First-Year Undergraduate/General, High School/Introductory Chemistry, Laboratory Instruction, Physical Chemistry, Hands-On Learning/Manipulatives, Inquiry-Based/Discovery Learning, Misconceptions/Discrepant Events, Electrochemistry, Electrolytic/Galvanic Cells/Potentials, Oxidation/Reduction


Physical Sciences and Mathematics


In an attempt to address some student misconceptions in electrochemistry, this guided-inquiry laboratory was devised to give students an opportunity to use a manipulative that simulates the particulatelevel activity within an electrochemical cell, in addition to using an actual electrochemical cell. Students are led through a review of expected prior knowledge relating to oxidation and reduction half-reactions. Then, the students examine the macroscopic level by constructing and using an electrochemical cell. Finally, students use the manipulative and make connections between the two levels through class discussion. The misconceptions involve the movement of electrons and ions through solution and the salt bridge, the resulting charges of the half-cells, and the charge sign given to the anode and cathode on electrochemical and electrolytic cells. Additionally, the activity covers oxidation and reduction reactions in electrochemical cells and provides practice drawing and labeling parts of an electrochemical cell. Results, pre- and post-testing and student comments, indicate that this laboratory facilitates students’ understanding of electrochemical cells.

Original Citation

Cullen, D. M., & Pentecost, T. C. (2011). A Model Approach to the Electrochemical Cell: An Inquiry Activity. Journal of Chemical Education, 88(11), 1562–1564.