The impact of coupling assessments on conceptual understanding and connection-making in chemical equilibrium and acid-base chemistry
Science educators have developed a variety of assessment techniques to help students connect their scientific knowledge and bridge conceptual gaps. In chemistry, concept maps and creative exercises are the two notable assessments that have been implemented into multiple chemistry courses and indicated promising effects on students’ conceptual learning and connection-making between chemistry concepts. These two assessment techniques were usually implemented individually in research studies. Herein, we employed a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods approach to explore whether combining concept maps and creative exercises would reveal any synergistic effects for student learning of chemical equilibrium and acid-base chemistry in a college general chemistry course. In this study, student perceptions of the use of the two assessments were examined by open-ended surveys. Interestingly, students perceived creative exercises as an assessment technique while concept maps were viewed as a learning tool for studying or reviewing exams. Additionally, Students believed that concept maps assisted them in answering creative exercises, but not vice versa. The four study groups (control group, concept maps only, creative exercises only, and both concept maps and creative exercises) were compared through concept inventory pre and post-test questions. The results of an ANCOVA indicated that participation in the experimental groups did not significantly impact conceptual learning gains, as measured by the concept inventory post-test scores. However, focus group interviews indicated students from the experimental group that used both concept maps and creative exercises were able to provide more sophisticated scientific explanations for conceptual questions related to the topics of chemical equilibrium and acid-base chemistry. Implications of these research results, best practices for implementation of the two assessments, and future research are discussed.