Title

Student construction of small molecule models using Spartan Model to explore polarity

Date of Award

2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Chemistry and Biochemistry

First Advisor

Robert Bateman

Advisor Department

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Abstract

This study compared the attitudes and the gains of knowledge concerning Lewis structures and polarity of molecules. The students performed a lab exercise in which they drew Lewis structures, constructed models of the molecules, determined the geometry of the molecules, and determined the polarity of the molecules. The control group students constructed models using physical ball-and-stick models. The treatment group students used Spartan Model to construct models. Students from a university and a community college participated in this study. Four lab classes at each school made up the treatment group. Five lab classes at the university and three lab classes at the community college made up the control group. The treatment group classes were selected based on available computer resources. All students in the study were given the Lab Pre Test, Lab Post Test, and the Lecture Post Test to assess the student's ability to answer questions pertaining to Lewis structures and polarity of molecules. An Attitudinal Survey assessed the attitudes of the students who participated in the study. Student interviews were performed to assess the student's attitudes towards the lab exercise. The interviews investigated attitudes about the modeling exercise, Lewis structures, and polarity of molecules. There were no significant differences in the performance of the treatment group when compared to the control group on the performance assessment instruments at the university or the community college. The treatment group students at the university had a more positive attitude about the lab activity. They believed that the lab activity helped them better understand the concepts of Lewis structure and molecular polarity. At the community college, the control group students had a more positive attitude about the lab activity. The students involved in the study believed that the lab activity helped them to understand the concepts of molecular geometry and polarity. The interviews of the treatment group students indicated that they strongly believed that the lab activity helped them better understand the concept of Lewis structures and of molecular polarity. As reflected in the interviews of the treatment group and the control group, the lab activity did not help the students be able to look at a Lewis structure and build a mental image of the molecule. The students believed the electrostatic potential plots generated by Spartan Model were very insightful into the concept of polarity. It gave them a visual representation of a difficult topic.