Academic journal article Education

Teaching the Mole Concept Using a Conceptual Change Method at College Level

Academic journal article Education

Teaching the Mole Concept Using a Conceptual Change Method at College Level

Article excerpt

Chemistry is the science that deals with chemical change processes involving the mole, molecule, particle concepts as well as mathematical computations. As it is well known, the mole concept is used as a unit to calculate the amount of substances involved in a chemical reaction and the products forming at the end. Thus, an informed understanding of the mole concept is essential to solve stoichiometry questions correctly (Schmidth, 1990, 1994). Numerous studies were carried out in the past regarding the teaching and learning of the mole concept (Dierks, 1981; Furio, Azcona, Guisasola & Ratcliffe, 2000; Gorin, 1994; Krishan & Howe, 1994; Lazsonby, Morris & Waddington, 1982; Nelsion, 1991; Staver & Lumpe, 1993-1995). It was found that students were having difficulties in understanding the mole concept and using it in solving related stoichiometry problems. In these studies efforts were made to elucidate the sources of lack of understanding.

It has long been known that, when firstly encountered, many students have difficulty in dealing with quantitative and semi-quantitative problems containing chemical formulas and the mole concept (Gabel & Sherwood, 1984; Genya, 1983). The issue has been thought to occur due to the lack of abstract thinking and reasoning skills rather than the lack of proficiency in math (Friedel & Maloney, 1992). Abstract concepts are difficult to learn and this in due course slows down the subsequent learning. Conversely, conceptual learning facilitates the learning of abstract concepts and topics (Gover, Daniels & Lloyd, 1977).

Conceptual change has been a theme researched often in science education. As Duit (1994, 1996) highlighted, conceptual change has become a trademark in constructivist teaching and learning. Duit explained conceptual change as being a process of learning a concept starting from another concept. In chemistry, this process replaces chemical concepts with relevant concepts and improves the understanding of the learned concepts. There are numerous studies on conceptual change in chemistry education (Ozkaya, Uce & Sahin, 2003; Ozkaya, Uce, Saricayir & Sahin, 2006; Abraham & Williamson, 1994; Bargellini, 1997; Berkheimer, Anderson, Lee, & Blakeslee, 1988; Johnson, 1988). However, conceptual change studies concerning the mole and related concepts are not numerous in the science education literature. Case and Fraser (1999)'s study is one example and in this study the researchers worked with a sample of chemical engineering students. Clearly, more research is needed on using conceptual change in teaching the mole. In this study, we utilized conceptual change method to teach the mole concept to a sample of college students and evaluated its effect in terms of level of achievement in the subject.


Study Design

In this work, the pretest-posttest control group experimental study design was used. The study took place in the 20062007 academic year with students in primary science education major in their first year at a university in Istanbul, Turkey. The two sections of students taking the General Chemistry course were randomly assigned to control and experimental groups (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2003; Karasar, 2003).

Both groups were taught by the same instructor during the study, the author of the article. The teaching period lasted 12 lecture hours, each 50 minutes, all completed in three weeks. In the control group, teacher-centered traditional method was used, while in the experimental group, conceptual change method was utilized. The instructor developed conceptual change texts to teach the mole concept in the experimental group. These texts included step-by-step procedures introducing and elaborating on the concepts and were projected onto a screen by an overhead projector.

The Science Achievement Test

To measure the level of achievement of the students in the subject of mole, a set comprising of 50 questions was developed. …

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