Uncovering Chemical Thinking in Students' Decision Making: A Fuel-Choice Scenario

Gregory Banks, Michael Clinchot, Steven Cullipher, Robert Huie, Jennifer Lambertz, Rebecca Lewis, Courtney Ngai, Hannah Sevian, Gabriela Szteinberg, Vicente Talanquer, Melissa Weinrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Making decisions about the production and use of chemical substances is of central importance in many fields. In this study, a research team comprising teachers and educational researchers collaborated in collecting and analyzing cognitive interviews with students from 8th grade through first-year university general chemistry in an effort to map progression in students' ability to make decisions about the consequences of using and producing chemicals. Study participants were asked to explain their reasoning about which fuel would be best to power a small vehicle. Data were analyzed using a "chemical thinking" lens to characterize conceptual sophistication and complexity of reasoning. Results revealed that most reasoning was intuitive in conceptual sophistication and relational in argumentative nature, driven by the consequences of using the fuels based on their composition. Implications are discussed for the design of learning experiences and assessments that better support students' development of decision-making using chemical knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1610-1618
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jun 25 2015


  • Chemical Education Research
  • Elementary/Middle School Science
  • High School/Introductory Chemistry
  • Problem Solving/Decision-Making
  • Testing/Assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Uncovering Chemical Thinking in Students' Decision Making: A Fuel-Choice Scenario'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this