SURGE: Classic

Research Questions

SURGE research as implemented through the computer game will focus at three interacting levels of scaffolding to address the learning goals.

  • The first level focuses on highlighting the salience of core physics concepts and interactions in underlying game design and mechanics.
  • The second level focuses at the level of the game interface design in terms of structuring and linking interface representations through cognitive processing-based principles that support students in distinguishing, understanding, and articulating core physics concepts and interactions. SURGE research will begin by focusing at these first two levels.
  • In later phases of the research, SURGE will shift focus to include a third level in terms of structuring social scaffolding to facilitate articulation and evaluation of the core physics concepts focused upon at the first two levels.

Audience

SURGE is designed for many different educational settings with a special emphasis on 7th and 8th grade students.  It is being designed for use by a diverse set of students with a wide variety of backgrounds, however, all the way from 5th grade through undergraduate physics courses.

Learning Goals and Approach

Highest Level Learning Goals

Newton’s 1st and 2nd Laws and kinematics and adding Newton’s 3rd Law as measured by the FCI. Decomposing these high level goals means:

Relationship of Mass, Force, and Acceleration

• Effect of Friction
• Effect of Gravity
• Unbalanced Forces results in acceleration
• Balanced forces results in constant velocity (or zero velocity)

Projectile Motion

• How velocity affects trajectory
• The independence of the x and y components of motion

Kinematics

• Acceleration is the change in velocity over time
• Differentiating among decreasing velocity, constant velocity, and increasing velocity
• Velocity is the change in position over time

Approach to Learning

The goal of each level is to help highlight a specific relationship and then integrate it into increasingly complex settings. There are categories of cases that focuses on specific relationships central to mechanics. These highlight specific cases that define a key relationship and cases of the domain of a larger extrinsic formalism.

While playing the game, students have the general concept and are ready for the formal term and organization to be added to it.

Next we connect these relationships and ideas to the formal representation of the field in terms of units, graphs, dot traces, velocity vectors, force arrows, etc.

Finally we connect these understandings to the formal laws and definitions.

Example: Newton's First Law includes the following cases

• Balanced external forces on a non-moving object results in no motion
• Balanced forces on a moving object results in no change in motion
• Unbalanced forces on a moving object changes motion
• Unbalanced forces on non-moving object causes motion

Assessment Goals, Measures, and Instruments

Initial Study Assessments

  • Pre-Post Assessment based on Simplified Force Concept Inventory (FCI) developed by Hestenes et al. of formal disciplinary understanding of the concepts.
  • In-Game Performance data based on scoring components.

Fall 2009 Additional Assessments

  • In-Game Performance using analytical software by Pragmatics to analyze position and velocity vector data taken every 0.5 seconds in game combined with a coordinated event timeline in each level.

Winter 2009 - Future

  • Embedded assessment in game levels. Some levels will be constructed so that students will only be able to “solve” the level and reach the goal if they understand the underlying physics concepts. Other levels will be presented in terms of characters in the game asking the player for advice in solving challenges similar to those faced earlier by the player and then explored in depth in simulation.

Findings

The first SURGE study took place in Summer 2009. We analyzed 24 undergraduate and graduate students playing SURGE. In addition to giving pre- and post-implementation questions from the FCI, we collected observation notes about the students as they played, students provided written descriptions of their gameplay experience, and the students were interviewed afterwards to provide insights into their understanding of the physics and the game. In-game data indicated that players made successful (although variable) use of growing tacit understanding of physics concepts to complete levels of the game. The data from pre and post tests strongly reinforce the potential of games to help students learn, but also underscore their potential to reinforce alternative conceptions as well as normative conceptions. The game actually resulted in a significant decrease (Chi squared = 4.75, p = .029) on one item from the FCI by unintentionally focusing students’ attention on another physics relationship (we had not yet added all of the intended functionality to the interface relevant to projectile motion and the independence of the x and y components of an object’s velocity). The students demonstrated significant (p = .037) gains on the rest of the posttest.

A second study is currently underway to investigate potential cultural differences between 200 seventh and eighth grade students in Minnesota and 250 eighth grade students in Taiwan as they interact with two levels of integration of formal vector representations (instructed concepts) across the gameplay (spontaneous concepts). The design will be 2x2 in terms of culture and integration of formal representations. Students are being randomly assigned to representational conditions within each class.

Publications

Accepted/Presented Presentations

Clark, D. B., Nelson, B., D’Angelo, C., Slack, K. & Menekse, M., (accepted). Connecting students' intuitive understandings about kinematics and Newtonian mechanics into explicit formalized frameworks. Paper to be presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Conference 2010. San Diego, California.

D’Angelo, C. M., Clark, D. B., Nelson, B. C., Slack, K., & Menekse, M. (accepted) .Connecting Tacit Understanding from Video Games to Formalized Vector Concepts. Paper to be presented at the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST) 2010 meeting. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Clark, D. B., Nelson, B., D’Angelo, C. M., Slack, K. & Menekse, M., (accepted). SURGE, Vygotsky, Games: Connecting students' intuitive “spontaneous concepts” about Newtonian mechanics into formalized “instructed concepts”. Paper submitted as part of a structured poster session at the Games, Learning, and Society (GLS) 2010 meeting. Madison, WI.

Ketelhut, D., Clark, D. B., Nelson, B. C., Schifter, C., D’Angelo, C. M., Kane, T., Menekse, M., Shelton, A., Kent Slack, K., & Snyder, M. (accepted). Electrons, Photons, and Neurons: Harnessing virtual worlds to redesign science assessment. Special symposium submitted to the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST) 2010 meeting. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Clark, D. B., Nelson, B. C., D’Angelo, C. M., Slack, K., & Menekse, M. (accepted). SURGE: Sequencing models and representations in a physics-based video game. Paper submitted as part of a session on modeling to the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST) 2010 meeting. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Clark, D. B., Nelson, B. C., D’Angelo, C. M., Slack, K., & Menekse, M. (accepted). Comparing the impact of overlaying physics-based video games with formal physics representations in Taiwan and the United States. Poster submitted to the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST) 2010 meeting. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Slack, K. Nelson, B., Clark, D. B., D’Angelo, C. M., & Menekse, M., (accepted). Visual cueing and visual feedback to provide formative assessment in a physics-based video game. Paper submitted as part of a structured poster session at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) 2010 meeting. Denver, Colorado.

Clark, D. B., Nelson, B., D’Angelo, C. M., Slack, K. & Menekse, M., (accepted). SURGE: Assessing students' intuitive and formalized understandings about kinematics and Newtonian mechanics through immersive game play. Paper submitted as part of a structured poster session at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) 2010 meeting. Denver, Colorado.

Clark, D. B., Nelson, B., D’Angelo, C. M., Slack, K., Martinez-Garza, M (2009). SURGE: Integrating Intuitive and Formal Understandings. Poster presented at the 2009 DR-K12 PI Meeting. Washington, DC. 

Clark, D. B., Nelson, B., D’Angelo, C. M., Slack, K., Martinez-Garza, M (2009). SURGE: Multiple Levels of Integrated Assessment. Presentation as part of the organized panel Assessing the Learning in Cyberlearning: Supporting Teachers with Technology-embedded Assessment organized by C. Dorsey at the 2009 DR-K12 PI Meeting. Washington, DC. 

D’Angelo, C., Clark, D. B., Nelson, B. C., Slack, K., & Menekse, M. (2009). The effect of vector representations on students’ understanding of motion. Poster presented at the Physics Education Research Conference (PERC)/American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) 2009 meeting. Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Clark, D. B., Nelson, B., D’Angelo, C., & Menekse, M., (2009). Integrating critique to support learning about physics in video games. Paper presented as part of a structured session for presentation at the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST) 2009 meeting. Garden Grove, CA.

Clark, D. B., Nelson, B., D’Angelo, C., Menekse, M., & Slack, K. (2008). Scaffolding understanding through research on Games for Education (SURGE). Poster presented at the 2008 DR-K12 PI Meeting. Washington, DC.