Developing robust and coherent conceptions of chemistry: An integrated model


  • Justin Read
  • Adrian George
  • Anthony Masters
  • Michael King


The process by which students develop conceptions of science has long been an area of science education research. From a constructivist standpoint (Bodner, 1986) the formation of misconceptions and processes of conceptual change are equally interesting, as learners may place unintended interpretations onto instructional materials. Previous studies have identified a myriad of individual misconceptions across the sciences (Azizoğlu, Alkan, and Geban 2006; Boo 1998; Cakmakci, Leach, and Donnelly 2006; Sneider and Ohadi 1998; Taber 1996) and the efficacies of numerous interventions have been investigated (Cakir, Uzuntiryaki, and Geban 2002; Diakidoy and Kendeou 2001; Kalkanis, Hadzidaki, and Stavrou 2003; Yang, Greenbowe and Andre 2004). General theories of conceptual change have also been proposed, attributing the origins of misconceptions to ontological miscategorisations (Chi, Slotta and de Leeuw 1994), conflicts with epistemological presuppositions (Vosniadou 1994; 2002), and inappropriate selections from multiple representations (Hallidén, Petersson, Scheja, Ehrlén, Haglund, Österlind and Stenlund 2002; Spada 1994). Despite this extensive body of research, the practical implementation of recommendations from general conceptual change theories remains problematic. Much of the research is necessarily and appropriately learner-centred and thus individually-focused; however, undergraduate teaching is primarily conducted in groups. Conceptual change theories have also offered comparatively little overt advice for general pedagogical practices to minimise misconception formation. This paper is intended to begin to fill this gap, by offering an integrated model for developing robust conceptions which is applicable at the classroom level. The empirical data presented draw on research in chemistry education, but the model presented is expected to be applicable in other science domains.