TMI (Too much information)! Effects of given information on organic chemistry students’ approaches to solving mechanism tasks Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-10-08 Victoria DeCocq, Gautam Bhattacharyya
We report our qualitative study of twenty-four students enrolled in the second-semester of a second-year undergraduate (sophomore-level) organic chemistry course, Organic Two. We asked the research participants to propose the product and electron-pushing mechanism of elementary mechanistic steps in the absence and presence of the corresponding overall transformation. We also asked the students about their preferences of representational systems when working on tasks common to Organic Two to ascertain the extent to which an external representation, rather than a task, might evoke a problem-solving strategy. In addition to familiarity to instructional materials, the main reason for which the students preferred line-angle formulas for nearly all of the task types is that the representational system allowed them most readily extract relevant, or otherwise useful, information without distracting them. However, line-angle formulas did not seem to cue students to the three-dimensional attributes of molecules; only dash-and-wedge structures and Newman and chair conformers did so. For the electron-pushing tasks, the research participants’ reasoning processes included at least some chemical characteristics of the species involved in the transformation when they were not given the product of reaction. When provided with the overall transformation, however, the students changed their focus to getting to the product. Consequently, they replaced correct answers with incorrect ones when given the reaction products. These results raise the possibility that traditional mechanism tasks may mask students’ mechanistic reasoning ability.
Scientific process skills test development within the topic “Matter and its Nature” and the predictive effect of different variables on 7th and 8th grade students’ scientific process skill levels Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-09-05 Cemal Tosun
The aim of this study was to develop a Scientific Process Skills Test (SPST) in the context of “Matter and its Nature”. It was investigated whether there was a predictive effect of demographical features and participating out-of-school learning opportunities across the 7th and 8th grade students’ Scientific Process Skill (SPS) levels. Quantitative research methods were used in this study. Data were collected from 289 middle school students for the validity and reliability of the test. The SPST consisted of 30 items and entailed three sub-dimensions (“basic scientific process skills, causal scientific process skills and experimental scientific process skills). The reliability coefficient of the test was calculated using the KR-20 formula and was found to be 0.84. The SPST was applied to 472 middle school students with the aim of determining whether there is a predictive effect of gender, grade level, school location, parent's education level and participation in out-of-school learning opportunities across the 7th and 8th grade students’ SPS levels. Multiple regression analysis was conducted to determine the effects of demographical features and out-of-school learning opportunities on students’ SPS levels. As a result, it was determined that the grade level, gender or mother's education level were important predictor variables that affect middle school students’ SPS levels. It was also determined that out-of-school learning opportunities such as participating in science fairs, designing projects or reading scientific journals had an important predictive effect on students’ SPS levels.
Investigating student and staff perceptions of students' experiences in teaching laboratories through the lens of meaningful learning Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-09-21 Stephen R. George-Williams, Dimitri Karis, Angela L. Ziebell, Russell R. A. Kitson, Paolo Coppo, Siegbert Schmid, Christopher D. Thompson, Tina L. Overton
How students behave and learn in the teaching laboratory is a topic of great interest in chemical education, partly in order to justify the great expense of teaching laboratories. Much effort has been put into investigating how students think, feel and physically act in these unique learning environments. One such attempt was made through the generation and utilisation of the Meaningful Learning in the Laboratory Instrument (MLLI). This 30 question survey utilised Novak's theory of Meaningful Learning to investigate the affective, cognitive and psychomotor domains of the student learning experience. To date, this survey has been used to great effect to measure how students’ perception of their own feelings and actions will change over the course of a semester. This study reports the use of a modified MLLI survey to probe how the expectations of students change over their undergraduate degree. To increase the generalisability of the outcomes of the study data was gathered from four universities from Australia (Monash University, the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney) and the UK (the University of Warwick). Students were found to start their university careers with very positive expectations of their teaching laboratory experiences. Their outlook became somewhat more negative each year that they were enrolled in the program. A further modified MLLI survey was presented to teaching associates and academic staff. Teaching staff were shown to have far more negative expectations of the students’ feelings and actions, with academic staff more likely to believe that students do not undertake many items of positive meaningful learning. Overall, this study highlights the large gap between the expectations of teaching staff and students which, if left unaddressed, will likely continue to cause great frustration for both teaching staff and students.
A phenomenographic study of 10th grade students’ understanding of electrolytes Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-10-04 Shanshan Lu, Hualin Bi, Xiufeng Liu
Students have various conceptions of electrolytes in learning chemistry. The aim of this study is to identify 10th grade students’ understanding of the electrolyte concept by using a phenomenographic method. Eight students, whose abilities were at different levels, were selected and interviewed. The findings show that four distinctive categories of students’ conceptions of electrolytes are demonstrated, and a hierarchy in terms of the logical progression among them can be developed. Finally, teaching implications are given.
Structured learning environments are required to promote equitable participation Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-09-28 Connor Neill, Sehoya Cotner, Michelle Driessen, Cissy J. Ballen
It is critical that we understand and address features of learning environments that encumber students historically underrepresented in STEM fields. Here we consider social elements of group work that can either support or impede learning. We tracked gender-bias in student–teaching assistant (TA) interactions in 184 small groups across 27 introductory chemistry laboratories in fall 2017. We demonstrate that in some environments male students interacted with TAs disproportionately more than female students. To promote verbal participation of women in introductory chemistry courses, we advocate for improved TA training programs that teach a host of equitable teaching strategies to enhance the climate of the classrooms and consequently, improve learning. Fostering a structured, inclusive classroom environment is the first step towards achieving equity more broadly across STEM.
Evaluating a learning progression on ‘Transformation of Matter’ on the lower secondary level Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-08-22 M. Emden, K. Weber, E. Sumfleth
One of the most central tenets of chemistry education is developing an understanding of the processes that involve the Transformation of Matter. Current German curricula postulate content-related abilities (Kompetenzen) that are expected to be achieved by secondary students when graduating from the lower secondary level at grade 10. These abilities can further be differentiated as relating to either structural aspects of matter or to aspects of chemical reaction. Little is known of how Kompetenzen in these two fields develop over time on the lower secondary level. This study aims at elucidating this development by suggesting a hypothetical learning progression for the lower secondary level. This learning progression is visualised as a Strand Map and is investigated using methods from three statistical approaches: Rasch-analyses, Classical Test Theory, and Bayesian Networks. Concurrent data from all three strands of analyses inform the evaluation of the learning progression and support the notion that an understanding of the Transformation of Matter relies on interrelated Kompetenzen to conceptualize Structure of Matter and Chemical Reaction. Moreover, Bayesian networks underline that there is more than one progression when learning about chemistry on the lower secondary level.
Flipped classroom use in chemistry education: results from a survey of postsecondary faculty members Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-25 Shalini Srinivasan, Rebecca E. Gibbons, Kristen L. Murphy, Jeffrey Raker
The aim of this study is to offer a current snapshot of flipped classroom use in postsecondary chemistry education. Data from a national survey of chemistry faculty members in the United States formed the basis of an investigation into the instructional contexts in which flipped classroom pedagogies are employed in postsecondary chemistry education. Our results reveal an association between flipped classroom use and the level at which a course is taught; in addition, our results provide support for the utility of flipped classrooms as a means for incorporation of pedagogical practices focused on active and collaborative learning.
The effect of the REACT strategy on students’ achievements with regard to solubility equilibrium: using chemistry in contexts Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-18 Tuğçe Günter
The objective of this research was to investigate the effect of a context-based approach (CBA) ‘Relating, Experiencing, Applying, Cooperating, Transferring’ (REACT) strategy used in relation to the topic of solubility equilibrium in the laboratory chemistry course on students’ achievement at associate level in a health-related program. In this regard, two contexts related to the topic of solubility equilibrium were developed and applied. The study had pre-test post-test with a control group research design and the participants consisted of sophomore students studying in the Medical Laboratory Techniques (MLT) and the Pharmacy Services (PS) Programs of the Ahmet Erdogan Vocational School of Health Services at Bulent Ecevit University (N = 96). The students enrolled in the MLT program were randomly assigned as the experimental group (n = 47) and the students in the PS program were randomly assigned as the control group (n = 49). The experimental group was taught solubility equilibrium by a CBA REACT strategy, whereas the control group was taught the relevant topic by conventional teaching. The ‘Equilibrium of Solubility Achievement Test (ESAT)’ and ‘Structured Interview Form’ were used as data collection tools in the research. The results of content analysis of ESAT post-test showed that the frequency of answers in the sound understanding category was higher for the experimental group compared to the control group students. In addition, the results of Mann–Whitney U and Wilcoxon tests of the ESAT indicated that post-test scores were higher in both groups compared to pre-test scores and the increase was higher in the experimental group compared to the control group. The content analysis results of structured interview form and semi-structured interviews showed that the students expressed positive views concerning the instruction and the qualities of the contexts in general. In this research, it was concluded that the CBA REACT strategy used in relation to the topic of solubility equilibrium in the laboratory chemistry course improved students’ sound understanding and achievement and helped them develop positive views regarding the instruction and the quality of the contexts.
Partial least squares structural equation modeling of chemistry attitude in introductory college chemistry Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-10 James Ross, Leslie Nuñez, Chinh Chu Lai
Students’ decisions to enter or persist in STEM courses is linked with their affective domain. The influence of factors impacting students’ affective domain in introductory college chemistry classes, such as attitude, is often overlooked by instructors, who instead focus on students’ mathematical abilities as sole predictors of academic achievement. The current academic barrier to enrollment in introductory college chemistry classes is typically a passing grade in a mathematics prerequisite class. However, mathematical ability is only a piece of the puzzle in predicting preparedness for college chemistry. Herein, students’ attitude toward the subject of chemistry was measured using the original Attitudes toward the Subject of Chemistry Inventory (ASCI). Partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) was used to chart and monitor the development of students’ attitude toward the subject of chemistry during an introductory college chemistry course. Results from PLS-SEM support a 3-factor (intellectual accessibility, emotional satisfaction, and interest and utility) structure, which could signal the distinct cognitive, affective, and behavioral components of attitude, according to its theoretical tripartite framework. Evidence of a low-involvement hierarchy of attitude effect is also presented herein. This study provides a pathway for instructors to identify at-risk students, exhibiting low affective characteristics, early in a course so that academic interventions are feasible. The results presented here have implications for the design and implementation of teaching strategies geared toward optimizing student achievement in introductory college chemistry.
Postgraduate students' attitudes towards group work: experiences within a forensic chemistry programme Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-10 Hilary J. Hamnett, Amanda E. McKie, Calum Morrison
The ability to work in a group is an important skill for graduates. Although the experiences of undergraduate students with group work have been extensively explored, there is much less information in the literature regarding postgraduate students and no information on those enrolled in science programmes. In this study, participants from a taught applied chemistry postgraduate MSc programme report their attitudes and experiences with group work. The usefulness of this approach and of scientific discourse for learning and teaching several key concepts is also explored. Participants in the study completed attitudinal questionnaires and group/individual multiple choice question (MCQ) tests. They reported a range of skills developed through working together, mixed preferences for group vs. individual assignments, and comparison of the mean MCQ test scores between participants working individually and in groups demonstrated no statistically significant differences.
Using 3D printed physical models to monitor knowledge integration in biochemistry Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-05 Melissa A. Babilonia-Rosa, H. Kenny Kuo, Maria T. Oliver-Hoyo
Noncovalent interactions determine the three-dimensional structure of macromolecules and the binding interactions between molecules. Students struggle to understand noncovalent interactions and how they relate to structure–function relationships. Additionally, students’ difficulties translating from two-dimensional representations to three-dimensional representations add another layer of complexity found in macromolecules. Therefore, we developed instructional resources that use 3D physical models to target student understanding of noncovalent interactions of small molecules and macromolecules. To this effect, we monitored indicators of knowledge integration as evidenced in student-generated drawings. Analysis of the drawings revealed that students were able to incorporate relevant conceptual features into their drawings from different sources as well as present their understanding from different perspectives.
Structuring learning processes by ladders of learning: results from an implementation study Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-04 Helena van Vorst
This paper introduces Ladders of Learning (LLs) as a tool for structuring learning content and the teaching process in a transparent way for students. Learning material for a LL for Bohr's atomic model was developed by cooperation between chemistry teachers and university researchers and implemented in grade-eight chemistry classes. For evaluating the effectiveness of LLs, a mixed method research study was conducted. In a quantitative pre–post study, students’ cognitive and affective outcomes were investigated by questionnaires and compared to the results of a control group. In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted to analyse students’ views on the LL. The results of the quantitative data analysis showed positive effects of the LL on students’ learning achievement and their interest in chemistry. The results from the qualitative data analysis confirmed these positive findings. However, students’ feedback indicated differences between the views of high-performing students and students with a lower performance in chemistry. Overall, the results of the study emphasize the relevance of structuring as a variable of teaching quality.
Developing an understanding of undergraduate student interactions in chemistry laboratories Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-03 Jianye Wei, Mauro Mocerino, David F. Treagust, Anthony D. Lucey, Marjan G. Zadnik, Euan D. Lindsay, Damien J. Carter
Laboratories play a crucial role in the undergraduate science curriculum and the effectiveness of learning in laboratories is influenced by learners’ interactions with other students, the instructors, and the equipment used. In this study, a pre-lab survey was used to collect information about students’ expectations of interactions in chemistry laboratories and how they can be ranked according to their importance. Post-lab surveys were used to capture students’ perspectives about the frequency of interactions that existed in laboratory sessions they had completed. Direct observations of some laboratories were also conducted principally to validate students’ self-reported interactions. The data were also sorted by three levels of student achievement in order to relate students’ expectations of the importance of different interactions (pre-lab survey) and their self-reported frequency of interactions (post-lab survey) with their laboratory grades. Results from the pre-lab survey showed that student–instructor interactions were anticipated to be the most important ahead of conducting the laboratory activity, whereas results from the post-lab surveys showed that the most frequent interactions occurred between students. Students’ self-reports (post-lab survey) and the direct observations agreed well suggesting that the post-lab survey is a robust tool for capturing the frequencies of student interactions in this and future studies. The results also showed that students gaining high grades both anticipated the importance of, and then engaged more frequently in, two-way communications with both students and instructors whereas students with lower grades placed a relatively higher reliance upon passive interactions such as the pre-lab briefing, the laboratory manual and internet sources. Finally, recommendations are offered to curriculum designers, instructors and students based on the overall findings of the study.
Postsecondary chemistry curricula and universal design for learning: planning for variations in learners’ abilities, needs, and interests Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-02 Erin Scanlon, Tamra Legron-Rodriguez, Jillian Schreffler, Elijah Ibadlit, Eleazar Vasquez, Jacquelyn J. Chini
Federal legislation requires equitable access to education for all students at all levels, including in the postsecondary setting. While there have been a few studies in the chemistry education research literature base focused on how to support students with specific disabilities, this work seems to exist as a separate stream of research without direct impact on curriculum development and the overall community. This study focused on investigating how well three sets of general chemistry curricular materials support variations in students’ abilities, interests, and needs. To accomplish this, we compared the curricular materials with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, which describes steps to account for variations in ability among learners during curriculum development. The UDL framework is organized into three guidelines (multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement), further delineated by nine principles and thirty-one finer-grained checkpoints for designing courses. We looked for examples of enactment of the UDL checkpoints in a representative sample of activities. Across all three sets of curricular materials, only four of the thirty-one checkpoints were enacted in at least 75% of the activities, indicating high enactment. On the other hand, eleven of the checkpoints were enacted in less than 25% of the activities, indicating low enactment. Overall, there is much room for improvement in consistently providing support for learner variation within these general chemistry curricular materials. We argue that some of the burden of making curricular materials supportive of all students lies with curriculum developers and provide recommendations for improving support and accessibility.
Development and use of a construct map framework to support teaching and assessment of noncovalent interactions in a biochemical context Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-02 Jennifer Loertscher, Jennifer E. Lewis, Allison M. Mercer, Vicky Minderhout
Most chemistry educators agree that deep understanding of the nature of noncovalent interactions is essential for learning in chemistry. Yet decades of research have shown that students have persistent incorrect ideas about these interactions. We have worked in collaboration with a community of chemistry, biology, and biochemistry educators to develop a construct map to guide development of instructional and assessment resources related to the physical basis of noncovalent interactions in a biochemical context. This map was devised using data about student learning and expert perspectives on noncovalent interactions, resulting in a framework that provides a detailed roadmap for teaching and learning related to this essential concept. Here we describe the development of the construct map and our use of it to reform our biochemistry teaching practice. Because biochemistry relies on application of concepts learned in prerequisite courses, this construct map could be useful for wide range of courses including general chemistry, introductory biology, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.
Development and dissemination of a teaching learning sequence on nanoscience and nanotechnology in a context of communities of learners Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-06-29 Dimitris Stavrou, Emily Michailidi, Giannis Sgouros
Introducing Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NST) topics into school science curricula is considered useful for an in-depth understanding of the content, processes and nature of science and technology, and also for negotiating the social aspects of science. This study examines (a) the development of an inquiry-based Teaching–Learning Sequence (TLS) on NST topics, which incorporates socio-scientific issues and out-of-school learning environments and (b) the dissemination of the developed TLS through the training of further teachers. In both cases, a participatory design, in particular Communities of Learners (CoLs), was established, consisting of teachers, science researchers, science education researchers and science museum experts. As a theoretical framework for the TLS development, the Model of Educational Reconstruction is used. The qualitative analysis of the obtained data highlights that teachers’ interactions with colleagues in the CoL on issues regarding the educational reconstruction of the different aspects of the TLS impact the process of its development. Regarding the dissemination of the TLS, the findings indicate that teachers modified several elements of the TLS and particularly the included activities, influenced by their mentors’ prior experience and their own rich contextual knowledge. Finally, guidelines for the development and dissemination of a TLS are discussed.
Students’ perceptions of common practices, including some academically dishonest practices, in the undergraduate general chemistry classroom laboratory Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-06-22 K. Christopher Smith, Adrian Sepulveda
In this study 635 general chemistry I and general chemistry II students completed a 40-item Likert-scale survey on their opinions of various practices, including some academically dishonest practices, that might occur in the general chemistry laboratory. The practices surveyed were focused on areas including preparation before coming to the laboratory, getting help with the pre-lab assignments, various decisions made by the teaching assistant or laboratory instructor, getting help with the calculations and questions required by the laboratory report, and various methods of obtaining data in the laboratory. An exploratory factor analysis of the results was conducted to identify the underlying factors in the survey, and the scores of the general chemistry I and general chemistry II students along these factors were compared. The findings were generally consistent with results in the literature, but also provided implications for students’ enculturation into chemistry and science as they progressed through their general chemistry coursework.
Using student-generated animations: the challenge of dynamic chemical models in states of matter and the invisibility of the particles Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-06-22 Zeynep Yaseen
This research investigates the use of student-generated animations in the teaching and learning of chemistry. Previous research has identified the potential for animations to contribute to student learning in science. In particular, animations have the capacity to represent the dynamic process and motions that may be inherent in some chemical concepts. This study focuses on animations that students produced with the support of their teacher and fellow students. The participants in the study were Year 11 science students and their science teacher. The teaching intervention included training the students in the use of animation software, followed by the students working in groups to create animations representing their conceptions of solid, liquid and gaseous states of matter, watching expert animations and classroom discussions. Students were supported by their teacher and encouraged to discuss ideas as they constructed their animations. Data collection included pre- and post-tests, classroom observation, video recording of lessons, collection of artefacts (the students’ animations, expert animations) and interviews with the teacher and students. Use of the student-generated animations created an opportunity to represent and discuss conceptions of the states of matter, including dynamic elements of their conceptualization. The teacher's scaffolding of the groups during the creation of their animations helped students to accurately represent their conceptions. In their analysis of the various animations, students identified differences and similarities among their animations. Data from pre-/post-tests, observations and interviews indicate that the students improved their understanding of states of matter through the teaching/learning process that occurred during the intervention.
Resolving the complexity of organic chemistry students' reasoning through the lens of a mechanistic framework Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-06-20 I. Caspari, D. Kranz, N. Graulich
Research in organic chemistry education has revealed that students often rely on rote memorization when learning mechanisms. Not much is known about student productive resources for causal reasoning. To investigate incipient stages of student causal reasoning about single mechanistic steps of organic reactions, we developed a theoretical framework for this type of mechanistic reasoning. Inspired by mechanistic approaches from philosophy of science, primarily philosophy of organic chemistry, the framework divides reasoning about mechanisms into structural and energetic accounts as well as static and dynamic approaches to change. In qualitative interviews, undergraduate organic chemistry students were asked to think aloud about the relative activation energies of contrasting cases, i.e. two different reactants undergoing a leaving group departure step. The analysis of students’ reasoning demonstrated the applicability of the framework and expanded the framework by different levels of complexity of relations that students constructed between differences of the molecules and changes that occur in a leaving group departure. We further analyzed how students’ certainty about the relevance of their reasoning for a claim about activation energy corresponded to their static and dynamic approaches to change and how students’ success corresponded to the complexity of relations that they constructed. Our findings support the necessity for clear communication of and stronger emphasis on the fundamental basis of elementary steps in organic chemistry. Implications for teaching the structure of mechanistic reasoning in organic chemistry and for the design of mechanism tasks are discussed.
Teaching and learning chemical bonding: research-based evidence for misconceptions and conceptual difficulties experienced by students in upper secondary schools and the effect of an enriched text Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-06-18 Georgios Tsaparlis, Eleni T. Pappa, Bill Byers
Chemical bonding is a fundamental but complex topic, which has traditionally been associated with learning difficulties, misunderstandings, and misconceptions. This paper reviews some previous studies, concerning students’ conceptual difficulties and reports the findings from a research study with Greek students, which set out to examine their knowledge and understanding of a number of key concepts related to bonding. Three student samples were studied; one consisted of tenth-grade students from three public schools, the second contained first-year chemistry and biology students at the beginning of their university courses, and the third involved tenth-grade students from a prestigious private school. The students generally exhibited limited knowledge and possessed certain misconceptions, with the private school and the university students demonstrating better knowledge than the public school students. A quasi-experimental research design was employed using students from the private school, with some students used as a control group and others as a treatment group. The control group was taught using the standard Greek chemistry textbook, while the treatment group used enriched teaching material. It was found that while the two groups demonstrated similar performance for many bonding concepts, the treatment group did show superior knowledge with respect to a number of issues, such as the role of electrostatic interactions, electronegativity, and bond polarity.
Student progression on chemical symbol representation abilities at different grade levels (Grades 10–12) across gender Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-06-07 Shaohui Chi, Zuhao Wang, Ma Luo, Yuqin Yang, Min Huang
Chemical symbol representation is used extensively in chemistry classrooms; however, due to its abstract nature, many students struggle with learning and effectively utilizing these symbolic representations, which can lead to ongoing failure in subsequent chemistry learning. Taking the perspective of learning progressions, this study identifies how students’ abilities in chemical symbol representation progress at different grade levels (Grade 10–12), across the genders. A sample of 713 students—254 tenth graders, 262 eleventh graders and 197 twelfth graders—was selected from three senior secondary schools located in Jiangsu, China. A measurement instrument developed in a former study was used to measure students’ chemical symbol representation abilities and students’ raw scores were converted into Rasch scale scores, allowing for direct comparisons of students of different grades. The results of chi-squared tests and analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated that chemical symbol representation abilities are affected by statistically significant gender and grade effects. Students from higher grades performed better than students from lower grades, and generally, male students obtained a higher mean score than did their female peers. The findings also revealed that there was a statistically significant interaction effect between gender and grade. While male students started out with a much higher mean score in Grade 10, by Grade 11 there was not much of a difference between male and female students’ mean scores, and female students’ mean score was higher than male students’ mean score by Grade 12.
Epistemic games in substance characterization Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-05-28 Hannah Sevian, Steven Couture
Problem solving is lauded as beneficial, but students do not all learn well by solving problems. Using the resources framework, Tuminaro J., and Redish E. F., (2007), Elements of a cognitive model of physics problem solving: Epistemic games, Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research, 3(2), 020101 suggested that, for physics students, this puzzle may be partially understood by paying attention to underlying epistemological assumptions that constrain the approaches students take to solving problems while working on them. They developed an approach to characterizing epistemic games, which are context-sensitive knowledge elements concerning the nature of knowledge, knowing and learning. As there is evidence that context-activated knowledge influences problem solving by students in chemistry, we explored identifying epistemic games in students’ problem solving in chemistry. We interviewed 52 students spanning six courses from grade 8 through fourth-year university, each solving 4 problems. Using 16 contexts with substance characterization problems, we identified 5 epistemic games with ontological and structural stability that exist in two larger epistemological frames. All of these epistemic games are present at all educational levels, but some appear to grow in across educational levels as others recede. Some games also take lesser and greater precedence depending on the problem and the chemistry course in which students are enrolled and the context of the problem. We analyze these results through a frame of learning progressions, paying attention to students’ ideas and how these ideas are contextualized. Based on this analysis, we propose teaching acts that instructors may use to leverage the natural progressions of how students appear to grow in their capacity to solve problems.
Analysing processes of conceptualization for students in lessons on substance from the emergence of conceptual profile zones Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-05-07 Edenia Maria Ribeiro do Amaral, João Roberto Ratis Tenório da Silva, Jaqueline Dantas Sabino
In this paper, we analyze the process of conceptualization experienced by students in Secondary School when involved in activities in a teaching and learning sequence on the concept of substance, considering the emergence of zones of the conceptual profile. The results point out that the approaches to different modes of thinking of substance enabled the teacher to discuss and confront ideas, leading students to construct or share meanings stabilized in a scientific view. The conceptual profile was an important tool to design activities by creating discursive contexts involving different modes of thinking about substance, which contributed to raising specific discussions involving historical, scientific and social contexts to understand senses and meanings for substances.
Progressions in reasoning about structure–property relationships Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2017-10-13 Vicente Talanquer
In this essay, findings from research in science and chemistry education are used to describe and discuss progression in students' structure–property reasoning through schooling. This work provides insights into the challenges that students face to master this important component of chemical thinking. The analysis reveals that student reasoning is often guided by nonnormative implicit schemas that are little affected by traditional instruction. These schemas prioritize chemical composition over molecular structure, and centralized causality over emergence in the explanation and prediction of the properties of substances. The types of components that students invoke to make sense of properties and phenomena may change with schooling, but the underlying reasoning persists. In general, learners assume that observed properties and behaviors are directly related to the types of atoms present in a system and determined by these individual atoms' inherent characteristics.
Productive features of problem solving in chemical kinetics: more than just algorithmic manipulation of variables Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-09-19 Jon-Marc G. Rodriguez, Kinsey Bain, Nicholas P. Hux, Marcy H. Towns
Problem solving is a critical feature of highly quantitative physical science topics, such as chemical kinetics. In order to solve a problem, students must cue into relevant features, ignore irrelevant features, and choose among potential problem-solving approaches. However, what is considered appropriate or productive for problem solving is highly context-dependent. This study is part of a larger project centered on students’ integration of chemistry and mathematics knowledge and skills. The data for this study came from semi-structured interviews with 40 general chemistry students using a think-aloud protocol. Interview prompts involved students working through two chemical kinetics problems, one involving a second-order system and one involving a zero-order system. In both cases, students could solve the problem using the data provided and relevant equations, or by taking a conceptual approach and considering the relationship between quantities. Using the resource-based model of cognition as our theoretical framework, analysis focused on characterizing the productive and unproductive problem-solving routes used by students. Findings emphasize the role of using conceptual reasoning and reflecting on one's work during problem solving, which have implications for instructors as they guide students to think about chemical kinetics and to solve problems across quantitative topics in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Representations of chemical phenomena in secondary school chemistry textbooks Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-09-01 Johnson Enero Upahi, Umesh Ramnarain
The difficulties encountered by students in learning chemistry range from human factors to the intrinsic nature of chemistry. To enhance students’ understanding of chemistry, there is a wide consensus within the community of chemistry educators on the importance of and need to integrate different levels of representations in chemistry teaching and learning resources. As learning resources, textbooks are ubiquitous and usually readily available to both students and teachers. Therefore, this study investigated how chemical phenomena are represented or depicted in secondary school chemistry textbooks. We adopted a rubric developed by Gkitzia et al. (Gkitzia V., Salta K. and Tzougraki C., (2011), Development and application of suitable criteria for the evaluation of chemical representations in school textbooks, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 12, 5–14) to analyze the textbooks for types of representations; relatedness of chemical representations to text; and the appropriateness of captions. The results indicated the dominance of symbolic representations, followed by sub-microscopic, then hybrid and multiple representations. In all three textbooks, there was no evidence of mixed representation. While many of the chemical representations were completely related to the texts, some were unlinked. The germaneness of suitable captions in textbooks is in the explicit, brief and concise explanation that captions give to an entire representation. While our results indicated that more than half of the representations had suitable captions, there was evidence of representations that were problematic and had no captions. The implication of these results for students’ cognitive load, and the need for textbook-users to explore alternative resources that depict phenomena in 2D or 3D representations are discussed.
Personal journeys of teachers: an investigation of the development of teacher professional knowledge and skill by expert tertiary chemistry teachers Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-08-31 Gwendolyn A. Lawrie, Madeleine Schultz, Chantal H. Bailey, Bronwin L. Dargaville
Several common characteristics of the journey towards tertiary teaching expertise have been deduced through a detailed analysis of transcripts that originated from interviews conducted with ten recognised excellent tertiary chemistry teachers. The interviews were structured around Loughran's CoRe questions and yielded deep insights into the topic specific professional knowledge and reflective practice of the participants. The interview participants offered their insights into changes that occurred in their teaching strategies and practices as they progressed in their expertise. They also reflected on changes that they undertook over time within their teaching contexts in terms of engaging students and assessment, and what advice they wish that they had been given as new tertiary teachers. We have identified signposts of expert teacher professional knowledge and skill that further expand on our previously published outcomes including: seeking immediate feedback from students; a tendency to reduce total content to a critical minimum; reflective practice; and a willingness and ability to modify teaching approaches. The outcomes support our previous findings that tertiary chemistry teachers had primarily developed their PCK through their own teaching experiences and awareness of their own students’ outcomes, filtered by their individual beliefs and backgrounds. In this study, we provide new insight into the nature of inherent reflective practice that has evolved by experience rather than through formal professional development.
Using a mechanistic framework to characterise chemistry students' reasoning in written explanations Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-08-27 Patricia Moreira, Ainoa Marzabal, Vicente Talanquer
The central goal of this research study was to characterise the different types of reasoning manifested by high school chemistry students when building initial written explanations of a natural phenomenon. In particular, our study participants were asked to explain why a mixture of water and alcohol works as an antifreeze. Data collected in the form of written explanations were analysed using a mechanistic reasoning framework based on the characterisation of system components (e.g., entities, properties, activities, organisation) and paying attention to the causal models invoked by the participants in their explanations. Our analysis revealed that students at the same educational level construct a wide range of explanations for the same phenomenon that are indicative of different reasoning modes going from descriptive to relational to simple causal to emerging mechanistic. Although the explanations generated by students in our sample were not very sophisticated in terms of the causal models on which they relied, some participants were capable of generating mechanistic explanations using particulate models of matter. The framework for analysis introduced in this contribution can be of use to teachers and researchers in the characterisation of student reasoning.
A novel practical pedagogy for terminal assessment Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-08-15 Naomi Hennah
The present paper reports upon the design and implementation of a novel practical work pedagogy that is shown to increase students’ retention of practical procedures. The chemistry exams, for 15 to 16-year olds in England, will be assessed entirely through terminal examination questions from 2018. Longer term retention of learning is critical if these students are to minimise any discrepancy in attainment that may arise from following curricula with a coursework component. The novel design, underpinned by Cognitive Load Theory and Social Constructivism, involves pre-laboratory preparation and employs oracy to promote thinking during practical work. Three equivalent chemistry groups within the same school undertook neutralisation and crystallisation practical tasks and their practical work exam question attainment data is analysed. The novel pedagogy is trialled as a neutralisation task with one group and affective outcomes are determined through Likert scale activity feedback questionnaire. Attainment data shows a statistically significant higher mark in practical exam question attainment for the intervention compared to the control group when tested ten weeks after the teaching episode.
Covariational reasoning and mathematical narratives: investigating students’ understanding of graphs in chemical kinetics Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-08-22 Jon-Marc G. Rodriguez, Kinsey Bain, Marcy H. Towns, Maja Elmgren, Felix M. Ho
Graphical representations are an important tool used to model abstract processes in fields such as chemistry. Successful interpretation of a graph involves a combination of mathematical expertise and discipline-specific content to reason about the relationship between the variables and to describe the phenomena represented. In this work, we studied students’ graphical reasoning as they responded to a chemical kinetics prompt. Qualitative data was collected and analyzed for a sample of 70 students through the use of an assessment involving short-answer test items administered in a first-year, non-majors chemistry course at a Swedish university. The student responses were translated from Swedish to English and subsequently coded to analyze the chemical and mathematical ideas students attributed to the graph. Mathematical reasoning and ideas related to covariation were analyzed using graphical forms and the shape thinking perspective of graphical reasoning. Student responses were further analyzed by focusing on the extent to which they integrated chemistry and mathematics. This was accomplished by conceptualizing modeling as discussing mathematical narratives, characterizing how students described the “story” communicated by the graph. Analysis provided insight into students’ understanding of mathematical models of chemical processes.
Analysis of text difficulty in lower-secondary chemistry textbooks Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-08-07 Martin Rusek, Karel Vojíř
This paper focuses on the procedure and results for analyzing text-difficulty in lower-secondary chemistry textbooks in the Czech Republic. The authors use established methodology for text-difficulty analysis by Nestler, adapted by Průcha and Pluskal by adding a second independent analyser to improve reliability. Some textbooks do not follow the expected trend of either text-difficulty coherence or increasing text-difficulty between books for the 8th and 9th grade. No trend in topic difficulty was found either. The results show that learning outcomes may differ significantly when different books are used, despite the fact that they are supposed to support the same curriculum. For this reason, the results serve to support not only teachers when selecting a textbook, but also researchers as a starting point for lesson observations.
Undergraduate recognition of curriculum-related skill development and the skills employers are seeking Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-08-03 Michelle A. Hill, Tina L. Overton, Christopher D. Thompson, Russell R. A. Kitson, Paolo Coppo
Employers of chemistry graduates are seeking a range of transferable skills from prospective employees, and academics are increasingly seeking to build employability skill development opportunities into the undergraduate curriculum. However, research suggests that undergraduates do not recognise or value such skill development without prompting. This recognition is essential if graduates are to be able to articulate their skills in the employment process. This study involves research amongst almost 1000 undergraduates studying chemistry at two institutions, using open-ended questions to collect qualitative data. The extent to which students recognised course-related skills development and understood the skills that employers are looking for was investigated, as was their desire to develop additional skills. Similarities and differences in student views between institutions are discussed, as well as trends across year levels and by gender. Results indicate that undergraduates studying chemistry are most likely to value and recognise development of some key skills sought by employers (teamwork, communication, thinking/problem solving, organisation/time management and laboratory/practical skills), but are very unlikely to value or recognise others (numeracy, independent learning, commercial awareness, interpersonal, research, computer/IT, creativity/innovation, flexibility/adaptability and initiative). Opportunities to develop the latter skills and recognition of the value of doing so will require improved communication with students and/or provision of new experiences within the curriculum.
Patterns of reactions: a card sort task to investigate students’ organization of organic chemistry reactions Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-16 Kelli R. Galloway, Min Wah Leung, Alison B. Flynn
Research has shown that within a traditional organic chemistry curriculum, organic chemistry students struggle to develop deep conceptual understanding of reactions and attribute little meaning to the electron-pushing formalism. At the University of Ottawa, a new curriculum was developed for organic chemistry in which students are taught the language of the electron-pushing formalism prior to learning about specific reactions. Reactions are then organized by governing pattern of mechanism rather than by functional group and are taught in a gradient of complexity. To investigate how students are making connections across reactions within the new curriculum, a card sort task was developed. The card sort task consisted of 25 cards, each depicting the reactants and solvent for a reaction taught during the two-semester organic chemistry sequence. The first part of the task asked participants to sort 15 of 25 cards into categories. Then, participants were given the 10 remaining cards to incorporate into categories with the previous 15. Participants were asked to explain the characteristics of each category and their sorting process. Students (N = 16) in an organic chemistry course were interviewed while enrolled in the second semester course. We analyzed the students’ sorts based on which cards were sorted frequently together, the underlying characteristics used to form the categories, and the participants’ sorting processes. Participants created categories based on different levels of interpreting the reactions on the cards, with levels ranging from recognizing identical structural features to identifying similar types of mechanisms. Based on this study, if we want students to develop mechanistic thinking, we think students need to be more explicitly directed to the patterns present in organic reaction mechanisms and given opportunities to uncover and identify patterns on their own, during both summative and formative assessments.
An exploratory study of teaching assistants’ motivation for inquiry-based teaching in an undergraduate laboratory context Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-31 Lindsay B. Wheeler, Jennifer L. Chiu, Jennifer L. Maeng, Randy L. Bell
Undergraduate science courses typically rely on teaching assistants (TAs) to teach introductory laboratory classes. However little research investigates how to support TAs to implement reform-based teaching in undergraduate settings, and in particular, what factors may influence TAs’ motivation to teach within reform-based instructional contexts. This qualitative study used an Expectancy-Value Theory (EVT) framework of motivation to explore: (1) TAs’ expectancy beliefs and subjective values of project-based inquiry laboratory contexts; (2) relationships among expectancy and subjective value of teaching and reported effort in teaching, and (3) factors (e.g., teaching beliefs, prior teaching and instructional experiences) that may relate to TAs’ motivation for teaching. Data sources included open-ended surveys and interviews of six purposefully selected TAs. Results revealed that TAs held varied views on their ability to be successful and their perceived value of teaching in an inquiry-based laboratory context. TAs’ beliefs and subjective value for teaching appeared to be informed by TAs’ prior experiences with inquiry and interactions with students. Results provide insight into what may motivate TAs to teach within inquiry-based undergraduate science settings. Results underscore the importance of reform-based instruction in undergraduate settings.
The influence of the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method in chemistry laboratories on high school students’ conceptions about the nature of science Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Guluzar Eymur
The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method compared with an implicit inquiry method on eleventh-grade students’ conceptions of NOS. The study used a pre-/post-test control group design to investigate the influence of the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the Argument-Driven Inquiry method on eleventh grade students’ understanding of NOS. The qualitative method was used to identify the students’ views of NOS. The study involved 45 students (grade 11) enrolled in a chemistry course at a public Anatolian high school in the northeast of Turkey. The explicit group included 24 students (10 girls and 14 boys) and the implicit group included 21 students (12 girls and 9 boys) with their ages ranging from 17 to 18 years. Both groups were instructed for two 45 minute sessions per week over the course of 9 weeks. However, the explicit group participated in laboratory activities designed by the ADI method with explicit NOS instruction, whereas the implicit group was taught by a structured inquiry (SI) instructional model. Students were interviewed using the VNOS-B interview schedule to evaluate the students’ understanding of NOS. In data analysis, we coded views as an informed view that had the accepted views, a transitional view that had partially accepted views or a naïve view that had unaccepted views of the seven characteristics of NOS based on the literature. The results of the study showed significant differences between the pre- to post-test scores for the explicit group in terms of NOS views. However, the post-instruction views of the implicit group were not different from their previous NOS views. We believe that the explicit nature of science instruction embedded in the ADI method has a noticeable potential in order to improve high school students’ views about NOS.
The challenges of learning and teaching chemical bonding at different school levels using electrostatic interactions instead of the octet rule as a teaching model Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-06-21 Jarkko Joki, Maija Aksela
Teaching chemical bonding using the octet rule as an explanatory principle is problematic in many ways. The aim of this case study is to understand the learning and teaching of chemical bonding using a research-informed teaching model in which chemical bonding is introduced as an electrostatic phenomenon. The study posed two main questions: (i) how does a student's understanding of chemical bonding evolve from lower- to upper-secondary school when an electrostatic model of chemical bonding was used at the lower-secondary level? (ii) How does the teaching of octets/full shells at the upper-secondary level affect students’ understanding? The same students were interviewed after lower-secondary school and again during their first year at upper-secondary school. Their upper-level chemistry teachers were also interviewed. The interview data were analysed using the grounded theory method. The findings showed that the students’ earlier proper understanding of the electrostatic-interactions model at the lower-secondary level did not prevent the later development of less-canonical thinking. Teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) of the explanatory principles of chemical bonding and how to use explanations in science education needs to be promoted in both pre-service teacher education and during in-service training.
Meeting important educational goals for chemistry through service-learning Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-06-20 Joyce D. Sewry, Sharli A. Paphitis
This paper describes a service-learning course in Chemistry Honours at Rhodes University in South Africa. Students visit two schools in different settings, where they present a lecture-demonstration, entitled ‘A Pollutant's Tale’, and two hands-on experiments to school learners. The students are assessed on their learnings as seen through their own reflections on the activities in reflective journals. The reflections from 27 students over four years of the course were analysed to investigate to what extent the educational goals of the course were being met. Six broad themes emerged from student reflections: (1) social awareness; (2) civic responsibility; (3) challenging beliefs; (4) enhanced understanding of science communication and demonstration skills; (5) personal growth; and, (6) evaluating the service-learning experience. In our discussion of these themes, we suggest that through service-learning, students have learnt to do things differently in Chemistry: they have learnt about society beyond the laboratory and beyond their previous life-experiences. Importantly, the students have undergone personal development and picked up critical skills which they will need when traversing life and its challenges – such as, working with and learning from diverse groups of people, teamwork and learning to cope in stressful situations. The paper will be of particular interest to those who are involved in chemistry teaching in both schools and higher education institutions, as well as those interested in service-learning as a pedagogical tool, community and civic engagement and the development of transferable skills in chemistry students.
Organic chemistry students’ interpretations of the surface features of reaction coordinate diagrams Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-06-09 Maia Popova, Stacey Lowery Bretz
Organic chemistry students struggle with understanding the energetics of chemical reactions. Reaction coordinate diagrams are one tool that is widely used in organic chemistry classrooms to assist students with visualizing and explaining the energy changes that take place throughout a reaction. Thirty-six students enrolled in organic chemistry II participated in a qualitative study that used semi-structured interviews to investigate the extent to which students meaningfully extract and integrate information encoded in reaction coordinate diagrams. Results show that students have difficulties explaining the meanings of surface features such as peaks, valleys, peak height, and peak width. Analysis of students’ explanations resulted in four themes that describe students’ challenges with correctly interpreting the features of reaction coordinate diagrams. Students conflated transition states and intermediates, despite being able to recite definitions. Students described the chemical species encoded at points along the x-axis of the reaction coordinate diagrams, while largely ignoring the energies of the species encoded along the y-axis. Implications for teaching organic chemistry are discussed.
The influence of a design-based elective STEM course on pre-service chemistry teachers’ content knowledge, STEM conceptions, and engineering views Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-06-04 Sevgi Aydin-Gunbatar, Aysegul Tarkin-Celikkiran, Elif Selcan Kutucu, Betul Ekiz-Kiran
In this study, we sought to examine the influence of a 12 week design-based elective Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) course on pre-service chemistry teachers’ content knowledge, STEM conceptions, and engineering and engineering design views. To attain the goals determined, we utilized five STEM activities starting with a daily-life problem and an iterative engineering design process to solve the problem. A chemistry test with 11 two-tier items, and interviews focusing on STEM and engineering conceptions were administered at the beginning and at the end of the course. Moreover, a reflection paper was collected after each activity. Eight junior pre-service chemistry teachers participated in the study voluntarily. Deductive and inductive data analyses were used to investigate the influence of the course on participants’ content knowledge, STEM conceptions, and engineering and engineering design views. The results revealed that the design-based STEM course helped pre-service teachers deepen their content knowledge. Additionally, most of the participants defined integrated STEM education as an acronym (n = 6) and very few mentioned the interdisciplinary dimension of STEM education superficially at the beginning (n = 3). At the end, they mentioned interdisciplinary nature as connecting at least two dimensions of STEM, and they emphasized engaging in real-world problems, designing a product or process and inquiry-based and/or problem-based learning. Regarding engineering and engineering design views, a similar development was observed. Although their views were undeveloped or underdeveloped at the beginning, they enriched their views and mentioned defining criteria, creativity and integration to science and mathematics that are characteristics of engineering and design processes. Implications for including STEM courses in pre-service teacher education programs were provided.
Chemistry topics posing incommensurate difficulty to students with low math aptitude scores Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-05-28 Vanessa R. Ralph, Scott E. Lewis
The identification of students at risk for academic failure in undergraduate chemistry courses has been heavily addressed in the literature. Arguably one of the strongest and most well-supported predictors of undergraduate success in chemistry is the mathematics portion of the SAT (SAT-M), a college-entrance, standardized test administered by the College Board. While students scoring in the bottom quartile of the SAT-M (herein referred to as at-risk) perform significantly worse on first-semester chemistry assessments, little is known of the topics on which these students differentially struggle. The purpose of this study is to provide insight as to which first-semester chemistry topics present an incommensurate challenge to at-risk students. Students were identified as either at-risk or not at-risk via SAT-M scores. Students’ assessment responses were collected across four semesters of first-semester chemistry courses at a large, public university (N = 5636). At-risk students struggled consistently across all topics but disproportionately with mole concept and stoichiometry. Analyzing the trend in topics suggests that the struggles of at-risk students are not entirely attributable to topics that rely heavily on algorithms or algebraic math. Moreso, at-risk students found to have performed well on mole concept and stoichiometry went on to perform similarly as their not at-risk peers. The results support an instructional emphasis on these topics with reviewed literature offering promising, practical options to better serve at-risk students and broaden representation in the sciences.
Student-centred active learning approaches to teaching quantum chemistry and spectroscopy: quantitative results from a two-year action research study Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-05-28 Lauri Partanen
In this article, I propose a student-centred approach to teaching quantum chemistry and spectroscopy at the bachelor-level that extends active learning principles outside course lectures. The aim is to elucidate what type of methodology is most appropriate and efficient for this context and student population, and how this incorporation of active learning elements impacts learning. Three quantitative learning indicators are used to measure the effectiveness of the proposed approach, including exercise points obtained by the students, exam results, and the results of a conceptual inventory administered both at the beginning and the end of the course. The proposed model resulted in substantial improvement in learning outcomes compared to a previous class where active learning elements were confined mostly to the course lectures and a traditionally taught class. The model can be generalised to any subject where both quantitative and qualitative understanding is required. Thus, in addition to providing further support for the effectiveness of active learning approaches in science, this study shows the benefits of applying these approaches to exercises and other course tasks besides lectures.
The effect of motivation on the choice of chemistry in secondary schools: adaptation and validation of the Science Motivation Questionnaire II to Spanish students Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-05-28 Diego Ardura, Alberto Pérez-Bitrián
The present study aims to analyse the effect of motivational variables and previous academic achievement on students’ future choice of chemistry once this subject becomes optional in the educational system. Toward this goal, the translation and adaptation of the Science Motivation Questionnaire II (SMQII) has been undertaken in our investigation to measure students’ motivation towards physics and chemistry. The sample comprised 1060 secondary school Spanish students divided into two groups: 695 students who chose the subject when it became optional for the first time and 365 who decided to leave it. Factor analysis confirmed the original structure of latent variables in our sample, providing validity for this adaptation to a new language and context. A segmentation analysis confirmed that career motivation was the best predictor of students’ retention in physics and chemistry before previous academic achievement and the rest of the motivational variables. Although significant gender differences were found in self-efficacy and self-determination, these seem not to be relevant in students’ choice.
A new approach to supplementary instruction narrows achievement and affect gaps for underrepresented minorities, first-generation students, and women Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-05-23 Cynthia A. Stanich, Michael A. Pelch, Elli J. Theobald, Scott Freeman
To help students who traditionally underperform in general chemistry, we created a supplementary instruction (SI) course and called it the STEM-Dawgs Workshops. These workshops are an extension of the Peer-led Team Learning (PLTL) SI. In addition to peer-facilitated problem-solving, we incorporated two components inspired by learning sciences: (1) training in research-based study skills, and (2) evidence-based interventions targeting psychological and emotional support. Here we use an explanatory mixed methods approach to measure the impact of the STEM-Dawgs Workshops, with a focus on four sub-populations that are historically underrepresented in Chemistry: underrepresented minorities, females, low-income students, and first-generation students. Specifically, we compared three groups of students in the same General Chemistry course: students in general chemistry and not the workshops (“Gen Chem students”), students in the workshops (“STEM-Dawgs”), and students who volunteered for the workshops but did not get in (“Volunteers”). We tested hypotheses with regression models and conducted a series of focus group interviews with STEM-Dawgs. Compared to the Gen Chem population, the STEM-Dawg and Volunteer populations were enriched with students in all four under-represented sub-populations. Compared to Volunteers, STEM-Dawgs had increased exam scores, sense of belonging, perception of relevance, self-efficacy, and emotional satisfaction about chemistry. URM STEM-Dawgs had lower failure rates, and exam score achievement gaps that impacted first-generation and female Gen Chem students were eliminated in the STEM-Dawg population. Finally, female STEM-Dawgs had an increased sense of belonging and higher emotional satisfaction about chemistry than women Volunteers. Focus groups suggested that successes came in part from the supportive peer-learning environment and the relationships with peer facilitators. Together, our results indicate that this supplementary instruction model can raise achievement and improve affect for students who are underrepresented in chemistry.
Undergraduate chemistry students’ misconceptions about reaction coordinate diagrams Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-05-21 Roshan Lamichhane, Cathrine Reck, Adam V. Maltese
Misconceptions are the “the old, the bad, and the ugly” prior knowledge, ideas or conceptions that the learners have that hinder their further learning in science. Several types of misconceptions that undergraduate students hold about reaction coordinate diagrams (from here on we use the term “reaction coordinate diagrams” and “energy diagrams” interchangeably) are described herein. The rationale of 223 students were coded based on their responses to a multiple-choice question on the topic, and interviews (n = 10) were used to delve deeper into the students’ knowledge structures. The results of the open coding of the rationale and the interviews were used in developing an instrument which was administered to 57 students. In this paper, we present the assessment instrument and the alternate conceptions that students have regarding energy diagrams that have not been reported in the literature yet. Implications for instructional approaches particular to the energy diagram topic are discussed.
Investigation of the role of writing-to-learn in promoting student understanding of light–matter interactions Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-05-10 Alena Moon, Eleni Zotos, Solaire Finkenstaedt-Quinn, Anne Ruggles Gere, Ginger Shultz
Fundamental quantum chemistry concepts—quantization of energy, electronic structure, and light–matter interaction—are essential for understanding chemistry and spectroscopy, an important tool for studying molecules. However, very few studies have investigated how students learn and understand these concepts or how their learning can be supported. Drawing on the capacity of writing to support learning of difficult concepts, we designed an intervention that targeted quantum concepts in the context of the use of spectroscopy for identifying chemical composition of the Orion Nebula. A quasi-experimental design with a pre-post assessment on a control and treatment group was used to identify the gains associated with completing the WTL activity. Results from a three-tiered assessment show that WTL students significantly improved in their explanations of the concept of spectroscopic transitions and their overall confidence in their understanding. Analysis of their writing, follow-up interviews, and feedback served to explain the changes observed on the pre-post assessment.
The effect of concept maps, as an individual learning tool, on the success of learning the concepts related to gravimetric analysis Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-05-03 N. Turan-Oluk, G. Ekmekci
This study aims to conduct a detailed investigation on the effect the use of concept mapping, as an individual learning tool, has on students’ success in learning the concept of gravimetric analysis. This study applies a case study research design to quantitatively examine the effect of the use of concept mapping and to conduct a detailed qualitative investigation of the participants’ opinions about its use. In this study, the concept maps were used both as a data collection tool [Select and fill in the nodes (SAFIN); Select and fill in the lines (SAFIL); Create and fill in the lines (CAFIL); Select and fill in the nodes&lines (SAFIN&L)] and as an individual learning tool. For data triangulation, students’ opinions on the concept mapping technique, as an individual learning tool for understanding gravimetric analysis, were also taken. Results from the study showed that there were significant differences between the pre- and post-test scores on all the tests (four types of fill-in-the-blank concept maps and a concept test) in favor of the post-test scores. In other words, the use of the concept map resulted in an increase in the success of the students. Furthermore, the participants expressed very positive opinions about the concept maps as an individual learning tool, both on the attitude scale and in their written opinions, declaring that it has a definite boosting effect on successfully learning a concept.
Upper-division chemistry students’ navigation and use of quantum chemical models Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-04-24 Marc N. Muniz, Cassidy Crickmore, Joshua Kirsch, Jordan P. Beck
Chemical processes can be fully explained only by employing quantum mechanical models. These models are abstract and require navigation of a variety of cognitively taxing representations. Published research about how students use quantum mechanical models at the upper-division level is sparse. Through a mixed-methods study involving think-aloud interviews, a novel rating task, and an existing concept inventory, our work aims to fill this gap in the literature and begin the process of characterizing learning of quantum chemistry in upper-division courses. The major findings are that upper-division students tend to conflate models and model components. Students, unlike experts, focus on surface features. Our data indicates two specific surface features: lexical features and a “complex equals better” heuristic. Finally, there is no correlation in our data between a student's facility with navigating models and their conceptual understanding of quantum chemistry as a whole. We analyze the data through the lens of a framework which enables us to cast model conflation as a problem of ontology.
Organic chemistry students’ challenges with coherence formation between reactions and reaction coordinate diagrams Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-04-16 Maia Popova, Stacey Lowery Bretz
The purpose of this study was to elucidate and describe students’ thinking when making connections between substitution and elimination reactions and their corresponding reaction coordinate diagrams. Thirty-six students enrolled in organic chemistry II participated in individual, semi-structured interviews. Three major themes were identified that characterize students’ difficulties with integrating the information from the reactions and the reaction coordinate diagrams: incorrect ideas about the meanings of the reaction coordinate diagrams’ features, errors when examining reaction mechanisms, and an inability to assess the relative energies of reaction species. These findings suggest that students need support for coherence formation between reactions and reaction coordinate diagrams. Implications for teaching to address these student difficulties are suggested.
Can language focussed activities improve understanding of chemical language in non-traditional students? Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-04-16 Simon William Rees, Vanessa Kind, Douglas Newton
Students commonly find the language of chemistry challenging and a barrier to developing understanding. This study investigated developments in chemical language understanding by a group of non-traditional students over the duration of a one year pre-undergraduate (Foundation) course at a UK university. The chemistry course was designed to include a range of literacy based strategies to promote understanding including: word games, corpus linguistics, word roots and origins, and reading comprehension. Understanding of chemical language was assessed with a chemical language assessment (CLA) that was administered three times during the year. The CLA assessed understanding of scientific affixes, symbolic language, non-technical words, technical words, fundamental words and topic-specific vocabulary. Results indicate that chemical language understanding improved over the duration of the study with moderate to large effect sizes. Students who scored low in the initial CLA (below 40%) improved but their scores remained lower than the rest of the students at the end of the year. The topic-specific and technical sections scored low for all students at the start of the year and remained the lowest at the end of the year. Examples of symbolic and non-technical language remained problematic for some students at the end of the year. There was a correlation (r = 0.53) between initial CLA score and final exam outcomes although some students with low initial CLA scores did perform well in the final exam. These findings are discussed in relation to the role of literacy based strategies in chemistry teaching.
Improving general chemistry performance through a growth mindset intervention: selective effects on underrepresented minorities Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-04-13 Angela Fink, Michael J. Cahill, Mark A. McDaniel, Arielle Hoffman, Regina F. Frey
Women and minorities remain underrepresented in chemistry bachelor's degree attainment in the United States, despite efforts to improve their early chemistry achievement through supplemental academic programs and active-learning approaches. We propose an additional strategy for addressing these disparities: course-based, social-psychological interventions. For example, growth-mindset interventions are designed to support students during challenging academic transitions by encouraging them to view intelligence as a flexible characteristic that can be developed through practice, rather than a fixed ability. Previous research has shown that such interventions can improve the overall performance and persistence of college students, particularly those who belong to underrepresented groups. We report a random-assignment classroom experiment, which implemented a chemistry-specific growth-mindset intervention among first-year college students enrolled in General Chemistry 1. Performance results revealed an achievement gap between underrepresented minority and white students in the control group, but no sex-based gap. Critically, after adjusting for variation in academic preparation, the mindset intervention eliminated this racial-achievement gap. Qualitative analysis of students’ written reflections from the intervention shed light on their experiences of the mindset and control treatments, deepening our understanding of mindset effects. We integrate these results with the mindset and chemical education literatures and discuss the implications for educators seeking to support underrepresented students in their own classrooms.
Views of German chemistry teachers on creativity in chemistry classes and in general Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-04-13 Luzie Semmler, Verena Pietzner
Creativity has become an increasingly important competence in today's rapidly changing times, because economics and industries depend on innovation. Creativity is therefore a requirement for school graduates, especially for the ones who strive to pursue a technical or scientific career. But creativity has not been integrated into the curricula of STEM subjects in many European countries like Germany. To successfully integrate it in the classroom, it is important to investigate teachers' views and conceptions on creativity, because they have an influence on teaching and lesson planning. This is the purpose of this study. To investigate the views and conceptions, a research instrument especially designed for this study is used. It includes the creation of two concept maps and filling out a questionnaire. The study was carried out using fifteen German chemistry teachers. The evaluation of the data was made qualitatively as well as quantitatively. It has revealed that almost all of the teachers in this study had a positive attitude towards creativity and had experiences referring to integrating creativity into their own chemistry lessons. But not all of these experiences are good ones and there were some aspects with regard to creativity in general, where uncertainties could be identified.
Can cognitive structure outcomes reveal cognitive styles? A study on the relationship between cognitive styles and cognitive structure outcomes on the subject of chemical kinetics Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-04-06 Elif Atabek-Yigit
Determination of the relationship between individuals’ cognitive styles and cognitive structure outcomes was the main aim of this study. Sixty-six participants were enrolled in the study and their cognitive styles were determined by using the Hidden Figure Test (for their field dependent/independent dimension of cognitive style) and the Convergent/Divergent Test (for their convergence/divergence dimension of cognitive style). An open-ended questionnaire was formed in order to determine participants’ cognitive structure outcomes. The study topic was chosen as chemical kinetics since it is one of the most difficult topics in chemistry according to many students and also there is limited study in the literature on this topic. Key concepts about chemical kinetics were selected and given to the participants and they were asked to write a text by using the given concepts. A flow map technique was used to reveal participants’ cognitive structure outcomes. According to the findings of this study, it can be said that field independent participants tended to be divergent thinkers while field dependents tended to be convergent thinkers. Also, strong positive relationships between participants’ field dependency/independency and some cognitive structure outcomes (extent and richness) were found. That is, field independents tended to have more extended and richer cognitive structure outcomes. However, the convergence/divergence dimension of cognitive style did not show any correlation with cognitive structure outcomes.
Teaching assistants' topic-specific pedagogical content knowledge in 1H NMR spectroscopy Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-04-03 M. C. Connor, G. V. Shultz
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is an essential analytical tool in chemistry, and the technique is routinely included as a topic across the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. As a result of NMR's importance, classroom instruction of this topic has received considerable attention in chemistry education research. However, little is known about instructors’ knowledge for teaching this topic. In order to better understand this knowledge, we investigated topic-specific pedagogical content knowledge in 1H NMR spectroscopy among 20 chemistry teaching assistants at a large Midwestern university in the United States. A questionnaire was developed to provide an inferential measure of content knowledge and topic-specific pedagogical content knowledge in 1H NMR spectroscopy for participants with a range of teaching experience. Data from the questionnaire were analyzed qualitatively and quantized using a rubric. The quantitative data were transformed using the Rasch model and statistically analyzed. Results from these analyses indicate that pedagogical content knowledge increased with teaching experience in 1H NMR spectroscopy, suggesting that knowledge for teaching this topic is developed through practice. Additionally, the development of pedagogical content knowledge was found to depend upon content knowledge required for specific NMR sub-topics and problems. This finding suggests that the ultimate “grain-size,” or domain-specificity, of pedagogical content knowledge may extend to the problem level. Results from this study have implications for how instructors may cultivate knowledge for teaching NMR spectroscopy, as well as for how pedagogical content knowledge may be more effectively incorporated into instructor training programs.
The effect of peer-led team learning on undergraduate engineering students’ conceptual understanding, state anxiety, and social anxiety Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-03-29 E. N. Eren-Sisman, C. Cigdemoglu, O. Geban
This study aims to compare the effectiveness of a Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) model with that of traditional college instruction (TCI) in enhancing the conceptual understanding and reducing both the state anxiety and social anxiety of undergraduate engineering students in a general chemistry course in a quasi-experimental design. 128 engineering students taking the course participated in the study. One of the course sections was randomly assigned to the experimental group and the other section was assigned to the control group. Both sections were taught by the same instructor. The control group was instructed using traditional college instruction, while the experimental group was instructed using the PLTL model. Throughout this study, six peer-led chemistry workshops and leader training sessions were performed simultaneously. The General Chemistry Concept Test, the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory, and the Social Anxiety Questionnaire for Adults were administered before and after the treatment to both groups. One-way Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA) indicated that after controlling students’ university entrance scores, trait anxiety scores and pre-test scores of both the General Chemistry Concept Test and state anxiety, the PLTL model was more effective in improving the conceptual understanding and reducing the situational anxiety of engineering students in undergraduate general chemistry. However, it was not so effective in lessening their social anxiety when compared to traditional college instruction.
Using knowledge space theory to compare expected and real knowledge spaces in learning stoichiometry Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-03-28 M. T. Segedinac, S. Horvat, D. D. Rodić, T. N. Rončević, G. Savić
This paper proposes a novel application of knowledge space theory for identifying discrepancies between the knowledge structure that experts expect students to have and the real knowledge structure that students demonstrate on tests. The proposed approach combines two methods of constructing knowledge spaces. The expected knowledge space is constructed by analysing the problem-solving process, while the real knowledge space is identified by applying a data-analytic method. These two knowledge spaces are compared for graph difference and the discrepancies between the two are analysed. In this paper, the proposed approach is applied to the domain of stoichiometry. Although there was a decent agreement between expected and real knowledge spaces, a number of relations that were not present in the expected one appeared in the real knowledge space. The obtained results led to a general conclusion for teaching stoichiometry and pointed to some potential improvements in the existing methods for evaluating cognitive complexity.
An examination of preservice elementary teachers’ representations about chemistry in an intertextuality- and modeling-based course Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-03-20 Minjung Ryu, Jocelyn Elizabeth Nardo, Meng Yang Matthew Wu
The chemistry education aspect of elementary teacher education faces a unique set of challenges. On one hand, preservice and in-service elementary teachers tend to not like chemistry and have negative feelings toward chemistry. On the other hand, learning chemistry requires reasoning about natural phenomena from the submicroscopic perspective that deals with the properties and behaviors of unobservable particles. The present study addresses these challenges in chemistry education for preservice elementary teachers (PSETs) by designing a chemistry curriculum that improves the relevance of chemistry learning to students via intertextuality and modeling practices. An analysis of chemistry representations that PSETs generated before and after taking the designed chemistry course demonstrates that they initially perceived chemistry as vivid chemical changes occurring in lab spaces or a discipline related to atoms while failing to provide connections between the chemical reactions and atoms. After taking the course, many students came to see doing chemistry as epistemic practices that construct submicroscopic explanations for observable phenomena and its relevance to everyday lives such as food, car emissions, and their local surroundings. They also came to recognize various epistemic roles that people play in doing chemistry. We provide important implications for engaging PSETs in chemical reasoning and designing chemistry curricula that are more approachable and build on learners’ knowledge resources.
Investigating the viability of a competency-based, qualitative laboratory assessment model in first-year undergraduate chemistry Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-03-20 Reyne Pullen, Stuart C. Thickett, Alex C. Bissember
In chemistry curricula, both the role of the laboratory program and the method of assessment used are subject to scrutiny and debate. The ability to identify clearly defined competencies for the chemistry laboratory program is crucial, given the numerous other disciplines that rely on foundation-level chemistry knowledge and practical skills. In this report, we describe the design, implementation, results, and feedback obtained on a competency-based assessment model recently introduced into the first-year laboratory program at an Australian university. Previously, this laboratory program was assessed via a quantitative, criterion-referenced assessment model. At the core of this new model was a set of competency criteria relating to skills-acquisition, chemical knowledge and application of principles, safety in the laboratory, as well as professionalism and teamwork. By design, these criteria were aligned with the learning outcomes of the course and the degree itself, as well as local accrediting bodies. Qualitative and quantitative feedback from students (and staff) obtained before and after the implementation of this new model suggested this approach provided an enhanced learning experience enabling a greater focus on the acquisition of fundamental laboratory skills and techniques.
The characterization of cognitive processes involved in chemical kinetics using a blended processing framework Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-03-13 Kinsey Bain, Jon-Marc G. Rodriguez, Alena Moon, Marcy H. Towns
Chemical kinetics is a highly quantitative content area that involves the use of multiple mathematical representations to model processes and is a context that is under-investigated in the literature. This qualitative study explored undergraduate student integration of chemistry and mathematics during problem solving in the context of chemical kinetics. Using semi-structured interviews, participants were asked to make their reasoning and thinking explicit as they described provided equations and as they worked though chemical kinetics problems. Here we describe the results from our study, which included thirty-six general chemistry students, five physical chemistry students, and three chemical engineering students. Analysis and findings are framed in terms of blended processing, a theory from cognitive science that characterizes human knowledge integration. Themes emerged relating to contexts that were commonly discussed when blending occurred. Variation in the depth and directionality of blending was also observed and characterized. Results provide implications for supporting student problem solving and the modeling of chemical processes.
A framework for understanding student nurses’ experience of chemistry as part of a health science course Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-03-05 Kerrie Boddey, Kevin de Berg
Twenty-seven first-year nursing students, divided across six focus groups formed on the basis of their past chemistry experience, were interviewed about their chemistry experience as a component of a Health Science unit. Information related to learning and academic performance was able to be established from student conversations resulting in three themes (and associated categories): Connectivity (curriculum, application, and social interaction); Reductivity (nature of chemistry, exposition, and control of learning); and Reflexivity (confidence, anxiety, and goal orientation). The framework proved useful in portraying relationships between themes for conversations related to tutorial sessions, prior knowledge, and chemistry in nursing. The focus groups were representative of the total cohort of students in terms of gender, age, working hours, academic performance, enjoyment level of chemistry, and the extent of the relevance of chemistry to nursing. Implications for chemistry educators, especially those supporting novices, are considered.
Inquiry and industry inspired laboratories: the impact on students’ perceptions of skill development and engagements Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. (IF 1.621) Pub Date : 2018-03-02 Stephen R. George-Williams, Jue T. Soo, Angela L. Ziebell, Christopher D. Thompson, Tina L. Overton
Many examples exist in the chemical education literature of individual experiments, whole courses or even entire year levels that have been completely renewed under the tenets of context-based, inquiry-based or problem-based learning. The benefits of these changes are well documented and include higher student engagement, broader skill development and better perceived preparation for the workforce. However, no examples appear to have been reported in which an entire school's teaching laboratory programme has been significantly redesigned with these concepts in mind. Transforming Laboratory Learning (TLL) is a programme at Monash University that sought to incorporate industry inspired context-based, inquiry-based and problem-based learning into all the laboratory components of the School of Chemistry. One of the ways in which the effect of the programme was evaluated was through the use of an exit survey delivered to students at the completion of seven experiments that existed before the TLL programme as well as seven that were generated directly by the TLL programme. The survey consisted of 27 closed questions alongside three open questions. Overall, students found the new experiments more challenging but recognised that they were more contextualised and that they allowed students to make decisions. The students noted the lack of detailed guidance in the new laboratory manuals but raised the challenge, context and opportunity to undertake experimental design as reasons for enjoying the new experiments. Students' perceptions of their skill development shifted to reflect skills associated with experimental design when undertaking the more investigation driven experiments. These results are consistent with other literature and indicate the large scale potential success of the TLL programme, which is potentially developing graduates who are better prepared for the modern workforce.
Some contents have been Reproduced by permission of The Royal Society of Chemistry.
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