Effectiveness Teaching Abstract Concepts by Embedding Elaboration Semantic Cues into Visual Devices
Edwin S. Ellis, Chalae Raines, Theresa Farmer, AliceTyree.The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of teaching abstract concepts using Vocabulary SMARTsheets on 53 elementary and middle school students in high, middle, and low socioeconomic inclusion classes.
A SMARTsheet is a graphic organizer-like visual device with embedded semantic cues designed to prompt students to engage in various brain-based learning activities associated with elaborating to-be-learned abstract concepts. For example, a Vocabulary SMARTsheet may contain a range of embedded elaboration cues, including prompts to identify underlying core idea or gist of an abstract concept, its critical feature, examples, and non-examples, make connections to background knowledge, and to construct a sentence using the term.
Measures included performance on multiple-choice subjective test questions when traditional instructional procedures were used and when the Vocabulary SMARTsheet was use to teach the abstract concepts and assessment of teacher’s perceptions of the experimental teaching procedures and instructional materials.
The experimental procedure was implemented in three general education classes, each from a different school. The 6th grade class (Class A) was composed of students attending a middle school located in a high socioeconomic metropolitan area. The second group of students (Class B) attended a “looping class” for 4th and 5th grade students in an elementary school located in a middle socioeconomic area of a small town. The third group of students (Class C) attended a “looping class” for 4th and 5th grade students in an elementary school located in a low socioeconomic (inner-city) metropolitan area.
The study took place in two stages. Stage 1 consisted of instruction in traditional instructional methods; Stage 2 featured instruction using the Vocabulary SMARTsheet. During each phase, three pre- and post-instruction measures were taken. A mean score of all participants was computed to represent changes in pre- and post instruction test performance.
The study employed a staggered pretest/posttest design. Staggering the point in time in which the experimental procedure was implemented served as the primary control for the study (see Figure 1). Thus, when Class A completed Stage 1 of the study, Class B began Phase 1 of the study. When Class B completed Phase 1 of the study, Class C began Phase 1 of the study
Table 1 shows the results of the study. Markedly similar results were found regardless of whether the class was composed primarily of students representing high, middle, or low socioeconomic status. When the Vocabulary SMARTsheet was employed to teach abstract concepts, the mean number questions answered correctly by students attending high socioeconomic status class increased by 14 points, students in the middle socioeconomic status class increased performance by 30 points, and students in the low socioeconomic status class increased performance by 20 points. In short, data show that students answered substantially more test questions correctly when the Vocabulary SMARTsheet was used to teach abstract concepts that when traditional instructional methods were employed.
Teachers reported that considerably higher levels of student interaction and engagement during classroom instruction involving use of the routine than during traditional lessons. The teacher observed that students liked the new approach to learning. They also reported that students spontaneously used more of the terms that were taught in conjunction with the routine than those taught using traditional instruction. Teachers reported that the routine was easy to learn and that they were satisfied with it and planned to continue using it in their classes.