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This article was originally published as: de Berg, K. C. (2003). Approaching a study of the periodic table from a nature of science perspective. Australian Journal of Education in Chemistry, 61, 9-13.



This article uses the strategy of a historical essay with the periodic table as its theme to engender in tertiary-level students a sense of the progress of chemistry as a human endeavour. This has great value in helping students address issues related to the nature of science. The author's objective is to overcome the expressed view that technical jargon not rooted in experience and factual overload makes it difficult to gain a sense of how concepts and theories originate, how they come to be validated and accepted, and how they connect with experience and reveal relations among seemingly disparate phenomena. A key feature of the nature of science particularly applicable to the Periodic Law is outlined and discussed with reference to the work of Dobereiner, Newlands, Mendeleeff, and recent observations by Scerri. The paper includes discussion of the fallibility of any basis for periodic organisation of the elements, and the idea that a better organising principle might be a non-visualisable property of atoms such as total energy. A teaching/learning strategy used by the author with a first year tertiary chemistry class is outlined. [Author abstract, ed]


Australian Journal of Education in Chemistry is published by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, Chemical Education Division. The journal may be accessed here

ISSN 1445-9698

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