Ongoing research in general chemistry education has documented that focusing on student complexity of reasoning is promising to reveal student productive resources in the discipline. However not much is known about student productive resources that correspond to the nature of mechanistic reasoning in organic chemistry. Given that every type of reasoning is shaped by the subject under consideration, we therefore must consider what characterizes typical mechanistic questions and representations in organic chemistry. We thus developed a framework, based on accounts from the philosophy of science and combined it with an educational perspective on student representational competence and complexity of reasoning. Our framework divides reasoning about organic mechanisms into essential mechanistic components, structural and energetic accounts, as well as different modes of reasoning within structural accounts.
In this seminar I will give an overview on how we used this subject-oriented framework for the analysis of undergraduate students’ mechanistic reasoning. The additional evaluation of a scaffold that supports students consider multiple variables in mechanistic steps shows how our theoretical perspective allows designing structured teaching tools for organic chemistry.