Education (Elementary and Secondary)

Second Major



Dewsbury, Bryan

Advisor Department

Biological Sciences




Education; Marine Science; Experiential Learning; Traditional Classroom Learning; Student Retention; Reform

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


The quality and nature of delivery of education, especially at the K12 level is a major focus of the education reform movement. As an aspiring teacher, I am interested in developing a personal understanding of the efficacy of different modes of delivery. A large body of studies has examined the differences between experiential learning versus traditional classroom learning as well as effects on student retention. Traditional classroom learning involves literary texts, PowerPoint presentations and teacher-centered learning. In contrast, experiential learning is a hands-on, real world experience that provides students with an environment to expand their critical thinking skills and apply their learned knowledge outside of the classroom. As part of my professional development to become an elementary and middle level teacher, I became extremely interested in investigating different teaching styles and their impact on students’ ability to retain lessons. In this study I utilized different teaching methodologies in order to educate children with a marine science lesson in order to compare student retention as well as measuring the effectiveness of my teaching. I used experiential teaching methods by educating children in an interactive tour boat and field site at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center on Long Island, NY. I also used traditional classroom teaching methods through a PowerPoint lecture, allowing student participation at Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT. In order to measure student achievement, students received a uniform pre and post assessment that aligned with the marine science curriculum provided. Variations in school demographics and access were also considered in our interpretation of the effects of the different teaching approaches. This study was conducted with three main goals: 1) to test my ability to teach a marine lesson in order to see if my methodologies were effective, 2) to compare the retention results of students in experiential learning versus classroom learning, and 3) to compare the students’ achievement across varying demographics. Contrary to my original hypothesis, I found that experiential learning was equally effective as conventional model-based instruction. However, variations in improvement were seen along income and demographic lines. These results may have implications for resource-limited schools interested in exposing students to the natural sciences.