April 17th, 2009
Middle school students were asked to critique three representations of DNA nucleotide strands - a paper-and-pencil static representation, a tangible representation using “pop beads” to represent nucleotides, and a computer simulation - that they used in design tasks within an instructional unit on nanoscale self-assembly. Student responses were coded into six response categories. Responses generally focused on visual and interactive affordances of representations rather than issues of enjoyment or task difficulty. Positive responses outnumbered criticisms, with visual affordances dominating negative responses. Distribution among response categories varied little across representational forms, but the simulation elicited the strongest positive response, with the paper-and-pencil representation drawing the strongest criticisms. This study provides tentative support for the explicit introduction of representational critique generally, and further, for the use of multiple representations as stimuli for such activities, especially when the phenomenon are from domains in which the learners lack direct experience or prior understandings.
Moher, T., López Silva, B., Daly, S., Bernasconi, M., Response Characteristics of Middle School Learners’ Critiques of Nanoscale Phenomena Representations, Proceedings of the 2009 NARST Annual International Conference, Garden Grove, CA, April 17th, 2009.