CoreModels Curriculum Reform  

CoreModels emphasizes computational science activities, especially computer modeling, in a learning environment integrating project based science and the Karplus learning cycle (Trowbridge & Bybee, 1990), which according to Tinker (1992) are complementary strategies which together make up a complete instructional program. These activities stress systems thinking and modeling processes emphasized in both the Maryland Core Learning Goals and the AAAS Benchmarks (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993).

The links below are some of the important standards documents which shaped CoreModels activities.

  • Project 2061 of AAAS, especially the Benchmarks Online, and more particularly Chapter 11, Common Themes.
  • Maryland Core Learning Goals in Science, especially Goal 1 - Skills and Processes.
      Some examples of content expectations in tune with Benchmark Common Themes for which modeling activities are very appropriate include:
      • Expectation 2.5 - Earth Science - natural cycles
      • Expectation 3.5 - Biology - interdependence of diverse living organisms
      • Expectation 3.1 - Biology - cell processes
      • Goal 5 - Physics Goals, including mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and thermodynamics.

By constructing computer models of wildlife populations, the carbon cycle, chemical reactions, and projectile motion, students construct their own understanding of important recurring scientific concepts involving equilibrium processes, feedback and causal relationships. For example, in the rock cycle model, students manipulate the model to determine how disruption of equilibrium can lead alternatively to a restoration of a similar equilibrium, to a geologically dead planet, or to one that becomes destructive and uninhabitable. In the glucose regulation model, students simulate the body's glucose-insulin feedback process in an attempt to maintain homeostasis (equilibrium) in the face of such disruptive events as eating a candy bar.

Used thoughtfully, computer modeling brings students into closer touch with the real world rather than moving them farther away, as a very intimate knowledge of the phenomenon and its interconnected parts is needed to successfully model it. In both project based science and the learning cycle paradigm, the teacher takes on the role of facilitator, interacting with student teams to monitor progress, assist with problem-solving, assess their understanding and serve as an advisor. Such interaction almost always involves the uncovering of some fundamental misconceptions held by students.

Experts in any field, whether it is chess, football, or modeling, differ from novices in two ways. They have acquired many schemas that help organize their understanding about the field. In addition, their procedural knowledge is automated so that skills can be accessed easily. Cognitive load theory is a model of memory that has important implications for instructional design. Improving Traditional Instruction: Cognitive Load Theory is an overview of the ideas of John Sweller, chief architect of the theory.

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