Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Conceptual Difficulties of Secondary School Students in Electrochemistry

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Conceptual Difficulties of Secondary School Students in Electrochemistry

Article excerpt


This study designed primarily to explore conceptual difficulties of secondary school students to understand the basic features of the concept of electrochemistry like redox reactions, galvanic and electrolytic cells. Furthermore, the factors that cause the conceptual difficulties of secondary school students in electrochemistry also investigated. Mixed method research design adopted to achieve the objectives of the current study. Three (3) government secondary schools selected by using the cluster random sampling technique within Bahawalpur City of Pakistan. Then 144 chemistry students of IX class purposively selected as sample of the study. Conceptual difficulties of secondary school students in electrochemistry investigated by developing a special test instrument tagged as Test designed to measure the Conceptual Difficulties in Electrochemistry (TCDE). Eminent experts of chemistry education validated TCDE. A pilot test established to find its reliability by test re-tests method and the correlation coefficient (r) was 0.96. The Cronbach alpha coefficient also calculated to measure the internal consistency of instrument through SPSS, and its value was 0.87. Thirty students selected purposively based on the result of TCDE for semi-structured interview. The result showed that 67% of the concept-based items designed in electrochemistry were difficult to understand by secondary school students. Poor background of knowledge, absence of teaching aids, and misunderstanding of language caused conceptual difficulty in comprehension. The findings suggested some recommendations to expedite better understanding of the chemistry students.

Keywords: conceptual difficulties, electrochemistry, factors of conceptual difficulties, secondary school students

1. Introduction

Chemistry education (or chemical education) is a comprehensive term that refers to the process of teaching and learning in chemistry subject at all educational institutions. Chemistry education is facing many challenges in most of the countries at secondary level. These challenges cannot be overcome only by considering the teaching of chemistry. Nevertheless, it requires a comprehensive effort to assess conceptual knowledge of chemistry that school students learn in secondary schools (Lamanauskas, 2007).

Several studies in the chemistry education literature dealt with the learning difficulties of basic concepts of chemistry at schools. Concepts formed when the ideas or thoughts are developed based on common properties of objects or events by the process of abstraction (American Heritage Dictionary, 2002). Difficulty or problems in pertaining to concepts or to the forming of concepts referred as conceptual difficulties. Duit (2007) described that students hesitate to answer the questions set on those concepts that are difficult for them. Student's conceptual difficulties in chemistry created a major problem of concern to science educators, teachers, and students (Ozmen, 2004). Electrochemistry regarded as one of the most difficult chemistry concepts in which both pre-service teachers and students have learning difficulties (Nakhleh, 1992; Ogude, 1994; Ozkaya, 2002). For the current study, topic of electrochemistry selected for following reasons.

1. Electrochemistry considered as a difficult topic for students to learn and for teachers to teach. A survey conducted to rate the most difficult chemistry topics at schools and the top three were chemical equilibrium, the mole, and oxidation-reduction reactions (Finley, Stewart, & Yarroch, 1982).

2. Principles of electrochemistry have general applications used in routine e.g. electroplating established based on the principle of electrolytic cell. Students should acquaint such knowledge (Ahtee, Asunta, & Palm, 2002).

3. The topic of electrolysis is common in physics and chemistry. Sometimes, it cause confusion and students did not freely assimilate their knowledge across physics and chemistry (Taber, 1998). …

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