Date of Award

8-2006

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Department

Education and Human Development

Abstract

Over the past few years there has been a growing interest in the possible benefits of computer simulations in physics education. However, very little research has been conducted on how computer simulations can actually be integrated into a physics program (Zacharia & Anderson, 2003). This research investigated the effects of computer simulations on the development of accurate mental models when used in conjunction with traditional laboratory-based experiments. Since laboratory experiments can often have results that are very difficult to observe, these results only become evident to the trained eye of an expert. Computer simulations are able to present phenomena free of the normal distractions that occur during traditional laboratory-based experiments. Through the analysis of post-tests, questionnaires, and student interviews conducted in a high school physics class, it was shown that when computer simulations are used in conjunction with traditional laboratory activities students appear to make accurate revisions to their naive mental models of motion. The results also indicate that the majority of the students believe that the computer simulations assisted in the clarification of the laboratory results and allowed them to more fully understand the theoretical concepts being presented in the laboratory investigation.

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