Mapping Students' Ideas About Chemical Reactions At Different Educational Levels
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractUnderstanding chemical reactions is crucial in learning chemistry at all educational levels. Nevertheless, research in science education has revealed that many students struggle to understand chemical processes. Improving teaching and learning about chemical reactions demands that we develop a clearer understanding of student reasoning in this area and of how this reasoning evolves with training in the discipline. Thus, we have carried out a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews as the main data collection tool to explore students reasoning about reaction mechanism and causality. The participants of this study included students at different levels of training in chemistry: general chemistry students (n=22), organic chemistry students (n=16), first year graduate students (n=13) and Ph.D. candidates (n=14). We identified major conceptual modes along critical dimensions of analysis, and illustrated common ways of reasoning using typical cases. Main findings indicate that although significant progress is observed in student reasoning in some areas, major conceptual difficulties seem to persist even at the more advanced educational levels. In addition, our findings suggest that students struggle to integrate important concepts when thinking about mechanism and causality in chemical reactions. The results of our study are relevant to chemistry educators interested in learning progressions, assessment, and conceptual development.
Degree ProgramGraduate College