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Title: What are students up to during problem solving?
Authors: Chue, Shien
Tan, Daniel Kim-Chwee
Issue Date: Nov-2009
Citation: Paper presented at the International Science Education Conference, Singapore, 24-26 November 2009
Abstract: This paper reports on a qualitative case study of the strategies used by a pair of first year science undergraduate students to solve an organic chemistry tutorial problem on addition reaction. Video recording of the students' interactions during the problem solving session was studied using interaction analysis. Contrary to findings reported in research literature about students solving problems using memorized or algorithmic procedures, the students in this study relied on the use of gestures, speech and inscriptions to work out a solution that was contingent on previously revealed information. The students' interactions also demonstrated their limited understanding of addition reaction mechanism as they could only work out the structure of the intermediate but could not describe the reaction pathway. The finding that students relied on the co-ordination of semiotic resources to solve the chemistry problem has an impact on the assessment of students' learning. Word-centered evaluative activities need to be complemented with alternative assessment methods that provide students with opportunities to engage with a multitude of resources in order to enhance their ability to express themselves and facilitate a more comprehensive assessment of their understanding of chemistry concepts.
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