A comparison of first-semester organic chemistry students’ experiences and mastery of curved-arrow formalism in face-to-face and cyber peer-led team learning

Sarah Beth Wilson, Purdue University


The cyber Peer-Led Team Learning (cPLTL) workshops are a synchronous online adaptation of the educational intervention PLTL, in which students, under the guidance of undergraduate peer facilitators, collaboratively solve problems in small groups. The purpose of this parallel convergent mixed methods study was to assess the impact of implementing cPLTL in an organic chemistry course on students’ workshop experiences, performance, and development of curved arrow formalism skills. Statistical analyses revealed comparable attendance rates, distribution of course grades, and achievement on American Chemical Society First-semester Organic Chemistry Exams. However, plotting workshop grades by AB, C, and DFW grade groupings revealed that PLTL students earned more successful grades than their cPLTL counterparts. Utilization of a new curved arrow formalism analytic framework for coding student interview artifacts revealed that cPLTL students were statistically less likely to successfully draw the product suggested by the curved arrows than their PLTL classmates. Both PLTL and cPLTL students exhibited a comparable incidence of relational to instrumental learning approaches. Similarly, both PLTL and cPLTL students were more likely to exhibit a common Scheme for Problem-Solving in Organic Chemistry (SPOC) than having dialogue that could be characterized by Toulmin’s Argumentation scheme. Lastly, implications for faculty are suggested, including: developing more explicit connections concept, mode, and reasoning components of understanding curved arrow formalism for organic chemistry students; optimizing graphical collaborative learning activities for online learners; and developing online students’ sense of community.




Varma-Nelson, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Instructional Design|Pedagogy|Organic chemistry

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