where tomorrow’s science begins today
An Autonomous Institution, Ministry of Education, Govt. of India
Seminars and Colloquia


Computational learning environments for teaching model-based inquiry in science Classrooms 
Mon, Sep 10, 2018,   04:00 PM at Seminar Room 24, First floor, Main Academic Building, IISER Pune

Sugat Dabholkar
School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, Chicago, USA

Abstract: Scientific inquiry practices are the methods that scientists use to construct knowledge about natural and physical phenomena in the world. Researchers and educators of science across the globe are increasingly emphasizing to extend the goal of science education from ‘knowing scientifically established disciplinary ideas’ to ‘developing deep understanding about using scientific inquiry practices and tools’. However, most school curricula across the world, and especially in India have not made this transition.

With newer technological tools it is possible to provide students access to authentic scientific inquiry practices. In our work, we seek to address this gap by combining two powerful design approaches in the field of learning sciences, namely, agent-based modeling of emergent systems and constructionism (Wilensky, 2001; Papert, 1991). We call this design approach Emergent Systems Microworlds (ESM) (Dabholkar & Wilensky, 2018). In an ESM-based curriculum, students explore and learn about emergent phenomena, using agent-based computational models in the form of a microworld. In such models, an agent is a computational object with particular properties and actions. An ‘emergent’ phenomenon is modelled in terms of agents and their interactions (Wilensky & Rand, 2015). Microworlds are encapsulated open-ended computational exploratory environments in which a set of concepts can be explored, through interactions that lead to knowledge construction (Papert, 1980; Edwards, 1995).

ESMs are a specifically designed to support students in exploring, and developing and sharing virtual models of emergent systems. ESM-based curricula allow students to engage in personally meaningful model construction and debugging processes to learn scientific inquiry practices. In this talk, I will discuss design principles of ESMs. We use computational modeling environment called NetLogo (Wilensky, 1999) to design such curricula. I will present our current work in the United States and India regarding how students learn advanced ideas in modern biology by engaging in scientific inquiry practices using ESMs.