Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Department

Education and Human Development

First Advisor

Peter Veronesi

Abstract

Often, students become disengaged and unmotivated by chemistry and struggle with the content. Due to the abstract nature of chemistry, students already struggle to visualize what is happening and, combined with the relatively high levels of disengagement, student learning is lacking. Simulations can help students and teachers alike overcome these issues in learning chemistry by providing actual visualizations of the chemistry phenomena for students to see. Simulations can also help students create connections between the chemistry content and its associated real-world phenomena, a link that can be difficult or even impossible for students to make. This compilation and guide of numerous PhET simulations gives teachers suggestions of how to implement simulations into their own classroom using the 5E model in three distinct phases to maximize student learning of chemistry.

While simulations have benefits for student learning, there are several difficulties for students working through simulations. Students can become confused by the simulation, either through the content or simply by how the simulation works. Students may also not have the necessary background content knowledge for full understanding of the content within the simulation and may be just seeing the simulation at face value, rather than seeing the depths of the chemical phenomena represented. To resolve these challenges associated with simulations, scaffolding should be used. While simulations have some implicit scaffolding, it is not enough for students to understand what is happening. For this reason, this project is heavily focused on providing suggestions of scaffolded activities to use with the simulations.

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