Characterizing and scaffolding students' conceptions of size and scale

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Scale concepts transcend disciplinary boundaries of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology because they are essential for performing explanations, theory generation, observation, and activities associated with design. Current research related to size and scale has identified several different levels of understanding which suggest a developmental trajectory of students’ learning of these conceptions. In addition, instructional strategies have been proposed to scaffold students’ conceptions of size and scale. The purpose of this presentation is threefold: a) to propose a framework for assessing students’ understanding of size and scale cognition and for informing the development of instructional materials, b) to identify students’ ability to discriminate finer qualitative units for size and scale of different objects, and c) to identify the effectives of web-based interactive media and potential instructional strategies that may have an impact on students’ understanding of size and scale cognition. Participants from an undergraduate level course in educational computing were assigned to one of three online tools designed to convey various concepts of size and scale. Results from pre/post measure illustrate positive effects of these treatments on increasing learners’ discrimination and generalization of scale and the scientific nomenclature defining these categories. Limitations of the research will be discussed and input from the audience to overcome those will be sought.


Alejandra de J. Magana de Leon Alejandra de J. Magana de Leon is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Network for Computational Nanotechnology NCN and the School of Engineering Education ENE at Purdue University.

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  • Alejandra J. Magana (2009), "Characterizing and scaffolding students' conceptions of size and scale,"

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FRNY B124, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN