Use of dissection-related courseware by low-ability high school students: A qualitative inquiry

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This article reports on a naturalistic study conducted with 24 low-achieving high school Biology students. Observations and interviews were used to determine how the teacher and students used two different computer-based instructional programs on frog anatomy and dissection, and how students conducted a subsequent dissection. Student and teacher opinions were solicited about the different computer-based programs and the dissection laboratory. Findings suggest that dissection can be a valuable learning experience for low-achieving Biology students when they are engaged in group cooperation and interaction and receive adequate instructional preparation. Results also point to the motivation these students exhibit toward computer use, to the importance of balancing learner and program control, and to the value of considering the teacher as a possible source of both interaction and structure during courseware use. Recommendations based on these and other findings are offered for educators and instructional developers.

As participating teacher in this research, Mrs. Foss' integral and enthusiastic involvement is recognized with co-authorship of this article. She has asked to be identified by name rather than by a pseudonym.
The paper on which this article was based was presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in April 1993. The authors thank Mary Catherine Ellwein and an anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments on an earlier draft. Correspondence may be directed to Mable Kinzie at the Department of Educational Studies, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, 405 Emmet Street, Charlottesville, VA 22903-2495.