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Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 119–142 | Cite as

The Strategies of Modeling in Biology Education

  • Julia SvobodaEmail author
  • Cynthia Passmore
Article

Abstract

Modeling, like inquiry more generally, is not a single method, but rather a complex suite of strategies. Philosophers of biology, citing the diverse aims, interests, and disciplinary cultures of biologists, argue that modeling is best understood in the context of its epistemic aims and cognitive payoffs. In the science education literature, modeling has been discussed in a variety of ways, but often without explicit reference to the diversity of roles models play in scientific practice. We aim to expand and bring clarity to the myriad uses of models in science by presenting a framework from philosopher of biology Jay Odenbaugh that describes five pragmatic strategies of model use in the biological sciences. We then present illustrative examples of each of these roles from an empirical study of an undergraduate biological modeling curriculum, which highlight how students used models to help them frame their research question, explore ideas, and refine their conceptual understanding in an educational setting. Our aim is to begin to explicate the definition of modeling in science in a way that will allow educators and curriculum developers to make informed choices about how and for what purpose modeling enters science classrooms.

Keywords

Science Education Measle Scientific Practice Scientific Reasoning Vaccination Level 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Interdisciplinary Training for Undergraduates in Biological and Mathematical Sciences (UBM) program under Grant No. 0531935. We would like to acknowledge CLIMB mentors and the students of the 2008–2009 CLIMB cohort for allowing us to bare witness to their learning process. We also thank Richard Lehrer and four anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions for improving this manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA

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