Students' reasoning during computer-based scientific modeling

Patrick Henricus Maria Sins

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research external, graduation external

43 Downloads (Pure)


In secondary science education, many complex real world phenomena, such as ecosystems, climate change or mechanical oscillations, can only be discussed at a very basic level. Describing and predicting how these complex phenomena behave requires a level of formal reasoning and mathematical skill that is beyond the reach of most of secondary school students. Computer models overcome these problems, since the computer takes over the task of solving differential equations, allowing students to experiment with and to visualize the behavior of the phenomenon.
Several claims have been put forward with respect to the educational value of computer-based modeling. First, computer models are tools that enable students to externalize and to reflect on their own understanding of the phenomenon being modeled. Second, the act of modeling offers students with the opportunity to think scientifically about the behavior of phenomena. Finally, computer models can serve to make ideas accessible to criticism from peers, thus supporting collaboration between students. Despite these optimistic expectations, the process of computer-based modeling poses a complex task for secondary students, and without proper support they are unlikely to succeed. In order to shed light on students’ needs and to eventually provide suggestions for scaffolding, a thorough understanding of the reasoning processes students employ during computer-based modeling is needed.
Main purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the nature of students’ reasoning during computer-based modeling. In addition, we aimed at examining how characteristics of the students and of the modeling environment affect students’ reasoning. More specifically, we investigated whether and how students’ reasoning is influenced by: a) their epistemological understanding of models, b) the mode they use to communicate (i.e., chat versus face-to-face communication), and c) their motivation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Amsterdam
  • van Hout-Wolters, Bernadette H.A.M., Supervisor, External person
  • van Joolingen, W.R., Co-Supervisor
  • Savelsbergh, Elwin R., Advisor, External person
Award date18 May 2006
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Print ISBNs978-90-78087-05-2
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2006
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Students' reasoning during computer-based scientific modeling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this