Investigating how graphical and textual computer-based programming environments support student inquiry in science during modeling
Zacharia, Zacharias C.
Louca, Loucas T.
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In this paper we investigate the ways that a graphical and a textual Computer-based Programming Environment (CPE) support student inquiry in science during scientific modeling. We analyzed the conversations of 78 sixth-graders (39 students per CPE group) that took place during the construction of models, as well as, student-constructed models specifically looking for ways that CPEs support student scientific inquiry. Our findings showed that CPEs enable students to develop models of physical phenomena and operationally define physical entities and physical properties, which provides students with a commonly shared language for communicating and understanding each others' ideas in science. We also found that programs in CPEs produce a computer microworld that is a structured environment learners can use to explore and manipulate a rule-generated universe, subject to particular assumptions and constraints that serve as representations of aspects of the natural world. Microworlds can also provide learners with opportunities to manipulate realities in ways that learners cannot do with physical objects. Implications from this study suggest productive features for computer-based tools that can be embedded in web-based learning platforms for supporting students' inquiry and science learning.