Assessing Students' Molecular-Level Representations of Solution Chemistry

  • Lee, Soo-Young (National Center for Human Resources Development, Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training)
  • Published : 2007.11.30


In this study, university students were provided with repeated opportunities to represent their ideas graphically, and to examined via their drawings the extent to which they could visualize macroscopic phenomena microscopically. These drawings provided insight into the students' basic understanding of solution chemistry, revealing three conceptual models: the Undifferentiated Symbolic Model, the Particulate Model, and the Symbolic Ionic Model. Generally speaking, students who had poor conceptual understanding tended to exhibit the Undifferentiated Symbolic Model, whereas students with deeper understanding tended to employ the Symbolic Ionic Model. Students' conceptual comprehension was predictable from their graphical representations, which better elucidated what they actually comprehended about the phenomena, as opposed to their ambiguous verbal descriptions alone. The results of this study demonstrated a lack of development in university students' conceptions of solutions. Their weakness in understanding at the molecular-level became more obvious when they were asked to represent their ideas in drawings. Few students exhibited expert knowledge, and several common misconceptions were found, which indicated typical difficulties students have perceiving common phenomena at the molecular level. The findings of this study illustrate how eliciting graphical representations can be used to assess students' conceptual understandings.


Molecular-level understanding;Graphical representations;Solutions chemistry;Assessment


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