Using Students’ Perceptions of the Mathematics Classroom Learning Environment to Guide Teacher Action Research to Improve Mathematics Classroom Learning Environment in Rural Junior Secondary School
ICETA 6 || International Conference on Educational Technology of Adi Buana 9 Mei 2015 || ISBN: 978-979-3870-55-7 Penerbit : Universitas PGRI Adi Buana Surabaya Penulis : Erna Puji Astutik
This study described the mathematics classroom learning environment in rural junior secondary school. This study focused on students’ perceptions of actual and preferred mathematics classroom learning environment and how those perceptions can be used as a feedback for teacher to improve the classroom. This study involved two phases of data collection which employ two different methodologies. At the first stage, questionnaire was used to gather students’ perceptions of their mathematics classrooms; the What Is Happening In the Classroom (WIHIC) questionnaire which consisted of actual and preferred questionnaire was administered to a sample of a grade eight class that consists of 19 students from rural junior secondary school.
The results of students’ view of their mathematics classroom learning environment were then followed by classroom observation and interview. Those results were used to examine the usefulness of students’ perceptions as a tool for reflection and guidance in transforming their mathematics classroom learning environments. This case study helped to determine the extent to which action research based on students’ perceptions of the mathematics classroom learning environment was useful in guiding the improvement of matematics classroom learning environment.
Keywords: learning environment, mathematics classroom learning environment, WIHIC questionnaire, rural school.
Mathematics is a general science that is needed by other subjects and also have important role in our life (Depdiknas, 2006). The development of technology and communications is a result of the advancement of mathematics in all subjects. In Indonesia, mathematics is one of the compulsory subjects at all school levels in primary and secondary school. By learning mathematics, students are expected to understand mathematics concepts and use them in solving mathematics problems (Depdiknas, 2006). Mathematics is also one of compulsory subjects in National Examination that must be passed by all students at the end of year 6, 9 and 12. The result of the National Examination strongly determines whether or not the students can pass their study and graduate from their primary school, junior or senior high school. This result is also needed as a requirement to enter the higher school level, for example from elementary to junior high school (year 6 examination), from junior to senior high school (year 9 examination) and further from senior high school to university level (year 12 examination). As a result, mathematics teachers must consider in preparing their classroom, not only for delivering the material but also providing the environment where the learning takes place so that it can help students in their learning.
Classroom learning experiences will very much influence students’ academic development because they spend enough time during their schooling. Consequently, the quality of classroom environment is very important to the students. There has been a considerable amount of research in the area of classroom environment during the previous three decades. The initial formal study of the field of learning environment has been conducted by Lewin, a German-American psychologist, in 1936. He recognized that both the environment and its interaction with personal characteristics of the individual are strong determining factor of human behavior (Fraser, 1986). Many researchers have also studied the relationship between the quality of the classroom learning environment and students’ outcomes. These studies have been conducted in many different countries and the result indicates that the classroom climate strongly influence student outcomes including students’ achievement and attitudes in classroom (Fraser, 2007).
Some past researches that have been conducted also focused on the development and validation of instruments to measure students’ perception of different dimensions of the learning environment. The instruments have been used to provide teachers and researchers with information about the nature of classroom learning environment, the effect of teaching innovation based on students’ and teachers’ perception, and whether students perform better in their preferred environment (Aldridge, 1995). In the late 1960s, Rudolf Moos and Herbert Walberg began their research into development of learning environments instrument. It was first time collecting students’ perceptual data using questionnaire. Walberg developed the Learning environment Inventory (LEI) and Moos developed the Classroom Environment Scale (CES) (Fraser, 1986). Another questionnaire has also been developed by Fraser, Fisher and McRobbie (1996) that is the What Is Happening In the Classroom (WIHIC) questionnaire. Some researches that have been conducted in several countries including Indonesia used the WIHIC questionnaire in collecting data. In Indonesia for example, the WIHIC was used to investigate the association between university computing students’ perceptions of their classroom learning environment and their outcomes in mathematics classroom (Margianti, 2001; Soerjaningsih, 2001) and to investigate the students’ perceptions towards science classrooms in lower secondary school (Wahyudi, 2004; Wahyudi & Treagust, 2004b).
Asian researchers have also conducted studies in learning environment area to look at the associations between students’ perceptions of their classroom learning environment and their outcomes (Fraser, 2002). For example, in Singapore primary mathematics classroom, Goh and Fraser (1995) found that better students’ achievement and attitude were found in classes with better environment where students perceive more cohesiveness and less friction, and also more teacher understanding, helping/friendly, and leadership behaviours in their classroom. Another example is the research that has been conducted by Margianti (2001) in Indonesian private computer institutions to look at the influence of classroom learning environment towards students cognitive and affective outcomes in mathematics classroom. She found association between learning environment and students’ outcomes in which students performed better in classes with a greater emphasis on student cohesiveness, teacher support, involvement, order and organization, task orientation, and equity. From the previous researches, it can be concluded that the better learning environment can bring in better students’ outcomes.
Students spend a substantial amount of time with the same teacher, they also spend enough time in a class and have experienced many different learning environments thus making them in a good position to make a judgement and opinion about their teacher and classroom (Fraser, 2001). Some past studies have used students’ perceptions of actual and preferred classroom learning environment to provide better learning environment. The data obtained from the students can be used as a feedback for teachers in reflecting their classroom and teaching so that they can determine strategies and further actions in providing better learning environment. Past studies have also found that students’ perceptions of their classroom environment was useful in guiding teacher action research to improve their classroom environment (Aldridge, Bell, & Fraser, 2010). Fraser, Malone, and Neale (1989) also found that students’ perceptions of actual and preferred classroom learning environment can lead on successful change in mathematics classroom by conducting case study regarding the students’ desirable learning environment.
Other issues that are related to the classroom learning environment are school resources and the quality of teaching practice regarding with how teachers transfer material to their students. “Indonesian government is still struggling to provide all students with the best quality teaching practices” (Wahyudi & Treagust, 2004a). Many schools in rural areas are struggling to provide students with appropriate education, while most schools in urban areas have successful level of enrollment (Wahyudi & Treagust, 2004a). Wahyudi and Treagust (2004b) found that there are differences between students perceptions in the rural and urban science classroom in which urban students perceive their science classroom more favourable than rural students. They also found that in rural school the learning process is dominated by teacher-centred method, low teachers’ expectation, lack of resources and some teachers have to teach more than one subject that is not their concern area so that resulting in their low teaching performance.
The Indonesian government is also still improving education in rural area by designing some educational programs, for example, the current program for fresh graduate students in education ‘Gerakan Maju Bersama Mencerdaskan Indonesia: Program SM-3T (Sarjana Mendidik di titik Terdepan, Terluar, dan Tertinggal)’ that collaborates with some Indonesian University in which they give an opportunity to 3.500 fresh graduate education program to teach in rural and left behind area (Program Pendidikan Profesi Guru) (Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan Direktorat Jenderal Pendidikan Tinggi, 2011). By this program, it is hoped that the equity of educational quality in all areas can be formed.
Based on all above issues, the present study focused on mathematics classroom in rural junior secondary school. This study described mathematics classroom learning environment in Indonesian junior secondary schools by using the questionnaires, interview and observation to provide more depth picture of the mathematics classroom learning environment. Moreover, this study focused on examining the extent to which students’ perceptions can guide teacher action research to improve the mathematics classroom learning environment. It is hoped that this study will give some information for Indonesian teachers especially in rural school to make an action, decision, and policy in order to provide better mathematics classroom learning environment to help students in their learning.
The objectives of this study were to:
- Describe mathematics classroom learning environment in rural junior secondary school?
- Examine the extent to which students’ perceptions of the mathematics classroom learning environment can guide teacher’s action research to improve mathematics classroom learning environment.
This research was use mixed methods research design in which consists of quantitative and qualitative approaches in order to provide better and deeper understanding of the mathematics classroom learning environment. The design that was used in this study is explanatory sequential design in which quantitative and qualitative information were collected sequentially in two steps, with first collecting quantitative data and then collecting qualitative data to provide more explanation and elaboration on the quantitative results so that general picture of the research problem can be gained (Creswell, 2012).
Sample of this study was drawn from rural junior secondary school in Lamongan in which an eighth grade class consisted of 19 students from SMP N 2 Laren Lamongan was selected.
Initially, the quantitative data was collected by administering the WIHIC questionnaire to all students to measure their perceptions of actual and preferred mathematics classroom learning environment. The collected data using the questionnaire were then used for further data collection involving different research method that is qualitative method including classroom observation and interview with three students that were selected based on researcher and teacher discussion based on their answer in the WIHIC questionnaires and their ability to communicate. The quantitative data will be supported by the qualitative data.
Those data were then presented and discussed with the teacher. Those data were also used as a feedback for teacher to design an approach or activity to improve their mathematics classroom learning environments based on students preferences. The teacher then made a lesson plan and implemented for two periods in which each period was held for 80 minutes. There were also classroom observation and administering of WIHIC questionnaire to examine the teacher’s action in improving their mathematics classroom learning environment.
- RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
- Mathematics Classroom Learning Environment in Rural Junior Secondary School
To investigate the mathematics classroom learning environment in rural junior secondary school, the researcher used the WIHIC questionnaire that have been adapted into Indonesian context by Wahyudi (2004), two periods of classroom observations, and interview with three students who represent their perceptions in the WIHIC questionnaire. The mathematics classroom learning environment will be explained based on the seven scales on the WIHIC questionnaire, they are: student cohesiveness, teacher support, involvement, task orientation, investigation, cooperation, and equity.
Students’ responses to the WIHIC questionnaire were subjected to descriptive statistical analysis by calculating the average item mean and standard deviation of each scale for both actual and preferred forms of the WIHIC questionnaire. The average item mean, or the scale item mean divided by the number of items in a scale, for students’ scores on the actual and preferred forms are tabulated in Table 4.1. The reason for using the average item mean is to provide meaningful comparisons between the means of scales containing differing numbers of item.
Table 4.1: Average Item Mean, Average Standard Deviation, and t value from t-test with Paired Samples for Differences between Actual (A) and Preferred (P) Students’ Perceptions of the WIHIC Questionnaire in Rural Junior Secondary School
A and P
|Student Cohesive-ness (SC)||3.83||4.41||0.48||0.50||-7.81***|
|Teacher Support (TS)||3.57||4.51||0.60||0.44||-9.97***|
|Task Orientati-on (TO)||3.45||4.57||0.58||0.31||-12.12***|
*** p < 0.001 ** p < 0.01
The first one is student cohesiveness that is related to the relationships among students in the mathematics classroom and also in helping each other. The WIHIC give the score of student cohesiveness 3.83 that means students perceive the activity related to student cohesiveness occur between sometimes and often but relatively often. However, in the observation periods there were just four pairs of students (eight students of the total of 19 students) who were observed working well each other in doing the task related to the circumference and area of a circle. From the interview it was also known that there were some students mocking around and being ridiculer who mocked their friends with their physical appearance and parents’ name.
For teacher support that is associated with teacher behaviour in the mathematics classroom that show his/her support and interest in students, the students give an average score of 3.57 in which they perceive the teacher between sometimes and often in supporting them and helping them. This finding was also supported by the classroom observation that the teacher actively moved around to talk with students (especially to students who often made noise and had less attention to the lesson) and help them solve the problem if they got difficulties, such as guided them in understanding the problem, finding the known and unknown variables, establishing the formula to be used, and also calculating the result. The teacher also made interactive questions and answers with students while explaining the material and problem, such as in determining the known and unknown variable, which formula of circumference and area to be used to solve the problem, which phi (22/7 or 3, 14) to be used, and also in calculating the result. The teacher also gave more attention to the students’ calculation because most of them still got difficulties in calculation. For students, as known from the interview, the teachers’ role was to help them to understand and solve mathematical problem. The teacher will inform the students if they were wrong in solving the problem, sometimes they were also asked one by one whether they got difficulties, sometimes they asked to the teacher and then the teacher will give more explanation.
The involvement scale is related to the students’ discussion and negotiation in the mathematics classroom whether with other students or the teacher. From the WIHIC questionnaire, the involvement score is 2.75 that mean students are in between seldom and sometimes involved in the learning process but relatively sometimes. This score was also supported by the observation results in which just one student who presented their answer in front of the class without explain it. There were also just two students who actively answer the teacher’s questions regarding to the known and unknown variables from the problem given, the formula of the circumference and area of a circle to be used, and the calculation result during the lesson. It means that the remaining students tended to be passive in giving respond to the teacher’s questions. From the interview it was also known that the students were rarely posing questions during mathematics lesson and going ahead by their own initiative because they were afraid to be ridiculed by their friends. The students tended to go ahead (solving problem in front of the class) if they were asked to.
For the task orientation scale that described the direction and students consistency of the task in the learning process. From the WIHIC questionnaire, the task orientation score is 3.45 that mean students in between sometimes and often consistent with the task and lesson in mathematics classroom. As known from the two periods of classroom observations, not all students paid attention during the lesson, there were at least two of them did irrelevant activity such as talk with others or made noise during the mathematics lesson. The students were also less consistent in doing the task, as informed from the interview, they often doing their homework at the school rather than at home. This situation can be occurred because they did not study at home. For them, however, mathematics is still important to be used for their daily live.
Investigation is the scale that emphasis on students’ skills and inquiry process in investigation to solve the mathematics problem. From the WIHIC questionnaire, the investigation score is 2.88 in which students perceive in between seldom and sometimes the investigation activity to be occurred. This can be indicated from the classroom observations in which both the two observers did not see the investigation activity during the two period classroom observations. The teacher did not ask the students to carry out investigation. The teacher just explaining, giving the example and giving problems related to the material and example. From the interview data about the investigation activity is known that the students often use the teacher’s examples and explanation in doing their task or assignment rather than other resources. From the interview was also known that the students just use the teacher’s note and student worksheet as their resources. It means that they did not prefer to search by themself from other resources such as book or internet.
For the cooperation scale that evaluates students’ collaboration in the mathematics classroom, the WIHIC score is 3.11 in which the students perceive that they sometimes cooperate with other students. The observation data shown that not all students worked and cooperated each other, in which just four pairs of students (eight students from the total of 19 students in the classroom) who cooperated each other in doing the task related to the circumference and area of a circle. This is caused by the teaching method that the teacher used; the teacher did not ask the students to do the task cooperatively. However, students still shared their book and other facilities such as rural, compasses, and etc. during the lesson. From the interview data it was also known that the students often doing their task by his/herself rather than discuss it with friends. However, sometimes they also need to work together or just copy the answer of other students.
Equity scale asses the equal treatment from teacher to students during mathematics lesson. Equity score on the WIHIC questionnaire is 3.49 that mean students perceive well in the equity scale in which the teacher in between sometimes and often treat students equally. This finding was also supported by classroom observation and interview that the teacher gave the same opportunity for students to talk and answer question during the lesson, also in determining the known and unknown variables of the problem, the formula of the circumference or area of a circle, the phi number, and the calculation result. The teacher asked the students to present their answer by asking the students who have finish first or sometimes asking them randomly based on students’ number.
From the all above findings, the lowest activity to be occurred during the mathematics lesson in rural junior secondary school was related to the involvement and investigation scales. Those findings are related to the previous researches (Wahyudi, 2004; Wahyudi & Treagust, 2004b) that in most cases, classroom transactions in rural schools were more dominated by teacher centered methods and had less investigation activities. Also students were less sure of teacher’s expectations. Frequently, in rural schools students were told to copy notes from the blackboard before the teacher explained them. This situation may occur because the students did not use the textbook that already given to them. The students prefer to use the teacher’s notes and examples in solving the problem rather than read and find from book or other resources.
- Teacher’s Action Reseacrh in Improving the Mathematics Classroom Learning Environment in Rural Junior Secondary School
The results from t-tests for paired samples on the Table 4.1 show that there were significant differences (p < 0.001 and p < 0.01) between students’ perceptions of their actual and preferred learning environment on all scales. The Table 4.1 suggests that the students’ perceptions of the seven scales on the preferred version of the WIHIC questionnaire are statistically higher than their perceptions on the actual version of the same questionnaire. Students would prefer activities associated with WIHIC items to occur between ‘often’ and ‘very often’ (average item mean between 4 and 5) for almost all scales except the cooperation that preferred to be occurred less ‘often’. The results are consistent with previous studies (Margianti, 2001; Wahyudi, 2004; Wahyudi & Treagust, 2004b) except the cooperation scale that most students would prefer a learning environment that have more teacher support, enhanced student cohesiveness, clearer task orientation, doing more investigations, and ensuring greater cooperation as well as more equity during a lesson.
The researcher and teacher tried to identify which scales had the largest actual-preferred differences from the questionnaire to help the teacher to decide what the teacher would like to work on. These differences in both actual and preferred scales can be used by the teacher as a focus for improving the mathematics classroom learning environment in keeping with Fraser’s five stages (Aldridge et al., 2010) for learning environment enhancement. The larger actual-preferred differences were for the investigation, task orientation, and involvement scales. The teacher considered that task orientation and involvement scales were important to be improved. The data from interview especially for the students preferred was used by the teacher as guideline in designing the teaching approach.
The teacher made a new lesson plan to design how the teacher will conduct the teaching and learning activities to improve those two scales. The teacher tried to use Number Head Together (NHT) as the teaching approach, grouped the students and asked them to discuss. Each group consisted of five students and they have to solve five problems. Each student has responsibility to finish one problem and discuss it with their group to get valid result. By doing this approach, the teacher hoped that the students become clearer of the task they have to do and more involve to the mathematics lesson. The following story of the observation will give a picture how the teacher conducted her improvement in the mathematics classroom.
The teacher implemented the NHT model for two periods of time in which consist of 80 minutes for each period. The result of the classroom observation related to the WIHIC scales as follows.
The students worked well with other students in the same group when doing the task related to the relationship between the central angle, arc length, and area of a sector of a circle except five male students who did not work well with other member of their groups. It means that there were five students from the total of 19 students in a class who did not work well with others. They did not do their task and did irrelevant activities such as disturbing other students and talking with others that was not related to the material.
The teacher actively moved around to monitor the group discussion, talk to students, help the students or groups that got difficulties, and guided them in solving the problems related to the relationship between the central angle, arc length, and area of a sector of a circle. The teacher asked questions to the students in order to help and guide them in understanding the task or material and also to remind them about previous material about the definition of some element of a circle. The students became know what they have to do, which one is the known and unknown variables and which formula to be used to solve the problems. The teacher also warned students who did not discuss well and made noise during the lesson.
There were five students (from the total of 19 students in the classroom) who actively gave a response to the teacher questions about the arch length and area of a sector of a circle, and asked questions to the teacher when they got difficulties. Those five students asked questions when the teacher moved around to check students answer and monitor group discussion, none of them posing question when the teacher in front of the class. Each group was asked to answer the problem in front of the class without being asked to explain it.
Almost all students paid attention during the lesson. They discussed with their groups the task given that was related to the relationship between the central angle, arc length, and area of a sector of a circle. However, there were three to five students who did irrelevant activities such as walking around to other groups, disturbing other groups and made noise.
The investigation activity cannot be observed during the two observations period. This result indicates that the teacher did not ask the students to carry out investigation. The teacher explained the material, gave the example, grouped the students, and asked them to discuss and solve the problems related to the material and example that has been explained.
Students were cooperated each other in their groups in doing the task related to the arch length and area of a sector of a circle, except five male students (from a total of 19 students in the class) who did irrelevant activity, did not participate in doing the task. There was less cooperation in the group, the female students tent to discuss with female students and the male students with the male students but the female students were more active than male students. There were also some clever students that cannot cooperate with other students in the same group, they just solving the task by themselves. However, students still shared their book and other facilities such as rural, compasses, and etc. during the lesson.
The teacher gave the same opportunity for students to talk and answer question during the lesson. However, just a few students who answered the teacher’s questions that was dominated by the clever students. The teacher asked the students to present their answer by asking the group who have finish first or sometimes asking them randomly by drawing lots.
After the two implementation of the teacher’s improvement, the students were given the WIHIC questionnaire and the result was described in Table 4.4 and Figure 4.2. From the Table 4.4 can be seen that there is score improvement not only for the involvement and task orientation scales but also other scales. There is also significant difference (p < 0.01 and p < 0.05) between pre and post implementation on the scale involvement, task orientation, investigation, and equity. This result indicates that the teacher was successful in improving their mathematics classroom learning environment based on students’ preferences.
For the involvement scale, during the implementations can be seen that there were five students who actively gave a respond and asked questions to the teacher when they got difficulties (from the total of 19 students in the classroom). Those five students asked questions when the teacher moved around to check students answer and monitor group discussion. This result is different from the pre implementation that just two students who actively answer the teacher’s questions during the lesson that means the remaining students tend to be passive in giving respond to the teacher’s questions.
For the task orientation scale, during the implementation period, almost all students paid attention during the lesson. They discussed the task given with their groups. They become clearer about the task that they have to solve. However, there were three to five students who did irrelevant activities such as walking around to other groups, disturbing other groups and made noise. This condition is still the same as the pre implementation that there were three to four students who did irrelevant activities during the lesson. Therefore, the teacher needs to be more consider in controlling her mathematics classroom so that all students paid their attention to the lesson.
Table 4.4: Average Item Mean, Average Standard Deviation and t Values from T-Test with Paired Samples for Differences between Pre and Post Students’ Perceptions of the Mathematics Classroom Learning Environment in Rural Junior Secondary School
|Scale||Average Item Mean||Average Standard Deviation||Difference Between
Pre and Post
|Student Cohesiveness (SC)||3.83||3.93||0.48||0.38||-0.99|
|Teacher Support (TS)||3.57||3.60||0.60||0.72||-0.29|
|Task Orientation (TO)||3.45||3.90||0.58||0.71||-3.46**|
** p < 0.01 * p < 0.05
Figure 4.2: Comparison between Pre and Post Students’ Perception of their Mathematics Classroom Learning Environment in Rural Junior Secondary School
In summary, from the discussion presented above, the WIHIC questionnaire can be used as a tool to measure the students’ perception of the mathematic classroom learning environment in which from the result was known that students in rural junior secondary school held more favorable perceptions of the teacher support and equity scales. The findings from the observation and interview also supported this data that the teacher actively moved around to talk with students, check students writing and help the students if they got difficulties. Almost all students needed the teacher’s guidance in solving the task. For the equity scale, the teacher treated students equally, give the same opportunity and attention for all students. Students had less favorable perceptions of student cohesiveness in which there are several students were mocking around in the classroom so that resulting on the inconvenient environment. The finding from the interview also confirmed for the task orientation scale that students were inconsistence in doing the task, they often doing their homework at school rather than at home. The investigation activity also did not occur during the lesson in the observation period. In most cases, the classroom transactions in rural junior secondary school were dominated by teacher-centered method as described in Wahyudi (2004) and Wahyudi & Treagust (2004b). Also students were less sure of teacher’s expectations. Frequently, in rural schools students were told to copy notes from the blackboard before the teacher explaining to them.
The WIHIC questionnaire also can be used as a feedback for the teacher so that the teacher can make an action to improve their classroom. From the discussion was known that the teacher improved their mathematics classroom from the students preferred questionnaire in which students were prefer the investigation, task orientation, and involvement to occure. By using Number Head Together (NHT) as the teaching approach, the improvement occurred in all seven scales, especially there were significant differences between pre and post implementation on the scale involvement, task orientation, investigation, and equity.
It is hoped that this study will give some information for Indonesian teachers especially in rural school to make an action, decision, and policy in order to provide better mathematics classroom learning environment to help students in their learning.
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Erna Puji Astutik is a lecturer in matematics education department of Universitas PGRI Adi Buana Surabaya. Erna was born in Lamongan on 29th of August 1986. Erna was graduated from Universitas Negeri Surabaya on 2008, where she received a Bachelor Degree in Mathematics.
Erna is also a graduate of Curtin University, where she joined Dual Degree program of Master Degree in Mathematics Education between Universitas Negeri Surabaya and Curtin University, Western Australia.