Visual Modeling Strategies in Science Teaching

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

We lack studies that bring together insights on models and visualization from cognitive science and strategic planning for model based learning in real classroom interactions. This project will develop new ways of understanding active learning processes for developing visualizable models and develop new ways of describing these for both researchers and teachers. It will concentrate on methods teachers use to guide full class discussions while using innovative model based curricula and/or simulations in middle school and high school physical science. It will also investigate expert-novice similarities by documenting imagistic student reasoning processes that are similar to imagistic processes used by expert scientists. The goal is to produce studies of teaching strategies for fostering productive classroom discussions, including studies of lessons using simulations; and to document the impressive types of student reasoning that can take place in such discussions.

Setting: 

The setting is predominantly in middle school and high school classrooms, primarily in New England.

Research Design: 

This project has a comparative research design and will generate evidence that is descriptive [comparative case studies]. Original data will be collected from Middle and High School students using observation [personal observation and videography] and assessments of learning.

The project has several tracks, but the most common analytic method is video case studies of classrooms, accompanied by pre and post testing to determine whether learning has occurred. Classroom video tapes transcribed in the Transana software system are analyzed qualitatively using a constant-comparative method and open coding at first, then via selective coding to make comparisons between classrooms possible. We are studying teachers using model-based science curricula, in some cases with computer simulations. In one of the studies, teachers using simulations do so in two conditions, whole class and small group formats.

Findings: 

With regard to strategies for leading whole class discussions, we have found evidence that, in addition to previously documented dialogical strategies that teachers utilize to engage students in effectively communicating their scientific ideas in class, there is a second level of several dozen more cognitively focused strategies that exemplary teachers use to foster students’ engagement in the construction of explanatory models of scientific concepts. These strategies can be organized according to basic elements of an inquiry cycle.

Our publication of the book Creative Model Construction in Scientists and Students has yielded a description of how processes at the perceptual-motor level involving imagery can operate within and underlie complex scientific thinking. This includes new ways of describing subprocesses for analogical reasoning, imagery enhancement, and thought experiments.

Some of these same subprocesses have been identified in whole class discussions of high school physics students, as indicated by argument structures as well as depictive gestures and other imagery indicators.

Publications & Presentations: 

Books

Camp, C., Clement, J., Brown, D., Gonzalez, K., Kudukey, J. Minstrell, J., Schultz, K., Steinberg, M., Veneman, V., and Zietsman, A. (2010). Second revised edition of Preconceptions in mechanics: Lessons dealing with conceptual difficulties. College Park, MD: American Association of Physics Teachers.

Clement, John, Rea-Ramirez, Mary Anne, Editors (2008). Model based learning and instruction in science (including all 14 chapters by our research team). Dordrecht: Springer.

Clement, J. (2008a). Creative Model Construction in Scientists and Students: The Role of Imagery, Analogy, and Mental Simulation. Dordrecht: Springer.

Journal Publications

Steinberg, M. (2008). Inventing electric potential. Foundations of Science,
13
: 163-175.

Rea-Ramirez, M., Nunez-Oviedo, M., and Clement, J. (2009). The role of discrepant questioning leading to model element modification. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20(2), 95.

Clement, J. (2009). The role of imagistic simulation in scientific thought experiments. TOPICS in Cognitive Science (a new journal of the Cognitive Science Society).

Stephens, L. & Clement, J. (in press). Documenting the use of expert scientific reasoning processes by high school physics students. Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research.

Chapters

Clement, J. (2008b). The role of explanatory models in teaching for conceptual change. In S. Vosniadou (Ed.), International handbook of research on conceptual change. Amsterdam: Routledge.

Clement, J. (2009). Analogical reasoning via imagery: The role of transformations and simulations. In B. Kokinov, K. Holyoak, and D. Gentner, New frontiers in analogy research. Sofia: New Bulgarian University Press.

Price, N., Leibovitch, A., and Clement, J. (accepted). Teaching strategies for using simulations in the classroom: A descriptive case study. In I. Saleh & M.S. Khine (Eds.), Practitioner Research: Teachers’ Investigations in the Classroom Teaching. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Stephens, L. & Clement, J. (to appear). The role of thought experiments in science and science learning. To appear in B. Fraser, K. Tobin & C. McRobbie (Eds.) Second International Handbook of Science Education. Dordrecht: Springer.

Other Products (papers in proceedings)

Price, N., Leibovitch, A., & Clement, J. (2010). “Case study of teaching strategies used before, during and after a simulation to scaffold the development of a visualizable microscopic model”, Proceedings of the 2010 Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Philadelphia, PA.

Stephens, L., Vasu, I., & Clement, J. (2010). “Small group vs. whole class use of interactive computer simulations: Comparative case studies of matched high school physics classes”, Proceedings of the 2010 Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Philadelphia, PA.

Vasu, I., & Sweeney, R. (2010). “Computer simulations to teach kinematics in large and small group settings: Achievement, gender and attitudes”, Proceedings of the 2010 Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Philadelphia, PA.

Williams, E.G. & Clement, J. (2010). Supporting students’ construction of mental models for electric circuits: An investigation of teacher moves used in whole class discussions. Proceedings of the 2010 Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Philadelphia, PA.

Stephens, L. & Clement, J. (2009). Extreme case reasoning and model based learning in experts and students. Proceedings of the 2009 Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Anaheim, CA.

Williams, E.G. and Clement, J. (2009). Model co-construction in high school physics: A case study of teachers’ intended instructional pathways and recovery routes. Proceedings of the NARST Annual Meeting – Garden Grove, CA, April, 2009.

Clement, J. (2009). Roles for analogies in model-based conceptual change. Abstract in Niels Taatgen and Hedderik van Rijn, editors, Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 31, p. 44.

Clement, J. (2009). Imagistic simulation in scientific theory construction; Transfer of runnability from specific cases to explanatory models. Abstract in Niels Taatgen and Hedderik van Rijn, editors, Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 31, p. 2088.

Stephens, L. & Clement, J. (2008). Anchoring student reasoning in prior knowledge: Characteristics of anchoring cases in a curriculum. Proceedings of the 2008 Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Baltimore, MD.

Clement, J. (2008b). Six strategy levels for model based teaching. Proceedings of the 2008 Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Baltimore, MD.

Rea-Ramirez, M. (2008). Determining Effective Target Concepts and Learning Pathways. Proceedings of the 2008 Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Baltimore, MD.