Students' and Teachers' Conceptions of Surface Area to Volume in Science Contexts: What Factors Influence the Understanding of the Concept of Scale?

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Title: Students' and Teachers' Conceptions of Surface Area to Volume in Science Contexts: What Factors Influence the Understanding of the Concept of Scale?
Author: Taylor, Amy Rebecca
Advisors: Dr. Gail Jones, Committee Chair
Abstract: The National Science Education Standards emphasize teaching unifying concepts and processes such as basic functions of living organisms, the living environment, and scale (NRC, 1996). Since the relationship of surface area to volume is a pervasive concept that can be found throughout different sciences, it is important for students to not only understand the association of the two, but to also be able to apply it to various situations. The purpose of this study is to investigate the factors that influence the understanding of the concept of scale involving surface area to volume relationships. The first study reported here describes a pilot study with middle school participants in which the correlation between proportional reasoning ability and a student’s ability to understand surface area to volume relationships was explored. The results of this study showed there was a statistically significant correlation between proportional reasoning scores and the surface area to volume posttest scores. This correlation was explored further in the second study in which middle school students’, high school students’, and science teachers’ abilities in proportional reasoning, visual-spatial skills, and understanding surface area to volume relationships were assessed. Regression results indicated that all participants’ proportional reasoning and visual-spatial scores could be a possible predictor for one’s ability to understand surface area to volume relationships. Discussion of the results is followed by implications for teaching scale concepts such as surface area to volume in the science classroom.
Date: 2009-03-11
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Science Education
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/5212


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