Representational Classroom Practices that Contribute to Students' Conceptual and Representational Understanding of Chemical Bonding

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
International Journal of Science Education, 2011, 33 (16), pp. 2215 - 2246
Issue Date:
2011-11-01
Metrics:
Full metadata record
Understanding bonding is fundamental to success in chemistry. A number of alternative conceptions related to chemical bonding have been reported in the literature. Research suggests that many alternative conceptions held by chemistry students result from previous teaching; if teachers are explicit in the use of representations and explain their content-specific forms and functions, this might be avoided. The development of an understanding of and ability to use multiple representations is crucial to students' understanding of chemical bonding. This paper draws on data from a larger study involving two Year 11 chemistry classes (n = 27, n = 22). It explores the contribution of explicit instruction about multiple representations to students' understanding and representation of chemical bonding. The instructional strategies were documented using audio-recordings and the teacher-researcher's reflection journal. Pre-test-post-test comparisons showed an improvement in conceptual understanding and representational competence. Analysis of the students' texts provided further evidence of the students' ability to use multiple representations to explain macroscopic phenomena on the molecular level. The findings suggest that explicit instruction about representational form and function contributes to the enhancement of representational competence and conceptual understanding of bonding in chemistry. However, the scaffolding strategies employed by the teacher play an important role in the learning process. This research has implications for professional development enhancing teachers' approaches to these aspects of instruction around chemical bonding. © 2011 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
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