Towards the Development of a Pedagogical History for a Key Chemical Idea: Chemical Bonding

Michael Croft, Avondale College


This study provides background research for the subsequent construction of a pedagogical history of chemical bonding. This includes original research to confirm and extend the literature on students’ alternative conceptions of chemical bonding. The study additionally surveys the history of the development of chemical bonding ideas. A pedagogical history provides a new way to help students gain a comprehensive understanding of chemical bonding. It takes the form of an interesting narrative, using attention‐grabbing historical episodes and original scientific data to help students understand the topic in a deeper way and to counteract known student alternative conceptions.

Students have many alternative conceptions of chemical bonding. Alternative conceptions reported by other researchers have been described in this thesis. In addition, a short history of the development of chemical bonding has been compiled. It was observed that many present alternative conceptions are rooted in historical ideas.

A diagnostic test was constructed to confirm and extend the research on students’ alternative conceptions of chemical bonding. The diagnostic test employed sub‐microscopic representations to probe students’ understanding of chemical bonding. 172 students from two Melbourne high schools participated in the diagnostic testing. Furthermore, seven senior students were interviewed to further probe their thinking about chemical bonding. A number of alternative conceptions previously reported were reproduced. In addition, some new alternative student conceptions were found that have not been reported in the literature on chemical bonding.

In order to remediate the alternative conceptions described by this study, a future pedagogical history will include discussions on sub‐microscopic representations of chemical bonding, describing particles undergoing bonding, understanding the range of bond types that exist, avoiding oversimplified chemical bonding descriptions, and significant historical episodes that have a high human interest and educational value. Recommendations for further research were made.