Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Scott E. Lewis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wayne Guida, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Lewis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Luanna Prevost, Ph.D.


chemistry assessment, at-risk students, mixed-methods, higher education


This dissertation presents novel tools to help instructors measure students linking of content knowledge and the actions students perform for studying in the context of post-secondary General Chemistry.

The first tool described in this work is Creative Exercises (CEs), an open-ended assessment that has the potential to promote students making connections across the content covered in General Chemistry. Students are given a simple prompt that describes a chemistry situation, and asked to write as many statements as they can that are correct, distinct and relevant to the prompt and the course content. The written responses to CEs from both in-class exams and homework assignments are examined for evidence of linking chemistry concepts. The findings indicate that students are able to use a wide range of topics to answer CEs based on the prompts. Also, from student responses to CEs, students’ misunderstandings of chemistry models are uncovered.

To determine the prevalence of links and facilitate implementation in large classes, the second tool termed Measure of Linked Concepts (MLCs) is developed and implemented in General Chemistry. MLCs provide similar prompts as CEs and also a series of statements developed from prior student responses to CEs. Students are asked to evaluate the legitimacy of these statements. Students’ performance on MLCs is examined and the results show that the majority of students show proficiency in prior knowledge. However, a sizeable proportion of students can’t recognize the situation where a chemistry model is misused.

Student responses to the above two assessments (CEs and MLCs) provide evidence for linking chemistry concepts of students in General Chemistry, both correctly and incorrectly. They also serve as tools for showing the relevance of prior topics and subsequent topics throughout the course and communicating with students for learning chemistry as a theme instead of separated facts.

Finally, text message inquires are used to explore student study habits in General Chemistry. Study habits are defined as the frequency and type of actions taken toward studying outside the classroom in this work. The evidence for the feasibility of using text message inquiries as a data collection tool and the validity of the collected data is presented. Students in General Chemistry are characterized as three clusters based on their study habits. The cluster of students who reported studying in addition to the required course material outperform the other two clusters of students, who knowingly do not study and who reported studying only required course materials. By tracking study habits of a common group of students, we observe the signs of adapting. In addition, study habits of students at-risk of failing the course based on incoming SAT scores are explored in this work. The results indicate both frequency and quality play a role in students’ academic performance, and quality may be more important than frequency. These results provide a path for at-risk students to improve success rates in General Chemistry.

Included in

Chemistry Commons