Using Models for Assessment

Following the steps of science inquiry does not necessarily lead to greater understanding. Reflection and discussion on a learner’s understanding of science concepts is important to improve their science thinking skills. Prior understanding is the set of “personally held” theories or intuitive understandings that learners may have about a phenomenon, which may be inaccurate. These preconceptions are typically unexamined or not well articulated. If these intuitive understandings are not engaged, a person will continue to hold them even though they superficially seem to have learned a new concept. By providing opportunities to reflect on what a learner comprehends at a point in time, through written and verbal means, a learner can become able to understand their prior conceptions.

Qualitative conceptual models can be used to help students examine their own explanations, re-evaluate their old application of concepts, and try to apply newer, more appropriate conceptual understanding. Using this reflective process, the learners’ old ideas give way to new, more accurate, ideas as they proceed through the stages of inquiry. The models essentially provide them with a means to visualize their conceptions of ecosystem processes. Their understanding is further enhanced through collegial discussions. A series of student-generated models can support the restructuring of their ideas.