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Exploring Grade 11 students' conceptual pathways of the particulate nature of matter in the context of multirepresentational instruction



This study investigated the conceptual pathways of 19 Grade 11 introductory chemistry students (age 16–17) as they participated in a multirepresentational instruction on the particulate nature of matter (PNM). This study was grounded in contemporary conceptual change theory, in particular, research on students' conceptual pathways that focuses on the interaction between students' existing conceptions and instruction, which might give rise to observing multiple paths. This mixed method study combined a quantitative research design with qualitative data collection and analysis methods. Data were collected through open-ended questionnaires, interviews, and document analysis to portray the patterns of students' conceptual pathways of the PNM from pre to postinstruction to 3 months after the instruction. An interpretive analysis of the qualitative data revealed six different conceptual pathways varying between radical progress and no additional progress (stable) after the multirepresentational instruction and between stable (no change) and full decay over a 3-month period following the instruction. The identified patterns of conceptual pathways provide information about the manner in which conceptual change occurred, as well as suggest potential implications for instructional practices. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 47: 1004–1035, 2010