Implementation of Reasoning Chain Construction Tasks to Support Student Explanations in General Chemistry

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Abstract

The assessment of student understanding, and of student reasoning skills more broadly, hinges upon the ability to elicit and interpret student-generated explanations. In practice, however, the explanations that students provide in response to traditional prompts do not always reveal as much about student reasoning as teachers and researchers in chemistry education might prefer. In this article, we describe the application of a novel methodology, the reasoning chain construction task, applied in a general chemistry course at a large research institution using a well-known question on chemical bonding. In a reasoning chain construction task, students respond to a chemistry question by drawing from a list of reasoning elements (all of which are true) in order to assemble a chain of reasoning in support of a conclusion. Our findings indicate that use of this type of task can lead students to generate richer explanations while not impacting the overall distribution of student conclusions. These explanations provide teachers and researchers with insights into what information students deem helpful and relevant for responding to a prompt that is wholly lacking from traditional free-response implementations of the same question. We interpret our results through the theoretical framework of dual-process theories of reasoning.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Education

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