Can Research-Informed NetLogo Models Promote the Idea of Contingency in Ecosystems' Behaviour?

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Ampatzidis, Georgios
Ergazaki, Marida

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Abstract

This paper reports on a case study performed in the 3rd cycle of a developmental research, which aims at designing a learning environment with research-informed NetLogo models that could help non-biology major students in challenging the ‘balanced nature’ idea. Our focus is set on whether and how students’ reasoning about ecosystems’ response to human-driven disturbance or protection altered after their engagement with specially designed models of terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems studied by ecologists. Informed by constructivism and problem-posing approach, our CSCL environment highlights ecosystems’ contingent behaviour through the currently valid idea of the ‘resilient nature’. Forty-four, 1st-year educational sciences students were introduced to the assumptions of this idea in five, 2-hour sessions by exploring in triads our NetLogo models aided by worksheets, which asked for predictions/explanations before/after using the model. Each model had two versions showing two different trajectories of an ecosystem, which were linked to differences in initial conditions or human actions for its recovery. The two different trajectories shown in the two versions of each model were discussed in whole class discussions at the end of the sessions. The analysis of students’ responses to certain items of the pre/post-test showed that the ideas of a protected ecosystem’s stability and a disturbed ecosystem’s full recovery retreated in the post-test, while the idea of ecosystems’ contingent behaviour appeared for the first time in high frequencies.

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ecological reasoning, model-based learning, resilient nature

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