The paper presents effects of simulation-based formative assessments on students’ conceptions in physics. In the study, two topics—motion in two dimensions and conservation of energy—were selected to explore students’ conceptions in physics, and related assessment tasks incorporating computer simulations and formative assessment questions were developed.
Material and methods:
The participant students were first-year college students with majors related to science or engineering. Analytic rubrics were developed to capture the students’ normative and non-normative ideas revealed in their responses, and a holistic rubric was applied to categorize the responses into four response models.
The results demonstrated that, overall, students predicted and explained the given scientific phenomena with more valid scientific ideas after experiencing a computer simulation. However, the results also indicated that students’ non-normative ideas were still present even after experiencing computer simulations, especially when they were required to consider an abstract scientific concept such as energy dissipation.
The finding can be explained with knowledge-in-piece perspectives (diSessa, 1993), that students’ naïve knowledge is fragmented, and thus they do not demonstrate a coherent understanding of abstract science concepts across different situations.