Research in Science Education

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 335–361 | Cite as

Teachers and Students’ Conceptions of Computer-Based Models in the Context of High School Chemistry: Elicitations at the Pre-intervention Stage



This study examined teachers’ and students’ initial conceptions of computer-based models—Flash and NetLogo models—and documented how teachers and students reconciled notions of multiple representations featuring macroscopic, submicroscopic and symbolic representations prior to actual intervention in eight high school chemistry classrooms. Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with 32 students and 6 teachers. Findings revealed an interplay of complex factors that functioned as opportunities and obstacles in the implementation of technologies in science classrooms. Students revealed preferences for the Flash models as opposed to the open-ended NetLogo models. Altogether, due to lack of content and modeling background knowledge, students experienced difficulties articulating coherent and blended understandings of multiple representations. Concurrently, while the aesthetic and interactive features of the models were of great value, they did not sustain students’ initial curiosity and opportunities to improve understandings about chemistry phenomena. Most teachers recognized direct alignment of the Flash model with their existing curriculum; however, the benefits were relegated to existing procedural and passive classroom practices. The findings have implications for pedagogical approaches that address the implementation of computer-based models, function of models, models as multiple representations and the role of background knowledge and cognitive load, and the role of teacher vision and classroom practices.


Computer-based models Macro Submicro Symbolic representations Student conceptions Teacher conceptions Chemistry Computer visualizations 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Learning and InstructionUniversity at Buffalo, SUNYBuffaloUSA

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