Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Megan Kowalske

Second Advisor

James Kiddle

Third Advisor

Kathryn Docherty


Many of the chemistry laboratories taught at Western Michigan University are “cookbook” labs, meaning that students are given an instruction manual with a prescribed set of instructions and a predicted outcome. Therein we present an introductory organic chemistry laboratory experiment to reinforce the student understanding of Thin Layer Chromatography which utilizes a guided inquiry format as part of an effort to move toward discovery based learning in our organic chemistry curriculum. Educational research was performed on classroom artifacts collected from the laboratory. We were able to gain an understanding of the struggles students face in applying general chemistry content knowledge in the organic chemistry laboratory by investigating student misconceptions about Thin Layer Chromatography. We present findings that students taking organic chemistry have misconceptions which are represented by the following themes: what can be measured by TLC, terminology regarding thin layer chromatography, polarity in relation to thin layer chromatography, and what is occurring on the TLC plate. Our findings support findings in the literature, and expand on how students apply their chemical conceptual knowledge, or lack thereof, to solve chemical problems. This work contributes information about student misconceptions in organic chemistry which expands the small amount of chemical education literature which focuses organic chemistry students.


David Paul was a 4th advisor.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access