Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

The Role and Potential Dangers of Visualisation When Learning about Sub-Microscopic Explanations in Chemistry Education

Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

The Role and Potential Dangers of Visualisation When Learning about Sub-Microscopic Explanations in Chemistry Education

Article excerpt

The core of theory-driven chemistry education consists of the constant shiftbetween the different representational domains of chemical thinking: the macroscopic, the sub-microscopic, and the symbolic domains. Because the sub-microscopic domain can neither be seen nor directly visualised, it requires specific forms of visualisation, i.e. pictures and animations illustrating the model-based level of discrete particles, atoms, or molecular structures. This paper considers the central role visualisations play when learning about the model-based, sub-microscopic level, but it also reflects the dangers inherent in employing insufficiently examined, poorly considered, or even misleading visualisations. This is outlined using different examples taken from both textbooks for lower secondary chemistry education (for students aged 10 to 15) and from the internet. Implications for structuring and using sub-micro visualisations in chemistry education are also given.

Keywords: Chemistry education, Representational levels, Students' misconceptions, Visualisation

Vloga in potencialne nevarnosti vizualizacije pri ucenju submikroskopskih razlag pri pouku kemije

INGO EILKS*, TORSTEN WITTECK AND VERENA PIETZNER

Bistvo ucenja kemije, ki temelji na teorijah, je sestavljeno iz nenehnega prehajanja med razlicnimi predstavitvami v kemijskem misljenju: makroskopska, submikroskopska in simbolna raven predstavitve. Ker se submikroskopske ravni ne da videti niti si je ne moremo neposredno predstavljati, so potrebne specificne oblike vizualizacije, tj. slike in animacije, ki prikazujejo raven delcev; atomov ali molekul. Prispevek predstavlja kljucno vlogo, ki jo ima vizualizacija pri ucenju o submikroskopski ravni kemijskih pojmov. Opozarja pa tudi na nevarnosti uporabe nezadostno proucenih, slabo domisljenih ali celo zavajajocih vizualizacij. To je podkrepljeno z razlicnimi primeri iz ucbenikov za ucence med 10 in 15 letim starosti ter s primeri s spleta. Podani so tudi nekateri predlogi za uporabo submikroskopskih predstavitev pri pouku kemije.

Kljucne besede: pouk kemije, ravni predstav, napacna predstava pri ucencih, vizualizacija

The essential role of visualisation for teaching and learning chemistry

Understanding the learning of science is today regularly referred to the theory of 'constructivism' (Bodner, 1986). From constructivism, we understand learning chemistry as students developing their knowledge and understanding within an active process of constructing new knowledge. This process is firmly based upon and connected to any prior knowledge and concepts that the learners possess. New information is processed in the foreground of the cognitive framework that pupils already have in their minds. All previously-existing information in the mind of the learner constantly influences any and all interpretation of newly-acquired information. The newly-constructed framework will emerge as a conglomerate of prior knowledge and any new pieces of information gained.

One of the major sources of students' pre-conceptions influencing their learning process is their everyday-life experience. Learners always try to initially apply their personal experiences when explaining newly presented phenomena, regardless of whether radically different concepts must be applied to gain a scientific reliable understanding (Pfundt, 1982). For example, everyone knows that a candle shrinks while burning. After combustion has ended, the candle is 'no longer there'. The candle has obviously disappeared (at least from the place where the candle originally was). An obvious conclusion based on everyday observation is that the wax in the candle disappeared due to something inherent in the process of combustion. Unfortunately, students over-generalise this interpretation, until they falsely conclude that all objects become 'lighter' and disappear during any processes of combustion (Pfundt, 1982).

Taking into account that chemistry not only describes phenomena, but also explains them with theory, a further problem emerges. …

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