Learning chemistry: What, when, and how?

David Yaron, Michael Karabinos, Karen Evans, Jodi Davenport, Jordi Cuadros, James Greeno

Research output: Book chapterChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter is an overview and synthesis of three projects that address the goals and practices of chemical education. The impetus for these projects was the perception that chemical education has an entrenched approach that is out of touch with modern science (students are not given even a rudimentary sense of what modern chemistry is as a domain of intellectual pursuit) and modern society (students do not gain information that is of use to understanding chemistry's role in society). The three projects span a range of issues: what chemistry is as a domain, when students can begin to engage in authentic chemistry activities, and how students can better learn the most difficult aspects of chemistry. The synthesis of these projects is done by examining the tension between rigor and authenticity, both in the research methodologies and in the instructional interventions. In the research methods, rigor demands that the methods be quantitative with tightly controlled experiments, whereas realism demands that the methods be relevant to authentic educational issues. The studies attempt to achieve a balance by posing questions that are both authentic and amenable to rigorous studies. In the instruction, pursuit of rigor has led to a narrow focus on specific tasks that can be made highly mathematical and so are easily assessed. The projects synthesized here attempt to achieve balance by coupling these rigorous tasks to authentic contexts that highlight what modern chemistry does as an intellectual pursuit

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInstructional Explanations in the Disciplines
PublisherSpringer US
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781441905932
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Chemical education
  • chemical equilibrium
  • cognitive task analysis
  • domain analysis
  • scenario-based learning
  • virtual labs


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