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PhET Interactive Simulations: Using Research-Based Simulations to Transform Undergraduate Chemistry Education: 1226321

Principal Investigator: Katherine Perkins
CoPrincipal Investigator(s): Emily Moore, Robert Parson
Organization: University of Colorado at Boulder

The PhET Interactive Simulations group at the University of Colorado is expanding their expertise of physics simulations to the development of eight-to-ten simulations designed to enhance students’ content learning in general chemistry courses. The simulations are being created to provide highly engaging learning environments which connect real life phenomena to the underlying science, provide dynamic interactivity and feedback, and scaffold inquiry by what is displayed and controlled. In a second strand of the project, a group of experienced faculty participants are developing and testing lecture materials, classroom activities, and homework, all coordinated with well-established, research-based teaching methods like clicker questions, peer instruction, and/or tutorial-style activities, to leverage learning gains in conjunction with the simulations. The third strand of the project focuses on research on classroom implementation, including measures of student learning and engagement, and research on simulation design. This strand is establishing how specific characteristics of chemistry sim design influence engagement and learning, how various models of instructional integration of the sims affect classroom environments as well as learning and engagement, and how sim design and classroom context factors impact faculty use of sims. To ensure success the project is basing sim design on educational research, utilizing high-level software professionals (to ensure technically sophisticated software, graphics, and interfaces) working hand-in-hand with chemistry education researchers, and is using the established PhET team to cycle through coding, testing, and refinement towards a goal of an effective and user friendly sim.

The collection of simulations, classroom materials, and faculty support resources form a suite of free, web-based resources that anyone can use to improve teaching and learning in chemistry. The simulations are promoting deep conceptual understanding and increasing positive attitudes about science and technology which in turn is leading to improved education for students in introductory chemistry courses both in the United States and around the world.

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