STUDENT PROBLEM SOLVING IN COMPLEX SYSTEMS: HOW DO STUDENTS APPLY SELF-CONSTRUCTED MODELS TO REAL WORLD PROBLEMS?
To address these challenges we created four case study based laboratory exercises that require students to represent data, interpret data, create representations of complex earth systems, and use these models to reason about societal challenges. This intersection between authentic scientific practice and engineering design has been advocated for by the NGSS, yet has not been fully implemented at the college level. Our research aims to discover how students reason through societally relevant problems, whether it is through model-based reasoning or through non-scientific avenues. These societal challenges were ill-constrained problems, and so student strategies to answer these problems ranged from scientific argumentation to the use of anecdotal evidence. In total, five broad themes emerged from the data suggesting that students may use scientific argumentation, ideologies, anecdotal evidence, naïve conceptions, and analogous reasoning to support their claims when answering societal questions. We will examine the link between students’ models and their answers to societal problems and evaluate the quality of their models to thoroughly understand this relationship.