Supporting scientific discovery learning in a simulation environment


Jianwei Zhang, Educational Technology Centre, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084. Email:


Abstract Until recent times, most studies on supporting simulation-based scientific discovery learning adopted the ad hoc strategies-oriented approach. This paper makes a systematic analysis of the internal conditions of scientific discovery learning to propose a triple scheme for learning support design that includes interpretative support (IS), experimental support (ES), and reflective support (RS). The experiment was conducted with 78 students (aged from 12 to 13 years) to examine the effects of the IS and ES using a 2x2 between-subjects design. The main results were: significant effects were observed for IS on the post-test of intuitive understanding, flexible application and knowledge integration; no main effect was demonstrated for ES, and there was a marginally significant interactive effect for ES and IS on the intuitive understanding test. A process analysis showed that the successful learners had designed more well-controlled experiments than the failing ones. Learning support in a simulation environment should be directed toward the three perspectives to invite meaningful, systematic and reflective discovery learning.