Reflections on High School Students' Graphing Skills and Their Conceptual Understanding of Drawing Chemistry Graphs

Gultepe N.

EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES-THEORY & PRACTICE, vol.16, no.1, pp.53-81, 2016 (SSCI) identifier identifier


Graphing subjects in chemistry has been used to provide alternatives to verbal and algorithmic descriptions of a subject by handing students another way of improving their manipulation of concepts. Teachers should therefore know the level of students' graphing skills. Studies have identified that students have difficulty making connections with the graphs of different variables to chemistry concepts and the real world. This study has been conducted to establish how students who excel at chemistry graphing problems interpret them in order to determine whether those who are unsuccessful encounter problems due to concepts or a deficiency in graphing skills and to present students' levels with these problems. This is a qualitative study guided by the purposive sampling method with the aim of analyzing high school students' graphing skills and exploring how they relate these skills and conceptual understandings while drawing chemistry graphs. The sample (n = 67) included students in Turkey in the 11th grade. Data was collected using an achievement test. This test had five questions regarding chemical reaction, solubility, freezing depression of water, ionization of weak acids, and ionization energy. Each question was formed in two stages. The first stage consisted of five graphing questions independent of concepts in chemistry; the second stage involved composing five chemistry graphs. Students with good levels of conceptual understanding were concluded to have strong graphing skills and students with poor conceptual understanding were unsuccessful with their chemistry graphs. Drawing more accurate chemistry graphs was also discovered as a need of students who had excellent conceptual knowledge but were unable to apply accurate chemical principles or rules even though they had been capable of drawing the correct graph type. Misconceptions were also observed to underlie the challenges students encountered in drawing graphs.