Relative effectiveness of physical and virtual manipulatives for conceptual change in science: how falling objects fall

Adrianus W. Lazonder, S. Ehrenhard

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32 Citations (Scopus)
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This study offers new insights into the ongoing debate about whether physical and virtual materials are equally effective in inquiry-based science instruction. Physical materials were predicted to have a surplus value when haptic feedback helps discern object characteristics or when the perceived credibility of experimental data can impede conceptual change. Both assumptions were tested by comparing the belief revisions and confidence ratings of children (n = 60) engaged in an inquiry task about falling objects. Children were assigned to one of three instructional conditions that differed with regard to the type of materials and the possibility to manipulate those materials. Main findings confirmed the alleged benefits of physical manipulation in correcting misconceptions about object characteristics that are perceived by touch. Belief revision about visually discernible characteristics proved independent of the type of material and type of manipulation, as was children's confidence in their post-instructional beliefs. Together, these findings indicate that tactile cues derived from physical manipulation can have a unique contribution to children's science learning
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-120
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of computer assisted learning
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


  • METIS-296821
  • IR-86505

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