What's difficult about chemistry? An Irish perspective

Childs, P. E. and Sheehan, M. (2009) What's difficult about chemistry? An Irish perspective. pp. 204-218. ISSN 11094028 (ISSN)

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Official URL: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/2009/rp/...


This semi-longitudinal investigation identified the chemistry topics that the majority of Irish chemistry pupils/students find difficult, from Junior Certificate level (age 15/16 years) right the way through to University level (age 18+). Pupils/students completed a five point, Likert-type questionnaire listing the topics covered in the different chemistry courses, which asked them whether they found each topic difficult or easy. They were also asked to identify which five topics they found most difficult, ranked 1 to 5. This paper highlights the topics that Irish pupils/students find difficult in chemistry. Topics identified by Irish students are similar to results of studies carried out in the UK by Ratcliffe and in Scotland by Johnstone. This study indicates that a number of topics ranked high in terms of perceived difficulty in both the Leaving Certificate chemistry pupils and University chemistry students' lists. These topics were Volumetric Analysis Calculations, Redox Reactions and Concentration of Solutions. The persistence of these topics being seen as difficult throughout the pupils'/students' experience of chemistry indicates that problems associated with these topics have never truly been addressed. Other findings indicate that the mathematical ability of the pupils/students has an effect on the topics pupils/students chose as difficult or very difficult. © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2009.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Cited By :9; Export Date: 23 February 2015; Correspondence Address: Childs, P.E.; Department of Chemical and Environmental Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland; email: peter.childs@ul.ie; References: Bojezuk, M., Topic difficulties in O and A level chemistry (1982) Sch. Sci. Rev., 63 (224), pp. 545-551; (2002), http://www.examinations.ie, Chief Examiners' Report in Chemistry, available at: [accessed 4 Aug 2008](2005), http://www.examinations.ie, Chief Examiners' Report in Chemistry, available at: [accessed 4 Aug 2008]Chiu, M.-H., A national survey of students' conceptions in chemistry in Taiwan (2005) Chem. Educ. Int., 6, pp. 1-8; Coll, R.K., Ali, S., Bonato, J., Investigating first year chemistry learning difficulties in the South Pacific: a case study from Fiji (2006) Int. J. Sci. Math. Educ., 4, pp. 365-390; Johnstone, A., Chemical Education research: where from here? (2000) Univ. Chem. Educ., 4, pp. 34-38; Johnstone, A., Chemical education research in Glasgow in perspective (2006) Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 7, pp. 49-63; Jimoh, A.J., Perception of difficult topics in chemistry curriculum by students in Nigeria secondary schools (2005) Ilorin J. Educ., 24, pp. 71-78; Lyons, H., The new chemistry syllabus - an overview (1995) Chem. Action, 46, pp. 21-24; Mancy, R., Reid, N., (2004) Aspects of cognitive style and programming, , paper presented at the 16 th workshop of the Psychology of Programming Interest Group, Carlow, Ireland, April; McLaughlin, S., (2003) Effect of modelling instruction on the development of proportional reasoning II, , http://modeling.asu.edu/modeling/McLaughlinS_PropReas-II_03.pdf, [online], available at: [accessed 23 July 2007]; Pinarbasi, T., Canpolat, N., Students' understanding of solution chemistry concepts (2003) J. Chem. Educ., 80, pp. 1328-1332; Smyth, E., Hannan, C., School effects and subject choice: the uptake of scientific subjects in Ireland (2006) Sch. Eff. Sch. Improv., 17, pp. 303-327; Ratcliffe, M., What's difficult about A-Level chemistry (2002) Educ. Chem., 39, pp. 76-80; Taber, K., (2002) Chemical misconceptions; prevention, diagnosis, and cure, , London; Royal Society of Chemistry; Taber, K., (2002) Chemical misconceptions; prevention, diagnosis, and cure, 2. , London; Royal Society of Chemistry; Force, T., (2002) Report on the Task Force on the Physical Science, , http://www.skillsireland.ie/press/relatedreports/pdf/taskforce_on_physicalsciences_report_2002.pdf, available at, [accessed 1 Aug 2008]
Uncontrolled Keywords: Areas of difficulty; Chemistry topics; Gender in science; General chemistry; Irish education system; Irish secondary school children; Irish university students; Mathematical ability
Depositing User: Colin Lowry
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2015 02:36
URI: http://eprints.teachingandlearning.ie/id/eprint/1994

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