P219: “I’m an electron, and you’re the nucleus:” Using representations to design particulate nature of matter activities for elementary students
Representations have been powerful tools to investigate students’ content knowledge as well as their understandings of the use of these representations in the teaching and learning of science. The act of constructing a representation for the purpose of teaching also seemed to us to be a powerful way for student teachers to learn content and to uncover their own alternative conceptions. This study investigated the use of representations in a final project in a chemistry course designed specifically for pre-service elementary teachers. The student teachers were asked to create an activity that would facilitate elementary students’ understanding of the particulate nature of matter (PNOM). They were specifically asked to use and/or create representations of PNOM when designing their activity. Our study focused on the pre-service elementary teachers’ understanding of the representations they used and/or created for their activities. Data for this study included representations generated by the pre-service teachers as well as interviews with these pre-service teachers about those representations. We report on the types of representations selected for the project and the strengths and weaknesses in the student teachers’ understanding of PNOM. Implications for using representations in teaching will also be discussed.