Date of Award


Document Type

Master's report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Science Education (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


William L. Yarroch


This study investigated the use of real-world contexts during instruction in a high school physics class - through building file folder bridges- and the resulting effect upon student interest in the subject matter, level of understanding, and degree of retention. In particular, the study focused upon whether increases in student interest were attained through the use of real-world contexts, and if the elevated interest level led to a higher degree of subject matter understanding than would be achieved using more traditional teaching methods. The study also determined whether using real-world contexts ultimately resulted in achievement of greater levels of knowledge retention by students.

Class observations during traditionally taught units and during units that incorporated real-world contexts, along with a post-graduation questionnaire, were used to assess differences in student interest levels. Student pre- and post-unit test scores were evaluated and compared to determine if statistical differences existed in levels of understanding resulting from the different teaching methods. The post-graduation questionnaire results provided evidence of retention that could be related back to teaching methods.

The results of this study revealed the importance of incorporating real-world contexts into science and mathematics courses. Students better understood the relevance of the lessons, which led to higher levels of interest and greater understanding than was achieved through more traditional teaching methods. The use of real-world contexts improved knowledge retention.