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An Atom is Known by the Company it Keeps: Content, Representation and Pedagogy Within the Epistemic Revolution of the Complexity Sciences

An Atom is Known by the Company it Keeps: Content, Representation and Pedagogy Within the Epistemic Revolution of the Complexity Sciences

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Published by: rpietro on Jan 01, 2010
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NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY  An Atom is Known by the Company it Keeps: Content, Representation andPedagogy Within the Epistemic Revolution of the Complexity Sciences A DISSERTATIONSUBMITTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL IN PARTIALFULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTSfor the degreeDOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Field of the Learning SciencesBy Paulo BliksteinEvanston, Illinois June 2009
UMI Number: 3
INFORMATION TO USERSThe quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copysubmitted. Broken or indistinct print, colored or poor quality illustrations andphotographs, print bleed-through, substandard margins, and improper alignment can adversely affect reproduction.In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscriptand there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if unauthorizedcopyright material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion.
UMI Microform 3
Copyright 2009 by ProQuest LLCAll rights reserved. This microform edition is protected againstunauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.
ProQuest LLC789 East Eisenhower ParkwayP.O. Box 1346Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346
 An atom is known by the company it keeps: Content, representation andpedagogy within the epistemic revolution of the complexity sciencesPaulo Blikstein
The goal of this dissertation is to explore relations between content, representation, and peda-gogy, so as to understand the impact of the nascent field of complexity sciences on science, tech-nology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning. Wilensky & Papert coined the term“structurations” to express the relationship between knowledge and its representational infra-structure. A change from one representational infrastructure to another they call a “restructura-tion.” The complexity sciences have introduced a novel and powerful structuration:
agent- based modeling.
In contradistinction to traditional mathematical modeling, which relies onequational descriptions of macroscopic properties of systems, agent-based modeling focuses ona few archetypical micro-behaviors of “agents” to explain emergent macro-behaviors of the agentcollective.Specifically, this dissertation is about a series of studies of undergraduate students’ learning of materials science, in which two structurations are compared (equational and agent-based), con-sisting of both design research and empirical evaluation. I have designed
a con-structionist suite of computer models, supporting materials and learning activities designed within the approach of agent-based modeling, and over four years conducted an empirical inves-

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