FUB evaluation of DynaLearn prototype

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1 Deliverable number: Deliverable title: FUB evaluation of prototype Delivery date: date: Submission date: Submission date: Leading beneficiary: Leading Status: beneficiary: Dissemination level: Status: Authors: Dissemination level: Authors: 2010/11/ /02/19 University of Brasilia (FUB) Version 5 (final) PU (public) Paulo Salles, Adriano Souza, Isabella Gontijo de Sá, Mônica Pereira Resende, Gisele Morison Feltrini, Pedro Assumpção da Costa e Silva, Gustavo Leite, Luiz Henrique Wilhelms, Lilian Pires, Alexandre Portella, Emilia Braga, Aline Simões, Heloisa Lima-Salles Project number: Project acronym: Project title: Starting date: Duration: Call identifier: Funding scheme: Engaging and informed tools for learning conceptual system knowledge February 1st, Months FP7-ICT Collaborative project (STREP)

2 Abstract This Deliverable reports the first set of evaluation activities of the prototype performed by University of Brasília (FUB). The activities were designed to address generic research questions defined in the DoW, being the main question: What are the effects of s conceptual modelling environment on students learning concepts and modelling skills? In total, 10 evaluation activities were made with a diverse range of participants including: deaf secondary school students, hearing secondary school students, graduate students and secondary school teachers. Evaluation methods include experimental settings, with control and experimental groups, courses and workshops, and observation of groups of students. Among the evaluation instruments, a wide range of options included pre and post tests, written essays observation, interviews and discusssions. Results of these studies were analysed and discussed in order to make recommendations for software development or adjustments, and to improve methodologies for bringing into the classroom. Ongoing work includes the analysis of part of the material collected in these activities and preparation of documents to be submitted for publication. Internal Review Richard Noble (UH) Jorge Gracia (UPM) Acknowledgements We would like to express our gratitude to the students and teachers who shared with our group their impressions, ideas and time in order to provide us with valuable comments about. Also thanks to the Secretary of Education of the Government of the Federal District, and the Directors and staff of the schools we visit for letting us to run evaluation activities within the schools. Pedro Podestà provided a great support with the statistical analyses. Heloisa Liima Salles gave us the support required for the linguistic analyses of the texts prioduced by the students. Finally, a big thank you to our colleagues Richard Noble and Jorge Gracia for their valuable comments on this Deliverable. Page 2 / 136

3 Document History Version Modification(s) Date Author(s) 01 First draft Draft compiling contributions and organizing data 03 Draft sent to the reviewers Salles, Souza, Portella, Braga, Wilhelms, Resende, Feltrini, Costa e Silva, Sá, Simões, Pires Salles Salles and Souza 04 Second version of the draft sent to the reviewers Salles and Souza 05 Submission to the Commission Salles and Souza Page 3 / 136

4 Contents Abstract 2 Internal Review 2 Acknowledgements 2 Document History 3 Contents 4 1. Introduction General evaluation framework Deliverable organisation Evaluation activity 1: Course for deaf students Introduction Method Participants Implementation procedure Design of data collection instruments Data analysis and variables measured Results Model as an instrument for learning concepts Written tests analyses Questionnaires Discussion Conceptual understanding Inferential reasoning Questionnaires Evaluation activity 2: Course with hearing students at CED Introduction Method Participants Implementation procedure 22 Page 4 / 136

5 Design of data collection instruments Data analysis and variables measured Results Model as an instrument for learning concepts Written texts analyses Questionnaires Discussion Conceptual understanding Inferential reasoning Questionnaires Evaluation activity 3: Course with teachers of deaf students Introduction Methods Participants Implementation procedure Design of data collection instruments Results Questionnaire Answers to open questions Discussion Evaluation Activity 4: Four deaf students in CED Introduction Methods Participants Implementation procedures Design of data collection instruments Results Questionnaires Discussion Evaluation activity 5: Graduate students at UnB 34 Page 5 / 136

6 6.1. Introduction Methods Participants Implementation procedure Design of data collection instruments Results Models developed by the students Questionnaire designed to capture software and modelling aspects Questionnaire designed to capture motivation aspects Answers to Likert-type questions Answers to open questions Discussion Evaluation activity 6: Secondary school teachers at CEM Introduction Methods Participants Implementation procedure Design of data collection instruments Results Written test about causality Motivation questionnaire Answers to Likert-type questions about motivation (teachers CEM01) Questionnaire about modelling and the use of the software Likert-type questions about modeling and software (teachers CEM01) Answers to open questions about motivation Discussion Evaluation activity 7: Secondary school students CEM01 June Introduction Methods Participants 44 Page 6 / 136

7 Implementation procedure Design of data collection instruments Results Pre and post-tests about conservation biology and causality Questionnaires modelling and software and motivation Answers to open questions from the questionnaire about motivation Discussion Conceptual understanding about conservation biology and causality Modelling activities Questionnaires Evaluation activity 8: 3 groups of secondary school students CEM Introduction Methods Participants Implementation procedure Design of data collection instruments Results Pre and post-tests about conservation and population biology Pre and post tests about metapopulation biology Linguistic analyses of written essays Analyses of average scores obtained in models built by the students Questionnaires Discussion Pre and post-tests about conservation and population biology Pre and post-test about metapopulation biology Analysis of models built by the students Questionnaires Evaluation activity 9: secondary school students CED Introduction Methods 62 Page 7 / 136

8 Participants Implementation procedure Design of data collection instruments Results Pre and post-tests about conservation and population biology Pre and post-tests about meta-population biology Linguistic analyses of written essays Models created by the students Questionnaires Discussion Pre and post-tests about conservation and population biology Pre and post tests about metapopulation biology Modelling activities Questionnaires Evaluation activity 10: Long term studies with students CEM Introduction Methods Participants Implementation procedure Results General discussion Conceptual understanding Hypotheses testing Teachers Reasoning skills reasons why may become a success Conclusions and plans for future evaluation activities Conclusions Plans for future evaluation activities 74 References 75 Page 8 / 136

9 ANNEX A Educational Activity 1: Course for deaf students at CED06 77 ANNEX B - Educational Activity 2: hearing students at CED06 80 ANNEX C - Educational Activity 3: Course with teachers of deaf students 83 ANNEX D - Educational Activity 4: Four deaf students at CED06 89 ANNEX E - Educational Activity 5: Graduate students at UnB 91 ANNEX F - Educational Activity 6: Secondary school teachers at CEM01 95 ANNEX G - Educational Activity 7: students CEM01 June ANNEX H - Educational Activity 8: 3 groups of students at CEM ANNEX I - Educational Activity 9: 2 groups of students at CED Page 9 / 136

10 1. Introduction 1.1. General evaluation framework This Deliverable aims at presenting the results of evaluation activities develop to investigate different aspects of learning by exploring and building qualitative reasoning models, the use of the prototype and topics from the curriculum of environmental science presented in Deliverable D6.1 (Salles et al. 2009). In doing so, we report on the development of activities established in Task 7.2 at the Description of Work (DoW), stated as follows: Based on the work in progress on the Curriculum and content models (WP6), each case study beneficiary will develop lessons and an evaluation plan focusing on several different topics in the curriculum (including at least some of the models they have developed themselves). Each case study will focus on different aspects of the curriculum and features of the prototype of the software. Using the prepared lessons and evaluation plan, each beneficiary will evaluate the prototype and the curriculum in real educational settings. (DoW, page 36) Conceptual modelling was the only functionality evaluated by FUB during the period covered by this Deliverable. The main reason for this choice was that this was the only functionality available in Garp3 during 2009, when FUB was already involved on investigations about learning supported by qualitative models. During the academic year of 2010, which in Brazil spans from March till December, replaced Garp3 in FUB s evaluation studies, as described below. In fact, when the project started, in February 2009, researchers from UnB were carrying on studies about the role of qualitative models in science education at secondary schools. Feltrini (2009) had just finished a didactic material DVD designed to teach deaf and hearing secondary school students how to build and use qualitative models in Garp3, the basis upon which software was built. The multimidia lessons were presented in Brazilian Sign Language (Libras) and in spoken Portuguese. This work is described in her MSc Dissertation on Science Education (Feltrini, 2009). At that moment, the DVD was not evaluated yet, and during the academic year of 2009, three evaluation activities were developed by Resende (2010) using the DVD and a forth using, and are described in the present Deliverable: While using the conceptual modelling environment, evaluation activities explored the development of the following skills, already discussed in Deliverable D7.1 (Mioduser et al., 2010): Understanding natural and technological phenomena, political and social activities, as well as relevant philosophical, historical, and moral issues; Mastering natural and modelling languages, and mastering the capability to translate among languages; Identifying central and peripheral information, presented in different contexts (text, models); Page 10 / 136

11 Integrating knowledge from different areas by developing interdisciplinary projects (for teachers); Comparing possible solutions for a problem; Formulating and articulating adequate and consistent argumentation. These skills are among those measured exams for selecting secondary school students entering University of Brasilia s undergraduate courses, as discussed in Deliverable D7.1, (Mioduser et al., 2010), and shall be discussed in the following sessions Deliverable organisation This Deliverable presents 10 evaluation activities, organised as follows: Evaluation activity 1: described in section 2, an experimental study involving 60 secondary school deaf students divided in experimental and control groups (30 students each), assessed on their learning of environmental science concepts and writing skills (inferential reasoning and, causality representation in written Portuguese) by means of pre and post- tests; the students also answered questionnaires focussing the use of the software and motivational aspects; Evaluation activity 2: described in section 3, a similar arrangement involving 60 secondary school hearing students, also assessed on their learning of environmental science concepts and writing skills (inferential reasoning, causality representation) by means of pre and post- tests and answered questionnaires focussing the use of the software and motivational aspects; Evaluation activity 3: described in section 4, a course given for 22 primary and secondary school teachers, who work in public schools with both deaf and hearing students, that, by the end of the course, answered questionnaires about the use of QR models; Evaluation activity 4: described in section 5, a course for 4 deaf students who explored to manipulate models and evaluate a specific model developed by the teacher (the Dengue fever model), and to build their own models in Learning Space (LS) 2; these students also answered questionnaires about the use of the software and their motivation for building models. These four studies (Evaluation activities 1-4) are described in details in Resende s (2010) MSc Dissertation on Science Education; Evaluation activity 5: described in section 6, an activity developed in May 2010, during a course (30h) on Advanced Qualitative Modelling, presented by Bert Bredeweg (UvA) and Paulo Salles (FUB) for the Graduate Program in Ecology of the University of Brasília. The course was attended by 10 graduate students, who explored models built by the teachers and created their own models in. At the end of the evaluation activities, the students answered questionnaires focussing the use of the software and motivational aspects, and some of them had the opportunity to improve their models, and to present them in a scientific meeting. Evaluation activity 6: described in section 7, a workshop involving secondary school teachers at the Centro de Ensino Médio 01 (CEM01) a public school located in Sobradinho, Federal District, during which they were introduced to qualitative conceptual modelling in software, explored models already built by researchers involved in project, and build their own models; they answered questionnaires (use of the software and motivation for modelling with ) and for one exercise, they answered pre and post-tests. Evaluation activity 7: described in section 8, a group of secondary school students from CEM01 Sobradinho followed a workshop on Biology of Conservation, based on expositive lectures and on Page 11 / 136

12 model exploring and building activities; the students were assessed on their learning of environmental science concepts and writing skills (inferential reasoning and, causality representation in written Portuguese) by means of pre and post- tests; the students also answered questionnaires (use of the software and motivation); Evaluation activity 8: described in section 9,more structured studies involving three groups of students (2 experimental and 1 control groups), at CEM01 Sobradinho, in which the students in the experimental groups received expositive lectures on Population Biology and sessions for model exploration and model building; similarly, they were assessed on their learning of environmental science concepts and writing skills (inferential reasoning and, causality representation in written Portuguese) by means of pre and post- tests, and answered questionnaires (use of the software and motivation); Evaluation activity 9: described in section 10, a similar study involving two groups (an experimental and a control groups) of students at CED03 Sobradinho, also with lectures and model exploration and model building activities; the students were also were assessed on their learning of environmental science concepts and writing skills (inferential reasoning and, causality representation in written Portuguese) by means of pre and post- tests, and answered questionnaires (use of the software and motivation); Evaluation activity 10: described in section 11, ongoing work with a group of secondary school students from CEM01 Sobradinho, who had already experience working with Learning Spaces 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Evaluation activity 7), and are continuing work with more advanced models; in November 2010 they had a second round of activities and during 2011 they will have new rounds of activities. Sections 12 and 13 present a discussion on the results obtained and concluding remarks, respectively. Page 12 / 136

13 2. Evaluation activity 1: Course for deaf students at CED06 The potential of qualitative reasoning (QR) models as a tool for the acquisition of scientific concepts, the improvement of linguistic skills and the development of inferential reasoning, has been worked out in previous experiences with deaf students (for example, Salles et al. 2005). These studies have shown that, in order to bring qualitative models into the classroom, three conditions have to be met: (a) the education of the deaf should be bilingual, the Brazilian Sign Language (LIBRAS) being the first and Portuguese the second language; (b) in the absence of scientific vocabulary in LIBRAS, it has to be created; (c) given the aural impairment, which is cognitively compensated through an overdeveloped visual ability, a visually oriented pedagogy is needed. As a result of the work developed by Feltrini (2009) and Salles et al. (2009b), a multimedia didactic material, recorded in a DVD, was produced to describe both in Portuguese and Brazilian Sign Language (Libras) how to build and explore qualitative reasoning models. The project has pushed forward the work with deaf students, carrying on evaluation activities about the use of qualitative models and modelling based on the DVD and on the use of Garp3 (Bredeweg et al. 2009) and workbench. The results are discussed in sections 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this Deliverable. This section presents the results of a study with two groups of deaf students involving learning environmental science concepts and the development of writing skills Introduction This study was designed to assess the impact of qualitative models on the development of competences and skills related to: Logic and deductive reasoning skills; Strategies to solve problems; Learning scientific concepts and appropriate vocabulary in written portuguese language involving topics of environmental science addressed in many disciplines of the secondary schools (biology, physics, geography); Understanding physical and environmental science phenomena; Applications of scientific concepts to students everyday life; Improvement of the student s ability to write texts in Portuguese. Evaluation hypotheses The use of qualitative reasoning models significantly improves the learning of biological concepts by deaf students. The use of qualitative reasoning models significantly improves the capacity of making inferences involving biological concepts by deaf students. Page 13 / 136

14 Evaluation questions Do learners present significantly better scores in tests involving concepts on environmental science when using Garp3 conceptual modelling workbench and exploring qualitative models? Does the meta-vocabulary used in qualitative models, from which a conceptual interpretation is built, provide learners a domain independent analytic instrument that enables them to understand more fine grained and thorough analyses of how systems work? Do the students significantly improve their capacity of making inferences (causal reasoning) after using qualitative models as learning tools? What is the students perception of the software, the modelling activities and the use of qualitative models in their learning process? Are the students motivated to work with qualitative models and use Garp3 software? 2.2. Method Participants Deaf students from three public schools, linked to the Secretary of Education of the Government of Federal District: Centro Educacional 06 de Taguatinga (CED06), Centro de Ensino Médio Elefante Branco de Brasília (CEMEB) e Centro de Ensino Médio 02 de Ceilândia (CEM02). All of these schools have deaf students at the 1 st, 2 nd e 3 rd years of the secondary school and provide Specialized Educational Support to deaf students and students with other types of special needs. Due to their conditions, the ages of the deaf students were more varied. In the control group, one of the students was 40 years old, because he had late started his studies. Table 2.1 better characterizes the participants of this study. Table 2.1 Distribution of deaf students by age and school year in control and experimental groups. Control group (n=30) Experimental group (n=30) 1st year nd year rd year Age years years (being 1 student 40 years old) Degree of deafness 1 in the experimental group: 36% of students deafness was mild or moderate, and for 64%, deafness was severe or profound. The majority of the students (93%) in this group understand and communicate well in Libras. 1 Determining the degree of hearing loss can be difficult, particularly with young children who do not test as well as older people who can provide more accurate results. There are basically four degrees of deafness (countries outside of the United States may not use the same terms): Mild - At db, a little difficulty hearing speech. Even a mild hearing loss can be serious for children still learning to talk. Moderate - At db, more difficulty hearing speech. Severe - At db, a lot of difficulty hearing speech. It is at this level that we begin to use the term "deaf." Profound - Anything over 85 db. With this level of hearing loss, hearing aids may or may not help; cochlear implants are often an option. Page 14 / 136

15 Degree of deafness in the control group: 48% of students deafness was mild or moderate, and for 52%, deafness was severe or profound. The majority of the students (83%) in this group understand and communicate well in Libras. The criteria for organizing the groups were the possibility of the students to adhere to the schedule of the activities Implementation procedure Experimental group The experimental group of deaf students had 8 meetings, circa 1h40min each, in total 12h, between September and November The activities were developed in CEM02 Ceilândia (10 students) and CED06 Taguatinga (20 students) The teacher used the DVD The use of qualitative models in science education for deaf and hearing students, for exploring the model Tree and Shade (also available at the QRM portal) to become acquainted with main concepts and qualitative reasoning modelling language. Next, the students were exposed to the model Global warming (Feltrini, 2009), a more advanced model. Additional texts were used to provide context for models and simulations, and the exercises developed for the DVD were applied to the students. Activity 1: presentation of the objectives of the project and competences and skills to be developed, and of the DVD The use of qualitative models in science education for deaf and hearing students ; PowerPoint presentation exploring the model Tree and Shade to become acquainted with main concepts and qualitative reasoning modelling language. Activity 2: Collection of data: pre-test including objective questions and a written essay about the theme Algal bloom. Expositive lecture and exploration of the model Tree and Shade with the support of the DVD; exercises about the concepts presented in the model. Activities 3-4: Expositive lecture and exploration of the model Tree and Shade with the support of the DVD; exercises about the concepts presented in the model. Activities 5-7: Expositive lectures and exploration of the model Global warming with the support of the DVD; exercises about the concepts presented in the model. Activity 8: A class with the model algal bloom, followed by the post-test. The students were also asked to answer a questionnaire. Control group The control group of deaf students had 2 meetings, circa 1h40min each, in total 3h and the activities occurred in October and November 2009 in CEMEB Brasilia (15 students) and in CED06 Taguatinga (15 students) Activity 1: Collection of data: pre-test including objective questions and a written essay about the theme Algal bloom. Activity 2: Expositive lecture, with Power Point presentation, about Algal bloom. Post-test about Algal bloom. Page 15 / 136

16 Design of data collection instruments Written tests Pre and Post-test were used to assess understanding of ecological concepts about the Algal Bloom model. The two tests consist of 15 questions involving phrases to be completed, or judged as Right or Wrong; most of these phrases followed the templates IF-THEN and Consequence BECAUSE Cause. Linguistic analyses of essays The test also included a theme for an essay, exploring causal relations between aspects of the algal bloom model, as for example: Consider a great quantity of domestic sewage was thrown in a lake, and as a result, a number of dead fishes appear. Explain what did happen in the lake. The linguistic performance of the students in the essays was assessed in accordance to the Theory of Relevance (Sperber and Wilson, 1995). Relevant information is information that modifies and improves an overall representation of the world. The improvements in the representation of the world are then traced via the workings of the human deductive device, which takes into account semantic properties that are reflected in the form of assumptions. For the authors, when the information is relevant, the human deductive device yields only non-trivial conclusions. In contrast to that, trivial conclusions leave the content of their assumptions unchanged (except for the addition of arbitrary material). We evaluate the students linguistic performance in written essays by assessing the number of trivial and non-trivial conclusions they derive. Two experienced researchers in Linguistics also observed the complexity of linguistic constructions found in the written essays, without quantifying them. Statistical analyses Both tests involving understand of concepts and the number of non-trivial and trivial conclusions produced in pre and post tests by experimental and control groups were analysed as follows: first, data were tested for the normality by means of the Shapiro-Wilk normality test. If the data fits to a normal distribution, we used the Paired t-test, otherwise, used the nonparametric Wilcoxon signed rank test. Tests were run in R (R Development Core Team, 2010), at the significance level of 5%. Questionnaire The questionnaire consists of 10 questions, asking the student s opinion about the DVD, Garp3, the exercises done during the course, the modelling language, clarity of the concepts expressed in qualitative models, vocabulary, clarity on the representation of causal relations, understanding domain knolwedge after playing with the models, contribution for the learning process and the use of the models in the classroom. The students should select one of the 4 following options: excellent, good, regular and bad Data analysis and variables measured This evaluation activity produced data about concepts related to the modelling language and topics in environmental science included in the secondary school curriculum and captured in Deliverable D6.1 as follows: Page 16 / 136

17 the modelling language: initially the students were exposed to a simple model, the Tree and Shade, in which entities, quantities, qualitative values, processes and direct influences, propagation of processes effects via proportionalities, correspondences, scenarios, behaviour graphs, causal model and value history diagrams were addressed. The representation of these modelling elements in sign language was also an issue, as the same signs would be reused in other models to represent similar modelling elements (Feltrini, 2009). global warming: some of the main causes of the global warming (industrial activities, agriculture, burning down forests and agricultural residues) are related to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and, after a certain limit, extreme events as floods, droughts, heath waves and the effects on agriculture, water availability, human health, migrations. algal bloom: nutrient excess in water bodies as the main cause of algal bloom, in which large amount of specific algae species biomass produce toxic substances that enter the food web and eventually concentrate in fish and invertebrates. High mortality rates of these animals cause problems to human beings, including the bad smell that comes out the water. The model also supports discussions about the importance of sewage treatment and nutrient removal of effluents. Statistical analysis of data about conceptual understanding Numerical data referring to the marks obtained by the students in the pre and post tests were analysed to test general hypotheses related to the use of experimental treatment (the use of qualitative models in learning concepts). Written texts Data collected in the written essays, both in experimental and control groups, were mostly related to the representation of causal reasoning. This type of reasoning, fundamental to derive non-trivial conclusions (section 2.2.3) from input information, was identified in the text be means of IF THEN utterances (even when these words were not used), and related formulations, as for example, BECAUSE, GIVEN THAT, THEREFORE. Numerical data referring to the total number of inferences, number of non-trivial conclusions and number of trivial conclusions expressed by the students in their written essays both in the pre and post tests were analysed to test general hypotheses related to the use of experimental treatment (the use of qualitative models in improving inferential reasoning) Results Page 17 / 136

18 Model as an instrument for learning concepts Table 2.2 Results of statistical analyses of pre and post-tests exploring ecological concepts applied to students in the experimental (n= 30) and control (n= 30) groups of deaf students. Item Nº Group DEAF Statistical and p value Student t Wilcoxon Significance Pre-Control x Pre-Experimental Pre-Control x Post-Control Pre-Experimental X Post-Experimental Post-Control x Post- Experimental t = 1,56 p = 0,12 v = 553 p = 0,13 NS t = -4,12 p < 0,01 v = 24 p < 0,01 HS t = -9,92 p < 0,001 v = 5 p < 0,001 HS t = 8,34 p < 0,001 v = 832 p < 0,001 HS With respect to the previous knowledge about the concepts addressed during the course, the difference between the two groups, experimental and control, was not significant, an important condition to assess the experimental treatment effects on the students behaviour; The experimental group presented significant improvement in conceptual understanding after the use of qualitative models, based on the results of post-test; A significant difference between the pre and post-test observed in the results of the control group indicates a learning effect in the expositive lecture Written tests analyses Table 2.3 Results of statistical analyses comparing texts written by deaf students of.experimental (n= 26) and control (n= 26) groups Group DEAF Pre-Control x Pre-Experimental Inferences Wilcoxon Test V and p values Significance Total of inferences V= 272,5; p= 0,45 NS Non-trivial conclusions V= 252,5; p= 0,81 NS Trivial conclusions V= 261,5; p= 0,56 NS Page 18 / 136

19 Pre-Control x Post-Control Pre-Experimental X Post-Experimental Post-Control X Post-Experimental Total of inferences V= 128,5; p= 0,06 NS Non-trivial conclusions V= 129; p= 0,06 NS Trivial conclusions V= 28; p= 0,39 NS Total of inferences V= 69,5; p= 0,03 S Non-trivial conclusions V= 51; p < 0,001 HS Trivial conclusions V= 56; p= 0,19 NS Total of inferences V= 132; p < 0,001 HS Non-trivial conclusions V=113,5; p < 0,001 HS Trivial conclusions V= 299; p= 0,13 NS No significant differences were found between the two groups pre-tests, concerning the total number of inferences, the number of non-trivial and of trivial conclusions; No significant differences were found between the control group pre and post-tests, concerning the total number of inferences, the number of non-trivial and of trivial conclusions; Significant differences were found between the experimental group s pre and post-tests, concerning the total number of inferences and the number of non-trivial conclusions, but no significant differences were found on the number of trivial conclusions; Significant differences were found between the post-tests of experimental and control groups, concerning the total number of inferences and the number of non-trivial conclusions, but no significant differences were found on the number of trivial conclusions. The quality of the written texts in the experimental group was better than in the control group, considering aspects of structure of the text and use of more elaborated formulations in the linguistic description of the causal relations active during the algal bloom Questionnaires Most deaf students said their general opinion about the DVD and the activities proposed in it are very good; Most deaf students said both the program Garp3 and the modelling language used to build the qualitative models were very good or good; Most deaf students rated as very good or good the clearness of the concepts expressed in the models, and as very good the vocabulary used to describe the addressed subjects in qualitative models; The clearness in the presentation of the cause-effect relations was rated as good or very good by the deaf students; Page 19 / 136

20 Most of deaf students said their understanding about the issues presented after having studied the qualitative models was very good or good, and that the contribution of the models to their learning process was very good. Most of them support the use of qualitative models in the classroom. The complete table of questions and answers to the questionnaire is presented in Annex A Discussion This study has shown positive effects of qualitative models in four aspects related to the educational development of deaf students: representation of modelling elements in Brazilian Sign Language (Libras); improvement on conceptual understanding of environmental science topics; development of inferential reasoning skills and improvement on the use of written Portuguese language. The use of Libras in the DVD was essential for the communication of scientific concepts to deaf students Conceptual understanding With respect to improvement on conceptual understanding in the results of pre and post-tests, the evaluation activity has shown that comparison between the post-tests results in the two groups support the conclusion that the use of qualitative conceptual models has produced better results Inferential reasoning With respect to improvement on inferential reasoning skills, the study has shown that the use of the software can provide a better development of making non-trivial conclusions, than the traditional expository lecture, meaning an improvement in reasoning skills particularly in inferential reasoning Questionnaires The analysis of the questionnaires has shown that the students were very satisfied with the use of Libras to explain scientific concepts and approved the use of qualitative models and Garp3. Motivation issues are very important for learning processes and in the present study motivation plays a key role for the well succeeded learning. The modelling language was accessible to them and considered to be a very good way of systems representation. However, some deaf students considered regular the modelling language, the clearness of the concept representation, vocabulary and cause-effect representation, factors that may result in difficulties for understanding the system. These results may be related to the complexity of the qualitative modelling enterprise and to the novelty of the whole approach. Future work may look for means to reduce this impression. Understanding of concepts effectively worked out with the support of the models. The students have a positive view on the contribution of qualitative models to their learning process, and would be keen in using these models in the classroom. Page 20 / 136

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