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A Study Of How Precursor Key Concepts For Organic Chemistry Success Are Understood By General Chemistry Students, Patrick Gerard Meyer Dec 2005

A Study Of How Precursor Key Concepts For Organic Chemistry Success Are Understood By General Chemistry Students, Patrick Gerard Meyer

Dissertations

This study examines college student understanding of key concepts that will support future organic chemistry success as determined by university instructors. During four one-hour individual interviews the sixteen subjects attempted to solve general chemistry problems. A think-aloud protocol was used along with a whiteboard where the students could draw and illustrate their ideas. The protocols for the interviews were adapted from the Covalent Structure and Bonding two-tiered multiple choice diagnostic instrument (Peterson, Treagust, & Garnett, 1989) and augmented by the Geometry and Polarity of Moleculessingle-tiered multiple choice instrument (Furió & Calatayud, 1996). The interviews were videotaped, transcribed, and coded for analysis to determine the subjects' understanding of the key ideas. The subjects displayed many misconceptions that were summarized into nine assertions about studentconceptualization of chemistry. (1) Many students misunderstand the location and nature of intermolecular forces. (2) Some think electronegativity differences among atoms in a molecule are sufficient to make the molecule polar, regardless of spatial arrangement. (3) Most know that higher phase change temperatures imply stronger intermolecular attractions, but many do not understand the difference between covalent molecular and covalent network substances. (4) Many have difficulty deciding whether a molecule is polar or non-polar, often confusing bilateral symmetry with spatial symmetry in all three dimensions. (5) Many cannot reliably draw correct Lewis structures due to carelessness and overuse of flawed algorithms. (6) Many are confused by howelectrons can both repel one other and facilitate bonding between atoms via orbitals---this seems oxymoronic to them. (7) Many cannot explain why the atomsof certain elements do not follow the octet rule and some believe the octet rule alone can determine the shape of a molecule. (8) Most do know that electronegativity and polarity are not adequate to determine the shape of a molecule---but some apply the VSEPR theory in incorrect ways. (9) Students do not reason significantly differently when working with various representations of molecules such as ball-and-stick models, molecular formulas, and Lewis structures.

The study illuminated specific parts of the general chemistry curriculum that are particularly troublesome for students but necessary for their further achievement in chemistry. This information is important; it gives the discipline of chemistry education target areas to focus on for general chemistrypedagogical improvement efforts.


Meaningful Learning: Reconciling The Tensions Between Constructivist And Environmentally Sustainable Pedagogy, Nancy Van Kannel-Ray Apr 2005

Meaningful Learning: Reconciling The Tensions Between Constructivist And Environmentally Sustainable Pedagogy, Nancy Van Kannel-Ray

Dissertations

Critics of constructivism argue, in many ways correctly, that this approach to education is culturally and environmentally damaging because constructivism may not develop an understanding of the interdependence between the human community and the world in which people live. Advocates for environmentally sustainable pedagogy argue the importance of understanding patterns of thinking that allow communities to live sustainably. The purpose of this study is to resolve the tensions between the two pedagogical frameworks: constructivism and environmental sustainability.

The tensions are resolved in two ways. First, there are forms of constructivism that align in viable ways with the criteria critics argue ...


Understanding Photosynthesis And Plant Cellular Respiration As “Nested Systems”: The Characterization Of Pre-Service Teachers’ Conceptions, Mary H. Brown Apr 2005

Understanding Photosynthesis And Plant Cellular Respiration As “Nested Systems”: The Characterization Of Pre-Service Teachers’ Conceptions, Mary H. Brown

Dissertations

This dissertation project focused on pre-service elementary teachers' conceptions of the plant processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration as being connected, occurring at multiple ecological levels, and working within "nested systems." Participants enrolled in a biology course designed for elementary education majors provided their views of the processes through a series of tasks with a peer, a semi-structured interview, and clarified both photosynthesisand plant cellular respiration directly following classroom instruction on the two topics. The instructor of the course was interviewed after a preliminary analysis of the participants' responses. Data were analyzed using the qualitative analysis computer program The Ethnograph ...