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The purpose of this study was to determine the procedural knowledge brought to, and created within, a pond ecology simulation by students. Environmental Decision Making (EDM) is an ecosystems modeling tool that allows users to pose their own problems and seek satisfying solutions. Of specific interest was the performance of biology majors who had taken one ecology course at the university 300 level as they manipulated the amounts of living components until they understood the objects and processes involved. Results should allow the construction of a model for novice problem solvers, a first step in understanding how teaching and learning using ecosystems problems can best proceed. Fifteen students were given a pond scenario and asked to think aloud as they posed and solved problems using EDM. Sixteen meaningful problems available in the simulation were identified. An idealized pattern of searching through the problems was used as a template for analysis. This pattern involved building one entity into the simulation at a time and running three or more iterations of a given system, changing only one entity at a time. None of the participants explored all of the problems, but all explored some of the problems. Participants varied greatly with regard to awareness of their use of heuristics which was largely connected to their lack of systematic search. (Author/PVD)

Descriptors: Biology, Computer Simulation, Computer Uses in Education, Ecology, Environmental Education, Heuristics, Higher Education, Learning Strategies, Models, Problem Solving, Science Education, Systems Approach

Autor: Howse, Melissa A.


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