The New Zealand chemistry curriculum levels 7 & 8 : selected studies in teaching, learning, concept development and assessment : a dissertation.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster in Science Education
This dissertation looks at questions relating to the New Zealand chemistry curriculum. The main findings relate to chemical misconceptions, concept development, pupils' views of their learning environment, problem-solving ability and assessment of chemistry at year 13 level. Moreover, it shows how each is related to the current state of chemistry teaching, learning and assessment in the New Zealand curriculum. Relationships between pupils' ideas of their own learning, their ability to understand important chemical concepts and to problem-solve, are described. These relationships give an indication of the strengths and weaknesses inherent in teaching and assessing chemistry, as well as identifying barriers to understanding that need to be addressed. Concept development is shown to be hindered by misconceptions, even though these alternative conceptions have been well documented here and overseas. Serious misconceptions are described regarding physical/chemical change, aspects of the kinetic theory of gases, chemical reactions and the mole concept. An intervention study of concept development using a discovery constructivist method is described that indicates this type of approach has real value for some aspects of chemistry. The approach may lend itself to student investigations in classification of matter, chemical analysis, equilibrium reactions, polarity of molecules and yield of an organic product. The ability of students to problem-solve and apply their knowledge and skills to new situations is strongly correlated with factors such as attitude to experimental work. There are, however, important skills detailed in the curriculum that are not covered by the current University Bursaries examination. These centre on problem-solving and include focusing, planning, information gathering, experimenting and reporting. There are aspects of some classroom environments, such as perceptions students have of the best way to learn and teacher controlled lessons, that encourage a passive role in learning (particularly for female students).