The role of computer simulations in university students’ reasoning about physics
Paper in proceedings, 2006

The aim of this paper is to describe the different roles that a computer simulation of a physics phenomenon plays in university students’ reasoning about physics. In this way, the paper strives to illuminate the potential value of computer simulations as a tool in students’ learning, as their reasoning around physics problems implies possible learning outcomes. Four different ways of using the computer simulation were discerned from data collected from students working with a simulation of Bohr’s model of the hydrogen atom. The four categories are distinguished by their characteristics of Answering, Implying, Interacting and Opening. We describe the categories in more detail, illustrate them from the empirical data and analyze each of them according to an analytical model of learning, with a motive, an act and an object of learning. We also discuss the categories in terms of design of pedagogical settings with simulations.


Tom Adawi

Centre for Competence and Knowledge Building in Higher Education (CKK)

Åke Ingerman

Chalmers, Microtechnology and Nanoscience (MC2)

the third Scandinavian Symposium on Research in Science Education, Karlstad, February 2006

Subject Categories

Physical Sciences


Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work

More information