The purpose of this 6-year study was to diagnose the chemistry conceptions of students at different age levels in Taiwan (the first and second years), to explore the causes of their conceptions of different chemistry topics, including oxidation/reduction, batteries/electrolysis, acids/bases, gas particles, chemical equilibrium, categorisation and nature of matter, and material science/organic compounds (the third and fourth years), and to design learning activities to overcome students' conceptions in chemistry (the fifth and sixth years). This research, called the National Science Concept Learning Study, was carried out by eight principal investigators and coordinated by two senior researchers. The study piloted hundreds of students from August 2000 to March 2003. In March 2003, a national survey was conducted. After compiling survey results, attention was turned to identifying the sources of student conceptions, looking at teacher-student interactions, everyday language, and representations in textbooks. This study found that, depending on their age level, students held various types of conceptions of chemical concepts. Elementary school students' responses to test items were more intuitive and phenomenon oriented. Junior high and senior high school students, although showing cognitive development, had similar conceptions about chemical concepts. We also found that the conceptions of younger students trying to learn more abstract concepts were mainly due to their limited cognitive development and insufficient prior science knowledge. However, the inappropriate use of models, illustrations, and definitions of new terminology in textbooks was also a factor. For high school students, instruction, textbooks, and teaching materials were the main sources of student conceptions. Sources such as experiments, reference books, and instruction in after-school programs also influenced student learning. Our understanding of the different aspects of student learning in chemistry points to the need for development of efficient teaching strategies and assessment tools to help students learn chemistry concepts correctly. In this paper, the author will report the results from the first 4 years.
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