Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The purpose of this study was to determine if the use of molecular drawing software would improve student understanding of polyatomic ions. Using software designed for producing drawings of molecules, students developed drawings of polyatomic ions during a regular activity of the state mandated core curriculum on ions. The sample consisted of students enrolled in chemistry at a rural south Louisiana high school-both Honors and Regular. Pretest and posttest scores were analyzed with a number of covariants. The statistical analysis of test scores indicated that there was no significant difference in the improved test scores between the treatment and control groups. The lack of a significant improvement in test scores fails to mirror the results of other documented studies such as that performed by Wu, Krajcik, and Soloway (2001), which made use of similar representations and produced positive gains in the understanding of formulas. However, interviews that were conducted seemed to indicate that the treatment students did obtain a greater understanding of polyatomic ions than did the control group students. More sensitive test items may be needed to detect changes in understanding caused by the intervention. Despite learning this new computer visualization skill in addition to mastering the traditional content, statistical analysis showed the intervention did not have a detrimental effect on test performance. Through personal observation of student performance in later lessons, some transfer appears to have been achieved amongst the students in the treatment group. The possibility of transfer follows some of the findings of Haskell (2001). It was also observed that students that had the opportunity to utilize the computer software had improved inquiry skills. The average test scores for all groups increased with the greatest increases in the treatment group scores. Despite these gains, there was no significant increase in test scores for the treatment group. Analysis of the Birnie-Abraham-Renner Quick Attitude Differential (Williamson, 1992) scores indicated no correlation between student attitudes and the intervention. From the analysis of the interviews, there is an indication that an improved understanding of polyatomic ion structure resulted from the intervention.



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Committee Chair

James Wandersee

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