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The particulate nature of matter: Challenges in understanding the submicroscopic world

by Allan G. Harrison, David F. Treagust
Chemical education: Towards research-based practice ()

Abstract

This chapter sets out to accomplish three tasks. First, we discuss the historical development of the idea that all substances are divisible down to the particle level but not beyond; and comment on the great struggles scientists faced in providing this crucial theory with a sound scientific base. Second, the chapter reviews the available research on students understanding and use of the particle theory in learning science and chemistry; and the type of conceptual change that is needed if students are to share the scientific consensus on particles. Third, we discuss our expectations of school students understanding of the particle theory. Nussbaum (1997) insists that this last issue has important epistemological implications for teaching and learning and, following Millar & Osbornes (1998) lead, we argue that it is time to seriously reassess what, how and why we educate students in this most important concept.

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