Articles | Volume 20, issue 6
Research article
10 Jun 2016
Research article |  | 10 Jun 2016

Understanding groundwater – students' pre-conceptions and conceptual change by means of a theory-guided multimedia learning program

Ulrike Unterbruner, Sylke Hilberg, and Iris Schiffl

Abstract. Education on the subject of groundwater is crucial for sustainability. Nevertheless, international studies with students across different age groups have shown that the basic hydrogeological concept of groundwater defined as water within porous and permeable rocks is not an established everyday notion. Drawing from international research, a multimedia learning program Zwischen Regenwolke und Wasserhahn (between the rain cloud and the tap) was developed, which incorporates specific insights from the fields of conceptual change research, multimedia research, and the model of educational reconstruction. The effectiveness of the learning program was ascertained by means of two studies with Austrian seventh grade pupils as well as teacher-training students from the fields of biology and geography in order to ascertain the effectiveness of the learning program. Using a quasi-experimental research design, the participants' conceptions and knowledge of groundwater were determined in a pre- and post-test. The pupils and students greatly benefitted from working through the learning software independently. Their knowledge of groundwater increased significantly compared to the control group and there was a highly significant increase in the number of scientifically correct notions of groundwater. The acceptance of the program was also generally very high. The results indicate that theory-guided multimedia learning programs can play an important role in the transfer of research results to classroom settings, especially in science education.

Short summary
Studies show that young people have difficulties with correctly understanding groundwater. We designed a multimedia learning program about groundwater and tested its learning efficacy with pupils and teacher-training students. A novelty is the theory-guided designing of the program on the basis of hydrogeology and science education. The pupils and students greatly benefited from working through the multimedia learning program.