Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 30–44 | Cite as

Improving Conceptual Understanding and Representation Skills Through Excel-Based Modeling

  • Kathy L. MaloneEmail author
  • Christian D. Schunn
  • Anita M. Schuchardt


The National Research Council framework for science education and the Next Generation Science Standards have developed a need for additional research and development of curricula that is both technologically model-based and includes engineering practices. This is especially the case for biology education. This paper describes a quasi-experimental design study to test the effectiveness of a model-based curriculum focused on the concepts of natural selection and population ecology that makes use of Excel modeling tools (Modeling Instruction in Biology with Excel, MBI-E). The curriculum revolves around the bio-engineering practice of controlling an invasive species. The study takes place in the Midwest within ten high schools teaching a regular-level introductory biology class. A post-test was designed that targeted a number of common misconceptions in both concept areas as well as representational usage. The results of a post-test demonstrate that the MBI-E students significantly outperformed the traditional classes in both natural selection and population ecology concepts, thus overcoming a number of misconceptions. In addition, implementing students made use of more multiple representations as well as demonstrating greater fascination for science.


Biology Models Representations Modeling Engineering 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This effort was funded by grant DRL-1027629 from the National Science Foundation.

Supplementary material

10956_2017_9706_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.6 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1600 kb).
10956_2017_9706_MOESM2_ESM.docx (1.4 mb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 1452 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathy L. Malone
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christian D. Schunn
    • 2
  • Anita M. Schuchardt
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Teaching and LearningThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Learning Research & Development CenterUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biology Teaching and LearningUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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