Drawing gears and chains of reasoning

Frank Leenaars

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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This dissertation discusses the design and evaluation of GearSketch, a learning environment for the gears domain aimed at students in the final years of primary school. GearSketch is built around a computational model of the gears domain that represents how gears and chains can be connected to each other and how these connections transmit motion between objects. When working with GearSketch students use a pen-based or touchscreen computer to draw their own gear and chain systems. The learning environment ensures that only valid systems (i.e. systems in which the gears can turn) can be created. Students can explore the behavior of configurations they have drawn by starting a simulation and watching an animation of the gears and chains in motion. GearSketch offers tutorials and practice problems to facilitate learning. The effects of different features of the GearSketch learning environment on learning outcomes were examined in three experimental studies. The first study (N = 74) showed that GearSketch’s ability to interpret and animate students’ drawings led to significantly improved learning outcomes compared to a learning environment that lacked these features. In the second study (N = 44) the effect of adding learner modeling capabilities to GearSketch, so that it could adaptively select appropriate practice items for individual students was examined. Adaptively selecting practice items did not improve learning outcomes compared to offering a fixed sequence of practice items. The third study (N = 78) examined the effects of encouraging students to use more deliberate reasoning while working on the practice items. The results of this study showed that the guidance that was offered improved students’ performance during practice, but did not affect learning outcomes as measured by a posttest. Additionally, this third study showed that the knowledge about the gears domain of both the guided students and those in a control group was significantly improved by practicing with GearSketch. Together these studies show that a learning environment based on a drawing-based simulation can be effectively used by primary school students to learn about the gears domain, but that modeling and guiding students’ reasoning in this domain is still an open challenge.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • van Joolingen, W.R. , Supervisor
  • Bollen, L., Co-Supervisor
  • Gijlers, Hannie A., Co-Supervisor
Award date10 Dec 2014
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-3804-6
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2014


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