SimScientists Human Body Systems: Using Simulations to Foster Integrated Understanding of Complex, Dynamic, Interactive Systems

This project leverages curricular module development to design, develop, and test new cyberlearning modules that integrate multiple (circulation, respiration, and digestion) systems of the human body. The project aims to deepen science content knowledge, science inquiry skills, and model-based reasoning skills for high school biology students. The project will use simulations showing how individual systems function, how they work together, and how the integration of all three creates a dynamic and reactive biological system.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020264
Funding Period: 
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 to Sunday, August 31, 2014
Project Evaluator: 
Gargani + Company
Full Description: 

This research and development project leverages curricular module development to design, develop, and test new cyberlearning modules that integrate multiple (circulation, respiration, and digestion) systems of the human body. The project aims to deepen science content knowledge, science inquiry skills, and model-based reasoning skills for high school biology students. The project will use simulations showing how individual systems function, how they work together, and how the integration of all three creates a dynamic and reactive biological system. It is expected that the presentation of this dynamic system will result in a deeper understanding of the materials and enhanced performance on student achievement measures. The goals of the project are to: 1. Develop an integrated simulation of the human digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems that allows students to develop productive inquiry strategies. 2. Embed the simulation in online instructional modules that provide immediate, individualized coaching as students are challenged with a series of investigative tasks. 3. Provide reports of students' performances during the activities to students and teachers. 4. Develop follow-up online collaborative investigations that provide differentiated instruction to strengthen students' understanding and support transfer and opportunities to engage in scientific discourse. 5. Develop one benchmark assessment that measures outcomes across all three body systems and reports to students and teachers. 6. Develop and deploy professional development to support teachers as they use these materials. 7. Provide evidence of the technical quality, feasibility, and usability of the new materials. 8. Study the influence of these materials on complex science and inquiry learning of the integration of the three human body systems modeled. A small scale randomized, controlled trial will be performed at the end of the project. The project is grounded in model-based learning, cognitive learning research, and an evidence-centered design. Universal Design for Learning is factored into all simulation designs. Questions asked during the evaluation include: Is the project progressing as planned? Are the modules useable? Are the users satisfied? Are the modules used as intended in a typical high school setting? Does this improve teaching and learning of key content? The primary investigator is WestEd; the American Association for the Advancement of Science is a partner and three teachers from nearby schools serve as co-developers. The project has an external evaluator as well as a strong advisory board. The project will create multi-leveled instructional cyber-modules. These modules will contain embedded assessments that provide students and teachers immediate and individualized coaching. Professional development will also provide teachers tools and guidance to increase their learning of human body systems. Dissemination strategies include featuring the modules on WestEd's award-winning website as well as submission of academic papers to journals and national conferences targeted at science educators and education researchers. Because these modules supplement classroom curricula and use online technology, they could potentially be used to teach millions of high school biology students.