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Educational Initiatives

Eye Tracker

Visual tools are particularly essential for chemical educators since the fundamental interactions are at a submicroscopic level. So chemical educators are constantly developing visual aids to assist students in constructing their conceptual understanding. Somewhat paradoxically, though scientists are systematic about testing models, there exists a dearth of tools to measure how or whether the students use the resulting visual elements. As a consequence there are essentially no design principles for creating effective tools.

To address this gap, a pilot study was conducted using an eye tracker combined with either written questions or with an interview protocol to probe student use of images in considering answers to conceptual questions. The major finding is that the eye tracker, particularly when supplemented with a dynamic interview, provides a peek-under-the-hood so to speak, into the subjects reasoning and use of images when grappling with questions. More specifically, results show that higher achieving students make greater use of more abstract elements of the visualization.

This raises the question of whether higher achievers simply have more sophisticated reasoning skills or whether instructional resources could be provided to lower achievers to move their usage toward the more abstract elements, thereby raising their achievement.

This initiative involves a team of researchers including cognitive psychologists, learning scientists, chemical educators, and research chemists.

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