Zangori, Vo and colleagues explored the practice of modelling as a tool for visualization and reasoning in the elementary science classroom. A study, published by International Journal of Science Education, is part of a five-year research project in the United States, Modelling Hydrologic Systems in Elementary Science (MoHSES), aimed to support 3rd grade teachers in model-based teaching and engage students in generating model-based explanations (MBE). Through curricular and instructional support, MBE were used to encourage students’ understanding of water systems, a global phenomenon comprised of smaller, hard-to-observe components that prove challenging for learners of all ages.
A quasi-experimental comparative design was employed to evaluate a baseline curricular intervention (Year 1) and a modelling-enhanced curricular intervention (Year 2) in five 3rd-grade classrooms from the same US Midwestern state. Teachers implementing the intervention were chosen based on their use of the FOSS Water module curriculum and their wide range of teaching experience. During the summer between Year 1 and Year 2, selected teachers participated in a workshop facilitated by the authors in which teachers engaged in the practices of modelling themselves before co-developing modified lessons in the FOSS Water unit to be used as the Year 2 intervention. The evaluation results were:
- Statistically significant increases in students’ MBE of hydrologic systems (measured by pre- and post-unit modelling tasks) were observed in Year 2 as compared to Year 1.
- Critically, however, these statistical differences were largely the result of only two of the five classrooms.
- Qualitative findings indicate that these teachers utilized specific modelling practices differently than their peers.
The authors indicate that these findings have important implications for science teachers and curriculum developers.
Source: Zangori, L., Vo, T., Forbes, C. T., & Schwarz, C. V. (2017). Supporting 3rd-grade students model-based explanations about groundwater: A quasi-experimental study of a curricular intervention. International Journal of Science Education, 39(11), 1421-1442.