Discovering the power of individual-based modelling in teaching and learning: the study of a predator–prey system
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The general aim is to promote the use of individual- based models (biological agent-based models) in teaching and learning contexts in life sciences and to make their progressive incorporation into academic curricula easier, complementing other existing modelling strategies more frequently used in the classroom. Modelling activities for the study of a predator–prey system for a mathematics classroom in the first year of an undergraduate program in biosystems engineering have been designed and implemented. These activities were designed to put two modelling approaches side by side, an individual-based model and a set of ordinary differential equations. In order to organize and display this, a system with wolves and sheep in a confined domain was considered and studied. With the teaching material elaborated and a computer to perform the numerical resolutions involved and the corresponding individual-based simulations, the students answered questions and completed exercises to achieve the learning goals set. Students’ responses regarding the modelling of biological systems and these two distinct methodologies applied to the study of a predator–prey system were collected via questionnaires, open-ended queries and face-toface dialogues. Taking into account the positive responses of the students when they were doing these activities, it was clear that using a discrete individual-based model to deal with a predator–prey system jointly with a set of ordinary differential equations enriches the understanding of the modelling process, adds new insights and opens novel perspectives of what can be done with computational models versus other models. The complementary views given by the two modelling approaches were very well assessed by students.
CitationGinovart, M. Discovering the power of individual-based modelling in teaching and learning: the study of a predator–prey system. "Journal of science education and technology", 2013, p. 1-18.
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