Examining the role of cognitive load and problem difficulty in introductory chemistry word problems

CHED 1532

Norbert J Pienta, norbert-pienta@uiowa.edu1, John S. Kirk, john-kirk@uiowa.edu1, and Jennifer D Schuttlefield, jennifer-schuttlefield@uiowa.edu2. (1) Department of Chemistry, University of Iowa, 323J CB, Iowa City, IA 52242, (2) Department of Chemistry, The University of Iowa, 305 CB, Iowa City, IA 52242
A set of tools were devised and implemented to test the role of cognitive or memory load and problem difficulty in preparative or general chemistry word problems. A browser-based tool using Flash delivers ideal gas or stoichiometry questions that are made more complex by specific format, unit conversions, and the presence of “extra” information. In addition to delivering the questions to the students, the tool tracks the variables from which the questions were derived, grades the question, and archives the information from the question and student answer. Statistical analyses of these data provide insight into the aspects of the questions that lend complexity and difficulty. A description of the approach, the question variables and the student outcomes will be discussed.