Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Qualitative Study of Visualization Skills Used to Understand Chemical Bonding Theories
by Sleckman, John, Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2020, 228; 27995618
Abstract (Summary)

Visualization skills and spatial ability are necessary for understanding the 3-dimensional shapes of molecules using Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion (VSEPR) theory, hybrid orbital theory and understanding of sigma and pi bonding. Much research has been completed on visualization skills and alternative conceptions in chemistry education but there has been little focus on studying these skills for understanding of bonding theory in college chemistry. The aim of this study is to acquire an understanding of how community college chemistry students visualize in 3D and to collect feedback on their experiences of learning in order to provide information for better assessment tools and teaching strategies.

The method in this study involved interviewing 15 community college students who were either in the second semester of General Chemistry or taking Organic Chemistry. Data were transcribed and analyzed in conjunction with drawings and molecular models that were constructed and coded for recurring themes and concept understanding. It was found that most participants had a good understanding of molecular polarity and could use VSEPR theory to get the correct shape. Some found that using the Cartesian coordinate axis as a guide helped them to translate between the 2D Lewis structure and the 3D shape. Many had difficulty understanding symmetry, expressing 3-dimensionality in their drawings, determining expanded octet shapes, understanding hybrid orbital theory and understanding how the sigma and pi bonds form. Some of the recurring themes that emerged were the ‘value of using models’, a ‘disconnect’ between concepts, a lack of adequate ‘time’ spent on certain topics and the need to teach the requisite ‘terminology’. Some novel alternative conceptions were identified. These include associating the unhybridized p-orbital with a lone electron pair, associating the pi bond with the p-orbital and the sigma bond with the s-orbital, associating the bond type with the hybridization, considering molecules with partial symmetry as symmetrical and the identification of a sigma bond as a single bond and a pi bond as a double or triple bond. Other alternative conceptions identified were consistent with what was found in the literature. Novel recommendations were made on how to address these alternative conceptions and the student concerns that were expressed. Additionally, several concept maps were generated to outline how bonding theories could be learned in a series of steps to solve problems involving 3D structures in chemistry in order to minimize the development of alternative conceptions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sheppard, Keith
Commitee: Kelly, Angela M., Amarante, Daniel, DeMeo, Stephen
School: State University of New York at Stony Brook
Department: Science Education
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 82/1(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Science education
Keywords: 3-Dimensionality, Alternative conceptions, Molecular visualization, Pi bonding, Spatial ability, VSEPR theory
Publication Number: 27995618
ISBN: 9798662460942
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