Learning Support Assessment Study of a Computer Simulation for the Development of Microbial Identification Strategies
This paper describes a study that examined how microbiology students construct knowledge of bacterial identification while using a computer simulation. The purpose of this study was to understand how the simulation affects the cognitive processing of students during thinking, problem solving, and learning about bacterial identification and to determine how the simulation facilitates the learning of a domain-specific problem-solving strategy.
As part of an upper-division microbiology course, five students participated in several simulation assignments. The data were collected using think-aloud protocol and video action logs as the students used the simulation. The analysis revealed two major themes that determined the performance of the students: Simulation Usage—how the students used the software features and Problem-Solving Strategy Development—the strategy level students started with and the skill level they achieved when they completed their use of the simulation.
Several conclusions emerged from the analysis of the data: (i) The simulation affects various aspects of cognitive processing by creating an environment that makes it possible to practice the application of a problem-solving strategy. The simulation was used as an environment that allowed students to practice the cognitive skills required to solve an unknown. (ii) Identibacter (the computer simulation) may be considered to be a cognitive tool to facilitate the learning of a bacterial identification problem-solving strategy. (iii) The simulation characteristics did support student learning of a problem-solving strategy. (iv) Students demonstrated problem-solving strategy development specific to bacterial identification. (v) Participants demonstrated an improved performance from their repeated use of the simulation.
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