Interlocking Models as Sites of Modeling Practice and Conceptual Innovation

A central goal of both professional and classroom-based scientific communities is building and testing explanatory models of the natural world. The process of modeling a complex phenomenon often requires working across representational systems of differing scales, modalities, and purposes. When put into contact, entities across multiple representational systems can become related or “interlock.” This paper describes how students drew from multiple representational systems to construct “interlocking models” and how reasoning with interlocking models supported meaningful practice and conceptual innovation. We present the design and findings from the implementation of a fifth-grade investigation into the conservation of matter. We describe the process of how contradictions between representational systems surfaced and led to interlocking models. Our findings suggest that students can recognize and take up interlocking models that provide a purpose for students to critique and refine their understanding.

Georgen, C. and Manz, E. (2021). Interlocking models as sites of modeling practice and conceptual innovation. In E. de Vries, J. Ahn, & Y. Hod (Eds.), 15th International Conference of the Learning Sciences' ICLS 2021. International Society of the Learning Sciences. (Best Paper Award)