Inferences on enacted understanding: using immersive technologies to assess intuitive physical science knowledge

Michael Tscholl, Jason Morphew, Robb Lindgren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This study aims to advance the proposal to use immersive virtual learning environments to stimulate and reveal deep-seated knowledge about science, giving instructors and researchers unique possibilities for assessing and identifying intuitive physical science knowledge. Aside from the ability to present rich and dynamic stimuli, these environments afford bodily enactment of people’s understanding, which draws less from declarative knowledge stores and more from everyday experiences with the physical world. Design/methodology/approach: The authors ground their proposal in a critical review of the impact of stimulus and task characteristics of traditional physics inventories. Using a grounded theory approach, the authors present classifications and interpretations of observed bodily enactments of physics understandings in a study where participants enacted their understanding of force and motion of space in an immersive, interactive mixed reality (MR) environment. Findings: The authors find that instances of these action categories can be interpreted as relating to underlying knowledge, often identified by other studies. The authors thus replicate a number of prior findings, which provide evidence to establish validation for using MR simulation as a tool for identifying people’s physical intuitions. Research limitations/implications: This study targeted only a few specific physical science scenarios. Further, while a number of key insights about student knowledge came from the analysis, many of the observations are mere leads in need of further investigation and interpretation rather than core findings. Originality/value: Immersive digital learning environments are primarily used for instruction. The authors propose to use and design them for assessment as well. This paper should prompt more research and development in this direction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-524
Number of pages22
JournalInformation and Learning Science
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 2021


  • Assessment
  • Embodied learning
  • Intuitive physics
  • Mixed reality
  • Science education
  • Virtual learning environments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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