An investigation of the potential of interactive simulations for developing system thinking skills in elementary school: A case study with fifth-graders and sixth-graders

Maria Evagorou, Kostas Korfiatis, Christiana Nicolaou, Costas Constantinou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of a simulation-based learning environment on elementary school students' (11-12 years old) development of system thinking skills. The learning environment included interactive simulations using the Stagecast Creator software to simulate the ecosystem of a marsh. Simulations are an important tool in any effort to develop system thinking, because they have the potential to highlight the dynamic nature of systems. Before the implementation of the learning environment (over a period of five 90-min lessons) two written tests were administered to the students, investigating the development of seven aspects of system thinking. The same tests were administered after the implementation. Specifically, four of the tasks included in each test were associated with skills concerning the structure and the elements of a system and three were associated with the processes and interactions taking place within a system. The findings indicated that elementary school students have the potential to develop system thinking skills. The proposed learning environment provoked considerable improvements in some system thinking skills during a relatively brief learning process. However, the learning environment was not successful in promoting feedback thinking. We interpret these results in view of the difficulties encountered by the students. We also discuss the implications of our findings for the design of learning environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-674
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Volume31
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009

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