I. López-Coca1, M.J. Arévalo Caballero1, M. Schultz2, G.A. Lawrie3, G. Silvero1

1Universidad de Extremadura (SPAIN)
2Queensland University of Technology (AUSTRALIA)
3University of Queensland (AUSTRALIA)
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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