Merogim P. Mugot
Misconception in High School Chemistry of MUST freshmen Student
The aim of chemical education is to help students develop a deeper understanding of
abstract concepts. Although many teaching and learning strategies have been developed to
facilitate this process, there is a wide range of factors that influence its ultimate success.
Factors which have been shown to influence student learning are student motivation and
understanding by the teacher of what the learner is doing, rather than what the teacher is
doing (Biggs, 1999). These ideas follow the studies done by Piaget (1929) and Ausubel
(1968). They suggested that as children mature, particular stages of development occur that
influence the way they can learn increasingly abstract concepts. It is also well recognised
that students have existing schema or alternative conceptions (misconceptions) which can
be personal in nature, highly resistant to change, may exist alongside new conceptions and
sometimes be contradictory (Coll& Taylor, 2002).
In designing this course, we needed more than a knowledge of chemistry. We also
needed to keep in mind the best practices currently recommended for elementary science
teaching and the conditions and resources that typically are available in an elementary
school classroom. The multiple perspectives were provided by pulling together a team of
chemists, teacher educators, and elementary classroom teachers to plan and co-teach the
initial semesters of the course.Chemistry curriculum is concerned with all aspects of a
course, including content, in-class instruction, out-ofclass assignments, and assessment
Future teachers need to know the importance of asking some of the powerful
questions about chemical phenomena so that they may ask such questions of their
students. We seek to create a climate in which raising meaningful questions is a core value
of doing chemistry. Learning chemistry is important because it helps us to make reasonable
social and scientific choices. Such decisions as whether or not to eat a particular food, to
support or oppose a bond issue relating to a waste disposal site, and how to choose a pain
reliever can be made more rationally with an understanding of chemistry(Kelter, 1996).
Consequently, the chemistry education research covers a breadth of topics without
emphasis on coordinating the topics into a functional whole to describe how students learn
(Claesgens, 2007). For example, we know that many chemistry students think the bubbles
in boiling water are air (Bodner, 1991), or that it takes energy to break bonds (Boo, 1998;
Teichertand Stacy, 2002). Additionally, we know that students have memorized the
definition of an acid, and that students have more difficulties solving two-step mathematical
problems (Gabel &Sherwod, 1985), but we do not know what misconceptions build to
normative understanding, or why some chemistry topics are harder for students to learn
With the research fragmented into different types of knowledge across a breadth of
chemistry topics, it is difficult to compare how students think about density to how they think
about the mole, for example. Consequently, questions regarding the nature of student
understanding, (for example: are there equivalencies between how students learndifferent
chemistry topics or is learning of chemistry completely topic specific) cannot fully be
answered by the current research and assessments in chemistry education.In contrast, the
coherence of student understanding and measures that allow for student understanding to
emerge. Unfortunately, there is no holistic and rigorous measure of student understanding in
chemistry to describe how students learn chemistry over the course of instruction
Chemistry instruction should therefore indicate the close connections between visual
and conceptual entities and include multiple representations of a speciﬁc concept (Barak
and Dori 2005; Wu and Shah 2004). Osborne et al. (2003, p. 706) noted: „„Students should
be encouraged to do science, … to engage in activities such as creating models/pictures to
explain ideas and to consider possible ideas to explain phenomena…‟‟
Based on Osborne and colleagues‟ recommendation (2003), we ﬁrst discuss the
difﬁculties of understanding the chemistry subject matter and the recommended
visualization tools that chemical educators can employ in secondary schools and in higher
education. We then discuss our learning environment and assignments, which enable
students to cope with the microscopic nature of chemistry, and provide an analysis of
students‟ responses to the reﬂection questionnaire.
Theoretically student conceptions are built from their interaction with other people or
learning mediums (Osman and colleague, 2013). Demircioglu et al. (2005) gathered
reports from previous research and stated that sources of misconception in chemistry are
due to daily life experience; traditional instructional language; teachers; mismatches
between teacher and students' knowledge of science; changes in the meaning of chemical
terms and textbooks. Schmidt et al. (2007) stated that previous research reported that
alternatives conception is caused by students receiving misleading or erroneous concepts
and information. In the same report, Sanger and Greenbowe (1999) revealed that textbooks
contain misleading statements that would justify students' developing alternatives
conception.This shows that there is an abundance of misconception sources and that they
can occur inside and outside the classroom. Griffiths and Preston (1992) concurred with
Driver and Easley (1978) that these conceptions are often strongly resistant to traditional
teaching and form coherent, though mistaken, conceptual structures within the students'
Agung and Schwartz (2007) reported that educators and researchers have
acknowledged that students' alternatives conception in science represents an important
educational problem. To overcome this problem, Chung (2011) suggested that diagnostic
assessment to be used as an effective tool for teachers to determine student readiness
before instruction. Arguably, it is beneficial to identify students' alternatives conception so
that teachers are able to formulate strategies which will enable students' to conceptualize
more appropriately and enable them to improve their achievement in chemistry as a whole.
This statement is in agreement with Ozmen (2004) that stated one of the most fruitful
outcomes of the studies on children's misconceptions is to alert teachers to students'
difficulties in conceptualizing science knowledge and hence suggest more effective
strategies for improving their teaching and learning approaches.
Research in chemistry education, not only falls into these distinct categories but
tends to be topic specific to the domain of chemistry, like describing student understanding
of the mole (Astudillo&Naiz, 1996; Furio&Guisasolo, 2000; Gabel &Sherwood, 1984:
Staver&Lumpe1995,), thermodynamics (Boo, 1998; Greenbowe& Meltzer, 2003; Teichert
and Stacy, 2002) or chemical change (Hesse& Anderson, 1992; Johnson, 2002; Yarroch,
1985 ), for example. My concern is that when the research looks at just one knowledge type
or one specific topic, an overall understanding of how students learn chemistry is missing,
resulting in snapshots of student learning rather than a coherent mapping and account ofthe
understanding that develop over the course of instruction (Claesgens, 2007).
Certainly, the question of how students learn is not new. There is much valuable
research on how students learn that contributes to my understanding (Claesgens, 2007).
Piaget‟s research was seminal in addressing how one knows. Piaget sought to determine
when children know different concepts. Based on his research he proposed that children
actively construct their understanding from experience. As a result, the Constructivist
framework emerged from Piaget‟s research and provides the preliminary framework for how
a learner goes from naiveté to understanding (Miller, P.H., 1993).
Further research both praises students‟ abilities to learn while others describe their
limits. Originating with Piaget‟s work, developmental research describes both students‟
natural development of understanding and constraints to their thinking. The concept of
conservation provides a well-researched example related to chemistry of how children‟s
thinking changes as they mature. Infants believe that when an object cannot be seen it does
not exist (Piaget &Inhelder, 1969), young children think that when the sugar dissolves it
“disappears,” (Driver, et al, 1994; Piaget &Inhelder, 1969) while high school students
respond that mixing two liquids together to form a solid increases the mass
(Claesgens&Scalise, unpublished). Yet, even with these limits in their understanding,
research on young students and novice learners consistently find that children and students,
like experts, are always trying to make sense and reason with the situation presented to
them. Metz (1995) argues that the limits to the understanding thatnovice learners exhibit is
due to a lack of domain knowledge rather than limits in their general reasoning ability.
In a review of solution chemistry studies,  Calýk et al. (2005) summarizes findings
about students' understanding of solutions. The review claims, for example, that students
often pay the most attention to mechanical events, such as stirring; that everyday language
is preferred over scientific jargon; that students confuse solution chemistry with non-related
concepts; and that students lack sub-microscopic explanations for macroscopic
observations of the phenomena.
Nicoll (2003) used ﬁve categories to describe the variances observed in how
undergraduate chemistry students chose to build a model: arrangement, color, geometry,
size, and sticks. The researcher found that students do not necessarily have a developed
mental image of how atoms are arranged in a speciﬁc molecule, nor do they necessarily pay
attention to bonding when building molecular models. Chemists have developed the ability
to „see‟ chemistry in their minds as images of molecules and their transformations. Chemists
also construct, transform, and use a range of symbolic representations: drawings,
equations, and graphs (Kozma and Russell 2005). Thus, an important goal of chemical
educators is to make students aware of their misconceptions and help them to „see‟
chemistry as chemists do, by switching between diverse representations, enabling them to
develop scientiﬁcally based concepts.
Gilbert (2005) discussed model types, including expressed, consensus, scientiﬁc,
and teaching models. Specially developed teaching models are created to support the
learning of some abstract topics, especially concepts related to bonding and structure
(Kozma and Russell 2005). Using representations to perform tasks requires a series of
cognitive operations in the spatial domain, including recognizing the graphic conventions,
manipulating spatial information, and mentally tracking constraints. Thus, it is likely that
learning chemistry involves visuospatial abilities that enable students to perform cognitive
operations spatially, including translating a chemical formula into its molecular structure(s),
and visualizing and comparing possible 3D conﬁgurations. Being able to comprehend and
mentally manipulate chemical conﬁgurations is critical for students to conduct advanced
scientiﬁc research (Wu and Shah 2004).
Unlike content, modeling ability can only be learned through intensive practice, so
teachers should teach modeling skills, encourage students to use multiple rather than
isolated models, and discuss and critique various models, since each type elaborates only a
fraction of its target (Harrison and Treagust 2000, 2001).
Kozma (2003) examined the role of multiple representations in understanding
science and found that scientists coordinate features within and across multiple
representations to reason about their research and negotiate shared understanding.
Students have difﬁculties moving across multiple representations, so their understanding
and discourse are constrained by the surface features of individual representations. The
researcher recommendedthat students use multiple linked representations in the context of
collaborative, authenticlaboratory investigations.
Furthermore, I believe that there is an interaction of domain knowledge, everyday
experiences, and reasoning that comes into play as students construct their understanding,
and that these different knowledge types compose the resources that students access when
forming an explanation as a gauge of their understanding. Therefore, my premise is that the
way that students make sense of the world is due to the coordination of these components
into the understanding that develops (Claesgens, 2007).
To develop well-organized conceptual frameworks requires a commitment on the
part of the student to choose to learn meaningfully rather than by rote. Meaningful learning
requires the learner to seek explicit conceptual linkages between relevant knowledge he/she
already has and new knowledge being presented. The unfortunate situation is that so much
of school learning from grade one onward requires little more than verbatim memorization of
concept definitions or problem-solving algorithms ( Pendley and colleague, 1994).
Concept maps were developed to represent changes in students' knowledge
structures over time. They are based on the epistemological idea that concepts and concept
relationships (i.e., propositions) are the building blocks of knowledge. Furthermore,
hierarchical structures of concepts and propositions are convenient and concise
representations of knowledge. In this paper, we report on the use of concept maps drawn
from clinical interviews, as tools to assess learning in two groups of chemistry students(
Pendley and colleague, 1994).
Concepts such as dissolution and the particulate nature of matter are fundamental to
learning chemistry ( Abraham etal.1992). Students' ideas about these concepts have
been the focus of several researchers over the past three decades. Research has shown
that students often regard matter as static, continuous and non-particulate, in contrast to the
scientific atomistic and dynamic view (see e.g.  Driver et al.,1994).
chemistry of freshmen
student in MUST
Figure 1. Schematic Diagram shows the Relationship between the dependent and
Statement of the Problem
This study aimed to determine the misconception of the freshmen students in
Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST) on general Chemistry. It sought to
answer the following questions:
1. Which among the group of topics of general Chemistry do students have wrong
2. What are the reasons why they got a wrong idea about the concept?
3. How do misconceptions of students compare in terms of sex?
There is no significant difference of students‟ misconception in high school Chemistry
of Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST) freshmen students.
Significant of the Study
The findings of the study will help the students identify the topics in General
Chemistry which are least understood and spend more time studying on it. Students will
have a basis in finding appropriate strategies to be used in classroom discussion to improve
their comprehension ability.
The freshmen students of Mindanao University of Science And Technology(MUST)
answered the question honestly and seriously in the general Chemistry test.
Delimitation of the Study
This study is only concern of determining the misconceptions in general Chemistry
concepts of the freshmen student who have wrong interpretation. Only the freshmen student
of BSED- Physical Sciences who are enrolled at Mindanao University of Science And
Technology (MUST) school year 2013-2014 are involved.
The general Chemistry concept and application which are included are concepts in
descriptive and theoretical Chemistry, atomic structure and modern periodic table and
chemical bonds. In gathering the data, the researcher used teacher- made test.
Definition of terms
The following terms were factually and conceptually defined for the purpose of the study:
Acid.A chemical substance (typically, a corrosive or sour-tasting liquid) that neutralizes
alkalis, dissolves some metals, and turns litmus red.
Assess.Evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of something.
Chemistry. The branch of science that deals with the identification of the substances of
which matter is composed.
Cognitive. It is being or relating to or involving cognition.
Concept.An abstract idea or a general notion.
Constructivism. A view which admits as valid only constructive proofs and entities
demonstrable by them, implying that the latter have no independent.
Curriculum. The subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college.
Diverse. Showing a great deal of variety.
Instruction. Directions to a lawyer or to a jury.
Molecule. A group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of
a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical.
Multiple. Having or involving several parts, elements, or members.
Misconception. A view or opinion that is incorrect because based on faulty thinking or
Scientific. Based on or characterized by the methods and principles of science.
Variance. The fact or quality of being different, divergent, or inconsistent.
Visuospatial. Relating to or denoting the visual perception of the spatial relationships of