Ashok Goel Leads NSF Award-Winning Team

September 14, 2006

(September 15, 2006)—College of Computing Associate Professor Ashok Goel, along with his research team from Georgia Tech and Rutgers University, recently won a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Learning Technology Program. The team will receive approximately $640,000 over the next three years to pursue fundamental research on the learning of mental models.

The award-winning proposal is titled "Learning About Complex Systems by Constructing Structure-Behavior-Function Models," and will explore how people understand complex systems; what is the content of their mental models; what are the processes of learning mental models; and how might computational technology be used to enhance learning of mental models in middle schools?

Based on Goel's earlier work in cognitive science, the project’s central hypothesis is that humans typically understand the functioning of complex systems at multiple levels of teleological abstraction, where each teleological subsystem is specified in terms of the causal processes that achieve its functions.

Goel and his team will develop an interactive learning environment for constructing teleological models of classroom aquaria, where aquaria are complex biological systems with causal processes ranging from high-level ecological cycles to low-level chemical reactions. The team will also develop learning strategies, lesson plans, and evaluation measures and tests for using the learning environment in middle school classrooms.

“The net result of this research,” says Goel, “will be a deeper understanding of learning of mental models, and a technology for fostering the learning of mental models such that the modeling concepts and constructs are transferable to other domains.”

In addition to Ashok Goel, the NSF award-winning team also includes College of Computing Senior Research Scientist Spencer Rugaber, and Rutgers Assistant Professors Cindy Hmelo-Silver (Educational Psychology), and Rebecca Jordan (Ecology).

For more information about the NSF Advanced Leaning Technology Program, click here.

For more information about Ashok Goel, click here.