According to the science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) program, this experimental research aims to advocate e-content based on augmented reality (AR) technology to enhance retention learning (LR) and reinforce critical thinking in the intermediate stage in Ha’il, KSA. Then, we study the interaction between the technology of AR design (image/mark) and the mental capacity of learners (high/low) in developing critical thinking (CT) and practical skills, i.e., the interaction between AR (image/mark) and gender. The study’s sample consisted of 120 8th-grade junior high school students from six schools in Ha’il. 63 of the 120 participants are females, while 57 are males. They were divided into 2 control and 8 experimental groups. Our analysis revealed that students’ LR and CT skills after using AR were better than before using AR. The first result we found was that implementing AR in educational realms impacted students’ LR. Furthermore, statistically significant differences were exhibited in overall CT skills between those with high and low mental capacity (MC), favoring those with high MC. Even more interestingly, according to the STEAM program, male students’ outcomes in science learning were more reinforced by AR than females’. Future research could quantify learning outcomes and look at underserved communities. Moreover, future studies could reveal the educational benefits of augmented reality-based active learning.
The information age we live in helps us in applying knowledge in novel ways because it is built on digital technologies. As a result, the digital generations appeared due to the change of learning styles from audio, visual, and kinesthetic (VAK) ones to E-VAK, since we have got computers with huge capacity and multitasking, the integration of mobile and computers into network-based interface devices, and the emergence of endless numbers of interactive application programs used by the new generations (Ibrahem and Alamro, 2021). Because technology is changing so quickly, educational materials must be updated and modified constantly.
Consequently, educators were interested in employing contemporary and virtual technologies to assist learning environments, such as AR, a recent technology that creatively and engagingly supports learning environments by fusing reality with digital interactions (Jesionkowska et al., 2020). Also, it helps in boosting both practical skills and intellectual concepts. Hence, there is a propensity to combine different technologies to uphold learning goals and maximize their outcomes through the orientation of the learner-centered learning strategy, with examples including visual reality (VR), smart learning (AR), and Internet of things (IoT) (Siam, 2020). AR allows real and virtual objects to interact with one another, which is the only technology that connects physical reality to virtual data regarding that reality. It delivers a direct or indirect picture of the physical world in real-time that is heightened by the addition and overlay of virtual data (Fokides and Mastrokoukou, 2018). Additionally, AR technology can be used directly or indirectly in the teaching and learning environment to assist and sustain learners in dealing with knowledge and interacting with it (visually and auditory) in an easier way to represent, store, and test knowledge (Sun et al., 2018).
It is clear that augmented reality technology has the potential to create a knowledge-building environment similar to that described in constructivist theory, which requires the creation of realistic situations and an active learning environment through interaction with learning software (Muhammad et al., 2021). The use of educational AR is also dependent on modern communication theory principles such as self-learning and the learner’s ability to obtain knowledge and respond when exposed to stimuli on networks, devices, or electronic tools such as portable smart devices (Radu et al., 2023). Education systems are rapidly modified by immersive technologies. Among them, AR has resourcefully shown promise, particularly for STEAM education (Ibáñez and Delgado-Kloos, 2018). The philosophy of STEAM integrated education is to provide creative education, covering cutting-edge technology, to students who are already accustomed to advanced technology, so that they do not lose interest in learning in case of their inability of keeping up with the pace of technology. The future of society’s advancement depends on STEAM competencies, which are also anticipated to be the cornerstone of some of the fastest-growing businesses (Jesionkowska et al., 2020).
What is more, STEAM is defined as a broad field that includes numerous disciplines and epistemological practices (Siam, 2020). Many requirements must be met in order to activate STEAM education, encompassing the development of integration between different disciplines via the problem-solving method, active learning via learning situations and planned and extracurricular projects, and the creation of technology-rich learning environments to benefit and excite learners while preparing them for the future practical market (Ibáñez and Delgado-Kloos, 2018). Lower enrollments in STEM courses, which are critical for future economic growth, reflect young people’s growing disengagement from STEM (Success Through STEM, 2011). Past studies defend using modern technology to facilitate the learning processes while anchoring this education and training in STEM pedagogy through an interdisciplinary approach (Kul and Berber, 2022; Sahin and Yilmaz, 2020). New technologies have emerged in recent decades, allowing a more thorough exploration of appropriate technology to support STEM learning. Immersive technology, such as augmented reality (AR), has gained popularity in recent years, with an increasing number of studies published in educational contexts (Sirakaya and Sirakaya, 2022).
CT, as a multidimensional cognitive construct, implies both inductive and deductive reasoning, as well as creative processes that interact at various stages of problem-solving. Many studies have proved that learning and mastering CT skills during educational situations accomplishes a variety of objectives, including the learner’s active role in the educational process and improving the learner’s ability for self-learning (Techakosit and Nilsook, 2016; Ezz Al-Arab and H. Saad, 2016).
Given the importance of CT and the necessity of developing critical and investigative thinking skills, CT skills comprise many subskills (Al-Zahrani, 2017). As a result, investigation and research curricula must be designed in such a way that the learner is directly exposed to life experiences and practices of the various and integrated science processes of data collection and interpretation, teamwork, problem-solving, and decision-making (Ibrahem and Alamro, 2021).
Analysis of STEAM test results reports for Arab countries revealed relative progress, but not the intended transformation (Saudi Ministry of Education, 2019). During their visit to some middle schools in Ha’il Governorate, the team also noticed that teachers faced a problem of second-intermediate students’ inability of having correct knowledge of concepts and facts related to some science topics; for instance, the textbook did not contain pictures or videos that benefit learning topics.
In addition, previous research found that there was no opportunity for IoT experimentation, because the curricula were already overburdened and schools generally lacked developmental resources (Nersesian et al., 2019). The scarcity of educational applications with sufficient learning content worsens this problem (Jesionkowska et al., 2020). The imbalance between the high quantity of multimedia experiences centered on entertainment versus education has been identified as one of the main causes contributing to the fall in STEM education performance (Pellas et al., 2020). On the contrary, a study by Techakosit and Nilsook (2016), manifested that employing AR technology aided in the development of laboratory skills. According to Hamada’s research (2018), AR applications and the interaction between learning styles in the augmented reality environment and cognitive style have a positive impact on developing achievement, which is also confirmed in Syawaludin and Rintayati’s research (2019) Judah (2018) also emphasized the effectiveness of exploiting augmented reality for problem-solving and emotional intelligence development. Also, the successful integration of educational technology into the curriculum content of the public school system may be a viable solution for engaging students in STEM education (Pellas et al., 2020; Fokides and Mastrokoukou, 2018). The studies’ findings also stressed the importance of utilizing AR in the teaching of technology, science, and math in order to improve student-learning outcomes, foster a variety of thought processes, and revitalize the educational system (Al-Hajri, 2018; Hamada, 2018).
As previously mentioned, the research problem is that second-grade students need more computer technology (CT) skills; therefore, they do not do well in school and on STEAM tests in science classes. Given that the STEAM program’s goals for developing science are to teach students how to use computers and do well in science by the end of the second intermediate grade, the research team plans to do this by using augmented reality apps. The main research questions directed at the current article are as follows:
How do the interactions of augmented reality design technology (image/mark), mental capacity (high/low), and gender (male/female) affect developing learning retention?
How does the interaction between augmented reality design technology (image/mark), mental capacity (high/low), and gender (male/female) influence the development of CT skills?
What is the effectiveness of augmented reality technology in enhancing science learning outcomes according to the STEAM program in the second grade at the intermediate stage?
In this study, we discuss the connection between AR technology and its advantages when adopted in STEM education for advancing learning, as well as recommending new research opportunities that are ripe for investigation.
What is AR?
AR is defined as the technology that combines virtual and actual environments through the use of specialized software and programming to display them on smart devices (Çetin and Türkan, 2022; Syawaludin et al., 2019). This allows for exposing digital content like images, videos, and forms with stereoscopic images and other types of multimedia, raising student or teacher interaction and promoting deeper and more effective learning (Petrov and Atanasova, 2020; Demircioglu et al., 2022). AR requires no special equipment. Most teenagers today have a smartphone with a camera, so they can use augmented reality immediately. Recent studies on bibliometrics, meta-analysis, and systematic literature reviews have discussed the growing popularity of both researching and applying AR in educational settings, as well as the educational benefits and drawbacks of this technology (Mariscal et al., 2020).
That is to say, three characteristics are required for AR systems to be considered: (1) real and virtual elements mixing, (2) real-time interaction, and (3) three-dimensional registration (Petrov and Atanasova, 2020; Kul and Berber, 2022; Kalemkuş and Kalemkuş, 2022). Likewise, text, video, images, audio, infographics, and 2D/3D models can all be loaded via AR technology (Tekedere and Göke, 2016), enabling users to interact with virtual objects embedded in real-world scenes to gain practical life experience with human-computer interaction (Ajit, 2021; Radu et al., 2023).
AR is divided into two types: location-based AR and vision-based AR. First, location-based AR enables visitors to use GPS-enabled smart devices to track the distance between two locations. Thus, data from the GPS, gyroscope, compass, camera, and other sensors can be combined with location data to convey knowledge about the physical environment (Godwin-Jones, 2016; Demircioglu et al., 2022). Second, vision-based augmented reality focuses on image recognition techniques adopted to locate actual objects in their natural surroundings, so that virtual contexts associated with these objects can be appropriately placed. Its tracking system is classified as either marker-based or monocular (Demircioglu et al., 2022). Marker-based tracking requires specific labels, such as QR codes, to register the 3D images, unlike markerless tracking; hence, any part of the real environment can be utilized to trigger the virtual images. Labels, QR codes, and virtual images are examples of “triggers” or “markers,” which can be placed at any time and in any location. As the AR application controls the camera to recognize markers, the device screen can display 3D graphics or other types of actions (Godwin-Jones, 2016; Meletiou-Mavrotheris, 2019).
This change has accelerated the growth of STEAM education, an integrated method of teaching students across a variety of areas. Science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics are collectively referred to as STEAM. It was founded on STEM principles, a transdisciplinary approach that treated the sciences as a whole rather than as distinct branches of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (Meletiou-Mavrotheris, 2019). In order to encourage learning in more linked and comprehensive ways, the original STEM framework recently included the arts. An integrated STEM and arts curriculum, as claimed by supporters of the STEAM movement, is necessary to promote genuine creativity and invention by enabling learners to apply abilities to think systematically which blends the ideas of scientists, technologists, and artists or designers (Kim, 2012).
AR in STEAM Education
By utilizing cutting-edge technology, the benefits of AR technology are applied to STEAM education to increase interest and involvement in science, since it has the potential for pedagogical applications to maintain learning and teaching (Ibáñez and Delgado-Kloos, 2018). Furthermore, AR is extremely beneficial for activity-centered STEAM education because it can fortify learner-centered activities and assist learners in booming scientific knowledge and understanding concepts (Kim and Kim, 2018). The key advantages of AR are the possibility for learning gain, increased motivation, and collaboration. When implemented properly, augmented reality can help students become more motivated, collaborate more, develop their spatial awareness, and perform better (Ajit, 2021; Kalemkuş and Kalemkuş, 2022). Students can discover the environment interactively and collaboratively, thanks to AR technology in education (Syawaludin and Rintayati, 2019).
Fully interactive virtual laboratory simulations in STEAM education are specifically made to pique and inspire a student’s inherent curiosity in learning (Nersesian et al., 2019). As a result of the virtual element’s enhancement of the learning experience and intensification, students better memorize procedural knowledge (Ajit, 2021; Kul and Berber, 2022). AR can also strengthen students’ higher-order thinking skills by offering deeper learning rather than surface information (Omurtak and Zeybek, 2022). The relationship between learners, instructors, and the environment is strengthened via AR.
Challenges in implementing AR in STEM education
Implementing AR in STEM education is challenging because of the usability of AR devices. It necessitates a more involved setup, incorporating moving furniture to provide room for students to roam around, placing markers in strategic places, and occasionally checking the lighting (Kul and Berber, 2022). Other challenges entail functioning AR applications with technological issues. Available AR apps have technical and/or pedagogical constraints, such as limited scaffolding of the learning process, inadequate model quality, low simulation accuracy, and insufficient haptic feedback (Sahin and Yilmaz, 2020; Meletiou-Mavrotheris, 2019).
Certainly, some unfavorable incidents occurred, for example, the video resuming when the relevant objects or mobile devices moved, the device’s internet connection, the camera resolution of the employed mobile devices, and the classroom’s lighting and audio (Çetin and Türkan, 2022). In addition, many free AR authoring tools are not available that are simple to use, and instructors lack the use of AR instructional content. By inspiring students to take an active role in their learning, AR can significantly improve levels of comprehension, memory, and knowledge transfer (Fidan and Tuncel, 2019; Kul and Berber, 2022). Implementation issues could appear due to the institutional limits imposed by the curriculum’s specific deadline.
AR and STEAM to improve critical thinking skills
Real-life problems are frequently intricate and disorderly; thus, a well-rounded education and higher-order skills are required. As a result, thinking development becomes one of the most important points that educational institutions strive to achieve among students, which is appropriately and consciously reflected in their interaction with life and its circumstances (Syawaludin and Rintayati, 2019; Demircioglu et al., 2022). In line with one of STEAM’s core values, the inclusion of AR into instruction encourages learners’ problem-solving and CT abilities. CT skills embrace the capacity for argument analysis, inductive/deductive inference, assessment/evaluation, and problem-solving or decision-making (Suryanti et al., 2020; Anggraeni, 2021).
On the other side, the goal of STEAM is to excite and encourage students regarding higher-order thinking, encompassing problem-solving, collaborative techniques, learning on one’s own, via projects and through challenges, and CT (Varenina et al., 2021; Suryanti et al., 2020; Anggraeni, 2021). Based on the results of some studies (Twiningsih and Elisanti, 2021; Varenina et al., 2021; Wechsler et al., 2018), it can be concluded that STEAM could improve student’s critical thinking skills and develop 21st-century skills.
The literature agrees that CT is a complex process that requires high-order reasoning to accomplish the desired outcome (Wechsler et al., 2018; Winarti et al., 2021). What is more, CT requires a variety of abilities, i.e, evaluating the validity of the information obtained, analyzing its dependability, and coming up with adequate answers for certain tasks or situations. Therefore, the development of CT skills in students is influenced by a number of factors, such as learning preferences, the way of applying concepts, conceptual understanding, and problem-solving skills (Varenina et al., 2021). Consequently, it can be said that CT abilities were deep-thinking skills that may challenge and refute any form of narrow gaps from any issue at hand in order to generate novel, accurate insights (Winarti et al., 2021; Twiningsih and Elisanti, 2021).
Why mental capacity
Typically, mental capacity is characterized by a person’s ability to make independent decisions at the moment when a decision is required (Osadchyi et al., 2021). The following factors determine maximum capacity: employment period reduction (transition from rest to a high level of capacity); the highest indicators of system performance (reaction rate, signal processing, etc.); the lowest bioenergy costs; preservation of working capacity over time (increased endurance); adequate body responses to external actions; and the simplest adaptation, regulation, and automation of skills (Keene et al., 2019; Osadchyi et al., 2021). Capability can be impacted by exhaustion from prolonged information labor, one’s emotional and physical status, and environmental circumstances (Keene et al., 2019).
Scientists’ empirical research advocates the usage of AR technology as a particular information environment that caters to students’ prevailing thinking types. Researchers show that augmented reality can be used in kinesthetic learning or “Learning by Doing” to build up personality cognitive structure, mental capacity, and cognitive motivation (Unsworth and Robison, 2020).
AR and learning retention
LR means a person’s capacity to retain new information in their long-term memory for later retrieval and application (Chang et al., 2015). It is essential to maintain obtained information at the appropriate time. Consequently, the capacity of a learning institution to retain the information of its students becomes a crucial component. Attention, self-efficacy, relevance, satisfaction, mnemonics, testing, and rewards are some of the variables that influence student retention. Therefore, for long-term memory, students must devote undivided attention during the learning process (Gargrish et al., 2022a, b).
AR advanced student learning. AR-taught students exhibited higher test scores and retention rates. Research pinpoints that exam scores alone do not prove a student’s comprehension of the subject (Chang et al., 2015; Gargrish et al., 2022a). Short-term memory is the most important concept elevated by AR, while long-term memory is still uncertain (Chang et al., 2015; Gargrish et al., 2022b). Thus, the foregoing research demonstrates that AR can lead to deep knowledge if the system satisfies the user’s emotional and cognitive demands to properly motivate them.
The quantitative research method is the research design, which is exemplified in the quasi-experimental pretest/posttest control group. Studies using this design are those in which groups that are matched based on particular data are randomly assigned as experimental and control groups. In the experimental group, AR applications were utilized to teach the lesson; however, it was taught using conventional means in the control group. The decision to utilize a quasi-experimental design was made.
A total of 120 middle school second-grade students who attend classes in the city center of Ha’il make up the study participants for 2021–2022. 63 of them are females (F), while 57 of them are males (M), as depicted in Table 1. All were identified as private school students, who had a smartphone and were willing to participate in the study.
The Juan Pascual Leone cross-shape scale based on “constructive triggers” was chosen from mental capacity investigations. The test has 36 items, composed of simple geometric shapes, one of which is on the right and has distinct shapes; in contrast, the other is on the left and has the same shapes but arranged in an overlapping pattern. High and low scores reflect mental capacity. The research sample was divided into high mental capacity (20 degrees or more out of 36) and low mental capacity (<20 degrees) students (Al-Banna and Al-Banna, 1990).
The researchers presented the study’s objectives, methodology, and guiding ethical principles. It was made clear that the study’s preliminary and detailed conclusions would be shared with teachers and principals. In addition, the science teachers were unfamiliar with augmented reality technologies, lacking practical expertise in them. Before the study, to help students become used to the researcher’s presence in the classroom, the researcher observed and sat in on the teacher’s classes.
Techniques and instruments for data collection
Tests were implemented in data collection research. Descriptive tests are designed to assess elementary school students’ knowledge of earth structure and rock material. The test’s validity using Aiken’s V validity with a 5% error rate is 0.78. The validity of the test instruments results indicates that there were 45 valid questions and five invalid questions. Cronbach’s alpha value for test reliability was 0.88. Referring to the value of r at a 95% confidence level or significance level of 5% (p = 0.05) with 0.88 > 0.4428, it is indicated that the test instrument was reliable.
The Cornell Arabized Saudi Environment Scale (Al-Zahrani, 2017; Ezz Al-Arab and H. Saad (2016); Al-Hajri, 2018) was carried out to measure CT skills. The internal consistency of the scale items was confirmed by calculating the correlation coefficient between the scores of each item, the total score of the scale, and the total score of the dimension using the Point Bay Serial correlation coefficient. The values of the correlation coefficients were measured. Most of the items and the total degree of the dimension were statistically significant at the significance level of 01.0.
Additionally, the stability of the scale was also certified by using the reliability coefficient of the internal homogeneity method (Cronbach’s alpha), all of which are higher than the value 70.0 (the minimum acceptable limit for the stability coefficient). The internal homogeneity stability coefficient of Cronbach’s alpha for the CT scale was 92.0 and ranged in dimensions from 75.0 to 88.0, which describes the scale’s stability.
As shown in Table 1, the quasi-experimental design with dimensional measurement of the research groups was followed in teaching the units of study, to progress some CT skills and science learning outcomes for a sample of second-grade middle school students in Ha’il.
There were eight different experimental groups, due to two classification variables, each with two levels: gender (male and female) and mental capacity (high and low). Table 1 explains the differences between experimental groups.
We executed the HP Reveal software application of augmented reality (1) that relies on the presence of image or shape tags recognized by creating an educational object. Augmented reality technology is a clearer visual representation of complex information. Thus, the HP Reveal application is downloaded on smartphones or tablet computers, as it is a modern information technology to merge virtues.
A convenient lesson plan and an application brochure have been composed. The application brochure that has been constituted contained the application cards for the AR application called “light waves,” along with the videos and motion infographics with light attributes. In this manner, while studying the theoretical data about the characteristics of light waves, refraction of light, properties of prisms, laws of reflection, and uses of mirrors, students can observe the movement of light rays, the refraction of rays when moving from one medium to another of different density, and the movement of light rays inside the devices. On the other hand, AR ready-made science cards were provided and distributed to students to use independently.
During the application, students used AR science cards for 120 min and the face-to-face instruction accounted for 240 min on average. Furthermore, because the activity booklets were produced separately from this period, the students could independently use them at home. It also roughly took three weeks for this time frame.
To answer the first question: What is the effect of the interaction between AR design (image/mark), MC (high/low), and gender (M/F) on growing LR?
Manova test was used to test the differences according to AR design, MC, and gender. The results are displayed in Table 2.
A statistical effect is found on LR across the interaction of MC, AR design, and gender. The LSD test is computed to conduct the differences; the results are revealed in Table 3.
Statistically significant differences are discovered between the study groups’ levels in LR. The G1 (group 1) had high effects in LR, followed by G5 and G6. The approximated effects achieved in LR were in G2 and G3, while the lower ones were in G8.
Because of the combination of different alternatives such as images, audio, and video in the applications, the researchers interpret these results. The events and phenomena can give three-dimensional concreteness to abstract concepts and occurrences, adding fun to the lesson; hence, the students will be satisfied with utilizing these applications. Furthermore, students in AR learning sessions become attentive, which aids in absorbing the course content. The audio blending and animations incorporated into the 3D models in AR applications boost the students’ observation and realistic impression acquisition. With an open mind and an eagerness to learn, students participate in AR learning activities. When exploited in a student-centered way, AR raises students’ long-term knowledge retention by innovating more realistic and interesting learning environments and promoting problem-based learning (Fidan and Tuncel, 2019; Radu et al., 2023). Students can visualize and comprehend concretized abstract concepts, thanks to the interactive digital material of AR, which deepens learning and heightens performance. In addition, using AR to conquer the difficulties unique to science teaching dramatically stimulates students’ desire and interest in learning, motivating them to learn more actively and comprehensively (Kul and Berber, 2022).
Similar findings in various literature (Kalemkuş and Kalemkuş, 2022; Omurtak and Zeybek, 2022; Çetin and Türkan, 2022) stated that the usage of AR applications increased students’ participation in the classroom, providing a fun learning environment. According to Godwin-Jones (2016), students’ motivation for the materials used in lessons supported by AR applications at the secondary school level is high, positively affecting their success. Also, our findings are consistent with what has been demonstrated in other studies (Fidan et al., 2021; Fidan and Tuncel, 2019; Papanastasiou et al., 2019); i.e., incorporating AR into class activities have been confirmed to advance student-learning performance, contribute to students’ long-term retention of concepts, and assist students in understanding and analyzing problem scenarios in a greater depth.
Similarly, Ibáñez and Delgado-Kloos (2018) revealed that students had a better understanding of electromagnetism due to AR applications. Ozdemir et al. (2018) and Fidan and Tuncel (2019) concluded that it alleviated the grasping of complex and abstract concepts. Mariscal et al. (2020) and Avila-Garzon et al. (2021) discovered that AR learning techniques captured students’ attention in the learning process. They demonstrated that AR-based learning methods were more effective for students’ learning skills and knowledge acquisition.
To answer the 2nd question: What is the effectiveness of the AR design (image/mark), MC (high/low), and gender (M/F) on elevating CT skills?
Manova test was executed to test the differences in CT skills according to AR design, MC, and gender. The results are illustrated in Table 4.
A statistical effect was spotted on CT skills according to MC; in contrast, no statistical effect was obtained on CT skills across gender, AR design, and the interaction impacts of independent variable levels. The influence of MC levels on overall CT skills was computed by the LSD test and the results are exposed in Table 5.
Neither the type of AR used (image/mark) nor the gender (male/female) affected the development of critical CT, as evidenced in the study’s findings. This may be related to the success of the program based on both types of AR, the amplified interest of the learners in the program, and their positive engagement with it.
From Table 5, statistically significant differences in overall CT skills between those with high and low MC in favor of those with high MC are highlighted.
An aspect of CT can be evident when AR is involved. AR can aid students in finding facts or information that will enable them to comprehend the subject matter and its structure thoroughly, setting up their capacity for critical thinking (Sirakaya and Sirakaya, 2022; Chang and Hwang, 2018). Furthermore, AR media can stimulate students’ CT skills by letting them visualize abstract concepts. The opportunities for personalized education, high enthusiasm and passion for the subject, and flexible work schedules are a few elements that impact students’ motivation to learn science. Furthermore, the events and phenomena in the applications can make abstract concepts and events concrete in three dimensions by combining different options such as pictures, audio, and video, with making the lesson enjoyable. Therefore, these applications have gained students’ pleasure.
The outcomes can be explained in terms of the constructivist theory of learning and the usage of AR since it allows students to direct their learning and interact with virtual items in a larger context to gain understanding. Making use of a variety of media during the learning process can spark students’ interest and boost their CT skills. Utilizing various multimedia formats can boom one’s capacity for CT.
The earlier findings are in line with facts highlighted by Muhammad et al. (2021) and Chang and Hwang (2018): using AR can encourage students to CT and students’ learning skills because they can visualize abstract topics. Additionally, AR facilitates students’ understanding of spatial relationships, which enlarges their capacity to solve spatial problems and supports technical activities connected to object construction (Deshpande and Kim, 2018). This means that AR projects are ideally suited for putting into practice the thinking methodology, a cross-disciplinary and unconventional technique of problem-solving that is user-centered (Meletiou-Mavrotheris, 2019). These findings corroborate the findings of previous studies in which AR technologies have a positive effect on students’ attitudes (Ozdemir et al., 2018; Fidan and Tuncel, 2019) and improve their CT skills (Syawaludin and Rintayati, 2019). On the contrary, some findings contradict the previous research claiming that female students are more involved than males (Muhammad et al., 2021; Radu et al., 2023). Students of both genders are tremendously interested and enthusiastic about learning when using AR-based learning media. This finding backs up preceding research (Papanastasiou et al., 2019), which discovered no changes in perceptions of the use of AR in learning activities on the impact of AR media on student creativity.
To answer the 3rd question: How does AR technology influence enhancing science learning outcomes according to the STEAM program in the second grade at the intermediate stage?
Manova test was performed to test the differences in learning outcomes. The results are demonstrated in Table 6.
A statistical effect on learning outcomes according to MC was displayed. No statistical effects on learning outcomes across gender, AR design, and learning outcomes across the interaction effects of independent variable levels were delineated. The effects of gender levels on overall learning outcomes were computed by the LSD test; the results are presented in Table 7.
From Table 7, statistically significant differences across gender in learning outcomes in favor of males are exhibited, because AR displays spatial relationships by fusing 3D virtual items with the actual world, allowing users to engage in real-time while viewing a real-world environment that has been improved with 3D images. AR applications are tools that offer students detailed and meaningful information as well as enriched representations.
Our research project findings concur with those of other studies (Çetin and Türkan, 2022; Demircioglu et al., 2022; Papanastasiou et al., 2019) in that adopting AR technology improves students’ views of learning motivation and STEAM skills. This has taken place because the curiosity and enjoyment of the students were aroused and challenged. Moreover, it has been discovered that AR-based applications were a useful way to concretely represent abstract concepts. By combining AR tools with appropriate pedagogical practices, it is feasible to grant students once-in-a-lifetime experiences that can boost their passion and knowledge of STEAM subjects while simultaneously rooting for the development of critical 21st-century skills.
Similarly, researchers investigated the outcomes of AR-integrated learning strategies like collaborative learning, argumentation in science learning, socioscientific reasoning, student-centered hands-on learning activities, and problem-based learning (Demircioglu et al., 2022; Chen et al., 2016; Fidan and Tuncel, 2019; Godwin-Jones, 2016). They have applied AR technology to training and education, and their findings suggest that AR technology can allow students to take part in authentic learning activities and explore real environments (Chang and Hwang, 2018; Syawaludin and Rintayati, 2019). Likewise, Sahin and Yilmaz (2020) reported that, by the use of three-dimensional models, AR-based applications provided students with appropriate environments to simplify their understanding of course topics, letting them directly experience these concepts rather than visualizing them. As documented in various research studies, AR-based applications are an essential tool in learning and teaching processes, increasing academic success and curiosity, and giving abstract ideas a concrete form (Akçayır et al., 2016; Muhammad et al., 2021; Papanastasiou et al., 2019).
The integration of AR and STEM activates complex problem-solving and fosters collaboration. AR upgrades engagement, motivation, and participation during STEAM education. Students were able to observe details linked to the digitized object by using either mobile devices or computers to visualize real objects or locations with augmented reality. It is vital to have a better understanding of the AR technology foundations for STEM and organized student-centered learning, to coin learning activities that allow students to absorb fundamental STEM conceptual and procedural knowledge.
Conjointly, this result recommends a switch from lecture-based instruction to AR-based active learning. Learning can be a powerful instrument for teaching students both technical and artistic talents, as well as a variety of complementary 21st-century skills. Future curricula must incorporate the AR-based active learning approach, which may make students gain STEAM skill learning via analysis and understanding of concepts rather than memorization. Students’ participation in AR activities promoted the transdisciplinary learning style that STEAM programs desired to fulfill; students must make use of knowledge and abilities that they have acquired throughout STEAM fields, in order to effectively complete the activities. The ideas of constructionist and sociocultural learning theories serve as the foundation for this educational system.
The study presented here is limited to a small group. To obtain further evidence on the educational merits of AR, a large sample size with controlled and thorough evaluation studies is needed. In the second preparatory grade, second limits were restricted to the science book. Another limitation of the study is that it was carried out in a private school. As a result, the outcomes are correct for these students. In addition, the intervention period of this study was short. Finally, we assume that all types of learners can take advantage of augmented reality. The use of augmented reality in education for children who are underprivileged or at risk, those with special educational needs, or those from low-income households has not been the subject of many studies. These groups must be considered in upcoming research.
The paradigm of education is changing to focus on developing human resources with the capacity for creative problem-solving in order to fulfill the demands of the contemporary digital era, following the trend of such dynamic technological innovations. This will need additional research to determine whether the novelty of AR will continue to have a significant impact on the outcomes of longer-term investigations. By taking into account multiple themes in science or other courses, similar investigations that last for a longer period can also be executed. Additionally, it may be suggested to use methods such as meta-analysis in future studies.
Thorough strategic planning, thoughtful execution, and a research-based foundation are required for the widespread and successful integration of AR technology within STEAM education. This should emphasize a detailed plan and ongoing involvement of all significant educational attendees (students, parents, teacher educators, other college faculties, adult educators, educational leaders, technical managers, and administrators).
Definitely, the new generation of students is technologically perceptive, with a strong interest in social media and mobile technologies. School systems must begin planning for the deployment of various types of classroom technologies in order to provide students with a higher-quality education that will have a long-term impact.
Future studies could examine learning outcomes and investigate marginalized communities. Nonetheless, many scientific queries are still unsolved. We believe that more research is needed to address practical issues such as the associated cost structure, technical specifications for equipment, or best practices for embedding innovative technology as a standard component in the curriculum. We plan to conduct additional research to evaluate the educational benefits of augmented reality active learning and outline how to generate effective AR activities in the curriculum to expand students’ critical thinking. This could entail incorporating the presented format on a larger scale into specific curriculum practices, thereby investigating its inclusion into regulated teaching.
The raw data supporting the conclusion of this article will be available upon request to the corresponding author.
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The researchers’ team acknowledges the Scientific Research Deanship, University of Ha’il, Saudi Arabia, for fund project number (BA-2203).
The authors declare no competing interests.
All procedures performed in the study were following the ethical standards of the institutional research committee of the Deanship of Scientific Research at the University of Ha’il (BA-2203) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.
An informed verbal consent to participate was obtained from all participants in the study and the ethics committee (the institutional research committee of the University of Ha’il) approved this procedure.
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Alkhabra, Y.A., Ibrahem, U.M. & Alkhabra, S.A. Augmented reality technology in enhancing learning retention and critical thinking according to STEAM program. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 10, 174 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-023-01650-w