What can student-generated diagrams tell us about their understanding of chemical equations?
Davidowitz, Bette, Chittleborough, Gail and Murray, Eileen 2010, What can student-generated diagrams tell us about their understanding of chemical equations?, in SAARMSTE 2010 : Proceedings of the 18th Annual Meeting of the Southern African Association for Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education : Crossing the Boundaries, University of Kwazulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, pp. 51-58.
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University of Kwazulu-Natal, Pinetown, South Africa
18 - 21 January 2010
Title of proceedings
SAARMSTE 2010 : Proceedings of the 18th Annual Meeting of the Southern African Association for Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education : Crossing the Boundaries
Southern African Association for Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education Conference
University of Kwazulu-Natal
Place of publication
Durban, South Africa
Chemical equations are representations that use symbols to summarise the net changes occurring in a reaction whereas depictions such as drawings of the submicroscopic level provide representations of the chemical transformations. While the ability to balance and interpret chemical equations is key to understanding many concepts in chemistry, many undergraduate chemistry students struggle to master these skills. The equations contain a great deal of implicit information and novices may not be able to make the connection between the equation and the actual chemical transformations that are occurring. This paper reports on a study which used submicroscopic diagrams to probe students' understanding of chemical equations. Assessment tasks required students to interpret diagrams, construct diagrams and to relate diagrams to symbolic representations. The analysis showed that some students have misconceptions about the molecular nature and chemical formulae and could not distinguish between coefficients and subscripts when representing chemical formulae. While students were generally able to balance a chemical equation presented as a set of diagrams, a significant number could not generate the balanced equation based on a diagram of the progress of a reaction, The study has demonstrated the use of student-generated diagrams to provide insight into students' understandings of chemical equations.
Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright owner.
Field of Research
130212 Science, Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy
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