Scaffolding Explanations and Epistemic Development for Systems (SEEDS)
The goal of this project is to help students learn to use different kinds of evidence in thinking about and creating models of complex systems. Thinking about systems is increasingly important for students to understand complex topics in science and engineering. Building models based on evidence is important for helping students think critically in general, and about complex systems ideas in particular. To support students in these efforts, the project develops an easy-to-use software modeling tool that supports students in creating models while concurrently indicating the sources of evidence (data, simulations, etc.) that support their model-building choices. The products of this project, which include software, curriculum, and assessments, increase the capacity to engage young learners in ambitious science educational experiences that are consistent with the Next Generation Science Standards. Outcomes of the project include professional development materials, scaffolding tools, and assessments which will be made freely available via the project website. This project is funded by the EHR Core Research (ECR) program.
This project transforms the way simulations are used to help students develop scientific practices, epistemologies, and content knowledge within elementary school science classrooms. It explores how 5th grade students treat simulations as similar to and distinct from other sources of evidence when engaged in scientific inquiry. By carefully selecting disparate and sometimes contradictory forms of evidence, the project challenges students to reflect upon their beliefs about how simulations of scientific concepts both do, and do not reflect the phenomena under study. Building on past work, the project is developing a scaffolded framework for teaching students about complex systems concepts in the context of aquatic ecosystems. This software and associated curriculum aims to help students engage deeply with the specific biology content, the important cross-cutting systems concepts that it represents, and the crucial scientific practices that are involved in constructing scientific models based on multiple disparate forms of evidence. This project will therefore focus on two of the key cross-cutting concepts from the Next Generation Science Standards--systems thinking and scientific practices. The project investigates the efficacy of posited scaffolds and interventions through three complementary approaches: tutoring studies in more controlled settings with smaller sample sizes, design experiments in five fifth-grade classrooms, and a quasi-experimental study. The classroom design experiments and experimental studies are carried out in diverse educational settings in Indiana and New Jersey. Outcomes measured include both student growth and discourse and interactions from video analysis. Measures of student growth include interviews and written student artifacts. Measures of discourse and interactions are coded as variables derived from video analysis. The findings support designers, researchers, and educators who not only make use of simulations in science curricula, but help situate them within robust scientific practices and habits of mind.