This project will support students to develop evidence-based explanations for the impact of disturbances on complex systems.
This project will support students to develop evidence-based explanations for the impact of disturbances on complex systems. The project will focus on middle school environmental science disciplinary core ideas in life, Earth, and physical sciences. There are a wide variety of complex systems principles at work in disturbance ecology. This project serves as a starting point on supporting students to coordinate different sources of information to parse out the direct and indirect effects of disturbances on components of a system and to examine the interconnections between components to predict whether a system will return to equilibrium (resilience) or the system will change into a new state (hysteresis). These same complex systems principles can be applied to other scientific phenomena, such as homeostasis and the spread of infectious disease. This project will bring the excitement of Luquillo Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) to classrooms outside of Puerto Rico, and has a special emphasis on low performing, low income, high minority schools in Chicago. Over 6000 students will directly benefit from participation in the research program. The units will be incorporated into the Journey to El Yunque web site for dissemination throughout Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the LTER network. The units will be submitted for review at the Achieve network, thus extending the reach to teachers around the country. The project will impact science teachers and curriculum designers through an online course on storyline development. This project aims to improve students' ability to engage in argument from evidence and address what the literature has identified as a significant challenge, namely the ability to evaluate evidence. Researchers will also demonstrate how it is possible to make progress on implementing Next Generation Science Standards in low performing schools. Through the web-based platform, these results can be replicated across many other school districts.
Researchers will to use the scientific context of the LTER program to develop a generalized storyline template for using evidence-based modeling to teach basic principles of disturbance ecology. Though a co-design process with middle school teachers in CPS, researchers will test the application of learning principles to a generalized storyline template by developing and evaluating three units on disturbance ecology - one life science, one Earth system science, and one physical science. Through a task analysis, researchers have identified three key areas of support for students to be successful at explaining how a system will respond to a disturbance. First, students need to be able to record evidence in a manner that will guide them to developing their explanation. Causal model diagrams have been used successfully in the past to organize evidence, but little is known about how students can use their causal diagrams for developing explanations. Second, there have been a wide variety of scaffolds developed to support the evaluation of scientific arguments, but less is known about how to support students in organizing their evidence to produce scientific arguments. Third, evidence-based modeling and scientific argumentation are not tasks that can be successfully accomplished by following a recipe. Students need to develop a task model to understand the reason why they are engaged in a particular task and how that task will contribute to the primary goal of explanation.