CEC Theses and Dissertations


A Comparison of Simulations and Traditional Laboratory Exercises for Student Learning in Secondary Electronics Instruction

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Steven R. Terrell

Committee Member

Laurie Dringus

Committee Member

William Waite

Committee Member

Edward Lieblein


This study investigated and compared the use of electronic design and simulation applications as an alternative to traditional circuit construction and experimentation laboratory activities in secondary technology education. The primary research question asked if using contemporary electronics circuit design and simulation applications improves student learning with higher-level application, synthesis, and evaluation skills over traditional laboratory circuit construction and analysis activities. Students were evaluated for their lower levels of understanding, which validated prior research on simulations for electronics instruction. More importantly, students were evaluated for higher levels of learning through hands-on design and troubleshooting activities that demonstrated problem-solving skills inherent in technology education.

A quasi-experimental approach was used to evaluate student learning. Two treatments were used where the research group completed learning activities using an electronics simulation package, and the control group used traditional circuit construction techniques. It was hypothesized that students in the two treatments would show no significant difference in their basic knowledge of electronics. It was further hypothesized that there would be no significant difference in between the two treatments when evaluating the students' ability to design and troubleshoot electronics circuits.

Students in the two treatments completed a common instructional unit to learn electronics component and circuit theory. Students were evaluated for their learning achievement with knowledge, comprehension, and application levels of understanding of electronics through a written pretest and posttest. Analysis, synthesis, and evaluation levels of understanding were assessed through problem solving activities that included design and troubleshooting activities. Statistical analysis of the test and activity results determined that there were no significant differences in learning achievement between the two treatments.

This study identified that circuit design and simulation applications are an effective alternative to traditional laboratory exercises. Pedagogical implications include the appropriate use of simulations, advantages gained through both laboratory treatments, and the effects of simulations on lower and higher levels of understanding. These findings are relevant to technology education instruction as well as technical, engineering, mathematical, and scientific instructional programs.

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