A comparison of microcomputer simulations and hands-on laboratory experimentation for the remediation of alternative conceptions in field-dependent vs. field-independent high school students

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Virginia Tech


Students come to science class with intuitive theories and ideas how the natural world works. These theories may conflict with accepted scientific concepts and can make subsequent learning in science very difficult. Since people differ in cognitive functioning, the nature of the remedial approach to these alternative conceptions is very important.

In this study, high-school students used computer simulations or hands-on experimentation as a remedial approach to their alternative conceptions. It explored the effects of the remediation in the context of the learning style of field-dependence-independence. Also, the use of the instrument (the embedded figures test) for defining field-dependence-independence was explored as a diagnostic tool for determining students who possess alternative conceptions. An Analysis of Covariance was used to determine the main effects and interactions between the treatments (mode of remediation) and field-dependence-independence.

The results of this study indicated that computer simulations and hands-on experimentation were both effective means for the remediation of the alternative conceptions of force and gravity. Also, the hands-on experimentation was shown to be more effective than the computer simulations. However, the study failed to show any evidence of the differential effects of field-dependence-independence on remediation of the alternative conceptions. There was also no indication of interactions between the independent variables. Although a relationship was shown to exist between the test for alternative conceptions and the instrument for determining field-dependence-independence, due to the low correlation and the expense of administration, the Group Embedded Figures Test was not recommended for the diagnosis of alternative conceptions in high school students.