M.J. Arévalo Caballero, M.V. Gil, I. López-Coca, G. Silvero

Universidad de Extremadura (SPAIN)
Over the last few decades a tendency to promote the learning of science through a constructivist approach has emerged. According to this theory the construction of knowledge needs to elicit students prior conceptions on the topic being taught and to create a cognitive conflict on students’ minds related to their previous conceptions (Bächtold, 2013). Questionnaires have been broadly used as diagnostic instruments to inquire into students’ previous conceptions.

Chemistry is full of abstract concepts such as dissolution, particulate nature of matter, and chemical bonding that represent a difficulty to students. Moreover, there are other topics including reaction rate, acids and bases, equilibrium, and solutions whose nouns are familiar to students but having different meanings (Çalýk, Ayas, and Ebenezer, 2005) and which are difficult to understand. As a consequence, students get confused and a slow learning progression is observed. Thus, making students aware of the existence of these concepts that in the chemistry context have a different sense is very important in the teaching and learning process.

With this consideration in mind, the main goal of this project is the improvement of results arising from the teaching and learning process in a chemistry subject, through a better understanding of new technical concepts. For this purpose, we have used questionnaires that were given to students before each lesson. The information obtained from them is useful for both, educator and students. Thus, the educator was able to get an idea about previous knowledge of students in a specific topic. Students got in contact with new concepts and/or known concepts in a new context that, according to the interest of students in the considered topic, may activate their minds forward an active learning.

Questionnaires have been passed to students for three sequential academic years in the subject ‘Chemistry of Materials’ which is included in the second year of the Civil Engineering degree program at the University of Extremadura. The first year 25 students enrolled the experience, and the second and third years they were 50. The selected topics were atomic structure, chemical bond and states of aggregation of the matter.

Questionnaires proved to be useful instruments to evaluate previous knowledge, to introduce new vocabulary to students and to stimulate students mind towards the understanding of new words and ideas.

[1] Bächtold, M. (2013). What do students “construct” according to constructivism in science education? Research in Science Education, 43, 2477-2496. doi:10.1007/s11165-013-9369-7.
[2] Çalýk, M., Ayas, A., and Ebenezer, J. V. (2005). A review of solution chemistry studies: insights into students’ conceptions. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14, 29-50. doi:10.1007/s10956-005-2732-3.