Collaboration and Modeling in Learning Environments

University of Cyprus, Cyprus

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Modeling ability is a basic scientific process that connects theories and scientific data. Models are scientific constructs used for assessing the applicability of hypotheses, forming hypotheses and developing the mechanisms supporting the functionality of the physical phenomena. In the Didactics of Natural Sciences the importance of the modeling ability lies in the fact that it could act as a medium for supporting the learning processes and the development of students’ learning. Modeling is an ability that includes reasoning skills necessary for the development of the learners’ epistemological awareness. This thesis evaluated the connection between collaboration mechanisms and the development of a theoretical framework for teaching the modeling ability. Both modeling and collaboration are part of the daily practices used by scientists. In the literature, collaboration is considered as an integral part of the modeling ability. However, there is not much research investigating this relationship. The main goal of the research study refers to the investigation of the basic aspects of teaching the modeling ability and its teaching transformation through the use of specific internet tools supported by a Virtual Leaning Environment (VLE). For achieving this goal, we developed teaching material which promoted the development of and strategies for teaching the modeling ability by pre-service teachers (PsTs) (N=21) to elementary students. This was implemented in the frame of a course including structured collaboration in different levels, during spring semester 2007 at the University of Cyprus.

The study relied on a mixed method research methodology comprised of (a) pre- and post-tests of the modeling ability and the phenomenon of moon phases, (b) reflective journals kept by the PsTs, (c) synchronous and asynchronous discussions supported by the VLE or held in class, (d) successive group models of the moon phases and (e) PsTs’ reports regarding action research studies aiming to the development of the modeling ability of elementary students.

Results indicated that the teaching intervention was successful not only in promoting the development of the modeling ability, but also in helping PsTs gain understanding about the course content. However, their efforts seemed to be distracted by specific epistemological and pedagogical difficulties. These two types of difficulties are correlated. Based on the qualitative interpretation of this relationship, three theoretical didactical approaches regarding teaching of the modeling ability were sketched out: linear modelers, aesthetic modelers and object-oriented modelers. Specific parameters were identified, which can be used by educators for the development of teaching interventions that aim to the development of the modeling ability and take advantage of the communicative potential of certain tools. Moreover, parameters that promote successful collaboration were identified.

This research study constitutes a theoretically grounded proposal for the didactical elaboration of the underlying goals, which can be used by the educational system. Additionally, the results of the study add to the theoretical framework through (a) the identification of the difficulties encountered by the PsTs, (b) the recording of the importance of the metadata used during peer reviewing, and (c) a research-validated connection between collaborative learning and teaching of the modeling skill.

Thesis full reference:

Nicolaou, C. T. (2010). Modelling and Collaboration in Learning Environments (In Greek). Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Cyprus, Nicosia. ISBN 978-9963-689-84-2


Nicolaou, C. T., Constantinou, C. P., & Kyza, E. (2011, 5-9 September). Using Web-Based Tools to Facilitate Collaborative Knowledge Construction and Transformation into Teaching. Paper presented at the 9th International Conference of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA): “Science Learning & Citizenship”

Nicolaou, Chr.Th. and Constantinou, C.P. (2010) Constructing models and teaching modeling: difficulties encountered by pre-service teachers, In J. Clayson & I. Kallas (Eds.), Proceedings of the Constructionism 2010 Conference Constructionist approaches to creative learning, thinking and education: Lessons for the 21st Century, ISBN: 978-80-89186-65-2 (CD), Paris, 16-20 August.

Nicolaou, Chr.Th., Nicolaidou, I.A., & Constantinou, C.P. (2009). Constructing models in Science using Stagecast Creator in preservice teacher education. In P. Blumschein; W. Hung, D. Jonassen, (Eds.). Model-Based Approaches to Learning: Using Systems Models and Simulations to Improve Understanding and Problem Solving in Complex Domains, 215-236, Sense Publisher: Rotterdam.

Nicolaidou, I., Nicolaou, Chr.Th. & Constantinou, C.P. (2006). What Makes Online Synchronous Discussions Engaging? Results from a Case-Study in Pre-service Teacher Education. In C.M. Crawford, (Ed.), AACE Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference, 2627-2632, Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.


Christiana Th. Nicolaou

Learning in Science Group

Department of Educational Sciences

University of Cyprus

P. O. Box 20537

CY 1678



E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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