Units and dimensions are seldom addressed formally in science classrooms, despite being one of the most fundamental and ubiquitous tools available to scientists. Even worse, science and engineering graduates are often moving into careers without fundamentally understanding units and their importance, leading to struggles in developing scientific literacy and to several tragedies in recent years.
This thesis develops a hypothetical learning progression for units and dimensions that could be used to model lessons, activities, and curricula within science classrooms, directly guiding students in developing competencies specifically related to the skills, concepts, and sensemaking strategies related to units and dimensions.
Development starts with synthesizing research literature on learning progressions, units and dimensions, and science pedagogy into a hypothetical learning progression. Then, validation of the hypothetical model begins by creating a series of codes that can be used to analyze student work from the second of three sophomore-level calculus-based introductory physics courses, to evaluate the efficacy of the hypothetical model at reacting how students learn the material in practice. Finally, the results are analyzed and guidelines for further evaluation and development will be discussed.
Several aspects of the learning progression were found to model how students learn and apply the content in the real world, specifically the earlier sections. There were some areas of the hypothetical learning progression that could be expanded upon, and dissected further, but the current structure held up to the first round of validation levied at it. The data gathered also validated the need for a greater emphasis on units and dimensions as a tool in science classrooms, adding a greater sense of need for the learning progression as a whole.
With the development of this learning progression, in the future, educators will be armed with a step-by-step holistic guide to how students learn units and dimensions and will be able to hone tune their lessons and activities to emphasize the importance of units in their assignments, gain a better idea of where students are struggling with the content, and develop more competent and capable future scientists.