Tapping into Augmented Virtuality Laboratories: Investigating the Impact of User Interface on Student Learning in Secondary Science

DeJaegher, Crystal, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Chiu, Jennifer, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Physical laboratories have been incorporated in K-12 science classrooms for the better part of the last two centuries, but research demonstrates that students need help developing and retaining deep understanding of observable phenomena during physical labs. Virtual laboratories help students interact with and manipulate unobservable levels of phenomena in ways that physical laboratories do not, yet students can fail to connect these experiences to the real world. Leveraging affordances of physical and virtual manipulatives in a mixed-reality environment may help students develop deep understanding of science by facilitating connections between observable and unobservable levels of phenomena.

This dissertation uses an explanatory-sequential mixed-methods approach to explore the effect of augmented virtual laboratories on high school students’ conceptual understanding of gas properties. Building upon embodied cognition and knowledge integration perspectives, this dissertation investigates the effects of a specific augmented virtual technology, the Frame, on students’ ability to make connections between observable gas properties and molecular-level behavior through a comparison study involving high school chemistry classes using the Frame to classes using purely virtual labs. The dissertation examines differences in student performance on conceptual assessments and uses video and interview data to explore students’ interactions with the technologies. Research findings indicate that the Frame labs were just as effective as purely virtual labs for students’ development of molecular-macroscopic connections regarding gas behaviors. Observations reveal that students working with the Frame tended to use non-prescribed, innovative investigative activities while students in the purely virtual condition focused on task completion. Results point to the need for the development of more sensitive assessments for scientific practices and suggest opportunities for further investigation.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
k-12, science education, gas laws, technology, laboratory, mixed reality
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