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Lee, L. K. W. (1997, July). Conceptual understanding at the microscopic level. Paper presented at the 28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Science Education Research Association, Adelaide, Australia.
A growing area of interest in chemical education has been the research associated with conceptual understanding at the microscopic level. This study investigated the conceptions of 10 university chemistry lecturers, 85 pre-service chemistry teachers and 23 Grade 9 chemistry students about the particulate level of a chemical reaction, namely, the heating of copper (II) carbonate. Five characteristic conceptions were identified on the basis of their diagrammatic representations of particles. These were: (A) Formation of intermediate; (B) Formation of free atoms, ions, or radicals; (C) Combination of A and 13: Formation of free atoms, ions, or radicals first, and then intermediate; (D) Direct combination of copper and oxygen atoms in the copper (II) carbonate lattice; and (E) Products directed. Both the lecturers and the teachers held an identical view about the reaction mechanism, namely that the decomposition of copper (II) carbonate goes through a transition stage by forming intermediate. In contrast, even though the students were familiar with this reaction, most of them held a naive conception suggesting that copper and oxygen combine directly either as free atoms or as ions to form copper (II) oxide without going through the transition stage. Some students did not even have any notion of how the atoms in the copper (II) carbonate lattice interact or are rearranged in the reaction.
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