Evaluating conceptual change in high school honors chemistry students studying quantum concepts
Hurwitz, Charles Leonard
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High school honors chemistry students have difficulty applying abstract nanooscopic concepts to predict chemical properties. This dissertation aims at evaluating misconceptions and conceptual change in quantum concepts among honors chemistry students from a suburban high school near Boston. For that purpose a new graphical organizer known as a linkage matrix was developed. The researcher investigated the relative extent to which students shifted to a paradigm of using quantum concepts when explaining macroscopic properties such as solubility or color. The researcher compared the qualitative effects of traditional methods of instruction, i.e. lecture/lab in three classes of seventeen students with the additional effects of discovery via computer simulation on student understanding from two of those classes. Students produced concept maps both prior and subsequent to their study of quantum chemistry. The researcher applied the student-cohort's propositional phrases in a linkage matrix based on eight concepts to analyze student understanding of quantum concepts. Four students from each of the experimental classes were interviewed regarding their c-maps linking phrases to identify patterns and assess the scoring validity. The linkage matrix was used to determine the twelve linking phrases exhibiting a thirty percent improvement in student understanding. All students exhibited a decrease in the number of misconceptions. However, the experimental group showed a greater capacity to link more concepts at a deeper level after the intervention. Previously documented misconception such as overgeneralization, and the particulate nature of matter are exacerbated by the difficulty students have with energy and sign. The research suggests that the activities designed should allow students practice manipulating the variables. The correlational reasoning ability of the students was evaluated using the Group Assessment of Logical Thinking as a potential cause of students' difficulty attributing the relationships among concepts.
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