Purdue University Graduate School

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Undergraduate Students' Understanding and Interpretation of Carbohydrates and Glycosidic Bonds

posted on 2023-07-10, 20:09 authored by Jennifer GarciaJennifer Garcia

For the projects titled Undergraduate Students’ Interpretation of Fischer and Haworth Carbohydrate Projections and Undergraduate Students' Interpretation of Glycosidic Bonds – there is a prevalent issue in biochemistry education in which students display fragmented knowledge of the biochemical concepts learned when asked to illustrate their understandings (via drawings, descriptions, analysis, etc.). In science education, educators have traditionally used illustrations to support students’ development of conceptual understanding. However, interpreting a representation is dependent on prior knowledge, ability to decode visual information, and the nature of the representation itself. With a prevalence of studies conducted on visualizations, there is little research with a focus on the students’ interpretation and understanding of carbohydrates and/or glycosidic bonds. The aim of these projects focuses on how students interpret representations of carbohydrates and glycosidic bonds. This study offers a description of undergraduate students’ understanding and interpretation using semi-structured interviews through Phenomenography, Grounded Theory and the Resources Frameworks. The data suggests that students have different combinations of (low or high) accuracy and productivity for interpreting and illustrating carbohydrates and glycosidic bonds, among other findings to be highlighted in their respective chapters. More effective teaching strategies can be designed to assist students in developing expertise in proper illustrations and guide their thought process in composing proper explanations in relation to and/or presence of illustrations.

For the project titled Impact of the Pandemic on Student Readiness: Laboratories, Preparedness, and Support – it was based upon research by Meaders et. al (2021) published in the International Journal of STEM Education. Messaging during the first day of class is highly important in establishing positive student learning environments.  Further, this research suggests that students are detecting the messages that are communicated.  Thus, attention should be given to prioritizing what information and messages are most important for faculty to voice. There is little doubt that the pandemic has had a significant impact on students across the K-16 spectrum.  In particular, for undergraduate chemistry instructors’, data on the number of laboratories students completed in high school and in what mode would be important information in considering what modifications could be implemented in the laboratory curriculum and in messaging about the laboratory activities – additionally on how prepared students feel to succeed at college work, how the pandemic has impacted their preparedness for learning, and what we can do to support student learning in chemistry can shape messaging on the first day and for subsequent activities in the course.  An initial course survey that sought to highlight these student experiences and perspectives will be discussed along with the impact on course messaging and structure.    


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Chemistry

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Marcy Towns

Additional Committee Member 2

Angeline Lyon

Additional Committee Member 3

Stephanie Gardner

Additional Committee Member 4

Cynthia Harwood