Exploratory learning with computer simulations is an approach that fits well within the current emphasis on viewing the learner as an active, constructive person. In previous studies we concluded that a valid performance of exploratory learning processes was a bottleneck and especially the process of hypothesis generation posed difficulties to learners. The major objective of the present study was to evaluate the effect of supporting hypothesis generation by offering structured overviews of predefined hypotheses. Subjects were 88 Mechanical Engineering students working in pairs, with a computer simulation program for control theory. Two experimental groups and one control group received an open-ended assignment for exploring a given modelled system. The major means of support that the experimental groups received was a structured overview of hypotheses. These overviews offered a list of, basically, the same set of eight predefined hypotheses from which subjects could choose. Two variations were designed: the controller structure followed types of controllers of increasing complexity and the concept structure organised the hypotheses according to fundamental domain concepts. The control group received the same assignment, but no support measures. Prior knowledge of all subjects was measured and at the end of the lab they were given a posttest that intended to measure 'deep' knowledge. Subjects worked on so-called 'fill-in forms' and their notes were used for analyzing their learning processes. Results showed that the Controller group scored higher on the posttest than the Concept group and subjects' level of prior knowledge influenced the posttest scores. Analysis of statements on the fill-in forms showed that among others the Controller group designed better (more complete) experiments than the Concept group.
|Title of host publication||Simulation-based experiental learning|
|Editors||D.M. Towne, A.J.M. Jong, de, H. Spada|
|Place of Publication||Berlin|
|Number of pages||274|
|Publication status||Published - 1993|
|Name||NATO ASI series. Series F : Computer and systems sciences|