The effectiveness of interactive computer simulations on college engineering student conceptual understanding and problem-solving ability related to circular motion
Cheng-Chih Chien, The Ohio State University, United States
The Ohio State University . Awarded
In the past thirty years, the effectiveness of computer assisted learning was found varied by individual studies. Today, with drastic technical improvement, computers have been widely spread in schools and used in a variety of ways. In this study, a design model involving educational technology, pedagogy, and content domain is proposed for effective use of computers in learning. Computer simulation, constructivist and Vygotskian perspectives, and circular motion are the three elements of the specific Chain Model for instructional design.
The goal of the physics course is to help students remove the ideas which are not consistent with the physics community and rebuild new knowledge. To achieve the learning goal, the strategies of using conceptual conflicts and using language to internalize specific tasks into mental functions were included. Computer simulations and accompanying worksheets were used to help students explore their own ideas and to generate questions for discussions. Using animated images to describe the dynamic processes involved in the circular motion may reduce the complexity and possible miscommunications resulting from verbal explanations.
The effectiveness of the instructional material on student learning is evaluated. The results of problem solving activities show that students using computer simulations had significantly higher scores than students not using computer simulations. For conceptual understanding, on the pretest students in the non-simulation group had significantly higher score than students in the simulation group. There was no significant difference observed between the two groups in the posttest. The relations of gender, prior physics experience, and frequency of computer uses outside the course to student achievement were also studied.
There were fewer female students than male students and fewer students using computer simulations than students not using computer simulations. These characteristics affect the statistical power for detecting differences. For the future research, more intervention of simulations may be introduced to explore the potential of computer simulation in helping students learning. A test for conceptual understanding with more problems and appropriate difficulty level may be needed.
Chien, C.C. The effectiveness of interactive computer simulations on college engineering student conceptual understanding and problem-solving ability related to circular motion. Ph.D. thesis, The Ohio State University.
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