GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 137-10
Presentation Time: 4:00 PM


TINIGIN, Laura, Department of Geosciences and the Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 West Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008, PETCOVIC, Heather L., Department of Geosciences and The Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5241 and LADUE, Nicole, Geology and Environmental Geosciences, Northern Illinois University, 302 Davis Hall, Normal Road, DeKalb, IL 60115,

Spatial scale is an important aspect of learning, teaching, and research in the geosciences; for example, spatial scale plays a role in understanding processes as small as crystal structures and as large as subduction zone dynamics, as well as integrating these to develop a dynamic, holistic representation of the earth. Many undergraduates are unfamiliar with the changes in magnitude and the abstract nature of very large and very small scales outside of normal day-to-day human experiences. Compounding these difficulties, many students in the US lack familiarity with the metric system nomenclature, which impacts their ability to convert from native US customary measurement to the closest metric measurement. These challenges can hinder perceptions of scales presented in science courses and contribute to students leaving science majors.

Our survey assesses undergraduate students’ familiarity with the sub-meter metric scale. This online survey quantifies individuals’ self-reported familiarity of sub-meter metric units (nanometers, micrometers, millimeters, centimeters, and meters). Participants rated their familiarity with both sub-meter measurement units and with tiny objects commonly used in science courses on a four point Likert scale. Participants rank ordered these units and objects from largest to smallest. Approximately 200 participants completed the survey through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Pilot results suggest that undergraduates report less familiarity with the smallest measurements (e.g., nanometer, micrometer) and are less accurate at rank ordering these units. Similarly, the smaller common objects were least likely to be correctly rank ordered. This instrument can be used to assess student perception of scale to determine appropriate interventions.