Master of Science in Environmental Science
Krystyna A. Stave, Committee Chair
First Committee Member
David M. Hassenzahl
Second Committee Member
Graduate Faculty Representative
Number of Pages
While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence within the systems dynamics community supporting the use of systems simulations in the classroom to improve student understanding, there is little published, controlled, experimental research. This paper describes the results of a paired experiment testing the effect of using system dynamics simulations to increase systems understanding in an introductory environmental science course. We believed that the students using the systems simulations would demonstrate a greater systemic understanding of environmental issues than those who did not.
We conducted an experiment during the fall semester of 2009, with 304 students enrolled in four sections of Introduction to Environmental Science. Students in the experimental group used systems simulations to complete two homework assignments: one on population dynamics and one on carbon accumulation in the atmosphere. Students in the control group completed the same assignments, using parallel text descriptions, instead of simulations. We measured general and systemic understanding of environmental issues at the beginning of the course, at the end of the course, and at multiple points throughout the course. Regression analyses results show that there was a significant positive relationship between performance on assessment questions immediately following the first intervention and simulation use. Experimental group students were better able to recognize interconnections, identify stocks and flows and understand how accumulation occurs within the systems they studied. The study led to some questions about the effectiveness of using multiple-choice questions and behavior over time graphs to assess systemic understanding. The study also demonstrated the effectiveness of using methods, besides simulation, in the classroom to increase systemic understanding.
Assessment; Dynamics; Environment; Higher education; Systems Simulations; Teaching methods
Curriculum and Instruction | Environmental Sciences | Higher Education and Teaching | Science and Mathematics Education | Sustainability
Skaza, Heather J., "Assessing the effect of simulation models on systems learning in an introductory environmental science course" (2010). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 18.