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Chemical Education Faculty Members

Trevor Anderson

The Anderson Visualization in Biochemistry Education (VIBE) research group has a strong international flavor due to exciting collaborations with experts in Australia, Sweden, South Africa, Brazil and the USA. Our research mainly addresses the following four focus areas and research questions: 1) Visual Literacy: How does the ability to visualize representations influence the development and assessment of reasoning and understanding in biochemistry? 2) Science Inquiry: What factors limit students’ ability to reason about biochemical investigations? 3) Concept Inventories (CIs): How can visualizations be used to assess core concepts and ways of reasoning in CI questions? and 4) Faculty & Curriculum Development: What factors and strategies promote curriculum change and the implementation of educational research findings?  To contact Professor Anderson, please call 765-494-5453 or email ander333@purdue.edu. To visit the Anderson Research Group page, please click here.

George Bodner

Our research is based on the constructivist theory of knowledge (see Bodner, G. M., J. Chem. Ed., 1986, 63, 873-878), which assumes that knowledge is created in the mind of the learner. One of our long-term interests has been problem solving in chemistry. This work has focused on differences between the way successful problem solvers approach novel problems and the way in which problem solving has historically be “taught” to students. Whereas chemical education research (CER) once focused primarily on K-12 students, our research has looked at both undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of domains, from the introductory general chemistry course through the problem-solving behavior of graduate students designing a total synthesis. Recent work has been directed toward facilitating the learning of chemistry at the undergraduate level by students with blindness or low vision. To contact Professor Bodner, please call 765-494-5313 or email gmbodner@purdue.edu. To visit the Bodner Research Group page, please click here. Professor Bodner is no longer accepting students into his research program.

Minjung Ryu

Every learning, and chemistry learning as well, is mediated by language and symbols. We communicate chemistry ideas with forms of spoken language, written texts, and representations like graphs, diagrams, or chemical formula. While seemingly obvious, language and symbols are inevitably ambiguous and carry various meanings. That is, language and symbols sometimes convey different senses to different people depending on their background knowledge, position speakers and listeners in particular ways, and afford access to learning for some learners while not for others.

My research addresses this issue of how people learn chemistry (and science) through language and symbols and how various ways of communicating chemistry ideas facilitate or constrain some learners' learning. I am particularly interested in non-native English speaking students, their participation in classroom discourses, and learning or not-learning of chemistry. This population accounts for an increasingly more number of chemistry students, and K-12 teachers and university faculty often experience challenges to interact and with these students and teach. Drawing on sociocultural and constructivist learning theories, I plan to conduct research on how non-native English speaking students utilize various linguistic resources to interact with instructors and peers, communicate chemistry ideas, and learn chemistry and how instructors should support these learners' participation and learning.

With this research interest, I would like to add to the literature and repertoire of practices for instructors who teach a culturally and linguistically diverse student body.

Roy Tasker

The chemistry education research literature demonstrates that many student misconceptions are due to an inability to visualize substances and reactions at the molecular level, due mostly to misinterpretations of the meaning of chemical formulas and equations. We need to assist students to develop useful mental models of the molecular world to make sense of chemical concepts like equilibrium, entropy, chemical speciation, and hydrophobicity, and to make conventional symbolism meaningful. However, we know that we cannot do this by simply showing students complex visualizations, that portray our expert mental models of this world, and then just expect novices to adopt them for understanding chemistry concepts.

The challenge is to develop sequences of learning activities (learning designs), informed by an evidence-based cognitive model for how we learn from multimedia visualizations. Then we need sophisticated, interactive visualizations of molecular-level structures and processes that students can use to understand chemistry concepts. Our work to date is summarized on the VisChem project web site (VisChem.com.au), and implemented in learning resources in my co-authored textbook Chemistry: Human Activity, Chemical Reactivity (see http://tinyurl.com/CHACRdescription). Other interests include development and evaluation of teaching strategies based on pedagogical content knowledge, and effective communication of science to the general public using visualisation.

Marcy Towns

Research in the Towns group integrates across the particulate, macroscopic, and symbolic domains of chemistry. In the macroscopic domain we are investigating the faculty and student perspectives of undergraduate chemistry laboratory, specifically on their goals for laboratory.  In the symbolic domain our research in physical chemistry focuses on the ways in which student understanding is fostered in classrooms where discussion takes place using discourse analysis.  Finally, in the particulate domain we investigate the student understanding of visual images of molecules, in particular biomolecules which are conceptually rich and the gateway to understanding structure-function relationships. To contact Professor Towns, please call 765-496-1574 or email mtowns@purdue.edu. To visit the Towns Research Group, please click here.

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