Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Examining the Use of Dynamic Modeling Environment to Support Learning and Teaching of Science: A Quantitative Analysis

Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Examining the Use of Dynamic Modeling Environment to Support Learning and Teaching of Science: A Quantitative Analysis

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Over the past three decades, active research programs have been flourishing in the area of students' conceptual understanding in science. Students' pre-instructional conceptions have been identified in diversified areas, namely, heat and temperature (Linn & Songer, 1991; Wiser & Carey, 1983), condensation, evaporation and boiling (Johnson, 1998; Osborne & Cosgrove, 1983; Tytler, 200; Tytler & Peterson, 200), particulate model of matter (Nussbaum & Novick, 1982), force and motion (Tao & Gunstone, 1999; Vosniadou, 1994), and other areas in science education. Such discernment of alternative conceptions has strong implications for classroom practices. Learning in science education is seen as a process of conceptual change or development rather than a piecemeal acquisition of new information., Grounded on this perspective, a number of classical conceptual change models (CCM) (Tytler & Peterson, 2000) have been proposed to account for the surprising prevalence of some alternative conceptions. These conceptual change models have been very influential and widely accepted in science education communities. However, a growing number of empirical studies (Tao & Gunstone, 1999; Windschitl & Andrew, 1998) have indicated that these classical models are inadequate to account for conceptual change in individual. Students' growing conceptual understanding is increasingly seen as a complex and contextually situated process rather than an orderly and predictable one. The claim that children operate with coherent frameworks has been questionable (Tytler, 200). It was argued that a wide range of social, contextual and non-cognitive factors should be considered in framing our understanding of the process of conceptual change (Strike & Posner, 1992). Learning science is a process of acculturation undertaken by new members to a community (Kuhn, 1962). Scientific concepts are socially constructed and publicly shared (Gilbert & Mulkay, 1993). Learning can be construed as a process of making meaning in which learners constantly explore their worlds, reflect upon their experience, articulate their thoughts and negotiate meaning with other (Jonassen, Peck & Wilson, 1999). This process may start with a problem, a discrepant event or cognitive dissonance. On attempting to reconcile their conflicts, learners are able to create a shared ownership and meaning of the task, the concepts, the procedures and the strategies employed (Kelly & Crawford, 1996; Lonning, 1993). Along this vein, (Windschitl & Andre, 1998) argued that computer supported simulation and modeling tools provide students with richly contextualized environments to theorize, evaluate and reflect upon their own hypotheses. Computer modeling provides a particularly versatile and effective environment for students to explore scientific theories as well as to articulate and formulate their own explanations to various natural phenomena. These exploratory and expressive activities (Bliss & Ogorn, 1989) allow student to externalize and play with their ideas. In this paper, we will present the quantitative component of our study on examining the effectiveness of using a computer-supported iconic modeling environment to facilitate students to construct models in the process of learning evaporation.

SIMULATION AND MODELING FOR CONCEPTUAL CHANGE

The constructivist perspectives on knowledge construction suggest that learning may involve changing a person's conceptions rather than simply adding new facts to the existing body of knowledge (Tao & Gunstone, 1999). Stemmed from this notion, models of conceptual change of learning were subsequently developed (Posner, Strike, Hewson, & Gertzog, 1982). These models account for the origin and prevalence of students' alternative conceptions as they are firmly grounded in students' daily experience. Learning is seen as reconciliation between the new conception and the alternative conception. …

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