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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation

Department of Chemistry

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Duffy, Erin M.

Second Advisor

Stephenson, Norda

Third Advisor

Kowalczyk, Tim


According to the chemistry education literature, physical chemistry educators strongly believe developing students’ conceptual understanding is important; however, the vast majority of educators (84%) were found to assess students predominantly on mathematical knowledge. To better serve students of physical chemistry, the cause of misalignment between stated learning goals and assessment needs to be elucidated. To this end, the Faculty Perceptions of Published Quantum Mechanics Assessments Survey (FPPQMA) was developed. The FPPQMA is designed to probe physical chemistry educators’ beliefs regarding the dichotomy between conceptual and mathematical knowledge. In addition to free response questions that ask respondents to define conceptual and mathematical knowledge, the FPPQMA asks participants to categorize published quantum chemistry concept inventory questions as “mostly mathematical, mostly conceptual, equally mathematical & conceptual, or other.” The survey was designed with paired sets of questions. Each set of questions is best described by a singular American Chemistry Society concept heading (e.g., Light and Matter Interactions, Particle-in-a-box model, Postulates of Quantum Mechanics, etc.). Each question within a set has a different representational form (e.g., textual, graphical, or symbolic). Data from our survey revealed the influence of question design on experts’ application of conceptual and mathematical labels and elucidated their beliefs about the unidirectional relationship between these two knowledge domains. Our results indicate that the misalignment between learning goals and evaluation does not result from methodology, but from how experts distinguish conceptual and mathematical knowledge.




physical chemistry education, concept, conceptual understanding, conceptual knowledge


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Chemistry--Study and teaching; Chemistry, Physical and theoretical; Educational surveys




masters theses




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