged  in  group  discussion, opinion  sharing,  project  planning,  duty  distribution,  and  responsibility  recognitions.   The learning experiences from planning the project to solve their topic, researchers observed that some groups were still hesitant about how to start their plans, could not arrange the job sequence (what should be do prior or later), did not know where and how to find information, and  could  not  make  final  decision  or  agreements  on  varieties  of  ideas. As  the  group counselor, the teacher advised students to start their project by asking themselves “what” was the question or topic they wanted to know or were interested in. Questioning was employed because it leads to inspiration, scientific thinking, definitions of the experiment, and learning methods to find the answer. After students had selected their own group topic, the teacher continued  to  support  their  learning  by  teaching  them  to  be  open  minded  and  listen  to opinions/ideas  of  others,  guided  them  how  to  gain  benefits  from  a  variety  of  ideas,  and suggested alternatives methods for project planning. In this stage, the teacher demonstrated how to train students to recognize questions, find answers on their own, continue the next step with a keen interest in thinking skills, and have higher academic achievement.

    1.2  Operation stage

    Students in every group very actively worked together in order to find answers,  as  planned.  They  managed  the  group  operations  according  to  each  member’s  skills   to do research for their solution such as searching data from library, internet, other learning sources,  or  interviewing  academicians  or  IT  experts. When  they  collected  enough  data, students executed data to get the solutions or the answers to their questions and completed the purpose of the project. However, there were still problems with some groups because they could  not  follow  and  complete  the  project,  as  planned.  The  major  problem  was irresponsibility for completing their duties. Therefore, researchers suggested that they adjust their plan, attempt processes again, do more research, re-design the plan, and rearrange group responsibility  to  fit  member’s  skills. When  the  study  finished,  learners  could  complete everything in their plans. Students had learned from real practice to illustrate the importance of effective planning, group harmony, maintaining patience, making attempts, accepting other opinions, and working as a team.  

    1.3  Presentation stage

    This  project  used  social  network  as  communication  channel  therefore  the presentation were conducted via Facebook, the most popular social network in Thailand, (Electronic Transactions Development Agency, 2016). The class set up a closed group page for presentation and communication among members of the group. Benefits of a closed group were teachers could control and audit the contents of posts to check the correctness and reliability, and verify the information presented before sharing with the public. Students were more  interactive  in  Facebook  than  in  the  classrooms  and  they  felt  more  comfortable expressing  opinions  through  online  posts  than  offline  class.  They  could  present  the information  and  analyze  content  concisely  and  in  sequence.  Idea  sharing,  knowledge exchange, class discussion, creativity opinion, and member cooperation were examples of the students’ experience in the learning process. As a facilitator, teachers assist learners to help solve problems of the groups such as an inability to find enough data to summarize the result, supported by correcting the data and advising the appropriate learning sources for searching. Findings in this stage were that the students could relate to the learning process, analytical skills, and clearly understood how to do the summary reports. 

    1.4  Evaluation and future learning stage

    Each  group  could  apply  the  knowledge  gained  from  project-based  learning   and  exchange  knowledge  and  experience  within  their  group  and  between  other  groups. Researchers randomly selected two groups to present in classroom. The results showed that the  learners  could  explain  all  processes  from  the  planning  stage  to  presentation  stage, answered questions, and organized the discussion well. It demonstrated that students clearly understood and could explain their knowledge or experiences to other people, and had good opportunities to assess their own works and friends’ works. The majorities of students were satisfied with the activity-based together with project-based learning whereas some students still  were  shy  and  did  not  share  ideas  or  discuss  with  others.  Researchers  motivated  by allowing them to present with their own styles, and encouraging a comfortable zone and

friendly atmosphere. Students can apply these experiences with further studying of other subjects and alternative self-learning.

Figure 1  Group members consisted of teachers and students

 Figure 1  Group members consisted of teachers and students






Figure 2  Examples of project presentation and communication between teachers  and each group

  1. The achievement test assessment

  The assessments of students’ achievement in Information Technology were tested before and after learning with the sample of 92 students from the Early Childhood Education program. The  achievement  assessment  results  of  pre-test  and  post-test  are  shown  in  the   Table 1.

 

Table 1  Comparison of the achievement test results between before and after learning with  the  activity-based  learning  by  using  social  network  critical  reflective  practice  together with project-based learning.  

 

 

    As can be seen from Table 1, the achievement assessment (the 30 question test with  5  multiple  choices  per  question)  results  demonstrated  that  students  earned  higher average scores after attending the activity-based learning (p<0.05).  

  1. The satisfaction of the students 

  The  satisfaction  evaluation  of  the  students  conducted  at  the  end  of  the  semester   about the activity-based learning by using a social network critical reflective practice together with project-based learning was divided into 3 aspects: the creation of an atmosphere in the classroom, the activities in project-based learning, and the participation in learning activities among students and teachers. The results are shown in Table 2.

Table 2  Summary of the students’ satisfaction evaluation 

 

    From Table 2, the results showed that the majority of students were satisfied with the  overall  aspects  of  the  research  project  at  the  neutral  level  ( χ =  3.44,  SD  =  0.68).   The findings ranked in sequence are the activities in project-based learning at the agree level   ( χ =  3.55,  SD  =  0.71),  the  creation  of  an  atmosphere  in  the  class  at  the  neutral  level   ( χ = 3.39, SD = 0.82) and similar to the participation in learning activities among students and teachers ( χ = 3.38, SD = 0.78).

Conclusion and Discussion

  This  classroom  research  emphasized  increasing  students’  learning  ability  by combining  the  activity-based  learning  and  the  project-based  learning  as  methods  for designing  the  lesson  plan  and  classroom  activities  by  applying  a  social  network  as  a communication  channel,  discussion  area,  and  forum  for  the  final  project  to  public. Researchers selected Facebook as the activity platform because this social network was the most popular social network in Thailand. Its features provided an easy tool to eliminate the illiteracy usage, diminished the limitations of working place and time, and was a related channel to the Information Technology subject. There were four mixed method instruments (qualitative  and  quantitative)  to  collect  data. A  summary  of  the  results  about  students’ participation  observation,  learning  assessment,  and  the  students’  satisfaction  survey  are presented below.   

The  descriptive  summary  of  students’  behavior  findings  demonstrated  that  the

majority of learners were interested in every activity and the project-based learning, which consisted of four stages. During the first stage, the planning stage, the teacher promoted students with equal opportunities to raise the questions or unknown stories and discuss in order to select a topic for the project. In this stage, the teacher gave the scope of the area study and let students set up groups, practice analyzing problems, plan their project, express a varieties of ideas, and worked together. The planning process promoted initiative, diligence, critical thinking, creativity, and role responsibility. Second, the operation stage to conduct a study on the implementation of the project emphasized teamwork practice, collaboration, imagination  and  expression  of  ideas  into  actions,  and  solving  conflict.  During  the presentation stage, or the third step, the teacher gave a chance for all members to present their output in class. Each group described all phases of the project from the early steps until completion. They exercised presentation skills for both preparation and speaking. The final stage was the evaluation and future learning which cooperation between teachers and students to assess the output and discuss the implementation for developing new knowledge or further study.  This  is  related  to  the  work  of Arantes  do Amaral,  Gonçalves,  and  Hess  (2015)   that created support project management graduate courses to improve project management skills of graduate students, and Genc (2015) that showed that project-based learning had   a positive effect on students’ environmental attitudes.  

The achievement of student’s learning from the examination demonstrated that this learning project had  increased  the  learning outcome of students, as evidenced by higher posttest scores (p<0.05). The experimental learning method taught the student to learn to think  creatively  from  the  planning  and  implementing  of  four  stages.  Students  had  the opportunity to participate and take action in the project by themselves; this truly affected learning and improved recognition. As a result, the achievement of learners improved as can be seen from the average achievement scores after learning, relative to the control curriculum. This is consistent with the findings of Kara and Celikler (2015) that using the test with Kuder Richardson-20 reliability coefficient is estimated to be 0.763, and the result of the study was the creation of an effective and reliable achievement test comprised of 32 questions with intermediate difficulty level and good distinction strength for the “Matter Changing” unit of the science curriculum.

  The questionnaire survey of students’ satisfaction with this course found that learners were satisfied with overall project learning activities. The statistics revealed that students preferred  most  the  activities  of  project-based  learning,  followed  by  the  creation  of  an atmosphere in the classroom, and the participation in learning activities among students and teachers. It can be inferred that creation of interesting activities, promoting new learning techniques  and  a  motivated  environment  could  lead  students  to  feel  surprised,  relaxed, friendly,  and  enjoyment. They  had  opportunities  to  work  as  a  team,  trust  in  member’s responsibilities,  exchange  experiences,  create  and  share  opinions,  and  demonstrate  keen interest to learn new things. These findings are consistent with the research of Kane, Shaw, Pang,  Salley,  and  Snider  (2016)  that  demonstrated  that  understanding  the  factors  that influence online student satisfaction and success is vital to enable administrators to engage and retain important stakeholders, and Gray and DiLoreto (2016) that showed that course organization and structure, student engagement, learner interaction, and instructor presence accounted for considerable variance in student satisfaction and perceived learning in online learning environments through a range of pathways.  

The  concept  of  activity-based  learning,  together  with  project-based  learning  for classroom research, was chosen to study students’ reflections and determine the success of learning methods with respect to learning outcomes. It would seem that the activity-based learning by using a social network critical reflective practice together with project-based learning  is  generally  quite  difficult  to  understand  and  implement,  but  this  appears  to  be attractive on further research. 

 

Recommendations

  This  classroom  research  was  conducted  in  order  to  increase  students’  learning abilities and develop skills for self-learning by applying social networking with project-based practices. Further studies are required to clearly identify the concept of critical reflection in cooperative  with  activity-based  learning  and  topics  for  project-based  education.  Using reflective practice is an active, dynamic action-based and ethical set of skills, placed in real time  and  dealing  with  real,  complex  and  difficult  situations. An  activity  with  critical reflection  has  huge  benefits  in  increasing  self-awareness,  which  is  a  key  component  of emotional intelligence, and in developing a better understanding of others. It can also help to develop creative thinking skills, and encourages active engagement in work processes. 

  1. Suggestions to improve teaching in the future are: 

    1.1  Instructor should ask questions to stimulate learners’ attention, endeavor to learn more for finding the answer or new knowledge on their own.

    1.2  Instructor should manage appropriate activities schedule that is adjustable and flexible to students and use other social network as communication channel and learning tools.   

    1.3  Instructor should share interesting topics, or news, or hot issues to interact with students.

  1. Recommendations for further study are:

    2.1  The  study  should  be  covered  with  other  social  network  especially  the professional group network, and apply with the major subject of the program.

    2.2  The study should continue with the comparison of the effect of various types of activity and project learning approach to other teaching methods.

    2.3  The study should apply other theories, for example: the Bloom’s taxonomy with the project-based learning to cover more learning domains.

 

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Key words: activity-based learning, critical reflective practice, project-based learning, social network
     
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