Identifying Student Use of Ball-and-Stick Images versus Electrostatic Potential Map Images via Eye Tracking
This pilot study examined students? use of ball-and-stick images versus electrostatic potential maps when asked questions about electron density, positive charge, proton attack, and hydroxide attack with six different molecules (two alcohols, two carboxylic acids, and two hydroxycarboxylic acids). Students? viewing of these dual images was measured by monitoring eye fixations of the students while they read and answered questions. Results showed that students spent significantly more time with the ball-and-stick image when asked questions about proton or hydroxide attack, but equal time on the images when asked about electron density or positive charge. When comparing accuracy and time spent on the images, students who spent more time on the ball-and-stick when asked about positive charge were less likely to be correct, while those who spent more time with the potential map were more likely to be correct. The paper serves to introduce readers to eye-tracker data and calls for replication with a larger subject pool and for the inclusion of eye tracking as a chemical education research tool.