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Advisory Committee Chair

Craig McClure

Advisory Committee Members

George Koomullil

Alan Shih

Scott Snyder

Peter Walsh

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2014

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Engineering

Abstract

Science in general has traditionally been noted as a difficult subject because of its specialized language, mathematical and abstract concepts, and the amount of content to be learned in a semester. In particular, students are believed to base their attitudes towards science-related disciplines on their perceived abilities in understanding or succeeding in a course. Other factors may also contribute to this lack of interest, such as students' metacognitive skills. Concept mapping and computer-aided tools may be used to assist students in building hierarchical knowledge bases that allow them to visually represent connections between concepts. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare the effects of students using alternative learning aids (concept maps, ontology) to traditional learning aids used in an introductory chemistry course. This study consisted of three phases of implementation (control, treatment 1, and treatment 2 groups) over a three semester period. Phase 1 consisted of the control group, phase 2 consisted of the first treatment group with the addition of the four concept mapping homework assignments in the curriculum and phase 3 consisted of the second treatment group with the integration of the same four concept mapping assignments as phase 2 with the addition of using the Creonto "Intro Chemistry" ontology software. Students in all three phases were assessed using standardized examination questions that were based on the four concept mapping topics and pre- and post- surveys administered at the beginning and end of the semester. Students in phase 2 and 3 groups were also assessed from their constructed concept maps to measure their abilities to explain connections between key concepts. The results of this study suggest that students who created concept maps using the Creonto "Intro Chemistry" software performed better on exams and were able to make more connections when creating concept maps compared to students who did not create concept maps or use computers to assist them. For the exams, there was a statistically significant difference between treatment groups' exams 1 and 3 mean scores. For the concept maps, there was a statistically significant difference in students' abilities to explain connections between key concepts. There was no statistically significant difference in attitudes toward chemistry between groups in this study. However, there was a significant statistical difference in metacognitive skills between the groups. More research is needed to gain a better insight into factors that might have affected students in the course.

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