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Engaging Students in Scientific Practices: What does constructing and revising models look like in the science classroom?


"In this article, we look in-depth at scientific practice #2--developing, evaluating, and revising scientific models to explain and predict phenomena--and what it means for classroom teaching. Models provide scientists and engineers with tools for thinking, to visualize and make sense of phenomena and experience, or to develop possible solutions to design problems (NRC 2011). Models are external representations of mental concepts. Models can include diagrams, three-dimensional physical structures, computer simulations, mathematical formulations, and analogies. It is challenging for learners to understand that all models only approximate and simplify how the entities they represent work, yet models provide a powerful tool of explaining phenomena. It's critical that a model be consistent with the evidence that exists, and that different models are appropriate in different situations depending on what is being explained. If the model cannot account for the evidence, then the model should be abandoned (Schwarz et al. 2009). "