How to Communicate Complex Research : Effects of Hands-On Experiments and Computer Simulations in Marine Ecology Outreach Activities

The communication of current scientific topics with societal relevance to young people is of great importance in order to prepare them adequately for present and future life and to provide them with a solid basis for a sustainable development of society. The scientific, didactic and technical demands for communicating such complex topics in an authentic learning environment in a way that is appropriate to the subject matter and the target audience pose great challenges for scientists and educators allone.

This doctoral thesis therefore presents the interdisciplinary development and evaluation of two out-reach activities for secondary grade students in a student laboratory. The students worked out the effects of future changes in the Baltic Sea with hands-on experiments and an interactive computer simulation. Computer simulations and experiments are important learning methods in modern sci-ence education. However, existing research has not sufficiently identified the educational and di-dactical advantages and disadvantages of both methods and often lacks appropriate comparability. The effects of the methods were investigated on knowledge gain, situational interest and beliefs about science first in a direct comparison (NStudy I = 443) and second in a combined approach (NStudy II = 367).

The comparative study showed that a simulation conveyed more content knowledge and experi-ments caused higher situational interest. The combined approach indicated that two methods con-veyed more knowledge than one, and the combination of the two methods positively influenced the perceptions of scientific predictions. The results also showed that the students had a fundamentally high level of trust in science. Combinations of experiments and simulation can contribute to a comprehensive understanding of, and interest in com-plex current issues in science, and combine the potential of both media and methods.


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