MICROCOSMIC PARTICLE CONCEPTIONS OF PURE SUBSTANCE AND AMALGAM

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DIAGNOSTIC OF JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS’

MICROCOSMIC
PARTICLE CONCEPTIONS OF PURE SUBSTANCE AND AMALGAM


Rong
-
Chun Chang
, National Changhua University of Education,

Changhus
,
Taiwan

Huey
-
Por Chang, National Changhua University of Education,

Changhus
,
Tai
wan

Tzu
-
Shan Cheng,
Taipei Municipal Minzu Elementary School

&
National Changhua
University of Education,
Taipei & Changhus
,
Taiwan


The purpose of this study was to explore students’
understanding of
microcosmic particle
conceptions

and proof the
consiste
nce
of explanation to application questions
in pure
substance and amalgam.
we used

the questionnaire,

interviews

and pictures which the
students drew
to evaluate
thirty
-
seven

students’

ideas

in the grade
-
8.
The results indicated
that

(a)
The
students’

micr
ocosmic particle
conceptions

about pure substance and amalgam

could be classified into three types.
(b)
Most students

classified

the matters as pure substance
or amalgam by

the spontaneous description definition.
(c)
Very few students could apply the
micro
cosmic particle
conceptions

to explain the advanced questions.



DIAGNOSTIC OF JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS’

MICROCOSMIC
PARTICLE CONCEPTIONS OF PURE SUBSTANCE AND AMALGAM


Objectives

The scientific
concept
learning

to many students is difficult.

Engel Clou
gh and Driver
(1986) reported that students were using different alternative frameworks in response to
parallel questions. Thus, it appears that in many cases, students do not apply their conceptions
in a way that a scientist would consider to be consisten
t.
Reif (1987) concluded that novice
students' knowledge about a scientific concept is highly fragmented and does not specify how
to interpret a concept in specific instances.

Most people who hold misconceptions are not
aware that their ideas are incorrect
. Possessing misconceptions can have serious impacts on
our learning.

The purpose of this study was to explore junior high school students’
developing
understanding of microcosmic particle
conceptions

by examining
students’

cognition of pure
substance and
amalgam. Through the definition of the concepts, using their ideas to class with
ten different matters and drawing pictures, the students


conceptions would be confirmed and
accordable.
The results

of this study

would supply

accurate
information

about stud
ents


understanding of
pure substance and amalgam. Further, we examined the consistence of
students


thoughts between understanding and application.

Further,

we

investigate
d the

consistence with students


explanation between understanding and application
,

and our

research questions were as follows: (1)What

do

the

student
s understand about microcosmic
particle
conceptions

of pure substance and amalgam?
(2)
What do the student
s express

the
concept image knowledge

of pure substance and amalgam?

(3)
How are
the co
nsistence of
students


conceptions about
pure substance and amalgam

between understanding and
application?

Significance

This study provided a detailed description of these students


ideas about the
microcosmic
particle
conceptions

of pure substance and ama
lgam. We studied not only the content and the
class

of the students


ideas but also examined whether the students


ideas were coherent
between understanding and application. The results of this study provide important
information about the class of student
s


conceptual understanding and concretely present
students


image knowledge by drawing pictures. Ultimately, this research will help teachers
develop appropriate instructional strategies to facilitate student learning.

Theory

1.Theoretical Perspective

Sci
entific explanations incorporate existing scientific knowledge and new evidence from
observations, experiments, or models into internally consistent, logical statements. Different
terms, such as "hypothesis," "model," "law," "principle," "theory," and "par
adigm" are used to
describe various types of scientific explanations. As students develop and as they understand
more science concepts and processes, their explanations should become more sophisticated.
That is, their scientific explanations should more fr
equently include a rich scientific
knowledge base, evidence of logic, higher levels of analysis, greater tolerance of criticism and
uncertainty, and a clearer demonstration of the relationship between logic, evidence, and
current knowledge(NRC, 1996). Stud
ents' constructed knowledge typically has two properties:
it can be incorrect, and it can often impede the learning of conventionally accepted knowledge
(Chi & Roscoe, 2002).

Many research assumed that people spontaneously generate ideas to account for
phe
nomena in the natural world(Carey,

1991

;

Driver

&

Easley, 1978

;

McCloskey
&

Kargon,1988

;

Osborne

&

Wittrock,

1983).

These

spontaneously ideas, although often
inaccurate from the perspective of scientific theory, help people organize and explain events

a
round them (
McCloskey
&

Kargon, 1988
;Vosniadou
&

Brewer,1992
;Wiser,1988)
.
The
middle school students could not be classified as having consistent
knowledge

frameworks
because their ideas were very fragmented. The fragmentation of middle school students


ide
as
about matter probably reflects the difficulty of assimilating the microscopic level scientific
knowledge acquired through formal instruction into students


initial macroscopic knowledge
frameworks

(Nakhleh, Samarapungavan,
&

Saglam, 2005)
.

2.Prior Resea
rch

Most of the middle school students interviewed knew that matter was composed of
atoms and molecules and some of them were able to use this knowledge to explain some
processes such as phase transitions of water. In contrast, almost no elementary studen
ts knew
that matter was composed of atoms and molecules. However, the middle school students were
unable to consistently explain material properties or processes based on their knowledge of
material composition(Nakhleh, Samarapungavan,
&

Saglam, 2005)
.

Gar
nett, Garnett and
Hackling (1995) indicate that it is difficult for introductory chemistry students to develop
adequate conceptions of the unobservable entities (atoms and molecules) and events involved
in chemical reactions.
Thomas and McRobbie (2002) foun
d that secondary school students
frequently explain material phenomena at a macroscopic rather than a microscopic level.

Reviews of
microcosmic particle

conceptions research indicate that it is difficult to develop
for students
(Abraham, Grzybowski, Renner

&

Marek, 1992

;

Benson, Wittrock

;

Baur, 1993

;

Kokkotas & Vlachos, 1998
).

Because of
microcosmic particle

conceptions are abstract model
theory.

However, we have found no in
-
depth studies that specifically examine middle school
students’ cognitive level
of
microcosmic particle
conceptions
about pure substance and
amalgam
.

Design and Procedure

1.Sample Description

We conducted the present study with eighth graders at an suburban middle school in the
South Taiwan in the fall of 2005. The author interviewed
a class of students including
thirty
-
eight persons. This class students’ academic achievement presents the habit

distribution.

2.Methodology

The questionnaire

and semistructured interview guide are two major tools in this study.

The questionnaire which t
he

authors designed was implemented into two steps

First,
investigate
students’

understanding
in definition, property
and

composition of pure substance
and amalgam. In order to assist in explanation, s
tudents
were asked to give examples and
draw pictures

Second, according to the conceptions of pure substa
nce and amalgam, ask
s
tudents

to classify ten different matters. In advance,
students

explain and draw pictures to
answer the questions about matters


shape and composition. After analyzing the data gathered
from the students


answers to the questionnaire,

the author employed semi
-
structured
individual interviews with thirty
-
seven

students in the grade
-
8 to confirm
students’

ideas.

Findings

1.
The
students’

microcosmic particle
conceptions
about pure substance and amalgam

could be
classified into three types

the spontaneous description definition, the matter

s property
definition, and the microcosmic particle
conceptions
definition. Most students(48.6
%
) define
pure substance and amalgam

by the matter

s property. The spontaneous description definition
is secon
dary(43.2
%).

Very few students(8.1
%
) have microcosmic particle
conceptions

in
definition.The first type students drew

pure substance

which were composed of the same
particle
s and
amalgam

which were composed of above two kinds different
particle
s. It means
that the students have the conceptions about matters are composed of small particles.
However, the
microcosmic particle
conceptions are a kind of model theory. The students’
observation methods just like using a magnifying glass. It expressed that the stud
ents didn’t
have
the microcosmic particle
conceptions.

The second type students
’ ideas about
pure

substance and amalgam

were very fragmented. These ideas were affected by school teaching.
Through the school teaching activities, the students learned about t
he boiling point of pure
substance

is fixed, but it is not certainly fixed of
amalgam
. Furthermore, the students thought
the boiling point of all kinds of pure
substance

is
100
0
C. If the matter’s boiling point is not
100
0
C
,
the matter must be a kind of
ama
lgam
. Only three students are the third type
(8.1
%
)
.
They could use
microcosmic particle
conceptions
to explain the

words of

pure substance and
amalgam
. In addition, the chemistry nouns of "element" and "compound" were used in
interview.

2.
Most students(89.
1
%
)

classified

the matters as pure substance or amalgam by

the
spontaneous description definition. There are 34.2
%

students based on the meaning of the
words and 45.9
%

students considered the composition of the matter. Very few students(10.8
%
)

use the micr
ocosmic particle
conceptions

and nobody(0
%
)
applied the matter

s property.

On the whole, the students
classified

the
solid

matters as pure substance or amalgam making
more mistakes
(
the copper metal 56.8%, the carbon 16.2% and the glucose 45.9%
). Most
stud
ents thought
the carbon

is a kind of amalgam not pure substance. The interview data
asserted that the students are
more familiar

with the matters

is easier to have many ideas
.
However
, these ideas
are uncertain

correct. The students
classified

the
liqui
d matter
s as pure
substance or amalgam

(
the water 75.7%, the cement 97.3%, the soft drink 97.3% and the

salt
water 94.6%)

more correct.
The student indicated that the water and the salt water are

often
used

in teaching activity

and

the soft drink and the c
ement are

frequently contacted in daily
life
.

The students
classified

the
gas

matters as pure substance or amalgam
had the
contradictory situation
. Many students thought
carbon dioxide is a kind of pure matter
(67.6%), but only 56.8%

students
thought

the a
ir is
amalgam
.

It means that there are some
students

who

thought in the air do not include the carbon dioxide
.
Although
the
students had
studied the
conceptions about the

air in the elementary

school , but the research

asserted
that
many students
still

do
not understand the composition
of the
ai
r
.

In spite of the
student
s

could
give oxygen, hydrogen and carbon dioxide

for example
s to

expla
i
n

the air but they could not
think the air is a kind of amalgam
.

3.
Very few students could apply the microcosmic parti
cle
conceptions

to explain the advanced
questions about the composition, shape and phase transition of matter. Most students(72.9
%
)
still keep macroscopic knowledge frameworks.
Minority student
s(16.2
%
) can
propose

the
conceptions about
atom or member
.

Eve
n though

the students used
atom or member

to
explain questions, their pictures still presented macroscopic knowledge frameworks. Very few
students(10.8
%
)

understand the
microcosmic particle

theory. There are four students have the
knowledge of
the
microcos
mic particle

conceptions and also use the ideas to explain
questions about the material shape for example solid, liquid and gas. It asserted that the
students have coherent cognition about
the
microcosmic particle

conceptions between
between understanding
and application.

4.The result
s of this study can assist science teachers to understand students


learning about
the microcosmic particle a
bstract

conceptions

and provide reference resources for designing
instructional materials and methods to help students

constructing scientific
conceptions
.

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&

Marek, E. A. (1992). Understandings
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