Conceptual difficulies about some chemical thermodynamics concepts among student-teachers and lecturers at colleges of education

Selepe, Mamoraka Caroline
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The purpose o f this research was to identify and describe ideas held and conceptual difficulties experienced by third year Secondary Teacher's Diploma students and lecturers at colleges o f education. The thermodynamics concepts investigated were the basic ones o f temperature, heat and energy and the more advanced ones o f entropy, spontaneity and free energy. Data was collected by means o f pre- and post-questionnaires and interviews. Fifty six student-teachers and eight college lecturers completed pre-questionnaires. Forty eight student-teachers and eight college lecturers completed the post-questionnaire. Ten studentteachers were interviewed after completing the post-questionnaire. The questionnaires and interviews revealed a number o f erroneous ideas and difficult learning areas with both the basic and advanced concepts As regards the basic concepts, the view s o f the studentteachers were similar to those o f school children’s views reported by researchers in other countries. They also showed conceptual difficulties in areas such as the criteria used to determine if a chemical reaction had occurred or nr t, whether the reaction was spontaneous or not, the role o f entropy in chemical processes, the relationship between entropy and disorder, factors affecting entropy and the role o f free energy in chemical reactions. Both questionnaires showed that some o f the lecturers have misconceptions similar to those o f students. This in part at least explains why the STD 3 students learning is not successful. Nine students from a university academic development programme also completed the postquestionnaire. They showed a much better understanding o f the concepts investigated. The conceptual difficulties identified in this research challenge the teaching methodologies used at colleges o f education to teach thermodynamics meaningfully. C ollege o f education lecturers need to be supported by w ell designed inservice training programmes in the teaching o f thermodynamics. Development o f a teacher resource package that w ill among others address the conceptual difficulties, Vi ‘i-?ified here is recommended.