Date of Thesis



Misconceptions exist in all fields of learning and develop through a person’s preconception of how the world works. Students with misconceptions in chemical engineering are not capable of correctly transferring knowledge to a new situation and will likely arrive at an incorrect solution. The purpose of this thesis was to repair misconceptions in thermodynamics by using inquiry-based activities. Inquiry-based learning is a method of teaching that involves hands-on learning and self-discovery. Previous work has shown inquiry-based methods result in better conceptual understanding by students relative to traditional lectures. The thermodynamics activities were designed to guide students towards the correct conceptual understanding through observing a preconception fail to hold up through an experiment or simulation. The developed activities focus on the following topics in thermodynamics: “internal energy versus enthalpy”, “equilibrium versus steady state”, and “entropy”. For each topic, two activities were designed to clarify the concept and assure it was properly grasped. Each activity was coupled with an instructions packet containing experimental procedure as well as pre- and post-analysis questions, which were used to analyze the effect of the activities on the students’ responses. Concept inventories were used to monitor students’ conceptual understanding at the beginning and end of the semester. The results did not show a statistically significant increase in the overall concept inventory scores for students who performed the activities compared to traditional learning. There was a statistically significant increase in concept area scores for “internal energy versus enthalpy” and “equilibrium versus steady state”. Although there was not a significant increase in concept inventory scores for “entropy”, written analyses showed most students’ misconceptions were repaired. Students transferred knowledge effectively and retained most of the information in the concept areas of “internal energy versus enthalpy” and “equilibrium versus steady state”.


Thermodyanmics, Misconceptions, Inquiry-Based Activities

Access Type

Masters Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering


Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Margot A. Vigeant