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Keywords:

  • chemistry;
  • laboratory science;
  • secondary;
  • achievement;
  • classroom research

Abstract

The case-based computerized laboratory (CCL) is a chemistry learning environment that integrates computerized experiments with emphasis on scientific inquiry and comprehension of case studies. The research objective was to investigate chemical understanding and graphing skills of high school honors students via bidirectional visual and textual representations in the CCL learning environment. The research population of our 3-year study consisted of 857 chemistry 12th grade honors students from a variety of high schools in Israel. Pre- and postcase-based questionnaires were used to assess students' graphing and chemical understanding–retention skills. We found that students in the CCL learning environment significantly improved their graphing skills and chemical understanding–retention in the post- with respect to the prequestionnaires. Comparing the experimental students to their non-CCL control peers has shown that CCL students had an advantage in graphing skills. The CCL contribution was most noticeable for experimental students of relatively low academic level who benefit the most from the combination of visual and textual representations. Our findings emphasize the educational value of combining the case-based method with computerized laboratories for enhancing students' chemistry understanding and graphing skills, and for developing their ability to bidirectionally transfer between textual and visual representations. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 45: 219–250, 2008.