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Using Eye Movement Modeling Examples as an Instructional Tool in Organic Chemistry

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

Project duration: September 2017 to August 2020


Investigating how to improve students’ chemical understanding is a central ambition of educational research in chemistry at the college level. For most students, organic chemistry still represents a very labor-intense subject and students’ reliance on memorizing mechanisms has been extensively documented. The ability to reason appropriately with a given mechanism, i.e. interpreting a given structure in a mechanistic process, is the flagship of organic chemistry and at the same time one of the main impediments for students. Students often perceive lectures on reaction mechanisms as a “presentation of a series of illustrative ([but] generally unrelated) cases”, leading to a limited ability to chemically interpret structural representations (Corey & Cheng, 1989, p. 4; Flynn & Ogilvie, 2015). Evidence from cognitive learning sciences show that explicit cueing on relevant information by highlighting relevant features of a representation, especially through an eye movement modeling of an expert, can facilitate this learning process. Helping students to mimic an expert gaze in combination with a verbal explanation might close the documented gap for students to interpret structural representations such as a mechanism successfully and to link it with appropriate conceptual knowledge. Therefore, we aim to draw upon these results to develop and test an instructional setting that explicitly uses eye movement modeling examples to convey the mechanistic reasoning process of an expert to students.


Project team

Dr. Sascha Bernholt, IPN Chemistry Education

Marc Rodemer, IPN Chemistry Education

Prof. Dr. Nicole Graulich, Justus-Liebig-University Gießen

Prof. Dr. Melissa Weinrich, University of Northern Colorado