Simulations for Supporting and Assessing Science Literacy

Simulations for Supporting and Assessing Science Literacy

Edys S. Quellmalz (WestEd, USA), Matt D. Silberglitt (WestEd, USA), Barbara C. Buckley (WestEd, USA), Mark T. Loveland (WestEd, USA), and Daniel G. Brenner (WestEd, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9441-5.ch008
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Simulations have become core supports for learning in the digital age. For example, economists, mathematicians, and scientists employ simulations to model complex phenomena. Learners, too, are increasingly able to take advantage of simulations to understand complex systems. Simulations can display phenomena that are too large or small, fast or slow, or dangerous for direct classroom investigations. The affordances of simulations extend students' opportunities to engage in deep, extended problem solving. National and international studies are providing evidence that technologies are enriching curricula, tailoring learning environments, embedding assessment, and providing tools to connect students, teachers, and experts locally and globally. This chapter describes a portfolio of research and development that has examined and documented the roles that simulations can play in assessing and promoting learning, and has developed and validated sets of simulation-based assessments and instructional supplements designed for formative and summative assessment and customized instruction.
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The research and development projects in WestEd’s STEM program draw upon theory and findings from cognitive science and multimedia research and emphasize the schematic and strategic knowledge involved in systems thinking and the science practices related to inquiry-based problem-solving for real-world issues. The focus on real-world applications shifts attention from the inert retention of disconnected scientific domain knowledge to understanding the science relevant to environmental and social issues, making informed decisions, and communicating about the issues.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Multimedia: Representations of phenomena and means of expression employing a variety of static, active, and interactive modalities such as pictures, graphics, text, animations, and simulations.

Universal Design for Learning: Methods for offering alternative means for representing information in multiple formats and media, providing multiple pathways for students’ action and expression, and multiple ways to engage students’ interest and motivation.

Multilevel Assessment Systems: Coherent, articulated assessment systems from the classroom to district, to state to national levels based on common specifications of learning standards and task models.

SimScientists: Program of research and development projects at WestEd studying the capabilities of simulations for promoting and assessing science learning.

Representations: Static, active, and interactive renderings of phenomena.

Evidence-Centered Design: Specifications of assessment design in terms of knowledge and skills to be assessed (student model), tasks to elicit observations of the knowledge and skills (task model), and evaluations of student responses (evidence model).

Model-Based Learning: Framework characterizing learners’ formation, use, evaluation, and revision of their mental models of phenomena as learners interact with phenomena in situ and with conceptual models, representations (including text), and simulations of phenomena.

Dynamic: Phenomena changing in time and scale.

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