Akiri, E., Tal, M., Peretz, R., Dori, D. & Dori, Y. J. (Online First, Oct. 2020)
Applied Sciences. 10, 7417; doi:10.3390/app10217417
Modeling and systems thinking skills, as well as scientific understanding, are necessary for comprehending complex, food-related processes. The aim of this research was to evaluate the effect of food-related learning units on graduate students’ systems thinking and modeling skills, as well as on their understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) issues. In this research, six STEM experts constructed a conceptual model of the codfish tracking process using Object-Process Methodology. Next, 15 STEM graduate students, who are prospective teachers, participated in a graduate course, which includes four online units on food production processes based on their respective models. Research tools included an expert focus group, student assignments, and questionnaires. Modeling and scientific understanding rubrics were adapted and validated for analysis of the assignments. We found a significant difference in the scores of systems thinking and modeling skills between students with modeling background and those without. Based of students’ feedback along the course, learning in context of food and sustainability also contributed to developing these skills. The contribution is the combination of food production and conceptual models for developing STEM teachers’ systems thinking and modeling skills, and their scientific understanding of food processes and sustainability issues.