African Journal of Chemical Education

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Chemistry teachers’ interpretation of some students’ alternative conceptions – a pilot study

Ruby Hanson


Chemistry education researchers have shown growing interest in the strategies that teachers employ to diagnose students’ prior knowledge and attempt remediation, where necessary, as most concepts in chemistry look abstract. The ways in which Ghanaian teachers identify and address their students’ alternative conceptions, especially in the study of chemical equilibrium, was explored on a pilot basis through the use of face-to-face, telephone and email procedures. The outcome was compared with what other researchers in other countries had identified through various means. Trainees whose responses were not clear in their e-mail responses were interviewed through telephone and personal interactions. Eleven Ghanaian chemistry instructors from various parts of the country, who were on an eight-week summer sandwich education programme, participated in the study. Data gathered revealed that majority of the participating teachers were aware of their students’ prior conceptions and often had no difficulty diagnosing them but were unaware of all the possible sources of misconceptions nor how to address the root causes of persistent misconceptions. Their non-interactive treatment strategies for the identified misconceptions in their schools were varied, unauthentic and not deep-seated. As many as four common remediation processes were identified for use. On the basis of these findings, it is recommended that the study of students’ misconceptions and some of the appropriate and authentic resolution strategies be incorporated into teacher training curricular.

AJOL African Journals Online