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Making complex concepts accessible through hands-on analogs by ECW97R

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									                  Making complex
                concepts accessible
                 through hands-on
                      analogs
                  An example teaching
               Radioactive Decay & Dating
         Lily Lowery Claiborne
             Calvin F. Miller

            Vanderbilt University
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
       Context & Motivation
  Earth and Environmental Sciences – 101
           2 types of concepts




  Familiar, Intuitive, Easily Reproduced in Lab




Not Visible, Unfamiliar, Non-intuitive, Cannot be
                Reproduced in Lab
                Questions
    Can students learn complex, non-intuitive
  scientific concepts better when they can work
     hands-on with an analog experiment than
            through traditional lecture?

Can they appropriately transfer the things they
 learn from the analog experiment to the original
                    concept?

               Hypothesis
                  YES!
Test teaching Radioactive Decay & Dating
                    Study Design
          All Students in Intro Geology (~100)
1.     Students attend traditional lecture on topic
2.     Students come to lab in groups of ~20
         - Take pretest on topic
         - Perform analog activity
         - Take post-test (identical to pretest)
                   Learning Goals
•    What controls radioactive decay?
•    How do we use radioactive decay for dating?
•    Make Predictions about decay/dating
•    Understand (and use) the decay equation
          Student Activity (briefly)
                    Fluid pressure behaves the same way
                            as Radioactive Decay
Parent                  Students observe the process of
Isotope                shampoo running through beakers,
                         observing details & variations

                     Gather data & plot to create equation
Daughter
            Decay     Use equation to date someone else’s
Isotope
                                  experiment

                    Describe what is controlling the process

                    Discuss what this indicates about the
                        process of radioactive decay
                                                              Results
                           “It slows down as it goes, so as there is less parent, there is less decay.”

                           “The larger the decay constant or the more parent material, the faster it
                                                             decays!”

                           “If the decay constant depends on what the parent material is, does that
                                mean different kinds of parent isotopes decay at different rates?”
                                 “So, if you started running out of parent material, would it decay
                                   sporadically, like the shampoo starts to slowly drip at the end?”


                                 Student Confidence                                         Quiz Performance             pre-test
                      18                                                               80                                post-test
Number of Responses




                      16                                                               70
                      14                                                               60
                      12                                               Number of Correct
                                                                                       50
                      10                                                  Responses
                                                                                       40
                       8
                       6                                                               30
                       4                                                               20
                       2                                                               10
                       0                                                                0
                             1    2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10                         1   2   3   4   5   6   7
                           relative confidence (lowest to highest)                               Question Number
                        Conclusions
 Can students learn complex, non-intuitive scientific concepts better when
they can work hands-on with an analog experiment than through traditional
                                  lecture?
               YES – improved understanding and confidence
  Can they appropriately transfer the things they learn from the analog
                    experiment to the original concept?
  YES – there was only one student who talked about shampoo instead of
                         isotopes on the post test
                                 Problems:
                              Misconceptions
  Resistance to think past the specific conditions covered in the activity
                    Unclear questions on pre/post test

                      This Semester
•Repeat study in all 101 lab sections
•Revise questions for clarity
•Have students explore variations on the basic system, then ask them to
think of others on the post test
•Specifically address misconceptions revealed last semester
Thank You!

								
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