The aim of this study is to compare the characteristics and sources of students' mental models of acids and bases with a teacher's anticipations and, based on this comparison, to explore some possible explanations why motivated students might fail to learn from a subject-knowledgeable chemistry teacher. The study involves a chemistry teacher and her 38 ninth graders and focuses on the mental models of three high achievers and three low achievers who were interviewed in depth. Four students' mental models of acid and base are identified. The mental models and sources of students' conceptions of acids and bases that influenced the high achievers are compared to those of the low achievers. We find that the teacher in the study made accurate anticipations of her students' mental models in the case of the high achievers but inaccurate anticipations of the low-achievers' mental models and the diverse sources influencing their mental models. In addition, the teacher incorrectly attributed the poor achievement of the low-achieving students to their intuition and underestimated the effects of her teaching on the achievement of these students. As a result, the teacher's instruction reinforced the low-achievers' incorrect mental models. Finally, the different approaches for teaching students with different achievements are emphasized according to the empirical data in this study.
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