Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Susan M. Zgliczynski, PhD; Bob Hoffman, PhD; Cheryl L. Mason, PhD


case study, children & youth, Cognitive learning, computer simulation, education, elementary schools, fifth grade students, force, force feedback, gravity, mass, motion, student reasoning


The purpose of this study was to examine whether force feedback within a computer simulation had an effect on reasoning by fifth grade students about gravity, mass, force, and motion, concepts which can be difficult for learners to grasp. Few studies have been done on cognitive learning and haptic feedback, particularly with young learners, but there is an extensive base of literature on children's conceptions of science and a number of studies focus specifically on children's conceptions of force and motion. This case study used a computer-based paddleball simulation with guided inquiry as the primary stimulus. Within the simulation, the learner could adjust the mass of the ball and the gravitational force. The experimental group used the simulation with visual and force feedback; the control group used the simulation with visual feedback but without force feedback. The proposition was that there would be differences in reasoning between the experimental and control groups, with force feedback being helpful with concepts that are more obvious when felt. Participants were 34 fifth-grade students from three schools. Students completed a modal (visual, auditory, and haptic) learning preference assessment and a pretest. The sessions, including participant experimentation and interviews, were audio recorded and observed. The interviews were followed by a written posttest. These data were analyzed to determine whether there were differences based on treatment, learning style, demographics, prior gaming experience, force feedback experience, or prior knowledge. Work with the simulation, regardless of group, was found to increase students' understanding of key concepts. The experimental group appeared to benefit from the supplementary help that force feedback provided. Those in the experimental group scored higher on the posttest than those in the control group. The greatest difference between mean group scores was on a question concerning the effects of increased gravitational force.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access