In this paper, we investigate an approach to supporting students’ learning in science through a combination of physical experimentation and virtual modeling. We present a study that utilizes a scientific inquiry framework, which we call “bifocal modeling,” to link student-designed experiments and computer models in real time. In this study, a group of high school students designed computer models of bacterial growth with reference to a simultaneous physical experiment they were conducting, and were able to validate the correctness of their model against the results of their experiment. Our findings suggest that as the students compared their virtual models with physical experiments, they encountered “discrepant events” that contradicted their existing conceptions and elicited a state of cognitive disequilibrium. This experience of conflict encouraged students to further examine their ideas and to seek more accurate explanations of the observed natural phenomena, improving the design of their computer models.
Blikstein, P., Furhmann, T., & Salehi, S. (2016). Using the Bifocal Modeling Framework to Resolve "Discrepant Events" between Physical Experiments and Virtual Models in Biology. Journal of Science Education and Technology