Factors that prevent learning in electrochemistry

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Abstract

Electrochemistry plays an important role in curricula, textbooks, and in everyday life. The purpose of the present study was to identify and understand secondary-school students' problems in learning electrochemistry at an introductory chemistry level. The investigation covered four areas: (a) electrolytes, (b) transport of electric charges in electrolyte solutions, (c) the anode and the cathode, and (d) the minus and plus poles. Written tests were given to high-school students in five cycles. The population from which random samples were drawn totalled 15,700 subjects. Students were asked to select the correct answers and to justify their choices. It was found that students based their reasoning on four alternative concepts: (a) During electrolysis, the electric current produces ions; (b) electrons migrate through the solution from one electrode to the other; (c) the cathode is always the minus pole, the anode the plus pole; and (d) the plus and minus poles carry charges. The results suggest a teaching strategy in which students first experience and learn about electrochemistry concepts. In the second step, appropriate concept terms are added, and students then are confronted with the alternative concepts described in this article. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 44: 258–283, 2007

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