P978: Using argumentation analysis to elucidate students’ understanding of alkyl halide reactions
Organic chemistry is an essential subject for many undergraduate students completing degrees in science, engineering, and pre-professional programs. However, students often struggle with the concepts and skills required to successfully solve organic chemistry exercises. Since alkyl halides are traditionally the first functional group that is studied in undergraduate organic chemistry courses, establishing a robust understanding of the concepts and reactions related to them can be beneficial in assuring students’ success in organic chemistry courses. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to elucidate and describe students’ understanding of alkyl halide reactions in an undergraduate organic chemistry course. Participants were interviewed using a think-aloud protocol in which they were given a set of exercises dealing with reactions and mechanisms of alkyl halide molecules. These interviews were transcribed and analyzed using Toulmin’s model of argumentation as a lens; this approach was used to elucidate gaps in understanding and incorrect warrants that the participants exhibited in their understanding about alkyl halide reactions. In general, the findings from this study show that the participants exhibited gaps in understanding and incorrect warrants dealing with: (1) classifying substances as bases and/or nucleophiles, and (2) assessing the basic or nucleophilic strength of substances. General findings from the study will be shared, with a focus on the argumentation-based data analysis.