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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 16 (2011) pp 190-194

Students’ Alternative Conceptions about Atomic Properties and the Periodic Table

Issa I. Salame*,†, Samema Sarowar, Sazea Begum and David Krauss

Chemistry Department, City College of New York, CUNY, 160 Convent Avenue, New York, NY, 10031,; ‡ Department of Science, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, 200 Chambers Street, New York, NY, 10007
Received February 17, 2011. Accepted July 12, 2011.

Published: 19 July 2011

Abstract. Students possess countless alternative conceptions about chemistry which are related to the fact that students bring to chemistry views, theories and explanations that are different than those held by scientists. Students resist changing their views and explanations in conventional teaching or lecturing classrooms because the teacher-centered courses do not always cause conceptual change as they do not address the basic principle that knowledge is constructed in the mind of the learner. Participants of this study are CCNY students who are enrolled in the second-semester of general chemistry during the spring of 2009. The course contains about 240 students who have completed General Chemistry I. The methodology included a two part question on an exam followed by interviewing students for further clarification and understanding of their reasoning. The data show that the majority of students, 80%, do not understand atomic radius trends, they held onto their alternative conceptions and could not answer a simple question related to those trends. Of those who answered correctly, 62% chose the answer based on rote memorization and could not provide an acceptable scientific explanation.

Key Words: In the Classroom; general chemistry

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