<< back to Mind, Matter & Media Lab

NOTE: To download individual papers, please click on the title of each paper

Symposium: Models, modeling, and naïve intuitive knowledge in science learning

Symposium organized and presented at the 41st Annual Meeting of the Jean Piaget Society, 2011, Berkeley, CA, USA

Chair & Organizer: Pratim Sengupta (Vanderbilt University)
Discussant: Rogers Hall (Vanderbilt University)

Models and modeling are defining characteristics of science (Giere, 1988; Nercessian, 2008). The design of models for pedagogical use in classrooms, as well as the development of students’ modeling knowledge and practices, are now central agendas in science education research (Clark, Nelson, Sengupta & D’Angelo, 2009; Lehrer & Schauble, 2008). This symposium seeks to address the following question: what is the relationship between students’ intuitive knowledge and the design of models and modeling-based learning environments to support the reorganization of that intuitive knowledge? Papers 1 and 2 investigate the nature and role of intuitive knowledge that elementary students draw upon as they are scaffolded in scientific reasoning about complex ecological phenomena (soil decomposition and natural selection). The context of students’ inquiry in Paper 1 is a computational learning environment based on a multi-agent-based model focusing on the aggregate- or population-level behaviors (e.g., population dynamics of different species in a predator-prey ecosystem) that arise from simple rule-based interactions between thousands of individual-level agents (e.g., birds eat butterflies; butterflies drink nectar; etc.). The context of inquiry in Paper 2 is a non-computational, year-long modeling and explanation unit focusing on soil decomposition. Paper 3 focuses on how a game-based learning environment can be designed to foster model-based thinking in physics by bridging students’ intuitive ideas about kinematics with disciplinary representations and concepts.

The studies reported here belong to the genre of design-based research studies. Each study focuses on identifying the nature of student thinking and the process of development of student reasoning, as well as the conditions under which this development occurs. While traditional approaches to science education have frequently emphasized students’ misconceptions and what they cannot do or learn (c.f. Metz, 1995; Lehrer & Schauble, 2006), this symposium frames intuitive knowledge in a more productive perspective. More specifically, this symposium focuses on the nature of intuitive knowledge (relevant to the phenomenon being investigated) that novices bring with them to the classroom and how this initial knowledge can be bootstrapped through cultural supports and practices to develop more sophisticated understandings of scientific phenomena. Finally, the research reported here is research conducted in contexts of designing cultural supports for developing scientific reasoning — in that regard, it directly speaks to the theme of the 2011 JPS conference.

  1. Learning natural selection in 4th grade with multi-agent-based computational models
Amanda Catherine Dickes (Vanderbilt University)
Pratim Sengupta (Vanderbilt University)
  1. Analyzing elementary students’ thinking about decomposition
Isi Ero Tolliver (Vanderbilt University)
Deborah Lucas (Vanderbilt University)
  1. Building connections between students’ intuitive ideas and formal concepts in physics through scaffolding in conceptually-integrated digital games /
Douglas Clark (Vanderbilt University)
Brian Nelson (Arizona State University)
Mario Martinez-Garza (Vanderbilt University)
Kent Slack (Arizona State University)
Daniel Garvey (Arizona State University)