Strategies reported used by instructors to address student alternate conceptions in chemical equilibrium

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Abstract

This study explores general-chemistry instructors' awareness of and ability to identify and address common student learning obstacles in chemical equilibrium. Reported instructor strategies directed at remediating student alternate conceptions were investigated and compared with successful, literature-based conceptual change methods. Fifty-two volunteer general chemistry instructors from 50 U.S. colleges and universities completed an interactive web-based instrument consisting of open-ended questions, a rating scale, classroom scenarios, and a demographic form. Survey respondents who provided responses or described remediation strategies requiring further clarification were identified (n = 6); these respondents amplified their views in separate, researcher-led semistructured phone interviews. All 52 responding chemistry instructors reported and identified common student areas of difficulty in chemical equilibrium. They reported employing a variety of strategies to address and attempt to remediate students' alternate conceptions; however, these self-reported strategies rarely included all four necessary conditions specified by Posner, Strike, Hewson, and Gertzog (Science Education, 66, 211–217, 1982) to stimulate conceptual change. Instructor-identified student alternate conceptions were congruent with literature-reported alternate conceptions of chemical equilibrium, thus providing validation support for these compilations. Implications for teaching and further research are also highlighted. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 42: 1112–1134, 2005

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