Use of Physiological Techniques to Assess Cognitive Engagement of Chemistry Modeling Activities

Kimberly Cortes
Associate Professor Chemistry Education
Associate Professor

Among the STEM disciplines the chemistry and biochemistry curricula present a particular challenge to students with abstract concepts that can lead to rampant and resistant misconceptions impeding learning and therefore impact retention. The development of undergraduate students’ conceptual understanding of abstract structure-function relationships in chemistry and biochemistry is the long-term goal of this research team. The objective of this project is to facilitate this process by implementing three-dimensional (3D) virtual and physical modeling activities across the (bio)chemistry curriculum that optimize cognitive load and thereby enhance student learning in (bio)chemistry. Specifically, we aim to characterize the cognitive load of current modeling activities to optimize their design and implementation. To this end, University of Minnesota Rochester undergraduates participated in a simulated learning environment completing the modeling activities while tracking cognition by means of eye-tracking and electroencephalogram (EEG) technologies. This project offers an avenue for curricular change, from minimal to drastic, for those researchers and practitioners interested in not only conceptual changes but also the advancement of the NGSS practice of modeling. Here, we will present our progress towards these goals for organic, general and biochemistry 3D modeling activities. Ultimately this work will create better consumers of (bio)chemistry education. This project is supported by the National Science Foundation under award number IUSE 1711402/1711425 to University of Minnesota, Rochester and Kennesaw State University.


Adriane Randolph, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA; Cassidy Terrell, University of Minnesota Rochester, Rochester, MN