Abstract by Katherine Collins
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Assessment of reasoning strategies used by undergraduate chemistry students when interpreting experimental observations
Student inability to relate abstract chemical concepts to their current knowledge and previous experience results in confusion, a shallow understanding of threshold concepts, and development of heuristics that constrain their understanding. To help students develop effective reasoning strategies, we must first understand the way they reason. In this study, we assess student reasoning using the Chemical Thinking Learning Progression (CTLP) and chemistry triplet in the context of successful and unsuccessful students. We found that unsuccessful students, in contrast to successful students, relied on heuristics and were unable to facilitate connections between the prompt and molecular mechanisms or to their outside knowledge. There was also a student who was initially unsuccessful, but became successful after making the connections required for this prompt, which demonstrates that with proper scaffolding and prompting, students can be led make connections which will lead to the use of more effective reasoning.