Evaluating the effectiveness of scientific visualizations in physics

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  • 1. Evaluating the educational effectiveness of scientific visualisations in Year 11 Physics education David Geelan – The University of Queensland Brian Martin and Peter Mahaffy – The King’s University College, Edmonton, Canada
  • 2. Rationale
      • Scientific visualizations – visual representations of scientific data as well as of objects and interactions – are an increasingly important set of tools used by scientists in their work.
      • Visualizations are also increasingly being used in science teaching.
      • Extravagant claims (e.g. Bell, Park & Toti, 2004; Kozhevnikov & Thornton, 2006)
      • Encouraging results (e.g. Cifuentes & Hsieh, 2001; Dori & Belcher, 2005; Hakerem, 1993; Hinrichs, 2004; Royuk & Brooks, 2003; Williamson & Abraham, 1995)
  • 3. Rationale
    • There has been little formal research work, particularly quantitative research, which specifically addresses the educational effectiveness of teaching with scientific visualisations, particularly at the secondary school level.
  • 4. Research Question
    • Is teaching with the use of scientific visualizations more effective than teaching without visualisations for supporting students’ conceptual development of specific concepts in Physics?
    • Independent variable – the teaching of the physics concepts with or without visualization.
    • Dependent variable – conceptual development, understood as change in conceptual understanding between pre-instruction and post-instruction situations, measured using tests based on the Force Concepts Inventory (Hestenes, Wells & Swackhamer, 1992).
  • 5. Methodology
    • Crossover research design
    • 10-12 Physics teachers, each with up to 25 students
    • Each teaches one concept with visualisations and one without
    • Each class and teacher acts as its own control group
  • 6.
    • Sub-analyses by:
      • gender,
      • physics achievement level (low, medium, high) and
      • (possibly) learning style
    • Quantitative data complemented by:
      • reflective notes from workshops
      • classroom observations
  • 7. Two concepts
    • Accelerated motion in a straight line (i.e. in 1 dimension), with particular attention to the situation where the velocity and acceleration are in opposite directions
    • Newton’s First Law of Motion - objects remain at rest or at constant velocity unless acted on by a force
  • 8.  
  • 9.  
  • 10. Pre- and Post-tests
    • Based on the Force Concepts Inventory, but extended for the first concept
    • 12 multiple-choice items
    • Correct scientific concept and 4 common student misconceptions
  • 11. Sample Item
    • A boy throws a steel ball straight up.
    • Consider the motion of the ball only after it has left the boy’s hand but before it reaches the ground, and assume that forces exerted by the air are negligible.
  • 12.
    • For these conditions the force(s) acting on the ball is (are):
        • a downward force of gravity along with a steadily decreasing upward force
        • a steadily decreasing upward force from the moment it leaves the boy’s hand until it reaches its highest point; on the way down there is a steadily increasing downward force of gravity as the object gets closer to the earth
        • an almost constant downward force of gravity along with an upward force that steadily decreases until the ball reaches its highest point; on the way down there is only the constant downward force of gravity
        • an almost constant downward force of gravity only
        • none of the above. The ball falls back to the ground because of its natural tendency to rest on the surface of the earth
  • 13. Results and Conclusion
    • Teachers recruited, three workshops, topics chosen, tests developed and tested
    • Due to the particular concepts chosen, data collection was postponed from 2008 to the first half of 2009
    • Chemistry study will also be conducted in 2009
    • If you want to see the results, come to AARE 2009!