Overview: What CESAR is about

CESAR: Conceptual understanding of Electromagnetism Supported by Augmented Reality experiments

A fundamental aim but also a major challenge in science education is to support understanding of abstract scientific concepts. Guided inquiry-based learning activities as well as learning with multiple external representations (MERs) have proven to foster students’ understanding of such abstract concepts. While MERs can support learners’ understanding of such concepts during guided experimentation, this combined learning environment also poses high affordances on students. Depending on students’ representational competence and conceptual knowledge, learning with MERs induces substantial cognitive load requiring the integration of spatially and temporally separated information. When students engage in experimentation at the same time, cognitive load further increases, depending on students’ prior knowledge and the level of guidance provided during experimentation. Augmented reality (AR) technology allows for spatial and temporal integration of MERs during experimentation, thereby reducing the overall cognitive load. Within the example context of electromagnetism and the Lorentz force, we exploit the potential of AR-technology to successively create an optimized learning environment that combines MERs and guided experimentation to support conceptual-knowledge acquisition and representational competence.

Physics experiment demonstrating the Lorentz’ force; (a) parts of the experimental setup 1; (b) example AR visualizations of the magnetic field with magnetic field lines, vector-field plot and vector tripod; c) parts of the experimental setup 2

While prior work already showed successful use of AR-technology for learning electromagnetism in general, it is still unknown how to effectively combine AR-induced MERs and the level of guidance needed during experimentation. Therefore, in a series of four studies, we will examine which AR-induced external representations work best for supporting upper high-school students’ learning, and how they interact with the level of experimental guidance during experimentation. In study 1, we will investigate which types of external representations (vector fields, field lines, and the vector tripod) best support students’ conceptual knowledge and representational competence during experimentation with high guidance, targeting the superposition of magnetic fields and the resulting direction of the Lorentz force. In two further studies, we will compare learning environments supposed to improve competencies in determining the magnitudeof the Lorentz force. In study 2.1, we will vary the MERs, and study 2.2 will examine how the combinations of AR-induced representations proven to be best interact with the amount of experimental guidance (high vs. low). Finally, we will transfer the findings from the first three lab studies to classrooms focusing both on the direction and the magnitude in order to test the best combination of conditions in the field (study 3). To get more detailed insights into visual and cognitive processes that are responsible for successful learning with MERs during experimentation, we will record students’ eye movements during the experimentation process, analyze students’ workbooks and assess cognitive load in all four studies.  We expect that this series of studies will provide major insights into how the still evolving technology of AR can be exploited to create optimized learning environments in science education. As the studied topic of electromagnetism is well established in national and international high-school physics curricula, our results will provide a major and transferrable steppingstone for physics and science education research as well as for teaching practice.