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Issue 3, 2014
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A review of research on the teaching and learning of thermodynamics at the university level

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We review previous research on the teaching and learning of thermodynamics in upper-level, undergraduate settings. As chemistry education researchers we use physical chemistry as a context for understanding the literature. During our synthesis four themes of research emerged: factors that influence student success in learning thermodynamics, understanding thermodynamics through mathematical concepts and representations, student reasoning using the particulate nature of matter, and students' alternative thermodynamic conceptions. We also draw from literature in physics education research, engineering education research, and research on undergraduate mathematics education communities to widen our perspective on the teaching and learning of thermodynamics across disciplines. Following our presentation of studies, we discuss gaps in the literature and directions for new research in line with the recommendations of the National Research Council's (2012) recent report on Discipline-Based Education Research. We also discuss implications for practice which we hope will provide increased pedagogical support for teaching thermodynamics in upper-level, undergraduate settings, especially physical chemistry.

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Article information

09 Jan 2014
13 Feb 2014
First published
13 Feb 2014

Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2014,15, 320-335
Article type
Review Article
Author version available

A review of research on the teaching and learning of thermodynamics at the university level

K. Bain, A. Moon, M. R. Mack and M. H. Towns, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2014, 15, 320
DOI: 10.1039/C4RP00011K

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