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  • Created 25 Feb 2014

Go to the Nano Education Research Page


This group discusses a survey developed to assess students’ exposure to, awareness of, and motivation to do nanotechnology. The draft version of some papers cited in this group can be found on the resources tab. We welcome and encourage contributions and discussions. (You can contribute substantial resources to through the resource contribution process, and then send a message to the group manager so that links to those resources can be added to this group.)

The initial materials of this group page have been developed by the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) Education Research team. The NCN Education Research team is constantly working to increase students’ awareness and understanding of nanotechnology, while contributing to the literature about nanotechnology education.

Summary of Categories:

Impact on nanoHUB users

The Nanotechnology Reflection Survey used in this study can be implemented in nanoHUB to measure nanotechnology awareness, exposure, and motivation of nanoHUB users. The survey can be implemented before and after exposure to nanoHUB tools. The developed coding scheme can be applied to the knowledge prompt responses of users to examine the effectiveness of nanoHUB interventions in changing users’ knowledge of nanotechnology.

Nano Survey Explanation

Several studies in the literature have shown that awareness about nanotechnology is very low in the public (Cobb & Macoubrie, 2004; Kahan, Slovic, Braman, Gastil, & Cohen, 2007; Waldron, Spencer, & Batt, 2006). To raise the nanotechnology awareness, several initiatives have been reported about integrating nanotechnology into undergraduate classrooms. As an example, nanotechnology engineering courses utilizing lectures, team projects, hands-on lab activities (e.g. synthesizing nanoparticles) and similar pedagogic approaches were designed (Hersam et al., 2004; Jiao & Barakat, 2011). It is necessary to investigate whether such interventions are effective in promoting the desired outcomes like increased awareness, exposure and motivation. Diefes-Dux and colleagues specifically designed an instrument to measure relevant aspects of student awareness of, exposure to and motivation for nanotechnology (Diefes-Dux et al., 2007). After the initial study, they revised the instrument, analyzed it’s psychometric characteristics, and reported their findings in another study (Dyehouse et al., 2008).

Nano Survey in this project takes its roots from these two studies. The current version of the survey includes 5-point scale items and open-ended questions. The survey is being used in pre-post fashion in first-year engineering to measure student awareness, exposure and motivation related to nanotechnology.

Scale: Awareness
8 questions / 5-point scale
Ex: I can name a nanoscale-sized object. (Strongly Agree – … – Strongly Disagree)

Scale: Exposure
6 questions / 5-point scale
Ex: I have heard the term nanotechnology. (A Great Deal – … – Not at All/Never)
1 question “Other”

Scale: Motivation
17 questions / 5-point scale
Ex: I plan to read a fiction story about nanotechnology. (Strongly Agree – … – Strongly Disagree)

Open-Ended Questions
2 questions
Describe five (5) things that you know about nanotechnology
Describe five (5) questions that you have about nanotechnology


Cobb, M. D., & Macoubrie, J. (2004). Public perceptions about nanotechnology: Risks, benefits and trust. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 6, 395–405.

Diefes-Dux, H. A., Dyehouse, M., Bennett, D., & Imbrie, P. K. (2007). Nanotechnology awareness of first-year food and agriculture students following a brief exposure. Journal of Natural Resources & Life Sciences Education, 36(1), 58–65.

Dyehouse, M. A., Diefes-Dux, H. A., Bennett, D. E., & Imbrie, P. K. (2008). Development of an instrument to measure undergraduates’ nanotechnology awareness, exposure, motivation, and knowledge. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 17(5), 500–510.

Hersam, M. C., Luna, M., & Light, G. (2004). Implementation of interdisciplinary group learning and peer assessment in a nanotechnology engineering course. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(1), 49–57.

Jiao, L. (Heidi), & Barakat, N. (2011). Balanced depth and breadth in a new interdisciplinary nanotechnology course. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 40(1), 75–87.

Kahan, D., Slovic, P., Braman, D., Gastil, J., & Cohen, G. (2007). Affect, values, and nanotechnology risk perceptions: an experimental investigation. GWU Legal Studies Research Paper, (261).

Waldron, A. M., Spencer, D., & Batt, C. A. (2006). The current state of public understanding of nanotechnology. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 8(5), 569–575.

Nano Survey Quantitative Results

In Spring 2013, fourteen sections of first year engineering students at Purdue University were introduced to nanotechnology in an introductory engineering course. In a pre/posttest quasi-experimental design, the course sections were split into experimental and control groups. The experimental course sections (6 sections n=496) implemented a mathematical modeling project and a simulation design project related to nanotechnology. The control course sections (8 sections n=703) implemented only the mathematical modeling project.

Intervention: Nanotechnology related semester-long simulation design project
Sample size for experimental group: 703
Sample size for comparison group: 496

The results revealed that on average, when accounting for pretests scores, experimental groups had significantly higher posttests than control groups, for all three variables, awareness – F(1,987)=109.49, p<.000, r=0.32; exposure – F(1,987)=180.42, p<.000, r=0.39; and motivation – F(1,987)= 24.95, p<.000, r=0.16. This implies that when implemented together, simulation design projects and mathematical modeling projects are more effective than only mathematical modeling projects in terms of increasing student awareness, exposure and motivation related to nanotechnology.



Nano Survey Qualitative Findings

Responses to “I know ________ about nanotechnology.”

Three researchers analyzed 930 of the responses to “Describe five (5) things you know about nanotechnology” prompt in the survey and developed a coding scheme by using open and axial coding. The coding scheme development process included nine revisions with the most recent inter-rater reliability (IRR) estimate of 81%. The final coding scheme has 4 categories which are “Various aspects of nanotechnology” (size/measurement, cost, impact on human life…), “Specific/General” (an indicator of detail in responses), “Applications” (military, medical, energy…) and “Other” (nonresponse and uncodable).

The coding scheme allows multiple coding for each response.For example, “Solar Cells use nanotechnology” is coded as “Products&amp;Materials”, “General”, and “Energy”.

One researcher has recently applied this coding scheme to 1640 responses in two different sections (an experimental group section and a control group section) and responses are currently being analyzed.

<Responses to “I have questions about ________ about nanotechnology.”


ADD THE FIE 2014 PAPER HERE>, a resource for nanoscience and nanotechnology, is supported by the National Science Foundation and other funding agencies. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.