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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Effect of computer simulations on female students' motivation for and engagement with physics learning : a case of secondary schools in Tanzania Rutakomozibwa, Angela Mercy


The purpose of the study was to examine the effect of computer simulations on female students' motivation for and engagement with physics learning in Tanzanian secondary schools (Form 2, grade 10). The case study design was based on interpretive mixed methods (n=265, 154 male, 111 female). The students’ views before and after the computer simulations were elicited by completing an adapted Student Satisfaction and Self-Confidence towards Motivation in Learning Science (SSSC-MLS) instrument. The six teachers whose students participated in the study were interviewed along with a sample of students (n=48) at pre-and post-simulation intervals. Both female students’ and teachers’ initial anticipations for the new approach affected engagement and heightened task value, hence motivation to learn. Quantitative Factor Analysis was employed to identify components that best explored pre- and post-simulation views/perceptions (n=265). Four key factors or themes were found: 1) Satisfaction and confidence in computer simulation as a technology for learning; 2) Fear of performing physics tasks due to traditional approaches to teaching/learning; 3) Individual perceptions and values in learning physics; and 4) Using active strategies in learning physics concepts. Qualitative Thematic analysis was employed to identify effects of the simulations. Four themes emerged: 1) Computer simulations enhance confidence in females’ learning; 2) Perceptions influence females’ learning; 3) Relevance improves understanding; and 4) Motivation and engagement improve learning. Findings from this study show that female students were satisfied with the simulations since they were able engage in various interactive ways including experimenting, problem solving, analyzing and interpreting results, and reporting findings to understand physics concepts. Findings also indicate that employing computer simulation does not guarantee canonical knowledge construction among students if the teachers’ understanding of how female students’ socio-cultural background might shape their learning experience is inadequate or limited. Recommendations include: 1) Focusing on all students’ (not only females’) learning outcomes following a simulation approach for all science subjects at the Form 2 level; and 2) Extend Eccles’ (2007, 2008) work and conduct further research on parents’ familial beliefs and influences on achievement and motivation for female learners in STEM disciplines in Tanzania and other Sub-Saharan countries.  

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