Chem Tutor

Chem Tutor: Learn with visual representations!

Project Information

UW Chem Tutor - Front Page - 1

Chem Tutor is an intelligent tutoring system for undergraduate students and high-school students learning about foundational chemistry concepts related to atomic structure and bonding. Chem Tutor supports student learning by doing and helps students as they solve challenging chemistry problems. It provides step-by-step guidance in the form of feedback and hints.

Interactive visual representations

Chem Tutor uses a variety of representations of atoms and molecules. Activities with these representations are designed to help students acquire a deep, conceptual understanding of chemistry. A special feature of the tutor is the use of interactive visual representations: students can actively manipulate representations by creating electrons, adding shells and orbitals, etc. These manipulations are always done in the context of specific tasks, such as predicting how an atom might interact with other atoms or determining the polarity of bonds.

What does Chem Tutor cover?

Chem Tutor covers a wide range of topics which are closely aligned with the National Sciences Education Standards (NSES) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The instructional content and problems are based on educational research on chemistry learning, which indicates that students’ lack of representational skills are a major stumbling block in understanding basic chemistry concepts at the high school level and at the college level. Chem Tutor problems have been tested with college freshmen, high-school students, and have been reviewed by chemistry instructors and graduate students.

Does Chem Tutor help students learn?

Chem Tutor was tested in lab studies and field studies with over 1,000 students. Results from these studies showed that students significantly improved on tests of chemistry knowledge and on tests of representational skills. For example, a recent study with undergraduate freshmen enrolled in an introductory chemistry course for non-science majors showed an improvement of 45% on a posttest, relative to students’ pretest performance (Rau & Wu, 2015).

Where can I find out more about the research?

For more information about research projects related to Chem Tutor, please visit the Learning, Representations, & Technology Lab’s website.