Development of an instrument for evaluation of microcomputer-based simulation courseware for the high school physics classroom



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In the past few years microcomputers have become increasingly available for use in schools. The usefulness of the computer in education is dependent largely on the quality of courseware. Many educational researchers are dissatisfied with the quality of a great deal of software available for instruction. This study addressed seven questions related to simulation software for high school physics. Questions 1-3 dealt with determination of reliablity of the evaluation instrument, Question 4 dealt with potential predictability of the instrument. Questions 5 and 6 dealt with identification of strengths and weaknesses of physcis simulation software, and Question 7 focused on comparison of evaluations completed by teachers and students. A two-part, 32-item instrument was developed with one part for use by teachers and the other part for use by students. Student input was considered important because they become the end-users of educational software. The initial version of the instrument was developed by collecting items from a review of relevant literature. Six major variables that were identified are Simulation Model, Instructional Value, Documentation, Student Interest, Ease of Use, and Overall Considerations. This version was subjected to content validity check by eight experts. Suggested revisions were incorporated to obtain Version Two, which was tested by a group of teachers and students who used commercially prepared physics simulation software that had already been reviewed by MicroSIFT. Cronbach's alpha for the teacher portion was .69 and .77 for the student portion. The inter-rater agreements were significant at .005 level. Version Three was obtained by refining Version Two. Version Three was used by six teachers and 223 students to conduct a formative evaluation of physics simulation software that had been developed by a Federally-funded project. Cronbach's alpha were .71 and .74 for the teacher and student parts respectively. Multiple regression analysis was conducted to determine the ability of teachers to predict student-perceived interest, ease of use, and instructional value of the software. The instrument cannot be used by teachers to predict student perceptions about software. In identifying strengths and weaknesses of simulation software students appeared to be more critical than teachers. Version Four was the final form of the evaluation instrument.



Physics--Computer-assisted instruction--Evaluation, Microcomputers