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Abstract Title: Are simulations better than hands-on activities? – The wrong question
Abstract: In an experimental study, we compared community college students engaged in learning the physical relationships of two physical systems, using either PhET simulations or hands-on physical environments.  In both activities, the best predictor of learning was a type of strategy that consisted of experimental manipulations that (1) followed a control of variable strategy (CVS), (2) occurred with a delay between experiments, and (3) targeted particularly difficult relationships that the participants were less familiar with. For one physical system, this strategy was more common in the simulation condition, whereas for the other system it was more common in the hands-on condition. From this, we argue that future research should focus on understanding productive learning strategies and mechanisms supported by different learning environments, not just on which environment is best.
Abstract Type: Symposium Poster
Parallel Session: Student learning with PhET simulations: Beyond conceptual gains in classroom settings

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Engin Bumbacher
Stanford University
and Co-Presenter(s)
Shima Salehi and Carl Wieman