The atom in the chemistry curriculum: Fundamental concept, teaching model or epistemological obstacle?
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Foundations of Chemistry 5 (1):43-84 (2003)
Research into learners' ideas aboutscience suggests that school and collegestudents often hold alternative conceptionsabout `the atom'. This paper discusses whylearners acquire ideas about atoms which areincompatible with the modern scientificunderstanding. It is suggested that learners'alternative ideas derive – at least in part –from the way ideas about atoms are presented inthe school and college curriculum. Inparticular, it is argued that the atomicconcept met in science education is anincoherent hybrid of historical models, andthat this explains why learners commonlyattribute to atoms properties (such as beingthe constituent particles of all substances, orof being indivisible and conserved inreactions) that more correctly belong to otherentities (such as molecules or sub-atomicparticles). Bachelard suggested that archaicscientific ideas act as `epistemologicalobstacles', and here it is argued thatanachronistic notions of the atom survive inthe chemistry curriculum. These conceptualfossils encourage learners to develop an`atomic ontology' (granting atoms `ontologicalpriority' in the molecular model of matter); tomake the `assumption of initial atomicity' whenconsidering chemical reactions; and to developan explanatory framework to rationalisechemical reactions which is based on thedesirability of full electron shells. Theseideas then act as impediments to thedevelopment of a modern chemical perspective onthe structure of matter, and an appreciation ofthe nature of chemical changes at the molecularlevel
|Keywords||atomic theory chemical education chemical ontology epistemological obstacles teaching models|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Paul Needham (2004). Continuants and Processes in Macroscopic Chemistry. Axiomathes 14 (1-3):237-265.
Kevin C. de Berg (2006). The Status of Constructivism in Chemical Education Research and its Relationship to the Teaching and Learning of the Concept of Idealization in Chemistry. Foundations of Chemistry 8 (2):153-176.
N. Sukumar (2009). The Chemist's Concept of Molecular Structure. Foundations of Chemistry 11 (1):7-20.
Helge Kragh (2001). The First Subatomic Explanations of the Periodic System. Foundations of Chemistry 3 (2):129-143.
Richard M. Pagni (2009). The Weak Nuclear Force, the Chirality of Atoms, and the Origin of Optically Active Molecules. Foundations of Chemistry 11 (2):105-122.
R. Garth Kidd (2011). Elements of the Third Kind and the Spin-Dependent Chemical Force. Foundations of Chemistry 13 (2):109-119.
Paul Needham (2004). When Did Atoms Begin to Do Any Explanatory Work in Chemistry? International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 18 (2 & 3):199 – 219.
Joachim Schummer (2004). Editorial: Substances Versus Reactions. Hyle 10 (1):3 - 4.
Richard Bader (2011). On the Non-Existence of Parallel Universes in Chemistry. Foundations of Chemistry 13 (1):11-37.
Alan F. Chalmers (2008). Atom and Aether in Nineteenth-Century Physical Science. Foundations of Chemistry 10 (3):157-166.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads15 ( #107,862 of 1,101,073 )
Recent downloads (6 months)6 ( #44,353 of 1,101,073 )
How can I increase my downloads?