Model construction as a learning activity: A design space and review

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52 Scopus citations


Modeling is becoming increasingly important both as a way to learn science and mathematics, and as a useful cognitive skill. Although many learning activities qualify as "modeling", this article focuses on activities where (1) students construct a model rather than explore a given model, (2) the model is expressed in a formal language rather than drawings, physical objects or natural language texts and (3) the model's predictions are generated by executing it on a computer. Most research on such learning activities has focused on getting students to successfully construct models, which they find very difficult to do. In the hope that new research can find ways to remove this bottleneck, this article attempts to list all the major ideas that have appeared in the literature and might be useful to those developing new learning activities involving model construction. The ideas are organized into a design space with five dimensions: (1) modeling language types, (2) ways for describing the systems that students should model, (3) instructional objectives and their corresponding assessments, (4) common student difficulties and (5) types of scaffolding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-413
Number of pages43
JournalInteractive Learning Environments
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • constructive learning
  • interactive learning activities
  • interactive learning environments
  • model construction
  • modeling
  • scaffolding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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