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The assignment deals with the pedagogical strategy to deal with the teaching of difficult chemical concepts in chemistry. Based on the literature review the paper justifies how best to teach the difficult chemical concept. The paper explains the difficult concept and pedagogy to assist the learning of the difficult concept. It explains the way misconceptions are addressed and the learning strategy using constructivist learning theories. The paper discusses the evidence of tailoring the strategy to the student needs and rationalizes the choice and purpose of teaching resources. A thorough literature review is performed to support the facts in the assignment.
Chemistry deals with the processes that involve chemical changes, which includes mole, molecules and the concept of particles as well as mathematical computations. A mole concept is a unit used for calculating the amount of substances participating in a chemical reaction and the products formed at the end (Okanlawon 2010). According to Fang et al. (2014), several studies were conducted earlier related to teaching and learning of chemical concepts. It was found that students perceive the mole concept as difficult to understand. Hanson (2015) found that students were facing difficulty in grabbing the mole concept and solving problems of stoichiometry. PekdaÄŸ and AzizoÄŸlu (2013) believes that it is essential for a student to have an “informed understanding” of the mole concept for solving stoichiometry problems correctly.
First, let's discuss the "concepts and "misconceptions" about learning or understanding of the student. A student can have the concept of molecular mass “as an addition to the constituent element’s atomic masses in the molecular formula." Therefore, one needs to have the concept of what is atomic mass, elements in the molecule and their ratios as per the molecular formula. It can be said that the concepts are necessary learnable objects (Okanlawon 2010). The other term “difficult concept” means a concept that cannot be easily understood without lots of efforts, intelligence and skills (Danielson et al. 2013). As per studies of Yakmaci-Guzel (2013), before attending school students have different views about surrounding objects and events. Not all the views they have are consistent with that of a scientific community. These inconsistency or different concepts are identified as "misconceptions." The misconception can also be called as "naïve conception or alternate conception” (Fang et al. 2016). The use of technical terms is the additional source of misconceptions. For example, spontaneously does not mean very quickly, but the students may interpret spontaneous reactions as those reactions that are occurring very rapidly without an enzyme. It is difficult to remove the misconceptions by traditional instructions, as these are resistance to change (Nyachwaya et al. 2014). The scientific teaching requires identification of misconceptions in students and its reconstruction to scientific concepts. Misconceptions commonly arise due to lack of abstract thinking and reasoning skills. It is difficult to learn abstract concepts, which slows the subsequent learning process. Abstract concepts can be grabbed by conceptual learning (Fang et al. 2016). The teaching challenges in explaining the mole concept was identified as the definition of the concept, concept’s difficulty, mathematical use, etymology and prerequisites (PekdaÄŸ and AzizoÄŸlu 2013).
Conceptual teaching involves "exemplification and characterisation" where the former involves explaining the concept to the student with or without sufficient examples. The strategy of characterisation involves various moves such as defining the concept by giving either sufficient or necessary condition (both or neither) of concepts. According to Yakmaci-Guzel (2013), conceptual learning facilitates the “learning of abstract concepts and topics” also called constructive learning. PekdaÄŸ and AzizoÄŸlu (2013) explained that in chemistry the “conceptual change” as a learning process which involves “learning a concept starting from another concept." It is used to replace chemical concepts with relevant concepts. It helps to improve the knowledge of learned concepts. In constructivist teaching, and learning conceptual change has been highlighted as a trademark (Fang et al. 2014). However, there is a literature gap in the area of conceptual change studies in teaching and learning of mole concept. The theory of constructivism has played a vital role in education literature. The theory explains how students construct their understanding related to the subject based on already existing knowledge or concept while making connections with new information. It indicates the “non-behaviourist” theory. This phenomenon leads to cognitive conflicts initially as students tend to restructure their existing knowledge which drives learning (Fosnot 2013). Therefore, the Constructivist pedagogy is widely used in scientific education.
In my opinion, teaching the solving of stoichiometry problems algorithmically is ineffective. There is the need to set up a roadmap or develop a framework for explaining the particular concept. Designing the teaching process in a schematic manner is necessary to help the listeners to concentrate on the details of the topic. For example, what is the mole? The concept of Avogadro Number? Followed by asking of stoichiometry problems and then more complex problems to solve. After each step, the confusions or misconceptions should be identified by questioning such as why C moles are left instead of Z moles? This will help a student to engage better in problem solving. More focus should be laid on enhancing student’s qualitative and quantitative reasoning skills by training them to develop the mental model of the problem. Teacher must ask about open ended, close ended questions, thought provoking and subject centred questions to evaluate their understanding. It can be followed by teaching them the interpretation of information and develop a scheme or procedure of the solution. The other strategy is to help the students in translating the worded stoichiometric problems into a balanced chemical equation. The problem can be solved by the further use of the appropriate mathematical equation. It was explained by Fosnot (2013) that dissecting the stoichiometric problem into columns or boxes is an effective method. It is also called as matrix representation and is superior to other methods regarding grouping sentences and clearly defining the required information. This method suggests the orders of operations and allows checking of the partial solution. It was found from the research paper of Danielson (2013), that students taught with matrix representation method showed better performance in solving stoichiometric problems than their other counterparts. Students are benefitted from this pedagogical approach as they learn and address different viewpoints. After completion of each topic, students should be provided with a questionnaire or a project to be prepared. This is to provide them with meaningful experience and harness the process of investigation (Yakmaci-Guzel 2013). The constructivist pedagogy implies the teachers to promote conditions of inventions. It is fruitful than presenting ready-made knowledge.
More than one strategy can be used as all the students may not understand with one defined technique. Asking question is an effective method to understand the level of student (Fosnot 2013). To engage students in understanding difficult concepts, it is better to use detailed power point presentations with simple to understand diagrams, equations and explain each of them sequentially wherever possible. Additional resources such as animated videos can be utilized for better imagination and understanding of concepts (Laurillard 2013). The use of analogies, models, other than blackboards is useful in clearing concepts easily as it helps students to relate the topic as per the radical constructivism (Hanson 2015). This is because the concept learned through objects and events helps students to observe the similarities and differences between the experiences. It leads to the gradual building of the concept relating to the object (PekdaÄŸ and AzizoÄŸlu 2013). Further, it promotes students to discuss and clarify their confusions and doubts as they assimilate and accommodate new information (Piaget theory).
In conclusion, teachers must not assume that all the students have constructed the ideas in their mind the same way. The paper has offered a conceptual change model for misconceptions. It involves identification of confusions and providing evidence for the correct scientific explanation to falsify the misconceptions. These methods have been proved to be efficient and are highlighted significantly in recent literature. Teachers can be successful in the constructive pedagogies if they can identify the productive elements in the student's “intuitive understanding."
Fosnot, C.T., 2013. Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice. Teachers College Press.
Danielson, C., 2013. The framework for teaching. Evaluation Instrument. The Danielson Group.
Yakmaci-Guzel, B., 2013. Preservice chemistry teachers in action: an evaluation of attempts for changing high school students' chemistry misconceptions into more scientific conceptions. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 14(1), pp.95-104.
Nyachwaya, J.M., Warfa, A.R.M., Roehrig, G.H. and Schneider, J.L., 2014. College chemistry students' use of memorized algorithms in chemical reactions. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 15(1), pp.81-93.
Fang, S.C., Hart, C. and Clarke, D., 2016. Identifying the critical components for a conceptual understanding of the mole in secondary science classrooms. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 53(2), pp.181-214.
Laurillard, D., 2013. Rethinking university teaching: A conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies. Routledge.
Hanson, R., 2015. Ghanaian Teacher Trainees' Conceptual Understanding of Stoichiometry. Online Submission, 3(1), pp.1-8.
PekdaÄŸ, B., and AzizoÄŸlu, N., 2013. Semantic mistakes and didactic difficulties in teaching the “amount of substance” concept: a useful model.Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 14(1), pp.117-129.
Okanlawon, A.E., 2010. Teaching reaction stoichiometry: exploring and acknowledging Nigerian chemistry teachers pedagogical content knowledge.Cypriot Journal of Educational Sciences, 5(2), pp.107-129.
Fang, S.C., Hart, C. and Clarke, D., 2014. Unpacking the meaning of the mole concept for secondary school teachers and students. Journal of chemical education, 91(3), pp.351-356.
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