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An investigation of the potential of interactive simulations for developing system thinking skills in elementary school: a case study with fifth- and sixth- graders

[journal article]

Evagorou, Maria; Korfiatis, Kostas; Nicolaou, Christiana; Constantinou, Costas

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Abstract The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of a simulation-based learning environment on elementary school students’ (11- to 12- year old) development of system thinking skills. The learning environment included interactive simulations using the Stagecast Creator software to simulate the ecosystem of a marsh. Simulations are an important tool in any effort to develop system thinking, because they have the potential to highlight the dynamic nature of systems. Before the implementation of the learning environment (over a period of 5, 90 minutes lessons) two written tests were administered to the students, investigating the development of seven aspects of system thinking. The same tests were administered after the implementation. Specifically, four of the tasks included in each test were associated with skills concerning the structure and the elements of a system and three were associated with the processes and interactions taking place within a system. The findings indicated that elementary school students have the potential to develop system-thinking skills. The proposed learning environment provoked considerable improvements in some system thinking skills during a relatively brief learning process. However, the learning environment was not successful in promoting feedback thinking. We interpret these results in view of the difficulties encountered by the students. We also discuss the implications of our findings for the design of learning environments.
Classification Secondary Education Sector Lower Level; Curriculum, Teaching, Didactics
Document language English
Publication Year 2009
Page/Pages p. 655-674
Journal International Journal of Science Education, 31 (2009) 5
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500690701749313
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)