EXAMINING THE ADDED VALUE OF THE USE OF AN EXPERIMENT DESIGN TOOL AMONG SECONDARY STUDENTS WHEN EXPERIMENTING WITH A VIRTUAL LAB
1 University of Cyprus (CYPRUS)
2 University of Twente (NETHERLANDS)
3 University of Tartu (ESTONIA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of a newly developed software tool, namely Experiment Design Tool (EDT), on student’s learning and inquiry skills. To do so, two conditions were compared, namely the experimental condition (use of the EDT) and the control condition (no use of the EDT).
The participants of the study were 23 eighth-graders (14-15 years old) from two classes (Nclass1 = 11 and Nclass2 = 12) of a public high school in Nicosia, Cyprus. The first class (5 boys and 6 girls) was assigned to the experimental condition and the second class (5 boys and 7 girls) to the control condition. Students in both classes were of mixed learning abilities, had learned about density in the sixth grade and had advanced computer skills. In each condition an Inquiry Learning Space (ILS), which is an online learning environment, and a virtual lab was used. Both of them were selected from the Go-Lab learning platform (http://www.golabz.eu/). The learning subject of the ILS was focusing on relative density. Specifically, the goal was to support students to learn about the relation of the concepts of mass, volume and density and identify which of these concepts is the factor that causes the sinking or floating of an object in different fluids. The virtual laboratory, namely Splash, allowed the conduction of all of the experiments included in the aforementioned ILS. The implementation was carried out by the science teacher of both classes and lasted four class meetings. In the first and last meetings, both knowledge and inquiry skills tests were administered and in the second and third class meetings (80 minutes) each student worked on a computer and completed the activities of the ILS through the use of the same virtual lab.
The data analysis revealed a significant difference on students’ content knowledge posttest scores between the two conditions (Z = -2.89; p< .01), with the experimental condition being the one with the higher scores. No significant differences were found concerning the inquiry skills. Overall, this study shows that the integration of the EDT in a Go-Lab ILS facilitated the advancement of content knowledge, whereas the development of inquiry skills, most probably, requires longer in duration experiences with such learning environments. Further research should be pursued, with larger number of students and of different ages and in different subject domains, in order to investigate the effect of the EDT on students’ learning and inquiry skills.
Keywords: Computer supported inquiry learning environments, virtual labs, experiment design.