# Molecular Orbital Misconceptions

## Presenter Hometown

Mount Vernon Ky

## Major

Chemistry Education

## Department

Chemistry

## Degree

Undergraduate

## Mentor

Judith L. Jenkins

## Mentor Department

Chemistry

## Recommended Citation

Burton, Shanlee A.; Spurlock, Angel D.; and Jenkins, Judith L., "Molecular Orbital Misconceptions" (2017). *University Presentation Showcase Event*. 13.

https://encompass.eku.edu/swps/2017/undergraduate/13

## Abstract

Because atoms and molecules cannot be individually perceived by the human eye, many different models are used when teaching students fundamental chemical concepts such as chemical bonding. While no model is a perfect representation of the natural phenomena, each model is useful. Molecular Orbital Theory (MO Theory) is an advanced model for chemical bonding commonly taught in upper-division chemistry courses. As students learn this theory, they scaffold their understandings to older knowledge, which can in some cases, result in misconceptions. Elucidating these misconceptions is critically important for further application of molecular orbital theory, and is the focus of the work described here. For this project, data from 12 students in an Inorganic Chemistry at class Eastern Kentucky University were analyzed to address possible student misconceptions about MO Theory. The data was collected through a three-part question worked by students individually. Students were instructed to describe their thoughts as they answered the question. Additionally, students rated their confidence in their answers. Transcripts of the verbal descriptions as well as the written answers were first analyzed independently by each author and then compared. The third part of the question, a higher-level Bloom’s question which required students to assess relative stability of molecules using MO Theory, proved to be the most challenging and revealed the most misconceptions. Answers varied on this question with only 33% of the 12 students correctly answering. Strategies for future instruction will be discussed.

*Keywords: Molecular Orbital Theory; Bond Order; Bonding; Antibonding*

## Presentation format

Poster

## Poster Number

053

Molecular Orbital Misconceptions

Because atoms and molecules cannot be individually perceived by the human eye, many different models are used when teaching students fundamental chemical concepts such as chemical bonding. While no model is a perfect representation of the natural phenomena, each model is useful. Molecular Orbital Theory (MO Theory) is an advanced model for chemical bonding commonly taught in upper-division chemistry courses. As students learn this theory, they scaffold their understandings to older knowledge, which can in some cases, result in misconceptions. Elucidating these misconceptions is critically important for further application of molecular orbital theory, and is the focus of the work described here. For this project, data from 12 students in an Inorganic Chemistry at class Eastern Kentucky University were analyzed to address possible student misconceptions about MO Theory. The data was collected through a three-part question worked by students individually. Students were instructed to describe their thoughts as they answered the question. Additionally, students rated their confidence in their answers. Transcripts of the verbal descriptions as well as the written answers were first analyzed independently by each author and then compared. The third part of the question, a higher-level Bloom’s question which required students to assess relative stability of molecules using MO Theory, proved to be the most challenging and revealed the most misconceptions. Answers varied on this question with only 33% of the 12 students correctly answering. Strategies for future instruction will be discussed.

*Keywords: Molecular Orbital Theory; Bond Order; Bonding; Antibonding*