Computational scientific inquiry with virtual worlds and agent-based models

new ways of doing science to learn science

Michael J. Jacobson*, Charlotte E. Taylor, Deborah Richards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we propose computational scientific inquiry (CSI) as an innovative model for learning important scientific knowledge and new practices for “doing” science. This approach involves the use of a “game-like” virtual world for students to experience virtual biological fieldwork in conjunction with using an agent-based computer model to enable computational inquiry activities. After an overview of literature into learning about scientific inquiry and the use of virtual worlds and game-like systems for learning science, we provide a description of the technology systems we developed and the methods of the study. The results are reported of a two-week intervention involving the use of a CSI approach in two eighth-grade classes that found significant learning gains by students. The paper concludes with a discussion of the findings and a consideration of CSI more generally for learning important and difficult scientific knowledge and practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2080-2108
Number of pages29
JournalInteractive Learning Environments
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2016


  • biology
  • computational scientific inquiry
  • computer models
  • productive failure
  • virtual worlds

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