Simulation in University Chemistry Education : Cognitive and Affective Aspects

by Winberg, Mikael

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis undertakes two main tasks; to explore, within the authentic educational context, variables that influence the quality and outcomes of the knowledge-constructing activity during the simulation exercise; and to find appropriate instruments and methods to measure these variables, processes and outcomes.Closed-ended tasks that provided a high degree of structure, i.e., supported students’ regulation of learning during the simulation exercise, were more beneficial for perceived improvement of declarative knowledge and students’ motivation than open-ended tasks. Open-ended tasks did however lead to substantial shifts in students’ cognitive focus in subsequent laboratory exercises and improvement of students’ level of chemistry reasoning in interviews.Student attitudes toward learning proved important in the first paper where significantly higher ability to apply chemistry knowledge in interviews could be found for students with relativistic attitudes compared to those with more dualistic perspectives on learning. In the subsequent papers, the effects of attitudes were not as clear, possibly due to too small differences in the learning situations that were compared.Quality of the learning discourse during simulation was measured with three qualitatively different methods, focusing on partly different aspects. The different methods gave very similar results regarding the relative quality of the discourses. Thus, “quality” as such seems to be an underlying feature that permeates many aspects of the discourse and consequently could be targeted in different ways, e.g., focusing on quantitative as well as qualitative aspects. The analyses revealed several components of quality; co-operative activity, correctness and complexity of chemistry reasoning, discussion length and intensity, ability to realize cognitive conflict, and reference to theory while reasoning.Doing the simulation exercise in a distributed learning setting (written e-communication), supported discussions with higher accuracy and complexity of chemistry reasoning and frequent references to theory while the face-to-face situation allowed for longer and more intense discussions and a higher degree of co-operative activity. Not very surprisingly, high-quality discussions were characterized by high scores in all these components. There were indications that relatively good pre-knowledge might be required to benefit fully from face-to-face discussions.The validity of instruments and methods, used to measure flow experiences, attitudes (i.e., epistemological beliefs), knowledge accessibility (intuitive knowledge) and discourse quality are discussed thoroughly. Special interest has been devoted to whether qualitative data should be quantified or not, providing arguments in favor of quantitative methods for analyzing and reporting qualitative data.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Umeå universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:SOCIAL SCIENCES; Social sciences; Education; Subject didactics; Simulation; knowledge accessibility; discourse quality; cognitive load; task design; affective experiences; learning; attitudes


Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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