Learning Newtonian Mechanics in Virtual and Real Learning Environments in Grade 6 in a Finnish Primary School

K. Juuti, J. Lavonen, and V. Meisalo (Finland)


Virtual learning environment, Practical assignments, Newtonian mechanics, Conceptual change


A versatile Virtual-and-Real Learning Environment (VRLE) has been designed to help pupils (age 10 to 12) learn Newtonian mechanics on a qualitative level. The design of the VRLE has been based on research literature on pupils' conceptions of mechanics, on the idea of rich learning environments and on our research on primary school teachers' needs for a VRLE. The virtual component of the VRLE consists of web pages that include stories, audio files, articles, animations, figures, games and exercises. The real component includes a set of simple equipment and objects typically used when studying the basics of mechanics. Three teachers participated in an in-service training course which included two contact days and a distance learning sequence. During the distance learning period, the teachers conducted a pre-test in their classes and organised a teaching experiment in the VRLE. After the six-hour teaching experiment, the pupils' conceptual understanding of Newtonian mechanics was assessed by a test. The pre-test questionnaire included nine qualitative multiple-choice questions and the post-test questionnaire included 16 similar questions. Altogether, there were 53 pupils and their average achievement increased 11 % units. In the pre- and post-tests, boys did better than girls, but in the post-test the difference was not statistically significant. The change in girls' achievement was statistically significant; the effect size was 0.58 SD-units. It seems that in general, pupils learned Newtonian mechanics in a VRLE, but the level of conceptual understanding is still low after the teaching experiment.

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