Computer modeling has been widely promoted as a means to attain higher order learning outcomes. Substantiating these benefits, however, has been problematic due to a lack of proper assessment tools. In this study, we compared computer modeling with expository instruction, using a tailored assessment designed to reveal the benefits of either mode of instruction. The assessment addresses proficiency in declarative knowledge, application, construction, and evaluation. The subscales differentiate between simple and complex structure. The learning task concerns the dynamics of global warming. We found that, for complex tasks, the modeling group outperformed the expository group on declarative knowledge and on evaluating complex models and data. No differences were found with regard to the application of knowledge or the creation of models. These results confirmed that modeling and direct instruction lead to qualitatively different learning outcomes, and that these two modes of instruction cannot be compared on a single “effectiveness measure”.
- Instructional technology
- Simulation-based learning environments
- Dynamic systems
- Computer modeling