Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 103–112

Investigating Students’ Understanding of the Dissolving Process


DOI: 10.1007/s10956-012-9379-7

Cite this article as:
Naah, B.M. & Sanger, M.J. J Sci Educ Technol (2013) 22: 103. doi:10.1007/s10956-012-9379-7


In a previous study, the authors identified several student misconceptions regarding the process of dissolving ionic compounds in water. The present study used multiple-choice questions whose distractors were derived from these misconceptions to assess students’ understanding of the dissolving process at the symbolic and particulate levels. The symbolic-level questions were based on balanced equations, and the particulate-level questions used multiple-choice questions involving dynamic animations or static pictures. This paper analyzes students’ responses to these questions to look for associations among four variables—Answer (the correct answer and three misconceptions), Representation (symbolic or particulate question), Visualization (static or animated pictures), and Representation Order (symbolic questions before or after the particulate questions). The results indicate that the correct answer and the acid–base misconception were more popular than the ion-pair or subscript error misconceptions, the ion-pair misconception was more popular for the particulate questions than the symbolic questions, and that participants were more likely to select the correct answer when viewing static particulate questions compared to animated particulate questions, especially if the particulate questions are seen first. These results suggest that the animated motion of dissolving these compounds in water may be distracting for students.


Animation Balanced equations Chemical education research Dissolving Particulate nature of matter Representational competence 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryMiddle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboroUSA

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