Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.3, 196-204
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2013.43030
Banter: An Alternative Strategy in Creating a Learning
Sumita Bhattacharyya
Department of Te ac her Education, Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, USA
Email: sumita.bhat ta ch
Received January 20th, 2013; revised February 21st, 2013; accepted March 5th, 2013
In this qualitative study we investigated the role of bantering in creating a learning community for science
education. The curriculum was centered on a technology-integrated Project Based Approach (PBA). We
examined the pattern of in-service teachers’ interaction with such a learning environment and perceptions
of their future instructional practices that result from collaborative reflection on the use of Banter
throughout the semester. The findings suggest that exposure to bantering interaction not only helped the
in-service teachers to make decisions about the scientific issues they will face in the future but also helped
to construct a more inquiry based understanding of the issues in science teaching. Methodological limits
and possibilities were explored through the use of data analysis software such as Inspiration and NVivo.
Keywords: Constructivism; Technology integrated Project Based Approach; Wetland, Self-Confidence;
Banter; Belief System; STS; Teachers as Change Agents; Inspiration; NVivo
Criticism regarding poverty of and pervasive antipathy to
science learning in the U.S. has often blamed the inadequacies
of school science teaching: the courses are dull and unexciting,
and the teachers are under-prepared and lack the confidence
and ability to interest children in learning science (National
Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 2006). As a result, the
debate on science education reform has centered on the objec-
tive of science learning, the process of learning, and the most
effective method for attaining the objective. The consensus
among science educators seems to be that the objective of sci-
ence learning and teaching should be developing science in-
quiry skills, not merely knowledge of scientific facts and con-
cepts, and that inquiry skills are best developed by actually
doing science. In addition to formal approach in education sci-
entific disciplines need to be taught and learned through infor-
maleducation settings, such as science fairs, summer camps,
field trips, museums for all ages and for life-long learning
(Bhattacharyya, Mead, & Nathaniel, 2011; National Research
Council, 2009; Stevens & Bransford, 2007). Social interaction
in these types of informal settings seemed to stimulate interest
and encourage development of science process skills for many
young people. The importance of these alternative approaches
in curiosity-driven learning field is found to be more effective
than a traditional classroom situation (NRC, 2009; Vygotsky,
Furthermore staying informed about rapidly changing fields
in technology can be challenging for today’s science teachers.
Grunwald (2009) indicated that teachers are needed to use more
technology resources to help their students understand concepts,
practice new skills and engage in exciting, authentic learning
experiences. But even as the number of professional develop-
ment programs is growing, very little is known about their ef-
fectiveness. Jaschik (2010) found that teachers do not receive
adequate training in technology in teacher education institutions.
The faculty in Teacher Education may not integrate technology
in their instruction, and when they do they rarely demonstrate
or engage the student-teachers in problem solving applications
or electronic networks and integrated media (Grunwald, 2009).
Educational researchers have provided models and strategies
and explored both the pitfalls and potential of creating a tech-
nology-integrated project-based learning environment in sci-
ence classes ((Abdal-Haqq, 1995; Blumenfield, Fishman, Kra-
jcik, Marx, & Soloway, 2000). Nevertheless, such strategies are
not widely read by teachers or commonly practiced in science
education classes (Wenglinsky & Silverstein, 2006).
It is difficult for teachers to stay current with educational re-
search literature, given their daily workload and performance
expectations. Consequently, the responsibility lies with teacher
education and subsequent professional development programs
to provide teachers with the knowledge and skills to implement
new initiatives and research findings, in order to prepare quail-
fied teachers who can facilitate students’ successful perfor-
mance in science (Jaschik, 2010).
The first part of the purpose of this research was to see if in-
teraction in a non formal educational setting (Bantering) in a
technologically enriched problem-solving environment (or
project base approach, PBA) can enhance in-service teachers’
(a) science teaching confidence, and (b) their interest in the
connection between science and real life, e.g., local environ-
mental issues. Such confidence (or the lack of it) has been iden-
tified as a major factor in shaping school children’s interest in
and aptitude for science (Anderson & Mitchner, 1994). And the
second part of the purpose—the connection between science
and real life—was an attempt to develop critical thinking skills
about the changing nature of science in society, the capacity for
making decisions about the scientific issues they would face in
the future.
The following question was asked in this study:
How does Bantering in a PBA learning environment enriched
with technology affect the ability to teach science effectively?
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
Ability encompasses science teaching confidence, mastery of
the content, awareness of the connections between science and
real life issues, and mastery of technology in teaching.
There was a total of 67 participants for this study from three
cohorts. All were in-service teachers enrolled in a science
methods course taught over three consecutive semesters in a
Master of Education program. The researcher was also the in-
structor of the course. The course integrated issue based ques-
tions from both science and social sciences to enhance students’
skills of critical analysis and life-long learning that they need to
deal with the changing nature of science in society. Students
were provided with the necessary technology tools to critically
evaluate and make decisions about social issues. The students
were required to develop process skills making observations,
predictions, formulating hypothesis, collecting and analyzing
data, drawing conclusions, and, finally, suggest responsive
action. In order to demonstrate the connection of science to real
life, the health of the local bayou and its importance were cho-
sen. The project was to assess the significance of the local
bayou for the local economy and culture.
The participants worked in teams to formulate their own re-
search questions and to design the investigative procedures.
There followed a presentation from a representative of a state-
sponsored agency monitoring the conditions of the local estuary.
Participants collected data by using different image probes and
prepared artifacts (e.g., Excel, Inspiration, Digital camera,
Photo shop, Audiovisual reports) for class presentations. Class
sessions also included inquiry activities, several field trips,
testing water quality, interviewing local community stake-
holders, and class discussions. The participants were required to
write reflective essays before and after their experience with the
project on their relationship with the local physical, economic
and cultural environments.
Theoretical Framework
Project-Based Approach (PBA) is grounded on a logical in-
formation process, reinforces long-term memory, a vital con-
stituent of learning (see, for instance, Gagne, 1984). The ap-
proach requires learners to directly experience a problem or an
issue and helps them connect new information to what they
already know (Marx et al., 1997). Like constructivists, PBA
emphasizes the experimental, interactive, and cooperative na-
ture of learning (Schwab, 1962; Willis & Mehlinger, 1996). It
intentionally targets higher level thinking and the development
of competence and self-efficacy in the learners which in turn
leads to maintain a high level of motivation (Bhattacharyya,
Volk, & Lumpe, 2009; Blumenfeld et al., 1991).
Teamwork is an integral part of PBA in which each indivi-
dual student is responsible for mastering one component of the
project and, as a group member, is responsible to meet the
group goal by helping others. People become successful in
solving complex tasks when they work in a team (Ertepinar &
Omer, 1995; Vygotsky, 1962). Furthermore PBA encourages a
greater use of high-level critical thinking strategies than does
individualistic or competitive learning (Gabbert, Johnson, &
Johnson, 1986). Students who work cooperatively seek signifi-
cantly more information from one another than when working
alone, are less biased, communicate more accurately, and are
confident about the value of their ideas. More effective and
efficient processing of information occurs in cooperative situa-
tions than in competitive ones (Bhattacharyya et al., 2011;
Kimber et al., 2007). Students spend more time on task, de-
velop a more positive attitude toward their academic subjects,
and tend to persist to graduation (Tinto, 1987). Working to-
gether to reach a common goal produces greater productivity
than does working alone (Johnson & Johnson, 1994). Light
(1990) found that the use of interaction resulted in more stu-
dents feeling satisfied with the class, thus experiencing less
anxiety. Cooperative work may influence more females and
minorities to seek careers in scientific fields (Johnson & John-
son, 1994).
Teamwork, essential to PBA, evokes the synergy of multiple
intelligences. Gardener’s (1999) theory of intelligence identi-
fies eight components of intelligence, every person possessing
some level of each. In PBA the teacher can use this idea to
select a particular t opic depending on the ability and interest of
the students and create a team whose collective talents address
most of the areas of intelligence that Gardener identifies. The
teacher may compose the team on the basis of high level inter-
est and talent of the students or can mix the team with high
achievers and low achievers where they can learn from each
other (Hall, Fisher, Musanti, & Halquist, 2006; Vannatta &
Beyerbach, 2000; Wright & Wilson, 2007).
Banter enlivens teamwork. The friendly witty teasing among
team members contributes to a non-intimidating climate facili-
tating open communication not only between students but also
between students and teachers creating opportunities for more
effective learning. A critical issue in science education is sys-
temic and sustainable integration of technology. Few teachers
in education programs currently model systemic and sustain-
able technology integration in science classrooms. As a result
both preservice and in-service teachers often hesitate to use
such approaches in their instruction (Ertmer, 2003; Rosaen,
Hobson, & Khan, 2003). Such aversion to technology can be,
and indeed has been overcome as witnessed in this project, by
banter-enlivened cooperative learning environment (Blu-
menfeld et al., 2000; Cognition and Technology Group at Van-
derbilt, 1992; Coley, Cradler, & Engel, 1996; Means & Olson,
1997; Ryser, Beeler, & McKenzie, 1995). In one of the best
documented programs combining PBA and technology, eighth
graders in the Union City (New Jersey) Interactive Multimedia
Education Trial scored approximately 10% higher than students
from other urban and special needs districts on statewide as-
sessments of reading, mathematics, and writing achievement
(Education Development Center, 2012).
Data Analysis
The data in this research were analyzed qualitatively. Such
analysis allows for in-depth understanding of people’s experi-
ences in a specific surrounding. This method allows stories to
be told in their contextual details through multiple methods of
data collection and triangulation based on evidence emerging
from open-ended interviews, observations, and analysis of
documents (Patton, 2002). Qualitative research methods can be
used for describing processes, relationships, settings and situa-
tions, and people’s actions (Peshkin, 1993). The interpretive
work of qualitative research creates a space for discussing new
concepts, elaborating existing ones, and provides insights ge-
nerated from close, in-depth understanding of the phenomena
being studied. As Denzin and Lincoln (2003: p. 4) stated:
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 197
Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection
of a variety of empirical materialscase study; personal ex-
perience; introspection; life story; interview; artifacts; cultural
texts and productions; observational, historical, interactional,
and visual textsthat describe routine and problematic mo-
ments and meanings in individuals lives. Accordingly qualita-
tive researchers deploy a wide range of interconnected inter-
pretive practices, hoping always to get a better understanding
of the subject matter at hand. It is understood, however, that
each practice makes the world visible in a different way. Hence
there is frequently a commitment to using more than one inter-
pretive practice in any study.
Therefore, in this study the employment of qualitative me-
thods was driven by the need to understand in-service teachers’
perceptions in their contextual details in a technology-enhanced
learning environment in order to identify issues that facilitate
and hinder instruction.
Inspiration, a mind-mapping tool, and NVivo, a qualitative
data analysis tool were used in this study. NVivo is a data
management software used in qualitative research. In NVivo
data containing interviews, observations, researcher’s journals,
memoing were recorded. Using a data management software
allows us to remain organized while working with multiple
forms of data. Moreover, this software also allows for quick
search and retrieve when working through large volumes of
data based on how the data was coded. Searches could range
from simple text retrieval to complex Boolean searches where
coded texts can be searched in terms of how closely they occur
to each other in the context of the larger textual data. These
searches provided a way to remain reflexive of our data inter-
pretation and analysis as we were able to access the data
quickly and continuously to check for understanding, interpre-
tation, and claims made based on the evidences emerging out of
the data.
NVivo also allowed the researcher to write about interpreta-
tions and understanding during the data collection and analysis
stages. Since writing is a legitimate form of inquiry and analy-
sis (Richardson & St. Pierre, 2004) in qualitative research, this
practice created a space for sharpening thoughts, confirming
hunches, developing further questions and probes to investigate,
and identify potential gaps in the data and subsequently, in our
understanding. The reflective pieces were coded and the codes
were us ed t o de velo p ca tego rie s from the data and subsequently
themes that addressed generalized patterns within and across all
data sources. The data were coded, categorized, and thematized.
The understanding and interpretation were conceptually repre-
sented in a visually accessible manner by using Inspiration.
Inspiration software (Version 9) was used to visually represent
the connections between key ideas and concepts since NVivo’s
modeling functions were not as strong as Inspiration’s concep-
tual mapping functions. Analytical questions of the data were
asked and represented those questions in Inspiration along with
evidences from data that could potentially respond to those
questions. Thought bubbles were created akin to memo writing
followed by several kinds of mapping. Some were procedural,
some were analytical, and some were functional amongst the
thought bubbles. Procedural mapping involved looking at the
process of learning, analytical mapping looked at what was
going on while learning was occurring, and functional mapping
looked at how certain activities or instructional strategies func-
tioned to facilitate learning. Memos were written directly into
Inspiration which was visible with an iconic reminder. Apart
from writing memos, each link on the Inspiration Whiteboard
was used to enter text to capture the way the links were con-
ceptualized. With multiple revisits to the data, some key rela-
tionships were discovered between the themes to answer the
broad research questions. Inspiration became a space to bring
all of these pieces of data, questions, and memos, in a visually
accessible manner in one space that NVivo’s modeling function
did not provide as effectively. Being able to overview the study
in its various constituent pieces allowed us to work with the
details and also the general themes simultaneously using multi-
ple data sources to make evidence-based claims. Field notes,
research journals and participants’ reflective essays were en-
tered in NVivo during the research. Preliminary findings were
communicated to the participants to gather “response” (St. Pi-
erre, 1997) data.
Data were divided into three types of codes: demographic,
subject-matter oriented, and analytical, and analyzed in an on-
going manner during the study. Demographic codes described
the participant’s personal and professional backgrounds, train-
ing, experience in teaching and technology integration. Sub-
ject-matter codes identified key subject matters that the partici-
pants chose to discuss in their reflection journals, banter, or
informal conversation with the instructor. Analytical codes
were those that took leaps from the data and suggested what
was going on with the data. So, before the role of banter was
identified in producing learning, it was a subject matter code.
However, after asking questions of the role of banter in the
learning process, it was obvious that banter produced commu-
nities of learning. Thus, production of communities of learning
through banter became an analytical code as it answered the
question, “What is going on here?” Once these codes were
created, the author used the tree structure in NVivo to create
themes and free nodes that can be subsumed into the themes. A
theme had three requirements. First, it had to answer what is
going on here? Then, the ideas subsumed in the theme had to be
repeated by the participants several times in their banter, con-
versations, and journal reflections. Finally, a theme also had to
appear in multiple data sources for the author to consider it as a
tree in NVivo. Inspiration was used to identify connections
between and among these codes and the observation notes. The
journals offered personal reflections and awareness in the par-
ticipants’ construction of knowledge about their environments.
Multiple sources of data were identified to be relevant for
this study. The author maintained a research journal and acti-
vity log to ensure trustworthiness and academic rigor of the
study. Observations of participants’ experience, their reactions
to the subject matter, and their interactions with peers were
recorded along with informal conversations.
Findings from Preliminary Data Analysis
The preliminary data analysis affected the way subsequent
data were collected later in this study. The analysis suggested
how the participants were being informed and how they were
constructing knowledge. NVivo was used to identify themes
from the data that emerged from participants’ reflection jour-
nals. The themes were: 1) Perceptions about environmental
issues, 2) Detailed knowledge about science and environment, 3)
Confidence in participants’ own knowledge and ability, 4)
Construction of knowledge from class activities.
Next, Inspiration was used to identify multiple connections
and relationships between these themes (Figure 1). From the
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Figure 1.
An illustration of the connections and relationships between themes.
following figure the author was able to identify that although
the journals offered personal reflections and awareness in the
participant’s construction of knowledge about their environ-
ments, there was a tremendous amount of excitement and ban-
ter occurring amongst the participants surrounding the technol-
ogy use and interpretation.
The immediate feedback aspect of the technological probes
allowed the participant to engage in dialogues about interpret-
ing their findings and situating their understanding within the
context of the broader subject matter. The following is an ex-
cerpt of such interaction based on the transcribed observation
Sara: Kyla, I am trying to use this probe to get the data.
Nothing works.
Kayla runs to the instructor with her probe while Sara stands
there with a confused look.
Kayla: Miss what’s goin’ on here? It doesn’t make any sense
to me.
Instructor: Ok here is what you do. (Demonstrates use of
Kayla snatches the probe from instructor’s hands and runs to
the bayou shouting to the other students, “I got it. I got it now,
come I wil l show you”.
Kyla was explaining to Sara. Beth was listening to Kyla and
Sara’s conversation.
Beth: Ok it looks easy, are you showing off or are you a tech
Kyla: Oh come on, neither you know that. Come here and
see it for yourself man it’s easy. Don’t be afraid. This time Sara
demonstrates to Beth the use of the probe. Beth was completely
engaged and at the end said.
Beth: Oh my God, I am a fool to not get it till now.
Beth runs to the bayou to use her probe.
Thus the critical role these informal conversations and banter
played in structuring the participants’ experiences. It was fur-
ther reinforced from the reflections data. It was found that the
participants’ journal reflections were filled with rich descrip-
tions and personally meaningful conclusions based on their
interactions and banter with other students and informal con-
versations with the instructor. Participants identified their ex-
periences from the informal interactions as key shapers of their
knowledge. Beth wrote in her journal reflection: “I had never
realized that using technology could be as fun. Although I was
afraid at first, Sara showed me how to use technology. What a
simple way to learn and teach. I am so glad that I remained
open to technology because now I can see how I can use it in
my classroom. We have a bayou right in front of our school and
I didn’t even realize that I can use it as a learning tool and inte-
grate technology. If my students can help each other the same
way we did then I can see that this would be a very helpful
activity for my students. Going through this class, and watching
my classmates use technology so well made me think that I can
do it too. I am glad that I didn’t give up because this course is
becoming fun and interesting at the same time”.
NVivo was used to code the reflection journals and the ob-
servation notes. For Beth, the content of the banter matched
very well with the above reflection piece and both were coded
as collaborative learning amongst other codes. Code reports
produced in NVivo on themes corresponding to collaborative
learning and were able to verify that the participants experi-
enced collaborative learning just as much from the banter as
they did from actual activities that were strategically planned to
be collaborative. Thus, much more attention was paid to the
banter and observation notes around informal conversations.
Banters in this study heightened the awareness of the quality of
instruction and reinforced the value of a non-threatening hands-
on learning environment shaping learning on both cognitive and
affective domains. This information allowed the author to de-
sign the learning environment in a more conducive manner to
facilitate banter amongst participants. As a result it became
evident that banter should be a chosen and emergent strategy to
create communities of learning. This suggested that connections
were emerging from a combination of banter and effective
execution of assigned activities. Thus, those who did not par-
ticipate in banter did not report such richness and depth of their
learning. Instead they reported much more on the substantive
level of their learning than on the affective level, reinforcing
that personally meaningful connections were emerging from a
combination of banter and effective execution of assigned ac-
tivities. Rob, a very competent in-service teacher who did not
participate in banter wrote:
I was able to use the probe to detect the pollution in the
bayou. I was not so surprised by the pollution level because I
had already read it in the books and the newspapers but it was
good to see it with my own eyes.
Data were analyzed in an ongoing manner during the study.
By asking analytical questions in the Inspiration bubbles the
author generated more analytical themes for further brain-
storming. Thought bubbles were created akin to memo writing
followed by several kinds of mapping. Some were procedural,
some were analytical, and some were functional amongst the
thought bubbles. Procedural mapping involved looking at the
process of learning, analytical looked at what was going on
while learning was occurring, and functional looked at how
certain activities or instructional strategies functioned to facili-
tate learning. Memos were written directly into Inspiration
which was visible with an iconic reminder. Apart from writing
memos, each link on the Inspiration Whiteboard was used to
enter text to capture the way the links were conceptualized. At
the end of the preliminary data analysis, the author began to
design the learning environment that produced more banter and
collaborative learning. This meant designing activities that were
better executed with team work and also ill structured techno-
logy-enhanced problems that required problem solving and
brain storming amongst the students. This process of prob-
lem-solving allowed a camaraderie to develop between various
groups of students and they began to feel less and less intimi-
dated by the technology or the tasks associated with technology.
One day Brenda, an in-service teacher in her twenties men-
tioned, “Now I am very comfortable with these probes”. Thus,
production of communities of learning through banter became
an analytical code as it answered the question, “What is going
on here?”
Once the free nodes were created, tree structure was used in
NVivo to create themes and free nodes that can be subsumed
into the themes. A theme had three requirements. First, it had to
answer what is going on here? Then the ideas subsumed in the
theme had to be repeated by the participant several times in her
banter, conversations, and journal reflections. Finally, a theme
also had to appear in multiple data sources for us to consider it
as a tree in NVivo.
To discover relationships between the themes the author used
Inspiration software for cognitive mapping, brainstorming, and
further analysis. Three kinds of Mapping were involved in In-
spiration: procedural, analytical, and some functional amongst
the thought bubbles. Procedural mapping involved looking at
the process of learning, analytical looked at what was going on
while learning was occurring, and functioning looked at how
did certain activities or instructional strategies function to fa-
cilitate learning. Memos were written directly into Inspiration
and were made visible for analyzing the data. With multiple
revisits to the data, the author was able to see why some bub-
bles are linked to the themes in a certain way and how it was
making sense of the data. The map (see Figure 2) served as a
pictorial version of the thoughts grounded in the data. Thus
through the Inspiration map the researchers were able to dis-
cover some key relationships between the themes and answer
the broad research questions “What is going on here?”
Results and Discussion
The key findings of this study were, 1) Role of Banter, 2)
Becoming a change agent, 3) Impact of technology integration,
and, 4) Plans for future teaching practices.
Role of Banter
The role of banter yielded very similar results as it was re-
ported in the preliminary findings. Upon closer attention to
banter it appeared some patterns of assistance, reinforcement,
encouragement, and camaraderie forming communities of lear-
ning to further the performance of the students in the class.
Evidence of the communities of learning was expressed in mul-
tiple ways in previous excerpts. What was unique about the role
of banter was that the critical part it played in creating mean-
ingful learning experiences. It was the belief that the learning
environment not had been so conducive to informal dialogues
and banter, much of the meaningful learning experiences would
not have occurred as participants would not have been engaged
in socially supported learning activities.
The following are excerpts of multiple teachers that support
this finding.
Agnes, an in-service teacher in her twenties mentioned:
I never knew that we could use technology to bring this ma-
terial to life. I always knew about our bayous but now that I
have gone through this experience, I can say that I learned so
much and feel so much more better about what I know. It was
fun working with group and help each other. Things make more
sense to me now. The research project was very helpful al-
though I was complaining about it at the time we were going
through it. I think I can confidently go to my principal and say
look this method works and I need some money to buy some
technological tools.
Belinda, another in-service teacher in her twenties mentioned:
As we end this course, I have come to realize that so much of
what I learned here and how I learned here has made me feel
more sure of what I am doing. I can say confidently that if you
come into my classroom you will see a much more confident
teacher than you did before. With everything that is going on
with education, I never felt confident about what I know and
how I want to instruct my students. Now I see that instruction
does not always have to be so rigid and it can be thought pro-
voking and fun at the same time.
Tyrone, a student in his thirties said:
It is with great pleasure that I write this reflection. I dont
know how I came here but I am just glad that I did. To be very
honest this idea of doing the project for the course freaked me
out. What if this kind of project is too hard for my students. But
the project ideas generated by my group members directed me
to use PBA as a pedagogical tool in my classroom. I am not so
afraid of technology as I used to be before. Although I suspect
that my students are much more comfortable with technology
than I was when I first started this class but now I am not afraid
of the same. I think innovative learning environments that keep
students on task is the key to creating effective learning. I am
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Figure 2.
An illustration of connecting researcher’s thoughts driven by various data sources.
confident that I can do so now knowing what I know about my
subject matter, technology, and ability to combine my creative-
side with my logical side. I am even comfortable talking to
parents and administrators so that I can tell them how I can
make the learning of their children even more meaningful by
tying stuff into the local culture and heritage, something they
need to learn anyway.
Thus, while the participants identified their levels of anxiety,
they were also able to reflect on their experience in the course,
and identify their increased levels of confidence affecting their
beliefs about the kind of teacher they wanted to be and the roles
they wanted to play as educators. They identified issues of pol-
lution, coastal erosion, habitat change, etc. by being a part of
this learning environment.
Becoming a Change Agent
A surprising outcome of this study was the ownership of the
material that the participants developed as they went through
the class. Not only were the participants able to identify the
issues that troubled their communities and educational institu-
tions, but they were also able to identify the roles they would
like to play in those communities. Most students expressed an
increased awareness about their subject matter by participating
in this class. They were able to identify issues of pollution,
coastal erosion, habitat change, etc. by being a part of this
learning environment.
Some chose to be a change agent in their personal lives while
others chose to be a change agent in their professional lives and
take the students beyond their classrooms to make learning
personally more engaging. Participants attributed the way they
conceptualized their agency to the experience they had in the
PBA learning environment in this research study. The follow-
ing are some excerpts indicating the ways participants want to
be change agents.
Mark, an in-service teacher in his mid-twenties, states:
I have really become aware of our environment and culture
through this class. By doing the project and interacting with the
group I realized I need to teach my kids certain values about
our own culture and its past. Our children need to learn from
our Native Americans ancestors the use and care of the wetland
around the Gulf coast. It raised some questions in our group
and decided to perform research on several subtopics like, how
our local view of the wetland evolved, was it barrier to the
settlement, was it beneficial to local economy? It helped us not
only to understand our environment and but also to become a
critical th i nker.
Cindy reports:
I have become much more aware of integrating different dis-
ciplines in my Environmental science education class. During
the class project we generated several ideas to connect multiple
disciplines in one project. We discussed about several ways to
raise research questions based on issues on science technology
and society (STS). The objective was to prepare our students to
become a change agent and let them identify the role of wetland
in our economy and cultural life. I think that the way this class
was taught has allowed me to realize that I can do so much
with this pedagogy and technology. Just imagine, I am excited
to think that I have to bring science to life by taking it outside
the classroom. Also I have some special need children for who
it is a great idea to use differential approach to accommodate
their different capabilities.
Both Mark and Cindy wanted to be change agents in their
personal and professional lives and they used the class as an
initial information source to inform their future actions as
change agents. Mark wanted to become more involved in his
personal life by raising awareness in his environment while
Cindy wanted to bring awareness in her society. However, what
is common to both Mark and Cindy is how they value project
based technology-enhanced learning to shape their ideas about
the society. It was anticipated that project based learning would
increase awareness and confidence based on earlier research,
however, the fact that Mark and Cindy along with others had
made a personal decision to become change agents and incor-
porate the pedagogy, the tools, or the ideas. This made them
realize the impact of technology-enhanced PBA on creating
personally contextualized experiences and still do science. In
their journals Mark and Cindy reflected to make personal deci-
sions in their lives based on the overt and covert lessons em-
bedded in the learning environment. Overtly this research study
created a learning environment to increase awareness about the
environment and science methods of instruction. Covertly, this
study incorporated technology-enhanced PBA to influence
participants’ buy-in to the method and make it personally mea-
ningful in their lives. However, witnessing participants wanting
to become change agents was more than what one could have
Impact of Technology Integration
While there was some anxiety about using technology, there
was also a lot of excitement about it. Students stayed on task,
developed and sustained their interest and curiosity, and class
management issues were non-existent when students moved
around in excitement with their ideas and their mastery of
technology. The field notes indicated that the students were at
ease with technology during the time field notes were taken.
They also indicate the excitement and engagement technology
created and how it could be integrated. The learning experience
was so rich that the students took pride in their mastery of
technology. Students took the time to write up their findings to
make a Power Point presentation before the class was over.
Plans for Future Teaching Practices
The in-service teachers in this study came from various edu-
cational and social backgrounds. Their belief system directly
affected the role they wanted to play as educators. Most par-
ticipants reported that they were anxious about their instruc-
tional experience and role as teachers. But taking ownership of
their learning in this research allowed most of the participants
to become more confident not only about their instructional
strategies and pedagogies that they intended to use in their fu-
ture instructions, but also about the support they could receive
from administrators, parents, and students by implementing
innovative, student-oriented PBA learning environments. More-
over, the participants became confident about their content
As this study was designed, it was hoped that the participants
would take some of the pedagogical strategies into their own
teaching practices at the end of the course, especially if they
had positive, meaningful experiences. The reflection journals
indicated that not only did the participants have plans for using
PBA in their future classrooms but they also remained excited
about the possibilities that PBA can incorporate. The following
is an excerpt indicating accordingly.
Sara, in her late twenties, reports:
This was such a fun and insightful experience. I can see so
much value in using PBA in my instruction later. I think that the
kids would really appreciate hands-on activities, playing with
technology, and just being able to explore on their own and
figure things out for themselves. I am most certainly going to
use PBA in my classroom.
John, in his late twenties, reports:
I know that we were supposed to learn about the environ-
ment. But I learned more than that. I learned how learning can
happen. I suppose as a teacher I am always looking out for
different ways learning can happen. I realized that this class
had so many layers to it. On one hand we learned about the
environment. But then we also learned about technology and
each other and ways we can come together and help each other
and learn from participating in projects and hands-on activities.
I can see so many ways of using all this information in my fu-
ture classrooms. I can see many use of technology, using real
life examples, integrating the two, giving students group pro-
jects, encouraging them to help each other, so many things.
Thats why this class worked on many levels for me.
Both Sara and John identified future plans as did others to
integrate multiple aspects of the class in their future instruction.
Their reasons for implementing technology-enhanced PBA in
their teaching practices were primarily because of their own
personally meaningful experiences. While Sara identified the
whole concept of PBA as a pedagogical tool that she could use
in her teaching practice, John broke apart the components of
PBA and identified those components’ role in his future in-
structional practices. Therefore, technology-enhanced PBA was
successful in creating personally meaningful experiences for
students to invest in the pedagogy or parts of the pedagogy as
tools for their future classrooms.
The practice of effective science teaching is an uphill strug-
gle. As was evident in this research, it calls for relatively high
content knowledge in the subject matter, understanding of the
students’ learning styles, the planning and use of multiple
teaching strategies, and a relaxed, friendly, and supportive en-
vironment. Also a crucial role is played by the teachers’ will-
ingness to use technology based inquiry approach in classroom.
This is an issue that needs urgent investigation. In their training,
student teachers are often taught to implement inquiry, tech-
nology, for which they may find little support in their teaching
environment. The resulting frustration might create a negative
attitude of teachers towards utilizing technology based problem
solving approach (Bhattacharyya et al., 2009; Blumenfeld et al.,
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
In this study the participants progressed through the stages of
anxiety, awareness and enjoyment, intrinsic motivation, and
rapid growth in self-confidence and self-efficacy. In the effi-
cacy stage the teachers developed confidence in themselves and
their abilities to actually teach science in their classrooms
(Bransford, 1999). Such success was made possible by tech-
nology and banter assisted PBA (Blumenfeld, 2000; Grunwald,
2009). The project made them aware of the issues in the envi-
ronment that earlier they had not been. The technology (the
probes) led to a vivid realization of how pollution and salt wa-
ter intrusion were changing the nature of the bayou. The par-
ticipants could relate these changes to changes in the local cul-
ture and economy. While some identified with the value of
PBA as a whole, others identified with different parts of PBA
as strategies that they could use in their classrooms. Qualitative
data analysis tools like Inspiration and NVivo highlighted the
iterative process of research. These tools showed how early
analysis of data can identify key themes that can reshape the
design and the focus of the study (Denzin & Lincoln, 2003).
Inspiration became a tool for cognitive mapping, brainstorming,
and theme building. Overall this study confirms that the par-
ticipants’ exposure to a technology enhanced project environ-
ment and camaraderie with each other through banter positively
affected their confidence in teaching science (Vygotsky, 1962).
Thus it empowered the participants to make the learning come
full circle to prepare the future generations of young scientists.
I would like to thank Dr. Jnanabrata Bhattacharyya and Dr.
Kakali Bhattacharya for their inputs in writing this paper.
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