ERIC Number: EJ972959
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Abstractor: As Provided
Do High School Chemistry Examinations Inhibit Deeper Level Understanding of Dynamic Reversible Chemical Reactions?
Wheeldon, R.; Atkinson, R.; Dawes, A.; Levinson, R.
Research in Science & Technological Education, v30 n2 p107-130 2012
Background and purpose: Chemistry examinations can favour the deployment of algorithmic procedures like Le Chatelier's Principle (LCP) rather than reasoning using chemical principles. This study investigated the explanatory resources which high school students use to answer equilibrium problems and whether the marks given for examination answers require students to use approaches beyond direct application of LCP. Sample: The questionnaire was administered to 162 students studying their first year of advanced chemistry (age 16/17) in three high achieving London high schools. Design and methods: The students' explanations of reversible chemical systems were inductively coded to identify the explanatory approaches used and interviews with 13 students were used to check for consistency. AS level examination questions on reversible reactions were analysed to identify the types of explanations sought and the students' performance in these examinations was compared to questionnaire answers. Results: 19% of students used a "holistic" explanatory approach: when the rates of forward and reverse reactions are correctly described, recognising their simultaneous and mutually dependent nature. 36% used a "mirrored reactions" approach when the connected nature of the forward and reverse reactions is identified, but not their mutual dependency. 42% failed to recognize the interdependence of forward and reverse reactions ("reactions not connected" approach). Only 4% of marks for AS examination questions on reversible chemical systems asked for responses which went beyond either direct application of LCP or recall of equilibrium knowledge. 37% of students attained an A grade in their AS national examinations. Conclusions: Examinations favour the application of LCP making it possible to obtain the highest grade with little understanding of reversible chemical systems beyond a direct application of this algorithm. Therefore students' understanding may be attenuated so that they are unable to use kinetic sub-micro level ideas which will support the building of deeper energetic conceptions at university. (Contains 7 tables, 5 figures and 1 note.)
Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Chemistry, Kinetics, Science Instruction, Scientific Principles, Science Tests, Problem Solving, High School Students, Student Evaluation, Questionnaires, Interviews, Test Items, Urban Schools, Evaluation Problems, High Stakes Tests, Advanced Courses
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; High Schools; Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom (England)