COS 24-6 - Student gains in science inquiry skills following participation in curriculum that combined EcoMUVE (Ecosystems Multi-user Virtual Environment) and field experiences

Tuesday, August 9, 2011: 9:50 AM
9C, Austin Convention Center
Amy M. Kamarainen1, Shari Metcalf2, Chris Dede2, Tina A. Grotzer3 and Yang Jiang1, (1)Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, (2)Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA, (3)Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Recent research suggests that interacting with nature is beneficial to the cognitive development of young people. Meanwhile, research on using immersive virtual environments to teach science content and inquiry skills shows that these interfaces can be engaging to young people, particularly those who are not otherwise interested in science. We used a quasi-experimental design combining student activities in a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) with a real-world field trip to explore gains in ecosystem science understanding and student attitudes about science. EcoMUVE is an IES-funded, inquiry-based, four-week curriculum that uses student experiences in immersive, multi-user virtual environments to enhance student understanding of ecosystems science, the inquiry process, and the complex causality inherent in ecosystems dynamics. In the fall of 2010, we paired the EcoMUVE classroom experience with student participation in a field trip to a natural pond environment. We hypothesized that student engagement, understanding, and self-efficacy in science would be enhanced if students experiencing EcoMUVE could also explore the real world ecosystems in their own locality. Changes in student attitudes and ecosystem understanding were measured using responses to pre and post affective and content surveys.


Students who participated in EcoMUVE before attending the field trip demonstrated a greater ability to construct scientific explanations related to their observations on the field trip. Responses to affective question also differed between the two treatment groups with the EcoMUVE participants showing greater self-reported gains in data analysis and interpretation skills. Our findings suggest that pairing virtual and real world experiences support student gains in critical thinking and scientific inquiry.

Copyright © . All rights reserved.
Banner photo by Flickr user greg westfall.