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ERIC Number: EJ1178621
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2018-May
Pages: 10
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9584
Zero-Order Chemical Kinetics as a Context to Investigate Student Understanding of Catalysts and Half-Life
Bain, Kinsey; Rodriguez, Jon-Marc G.; Towns, Marcy H.
Journal of Chemical Education, v95 n5 p716-725 May 2018
Zero-order systems provide an interesting opportunity for students to think about the underlying mechanism behind the physical phenomena being modeled. The work reported here is part of a larger study that seeks to characterize how students integrate chemistry and mathematics in the context of chemical kinetics. Thirty-six general chemistry students, five physical chemistry students, and three chemical engineering students were asked to think aloud as they responded to an interview prompt about the half-life of a catalyst-driven zero-order reaction. Our findings revealed that students often described zero-order in mathematical terms (i.e., the zero-order rate law, integrated rate law, and graphical representation), but lacked a clear understanding of the particulate nature of zero-order systems. Results also indicated students have productive discipline-specific conceptions of catalysts but less productive ideas regarding half-life, expressing a limited view that seemed restricted to first-order decay reactions. Analysis of student problem solving further revealed patterns among this type of half-life reasoning. Our work suggests the need for instruction that varies context to promote a more holistic understanding of chemical kinetics concepts.
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: National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: 1504371