Using the symbolic interactionist perspective that meaning is constituted as individuals interact with one another, this study examined how group thinking during cooperative inquiry-based activity on chemical bonding theories shaped and influenced college students' understanding of the properties of ionic compounds in solution. The analysis revealed the development of sociochemical norms and specific ways of reasoning about chemical ideas that led to shifts in student thinking and understanding of the nature of dissolved ionic solids. The analysis similarly revealed two kinds of teacher-initiated discourses, dialogical and monologic, that impacted student learning differently. I discuss the nature of this teacher-initiated discourse and number of moves, such as confirming, communicative, and re-orienting, that the course instructor made to communicate to students what counts as justifiable chemical reasoning and appropriate representations of chemical knowledge. I further describe the use of sociochemical dialogues as lens to study the ways in which chemistry instructors and students develop normative ways of reasoning and chemical justifications.
Because the activity was designed as an intervention to target student misconceptions about ionic bonding, I also examined the extent to which the activity elicited and corrected commonly found student chemical misconceptions. To do so, student-generated particulate drawings were coded qualitatively into one of four broad themes: i) use of molecular framework with discrete atoms, ii) use of ionic framework with discrete ionic species, iii) use of quasi-ionic framework with partial ionic-molecular thinking, or iv) use of an all-encompassing ―other‖ category.
The findings suggested the intervention significantly improved students‘ conceptual knowledge of ionic compounds in solution - there was statistically significant increase in the number of drawings using ionic and quasi-ionic frameworks in the pre-activity vs. post-activity (2.3% vs. 59.5%, chi2(1) = 129.16, p < 0.001) and significant reduction in the number of ionic compounds represented as molecular in the pre-activity vs. post-activity (71.2% vs. 24.1%, chi2(1) = 72.24, p < 0.001). I discuss these findings and their implications for research and teaching.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2013. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Prof. Gillian H. Roehrig. 1 computer file (PDF); xiv, 242 pages, appendices A-C.
Warfa, Abdi-Rizak M..
Student conceptions of ionic compouns in solution and the influences of sociochemical norms on individual learning.
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