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Tech Report  March 1, 2014

Simulations for STEM Learning: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (Full Report)

SRI Authors Daisy Wise Rutstein



D’Angelo, C., Rutstein, D., Harris, C., Bernard, R., Borokhovski, E., Haertel, G. (2014). Simulations for STEM Learning: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.


This report presents an overview of the process and initial findings of a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature on computer simulations for K–12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning topics. Both quantitative and qualitative research studies on the effects of simulation in STEM were reviewed.

Studies that reported effect size measures or the data to calculate effect sizes were included in the meta-analysis. Important moderating factors related to simulation design, assessment, implementation, and study quality were coded, categorized, and analyzed for all the articles. This review and meta-analysis is focused on two research questions:

  1. What is the difference in outcome measures between K–12 students who receive simulations as a form of instruction and K–12 students who receive some other kind of instructional treatment?
  2. What is the difference in outcome measures between K-12 students who receive simulations and those who receive the same simulations that are modified with some form of instructional enhancement, such as dynamic representations, meta-cognitive support, or extended feedback?

This report includes a full reporting of the research activities of this project and all of the results and findings.

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