The effects of utilizing simulation to promote content knowledge acquisition and problem-solving skills in a STEM classroom
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This sequential explanatory mixed-methods design study explores the impact of simulation in promoting content knowledge acquisition and problem-solving skills in a STEM classroom. It also examines students' background factors and their relationship to the use of simulation. This study used the Web-Based Interactive Landform Simulation Model -- Grand Canyon (WILSIM-GC) as an instrument for developing content knowledge and problem-solving skills through pre- and posttests, a learning attitude scale, and focus group interviews. A quasi-experimental design was used to measure content knowledge growth and problem-solving skill growth at two separate times. Regression was conducted to examine the relationship between students' background factors (i.e., gender, ethnicity, year in school) and their learning attitudes. Follow up focus group interviews were conducted to investigate students' learning experiences in the use of simulation. The findings of this study showed that the intervention group's content knowledge increased significantly in a short period of time. The study also found that both science and non-science majors were engaged in learning through simulation, but their interpretation of the embedded scaffolding functions were different. Students' problem-solving skills did not improve significantly, nor did students' gender, year in school, and ethnicity significantly affect their learning attitude toward the use of simulation. Suggested future studies could emphasize the design of simulation that allows user-controlled scaffolding functions, collaboration space between science and non-science majors, and embedding of the inquiry-based guidelines into the simulation.