Leveraging cognitive resources to investigate the impact of molecular orientation on students' activation of symmetry resources

Olivia M. Crandell, Samuel Pazicni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study investigates students' cognitive resources for identifying symmetry elements using survey data collected from 39 inorganic chemistry students from twelve undergraduate inorganic classes at universities across the United States. We propose a framework that leverages students' knowledge of symmetry elements as a manifold of cognitive resources that can be productive or unproductive in certain contexts. This cognitive resources framework was paired with an asset-based perspective to advance work in this area beyond a deficit-framed study of ''correctness''. Herein, we present findings from a qualitative analysis of the rotation and reflection symmetry elements activated for students by four select molecules. Each molecule was presented in two different static orientations to determine the impact of orientation on students' cognitive resource activation. Our findings suggest that the orientation of static molecular images impacts the types of resources activated for students. Additionally, this study serves as an example for how to advance assessment of this topic beyond a binary approach (i.e. correct or incorrect).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-368
Number of pages16
JournalChemistry Education Research and Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 28 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support for this research was provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. We also want to thank the instructors for their willingness to distribute the survey and the students who chose to participate.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2023.


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