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ERIC Number: EJ1166971
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Oct
Pages: 14
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-1756-1108
''Combustion Always Produces Carbon Dioxide and Water'': A Discussion of University Chemistry Students' Use of Rules in Place of Principles
Robertson, Amy D.; Shaffer, Peter S.
Chemistry Education Research and Practice, v15 n4 p763-776 Oct 2014
On the basis of responses to written questions administered to more than one thousand introductory chemistry students, we claim that students often rotely apply memorized combustion rules instead of reasoning based on explanatory models for what happens at the molecular level during chemical reactions. In particular, many students argue that combustion produces carbon dioxide and/or water, even when the reactants do not contain hydrogen or carbon, an answer that is inconsistent with the principle of atom conservation. Our study also corroborates the finding that students frequently say that oxygen is "necessary for" or "used in" combustion reactions without connecting this reasoning to conservation principles, suggesting that this likewise may be a rotely applied, memorized rule.
Royal Society of Chemistry. Thomas Graham House, Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge, CB4 0WF, UK. Tel: +44-1223 420066; Fax: +44-1223 423623; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Washington
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE0096511; DUE0618185; DGE0718124