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Teaching Primary Science with Computer Simulation – an Intervention Study in State of Kuwait

ALFAJJAM, HASAN,M.,H.,F.,A (2013) Teaching Primary Science with Computer Simulation – an Intervention Study in State of Kuwait. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis describes an investigation into use of interactive computer simulations software in primary science education. The research questions are what effects teaching with interactive computer simulations have on students’ achievement, their conceptual change in particular science topics and on their attitudes. The question was investigated in an intervention study that tested use of simulations in two different pedagogical environments. The first environment used simulations in a computer laboratory, with students using blended learning (combining computer-based learning with non-computer learning). In this environment students worked independently on the computer. The second environment is class teaching. In this environment, the simulation was used on one computer, controlled by the teacher, in front of the class. The study also investigated ease of use and looked into practical consideration of computer-based teaching expressed by students and teachers. Three science topics were studied.
The novelty of the research is using computer simulations in an Arabic nation, which has widespread use of traditional didactic-oriented pedagogy. Recent educational reforms have made demand for more student-oriented teaching, with use of practical experiments in primary science. This major change is difficult to implement for practical reasons, and the study therefore asks if computer simulations may work as an alternative approach to reach the same aims.
The theoretical frameworks for the study are constructivism, conceptual change and cognitive multi-media theory. The first of these looks at the role of the student in learning, the second takes into consideration that students enter school with intuitive knowledge about natural phenomena and the last explains learning with use of computers. The theoretical frameworks were used to guide development of the simulation software and the intervention.
The participants were 365 students in year five (10-11 year olds) and eight science teachers in Kuwait, located at eight different primary schools. All schools were single sex, with half the schools of each gender. All teachers were female. The study used a quasi-experimental design and separated the students into two experimental groups and two control groups. The first experimental group, which used simulations in computer labs, had 91 students in four primary schools (two boys’ and two girls’ schools). A matching control group with the same number of students was established in the same schools. The other experiment group had 92 students using simulations in the classroom. This group was also matched with an appropriate control group. The eight teachers taught both experimental and control group students. The control groups used traditional teaching. The experiment was carried out in the academic year 2010-2011.
The study measured effects of the interventions with pre- and post achievement tests and attitude questionnaires. Students in the experimental groups also answered a usability questionnaire. A sub-sample of students and all teachers were interviewed for triangulation of the questionnaire data and to learn more about experiences with using the simulation software.
The results of the study revealed no statistically significant difference (at the 0.05 level) in achievement or attitude between the students who used computer simulations in the computer laboratory. Students, however, who were taught with simulations in the classroom scored significantly higher on both achievement tests and attitude questionnaires. This benefit applied also to conceptual change of specific topics. In general, the interviews revealed that science teachers and students were satisfied with the simulation program used in science teaching and learning. However, the interviews indicated that there were some problems related to infrastructure and use of computers in the teaching that might have influenced the outcome of the study. These problems are relevant also to use of computer simulations in science teaching more widely.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Oct 2013 10:07

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