FIRE: Conceptualizing Non-Contact Forces: The Efficacy of Visuohaptic Simulations

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

This research investigates the efficacy of real-time, interactive visuohaptic simulations for teaching STEM concepts. It focuses on the learning of non-contact forces, where conceptualization of force fields, traditionally represented visually by field lines, may be enhanced by the ability to feel the forces directly. The applications being developed for this study include electrical and magnetic fields that will be tested with learners at grades 4, 8, 12 and undergraduate levels


Purdue University
NC State University

Research Design: 

This project has a comparative research design and will generate evidence that is both descriptive [observational] and causal [experimental]. Original data will be collected on elementary, middle school, high school, and university students using assessments of learning and observation [personal observation].

Student attitudes about the instruction will be assessed through the Assessment of Instructional Module (Jones, Minogue, Tretter, et al., 2006; and Jones, et al., 2004). The data generated by the AIM questionnaire are ordinal and Mann–Whitney U tests will be used to evaluate differences between the group receiving haptic instruction on electricity and magnetism and the group receiving instruction without haptics.

We will also conduct in-depth interviews and observations of a subsample of the students (case studies of 10 students per class, for a total of 40 students). These students will be interviewed before and after using the visuohaptic simulations about their knowledge of electricity and magnetism. They will be observed and videotaped during their interactions with visuohaptic simulations and their movements with the Falcon device will be recorded. The interviews will be transcribed and analyzed with grounded theory. Fine grained qualitative and quantitative analyses of the individual case studies will be conducted (i.e., Falk & Storksdieck, 2004). The results of the Brief Electricity and Magnetism Assessment will also be analyzed by item and results will be triangulated with the results of the interviews and case study observations to look closely at specific aspects of student thinking.


Findings will be posted as they become available.