Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 319–345 | Cite as

Cognitive Comparisons of Students' Systems Modeling in Ecology

  • Kathleen Hogan
  • David Thomas
Article

Abstract

This study examined the cognition of five pairs of high school students over time as they built quantitative ecological models using STELLA software. One pair of students emerged as being particularly proficient at learning to model, and was able to use models productively to explore and explain ecological system behaviors. We present detailed contrasts between this and the other pairs of students' cognitive behaviors while modeling, in three areas that were crucial to their modeling productivity: (a) focusing on model output and net interactions versus on model input and individual relationships when building and revising models, (b) exploring the nature and implications of dependencies and feedbacks versus just creating these as properties of complex systems, and (c) using variables versus constants to represent continuous and periodic functions. We then apply theories of the multifaceted nature of cognition to describe object-level, metalevel, and emotional dimensions of cognitive performance that help to explain the observed differences among students' approaches to STELLA modeling. Finally, we suggest pedagogical strategies for supporting all types of students in learning the central scientific practice of model-based quantitative thinking.

quantitative modeling student cognition systems thinking ecology education 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen Hogan
    • 1
  • David Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbook

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