Reasoning about Feedback Loops

Wednesday 4:30pm-5:45pm Beren Auditorium
Poster Session Part of Wednesday Poster Session


Rebekah Banerjee, Temple University
Tim Shipley, Temple University
Understanding the role of feedback loops in the geosciences and related fields is an important yet challenging topic for students and teachers alike. Grasping the patterns that tend to arise in dynamic systems, and furthermore anticipating their relevance in novel scenarios, is a skill that students struggle to acquire and instructors struggle to teach. Understanding the central importance of a feedback loop to global and societal problems and their solutions is crucial for the classroom and for the broader public. How students reason about feedback loops and how best to teach the implications and effects of feedback loops within a system is not well understood. We aim to develop a foundational understanding about how novices reason about feedback loops when they first encounter them. By characterizing the errors they make, we ultimately aim to provide direction for the teaching about feedback loops. We present novice participants with single examples of feedback loops and ask them to generate their own detailed examples. We will present an initial qualitative analysis of students' examples. We aim to characterize the progression of student knowledge from partial understanding to a more complete understanding of the functioning of feedback loops within a complex system. We will discuss some potential applications for classroom activities that might support targeted aspects of feedback loop reasoning.