Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Environmental Science

Advisor 1


Number of Pages



This study compared the effectiveness of simulation-based instruction to traditional teacher-directed instruction about water resource management in Las Vegas. Subjects, undergraduate students recruited from Psychology and Environmental Studies departments, participated in one of two treatments. All participants were given a pretest prior to instruction, a post-test immediately following instruction, and a retention-test 4 weeks after instruction. Evaluation instruments provided overall scores, gauged student learning in topic areas and different question difficulty-levels as well as attitudes toward the environment and water management. The treatments differed only in how students interacted with the system after receiving background information on Las Vegas valley’s water issues. Students in the traditional group used a lecture format presentation of graphed results to show affects of changes to the system, while the students in the simulation-based group manipulated the interface of a model to explore variables and effect. The hypothesis was that students in simulation-based groups would outperform traditional groups in overall scores on post- and retention tests, and specifically on scores for conceptual and understanding questions. Additionally, all participants were expected to increase in attitudes, with the simulation treatment having stronger, more positive attitudes after treatment than the traditional treatment. Results did not support the main hypothesis, showing no significant difference between the two treatment groups for overall scores or other factors, within treatments, such as age, sex, and time of day. However, there was a significant difference between majors for scores on pretest and post-test, but learning (difference between pre- and post-test) was not significantly different for these groups. These results suggest that participants increase scores in a certain ratio regardless of treatment or current knowledge. There was a significant increase in attitudes from pretest to post-test for all students but simulation-users were not significantly higher than traditional groups. Although the hypothesis was not supported, unanticipated variables introduced during treatment and disproportionate distribution of subgroups among treatments made it difficult to ensure unbiased groups. Despite problems with the study design, it was concluded that all students learned no matter the treatment. Therefore, this simulation-based instruction treatment is at least as effective as traditional methods


Education simulation methods; Las Vegas (Nev.); Nevada; Water supply management; Water conservation study and teaching


Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Environmental Sciences | Water Resource Management

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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