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ERIC Number: EJ1028698
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Nov
Pages: 6
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9584
When Atoms Want
Talanquer, Vicente
Journal of Chemical Education, v90 n11 p1419–1424 Nov 2013
Chemistry students and teachers often explain the chemical reactivity of atoms, molecules, and chemical substances in terms of purposes or needs (e.g., atoms want or need to gain, lose, or share electrons in order to become more stable). These teleological explanations seem to have pedagogical value as they help students understand and use abstract chemical models. They may, however, become a roadblock in developing mechanistic understandings of the structure and properties of chemical systems. I explore the explanatory preferences of college students with different levels of training in chemistry to determine the extent to which they prefer teleological explanations over causal explanations. Major results revealed a strong preference at all the targeted educational levels for explanations that invoke intentionality as a driver for chemical reactivity. I discuss the educational implications of these findings and invite chemistry educators to reflect on these issues.
Division of Chemical Education, Inc and ACS Publications Division of the American Chemical Society. 1155 Sixteenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 800-227-5558; Tel: 202-872-4600; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A