Science & Education

, Volume 28, Issue 8, pp 843–864 | Cite as

Tensions Between Learning Models and Engaging in Modeling

Exploring Implications for Science Classrooms
  • Candice Guy-GaytánEmail author
  • Julia S. Gouvea
  • Chris Griesemer
  • Cynthia Passmore
SI: scientific practices


The ability to develop and use models to explain phenomena is a key component of the Next Generation Science Standards, and without examples of what modeling instruction looks like in the reality of classrooms, it will be difficult for us as a field to understand how to move forward in designing curricula that foreground the practice in ways that align with the epistemic commitments of modeling. In this article, we illustrate examples drawn from a model-based curriculum development project to problematize and bring to the fore issues and tensions we observed through the course of modeling instruction. In doing so, we argue that instruction that is model-based may not be actualizing modeling as an epistemic practice to support student sensemaking. We suggest that this kind of enactment may be a result of the tensions between viewing models as content to be learned and modeling as a scientific practice in which the end products are not known ahead of time. We discuss the implications of our analysis for teacher learning and curriculum development.



We thank our collaborating teachers and other members of our research team for their work on this project. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers who provided feedback for improvements to this manuscript. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL1348990.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Teacher Education & Human DevelopmentUniversity of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Education and BiologyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  3. 3.School of EducationUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA

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