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Abstract

This study aimed to investigate the effect of experimenting with physical manipulatives (PM), virtual manipulatives (VM), and a blended combination of PM and VM on undergraduate students' understanding of concepts in the domain of Light and Color. A pre–post comparison study design was used for the purposes of this study that involved 70 participants assigned to three conditions. The first condition consisted of 23 students that used PM, the second condition consisted of 23 students that used VM, and the third condition consisted of 24 students that used the blended combination of PM and VM. In the case of the blended combination, the use of VM or PM was selected based on whether it provides an affordance that the other medium of experimentation (PM or VM) cannot provide. All conditions used the same inquiry-oriented curriculum materials and procedures. Conceptual tests were administered to assess students' understanding before, during, and after teaching. Results revealed that the use of a blended combination of PM and VM enhanced students' conceptual understanding in the domain of Light and Color more than the use of PM or VM alone. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed96:21–47, 2012