Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Correcting Misconceptions on Electronics: Effects of a Simulation-Based Learning Environment Backed by a Conceptual Change Model

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Correcting Misconceptions on Electronics: Effects of a Simulation-Based Learning Environment Backed by a Conceptual Change Model

Article excerpt

Introduction

Learning electricity-related concepts is often confusing for various levels of learners (Belcher & Olbert, 2003; Reiner, Slotta, Chi, & Resnick, 2000). The difficulty in learning electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism concepts is attributed to their abstract nature, complexity, and microscopic features (Pfundt & Duit, 1991). Some studies show that most difficulties experienced by learners of electricity-related concepts originate from certain abstract concepts that cannot be comprehended or associated with actual circuits (Ronen & Eliahu, 2000). The inability to see currents flowing through circuits in daily life and to comprehend abstract concepts leads to various misconceptions (Sengupta & Wilensky, 2009) related specifically to the understanding of current, voltage, and power consumption (Lee & Law, 2001; Engelhardt & Beichner, 2004; Sencar & Eryilmaz, 2004; Periago & Bohigas, 2005). Moreover, it is difficult to avoid these misconceptions through general instruction (Ronen & Eliahu, 2000; Tytler, 2002; Kikas, 2003; Mutimucuio, 1998).

Conventional instructions do not focus on detecting and correcting learner misconceptions on electricity (Jaakkola, Nurmi, & Lehtinen, 2005; Jaakkola & Nurmi, 2004; Liegeois & Mullet, 2002). The process of correcting learner misconceptions depends on not only the delivery of new knowledge but also the gradual integration of new concepts related to learners' existing conceptual structures (Vosniadou, 2002). New instructional strategies must be developed to assist learners in actively constructing and adapting their knowledge (de Jong & Van Joolingen, 1998). Posner, Strike, Hewson, and Gertzog (1982) stated that conceptual change develops through cognitive conflict and comprises

four conditions: (1) dissatisfaction with existing concepts, (2) intelligibility of new concepts, (3) plausibility of new concepts, and (4) the ability of new concepts to solve existing problems and provide methods for future investigations. The conceptual-change learning environment may incorporate these four conditions by, at first, creating scenarios of conceptual conflict that guide learners to discover their dissatisfaction with existing concepts. Moreover, learning environment needs to manifest plausible and fruitful concept features and implement an effective instructional strategy for learners to comprehend new concepts. This study identifies three key elements for constructing a conceptual-change learning environment according to the four conceptual-change conditions: (1) an appropriate learning environment to manifest plausible and fruitful concept features, (2) an effective instructional strategy that assists learners to comprehend conceptual implications, and (3) construction of conceptual conflict scenarios for the adaptation and reconstruction of existing knowledge structures.

Simulation-based learning environments are appropriate for manifesting plausible and fruitful concept features. Previous studies have shown that a computer simulation conceptual learning environment that supports activities of observation and reflection helps facilitate the learning of abstract concepts (Chen, Hong, Sung, & Chang, 2011; Mzoughi, Foley, Herring, Morris, & Wyser, 2005; Dori, Barak, & Adir, 2003; Papaevripidou, Hadjiagapiou, & Constantinou, 2005). Computer simulations provide learners with real-time data related to a dynamic phenomenon and information on how certain parameters change synchronously to facilitate higher-level thinking (de Jong & van Joolingen, 1998; Ronen & Eliahu, 2000). Ronen and Eliahu (2000) suggested that simulation could assist in explaining an actual phenomenon by linking it with the implications of a conceptual model. This has led to the frequent use of computer simulations in virtual experimental environments for electricity-related curricula and experimental computer simulation learning (Bradbeer, 1999; Zacharia, 2007; Jimenez-Leube, Almendra, Gonzalez, & Sanz-Maudes, 2001; Donzellini & Ponta, 2004), as well as assisting elementary and high school students to understand electricity-related concepts (Jaakkola & Nurmi, 2008; Kukkonen, Martikainen, & Keinonen, 2009). …

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