Visualization in Science Education

Volume 1 of the series Models and Modeling in Science Education pp 121-145

Students Becoming Chemists: Developing Representationl Competence

  • Robert KozmaAffiliated withCenter for Technology in Learning, SRI International
  • , Joel RussellAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, Oakland University

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This chapter examines the role that representations and visualizations can play in the chemical curriculum. Two types of curricular goals are examined: students’ acquisition of important chemical concepts and principles and students’ participation in the investigative practices of chemistry—“students becoming chemists.” Literature in learning theory and research support these two goals and this literature is reviewed. The first goal relates to cognitive theory and the way that representations and visualizations can support student understanding of concepts related to molecular entities and processes that are not otherwise available for direct perception. The second goal relates to situative theory and the role that representations and visualizations play in development of representational competence and the social and physical processes of collaboratively constructing an understanding of chemical processes in the laboratory. We analyze research on computer-based molecular modeling, simulations, and animations from these two perspectives and make recommendations for instruction and future research.