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ERIC Number: EJ1154133
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Sep-12
Pages: 10
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9584
Students' Concept-Building Approaches: A Novel Predictor of Success in Chemistry Courses
Frey, Regina F.; Cahill, Michael J.; McDaniel, Mark A.
Journal of Chemical Education, v94 n9 p1185-1194 Sep 2017
One primary goal of many science courses is for students to learn creative problem-solving skills; that is, integrating concepts, explaining concepts in a problem context, and using concepts to solve problems. However, what science instructors see is that many students, even those having excellent SAT/ACT and Advanced Placement scores, struggle in the introductory science courses. As faculty work to adopt more evidence-based teaching methods, the question arises of how to determine early on who may have difficulty in these introductory courses. Recent basic cognitive science research suggests that there are individual differences in how learners approach conceptual tasks: some learners tend toward rote concept-learning (exemplar learners), whereas other learners tend to use abstraction concept-learning. We explored the possibility that this individual difference in concept-building might have consequences for classroom learning. In the current study, using an online concept-building task, we differentiated students based on their concept-building approach and then tracked their exam grades in general chemistry and organic chemistry courses. Abstraction learners demonstrated advantages over exemplar learners even after taking into account preparation via ACT scores and prior chemistry performance. Further, these performance differences grow even more pronounced in Organic Chemistry 2. Our results suggest that individual differences in how learners acquire and represent concepts persist from laboratory concept learning to learning complex concepts in introductory chemistry courses.
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
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: ACT Assessment; SAT (College Admission Test)
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A