Student affect and conceptual understanding in learning chemistry



This study explores the relationship between affective and cognitive variables in grade 9 chemistry students (n = 73). In particular, it explores how students' situational interest, their attitudes toward chemistry, and their chemistry-specific self-concept influence their understanding of chemistry concepts over the course of a school year. All affective variables were assessed at two time points: at the middle of the first semester of grade 9, and at the end of the second semester of grade 9, and then related to students' postinstructional understanding of chemical concepts. Results reveal that none of the affective variables measured at the earliest time point have a significant direct effect on postinstructional conceptual understanding. Looking at the different affective variables as intermediary constructs, however, reveals a pattern in which self-concept and situational interest measured at the middle of grade 9 contribute to self-concept measured at the end of grade 9, which in turn, has a positive, significant effect on students' postinstructional conceptual understanding. These results reveal the importance of a strong and positive self-concept, the feeling of doing well in the chemistry class, for developing a meaningful understanding of scientific concepts. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 44: 908–937, 2007