Engaging Students with Multiple Pathways for Solving Complex Authentic Problems

Elizabeth Yuriev, J Burton, Sean Maher, C Thompson, Martin Scanlon

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Difficulties with complex molecular spectroscopy problems often result from students expecting such problems to have a single correct solution pathway, whereas in reality many pathways will reach the same end-point. Based on expert-thinking theory, we aim to show to novices the differences in task approaches between novices and experts. Specifically, we have developed videos illustrating a range of strategies for solving spectroscopy problems. These videos demonstrate that scientists with different levels of expertise (from upper-level undergraduates to professors) use approaches varying in complexity and sequence for solving the same problem. We hypothesized that recognition and appreciation of multiple possible strategies for solving a complex problem enables students to explore their own understanding and thus develop a personal approach to problem solving. The aim of this project was to investigate how students engage with the video resources and how the resources affect learning outcomes.

We used a mixed-method design by collecting quantitative (online engagement and assessment results) and qualitative (surveys and written comments) data. Student-reported perceptions were collected via a combination of appropriately modified versions of the validated video survey instruments. The results demonstrated that these video resources had a positive impact on students’ development of problem-solving skills in the field of spectroscopy. This project also lays the foundation for investigating the novice vs. expert problem solving in molecular spectroscopy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventGordon Research Conference 2009: Chemistry Education Research and Practice - Bates College, Lewiston, United States of America
Duration: 16 Jun 201921 Jun 2019


ConferenceGordon Research Conference 2009
Abbreviated titleGRC 2019
CountryUnited States of America
OtherResearch in chemistry education over the 40 years has led to the identification and characterization of the diverse challenges that students face to meaningfully learn central concepts and ideas in chemistry. Educational research findings also shed light on changes in curriculum, instruction, and assessment that significantly improve student understanding. There is, however, a disconnect between what has been learned through discipline-based educational research and dominant educational practices in chemistry at all educational levels. Considerable work is still needed to translate research findings into teaching practices that improve diverse students' learning and achievement.

The 2019 Gordon Research Conference on Chemistry Education Research and Practice seeks to create a space for in-depth analysis and discussion of how to best integrate educational research findings into the design, implementation, and evaluation of curricula, learning environments, instructional methods, and assessments that result in meaningful learning of core ideas in chemistry, development of valued skills, or significant changes in attitudes and beliefs of diverse students.

This meeting will bring together researchers and practitioners from different areas to address practical and theoretical issues in the integration of chemistry education research and practice. The conference format includes 9 plenary sessions with invited speakers, semi-structured poster sessions, and free time to interact and network with conferees. Several features of the conference create an atmosphere that is intended to invigorate professional connections and promote advancement of the field: daily forums with intense intellectual engagement, off-the-record discussion of ongoing work, free afternoons in an ideal setting for reflection, common meals and dormitory accommodations that facilitate interactions, and a small number of participants.
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