Session S55b (Tuesday, 5:15pm, Willaman Gateway)

P609: Student success at answering algorithmic versus conceptual problems on chemical equilibrium

Amanda Schachtel, Brittany Christian, Ellen Yezierski (Miami University, USA)

Chemistry instructors have often assumed that success in solving algorithmic problems indicates mastery of a concept. Prior research with elementary chemistry topics has demonstrated that this is not the case; however, prior work has not addressed higher level topics in general chemistry such as equilibrium.  The study’s purpose was to examine students’ success in answering algorithmic and conceptual problems about chemical equilibrium, specifically Le Chatelier’s Principle and equilibrium constants, to understand students’ correct and incorrect thought processes and ideas about both types of items. An 11-item multiple choice instrument was developed and administered to students in a second semester general chemistry course after they were tested on chemical equilibrium. The analysis of student performance on conceptual and algorithmic problems will be presented. Results have implications for instruction and assessment in general chemistry courses aimed at enhancing conceptual understanding of core chemistry content while retaining classic examples of algorithmic problems.


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