David Yaron (Carnegie Mellon, USA), Jodi Davenport (Carnegie Mellon , USA), Gaea Leinhardt (University of Pittsburgh, USA), James Greeno (University of Pittsburgh, USA), Michael Karabinos (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)
While learning chemical equilibrium and its applications to acid-base chemistry and solubility, students encounter a wide variety of procedures and problem types. This talk discusses a framework which helps students make sense of and assimilate this material into a coherent whole. The framework takes the form of a strategy, the majority/minority (M&M) species strategy, for analyzing a chemical equilibrium system. Support for this strategy comes from two sources. First, classroom studies show a greater than 2-fold improvement in student success on a relevant class of problems. This indicates that the M&M strategy is easy to learn. Second, examination of a broad range of chemical equilibrium problems reveals that the strategy is generally applicable. This indicates that the strategy captures the underlying conceptual structure of the domain. Together, these argue that the M&M strategy brings coherence to instruction by tying the problem solving to the key conceptual aspects of chemical equilibrium.