Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 295-305

First online:

Using three-dimensional models to teach molecular structures in high school chemistry

  • Cynthia E CopoloAffiliated withSchool of Education CB#3500, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • , Paul B. HounshellAffiliated withSchool of Education CB#3500, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of using two- and three-dimensional model representations of molecular structures on student learning of organic chemical structures. Organic structures were taught to high school students using one of four methods of molecular representation: (1) two-dimensional textbook representations, (2) three-dimensional computer models, (3) three-dimensional ball and stick models, and (4) combination of the computer molecular models and the ball and stick models. The computer software used in this study wasMolecular Editor. Students in the combination group of using both computer and ball and stick models scored significantly higher on the retention test of isomeric identification compared to the other groups. Molecules were represented in this test in the same mode as the instructional representation. However, on a similar two-dimensional post-instructional test of isomeric identification, this group had a significantly lower mean than the other groups; the two-dimensional group had the highest mean. This difference was not observed with the two-dimensional retention test of isomeric identification. When given a two-dimensional test of isomeric construction, no significant difference was found among the group means with either the posttest or the retention test.

Key words

Molecular models manipulatives computer