University of Cyprus (CYPRUS)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN16 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Page: 8250 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0802
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Despite the promising findings of several studies that aimed to impact on the development of teachers’ informed understandings about models and modeling through engaging them in the productive act of modeling natural phenomena, Modeling-Centered Inquiry (MCI) continues to hold the position of “Cinderella” in teachers’ ordinary teaching practice repertoire. Current research places emphasis on how best to prepare teachers to design and enact science instruction through modeling, in an attempt to make teachers aware of the learning benefits that can result from such an approach.

The purpose of this study was to identify and describe the characteristics of teachers’ designed MCI curriculum materials and use teachers’ curriculum materials as a lens to examine aspects of their evolved Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) for MCI. PCK for MCI requires meaningful integration of ideas about subject matter, models, modeling, learners, learning, and instruction. The two research questions that this study aimed to address were:
(i) What are the characteristics of teachers’ MCI curriculum designs?, and
(ii) Can teachers’ curriculum designs be used to gain insight to their evolved PCK for MCI?

The participants were twenty beginning science teachers enrolled in a professional development course that was organized in phases. During Phase 1, the teachers were engaged in multiple cycles of model development and deployment of collision phenomena with the use of a computer-based modeling tool. During Phase 2, the teachers were provided with theoretical frameworks on MCI and asked to reflect on their understandings of MCI. During Phase 3, the teachers re-designed a unit from the national science curriculum through adapting the MCI approach.

To answer both research questions, teachers’ modeling curriculum designs were used, and grounded theory methods were followed for their analysis. The analysis revealed seven critical standpoints through which the characteristics of teachers’ curriculum materials were clustered along three levels of increased sophistication. For instance, the degree and type of reconstruction of the national curriculum unit ranged from replication of the national curriculum unit with few modeling activities as add-ons (Level 1), to partial reconstruction of the unit with a variety of modeling activities, but the role of modeling was not highly exemplified (Level 2), to total reconstruction of the unit with strong priority to modeling as the approach that learning goals could be achieved (Level 3). As far as the models’ progression is concerned, the analysis revealed the development of:
(i) various independent models to represent different but related phenomena (Level 1),
(ii) various independent models to represent different aspects of a single phenomenon (Level 2), and
(iii) a sequence of interrelated models with a gradual complexity to represent various aspects of a phenomenon (Level 3).

Additionally, three different PCK for MCI teacher profiles emerged that provide insights of how teachers’ PCK for MCI has been influenced by the course, and also demonstrate the diverse ways that the underlying principles of the MCI approach were conceptualized by the participants. These three different profiles were labeled as the “authoritarian modeler”, the “play-safe coach modeler”, and the “constant modeling inquirer”.
Scientific modeling, teacher training, curriculum development.