The Effect of Adding Relevant and Irrelevant Visual Images to an Animation of an Oxidation-Reduction Reaction on Students’ Conceptual Understanding

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Cole, Martin Hamilton
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation is comprised of two research studies that examine how different visual images in animations of the oxidation-reduction reaction of copper metal and silver nitrate affect general chemistry students’ explanations of the oxidation-reduction process. Each study compared students’ explanations after viewing the chemical demonstration and one particulate-level animation. The first study presented in Chapter 2 consists of two experiments; the first one used two animations created by different researchers while the second one (the water molecules study) used two animations that differed only by whether water molecules were shown or omitted from the animation. In the first experiment, students viewing the more simplified animation provided better explanations of the process than students viewing the more complex animation for all concepts compared. For the second experiment, however, most students’ explanations were not significantly different after viewing these two animations except that students viewing the animation with water molecules omitted were better able to identify nitrate ions in the animation. Additionally, students identified the animation with water molecules omitted as providing a clearer picture of the oxidation-reduction process. The two studies presented in Chapter 2 together suggest that showing or omitting water molecules in the animations had a limited effect on students’ explanations of the oxidation-reduction process. The study presented in Chapter 3 investigates how changing the visual images associated with ion charges and transferred electrons in an animation affects students’ explanations of the oxidation-reduction reaction. Students viewed one of four different particulate-level computer animations that differed in the way the ionic charges were depicted and the way the transferred electrons were depicted. This study showed that labeling the ion charges and depicting the transferred electrons as particles provided students with visually relevant information that enabled them to better explain some of the processes in the oxidation-reduction reaction and write a more correct balanced chemical equation than those students who viewed the animations omitting ion charges and depicting transferred electrons as halos around the metal atoms. Both studies demonstrate that showing relevant information in an animation of an oxidation-reduction reaction process had a significant impact on student’s explanations of the oxidation-reduction process.