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Student motivation in a high school science laboratory: The impact of computers and other technologies on young adolescent physics students

, University of Georgia, United States

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Georgia . Awarded


The impact of technology (including computers and probes, low friction carts, video camera, VCR's and electronic balances) on the motivation of adolescent science students was investigated using a naturalistic case study of college preparatory ninth grade physics classes at a comprehensive high school in the southeastern United States. The students were positively affected by the use of computer technology as compared to other "low tech" labs. The non-computer technologies had little motivational effect on the students. The most important motivational effect was the belief among the students that they could successfully operate the equipment and gather meaningful results. At times, the students spent more cognitive energy on performing the experiment than on learning the physics. This was especially true when microcomputer-based labs were used. When the technology led to results that were clear to the students and displayed in a manner that could be easily interpreted, they were generally receptive and motivated to persist at the task. Many students reported being especially motivated when a computer was used to gather the data because they "just liked computers." Furthermore, qualitative evidence suggested that they had learned the physics concept they were working on. This is in close agreement with the conceptual change model of learning in that students are most likely to change their prior conceptions when the new idea is plausible (the technology makes it so), intelligible (real time graphing, actual light rays), and fruitful (the new idea explains what they actually see). However, many of the microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) activities and "high tech" labs were too unstructured, leaving students bewildered, confused and unmotivated. To achieve maximum motivational effects from the technology, it was necessary to reduce the cognitive demand on the students so they could concentrate on the data gathered rather than the operation of the equipment.


Clark, S.A. Student motivation in a high school science laboratory: The impact of computers and other technologies on young adolescent physics students. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Georgia. Retrieved August 15, 2020 from .

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