How Fifth-Grade English Learners Engage in Systems Thinking Using Computational Models
Author(s)Haas, Alison; Grapin, Scott E.; Wendel, Daniel J; Llosa, Lorena; Lee, Okhee
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The purpose of this study was to investigate how computational modeling promotes systems thinking for English Learners (ELs) in fifth-grade science instruction. Individual student interviews were conducted with nine ELs about computational models of landfill bottle systems they had developed as part of a physical science unit. We found evidence of student engagement in four systems thinking practices. Students used data produced by their models to investigate the landfill bottle system as a whole (Practice 1). Students identified agents and their relationships in the system (Practice 2). Students thought in levels, shuttling between the agent and aggregate levels (Practice 3). However, while students could think in levels to develop their models, they struggled to engage in this practice when presented with novel scenarios (e.g., open vs. closed system). Finally, students communicated information about the system using multiple modalities and less-than-perfect English (Practice 4). Overall, these findings suggest that integrating computational modeling into standards-aligned science instruction can provide a rich context for fostering systems thinking among linguistically diverse elementary students.
DepartmentMIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing
Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
Haas, Alison et al. "How Fifth-Grade English Learners Engage in Systems Thinking Using Computational Models." Systems 8, 4 (November 2020): 47 © 2020 The Authors
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