Assessing The Effectiveness Of A Computer Simulation In Conjunction With Tutorials In Introductory Physics In Undergraduate Physics Recitations

C.J. Keller, N.D. Finkelstein, K.K. Perkins, and S.J. Pollock
University of Colorado at Boulder
Department of Physics, Campus Box 390 Boulder, CO 80309

Abstract. We present two studies documenting the effectiveness of the use of a computer simulation with Tutorials in Introductory Physics [1] in a transformed college physics course [2]. An interactive computer simulation, entitled the Circuit Construction Kit (CCK) [2, 3], was introduced to investigate its possible impact on students’ conceptual understanding. The first study compared students using either CCK or real laboratory equipment to complete two Tutorials on DC circuits. The second study investigated the impact of the simulation’s explicit visual model for current flow by removing this feature for a subset of students. In the first study, students using CCK with Tutorials performed slightly better on measures of conceptual understanding compared to real equipment, as measured by exam performance soon after the intervention. In the second study, students using CCK with and without the explicit current model performed similarly to students using real equipment, though on some specific questions we note significant variation in student performance. We discuss the implications of adding (or removing) such explicit models within computer simulations.

Keywords: Computer Simulation, Tutorials, Recitation, Electric Circuits

PACS: 01.40.Fk, 01.50.Ht


1. L.C. McDermott, P.S. Schaffer. Tutorials in Introductory Physics. Prentice Hall, New Jersey. 2002.

2. K. Perkins, W. Adams, M. Dubson, N. Finkelstein, S. Reid, C. Wieman, R. LeMaster. "PhET: Interactive Simulations for Teaching and Learning Physics," accepted to The Physics Teacher, 2005.

3. Physics Education Technology Project,

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