Investigating Student Discourse and Representational Understanding in an Electrochemistry Lab

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Hunter, vichuda Kaveparsit
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Middle Tennessee State University
ABSTRACT Chemistry is considered a difficult subject by most students. Its difficulty lies in Chemistry’s complex and abstract nature. This highly abstract nature requires constant interplay and coordination between the macroscopic, particulate, and symbolic representations. Experts can successfully navigate the various representations without overloading their working memory because they can relate their macroscopic observations to the particulate compositions, structures, and properties and express these symbolically. This ability to seamlessly connect the three levels of representations is not intuitive to novices/students. Working with all three representations can lead to cognitive overload as the novice thinks about all three representations independently. The laboratory seems to be the place where students learn to navigate the three levels of representation, and the chemistry department has invested time and money in laboratory courses. This study investigated the types of visualizations, hands-on lab, macroscopic visualization (MV); computer simulation lab, particulate visualization (PV); and hands-on and computer simulation simultaneously, macroscopic and particulate (MPV), that occur during electrochemistry laboratory activity and how each type of visualization influenced students’ discourse, interaction, understanding, and connecting the three representations is the main interest. The understanding of what transpires in the laboratory, whom students talked to, what they talked about, and whether the connection between representations occurs during the laboratory activity will help us design a better laboratory activity improve the learning environment for students and justify the cost of running the laboratory.