Special Issue "Systems for Systems: Computational Systems Modeling to Promote Equity and Access in K12 STEM Educational Systems"

A special issue of Systems (ISSN 2079-8954).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Susan Yoon
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, 19104 Philadelphia, PA, USA
Interests: complex systems in K12 science education; social capital and social network applications; learning sciences; digital tools to promote science learning; teacher professional development in face-to-face and online asynchronous environments

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Scientists create computational models or simulations in order to understand complex scientific phenomena, explore questions, and increase the rate of innovation and discovery. In K12 education, learning to use, modify, create, and analyze models of scientific systems promotes an epistemological understanding of science where students can explore mechanisms and patterns, and evaluate evidence from their models to construct disciplinary knowledge. 

Over the last several decades, education and learning sciences researchers have worked to develop both professional development programs and curriculum to support the use of such computational systems models in classrooms. Alongside this research, there have been calls to determine the variables in educational systems that will enable optimal implementation for the successful learning of all students. McKenney (2018)* writes, 

We need research that can help us design for implementation in the here and now. This includes putting the investigation of what works, for whom, under which conditions into a broader perspective to help us…attend to the highly varied needs of teachers and learners in diverse settings. (p. 2)

In this Special Issue, we aim to illustrate innovative research programs that focus on the implementation of computational systems modeling tools for K12 science teachers and students. Two central goals motivate the articles in this issue. The first is to highlight the learning challenges of specific educational populations for which the modeling of scientific systems, (through its affordances of interactivity, visualizations, dynamic emergent properties, and access to hidden systems features like feedback, self-organization, and levels of interaction and interdependence), can support learning. The second is to identify and investigate the variables of equity and access in educational systems that support or impede participation with specific educational populations that use computational systems modeling tools for learning. 

Submissions may focus on either of the two goals or both of the goals simultaneously. However, the research should discuss issues for learners (and the teachers of those learners) who have historically been left out of mainstream research on computational systems modeling. These goals constitute an important subset of interests that add to the discourse on “what works, for whom, under what conditions” (McKenney, 2018). Topics of submissions may include, but are not limited to the following: 

  • Systems science curricula for elementary students;
  • Supports for English language learners;
  • High-quality and usable professional development for geographically isolated teachers
  • Systems models to support data literacy with young students
  • Developing teacher’s communities of practice for systems learning and instruction

Prof. Dr. Susan Yoon
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Systems is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Modeling scientific systems
  • Marginalized learners of science
  • K12 educational systems
  • Computational systems modeling tools

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
The Complex Evolution of Technologies and Pedagogies for Learning about Complex Systems
Systems 2021, 9(2), 31; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems9020031 - 29 Apr 2021
Viewed by 598
Abstract
It was the mid 1990s [...] Full article
Editorial
Commentary on the Special Issue, Systems for Systems: Computational Systems Modeling to Promote Equity and Access in K12 STEM Educational Systems
Systems 2021, 9(2), 30; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems9020030 - 22 Apr 2021
Viewed by 683
Abstract
The dual goal of this Special Issue is to highlight the implementation of computational systems modeling tools for K12 science teachers and students and to address equity and access for student groups who have historically been left out of mainstream research on computational [...] Read more.
The dual goal of this Special Issue is to highlight the implementation of computational systems modeling tools for K12 science teachers and students and to address equity and access for student groups who have historically been left out of mainstream research on computational systems modeling [...] Full article
Editorial
Complex Systems Research in K12 Science Education: A Focus on What Works for Whom and under Which Conditions
Systems 2021, 9(2), 29; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems9020029 - 21 Apr 2021
Viewed by 639
Abstract
From fighting disease to reversing environmental damage, the quest to effectively model our bodies, our social groups and our effects on the planet is a profoundly important one. [...] Full article

Research

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Article
Building System Capacity with a Modeling-Based Inquiry Program for Elementary Students: A Case Study
Systems 2021, 9(1), 9; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems9010009 - 26 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 817
Abstract
Science education in the United States should shift to incorporate innovative technologies and curricula that prepare students in the competencies needed for success in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. Here we employ a qualitative case study analysis to investigate the system [...] Read more.
Science education in the United States should shift to incorporate innovative technologies and curricula that prepare students in the competencies needed for success in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. Here we employ a qualitative case study analysis to investigate the system variables that supported or impeded one such reform effort aimed at improving elementary students’ science learning. We found that, while some program design features contributed to the success of the program (i.e., a strong multi-institutional partnership and a focus on teacher training and instructional supports), other features posed barriers to the long-term system-level change needed for reform (i.e., low levels of social capital activation, low prioritization of science learning, and frequent turnover of key personnel). In light of these findings, we discuss broader implications for building the capacity to overcome system barriers. In this way, an in-depth examination of the context-specific barriers to reform in this educational system can inform efforts for future reform and innovation design. Full article
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Article
Designing Feedback Systems: Examining a Feedback Approach to Facilitation in an Online Asynchronous Professional Development Course for High School Science Teachers
Systems 2021, 9(1), 10; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems9010010 - 26 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1020
Abstract
Many researchers have identified the need for a more holistic understanding of the role of feedback in supporting learning in online environments. This study explores how our design, development, and implementation of an online feedback facilitation system influenced high school science teachers’ learning [...] Read more.
Many researchers have identified the need for a more holistic understanding of the role of feedback in supporting learning in online environments. This study explores how our design, development, and implementation of an online feedback facilitation system influenced high school science teachers’ learning in an asynchronous teacher professional development online course. We then describe teachers’ and facilitators’, i.e., feedback providers’, perceptions of the effectiveness of the system’s features for supporting participants’ learning and engagement. Our work also responds to recent calls for developing a more nuanced understanding of how the complexity of feedback influences learning and the need for more qualitative research on online facilitators’ and learners’ experiences working with new technologies. Results demonstrated that, despite the difficulty of analyzing the complex variables influencing learners’ interactions and perceptions of the feedback system, designing adaptive feedback systems that draw on the principles of design-based implementation research (DBIR) offer promise for enhancing the systems’ contributions to teacher learning. Full article
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Article
Expanding Opportunities for Systems Thinking, Conceptual Learning, and Participation through Embodied and Computational Modeling
Systems 2020, 8(4), 48; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems8040048 - 26 Nov 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 928
Abstract
Previous research has established that embodied modeling (role-playing agents in a system) can support learning about complexity. Separately, research has demonstrated that increasing the multimodal resources available to students can support sensemaking, particularly for students classified as English Learners. This study bridges these [...] Read more.
Previous research has established that embodied modeling (role-playing agents in a system) can support learning about complexity. Separately, research has demonstrated that increasing the multimodal resources available to students can support sensemaking, particularly for students classified as English Learners. This study bridges these two bodies of research to consider how embodied models can strengthen an interconnected system of multimodal models created by a classroom. We explore how iteratively refining embodied modeling activities strengthened connections to other models, real-world phenomena, and multimodal representations. Through design-based research in a sixth grade classroom studying ecosystems, we refined embodied modeling activities initially conceived as supports for computational thinking and modeling. Across three iterative cycles, we illustrate how the conceptual and epistemic relationship between the computational and embodied model shifted, and we analyze how these shifts shaped opportunities for learning and participation by: (1) recognizing each student’s perspectives as critical for making sense of the model, (2) encouraging students to question and modify the “code” for the model, and (3) leveraging multimodal resources, including graphs, gestures, and student-generated language, for meaning-making. Through these shifts, the embodied model became a full-fledged component of the classroom’s model system and created more equitable opportunities for learning and participation. Full article
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Article
How Fifth-Grade English Learners Engage in Systems Thinking Using Computational Models
Systems 2020, 8(4), 47; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/systems8040047 - 22 Nov 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1006
Abstract
The purpose of this study was to investigate how computational modeling promotes systems thinking for English Learners (ELs) in fifth-grade science instruction. Individual student interviews were conducted with nine ELs about computational models of landfill bottle systems they had developed as part of [...] Read more.
The purpose of this study was to investigate how computational modeling promotes systems thinking for English Learners (ELs) in fifth-grade science instruction. Individual student interviews were conducted with nine ELs about computational models of landfill bottle systems they had developed as part of a physical science unit. We found evidence of student engagement in four systems thinking practices. Students used data produced by their models to investigate the landfill bottle system as a whole (Practice 1). Students identified agents and their relationships in the system (Practice 2). Students thought in levels, shuttling between the agent and aggregate levels (Practice 3). However, while students could think in levels to develop their models, they struggled to engage in this practice when presented with novel scenarios (e.g., open vs. closed system). Finally, students communicated information about the system using multiple modalities and less-than-perfect English (Practice 4). Overall, these findings suggest that integrating computational modeling into standards-aligned science instruction can provide a rich context for fostering systems thinking among linguistically diverse elementary students. Full article
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