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The particulate nature of matter and conceptual change: A cross-age study

, Arizona State University, United States

Arizona State University . Awarded


Conceptual understanding of the particulate nature of matter (PNM) has been shown to be critical for success in learning chemistry. Over the past 20 years, conceptual change research has revealed a host of student misconceptions about the PNM. Additionally, models, and more recently multimedia, are being used to help students visualize processes at the molecular level.

For this study, a newly developed 20-item multiple-choice test entitled the “Particulate Nature of Matter Assessment” (ParNoMA) was used to measure students' conceptual understanding of the PNM as it relates to phases of matter and phase changes. Using this instrument as both a pretest and posttest, the ability of molecular-level animations of liquid water, ice, steam, and ice melting to remediate PNM misconceptions held by 690 middle school, high school, and college students was investigated. Additionally, the relationship between reasoning ability, as measured by Lawson's Classroom Test of Scientific Reasoning, and the effectiveness of the animations was also explored.

The results showed that the students who viewed the animations at each of the three grade levels earned significantly higher normalized gain scores on the ParNoMA than those students who did not. The data indicated that molecular-level animations helped students at all three grade levels to improve their scores on the ParNoMA; however, the methods employed in this study were not appropriate to conclude if conceptual change did occur. The gains made by the middle school students should prompt a reconsideration of the omission of PNM level descriptions in the National Science Standards. Moreover, the males' pre-test scores were significantly higher than the females, but the females had significantly higher normalized gains. The post-ParNoMA scores for the students who viewed the animations were equivalent for males and females. The animations seemed to close the gender gap that existed at the start of the study.

Overall, the data suggest that molecular-level animations are useful in middle school, high school, and college classrooms, particularly for females. Further investigation of the qualitative data gathered in this study may provide insight as to students' conceptions of the PNM and how they change over time.


Yezierski, E.J. The particulate nature of matter and conceptual change: A cross-age study. Ph.D. thesis, Arizona State University. Retrieved October 23, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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