Integrated Study of Natural Resources, Human Impact, and Environmental Policy: Making Complex Systems Accessible for Secondary Learners

This project explores the potential of "Agent-Based Models" to assist learners to acquire environmental science concepts targeted in forthcoming Advanced Placement test standards. The investigators frame the research in a simulated scenario where "green" infrastructure is integrated into urban environments, and they propose how to use a new user interface strategy ("Paper-to-Parameters") that promises unique approaches for understanding the spatial and scalar relationships between simulation elements.

Full Description: 

This proposal explores the potential of "Agent-Based Models" to assist learners to acquire environmental science concepts targeted in forthcoming Advanced Placement test standards. It will also help learners acquire a better understanding of complex systems and to shift their attitudes towards the use of scientific models. The investigators frame the research in a simulated scenario where "green" infrastructure is integrated into urban environments, and they propose how to use a new user interface strategy ("Paper-to-Parameters") that promises unique approaches for understanding the spatial and scalar relationships between simulation elements. The project will develop an assessment tool to obtain a picture of prior understandings and attitudes held by learners in different populations (high school, undergraduate, and graduate students and experts); it will conduct an exploratory trial of the Agent-Based learning intervention to investigate the impacts on cognition and attitudes of undergraduate students; and will investigate how selected user interface features facilitate specific spatial and scalar understandings.

The assessment will allow the investigators to describe understanding and attitudes across populations with differing levels of expertise and will provide a baseline for measuring the real impact of the intervention and informing the design of future interventions. The exploratory lesson and targeted experiments will explore the connection between specific features of the computer-based tool and changes in learner understanding of selected AP Environmental Science and complex system concepts, and in learner attitudes towards models.

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