This paper describes a guided-inquiry activity designed for the first week of a first-year high school chemistry course. Students manipulated magnetic models of atoms in depicting air and learned to connect the three domains of chemistry: macroscopic, symbolic, and particulate. The purpose of the activity was 2-fold: to remediate misconceptions of foundational chemical concepts such as atoms, molecules, compounds, subscripts, and coefficients; and to help students begin to think in the particulate domain of Johnstone’s triangle when studying chemistry. On the basis of curricula in prior years of science instruction, students should have relatively accurate models for air upon entering chemistry. This, in alignment with the literature reviewed, was not found to be the case. Students’ pretreatment and post-treatment drawings of the particulate nature of air were categorized and analyzed, demonstrating major shifts toward accurate particulate models of air after active engagement in the guided-inquiry activity. The majority of students’ drawings created prior to the activity depicted no particulate nature of air, and only 31% of the students’ drawings depicted the macroscopic domain nature of air. After the activity, 72% of the students drew the particulate nature of air correctly. This finding points to the value of guided inquiry using models in developing correct understandings of key chemistry concepts.
Vilardo, A., MacKenzie, A. E., & Yezierski, E. J. (2016). Using students' conceptions of air to evaluate a guided-inquiry activity classifying matter using particulate models. Journal of Chemical Education, ASAP. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b01011