Date of Award

Summer 8-3-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Chair

Dr. Sherry S. Herron

Committee Chair Department

Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Member 2

Dr. Deborah Booth

Committee Member 2 Department

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Committee Member 3

Dr. Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 4

Dr. Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Research and Administration

Committee Member 5

Dr. Bridgette L. Davis

Committee Member 5 Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

Abstract

Students’ weak understanding of conservation of matter is well documented; however, there is a paucity of research that provides science educators with actual examples of empirically proven curricula employing physical modeling that can be used in the chemistry classroom to teach this fundamental concept. An intervention (three sequential physical modeling activities) was developed and evaluated. The intervention was administered to two sections of a General Chemistry I course at a community college in the southeastern United States, and pre-test/post-test data using a published instrument were collected to evaluate the physical model’s effectiveness in developing students’ understanding of conservation of matter compared to traditional teaching approaches. Because cognitive ability is theorized to play a significant role in understanding abstract concepts such as conservation of matter, student logical thinking ability was also measured using the abbreviated Group Assessment of Logical Thinking (GALT).

The results of a two-way mixed analysis of variance (2x2 ANOVA) revealed that statistically significant growth in understanding of conservation of matter and conceptual understanding occurred from pre-test to post-test for the treatment group only. In general, overall student understanding of conservation of matter was low with an average pre-test score of 39% and average post-test score of 47%. Initially, 87% of the students operated below the formal operational level, which decreased to 68% by the end of the study. The findings suggest that the physical model not only significantly enhanced students’ understanding of conservation of matter, but also develop their conceptual understanding.

Available for download on Thursday, August 01, 2019

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