Marilyne Stains - Classification of Chemical Reaction: Stages of Expertise

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  Publication Details (including relevant citation   information):

    Stains, M. & Talanquer, V. (2008). Classification of Chemical   Reaction: Stages of Expertise. Journal of Research in Science   Teaching, 45(7), 771-793.   DOI:  10.1002/tea.20221


    In this study we explore the strategies that undergraduate and   graduate chemistry students use when engaged in classification   tasks involving symbolic and microscopic (particulate)   representations of different chemical reactions. We were   specifically interested in characterizing the basic features to   which students pay attention when classifying chemical reactions   at the symbolic and microscopic levels. We identified the   categories that students create when classifying chemical   reactions, and compared the performance in simple classification   tasks of students with different levels of preparation in the   discipline. Our results suggest that advanced levels of expertise   in chemical classification do not necessarily evolve in a linear   and continuous way with academic training; a significant   proportion of undergraduate students, regardless of their level   of preparation in chemistry, based their classification schemes   on the identification of surface features and failed to create   chemically meaningful classes. Students' ability to identify   chemically meaningful groups was strongly influenced by their   recent learning experiences and their graduate work in chemistry.   The level of expertise and the type of chemical representation   influenced the number and types of categories created, the nature   of the features used to build a class, and the role that these   features played during the classification process. Although all   of the participants in our study expressed similar levels of   unfamiliarity with the microscopic images of chemical reactions,   advanced students were more adept at using the available   representational features to build chemical meaning.

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