An investigation of grade 12 students' misconceptions relating to fundamental characteristics of molecules and atoms

Preston, Kirk Royce (1988) An investigation of grade 12 students' misconceptions relating to fundamental characteristics of molecules and atoms. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

The need to be aware of children’s existing ideas is expressed by Ausubel (1968, p. iv) in his well known adage: “The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows; ascertain this and teach him accordingly”. Many of the views and conceptions held by learners differ from those commonly accepted by scientists. These views are often designated as misconceptions of alternative conceptions. While in recent years there has been a growing interest in identifying misconceptions, the bulk of the studies reported are related to physics, leaving many topics in chemistry largely ignored. IN the present study, two such concepts from the area of chemistry, namely molecules and atoms, were investigated. -- Three groups of ten students from grade 12 (16-17 year olds) constituted the total sample of 30 students. Subjects were grouped as Academic-Science, Academic-Non-Science, and Non-Academic Non-Science according to their participation in science and their overall average. A semi-structured interview guide was developed and used to elicit subjects’ conceptions relation to the fundamental characteristics of molecules and atoms. Questions were asked relating to the structure, composition, size, shape, weight, bonding, and energy of molecules using a waters molecule as the example. A second group of questions focused on the structure, shape, size, weight, and animism of atoms. In each case, subjects’ misconceptions were identified and then examined to see how the misconceptions differed among the three groups. -- All interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed. The interview data served as the starting point for the establishment of conceptual inventories for individuals, the construction of tables summarizing the common misconceptions, and descriptive summaries of the findings for each content area. -- The data suggest that students hold a wide range of misconceptions relating to the fundamental characteristics of molecules and atoms, and that many of the misconceptions identified parallel historical ideas of science. Other outcomes of the study include the observation that many of the misconceptions are common to all three groups, that the students from the Academic Science group exhibited the broadest range of misconceptions, but on average exhibited a lesser number of misconceptions. Overall, the Academic Science students had a better understanding of the concepts involved than did the Academic Non-Science and Non-Academic Non-Science students. -- Misconceptions were identified for each of the sub-types relating to molecules and atoms. Specific misconceptions relating to molecules included: Water molecules contain components other than oxygen and hydrogen; water molecules are large enough to be seen with the naked eye; water molecules have different sizes and shapes; water molecules are large enough to be physically weighed; and that temperature is the factor which affects molecular shape. Specific misconceptions relating to atoms included the belief that atoms are solid spheres with all of their components inside, that all atoms weigh the same, and that they are alive.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/4331
Item ID: 4331
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 107-115.
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: 1988
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Chemistry, Physical and theoretical--Study and teaching (Secondary)

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