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Systems Thinking: A Look at How Scientific Modeling Helps Students Construct Meaning Within a System

Bauer, Michael D.
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As our world changes rapidly, it is imperative that our next generation can solve the problems that we do not even know exist yet.  The best way to teach them to do this is to engage them in building systems, finding problems within the system, and experimenting with solutions until they find the one that is the best.  Using models is an effective way to encourage this type of problem solving.  In project-based learning, students are actively engaged in the process and can see exactly how and why something fails, and then choose different routes to fix the failure.  In doing so, they are developing the skills needed to persevere through the not yet identified issues that we will face when this future generation becomes the scientists, educators, engineers, inventors, and technologists of their day.  This action research study offers students the opportunity to learn by creating models, failing, identifying problems, researching solutions, and re-creating models in an effort to troubleshoot a given system.  It examines the practice of the researcher through a unit of study where students design, construct, test, and repeat. The research finds that all students were able to produce a higher-level product after failing and building back stronger.  Students also communicated the effectiveness of building the model in understanding the system on a deeper level.
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University of Wyoming. Libraries