Session S81 (Thursday, 9:30am, Thomas 104)

P964: Exploring student perceptions of concrete models and the role of modeling in solving visuospatial tasks in organic chemistry

Jeffrey Olimpo, Bonnie Dixon (University of Maryland – College Park, USA)

In an effort to depict the micromolecular world, chemists utilize a variety of representations, including symbolic equations, concrete and virtual models, and 2-dimensional diagrams.  Research has consistently shown that achieving mastery in understanding, manipulating, and interpreting these representations is critical for success in the discipline.  For novice students in particular, this task can be challenging, and it is therefore imperative that educators be made aware of how students perceive models and modeling in classroom contexts.  To address this concern, a combination of Likert-item surveys and semi-structured, focus group interviews was used to gather insight into how students a) define models in chemistry; b) describe their previous experiences working with models to solve visuospatial problems; and c) perceive models-based instruction, if any, in the classroom.  Preliminary data suggests that students’ framing of models and modeling tasks is explicitly linked to the structure and constraints of the classroom environment.


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