Learning about Viral Epidemics through Engagement with Different Types of Models

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for supporting student learning about viral outbreaks and other complex societal issues. Given the complexity of issues like viral outbreaks, engaging learners with different types of models (e.g., mechanistic, computational and system models) is critical. However, there is little research available regarding how learners coordinate sense making across different models. This project will address the gap by studying student learning with different types of models and will use these findings to develop and study new curriculum materials that incorporate multiple models for teaching about viral epidemics in high school biology classes.

Full Description: 

The project will develop new curriculum and use it to research how high school students learn about viral epidemics while developing competencies for scientific modeling. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for supporting student learning about viral outbreaks and other complex societal issues. Given the complexity of issues like viral outbreaks, engaging learners with different types of models (e.g., mechanistic, computational and system models) is critical. However, there is little research available regarding how learners coordinate sense making across different models. This project will address the gap by studying student learning with different types of models and will use these findings to develop and study new curriculum materials that incorporate multiple models for teaching about viral epidemics in high school biology classes. COVID-19 caused devasting impacts, and marginalized groups including the Latinx community suffered disproportionately negative outcomes. The project will directly recruit Latinx students to ensure that design products are culturally responsive and account for Latinx learner needs. The project will create new pathways for engaging Latinx students in innovative, model-based curriculum about critically important issues. Project research and resources will be widely shared via publications, conference presentations, and professional development opportunities for teachers.

The project will research three aspects of student learning: a) conceptual understandings about viral epidemics, b) epistemic understandings associated with modeling, and c) model-informed reasoning about viral epidemics and potential solutions. The research will be conducted in three phases. Phase 1 will explore how students make sense of viral epidemics through different types of models. This research will be conducted with small groups of students as they work through learning activities and discourse opportunities associated with viral epidemic models. Phase 2 will research how opportunities to engage in modeling across different types of models should be supported and sequenced for learning about viral epidemics. These findings will make it possible to revise the learning performance which will be used to develop a curricular module for high school biology classes. Phase 3 will study the extent to which students learn about viral epidemics through engagement in modeling practices across different models. For this final phase, teachers will participate in professional development about viral epidemics and modeling and then implement the viral epidemic module in their biology classes. A pre- and post-test research design will be used to explore student conceptual understandings, model-informed reasoning, and epistemic understandings.

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