NMR spectra through the eyes of a student: Eye tracking applied to NMR items

Joseph J Topczewski, Anna M. Topczewski, Hui Tang, Lisa K. Kendhammer, Norbert J. Pienta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) plays a key role in introductory organic chemistry, spanning theory, concepts, and experimentation. Therefore, it is imperative that the instruction methods for NMR are both efficient and effective. By utilizing eye tracking equipment, the researchers were able to monitor how second-semester organic chemistry students solved NMR items. Graduate and advanced undergraduate students were used as a comparison group. The students in the course were characterized as novices, while the comparison group served as "experts" in statistical comparisons of problemsolving strategies. This study examines aspects of proton NMR spectra that each group considered while matching organic structure with a provided spectrum. Significant differences between the expert and novice groups as well as within the novice group were observed. The participants' search patterns (i.e., gaze frequency and gaze order) were interpreted in terms of a problem-solving approach. These results can provide subtle information about the learner's attention and cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-37
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Chemical Education Research
  • NMR Spectroscopy
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Problem Solving/Decision Making

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