Chapter 9: Assessing System Ontology in Biochemistry: Analysis of Students’ Problem Solving in Enzyme Kinetics
Published:17 May 2021
J. G. Rodriguez, S. J. Philips, N. P. Hux, and M. H. Towns, in Problems and Problem Solving in Chemistry Education: Analysing Data, Looking for Patterns and Making Deductions, ed. G. Tsaparlis, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2021, ch. 9, pp. 199-216.
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At the core of emergent processes and properties is the idea that variation exists within a system, an ontological stance reflected in the varied population schema as described by Talanquer (2015). In contrast to viewing a solution as a homogenous and uniform population, reasoning characterized by the varied population schema acknowledges that an ensemble of molecules will vary with respect to observed behavior and different parameters (e.g., speed, kinetic energy, etc.). In this work, we describe students’ responses to an exam question designed to elicit reasoning regarding the nature of a system involving enzyme, substrate, and inhibitor. Analysis indicates students had difficulty recognizing interaction between system components, with some students viewing the enzyme kinetics system as involving a single enzyme, substrate, and inhibitor. Nevertheless, student responses indicate competitive inhibition may be an accessible context for instructors to elicit students’ productive reasoning related to the nature of systems in enzyme kinetics.