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Student Interest in Education, Article Critique Example

Pages: 3

Words: 776

Article Critique

Abstract

Motivation is one of the most popular objects of education research. The degree to which students are motivated to learn largely predetermines their chances to achieve the desired learning outcomes. This paper is a review and critique of David H. Palmer’s article Student interest generated during an inquiry skills lesson. A brief summary of the article is provided. Hypotheses, methods, and results are discussed. Implications for education are provided.

Keywords: student, motivation, interest, learning, education, inquiry.

Student Interest in Education: Article Critique

How to motivate students to learn is an open question. David H. Palmer (2009) provides his view on the problem and explores student interest in and during an inquiry skills lesson. Palmer (2009) writes that “motivation can be defined as any process that initiates and maintains learning behavior” (p.147). Unfortunately, many science students have little or no motivation to learn (Palmer, 2009). Therefore, student motivation and ways to keep students motivated are the major challenges in science education (Palmer, 2009). This is why Palmer designs a study to assess the sources of situational interest during a science lesson (Palmer, 2009). Palmer (2009) concludes that, even when students lack inquiry skills, participation in inquiry-based science lesson tasks does increase student motivation to learn. The main sources of situational interest during a science class include learning and choice, physical activity, novelty, variety and surprise (Palmer, 2009). The researcher suggests that motivating science students to learn is not an unachievable task. Rather, these are education professionals and curriculum designers who should develop science curriculums, to foster social involvement, variety, and choice in the classroom.

The title of the article is equally interesting and confusing. On the one hand, education professionals need an in-depth understanding of the student motivation problem. On the other hand, the term “situational interest” is unclear. However, Palmer (2009) predicts thisconfusion and suggests that situational interest is entirely about short-term interest generated by various aspects of each particular situation. Thus, situational interest is always different, and researchers need to define what common aspects of the learning process can ensure high situational interest in all situations and settings.

Palmer’s (2009) study was designed to investigate situational interest and its main predictors during a science lesson. The author sought to answer two basic questions: (1) how much situational interest is there during a science lesson?; and (2) what are the main sources of situational interest? (Palmer, 2009) For the purpose of the study, Palmer (2009) focused on a hand-on inquiry skills lesson. The research sample included 224 grade nine students (Palmer, 2009). Five schools from one city in south-eastern Australia were invited to participate, with the same number of student volunteers taken from each school (Palmer, 2009). All schools were typical, with science lessons taught by specialist science teachers (Palmer, 2009). All students were divided into groups, each group carrying eight students who had to participate in a single 40-minute inquiry skills lesson (Palmer, 2009). All lessons were standardized around the four main components: Demonstration, Proposal, Experiment and Report (Palmer, 2009). Data were collected from students through a brief survey containing one single item (rating the lesson from very boring to very interesting) and group interviews at the end of each lesson (Palmer, 2009). The use of both qualitative and quantitative data had to ensure better validity of the study results.

The study indicated that students lacked skills to participate in inquiry-based lessons; nonetheless, inquiry-based approaches generated considerable situational interest among participants (Palmer, 2009). The main sources of situational interest for students were found to include learning, choice, physical activity, novelty, surprise, variety, and social involvement (Palmer, 2009). The most interesting was the link between situational interest and physical activity: Palmer (2009) suggests that physical activity is inseparable from variety, social involvement, autonomy, and concrete learning, all of which contribute to and stir situational interest in learning; yet, these assumptions require further empirical validation. Despite several limitations, the findings have far-reaching implications for education and learning. First, Palmer (2009) suggests that situational interest can provide a foundation for developing motivation models in learning. Situational interest is an extremely strong motivator of learning, and it has the potential to encourage low performing students to improve their learning achievements. Second, that novelty, choice, variety, and other factors generate student interest means that making students motivated is not an unachievable task. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether and how the findings of Palmer’s (2009) study can be generalized and applied in non-science disciplines. To a large extent, the discussed article is merely the first step to developing a single, salient model of student motivation across various disciplines.

References

Palmer, D.H. (2009). Student interest generated during an inquiry skills lesson. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(2), 147-165.

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