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ERIC Number: EJ1117368
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Oct
Pages: 12
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9584
Characterizing Students' Mechanistic Reasoning about London Dispersion Forces
Becker, Nicole; Noyes, Keenan; Cooper, Melanie
Journal of Chemical Education, v93 n10 p1713-1724 Oct 2016
Characterizing how students construct causal mechanistic explanations for chemical phenomena can provide us with important insights into the ways that students develop understanding of chemistry concepts. Here, we present two qualitative studies of undergraduate general chemistry students' reasoning about the causes of London dispersion forces in nonpolar species such as helium atoms. In the first study, we used semi-structured interviews to examine students' verbal explanations for how and why electrical interactions arise between helium atoms. In the second, we used an online short-answer version of the interview task to examine the prevalence of the drawing and explanation types we observed in student interviews. We present a characterization of students' explanations and drawings in terms of increasing sophistication and demonstrate how it may be used as a model for assessing students' ability to engage in scientific practices such as explanation.
Division of Chemical Education, Inc and ACS Publications Division of the American Chemical Society. 1155 Sixteenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 800-227-5558; Tel: 202-872-4600; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE0816692; 1359818; DUE1043707; 1420005; DUE1122472; 1341987