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Learning the physics of electricity with agent-based models: The paradox of productive failure
Agent-based models
Physics education
Problem-based learning
Collaborative learning
Issue Date: 
Paper presented at the 16th International Conference on Computers in Education (ICCE 2008), Taipei, Taiwan, 27 - 31 October 2008
The overall goal of this research is to explore the efficacy of learning the physics of electricity with NetLogo agent-based models (ABM) where the degree of learner scaffolding is varied. Learners were given four tasks for an ABM in each class period. The experimental condition involved Productive Failure (PF), where one group of learners initially used a set of ABMs in an unscaffolded manner whereas the comparison condition (Non-PF or N-PF) used a more conventional physics education laboratory approach in which the learners were provided with steps to follow in their ABM activity. Both groups
then used the ABMs for a second activity that was scaffolded, followed by a third unscaffolded ABM problem-based activity that was the same for both conditions. This sequence of activities was followed over four days with four different ABMs. It was hypothesized that whereas the participants in the PF group would initially fail in the first
ABM activity in contrast to the initial success of the N-PF group, by the last unscaffolded
ABM activity the PF group would perform at a higher level, and that there would be
cumulative overall learning gains by the posttest for this group. This paper reports on the
preliminary research findings that are largely consistent with the hypothesized results.
Issues for future research are also discussed.
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