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Tutor-student interaction in undergraduate chemistry: a case of learning to make relevant distinctions of molecular structures for determining oxidation states of atoms
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics and Science Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0712-0681
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics and Science Education.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics and Science Education.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry (MMK).
2018 (English)In: International Journal of Science Education, ISSN 0950-0693, E-ISSN 1464-5289, Vol. 40, no 16, p. 2023-2043Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this study, we explore the issues and challenges involved in supporting students’ learning to discern relevant and critical aspects of determining oxidation states of atoms in complex molecules. We present a detailed case of an interaction between three students and a tutor during a problem-solving class, using the analytical tool of practical epistemology analysis (PEA). The results show that the ability to make relevant distinctions between the different parts of a molecule for solving the problem, even with the guidance of the tutor, seemed to be challenging for students. These shifts were connected to both purposes that were specific for solving the problem at hand, and additional purposes for general learning of the subject matter, in this case how to assign oxidation states in molecules. The students sometimes could not follow the additional purposes introduced by the tutor, which made the related distinctions more confusing. Our results indicate that in order to provide adequate support and guidance for students the tutor needs to consider how to sequence, move between, and productively connect the different purposes introduced in a tutor-student interaction. One way of doing that is by first pursuing the purposes for solving the problem and then successively introduce additional, more general purposes for developing students’ learning of the subject matter studied. Further recommendations drawn from this study are discussed as well.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 40, no 16, p. 2023-2043
Keywords [en]
Chemistry education, problem solving, tutor-student interaction
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Science Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-163052DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2018.1517423OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-163052DiVA, id: diva2:1273481
Available from: 2018-12-21 Created: 2018-12-21 Last updated: 2019-01-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Supporting Learning and Teaching of Chemistry in the Undergraduate Classroom
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Supporting Learning and Teaching of Chemistry in the Undergraduate Classroom
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

There is agreement in research about the need to find better ways of teaching chemistry to enhance students’ understanding. This thesis aims to contribute to the understanding of how we better support teaching and learning of undergraduate chemistry to make it meaningful and intelligible for students from the outset. The thesis is concerned with examining the interactions between student, specific content and teacher in the undergraduate chemistry classroom; that is, the processes making up the three relations of the didactic triangle. The data consists of observations of students and tutors during problem-solving activities in an introductory chemistry course and interviews with graduate students.

Systematic analyses of the different interactions between the student, the chemistry content, and the tutor are made using the analytical tool of practical epistemology analysis. The main findings of the thesis include detailed insights into how undergraduate chemistry students deal with newly encountered content together with didactic models and concrete suggestions for improved teaching and for supporting continuity and progression in the undergraduate chemistry classroom. Specifically, I show how students deal with the chemistry content through a complex interaction of knowledge, experiences, and purposes on different levels invoked by both students and tutors as they interact with each other. Whether these interactions have a positive or negative effect on students’ learning depends on the nature of knowledge, experiences and purposes that were invoked. Moreover, the tutor sometimes invoked other purposes than the ones related to the task at hand for connecting the activity to the subject matter in general. These purposes were not always made continuous with the activity which resulting in confusion among students. The results from these analyses were used for producing hypotheses and models that could support continuity and progression during the activity. The suggested models aim to make the content more manageable and meaningful to students, enabling connections to other experiences and purposes, and helping teachers and tutors to analyze and reflect on their teaching. Moreover, a purpose- and activity-based progression is suggested that gives attention to purposes in chemistry education other than providing explanations of chemical phenomena. The aim of this ‘progression in action’ is to engage students in activities were they can see the meaning of chemical concepts and ideas through their use to accomplish different chemical tasks. A general conclusion is that detailed knowledge about the processes of teaching and learning is important for providing adequate support to both undergraduate students and university teachers in the chemistry classroom.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Mathematics and Science Education, Stockholm University, 2019. p. 70
Series
Doctoral thesis from the department of mathematics and science education ; 20
Keywords
undergraduate chemistry education, learning and teaching processes, didactic triangle, chemical bonding, tutor-student interaction, practical epistemology analysis, continuity, progression, purposes
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Science Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-163805 (URN)978-91-7797-538-0 (ISBN)978-91-7797-539-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-02-22, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Accepted. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2019-01-30 Created: 2019-01-09 Last updated: 2019-01-22Bibliographically approved

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