This research project, from The University of Central Florida, and the Museum of Science and Industry, investigates a three-cycle research and development process where middle school student learners will be immersed in a mixed reality environment while interacting with functional metaphors to determine the effects of conceptual change, motivation and scientific habits of mind while engaged in learning physics content. The project is guided by the following research questions: How does the opportunity to embody elements of an immersive simulation affect a learner's propensity to experience conceptual change and develop scientific habits of mind? What design features of missed reality environments best support metaphors? What metrics are most effective for assessing learning through body-based metaphors? What are the practical considerations to creating immersive metaphor-based learning experiences in ISE institutions such as a Science Center?

The investigators will use a between subjects mixed method approach with middle school students (N = 360) involving three research cycles that are performed in controlled conditions. The multiple iterations will allow modifications to the study's design to dig deeper into the data and afford more careful analysis, revisions and modifications to simulation content, protocol and data collection instruments and the technology installation.

Middle school students will be recruited from local schools and the Museum of Science and Industry visitors. The evaluation plan includes the assessment of perceived values of using whole-body metaphors within mixed reality environments to learn physics. Professional audiences, educators and ISE practitioners will assess the impact, design and content associated with research on learning, mixed reality design, science and physics education.

Research on understanding the process of using whole-body interactions in a mixed reality environments will help educational researchers and practitioners in the field understand the effectiveness of metaphor based learning of scientific concepts with whole body interactions. This project contributes knowledge about how people learn within informal settings. This theory-driven design approach has the potential for broad implementation in both formal and informal environments.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL)
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Alphonse T. DeSena
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University of Central Florida
United States
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