Multiple representations in web-based learning of chemistry concepts

J.H. Vermaat, C. Terlouw, S. Dijkstra

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A new chemistry curriculum for secondary schools is currently under construction in the Netherlands, in which chemical knowledge will be embedded in contexts that show applications of chemistry in the society. Several research groups develop such modules and a committee appointed by the Dutch Ministry of Education advises about the chemical content and concepts. A central issue in chemistry education is the relation between the real, molecular and symbolic world. Skilled chemists switch easily between these worlds, but beginning students do not. They could get better results and will be more able to solve problems if they would make better connections between the three chemical worlds. The University of Twente has developed a series of lessons about the particle model. Included in this instruction material are animations of chemical processes at the molecular level. In the lessons students are supported and stimulated to make connections between the three chemical worlds. Students are shown the importance of new chemical knowledge in society. The mental images and the knowledge schemata of the students are investigated in this research. The students were interviewed before they received instruction, and after they received about half of the instruction. At the end of the instruction they were asked to make a concept map. It appeared that the links between the real, molecular and symbolic world are not strengthened after the instruction. The students make more links between the real and symbolic world, but hardly connect these world to the molecular world or vice versa. There is still a gap between the students’ mental models and scientifically accepted models as represented in animations and illustrations in the instruction. Most students liked the animations in the instruction and mentioned them as strong point. It is therefore surprising that some students could not remember the animations when they were interviewed, whilst others their representations were about the same as the animations. Clearly, the effectiveness of the animations must be enhanced and more research is needed for this.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2003
EventAERA Annual Meeting 2003: Accountability for Education Quality: Shared Responsibility - Chicago, United States
Duration: 21 Apr 200325 Apr 2003


ConferenceAERA Annual Meeting 2003
Abbreviated titleAERA 2003
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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