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Characterizing the Nature of Student Theory Building in the Context of Computational Modeling Activities

Fri, April 9, 9:30 to 10:30am EDT (9:30 to 10:30am EDT), SIG Sessions, SIG-Learning Sciences Roundtable Sessions


It is widely agreed that engaging students in authentic science practices is important for science education. Theory building is a central practice of science. Today, many scientists build theory through computational modeling. This paper presents a block-based computational modeling activity to support students’ engagement in building theory about the spread of disease. We characterize the work of one student, Sage, in the context of her construction of models of ebola, the flu, and a zombie apocalypse. Using grounded analysis, we identified 37 moves involved in Sage’s theory building, related to her refinement of models, as well as meta-knowledge about the nature of the models. We present these moves and illustrate them using data from Sage’s construction of the three models.