Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Reflecting on Thermodynamics - Content and Process - Section 3: Kinetic Theory Exercise


I'd like to elaborate on one student's response that I captured on the board.  When comparing his solid model to his liquid model, one can see that the lines he drew changed from straight to wavy.

While at the board, I asked him to describe the differences in those lines. He said he used solid lines for strong bonds and wavy lines for weak ones. He also offered that the number of bonds wasn't any different, only the strength of the bonds.

This offered us the opportunity to discuss the true nature of the bonds; the tiny electrical asymmetries of molecules that create inter-molecular forces. Furthermore, it prompted some discussion about the strength of the bonds versus distance, the breaking of some bonds in liquids, followed by the rapid establishment of new bonds with new "neighbors," and the relative difference in the motion of the particles in different states ("slow" in solids, "faster" in liquids, etc.).

This was a little bit of a tricky conversation as students come into this course with a wide variety of backgrounds. These students have a common 8th- and 9th-grade science experience but are allowed to choose science courses from the 10th-grade on. Those students who have had Chemistry are fully prepared to talk about inter-molecular forces while those that haven't are less likely to have a rich understanding of the molecular world. The next unit will bring all students up to a common understanding of electrical forces but, for now, there exists a bit of a gap.

  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: Student Samples
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Reflecting on Thermodynamics - Content and Process

Unit 1: Thermodynamics
Lesson 14 of 14

Objective: Students will look back at this unit on Thermodynamics and self-assess their understandings.

Big Idea: We set aside time to reflect upon our learning.

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