CCCE2021


Amanda Bongers

Assistant Professor

Chemistry Education Research

Hi I’m Amanda, and I am a tenure-track chemistry education researcher at Queen’s University.

My group takes multiple approaches to studying learning, from examining fundamdental mechanisms and working memory to large-scale curriculum analysis.

Group pic summer 2021 – after solving the mystery of “John Dough” for an outdoor escape room!

Minigames and Molecules: Cognitive Priming for Chemistry Spatial Tasks

(Society) – Chemistry Education Research, Monday PM
Amanda Bongers, Alex Hemmerich, and James Ingman

In this work, we are trying to apply some known principles and phenomena from the field of cognitive science to chemistry learning. Specifically, we wanted to see if playing certain computer games could cause people to perform better on stereochemistry tasks that may require mental rotation.

The idea was that playing the game may temporarily activate the learner’s spatial working memory, priming their brain for the mental rotation task. This idea of “cognitive priming” is that a stimulus can unconsciously influence, in the short term, your response to the next stimulus. Cognitive priming, especially in the context of video games, has a controversial history – it was originally proposed to explain how violent media, and then violent video games, could affect aggressive behaviour. But these affects don’t hold up to scrutiny. However, cognitive priming is real and has ground in neuroscience.

  • Joordens, S., & Becker, S. (1997). The long and short of semantic priming effects in lexical decision. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 23(5), 1083-1105. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.23.5.1083
  • Shepard, R. N., & Metzler, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Vol 14, Feb 1988, pp. 3-11.
  • Stieff, M., Ryu, M., Dixon, B., & Hegarty, M. (2012). The role of spatial ability and strategy preference for spatial problem solving in organic chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education89(7), 854-859.
  • Stieff, M. (2004) A localized model of spatial cognition in chemistry [Doctoral Thesis].
  • Stieff, M., Origenes, A., DeSutter, D., Lira, M., Banevicius, L., Tabang, D., & Cabel, G. (2018). Operational constraints on the mental rotation of STEM representations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 110(8), 1160–1174. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000258
  • Information on logistics regression: https://www.datacamp.com/community/tutorials/understanding-logistic-regression-python
  • Chao-Ying Joanne Peng,Kuk Lida Lee & Gary M. Ingersoll (2010) An Introduction to Logistic Regression Analysis and Reporting. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220670209598786
Special Thanks to my students Alex Hemmerich (USSRF Summer 2020)
and James Ingman (4th year thesis, 2020-2021) and to the students who participated in this research!

Lessons from a stolen discovery:
Teaching introductory organic chemistry by retracing the work of Alice Ball

(Society) – Nature of Discovery in the Chemical Sciences and Technology, Wednesday PM
Amanda Bongers

For the Winter 2021 term, I used Alice Ball’s discovery of an effective treatment for leprosy as a case study to introduce first-year students to Organic Reactions from a problem-solving and mechanistic perspective.

Resources:

We are in an era of upheaval in how we think about chemistry’s role in society. There are efforts and innovations at every front. But organic chemistry courses remains alarmingly static.In past decades, one of the most noteworthy and universal changes has been a switch to PowerPoint slides instead of in-lecture writing and drawing. New content, such as transition-metal catalyzed reactions, has been added after decades of establishment.


And finally, the curriculum is still largely designed around showing students reactions and presenting mechanisms as if they are facts. We don’t give students the opportunity to learn about the process of discovery or experience the uncertainty that comes with reactivity.

Aside from updating content, there are pedagogical challenges to connecting the classic reactions to topics that students care about: health, technology, climate change, and social justice.

And finally, the curriculum is still largely designed around showing students reactions and presenting mechanisms as if they are facts. We don’t give students the opportunity to learn about the process of discovery or experience the uncertainty that comes with reactivity.

To address the above issues, I’ve gathered some high-level learning outcomes that I hope become part of my chemistry teaching:

  1. Diversity: Recognize diverse contributions to organic chemistry
  2. Systems Thinking: Discuss the ways that chemistry relates to topics of social justice and health
  3. Design Thinking: Understand what questions organic chemists ask and problems organic chemistry can solve
  4. Patterns: Reason about why reactions occur by considering factors that influence properties and reactivity
  5. Mechanism first: Use and interpret curved arrows for bond-forming and bond-breaking reactions
  6. Inquiry/Discovery: Apply knowledge of reactivity to develop a hypothesis
Thanks to the historians, writers, and researchers who have helped rebuild Alice Ball’s story:
Harry Hollmann, Paul Wermager, Carl Heltzel, Nina Notman, Brianna Bibel.
Thanks to the 2020-2021 CHEM 112 students!


Contact

I would love to chat!

amanda.bongers@queensu.ca