Students' involvement in authentic modelling practices as contexts in chemistry education

  • Prins G
  • Bulte A
  • Van Driel J
 et al. 
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In science education, students should come to understand the nature and significance of models. In the case of chemistry education it is argued that the present use of models is often not meaningful from the students' perspective. A strategy to overcome this problem is to use an authentic chemical modelling practice as a context for a curriculum unit. The theoretical framework for this strategy is activity theory rooted in socio-cultural theories on learning. An authentic chemical modelling practice is characterized by a set of motives for model development through a well-defined modelling procedure using only relevant issue knowledge. The aim of this study was to explore, analyse, and select authentic chemical modelling practices for use in chemistry education. The suitability of the practices was reviewed by applying a stepwise procedure focused on criteria such as students' interest and ownership, modelling procedure, issue knowledge, and feasibility of the laboratory work in the classroom. It was concluded that modelling drinking-water treatment and human exposure assessment are both suitable to serve as contexts, because both practices exhibit clear motives for model construction and the applied modelling procedures are in line with students' pre-existing procedural modelling knowledge. The issue knowledge involved is consistent with present Dutch science curriculum, and it is possible to carry out experimental work in the classroom for model calibration and validation. The method described here to select and evaluate practices for use as contexts in chemistry education can also be used in other science domains.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Authentic practices
  • Chemistry education
  • Context
  • Modelling
  • Students-involvement

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  • Gjalt PrinsFaculteit Bètawetenschappen, Universiteit Utrecht

  • Astrid M.W. Bulte

  • Jan H. Van Driel

  • Albert Pilot

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