Abstract for: Interacting representations – how students discuss, construct and use representations within a System Dynamics framework

When students learn to master system dynamics methodology they are introduced to tools and conventions for representing systems and the dynamics in them. This study explores how students collaboratively construct models of dynamic systems in the form of Causal Loop Diagrams (CLDs). Our focus is on the role of the graphic representation in the students’ interaction and communication. The work process, comprising both the students’ discussions and physical actions, reveal their process of making meaning. The results show that the evolving graphical representation serves as a major resource in students' meaning making. It is also shown that preconceptions are influential, but sometimes hard to incorporate in a new representational format. Different representational formats interact. For example a phase graph, showing static optimums, influences the process of developing CLDs. Our study also reveals how students recurrently check and validate their CLD by using counterfactual conditional statements.