Evaluation of mental models of prospective science teachers on chemical reactions
Volkan Bilir 1 * , Sedat Karaçam 1
More Detail
1 Düzce University, Education Faculty, Turkey
* Corresponding Author


The aim of this study is to examine prospective science teachers' (PSTs) mental models and meanings for the concept of chemical reaction. For this purpose, this study adopted a phenomenological research design including 48 PSTs. To determine the mental modeling about chemical reactions, PSTs were given an interview card showing the reaction between magnesium and oxygen gas, and were asked to draw and visualize this reaction and a semi-structured interview was held about the specified reaction. The results revealed that the majority of the PSTs used the particle atom model to model for the chemical reactions, and as their education level increased, the models they used shifted from the particle model to the atomic model. In addition, the explanations showed that all the PSTs explained the reaction of magnesium with oxygen gas at the macroscopic level in the first stage and when asked the evocative interview question, most of them explained the reaction at the microscopic level, but some PSTs continued to make explanations at the macroscopic level despite the hinted interview problem. It was also found that the transition from the macroscopic level to the microscopic level of the PSTs’ explanations with the evocative interview question was influenced by the education level and their mental models regarding the reaction. In chemistry teaching starting from the high school senior year, it is recommended to use visual materials related to reactions based on atomic models instead of particle-based materials.



  • Adadan, E. (2014). Investigating the effect of model-based learning environment on preservice chemistry teachers’ understadings of the particle theory of matter and the nature of scientific models. Ondokuz Mayis University Journal of Faculty of Education, 33(2), 378-403.
  • Ardac, D. & Akaygun, S. (2004). Effectiveness of multimedia based instruction that emphasizes molecular representations on students’ understanding of chemical change, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(4), 317–337. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20005
  • Bilir, V. & Digilli-Baran, A. (2018, October). Evaluation of figures and images in high school chemistry textbooks used for teaching the subject of chemical reactions in terms of chemical reaction models [Paper presentation]. 13th National Congress on Science and Mathematics Education, Denizli/Turkey.
  • Boo, H. K. & Watson, J. R. (2001). Progression in high school students’ (aged 16-18) conceptualizations about chemical reactions in solution. Science Education, 85, 568-585. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.1024
  • Carter, C. S. & Brickhouse, N. W. (1989). What makes chemistry difficult? Alternate perceptions. Journal of Chemical Education, 66(3), 223-225. https://doi.org/10.1021/ed066p223
  • Cheng M. M. W. (2018). Students’ visualisation of chemical reactions – in sights in to the particle model and the atomic model. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 19, 227-239. https://doi.org/10.1039/C6RP00235H
  • Cheng M. M. W. & Gilbert J. K. (2014). Teaching stoichiometry with particulate diagrams – linking macrophenomena and chemical equations. In Eilam B. & Gilbert J. K., (ed.),Science teachers’ use of visual representations (pp. 123–142). Springer Science + Business Media.
  • Cheng M. M. W. & Gilbert J. K. (2017). Modelling students’ visualisation of chemical reaction. International Journal of Science Education, 39(9), 1173–1193. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2017.1319989
  • Creswell J. W. (2002). Educational research: planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Merrill/Prentice Hall.
  • Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Sage Publications.
  • Cronin-Jones, L. L. (2005). Using drawings to assess student perceptions of school yard habitats: A case study of reform-based research in the United States. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 10(1), 225-240.
  • Düzkaya, E. (2004). The effects of using tangible materials and computer supported teachings to the skills of mental rotation of high school students on chemical reactions issues [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Gazi University.
  • Ebenezer, J. V. (2001). A hypermedia environment to explore and negotiate students' conceptions: Animation of the solution process of table salt. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 10(1), 73-92. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1016672627842
  • Erduran, S. & Duschl, R. A. (2004), Inter disciplinary characterization of models and the nature of chemical knowledge in the classroom. Studies in Science Education, 40, 105–138. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057260408560204
  • Eyceyurt-Türk, G. & Tüzün, Ü. N. (2018). Pre-service science teachers' ımages and misconceptions of atomic orbital and self-ionization concepts. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 6(3), 386-391. https://doi.org/10.13189/ujer.2018.060304
  • Flick, U. (2002). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications.
  • Fu, H., Chi, Z., & Feng, D. (2010). Recognition of attentive objects with a concept association network for image annotation, Pattern Recognition, 43(10), 3539-3547. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.patcog.2010.04.009
  • Gilbert, J. & Treagust, D. (2009). Multiple representations in chemical education: Models and modelling. Springer.
  • Gilbert, J. K. & Justi, R. (2016). Modelling-based teaching in science education. Springer.
  • Hadenfeldt, J. C., Neumann, K., Bernholt, S., Liu, X. & Parchmann, I., (2016). Students’ progression in understanding the matter concept. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 53(5), 683–708. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21312
  • Halloun, I. A. (2007). Modeling theory in science education. Springer Science & Business Media.
  • Johnstone, A. H. (1982). Macro- and micro chemistry. School Science Review, 64, 377–379.
  • Johnstone, A. H. (1991). Why is science difficult to learn? Things are seldom what they seem. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 7(2), 75-83. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2729.1991.tb00230.x
  • Johnstone, A. H. (1993). The development of chemistry teaching: A changing response to changing demand. Journal of Chemical Education, 70(9), 701–705. https://doi.org/10.1021/ed070p701
  • Johnson P. & Tymms P. (2011), The emergence of a learning progression in middle school chemistry. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(8), 849–877. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20433
  • Kelly, R. M., Akaygun, S., Hansen, S. J. R., & Villalta-Cerdas, A. (2017). The effect that comparing molecular animations of varyingaccuracy has on students’ submicroscopic explanations, Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 18(4), 582–600. https://doi.org/10.1039/C6RP00240D
  • Liu, X. & Lesniak, K. M. (2005). Students’ progression of understanding the matter concept from elementary to high school. Science Education, 89(3), 433–450. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.20056
  • Mcintosh, W. L. (1986). The effect of imagery generation on science rule learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 23, 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.3660230101
  • Mendonça, P. C. C. & Justi, R. (2011). Contributions of the model of modelling diagram to the learning of ionic bonding: Analysis of a case study. Research in Science Education, 41(4), 479-503. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-010-9176-3
  • Nakhleh, M. B. (1992). Why some students don’t learn chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education, 69(3), 191-195. http://doi.org/10.1021/ed069p191
  • Noh, T. & Scharmann, L. C. (1997). Instructional influence of a molecular-level pictorial presentation of matter on students’ conseptionsand problem-solving ability. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 34, 199-217. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1098-2736(199702)34:2%3C199::AID-TEA6%3E3.0.CO;2-O
  • Oliva, J. M., Aragón, M. M. & Cuesta, J. (2015). The competence of modelling in learning chemical change: a study with secondary school students. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 13, 751-791. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-014-9583-4
  • Øyehaug, A. B. & Holt, A. (2013). Students’ understanding of the nature of matterand chemical reactions – a longitudinal study of conceptual restructuring. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 14(4), 450–467. https://doi.org/10.1039/C3RP00027C
  • Özmen, H. & Ayas, A. (2003). Students' difficulties in understanding of the conservation of matter in open and closed-system chemical reactions. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 4(3), 279-290. https://doi.org/10.1039/B3RP90017G
  • Papageorgiou, G., Grammaticopoulou, M. & Johnson, P. M. (2010). Should we teach primary pupils about chemical change?. International Journal of Science Education, 32(12), 1647-1664. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500690903173650
  • Rappoport, L. T. & Ashkenazi, G. (2008). Connecting levels of representation: emergent versus submergent perspective. International Journal of Science Education, 30(12), 1585–1603. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500690701447405
  • Smith, C. L., Wiser, M., Anderson, C. W. & Krajcik, J. (2006). Implications for children’s learning for assessment: a proposed learning progression for matter and the atomic molecular theory, Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Perspectives, 14(1–2), 1–98. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1080/15366367.2006.9678570
  • Solsona, N., Izquierdo, M., & De Jong, O. (2003). Exploring the development of students' conceptual profiles of chemical change. International Journal of Science Education, 25(1), 3-12. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500690010006536
  • Stains, M. & Talanquer, V. (2008). Classification of chemical reactions: Stages of expertise. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45, 771–793. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20221
  • Taber, K. S. (2003). The atom in the chemistry curriculum: Fundamental concept, teaching model or epistemological obstacle?. Foundations of Chemistry, 5(1), 43-84. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021995612705
  • Taber, K. S. & Coll, R. (2002). Bonding. In Gilbert J. K., Jong O. D., Justi R., Treagust D. F., & Van Driel J. H. (Eds.) Chemical education: to wards research-based practice (pp. 213–234). Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Talanquer, V. (2011). Macro, submicro, and symbolic: the many faces of the chemistry “triplet”. International Journal of Science Education, 33(2), 179-195. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500690903386435
  • Tarhan, L., Ayyıldız, Y., Ogunc, A. & Acar-Sesen, B. (2013). A jigsaw cooperative learning application in elementary science and technology lessons: physical and chemical changes. Research in Science & Technological Education, 31(2), 184–203. https://doi.org/10.1080/02635143.2013.811404
  • Treagust, D. F., Chittleborough, G., & Mamiala, T. L. (2003). The role of submicroscopic and symbolic representations in chemical explanations. International Journal of Science Education, 25, 1353– 1368. https://doi.org/10.1080/0950069032000070306
  • Türkoğuz, S., Balım, A. G. & Deniş-Çeliker, H. (2014). Details of student drawing and visualization after watching black box experiment in science education. Mehmet Akif Ersoy University Journal of Education Faculty, 31, 149-169.
  • Wei, S., Liu, X. & Jia, Y. (2013). Using RASCH measurement to validate the instrument of students’ understanding of models in science (SUMS). International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 12(5), 1067–1082. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-013-9459-z
  • Weinrich, M. L. & Talanquer, V. (2015). Mapping students’ conceptual modes when thinking about chemical reactions used to make a desired product. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 16, 561-577. https://doi.org/10.1039/C5RP00024F
  • White, R. T. (1988). Learning science. Basil Blackwell Ltd.
  • Williamson V. M. & Abraham M. R. (1995). The effects of computer animation on the particulate mental models of college chemistry students. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32(5), 521–534. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.3660320508
  • Zhang Z. H. & Linn M. C. (2011). Can generating representations enhance learning with dynamic visualizations? Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(10), 1177–1198. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20443


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.