Research into Practice: Evidence-Informed, Best Practice Visualization for a Deeper Understanding of Chemistry

Tue, Feb 9 4:30pm
2033 Young Hall
Speaker Prof. Roy F. Tasker
Hosted by
Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCLA

Abstract: Learning chemistry involves explaining observable phenomena, such as stickiness, magnetism, and heat transfer, through imagination and modelling of the underpinning invisible phenomena – molecular interactions, force fields, and energy changes. Visualization of such imperceptible phenomena is the key to making meaning from the abstract scientific shorthand and language that too often alienate novices. Only when they have useful visual mental models of these invisible worlds can novices appreciate the enormous power of mathematics to generalize from the specific.

However, we cannot expect novices to learn easily from complex visualizations that portray our expert mental models of the molecular world, and then expect novices to just adopt them automatically for understanding chemistry concepts. A constructivist learning design for meeting this teaching challenge will be modelled in this session, informed by an evidence-based cognitive model for how we learn from multimedia visualizations. The model involves priming the perception filter, avoiding working memory overload, and elaborately linking new ideas to prior learning.

In this session you will participate as a novice in this learning design for a specific topic using VisChem animations and Odyssey simulation software, and see how both animations and simulations are required to visualize structures and processes at this level satisfactorily. The focus will be on the challenge of directing student attention to specific features in these visualizations, and the need to change the emphasis of chemistry curricula from the ‘cult of the single molecule’ to the interactions between molecules to explain chemical principles.