DETECTING CHEMICAL MISCONCEPTIONS IN FIRST-YEAR BIOCHEMISTRY DEGREE UNDERGRADUATES
Many students struggle to come to terms with the learning of chemistry (Kind, 2004). They usually possess pre-existing beliefs and alternative conceptions that are constructed from their every-day life experiences (Talanquer, 2006). The ideas some students have about physical-chemical transformations are completely at odds with the established chemical theory and the answers they find to chemical questions fit into their own pseudo-scientific built-in deeply-rooted model. If we want the conceptual framework to be learnt in a robust, sound way, then this personal pseudo-model has to be challenged and, eventually, demolished scientifically (Hand, 1988, Linenberger, 2012). If the students are not fully persuaded of the inexactness of their pre-existing beliefs, then they will build an academy-based model, the one they are taught and must use when sitting an exam, that will run parallel to their own, ‘sensible’, ‘experience-derived’ chemical model, for ever.
Biochemistry is a science that needs strong chemical foundations. Hence, students who are struggling with fundamental concepts from chemistry will be ill-equipped to analyse processes that are more sophisticated (Wolfson, 2014).
The first goal is to detect what these wrong ideas are. Once misconceptions are identified, a teaching-learning strategy can be conceived to address the problem (Coştu, 2010, Lawrie, 2013, Regan, 2011).
One effective way of unveiling students’ previous ideas is the multiple-choice questionnaire (Krause, 2004, Mulford, 2002, Peterson, 1989, Potgieter, 2011, Schwartz, 2014). We have used a validated questionnaire composed of 25 questions, divided into five key conceptual categories related to physical-chemical phenomena.#
These categories are:
a) Phase changes
b) Heat and energy
c) Conservation of matter
d) Aqueous solutions
e) Chemical equilibria
The survey was conducted with first-year Biochemistry undergraduates reading a course on General Chemistry during the first term of the 2014/15 academic year, at the University of Extremadura, Spain.
In this communication, we will present the methodology, results, analysis and conclusions drawn from this study.
#Questions have been derived from Assoc. Prof G.A. Lawrie’s work, from the University of Queensland (Australia), who has kindly shared them with us by means of private communication.
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