Exploring Student's Abilities to Use Two Different Styles of Structural Representation in Organic Chemistry
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences
Representation of models of molecular structures is a fundamental feature of communication between chemists. This paper reports on part of a large, multi-faceted research study undertaken with undergraduate chemistry students about their understanding and use of multiple styles of representation of single organic molecules. The results of research interviews in which first-year students were asked to determine if two structures in a pair were enantiomers are discussed. One of the structures was depicted in hexagon skeletal style and the other in chair skeletal style. It was found that, while there are some essential elements to any problem solving approach that the students employed, such as the need to understand the concept of enantiomer, there are four more specific skills that relate directly to understanding the different representation styles that are necessary for successful completion of the task.