Title

The CLEM Model: Path Analysis of the Mediating Effects of Attitudes and Motivational Beliefs on the Relationship Between Perceived Learning Environment and Course Performance in an Undergraduate Nonmajor Biology Course

Date of Award

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department

Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Jodi J. Haney (Committee Co-Chair)

Second Advisor

Mark A. Earley (Committee Co-Chair)

Third Advisor

Patrick Pauken (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Karen Sirum (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Anne Bullerjahn (Committee Member)

Abstract

The problem addressed in this study stems from three crises currently faced by post-secondary science educators in the Unites States: relatively low scientific literacy among students entering college, the need for more students to pursue science related careers, and poor attitudes among students toward studying science. In this dissertation the following questions are addressed: Is there a relationship between students' perceptions of their learning environment and course performance, and what roles do motivation and attitudes play in mediating that relationship? This study also examines the effects of gender and ethnicity on motivation, attitudes, and course performance. The purpose of this study is to test a path model describing the mediating effects of motivation and attitudes on constructivist learning environments and course performance. The following study considers contemporary understanding of teaching and learning as well as motivation and attitudes to suggest a direction for future reform efforts and to guide post-secondary science education instructors and leaders in the design of constructivist learning environments for undergraduate nonmajor biology courses.

This study concludes that, although the classroom learning environment has a small direct effect on course performance, there is a moderate total effect on self-efficacy and intrinsic goal orientation. The classroom learning environment also had a moderate indirect effect on attitudes toward biology. Furthermore, attitudes have a moderate direct effect on course performance and self-efficacy has a strong direct effect on both course performance and attitudes toward biology. Self-efficacy seems to be particularly important; however, each of these constructs is important in its own right and instructors in higher education should strive to enhance each of them among their students. If students are to learn using constructivist methods they need the proper motivation and positive attitudes to encourage them to prepare for class and to participate in class activities.

Faculty may be viewed as students of pedagogy and leaders should model best practices and provide support for reform-based motivation-minded introductory biology courses. By enhancing attitudes and motivation of both faculty and students, the recommendations from this study may be a step forward in addressing some of the critical problems faced by leaders and educators in postsecondary science.