Stimulating Scientific Reasoning with Drawing-Based Modeling
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To see how a drawing-based modeling tool can be used to stimulate scientific reasoning, we redesigned an existing modeling tool and accompanying instructions during four iterations. During each test four to six lower grade high school students worked on an assignment in the domain of evolution while their conversations were recorded. After each test, the user interface and instructions were adjusted based on students’ remarks and the teacher’s observations. Students’ conversations were analyzed on reasoning complexity as a measurement of efficacy of the modeling tool and the instructions. The findings were also used to compose a set of recommendations for teachers and curriculum designers for using and constructing models in the classroom. Our findings suggest that to stimulate scientific reasoning in students working with a drawing-based modeling tool for the first time, the emphasis during instruction should be placed on the workings of the tool, not on the assignment itself. It is also recommended to keep the amount of options during this first time to a minimum, to minimize distractions and students’ insecurities when not using a particular function. The teacher’s role is to scaffold students’ reasoning to draw out more detailed explanations for phenomena.