Location-thinking, value-thinking, and graphical forms: combining analytical frameworks to analyze inferences made by students when interpreting the points and trends on a reaction coordinate diagram†
Reaction coordinate diagrams (RCDs) are chemical representations widely employed to visualize the thermodynamic and kinetic parameters associated with reactions. Previous research has demonstrated a host of misconceptions students adopt when interpreting the perceived information encoded in RCDs. This qualitative research study explores how general chemistry students interpret points and trends on a RCD and how these interpretations impact their inferences regarding the rate of a chemical reaction. Sixteen students participated in semi-structured interviews in which participants were asked to interpret the points and trends along provided RCDs and to compare relative reaction rates between RCDs. Findings derived from this study demonstrate the diversity of graphical reasoning adopted by students, the impact of students’ interpretations of the x-axis of a RCD on the graphical reasoning employed, and the influence of these ideas on inferences made about reaction rate. Informed by analytical frameworks grounded in the resources framework and the actor-oriented model of transfer, implications for instruction are provided with suggestions for how RCDs may be presented to assist students in recognizing the critical information encoded in these diagrams.