Investigating the effectiveness of simulated virtual laboratory environments in teaching Physics in compulsory education

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Supervising committee: Dimitrios Psillos, Evripides Hatzikraniotis, Dimitrios Hasapis

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Abstract

The present thesis aims at exploring the effects that virtual laboratory environments can have when they are utilized in a teaching-by-inquiry intervention in the field of electric circuits by examining multiple aspects of teaching efficiency when virtual laboratory environments of various kinds are used: real laboratories, 3-D virtual laboratory environments with affordances like the modelspace which bridges virtual circuits with the corresponding circuit schematics, 3-D virtual laboratory environments without the modelspace and virtual laboratories in the form of functional schematic applets. Three teaching sequences are developed and applied to High School student classes in the same way (same instructional method and material) differing only in the electric circuit laboratories used. Special characteristics have been incorporated into the teaching sequences so that teaching effectiveness is maximized by design. Teaching effectiveness is assessed by comparing the students’ scores before and after the teaching interventions and through students’ responses in personal interviews. Multiple aspects of teaching effectivenss are examined: among classes are compared the students’ conceptual evolution, the students’ ability to construct real circuits, the students’ ability to transform circuits from one representation to another (real, virtual, schematic) and the students’ ability to design and perform experiments with electric circuits.

Within the context of a teaching-by-inquiry approach, all classes demonstrate a significant improvement in all cases researched and most of them achieve similar scores, indicating that all laboratory environments can be effectively utilized in teaching in a similar way. Differences in the students’ scores are recorded in two cases. It seems that teaching with the use of real equipment is advantageous over using any form of virtual laboratories, when special handling abilities are required in setting up a real circuit. Also, teaching with the use of virtual laboratory environments with affordances which support creating connections between the 3-D virtual representation and the schematic representation (modelspace) provides students with an advantage over using either real or virtual laboratories without affordanes bridging the real or virtual world to models, when faced with problems of increased difficulty and transforming an electric circuit from one form to another.

Through the comparisons reported, the current study contributes to the assessment of various characteristics of laboratory environments, the improvement of their design and their effective utilization in teaching-by-inquiry activities. The Greek curriculum of physical sciences in compulsory education aims among others in the incorporation of I.C.T. in education and therefore the results of the present study present educational as well as research interest.

Keywords: virtual laboratories, teaching physics, electric circuits, conceptual evolution, experiment design

Related publication list

Taramopoulos A., Psillos D., Hatzikraniotis E., 2011, “Teaching by inquiry electric circuits in virtual and real laboratory environments”, in A. Jimoyiannis (ed.) “Research on e-learning and ICT in Education: Technological, Pedagogical and Instructional Issues”, pp. 209-222, Springer, New York.

Taramopoulos A., Psillos D., Hatzikraniotis E., 2011, , “Designing virtual experiments in electric circuits by high school students”, 9th International Conference of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA), Lyon, France, 5-9 Sep. 2011.

Taramopoulos A., Psillos D., 2012, “Raising the level of understanding through the use of dynamically linked concrete and abstract representations in virtual laboratory environments in electric circuits”, accepted for presentation in the 13th International Conference of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA), Nicosia, Cyprus, 2-7 Sep. 2013.

Taramopoulos A., Psillos D., 2012, “How do virtual laboratory environments affect students’ ability to transform electric circuits from one representatipon to another?”, under review.

Thesis full reference:

Taramopoulos A., (2012). Investigating the effectiveness of simulated virtual laboratory environments in teaching Physics in compulsory education. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Department of Education, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Correspondence

Athanasios Taramopoulos

Marasli 9-11, Thessaloniki, 54248

GREECE

Tel. +30 6973847069

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