Enabling Modeling and Simulation-Based Science in the Classroom: Integrating Agent-Based Models, Real World Sensing and Collaborative Networks

This project develops and assesses the effectiveness of integrating three computation-based technologies into curricular modules: agent-based modeling (ABM), real-world sensing, and collaborative classroom networks. The STEM disciplines addressed are life sciences and physical sciences at middle and high school levels, specifically Evolution, Population Biology/Ecology, Kinetic Molecular Theory, and Electromagnetism.

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This four-year Full Research and Development project develops and assesses the effectiveness of integrating three computation-based technologies into curricular modules: agent-based modeling (ABM), real-world sensing, and collaborative classroom networks. The team brings together researchers from Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Stanford universities in collaboration with a commercial partner, Inquire Learning. The STEM disciplines addressed are life sciences and physical sciences at middle and high school levels, specifically Evolution, Population Biology/Ecology, Kinetic Molecular Theory, and Electromagnetism.

The project proceeds in two phases: The first phase is a design experiment for the iterative creation of ABM-only and enhanced-ABM modules field tested with fourteen teachers drawn from seven schools. In the second phase, an experiment is conducted that aims at providing quantitative data to help characterize the different effects of various components of the intervention and to prepare the way for future efficacy and scaling research. Between 40 and 80 teachers participate in the experiment and are assigned to immediate or lagged treatments. The four topic areas were selected because they are scientifically important; they are difficult for students, provoking significant misconceptions; they are amenable to a complex-systems and modeling approach; and prior work has prepared the PIs to develop high-quality curricular materials on these topics. The evaluation is led by a member of the advisory board which is constituted to provide guidance on the project evaluation.

The products are research findings on the achievement, engagement and attitudes of students as a result of the deep use of computational modeling technologies in science. In addition, four fully developed classroom-ready modules with teacher support materials are deployed and disseminated through a broad network of educational communities.

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