Use of the computer for research on instruction and student understanding in physics

Grayson, Diane Jeanette.   University of Washington ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  1990. 9108472.

Abstract (summary)

This dissertation describes an investigation of how the computer may be utilized to perform research on instruction and on student understanding in physics. The research was conducted within three content areas: kinematics, waves and dynamics. The main focus of the research on instruction was the determination of factors needed for a computer program to be instructionally effective. The emphasis in the research on student understanding was the identification of specific conceptual and reasoning difficulties students encounter with the subject matter.

Most of the research was conducted using the computer-based interview, a technique developed during the early part of the work, conducted within the domain of kinematics. In a computer-based interview, a student makes a prediction about how a particular system will behave under given circumstances, observes a simulation of the event on a computer screen, and then is asked by an interviewer to explain any discrepancy between prediction and observation.

In the course of the research, a model was developed for producing educational software. The model has three important components: (i) research on student difficulties in the content area to be addressed, (ii) observations of students using the computer program, and (iii) consequent program modification. This model was used to guide the development of an instructional computer program dealing with graphical representations of transverse pulses.

Another facet of the research involved the design of a computer program explicitly for the purposes of research. A computer program was written that simulates a modified Atwood's machine. The program was than used in computer-based interviews and proved to be an effective means of probing student understanding of dynamics concepts. In order to ascertain whether or not the student difficulties identified were peculiar to the computer, laboratory-based interviews with real equipment were also conducted. The laboratory-based interviews were designed to parallel the computer-based interviews as closely as possible. The results of both types of interviews are discussed in detail.

The dissertation concludes with a discussion of some of the benefits of using the computer in physics instruction and physics education research. Attention is also drawn to some of the limitations of the computer as a research instrument or instructional device.

Indexing (details)

Science education;
Educational technology
0605: Physics
0714: Science education
0710: Educational technology
Identifier / keyword
Education; Pure sciences
Use of the computer for research on instruction and student understanding in physics
Grayson, Diane Jeanette
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 81/1(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
McDermott, Lillian
University of Washington
University location
United States -- Washington
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
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