Comparing the influence of visualization type in an electrochemistry laboratory on the student discourse: who do they talk to and what do they say?
A laboratory is a large investment of time and money for departments of chemistry yet discussions continue about its purpose in the educational process. Helping students navigate the three levels of representation; macroscopic, particulate and symbolic is a potential use of this time. This study looked at two different types of visualization for an electrochemistry laboratory in second semester general chemistry and the impact that the visualization type had on the student discourse. Macroscopic visualization (MV) was accomplished through a traditional hands-on laboratory and particulate visualization (PV) was achieved using a computer simulation featuring animated electrons and ions. The type of visualization impacted how much the students talked, who they talked to, and what they talked about. The MV students engaged in less peer-to-peer discussion than the PV students. The MV students expressed more excitement about their observations and were more focused on getting the data quickly. The MV spent most of their time physically doing the laboratory work while spending little time discussing the concepts. The PV students spent more time talking about concepts with their peers especially at the particulate level even answering macroscopic questions with particulate explanations. The type of visualization influenced all aspects of the student discourse.