PRISMS: Phenomena & Representation for Instruction of Science in Middle School

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This is a representation reviewed for the following learning goal:

Since different substances have different characteristic properties, a mixture of substances can often be separated into the original substances using one or more of these properties.

Summary

This interactive simulation allows "lab attendants" to separate mixtures using virtual tools, the choice of which is based upon substances' physical properties, and findings are recorded in a chart. It addresses the part of the key idea about different substances having different properties, and that a mixture of substances can often be separated into the original substances using one of these properties. The simulation is likely to be comprehensible to middle school students, but it does not help students understand that a mixture can be separated into the original substances, using one or more of the characteristic properties.

Limitations
The resource does not address "characteristic" properties. The simplistic illustrations make it difficult to discern what the actual substances look like.

Suggestions to improve effectiveness:
Include the concept of "characteristic properties" when discussing the simulation. Students should experience separating mixtures of substances using characteristic properties prior to conducting the simulation.  

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Detailed Review

Description

The representation illustrates the separation of mixtures using physical properties. The interactive simulation allows "lab attendants" to separate mixtures using virtual tools. Separation mechanisms are chosen based upon substances' physical properties, and findings are recorded in a chart.

  • Resource Copyright Owner: Copyright © by Harcourt, Inc.
  • Type of Resource: audio/wav


Content alignment

The resource addresses the actual substance of the learning goal rather than just the topic.

Explanation

The accompanying text defines a mixture as a combination of two or more substances, and notes that the substances keep their original physical properties. The resource then directs the user to separate mixtures of substances based on their properties.

Scope

The resource addresses the indicated part of the learning goal:

Explanation

[Since different substances have different] characteristic [properties, a mixture of substances can often be separated into the original substances using one] or more [of these properties.]

Sophistication

The resource correctly reflects the level of sophistication of the learning goal.

Explanation

The resource describes mixtures at the substance level, and defines mixtures based on a combination of two or more substances that keep their original properties.

Notes for Teachers

Include the concept of "characteristic properties" when discussing the representation.

Quality of instructional support

Does the representation accurately represent relevant aspects of the learning goal and/or brings out limitations that are not accurate?

Yes—The representation accurately represents relevant aspects of the learning goal and brings out inaccuracies, if there are any.

The representation illustrates that mixtures can be separated into the original substances using physical properties of the substances.

Is the representation likely to be comprehensible to students?

No—The representation is not likely to make the learning goal comprehensible to students.

The simulation does not help students understand the learning goal, a mixture can be separated into the original substances, using one or more of the characteristic properties. The illustrations of the mixtures are simplistic, which makes it difficult to interpret their composition. The order of the mixtures is not the same order as the data table. Some of the virtual tools will not be familiar to students, and some of the chart choices of properties that allow for separation are ambiguous (e.g. "size of particles", "size of mud particles").

Does the representation make clear which aspects of the real thing are represented and which are not?

Partial—The representation usually, but not always, makes clear which aspects of the real thing are represented and which are not.

The simulation illustrates the separation of mixtures using the properties of the original substances. The simplistic illustrations make it difficult to discern what the actual substances look like (e.g. the dust particles in the flask)

Summary Judgment

Useful with modification

Notes to teachers

Students should have firsthand experience separating mixtures of substances prior to conducting the simulation. These experiences can lead students to the understanding that a mixture can be separated into the original substances using characteristic properties. During the simulation, provide students an opportunity to predict what will happen to each mixture based upon their tool choice and explain the characteristic property that will allow the separation to occur before they drag the tool to the mixture.

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