First Advisor

William Becker

Date of Publication

Spring 7-18-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Teaching (M.S.T.) in General Science


Science Teaching


Computer-assisted instruction, Academic achievement, Class size, Biology -- Study and teaching (Secondary) -- Case studies



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 65 pages)


In 2015 the U.S. continues to struggle with academic achievement in public schools. Average test scores from 15 year olds taking the Program for International Student Assessment placed the U.S. as 38th out of 71 countries (Drew Devlin, 2017). It is common to discuss elimination of the achievement gap as the single most effective way to improve the U.S.'s mediocre standing among the highest scoring countries in the world in primary and secondary student test scores (McGhee,2004; Flemming 2012). In the broadest sense of the term the "achievement gap" refers to the difference in academic success between different groups of students. It is often used to describe the lower performance of underprivileged student populations (National Education Association, 2004). Attempts to understand why this GAP exists and how educators may narrow such GAPs, researchers have identified both large class size and lack of personalized instruction as two conditions that commonly accompany lower academic achieving student populations (Lee and Buxton, 2008).

Although there is a wealth of literature attempting to assess the effect of class size, few studies have defined small and large class sizes. In her research, Sarah Leahy (2006) defines a small class as one containing between 13 and 17 students and a regular class as one containing between 22 and 25. For the purposes of this research, a large classroom is defined as one with over 25 students.

In theory, computer-based instruction (CBI) offers great potential to expand on the concept of personalized instruction. However, there is very little research available that describes how this tool can be used to effectively enhance the classroom learning process. This study examines the impact of providing computer-based instruction (CBI) or teacher-led instruction on students of various achievement levels enrolled in a traditional, high school biology classroom. The high school in which this research as conducted is a Title One (low income) identified school. 111 from four sections of freshman high school biology, were randomly divided into two learning groups per section. Both groups in each section were taught one 50-minute lesson on cellular biology. One group received the lesson from CBI while the other group from teacher-led instruction. The impact on learning was measured by the change in pre- and post-test scores. All students in each section received the same lesson content which was provided in the same classroom concurrently. Data from 82 students that returned signed parental consent forms and took the pre-test on day one, the lesson on day two, and the post-test on day three, were analyzed in this study.

Results: The twenty students ranked as high academic achievers scored the highest correct answers on pre- and post-tests (mean 7.1 and 9.4 respectively). Improvement in test scores, measured as mean number of additional correct answers on the post-test, for the high achievers was equal whether they received CBI or teacher-led instruction (+1.72 and +1.75 respectively). Twenty-seven middle ranked academic achieving students also showed a statistically equal degree of improvement from each instructional platform. However, middle students that scored the highest pre-test scores also produced the highest improvement from CBI. The thirty-five low academic achieving students produced the highest improvement in test scores overall from teacher-led instruction and produced a mean negative change in post-test scores from CBI (mean +2.13 and -.68 respectively). Findings from this study suggest that in a classroom setting, higher academic achieving students will learn equally well from CBI or from a teacher while lower achievers benefit more from small group, teacher-led instruction.

Persistent Identifier