A research strategy for the dynamic study of students' concepts and problem solving strategies using science software



Microcomputers and appropriate software have the potential to help students learn. They can also serve as appropriate media for investigating how students learn. In this article we describe a research strategy examining learning and behavior when students interacted with microcomputers and software. Results from two preliminary studies illustrate the strategy.

A major feature of the strategy included recording students interacting with microcomputer software interfaced with a VCR. The VCR recorded the video output from a microcomputer and students' verbal commentary via microphone input. This technique allowed students' comments about their observations, perceptions, predictions, explanations, and decisions to be recorded simultaneously with their computer input and the display on the microcomputer monitor.

The research strategy described can provide important information about cognitive and affective behaviors of students engaged in using instructional software. Research studies utilizing this strategy can enhance our understanding of how students develop and employ important concepts and scientific relationships, how students develop problem-solving skills and solve problems, and how they interact with instructional software. Results of such studies have important implications for teaching and for the design of instructional software.