Diving into the particle model: Examining the affordances of a single user participatory simulation

Elon Langbeheim, Sharona T. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What does participating as an entity in a simulation of a complex system contribute to learning? We compare the learning gains of eighth-grade students in a U.S. public school who used a Single User Participatory Simulation (SUPS) with a comparison group who learned the same concepts using a conventional simulation. We find that the SUPS affords significantly larger learning gains and that it is no more likely than the conventional simulation to cause misconceptions. In addition, we find that users of the participatory simulation report significantly more interest and enjoyment than users of the conventional simulation. Additional qualitative analysis suggests that students perceive participatory simulations as more helpful because they enable a deeper interaction with the model and are more engaging than conventional simulations. Our findings contribute to ongoing research on the contribution of physical movement in reducing cognitive load. In addition it deepens the understanding of design features that enhance emotional engagement while using simulations, and the relation of emotional engagement to the learning gains of the users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-80
Number of pages16
JournalComputers and Education
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Cognitive load
  • Complex systems
  • Engagement in learning
  • Participatory simulations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Education


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