P522: Investigating students’ conceptual boundaries of scale
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has outlined four themes that define science literacy; these are systems, models, constancy and change, and scale. More recently, the National Research Council has released the framework for K-12 science education that includes “Scale, Proportion, and Quantity”. Our research has already shown that scale literacy is a better predictor for success in a general chemistry course than traditional measures and integrating scale as a theme in the undergraduate general chemistry curriculum has been accomplished through a variety of methods. Of particular interest was developing a laboratory sequence that not only helped students increase their knowledge of scale concepts but also gave feedback into the conceptual boundaries of scale held by students. One activity, adapted from the work of Gail Jones that specifically targeted these goals was trialed in a course-wide experiment. In this activity students created “bins” to sort objects spanning a wide range of sizes and then given 20 cards containing the names of objects to sort into their bins. The preliminary data collected from this activity shows that students frequently operate within a very narrow range of scale, typically centered around the height of an adult. Additionally, students often lumped all nonvisible items into a single bin, ignoring the many orders of magnitude separating these objects. Finally, when asked to place the items in order within their bins, students struggled to correctly order the nonvisible items. The analysis of this activity and the implications for these findings will be discussed.