P153: Exploring college and graduate students’ reasoning about chemical reactions
Understanding chemical reactions is crucial in learning chemistry at all educational levels. Nevertheless, research in science education has revealed that many students struggle to understand chemical processes. Improving teaching and learning about chemical reactions demands that we develop a clearer understanding of student reasoning in this area and of how this reasoning evolves with training in the discipline. Our study was designed to a) explore the types of reasoning about chemical reactions expressed by students at different educational levels, b) identify common reasoning patterns, c) identify and characterize major constraints in student reasoning, and d) characterize potential learning pathways in the understanding of such processes. Main findings indicate that although significant progress is observed in student reasoning in some areas, major conceptual difficulties seem to persist even at the more advanced educational levels. The results of our study are relevant to educators interested in learning progressions, assessment, and conceptual development.