Translating across macroscopic, submicroscopic, and symbolic levels: the role of instructor facilitation in an inquiry-oriented physical chemistry class
In physical chemistry classrooms, mathematical and graphical representations are critical tools for reasoning about chemical phenomena. However, there is abundant evidence that to be successful in understanding complex thermodynamics topics, students must go beyond rote mathematical problem solving in order to connect their understanding of mathematical and graphical representations to the macroscopic and submicroscopic phenomena they represent. Though traditional curricular materials such as textbooks may provide little support for coordinating information across macroscopic, submicroscopic, and symbolic levels, instructor facilitation of classroom discussions offers a promising route towards supporting students' reasoning. Here, we report a case study of classroom reasoning in a POGIL (process-oriented guided inquiry learning) instructional context that examines how the class coordinated macroscopic, submicroscopic, and symbolic ideas through classroom discourse. Using an analytical approach based on Toulmin's model of argumentation and the inquiry-oriented discursive moves framework, we discuss the prevalence of macroscopic, submicroscopic and symbolic-level ideas in classroom reasoning and we discuss how instructor facilitation strategies promoted reasoning with macroscopic, submicroscopic, and symbolic levels of representation. We describe one sequence of instructor facilitation moves that we believe promoted translation across levels in whole class discussion.