Stephen McNeil (University of British Columbia – Okanagan, Canada)
University chemistry students must become familiar with a range of bonding theories (e.g. Lewis, VSEPR, VBT, MOT) in order to explain the physical and chemical properties of molecules. A second-year bonding course has been developed that employs interactive student engagement exercises designed to promote the correct use of bonding concepts. A quasi-experimental study with second-year chemistry students was undertaken both to establish the effectiveness of the engagement exercise, and to identify common bonding misconceptions about Lewis structures, VSEPR, and VBT. We find a statistically significant increase in student ability to correctly use various bonding models and a decrease in misconceptions among students enrolled in the bonding course relative to a non-enrolled control group. Guided-inquiry interviews targeted and explored specific misconceptions, many of which involve the treatment of bonding models as memorized algorithms rather than principles-based approaches, or the use of atom-based reasoning rather than wholly molecular interpretations of bonding.