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George Papageorgiou, Philip Johnson & Fotis Fotiades
Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group)
Researchers, Teachers, Policy Makers
Over 10 pages
In this research paper, the authors aim at investigating the possibility of teaching the subject of the changes of state (namely melting and evaporation below the boiling point) in primary school students (9-11 years old) by making use of the particle model. They report on the effectiveness of two different teaching approaches in two matched classes in a typical Greek primary school.
In the “Introduction” section the authors refer to the issue of introducing the particle model of matter to young pupils. Based on previous work, they conclude the first section by setting up the research objective of the current work which is the optimization of its teaching (the particle model) by appropriate means.
In the following two sections entitled “Multimedia learning and instruction” and “Multimedia and chemistry”, the authors refer briefly to the possible advantages offered to the learning process via the use of multimedia instruction, the requirements for successful implementation of a simulation (careful guidance and associated teaching strategy, appropriateness of the curriculum content and design) and specific successful examples which make use of particle simulations in chemistry teaching (focused on older students). The information provided in these two sections is also supported by several bibliographical references.

In the fourth section of the paper, the authors give specific information on the teaching scheme that they developed in order to introduce particle ideas to young students. The teaching scheme makes use of a step-by-step approach which is based on subsumptive learning (progressive differentiation of a more general idea) and has a much lower intrinsic cognitive load. In this way, the concept of a “substance” with a characteristic “ability to hold” is used as the anchoring idea for the particle theory (instead of “solids”, “gases” and “liquids” and forces linked to generic states).Subsequently, the simulations to be used in class were developed by taking into account this specific pedagogical context.
In the fifth section of the paper, the authors make a presentation of the main aspects of the software which they developed, by providing four representative figures as well. The following “Methodology” section provides detailed information on the experimental design of the research undertaken. As the authors mention “two series of six one-hour lessons covering the same main points of the scheme of work were designed for the two matched classes, respectively. One series (taught to class S) incorporated software simulations and the other (taught to class T) relied on more ‘traditional’ static representations” The data (pre and post-intervention were collected through individual interviews of 12 students (6 boys and 6 girls) from each class. Both classes were taught by the same teacher.

In the “Results and Discussion” section the authors provide both tables and figures in order to show the changes induced to the students’ understanding of the particulate nature of matter as well as to their explanations of melting and evaporation. The responses of the students are organized in different categories which correspond to different levels of understanding. The results show that overall students made “positive” moves between categories, and many even “made large gains”, after both teaching interventions (Software and Traditional). However, the results also illustrated the difficulties which are associated with conceptual change, since there were cases of students who could not escape from their initial views and created synthetic explanations of the examined phenomena with both macroscopic and microscopic characteristics.
In the question “Did the software help?”, the experimental data indicate that the software provided more help in the case of evaporation, which is the most difficult phenomenon for the students to grasp. In this way, the authors mention that they are encouraged to develop it further. They point out however that this type of simulation software should play a supporting role in the instruction and it is “a resource to be deployed by teachers alongside other teaching activities”.
This document describes the results of two teaching interventions aiming at helping primary school students understanding of melting and evaporation below boiling point via the use of the particulate nature of matter. One intervention made use of a software simulation and the other of a traditional “static” representation of the particles. The research conducted is designed carefully and the authors make careful use of the language when they interpret the data.
The document presents special interest for several reasons: a) it explores chemistry teaching in young pupils (9-11 years old), b) it tries to quantify the possible improvement achieved in learning via the use of an ICT based approach, c) it presents a concrete teaching proposal for introducing particle ideas to young pupils and further explores the question of “pupils’ ability to cope with the particulate view of matter”.
The authors provide evidence that both teaching interventions resulted in “a marked progress”. In addition their results indicate that the use of software provided some additional benefit, and certainly “did not seem to do any harm”.
The document could help teachers in designing more effective teaching strategies in which they could make parallel use of ICT based teaching material. In addition, it could be of use to educational policy makers since certain interesting suggestions are made regarding the design of the chemistry (and science) curriculum in primary school. Helping young students achieve a more complete understanding of chemical phenomena such as melting and evaporation which are closely relevant with their everyday life experiences, could increase their motivation to further reading and engagement with chemistry.
T.E.I. of Ionian Islands

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2014.04.07

Posted by Françoise Derwa (Belgium)

Message: This publication how to teach a basic subject (the chemical process of melting and evaporation below boiling point) to a primary school audience through the application of multimedia in learning, melting and evaporation. Its relevance is related to the visual multimedia representation of the process.
It explains how to use the software package in this chemistry process.

Date: 2014.03.25

Posted by Diane Condon (Ireland)

Message: I found this to be a very interesting research paper. It looks at the difficulty in understanding melting and evaporation below boiling point concepts. Their idea is to introduce it at an earlier stage, i.e. primary school.
Their next step was to decide which approach to take in introducing these concepts, either the conceptual approach or by using software with simulations. They proceed to give a detailed curriculum for teaching particle ideas, melting and evaporation. They developed their own simulations for this curriculum.
Interestingly they then proceeded to test their two approaches with two sixth grade classes. They each had six one hour lessons covering the same material but using the two different methodologies. I feel this type of research is very relevent given the promotion of using ICT in the classroom. Their results found that the software approach was marginally better at helping students to understand this difficult concept.
These results will hopefully encourage more teachers to use ICT with their students in the classroom. I also find interesting their suggestions that we should introduce more scientific concepts at an earlier stage, namely at primary school level. This is only really feasible if teachers at primary school level get the inservice and support they need in order to understand and teach these concepts.

Date: 2014.03.04

Posted by Ilaria Rebella (Italy)

Message: The authors aimed to investigate the possibility of teaching the subject of state changes (ie, melting and evaporation below boiling point) to primary school students (9-11 years old) using the particle model. They report on the effectiveness of two different teaching approaches into two classes in a typical primary school in Greece.
This work shows how the use of software for particle simulations and a step by step approach based on the subsumptive learning (progressive differentiation of a more general idea), which has a much lower intrinsic cognitive load compared to an analytical approach of the traditional type, has produced better results with respect to the level of understanding of the other examined class.
Yes, it does. In the \"Results and discussion\" section the authors also illustrate the difficulties which are associated with conceptual change, since there have been cases of students who could not escape their initial opinions and created the brief explanation of the examined phenomena with both macroscopic and microscopic characteristics.
This publication in the \"Methodology\" section provides detailed information on the ways and times of educational intervention in the classroom and compares two different approaches to the same arguments: a traditional approach that uses \"static\" representations of the particle behaviour and a new technologic approach that provides the use of software that simulate the changes of state at the microscopic level.
The publication suggests using a simulation software developed by authors to show students how the molecular bonds vary during changes of state. I think that the use of software simulation of the behavior of molecules during changes of state can be very interesting for students and will help them to create a mental model of the microscopic phenomenon, although I believe that the microscopic representation of physical phenomena or chemical should be postponed to the next level of school; in primary school should be prevalent the macroscopic observation of phenomena, the study of variables involved, the formulation of hypotheses and throw into crisis any misconceptions. This creates the conditions for the reasoned and not suffered transition to the microscopic model and can help to eliminate the problems of confusion between the two models reported by the authors.
This publication was useful to reflect on how to deal with the changes of state in the primary school with the aim of preparing the conditions to move from the macroscopic to the microscopic level. The use of software simulation of molecular behavior can greatly help the conceptualization of the phenomenon.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.