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Successfully submitted in partial fufillment of the requrements for the M.A. (Third Level Learning and Teaching) to the Technologicl University Dublin, 2006.


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 Technologicl University Dublin. 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.