P130: High school students’ use and development of atomic models that are based on understanding electrostatic interactions
Research has shown that students generally have simple, incomplete models of atoms. Students’ models of atoms often do not include electrostatic interactions and students struggle to use atomic structure to explain or make predictions about how atoms or molecules interact with each other (Griffiths &Preston, 1992; Stevens, Delgado, &Krajcik, 2010). In this design-based research project, curriculum materials are being developed with the aim of supporting students’ development of atomic models that are based on electrostatic interactions. An iterative process was used to develop, test, and revise the curriculum materials. In the curriculum students first study macro-scale phenomena related to electrostatic interactions. Next, students develop their own model of atomic structure in order to describe their observations. At the end of the unit, randomly selected students were interviewed about their development of atomic models. This paper discusses the results of those interviews and the nature of the atomic models students developed. In general, students were able to use their atomic models to explain a range of phenomena. However, students struggled to support their models based on the evidence they were given related to atomic structure.