Bonnie Dixon, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of Maryland, will share her research and experience in introductory undergraduate courses in a seminar.
Title: Visual-spatial skills and learning in the organic chemistry discipline
Day: Monday, March 30, 2015
Room: Bioscience Research Building, Room 1103.
Abstract: Visual spatial skills are vital for success in the chemistry discipline, particularly in organic chemistry and biochemistry, where students are asked to understand the three-dimensional nature of molecules in order to infer functional roles for the molecules in question. In general, chemists study material at the microscopic level in three dimensions. In order to bring the microscopic world to life, diagrams are used to represent molecules. There are many different types of diagrams, and each diagram is used to highlight a novel piece of the structure. My research focused on methods for teaching and learning the spatial relationships in organic chemistry, specifically centered on how students used and interpreted the diagrams of molecules. One of my studies focuses on comparing three different teaching methodologies to use and manipulate diagrams (analytic strategies, imagistic strategies, and a mixed approach) and measures student success on visual-spatial tasks in organic chemistry. A second study focuses on the use of models as a tool to learn visual-spatial tasks in organic chemistry. The results of both of the studies show that highlighting the connection between the three-dimensional nature of molecules and the diagrams leads to the most student success.
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