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Learning progressions in context: Tensions and insights from a semester-long middle school modeling curriculum


"Schwarz and colleagues have proposed and refined a learning progression for modeling that provides a valuable template for envisioning increasingly sophisticated levels of modeling practice at an aggregate level (Fortus, Shwartz, & Rosenfeld, 2016; Schwarz et al., 2009; Schwarz, Reiser, Archer, Kenyon, & Fortus, 2012). Thinking about learning progressions for modeling, however, involves challenges in coordinating between aggregate arcs in the curriculum and individual student learning trajectories. First, individual student performance is often dependent on students' epistemic aims and the nature of the conceptual and representational context. Second, approaches for longitudinally supporting students in modeling is a relatively nascent endeavor, although notable exemplars have been developed (e.g., IQWST). Third, research on the highest levels of the proposed progression is often hypothetical, because few students demonstrate high-level modeling practices in typical classrooms. In response to these challenges, we conducted a semester-long design-based study of eighth graders engaging in diagrammatic, physical, and computational modeling. In this paper, we explore conceptual and representational contexts designed to support sophisticated modeling practices and beliefs, analyze the nature of high-level performances achieved through these contexts, and suggest revisions to the articulation of the Schwarz and colleagues learning progression to increase its utility and generalizability when viewed through a resource-related lens."