Year of Award
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Curriculum and Instruction
Department or School/College
School of Education
Darrell Stolle, Mark Cracolice
David Erickson, Lisa Blank, Georgia Cobbs
Cognitive development, Modeling, Models, Nature of science, NOS, Science education
University of Montana
Knowledge of scientific models and their uses is a concept that has become a key benchmark in many of the science standards of the past 30 years, including the proposed Next Generation Science Standards. Knowledge of models is linked to other important nature of science concepts such as theory change which are also rising in prominence in newer standards. Effective methods of instruction will need to be developed to enable students to achieve these standards. The literature reveals an inconsistent history of success with modeling education. These same studies point to a possible cognitive development component which might explain why some students succeeded and others failed. An environmental science course, rich in modeling experiences, was used to test both the extent to which knowledge of models and modeling could be improved over the course of one semester, and more importantly, to identify if cognitive ability was related to this improvement. In addition, nature of science knowledge, particularly related to theories and theory change, was also examined. Pretest and posttest results on modeling (SUMS) and nature of science (SUSSI), as well as data from the modeling activities themselves, was collected. Cognitive ability was measured (CTSR) as a covariate. Students' gain in six of seven categories of modeling knowledge was at least medium (Cohen's d >.5) and moderately correlated to CTSR for two of seven categories. Nature of science gains were smaller, although more strongly correlated with CTSR. Student success at creating a model was related to CTSR, significantly in three of five sub-categories. These results suggest that explicit, reflective experience with models can increase student knowledge of models and modeling (although higher cognitive ability students may have more success), but successfully creating models may depend more heavily on cognitive ability. This finding in particular has implications in the grade placement of modeling standards and curriculum chosen to help these students, particularly those with low cognitive ability, to meet the standards.
Lahti, Richard Dennis, "Does Attainment of Piaget's Formal Operational Level of Cognitive Development Predict Student Understanding of Scientific Models?" (2013). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 1379.
© Copyright 2013 Richard Dennis Lahti