OIKOSKEPSI / ΟΙΚΟΣΚΕΨΗ, Systems Thinking and Decision Making Skills for Elementary Students

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The programme OIKOSKEPSI was funded by the Research Promotion Foundation and concerned the development of the systems thinking skills and decision making skills of 11-13 year-old students in the frame of a scenario regarding ecological disturbance.

The research project OIKOSKEPSI was funded by the Research Promotion Foundation. This program combines an epistemological tool (modelling) with fundamental skills of the knowledge society (systemic thinking) with the aim of familiarising students aged 11-13 with decision-making processes within scenarios of environmental disruption. The overall objective of this project was the development, implementation and evaluation of sequences of teaching activities for growing systemic thinking and decision making skills through modelling using the Software Creator Worlds (Stagecast CreatorTM).

The problem:

There are limited resources for teaching systems thinking within science, especially for younger students, involving the designing of a learning environment with the potential to support elementary school students in their effort to develop their systems thinking skills.

The purpose:

The purpose of the project is to investigate the impact of a simulation-based learning environment on elementary school students’ development of systems thinking skills.

Basic information

Country: Cyprus

Coordinator: Learning in Science Group, University of Cyprus, http://lsg.ucy.ac.cy

Partners:

Programme: Other

Project Acronym:

Target groups: primary school students, researchers, secondary school students, teachers, trainee teachers

Topic: Earth science, Ecology, Environmental sciences, Information technology, Education

Start year: 2004

End year: 2005

Url: http://lsg.ucy.ac.cy/research/oikoskepsi

Contact person: Christiana Th. Nicolaou, Email: chr.nic (at) ucy.ac.cy, Constantinos P. Constantinou, Email: c.p.constantinou (at) ucy.ac.cy

The study was based on 13 students (aged 11 to 13), 9 boys and 4 girls, attending a suburban school in Cyprus. The students were of mixed ability and socio-economic status and they had all voluntarily followed after-school computer lessons, offered by the teachers of their school. The students had no previous experience with computers or inquiry-based learning environments and the purpose of the project was to help them get familiar with concept mapping software and the use of Internet search engines. The learning intervention was implemented over a period of five sessions (90-min. periods).

The software used for this project was the Software Creator Worlds (Stagecast CreatorTM) and the learning environment was developed using the online platform WISE (Web-based Inquiry Science Environment).

The use of software helped making thinking visible, supporting collaborative learning, allowing scaffolding and prompting, while allowing easy access to students’ work. Simulations were used to allow students to virtually explore the system and to investigate the effects of various changes.

Lesson 1: The problem concerning the sufferings of village inhabitants caused by the reproduction of mosquitoes in a nearby marsh was presented through newspaper clippings using WISE. Students were given access to the computer simulation of a marsh ecosystem where they worked in pairs in order to identify the elements of the marsh and record them on a specially designed worksheet.

Lessons 2 & 3: Students in pairs engaged in discussions about the marsh as a system that consists of subsystems and has identifiable interactions between its elements. They identified in the simulation the habitat of certain species, such as the mosquitoes, identified predator–prey relationships and studied the relationship between water-level fluctuations and changes in the size of the mosquito population.

Lesson 4 & 5: Students tried various solutions for the control of mosquitoes (e.g., remove the water from the swamp, spray with different chemicals, introduce different species: eucalyptus, mosquito fish) and were able to see the effects of each solution on the ecosystem or on individual elements of it over a period of time. In the fifth session, they also had the opportunity to study feedback effects through the simulation of a predator–prey system, by recording the oscillations in the size of both the predator and the prey populations.

Once students had studied information on the solutions proposed by experts and written down the negative and positive points for each of the solution, they went through some new websites that were provided to them, which helped them to establish criteria to reach a decision about the optimal solution. At the end of this activity each group prepared a presentation in PowerPoint with the optimal solution while explaining the reasons for the solution they proposed.

 

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