Everyday, teachers are faced with the challenge of teaching students new information that is valuable to their future. Teachers are responsible to determine what and how information is taught. How this information is taught to students is pertinent to their success; therefore, teachers must be able to use effective teaching methods in the classroom. Students have diverse learning styles; therefore, teachers need to determine how students learn best and pattern their teaching to accommodate these differences. During elementary school, children learn to read and write, acquire a basic understanding of content areas, and develop dispositions toward learning. Since so much learning occurs during this period, the elementary school years are considered critical for development (Helm, 2000). Statement of the Problem
Improving the quality of teaching in America's schools continues to be a central focus of educational reform. Constant decreases in academic achievement have alarmed school officials, lawmakers, and parents. The decline in academic achievement can be attributed to students' difficulty in visualizing and understanding elementary science and arithmetic problems. As a result of poor standardized test scores, researchers are constantly providing teachers with new methods that can be used to teach content-area information. Although the traditional methods of teaching have been used for decades, academic performance has not increased. In fact, this teaching method has contributed to creating an atmosphere of low motivation, boredom and difficulty in understanding the content (Gariity, 1998). A proposed teaching method for improvement is the hands-on learning approach. Hands- on activities allow students to handle, manipulate, or observe science and mathematical processes and result in enhanced learning, a motivation to learn, and the development of skills and strategies for learning (Frederick, 1999). Purpose
The purpose of this study was to determine if the academic performance of third grade at-risk students would increase when a hands-on learning approach was implemented. Traditional teaching methods do not encourage active learning. It also does not create an environment that motivates students to learn by becoming involved in classroom activities. The lack of stimuli continues to help maintain low academic achievement in our school systems. On the other hand, when teachers implement hands- on instruction more active learning occurs, thus positively effecting academic achievement (Frederick, 1998). Research Questions
For this study, this is the research question:
1. Will third grade at-risk students who participate in the hands-on learning approach perform better academically in math and science than students who do not participate in hands-on learning activities in those subjects? Hypothesis
Third grade at-risk students who participate in the hands-on learning approach will perform better academically in math and science than third grade at-risk students who do not participate in the hands-on learning approach in math and science.
Definition of Terms
1.Hands-on learning approach allows students to be active participants in the learning process by allowing them to observe processes as well as use manipulatives. 2.Traditional Teaching Method refers to the use of lecture and discussion as the teaching strategy used in the classroom. 3.At-risk students are students who fall in low SES and are in danger of failing a grade level. Summary
For learning to take place in the classroom, student interest must be present. Hands-on learning provides learning by doing--helping a student to acquire knowledge and skills outside of books and lectures. Learning can occur through work, play and other life experiences. Accomplished teachers include plenty of hands-on learning experiences, especially in science and math, to ensure...