Date of Award

12-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Teaching

Advisor

François G. Amar

Second Committee Member

Michael C. Wittmann

Third Committee Member

Mitchell R. M. Bruce

Abstract

I present a phenomenological approach to understanding the role of bodily activity when students talk and problem-solve about submicroscopic three-dimensional chemistry phenomena. This approach entails elucidating what the experience of problem solving is like for students. Students asked to predict the molecular geometry of small molecules use their bodies to test and enact three-dimensional geometric configurations in the process of devising a solution. Expressive gestures enact chemistry ideas beyond verbal description, demonstrating that chemical knowledge can exist as nonpropositional, embodied action. Insight into these phenomena are achieved through moment-to-moment multimodal microanalysis of students’ experiences during video-recorded interviews. This work adopts an enactivist approach to cognition and argues that researchers and instructors must pay close attention to students’ situated, bodily activity to fully appreciate their chemistry problem-solving strategies and knowledge.

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