Nicole Becker Receives NSF Award

Nicole Becker
Friday, October 13, 2023 - 4:30pm

This $299,187 grant is from the National Science Foundation for the project titled Students' Development of Ideas About Bonding and Bonding Models: A Cross-sectional Analysis.

Abstract: This project aims to serve the national interest by providing an evidence base for improving undergraduate chemistry education in order to retain and better prepare STEM graduates. In particular, the research team intends to advance knowledge of how undergraduate chemistry students? ideas related to bonding models develop across undergraduate chemistry courses. This work is important because understanding chemical bonding -- how and why interactions between atoms and molecules form -- is central to solving chemical problems and discovering new materials that can address societal needs. In this project, researchers will conduct problem solving interviews with college chemistry students in which the students are asked to use their knowledge of bonding models to predict and explain chemical behavior. Findings related to how students? knowledge develops as they progress from introductory to more advanced courses will inform practices through which instructors may support deeper and more transferable knowledge related to bonding models. By identifying conditions under which improved student learning about bonding models occurs, the project will support the success and preparedness of undergraduate chemistry students graduating from U.S. institutions.

The goal of this project is to characterize the ways in which college chemistry students use knowledge about bonding models to predict and explain chemical phenomena within increasingly advanced course contexts. The studies in this project will address chemistry students? development of both conceptual and epistemic knowledge resources (i.e. ideas about how models are developed, evaluated, and refined in scientific inquiry). To accomplish this, students enrolled in general, organic and inorganic chemistry will be interviewed using phenomena-based, open-ended questions which ask students to make inferences using bonding models and critique hypothetical student responses. Analyses informed by coordination class theory will give insight as to the contexts in which students knowledge resources are activated and the interplay between students? conceptual and epistemic knowledge about bonding models. This cross-sectional approach to examining students? reasoning will enable identification of possible trajectories from novice to expert-like reasoning about bonding models and will provide insight as to the role of the curriculum in supporting the development of normative scientific reasoning. The results will be published in relevant scholarly journals and presented at regional and national STEM education conferences. The NSF IUSE: EDU Program supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through the Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools.