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ERIC Number: ED433248
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 21
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Students' Understanding of Orbitals: A Survey.
MacKinnon, Gregory R.
The study of chemistry includes many abstract concepts that students may find difficult to understand. A fundamental yet troublesome part of introductory chemistry courses is the topic of electron configuration and specifically quantum-mechanical orbitals. In an effort to examine the way students internalize the concept of atomic orbitals and how they attempt to communicate that understanding using models, a study was undertaken. First, a pilot study was conducted with 20 college students in a teacher training program in order to identify specific misunderstandings related to a scientific conception of orbitals. These students were asked a single question: "If you had to explain the concept of orbitals to students in a chemistry course, how would you do so?" From the responses, three modes of communication emerged: written descriptions, symbolic representations, and pictorial approaches. The pilot study served as a basis to construct research questions for a survey of 302 grade 12 chemistry students and students in a university introductory chemistry course to determine students' use of the three communication styles. Findings suggest that many students have trouble with the symbolic conventions of electron configuration. The use of appropriate models to explain orbitals is suggested. (Contains 31 references.) (WRM)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A