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Diagrammatic representation
Conceptual understanding
Combustion of magnesium
Issue Date: 
Lee, L. K. W. (1996, November). Diagrammatic representation. Paper presented at the ERA-AARE Joint Conference, Singapore.
This study identified a number of conceptions about a chemical
reaction, namely, the combustion of magnesium in air, perceived by the
two groups of teachers in terms of the diagrammatic representations of
particles. The sample comprised 88 pre-service chemistry teachers and
10 chemistry university lecturers. Six characteristic conceptions were
identified: (A) Formation of intermediate, (B) Formation of free atoms,
ions or radicals, (C) Combination of A and B, formation of intermediate
and free atoms, ions or radicals, (D) Direct contact between oxygen
molecules and magnesium, (E) Formation of closely packed magnesium
oxide lattice, and (F) Formation of loosely packed magnesium oxide
molecules. The results show that the two groups of teachers have
different views about the reaction mechanism of the reaction. The
lecturers are in favour of Conception A, using 'intermediate' approach
whereas the pre-service teachers in favour of Conception B, using 'free
particles' approach. Many pre-service teachers show Conception F,
formation of loosely packed magnesium oxide molecules, which is the
scientifically unacceptable concept. Two implications for teaching
chemistry are raised: (1) teachers should pay more attention to their
conceptions so that they do not transmit any misconceptions to the
students, and (2) teachers should also emphasize their teaching at the
microscopic level using particles to enhance conceptual understanding.
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