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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 12 Issue 1 (2006) pp 10-14

Teaching Mass Spectrometry at the Secondary Level Using Inquiry Lessons and a Simple Model

Tiffany A. Payne, Crystal A. Holt, and Elizabeth F. Day*

Department of Chemistry, University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA 95211,
Received April 23, 2006. Accepted November 4, 2006.

Published online: 1 February 2006

Abstract. Mass spectrometry is a powerful analytical tool. Presenting mass spectrometry fundamentals to high school students is an excellent opportunity to show the value of these instruments to enhance chemical understanding and to interest students in a career in science. This study employs an integrated approach to teach mass spectrometry at the secondary level. Students received inquiry-based lessons, were allowed hands-on manipulation of a model, and participated in learning about different types of mass spectrometers through an interactive tour of a mass spectrometry facility. Student interest and comprehension were evaluated periodically to assess the teaching methods. Student interest and comprehension improved using this integrated method with the hands-on portion showing the largest gains in both areas.

Key Words: In the Classroom; analytical chemistry; mass spectrometry; magnetic sector mass spectrometry; hands-on learning; inquiry-based learning; high school/introductory chemistry

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (122 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

Detailed plans for the construction of the model as well as a comprehensive shopping list are available as supporting material. Additionally, evaluation materials, spectral analysis worksheets, and session outlines are provided. These can be downloaded in a Zip file (12 KB)

Issue date: February 1, 2007

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