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ERIC Number: ED530271
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 251
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1095-2715-5
Designing across Ages: Multi-Agent-Based Models and Learning Electricity
Sengupta, Pratim
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Northwestern University
Electricity is regarded as one of the most challenging topics for students at all levels--middle school--college (Cohen, Eylon, & Ganiel, 1983; Belcher & Olbert, 2003; Eylon & Ganiel, 1990; Steinberg et al., 1985). Several researchers have suggested that naive misconceptions about electricity stem from a deep incommensurability (Slotta & Chi, 2006; Chi, 2005) or incompatibility (Chi, Slotta & Leauw, 1994; Reiner, Slotta, Chi, & Resnick, 2000) between naive and expert knowledge structures. I first present an alternative theoretical framework that adopts an emergent levels-based perspective as proposed by Wilensky & Resnick (1999). From this perspective, macro-level phenomena such as electric current and resistance, as well as behavior of linear electric circuits, can be conceived of as "emergent" from simple, body-syntonic interactions between electrons and ions in a circuit. I argue that adopting such a perspective enables us to reconceive commonly noted misconceptions in electricity as behavioral evidences of "slippage between levels"--i.e., these misconceptions appear when otherwise productive knowledge elements are sometimes inappropriately activated due to certain macro-level phenomenological cues only--and, that the same knowledge elements when activated due to phenomenological cues at both micro- and macro-levels, can engender a deeper, expert-like understanding. I will then introduce NIELS (NetLogo Investigations In Electromagnetism, Sengupta & Wilensky, 2006, 2008, 2009), a low-threshold high-ceiling (LTHC) learning environment of multi-agent-based computational models that represent phenomena such as electric current and resistance, as well as the behavior of linear electric circuits, as emergent. I also present results from implementations of NIELS in 5th, 7th and 12th grade classrooms that show the following: (a) how leveraging certain "design elements" over others in NIELS models can create new phenomenological cues, which in turn can be appropriated for learners in different grades; (b) how learners' existing knowledge structures can be bootstrapped to generate deep understanding; (c) how these knowledge structures evolve as the learners progress through the implemented curriculum; (d) improvement of learners' understanding in the post-test compared to the pre-test; and (e) how NIELS students compare with a comparison group of 12th grade students who underwent traditional classroom instruction. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A