An analysis of galvanic skin response measurements correlated with student participation in the electronic response programs of a general education biology course

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Ketcham, Beverly Lynn, 1949-
Nisbet, Jerry J.
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Educators frequently neglect efforts to evaluate the affective components of instructional programs even though most agree that the affective domain is as important, or even more important, than the cognitive domain in learning. Measurement of cognitive attainment is easily accomplished, however, measurement of students' feelings, attitudes, concerns and values is difficult to accomplish.The purpose of the present research was to measure galvanic skin response (GSR) reactions of students to multi-media programs which were created to effect attitude change toward biological concepts in nonscience majors, and to thereby identify learning strategies or combinations of strategies that produce emotional and physiological reactions.The electronic response (ER) system of the Department of Biology at Ball State University was utilized in conducting the study. The effectiveness of producing emotional arousal by the strategies involved in nine ER programs was sampled by using the galvanic skin response (GSR) to measure the change in electrical skin conductance. The population tested for each ER program consisted of 30 subjects. An approximately equal number of males and females and an approximately equal number of morning, mid-day and afternoon sessions were sampled.In the treatment of data, the maximum GSR resistance, following specific ER program events, was calculated using a latency of approximately three seconds. Resistance per unit area of electrode plate surface was calculated in ohms/mm2 and converted to conductance (mhos/mm2). To establish a basis for comparing the emotional and attitudinal impact of each electronic response program, the maximum conductance for each event and information components of each event sequence was averaged for the 30 subjects.A dependent t-test for paired observations was utilized to determine the significant conductance change of corresponding components of the initial and final event sequences in each ER program. In those situations which were significant at the .05 probability level, farther comparisons were made between corresponding components of the initial and middle and middle and final event sequences. The t-test was also utilized to determine the significance of mean changes in conductance between selected information and question and question and answer slides within event sequences which produced a greater or lower conductance than previous event sequences, and those in which little variance or observable differences among components occurred.The principal conclusion drawn from the study is that the electronic response programs provide an effective mechanism for increasing emotional arousal, increasing involvement, and creating attitude change. All of the nine electronic response programs produced a gradual rise in average conductance from the beginning to the end of each program.Extremes in GSR reactions occurred in response to different types and combinations of narrative, pictorial presentations and musicalselections. Situations which created a mood or conveyed a feeling, possessed emotionally toned narrative or slides, or required a value stance or judgment produced the greatest GSR reactions. Calming, quiet, and relaxing music, unmoving slides, unemotional narration, questions lacking challenge or treating non-controversial subject matter, produced the smallest GSR reactions.The present study supports the contention that multiple stimuli, which increase the number of senses incorporated in the learning process and the interaction (response-reinforcement) of the learner, produce a greater emotional reaction than stimuli in one sense modality.The author considers that emotional responses involved and related with affective learning are as important, or more important, than cognitive attainment. Further investigations of the relationship between multimedia components and emotional arousal need to be carried out to ascertain the appropriate blending or combinations of stimuli which provide the best or most effective learning situations. Data obtained through research in the cognitive and affective aspects of instructional designs should also be correlated to determine how the most effective learning strategies can be developed.