On-line support for problem solving in introductory chemistry


David J. Yaron1, Michael Karabinos1, and Gaea Leinhardt2. (1) Department of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University, 4400 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213, (2) Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
We will present tutorials and scaffolded homework activities for introductory chemistry courses, being made available on http://www.chemcollective.org. A variety of approaches will be presented that aim to provide help when needed, but fade appropriately. One goal is to teach students how to perform procedures such as stoichiometry or buffer calculations. A coarse grained level of support is provided by analyzing a students' final answer for common errors and providing appropriate feedback. A more fine grained level of support is provided through tutors that monitor student performance on intermediate steps and intervene when mistakes are made. Fading is done by switching between coarse and fine grained levels as needed. An equally important part of problem solving is analysis of the problem and selection of an appropriate computational procedure. Scaffolding of this is done through structured dialogues, such as the dialogue system we will present for heat transfer problems.