Eli Martin

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Hengtao Tang


As the number of STEM opportunities and the need for a scientifically literate society increases, educators in STEM fields require tools that help support these needs. Chemistry is one STEM content area that would benefit from exploring educational technology that supports conceptual understanding. An action research study was conducted to understand how students engage with the content and virtual representation to develop their understanding of a chemical reaction. This convergent mixed methods study looked at the effect of dynamic virtual molecular representation on students' ability to understand a reaction mechanism at the symbolic and subparticulate level by measuring content knowledge and how they verbally explain a mechanism. High school students learned to create virtual molecular models and used the electrostatic potential mapping filter to highlight subparticulate properties. These subparticulate properties, now shown in a dynamic 3D representation, connected students to concepts such as formal charge and electronegativity. These concepts helped students explain if and how two reactants may react in the symbolic model of a reaction mechanism. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected from a pre-post assessment, articulation assessment, and interview. Quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics and Wilcoxon signed rank test, and inductive analysis was used to analyze qualitative data from the interview. Findings indicate that the virtual modeling did support participants understanding of the content, application of concepts to the reaction mechanism and positively perceived the use of virtual models. In the area of chemical education, the findings in this study are significant because it determined there was an improvement in understanding when students interacted with 3D virtual models but also provided insight as to how participants interacted with the virtual models and the importance of how virtual modeling is embedded into lesson activities