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Title: Computational modelling in science education : a study of students' ability to manage some different approaches to modelling
Author: Kurtz dos Santos, Arion de Castro
ISNI:       0000 0004 2705 9416
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 1992
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This research is an exploratory study with 6th form students about their ability to use some different approaches to computational modelling. It involves a survey through an individual questionnaire about causal diagramming and mathematical knowledge, which aims at characterizing the students' model building capability. Also, it includes an intensive study with pairs of students doing exploratory and expressive tasks using two modelling systems: IQON and STELLA. Data was gathered through written notes from observation, written answers given to questionnaires and data recorded in the computer. Overlapping questionnaires connected the survey and the intensive study. Comparisons between the use of causal diagrams and IQON were carried out. Results show that students in some cases replace variables by objects, events and processes, though this seems to depend on the problem. There is evidence of semiquantitative reasoning, which tends to be complex and its nature and frequency seems to depend on subject matter. It is natural even in quantitative tasks and may depend on gender and background. To use/make computational models it is important to reason in a semi-quantitative way, to imagine the world in terms of variables, to understand about rate of change, to think at a system level and to understand causation in a system. Results support the use of IQON, which allows the student to think rather freely about a system. STELLA's structure and metaphor obliges the student to think about rates. Evidence of the difficulty of thinking about rates in a formal mathematical way is presented. Students seem to articulate analogies according to their scientific backgrounds, and to use their own ideas. They tend not to invoke reality to interpret models, but have a well defined conception of the relationship between model and reality. Results suggest that 6th form students can undertake valuable work with both computational systems.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment