Impact of Introductory Nanoscience Course on College Freshmen's Conceptions of Spatial Scale

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Conceptions of spatial scale are one of four unifying science education themes recommended by Benchmarks for Science Literacy from AAAS. Because many of the cutting edges of science occur at spatial scales far removed from everyday human experience, including the nanometer scale, students may have difficulty developing solid conceptions of spatial scale that are useful for enhancing science literacy at the frontiers of science. This study explored the length and nature of instructional experiences required to measurably impact students' conceptions of scale. The two parameters of target audience and length of nanoscience instructional time were delimited to focus on college freshmen in a semester-long course. Data sources included 4 written instruments that students completed at the beginning and end of the course and 4 interviews spaced throughout the course of a selected subset of the students. Results were framed against an external landscape of scale conceptions, and showed that by the end of the course students shifted toward scale conceptions similar to experts. Results provided evidence that a development of spatial scale conceptions to become similar to that of experts may be attainable by motivated, interested college freshmen in just a one-semester course.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2010

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  • The Journal of Nano Education (JNE) is a peer-reviewed international journal that aims to provide the most complete and reliable source of information on current developments in nanoscale science, technology, engineering, and medical education.
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