Teacher Challenges, Perceptions, and Use of Science Models in Middle School Classrooms about Climate, Weather, and Energy Concepts
Author(s)Yarker, Morgan Brown
Science and Mathematics Education
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AbstractResearch suggests that scientific models and modeling should be topics covered in K-12 classrooms as part of a comprehensive science curriculum. It is especially important when talking about topics in weather and climate, where computer and forecast models are the center of attention. There are several approaches to model based inquiry, but it can be argued, theoretically, that science models can be effectively implemented into any approach to inquiry if they are utilized appropriately. Yet, it remains to be explored how science models are actually implemented in classrooms. This study qualitatively looks at three middle school science teachers' use of science models with various approaches to inquiry during their weather and climate units. Results indicate that the teacher who used the most elements of inquiry used models in a way that aligned best with the theoretical framework than the teachers who used fewer elements of inquiry. The theoretical framework compares an approach to argument-based inquiry to model-based inquiry, which argues that the approaches are essentially identical, so teachers who use inquiry should be able to apply model-based inquiry using the same approach. However, none of the teachers in this study had a complete understanding of the role models play in authentic science inquiry, therefore students were not explicitly exposed to the ideas that models can be used to make predictions about, and are representations of, a natural phenomenon. Rather, models were explicitly used to explain concepts to students or have students explain concepts to the teacher or to each other. Additionally, models were used as a focal point for conversation between students, usually as they were creating, modifying, or using models. Teachers were not observed asking students to evaluate models. Since science models are an important aspect of understanding science, it is important that teachers not only know how to implement models into an inquiry environment, but also understand the characteristics of science models so that they can explicitly teach the concept of modeling to students. This study suggests that better pre-service and in-service teacher education is needed to prepare students to teach about science models effectively.