Date of Award

Summer 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Instructional Design & Technology

Committee Director

Ginger S. Watson

Committee Member

Linda Bol

Committee Member

Steve M. Ross


Instructional simulations can provide a powerful medium for learners to interact with a model representing underlying principles of content or phenomena. While a promising medium for developing a learner's own mental model, reviews of simulation learning have revealed less than promising results (Bangert-Drowns, Kulik, & Kulik, 1985; Kulik & Kulik, 1991), perhaps due to the lack of instructional supports inherent with a discovery-based approach. This study examined the use of generative strategies as an instructional support to promote learning from a physics simulation. Generative strategies, originally proposed by Wittrock (1974, 1989), strengthen understanding by prompting learners to create meaning between new information and prior knowledge or experience. These strategies provide learners with the feedback necessary for reflection in relation to the self-regulatory process described by Zimmerman (2000). Last, engaging in these strategies may direct attention to germane resources necessary for schema construction as described by cognitive load theory (Sweller, Ayres, & Kalyuga, 2011).

Results of this study indicated that principle learning was improved when undergraduate participants paraphrased or predicted and self-explained using a guided discovery approach. Calibration accuracy, by means of predicting anticipated test performance, was also improved for learners engaging in generative strategies as compared to a control group. Postdiction of test performance indicated a directional trend favoring participants who predicted and self-explained. Test performance was strongly correlated (r=.59) with the thoroughness of generative content between treatment groups and the quality of self-explanations indicated a marked relationship with test performance (r=.78). Generative strategies also led to significant differences in mental effort, assessments of performance, and levels of frustration between treatment groups. Specifically, participants who predicted and self-explained reported significantly higher levels of mental effort than the other two groups. These participants reported decreased levels of confidence than the paraphrase group and higher levels of frustration than the control group. Finally, the incorporation of generative strategies did not influence participants' interest in the instructional content.