News & Events

Martina Rau, Ph.D.

Posted on November 18, 2022


Date - November 18, 2022
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Associate Professor
Department of Educational Psychology
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Talk title: Supporting Representational Competencies to Enhance Learning Outcomes in Chemistry


Most chemistry instruction heavily relies on visual representations such as ball-and-stick models, wedge-dash structures, and energy diagrams. Visual representations are important instructional tools because many chemistry concepts cannot be observed with the naked eye and are highly abstract. While visual representations can make abstract concepts accessible to students, they also pose a risk: If students do not understand how the representations depict conceptual information, they can develop severe misconceptions that often go unnoticed by instructors. I will illustrate these issues at the example of a new study on misconceptions related to concepts shown in atomic orbital energy diagrams. Further, I will present on instructional interventions that can support representational competencies that help students understand visual representations. My studies show that such supports can enhance students’ learning about chemistry concepts. Finally, I will discuss new directions of my research that seek to incorporate haptic experiences with physical manipulatives in a way that promotes students’ learning.