Special Issue "Interactive Simulations and Innovative Pedagogy for Conceptual Understanding in Science Education"

A special issue of Education Sciences (ISSN 2227-7102).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Assoc. Prof. David Geelan

School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University, Southport QLD 4222, Australia
Website | E-Mail
Interests: physics education; educational technology; interactive simulations; explanation in science education

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Interactive simulations—computer-based ‘virtual laboratories’ in which students can change variables and record results—are increasingly used in science classrooms with the goal of enhancing students’ understanding of key concepts of science. Many are produced by the PhET project at the University of Colorado (Adams, Paulson and Wieman, 2008; Wieman, Adams, Loeblein and Perkins, 2010; Wieman, Perkins and Adams, 2007), but a range of creators, both commercial providers and not-for-profit science educators, are developing and releasing interactive simulations for a wide range of science concepts.

At the same time, research into the effectiveness of computer-based technologies such as scientific visualisations (of which interactive simulations are a subset) has often shown no significant increase in learning gains (e.g., Geelan and Mukherjee, 2011) when teaching occurs using visualisations compared to teaching without visualisations. It is plausible to suggest that the results of this work are patchy over all at least partially because the focus has been on the ‘tool’—the computer-based visualisation or interactive simulation—rather than on the combination of the educational technology and appropriate pedagogies focused on conceptual change (Posner, Strike, Hewson and Gertzog, 1982). Research that considers pedagogical approaches (e.g. Goh et al., 2013; Zavala, Alarcón and Benegas, 2007) has the potential to inform teacher education and professional development and to better utilise the affordances of interactive simulations for learning.   

Research into the effectiveness of interactive simulations, linked with innovative pedagogy, for the development of conceptual understanding shows some positive results (e.g., Fan, Geelan and Gillies, 2018; Trundle and Bell, 2010) and this Special Issue of the journal Education Sciences is devoted to collecting cutting-edge empirical research findings demonstrating the affordances of interactive simulations, linked with explicit attention to pedagogy, for learning.

I am delighted to invite you to submit a paper for the Special Issue, and to pass on the call to colleagues you know in the field who can make a significant original contribution to knowledge. If the Special Issue exceeds 10 papers it will be published in book form, and this is something I will work hard to achieve.

Assoc. Prof. David Geelan
Guest Editor

References:

Adams, W.K.; Paulson, A.; Wieman, C.E. (2008). What Levels of Guidance Promote Engaged Exploration with Interactive Simulations? In AIP Conference Proceedings; American Institute of Physics (AIP): College Park, MA, USA; Volume 1064, pp. 59–62.

Fan, X., Geelan, D. & Gillies, R. (2018). Evaluating a Novel Instructional Sequence for Conceptual Change in Physics Using Interactive Simulations. Education Sciences 8(1), 29; doi:10.3390/educsci8010029

Geelan, D., & Mukherjee, M. (2011, June). But does it work? Effectiveness of scientific visualisations in high school chemistry and physics instruction. In EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (pp. 2706-2715). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Goh, K.S.A.; Wee, L.K.; Yip, K.W.; Toh, P.Y.J.; Lye, S.Y. Addressing learning difficulties in Newtons 1st and 3rd Laws through problem based inquiry using Easy Java Simulation. In Proceedings of the NIE Redesigning Pedagogy Conference, Singapore, 3–5 June 2013.

Posner, G.J.; Strike, K.A.; Hewson, P.W.; Gertzog, W.A. (1982). Accommodation of a scientific conception: Toward a theory of conceptual change. Sci. Educ., 66, 211–227.

Trundle, K.C.; Bell, R.L. (2010). The use of a computer simulation to promote conceptual change: A quasi-experimental study. Comput. Educ., 54, 1078–1088.

Wieman, C.E.; Adams, W.K.; Loeblein, P.; Perkins, K.K. (2010). Teaching physics using PhET simulations. I 225–227.

Wieman, C.E.; Perkins, K.K.; Adams, W.K. Oersted Medal Lecture 2007: Interactive simulations for teaching physics: What works, what doesn’t, and why. Am. J. Phys. 2008, 76, 393–399.

Zavala, G.; Alarcón, H.; Benegas, J. (2007) Innovative training of in-service teachers for active learning: A short teacher development course based on Physics Education Research. J. Sci. Teach. Educ., 18, 559–572.

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Keywords

  • Science education
  • Educational technology
  • Interactive simulations
  • Conceptual understanding

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Understanding Cellular Respiration through Simulation Using Lego® as a Concrete Dynamic Model
Educ. Sci. 2019, 9(2), 72; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9020072
Received: 22 February 2019 / Revised: 28 March 2019 / Accepted: 29 March 2019 / Published: 8 April 2019
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Abstract
Out of all the complex systems in science education curricula, cellular respiration is considered to be one of the most complex and abstract processes. Students are known to have low interest and difficulties in conceptual understanding of cellular respiration which provides a challenge [...] Read more.
Out of all the complex systems in science education curricula, cellular respiration is considered to be one of the most complex and abstract processes. Students are known to have low interest and difficulties in conceptual understanding of cellular respiration which provides a challenge for teaching and learning. In this study, we took literature about modelling and teaching and learning cellular respiration as a starting point for the design of a concrete dynamic model in which students (n = 126) use Lego® to simulate the process of cellular respiration. Students used the simulation embedded in the context of finding the efficiency of a sediment battery as a future source of green energy and we tested the effects on conceptual learning and situational interest in an experimental study. Results on conceptual learning show that both experimental and control groups had comparable results in the test. The questions that students in the experimental group asked during enactment, however, gave notice of a focus on both isolated component parts as well as modes of organization at higher organizational levels which is linked to how biologists mechanistically understand complex systems. Both groups report a similar high measure to which the topic is meaningful in real life (situational interest value), whereas the enjoyment (situational interest feeling) was significantly increased in the experimental group. Furthermore, students report specific advantages (e.g., I now understand that one acid chemically changes into another and they do not just transfer atoms) and disadvantages (e.g., time issues). Full article
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Open AccessArticle
An Investigation of Students’ Use of a Computational Science Simulation in an Online High School Physics Class
Educ. Sci. 2019, 9(1), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9010049
Received: 1 February 2019 / Revised: 22 February 2019 / Accepted: 24 February 2019 / Published: 7 March 2019
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Abstract
Science educators have begun to explore how students have opportunities to not only view and manipulate simulations, but also to analyze the complex sources of data they generate. While scholars have documented the characteristics and the effects of using simulations as a source [...] Read more.
Science educators have begun to explore how students have opportunities to not only view and manipulate simulations, but also to analyze the complex sources of data they generate. While scholars have documented the characteristics and the effects of using simulations as a source of data in face-to-face, K-12 classrooms, how simulations can be taken up and used in such a way in fully-online classes is less-explored. In this study, we present results from our initial qualitative investigation of students’ use of a simulation in such a way across three lessons in an online, Advanced Placement high school physics class. In all, 13 students participated in the use of a computational science simulation that we adapted to output quantitative data across the lesson sequence. Students used the simulation and developed a class data set, which students then used to understand, interpret, and model a thermodynamics-related concept and phenomenon. We explored the progression of students’ conceptual understanding across the three lessons, students’ perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the simulation, and how students balanced explaining variability and being able to interpret their model of the class data set. Responses to embedded assessment questions indicated that a few developed more sophisticated conceptual understanding of the particle nature of matter and how it relates to diffusion, while others began the lesson sequence with an already-sophisticated understanding, and a few did not demonstrate changes in their understanding. Students reported that the simulation helped to make a complex idea more accessible and useful and that the data generated by the simulation made it easier to understand what the simulation was representing. When analyzing the class data set, some students focused on fitting the data, not considering the interpretability of the model as much, whereas other students balanced model fit with interpretability and usefulness. In all, findings suggest that the lesson sequence had educational value, but that modifications to the design of the simulation and lesson sequence and to the technologies used could enhance its impact. Implications and recommendations for future research focus on the potential for simulations to be used to engage students in a variety of scientific and engineering practices in online science classes. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Visualizing the Greenhouse Effect: Restructuring Mental Models of Climate Change Through a Guided Online Simulation
Educ. Sci. 2019, 9(1), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9010014
Received: 10 December 2018 / Revised: 2 January 2019 / Accepted: 2 January 2019 / Published: 13 January 2019
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Abstract
The purpose of this design based research study was to better understand and build from students’ perceptual experiences of visual representations of the greenhouse effect. Twenty undergraduate students were interviewed as they engaged with an online visualization for the learning of the greenhouse [...] Read more.
The purpose of this design based research study was to better understand and build from students’ perceptual experiences of visual representations of the greenhouse effect. Twenty undergraduate students were interviewed as they engaged with an online visualization for the learning of the greenhouse effect. We found that, even though all students agreed that climate change is happening, a majority initially held a misconception about how it works. Upon engaging with the visualization, students made perceptual inferences and formulated causal rules that culminated in an improved description of how climate change works. This trajectory was supported with prompts from the interviewer to make predictions, observe specific interactions in the visualization and revise their causal inferences based on these observations. A case study is presented to illustrate a typical learning trajectory. Full article
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