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A study on conceptual knowledge of chemistry freshmen
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Paper presented at the Asia-Pacific Education Research Association (APERA) Conference, Singapore, 26-28 November 2008.
This study aimed to identify the conceptual knowledge of first year chemistry undergraduates in the topics of Lewis Structure, Molecular Geometry and Polarity. This study also investigated the effectiveness and efficiency of various instructional methods, including
small-group discussion, use of guiding questions and molecular models in improving
students' conceptual understanding in these chemistry topics. It was conducted at one of the top universities in Singapore. Data were collected using both quantitative (concept tests) and qualitative (semi-structured interviews) methods. It was found that subjects knew the fundamental concepts separately but could not apply and integrate these concepts. Some difficulties faced by the interviewees in learning these concepts and some subtle misconceptions were also identified. No statistical significant difference was found among the treatment groups but subjects who experienced any one of the treatments performed better in the module class test as compared to the control group. The instructional treatments were generally well-received by the interviewees. Some commented that group discussion was not
effective if all group members did not know the answers. Molecular models helped them to
visualize the molecular geometry but some got confused instead. The use of guiding
questions was helpful but not efficient in a tutorial setting.
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