Interactive Computer Simulations as Pedagogical Tools in Biology Labs

Author/Creator ORCID





Citation of Original Publication

Karen Whitworth, Sarah Leupen, Chistopher Rakes, and Mauricio Bustos, Interactive Computer Simulations as Pedagogical Tools in Biology Labs, CBE—Life Sciences Education, Vol. 17, No. 3 , 2018,


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Student learning in biology may be impaired by instructional environments that emphasize technical methodology over analysis. We hypothesized that time gained by experimenting with accurate computer simulations could be used to engage students in analytical, creative learning. The effects of treatments that combined a week of simulated lab instruction with a week of standard lab instruction in different order (E-to-S and S-to-E) were examined using a controlled experimental design with random assignment of lab sections and hierarchical linear modeling analysis to account for possible clustering within sections. Data from a large sample of students (N = 515) revealed a significant increase (1.59 SD) in posttest scores for both treatment groups over the control. We posit as a plausible explanation the reinforcement of psychomotor learning due to strong engagement of cognitive processes facilitated by the computer simulation. This study supports a wider use of computer simulations as learning tools in laboratory courses.