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This thesis is a formative evaluation research study_ Its purpose is to establish if
blending face--to-face and e-leaming delivery methods can support the development of
Phase 4 apprentice plumbers in mathematics in the Department of Construction Skills in
the Dublin Institute of Technology. The study also included the design, development
and evaluation of a mathematics web site called Plumatics 4 U which is grounded in
established theoretical criteria for effective blended delivery within third level
education. This web site is currently in use by Phase 4 apprentice plumbers and is
delivered through WebCT. The CD accompanying this thesis contains a short film
giving an overview of the web site.
The research design used a mixed method approach combining both quantitative and
qualitative data derived from questionnaires. interviews, non-participant observation
and focus group sessions. The research, which lasted three months, involved forty
Phase 4 apprentices, half of whom had the Leaving Certificate and the remainder the
Junior Certificate as their highest second level educational quaJification. Only one of
the research group was female and their ages ranged from twenty to twenty-three years.
A literature review was conducted covering areas such as formative evaluation of third
level programmes, blended learning models, socia1 constructivist approaches to learning
and teaching and principles of effective web course design. Primary studies were used
to inform the research process and identify a suitable methodology and methods of data
The principal findings of the research indicate that Phase 4 student apprentices who
took part in the blended learning module. and whose highest second level educational
qualification is the Junior Certificate, showed a 10% improvement in examination
results in questions with a mathematical content. The research also indicates that if
Phase 4 students are to be offered the opportunity to participate in e-ieaming, additional
resources will be required and staff will need to be trained in the use of the WebeT
platform. The staff who deliver mathematics to this group believe that an e-Ieaming site
as a learning and teaching resource should be encouraged and fostered in the
Feedback from students who took part in the study shows that their experience of elearning
was extremely positive and that 84% would like to participate in this type of
delivery method in the future. The feedback also indicated that the Plumatics 4 U web
site would benefit from certain revisions such as the addition of more self-tests and the
integration of a grading scheme for these self-tests.
The conclusions of this research show that teaching mathematics using a blended
learning strategy can lead to improved student performance in examinations. Finally, it
is recommended that the Plumatics 4 U web site be made available to other Institutes of
Technology that deliver the Phase 4 plumbing programme.
Hinch, P.: Can Blending Face-To-Face Teaching With E-Learning Support the Development of Phase 4 Apprentices in Mathematics: a Formative Evaluation Research Study. Masters Dissertation. Dublin, Dublin Institute of Technology, 2006.