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The Effects of Manipulation of Virtual Objects in a Game-like Environment as a Supplement to a Teaching Lesson in the Context of Physics Concepts

Chantes, Pantiphar

Many scientific domains deal with abstract and multidimensional phenomena, and students often struggle to comprehend theoretical and complex abstractions and apply scientific concepts to real life contexts (Anderson & Barnett, 2013). One of these scientific domains that impose theoretical and complex abstractions is physics. The way that physics has traditionally been taught in school is through learning mathematical formulas and equations (Price, 2008). Many researchers proposed several ways to teach physics effectively. There are several virtual reality applications and computer games that were designed and utilized in the area of science education. In the case of physics education, many studies yielded positive results when using computer games to teach abstract concepts to students (Maxmen, 2010; Price, 2008; Squire et al., 2004). Furthermore, both physical and virtual manipulative tools were shown to be effective and essential in physics learning.
This study examined the effects of manipulation of virtual objects in a game-like environment when supplemented with a descriptive or a narrative lesson in the context of physics concepts related to force, distance, and conservation of energy. In particular, the study examined learners’ performance on a test of physics knowledge related to the study when encountered with two factors that influence learning: lesson type and type of manipulation. The study drew on the research done on using virtual manipulatives in education and theoretical support from constructivist theories of learning implying that learners form their own knowledge through meaningful interactions with the world, and that prior knowledge greatly influences the construction of new knowledge in individual learners (Barbour et al., 2009; Bruner, 1966).
From the study’s results, it seems that providing a textual pre-lesson is important for low-prior knowledge learners when it comes to learning physics concepts. Moreover, having engaged in a manipulation task also contributed to participants’ learning gain (in both low-prior knowledge and high-prior knowledge groups) as measured by the post-assessments used in this study. Moreover, the results from this study help inform educational game designers who incorporate manipulatives about the role of providing pre-lessons that tie to concepts targeted by the manipulation activity, and how different kinds of manipulation in a game-like environment affect learning outcomes. The findings suggest that the role of these two factors combined requires further research.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Thesis Advisors
Kinzer, Charles
Degree
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 27, 2018