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Comparing middle school students' learning and attitudes in face-to-face and online mathematics lessons
Electronic Theses and Dissertations
  • Clayton M. Edwards, University of Northern Iowa
Award Winner

Recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award.

To go to the Graduate Student Award Recipients collection page, click here.

Open Access Dissertation
  • Mathematics--Study and teaching (Middle school)--Middle West; Middle school students--Middle West--Attitudes; Computer-assisted instruction--Middle West;

Online learning has become a staple within education for college students, and has started to enter high schools. While this instructional delivery system has been shown to work for older students, few studies have involved middle school students. If this trend toward online teaching of younger students continues, online learning could become a large part of education for middle school students, making research in this area important.

Multiple positive and negative aspects have been identified for online learning. Positive characteristics include individualized pacing; electronic resources, and the opportunity for rapid or personalized feedback, while negative aspects address increased student responsibility and technological ability. Online communication may be viewed as an asset and detriment, depending upon the emotional needs of middle school students that differ from the older online student.

This study examined sixth grade students' academic performance in face-to-face and online mathematics units. Research participants included 46 sixth grade students attending a rural middle school in a Midwestern state. The counterbalanced, repeated measures study compared pretest and posttest scores on unit tests addressing mathematical content learned under two instructional conditions. Students alternated between online and face-to-face units, completing ten units during the school year. No statistically significant differences in overall student performance between the two conditions were found. A Two One-Sided T-Test indicated that student performance in the online and face-to-face learning in this study could be called equivalent.

Students also responded to surveys in which they rated perceived learning and enjoyment of the learning condition. No significant difference in perceived learning between the conditions was found. Student-reported enjoyment was significantly higher for online learning, but that enthusiasm decreased a small but significant amount during the year, probably because of loss of novelty. Student responses concerning their reasons for preferences for instructional condition paralleled characteristics reported in the professional literature.

This investigation demonstrated the equivalency of both conditions; however, additional studies with a greater number and diversity of students are warranted. Future research studies will need to determine if a blend of both instructional approaches is optimal.

Date of Award
Degree Name
Doctor of Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
First Advisor
Audrey C. Rule, Chair
Second Advisor
Greg P. Stefanich, Co-Chair
Date Original
Object Description
1 PDF file (v, 98 pages)
File Format
Citation Information
Clayton M. Edwards. "Comparing middle school students' learning and attitudes in face-to-face and online mathematics lessons" (2012)
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