Assessing the status of fundamental chemistry knowledge Using a visually displayed chemistry diagnostic test

Suzanne Fergus, Geeta Hitch


Students in the classroom may possess varying levels of knowledge and understanding of fundamental chemical concepts so it is necessary to ascertain if any misalignment exists with their expected prior knowledge; if left un-addressed, such misalignment may create difficulties for students beyond the first year of their undergraduate study. The aim of this initial diagnostic test study is to assess students' knowledge of basic concepts in chemistry that underpin the science of patient safety in pharmacy practice using a novel approach which enables a variety of question types. A
diagnostic test using Microsoft PowerPoint© consisting of 40 individually timed questions was presented to an entire cohort of Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) degree programme undergraduate students in both the first year (n = 163) and third year (n = 118). The questions ranged from basic chemical nomenclature to more complex areas such as stereochemistry. Our results showed that the third year undergraduates performed significantly better than those in their first year (p ≤ 0.004) with both cohorts performing well in the basic questions such as recognition of elements and bonding. However, a more in-depth analysis of the questions indicated areas such as chemical structures and mole calculations that caused difficulty for both cohorts. This test highlights problem areas in fundamental chemistry concepts which students find difficult either to
grasp or to solve, and as such it serves as a useful diagnostic tool enabling a more targeted approach to teaching.

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New Directions in the Teaching of Natural Sciences

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