The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of interactive learning strategies in the form of visually-based, real-time computer simulations on inductive learning by adults in physical science. The subjects were 160 upperclass undergraduate students who were enrolled in an introductory computer education class. The computer based instruction (CBI) content of the tutorial and simulation activities involved the physics principles of Newtonian mechanics. All instruction was presented at an introductory level intended for novices with emphasis on concept formation and application rather than mathematics. Three data sources were studied: performance, as measured by student scores on a posttest; comprehension monitoring; and response confidence. All instruction and testing was administered by computer. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of the treatment groups and they completed the computer lessons individually. A 2X3 factorial design was used. Two levels of Tutorial (Yes, No) were crossed with three levels of Simulation (Structured, Unstructured, None). The simulation activities were provided immediately after each of the four lesson parts in the tutorial. Inductive learning strategies consisted of the two simulation conditions presented as the sole learning experience. The no simulation, no tutorial condition acted as the posttest-only control. It was found that, while students in the Structured Simulation/No Tutorial condition performed similarly to students who received direct instruction via the tutorial, the former did not feel as confident in their answers to specific posttest questions as the latter. Follow-up surveys with the students indicated that they felt very uncomfortable with the unstructured simulations, and it is suggested that a lack of confidence may be among the consequences of providing adult subjects with experiential learning approaches rather than direct instruction. (35 references) (BBM)
Rieber, L.P. & Parmley, M.W. Effects of Animated Computer Simulations on Inductive Learning with Adults: A Preliminary Report.