Research in Science Education

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 365–384 | Cite as

Making Connections: Learning and Teaching Chemistry in Context

  • Donna King
  • Alberto Bellocchi
  • Stephen M. Ritchie


Even though several studies have reported positive attitudinal outcomes from context-based chemistry programs, methodological obstacles have prevented researchers from comparing satisfactorily the chemistry-learning outcomes between students who experience a context-based program with those who experience a content-driven program. In this narrative inquiry we are able to address the question: how do the recalled experiences of a student and her teacher in context-based and concept-based chemistry programs compare? From the student’s unique perspective of experiencing both programs with the same teacher, we have constructed our collective account around four themes; namely, the extent to which the student makes connections between chemistry concepts and real-world contexts, developing research independence through engaging in extended experimental investigations related to contexts, learning chemistry concepts through contexts, and conceptual sequencing in a context-based program. The student reported real-world connections between chemistry concepts and contexts, found her engagement in the context-driven tasks interesting and productive, and identified connected sequences of concepts across the contexts studied. Despite difficulties for teachers who are required to shift pedagogies, the student’s lived experiences and outcomes from a context-based program provide some encouragement in working through these issues.


Context-based approach Chemistry curriculum Teaching and learning Narrative inquiry 



We wish to thank Emeritus Professor Peter Fensham for his helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donna King
    • 1
  • Alberto Bellocchi
    • 1
  • Stephen M. Ritchie
    • 1
  1. 1.Queensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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