This study investigated secondary students' conceptual difficulties in electrochemistry. A branch of chemistry that deals with the chemical action of electricity and the production of electricity by chemical reactions. The sample consists of two hundred and forty eight students randomly selected from 29 government secondary schools within Abia state. A test instrument on conceptual difficulties in electrochemistry (TCE) was designed and used in collecting data for the study. TCE was validated by experienced lecturers and chemistry teachers in the field. A pilot test was carried out to establish its reliability coefficient and with the use of test re-test method, the correlation coefficient was found to be r = 0.88. The results of the analysis showed that; the students have difficulty in understanding concepts tested by 84% of the items in electrochemistry. Based on the findings; some recommendations were made on how to improve the learning and understanding of concepts in electrochemistry.
Keywords: conceptual difficulties; concepts; misconception; electrochemistry; electrochemical series
The relevance of science as a solid rock for the growth and technological advancement of any nation cannot be over estimated. Accordingly, every citizen needs a basic knowledge of science and technology; to function intelligently and productively in this era in which science and technology have become the dominant social and economic forces for the nation's growth and development. Chemistry to say the least is the heart of science and the hub of all technological activities, hence it is called central science and queen of science. It is field of study filled with interesting phenomena appealing for understanding and explaining every occurrence in the natural and manufactured world. Its study has been and will continue to be of tremendous importance to humanity for its ability to explain natural phenomena and everyday occurrences as well as its central role in the world's current technological development. It is one of the basic science subjects needed for sustainable development. Its knowledge is important in the manufacturing of fertilizer, insecticides, food processing and storage, management of our natural resources, provision of food and health facilities as well as favourable living environment. And as a human enterprise, it provides a natural link between home and school and the means through which children understand the world around them and explore the wider implications of science in relation to man. (Bomide, 1985).
Literature is however replete with evidence that Nigerian students do not only find science subjects very difficult but uninteresting and that the few students that enroll for science, sometimes perform poorly as exemplified in their consistent poor performance in school certificate examinations indicated in table 1 below
The factors that have been identified by some science education researchers were among others, poor methods of instruction (Osuafor, 1999), laboratory in- adequacy (Okegbite (1996); Raimi, (1998); Bajah, (1999) and Adeyegbe, 2000). Poor science background (Oshokoya, 1998). And short fall in the supply of skilled manpower (Aqusiobo, 1998). Studies on the effective correlates of students' achievement in chemistry have indicated that generally, many students and even teachers perceive chemistry as one of the most difficult subjects to study at all levels of schooling ( Dawson, 1978).
Concepts are categories of ideas or objects having similar attributes or characteristic that distinguishes them from a larger class of ideas or objects (Kalu, 1990). They are thoughts or notions formed in the mind as the product of careful mental activity. They are powerful building blocks for learning and are very important in the teaching of chemistry. These concepts are central to further learning in both chemistry and other sciences (Taber 2002). Meanwhile Duit (2007) in a study on student's conceptual difficulties in science found that instruction often fails to engage the ideas that students bring to the classroom. …