Investigating the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Three Visual Representational Systems for Assigning Chemical Polarity

Gunnar Höst, Konrad Schönborn, Karljohan Lundin Palmerius
Education and New Learning Technologies - 2010
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This study aimed to investigate students. assignment of chemical polarity using three visual modes representing electrostatic potential. The modes consisted of coloured lobes that indicate regions of negative (red) and positive (blue) potential, a colour gradient that maps the potential on the molecular surface and a novel representation that uses green surface(s) to show the interface between regions of positive and negative potential. Students. ability to assign polarity using the three visual modes was evaluated using a web-questionnaire. Mean scores indicated that students were able to successfully assign polarity to molecules using all the modes. However, students were less successful in identifying polar molecules in comparison with non-polar molecules using the map mode. A possible explanation for the lower scores for this mode is that the representational power of the map as a polarity assignment tool could be compromised by the visual complexity of the colour gradient, especially when a molecule is polar. The green surface representation was found to be a sensitive visual tool for assigning polarity to molecules, an encouraging finding since students were exposed to this visual mode for the first time. Given the possible perceptual constraints associated with the map mode, the results of this study might serve as a basis for uncovering the best conditions for pursuing a multiple representations approach to teaching chemical polarity.

BibTex references

  author       = {H{\"o}st, Gunnar and Sch{\"o}nborn, Konrad and Lundin Palmerius, Karljohan},
  title        = {{Investigating the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Three Visual Representational Systems for Assigning Chemical Polarity}},
  booktitle    = {Education and New Learning Technologies},
  year         = {2010}

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