Role of the microcomputer-based laboratory display in supporting the construction of new understandings in thermal physics

Authors

  • David W. Russell,

    1. Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, 4059 Queensland, Australia
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  • Keith B. Lucas,

    1. Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, 4059 Queensland, Australia
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  • Campbell J. McRobbie

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, 4059 Queensland, Australia
    • Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, 4059 Queensland, Australia
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Abstract

Teachers' failure to use the microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) more widely may be a result of not recognizing its capacity to transform laboratory activities. This research aimed to increase understanding of how MBL activities designed to be consistent with a constructivist theory of learning support or constrain student construction of understanding. The first author conducted the research with his Year 11 physics class of 15 students. Dyads addressed 10 tasks in thermal physics using a predict–observe–explain format. Data sources included video and audio recordings of students and teacher during four 70-minute sessions, students' computer data and written notes, semistructured student interviews, and the teacher's journal. Analysis of students' discourse identified many instances in which students' initial understandings of thermal physics were mediated in multiple ways by the screen display. The findings are presented as eight assertions. Recommendations are made for developing pedagogical strategies incorporating MBL activities that will likely catalyze student construction of understanding. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 41: 165–185, 2004

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