Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Miami University
Learning chemistry requires students to become fluent in the symbolic language of chemistry. Developing expertise, however, requires that students move beyond manipulating symbols to create explanations using particulate models of matter for observations in the laboratory. Failure to accurately interpret and connect these multiple representations of matter is one source of students’ misconceptions. Our research group designs measurement tools to advance our understanding of how students understand and interpret representations for a variety of core concepts. Creating such measures presents multiple challenges with regard to establishing the precision and accuracy of the data. Insights regarding the underlying assumptions and appropriateness of commonly used psychometrics will be examined. Findings regarding students’ reasoning and misconceptions will be presented with examples drawn from general chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and biochemistry courses.