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Title:Learning the causes of the seasons with gesture-augmented simulations
Author(s):Wallon, Robert C
Director of Research:Lindgren, Robb
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Lindgren, Robb
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Brown, David E; Hug, Barbara; Perry, Michelle
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Curriculum and Instruction
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
science education
gesture-augmented simulation
embodied learning
embodied cognition
Abstract:There has been recent interest in how the body can be used as a resource for learning challenging concepts in science and mathematics. This dissertation contributes to this conversation in the literature by focusing on a learning environment that engages students in using their bodies as a resource for learning a particularly challenging science concept, the causes of the seasons. The causes of the seasons is widely recognized as an important topic in science education, and accordingly the topic has been the focus of much research over the last several decades. This research has yielded information about common alternative conceptions that children have about the topic. And yet even with a number of interventions targeted at supporting student learning of the causes of the seasons, it has remained a challenging topic. Previous interventions have been designed and analyzed using constructivism as a theoretical lens. This dissertation follows this practice by using constructivism as a theoretical lens, while making a new contribution by also using the theoretical lens of embodied cognition. This dissertation utilizes these theories by exploring how middle school students learn the causes of the seasons in the context of their science classes by engaging with a learning environment that includes a computer simulation controlled with hand gestures, which I refer to as a gesture-augmented simulation. In this dissertation, learning is considered to occur when students develop more scientifically accurate conceptual models of seasonal change. Students’ conceptual models were probed in various ways, including analysis of responses to multiple choice questions, explanations provided in written and verbal formats, and also by analyzing gestures that were produced while providing explanations. By using a mixed methods approach, this dissertation examined the learning process and outcomes of the use of a gesture-augmented simulation. Based on pre-test to post-test comparisons, conceptual understanding of the causes of the seasons increased overall for participants, but these improvements were not uniform for all students. When looking more closely at the explanations of focal students, this study also found that there were increases in the amount and complexity of student gesturing while explaining causes of the seasons after using the simulation. Related to the learning process, this study identified patterns of using the simulation in ways that were productive for focal students to improve their conceptual understanding of causes of the seasons. Specifically, students’ repeated use of discussion prompts was related to improvement and convergence on probes of student thinking. These findings suggest that the embodied learning environment used in the study, a gesture-augmented simulation, was productive for helping students improve their conceptual understanding of the causes of the seasons when used in particular ways during their science class. Future research should continue to explore the design of scaffolds to support productive uses of gesture-augmented simulations by providing dynamic guidance to students as well as the design of dashboards that could provide relevant information to teachers while facilitating lessons.
Issue Date:2020-07-14
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Robert C. Wallon
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-10-07
Date Deposited:2020-08

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