Does a course on the history and philosophy of chemistry have any effect on prospective chemistry teachers’ perceptions? The case of chemistry and the chemist
The creative comparisons prospective chemistry teachers make about “chemistry” and the “chemist” may reflect how they perceive these concepts. In this sense, it seems important to determine which creative comparisons prospective teachers make with respect to these and how these can change after the history of chemistry is treated in the classroom. This study seeks to investigate the impact of the basic History and Philosophy of Chemistry course on prospective chemistry teachers’ perceptions towards chemistry and the chemist. The study was conducted during the 2012–2013 academic year at a state university in Turkey with 38 prospective chemistry teachers. A creative comparisons questionnaire and semi-structured interviews were used as data collection instruments in the study. This questionnaire was administered to the prospective teachers in the form of a pre-test, post-test, and retention test. Results of the analysis showed that the prospective teachers produced creative comparisons related to chemistry in the pre-test that mostly relied on their own experiences and observations, but that in the post-test and retention test, their comparisons mostly contained references to the role of chemistry in daily life, its development, and its facilitating aspects. Similarly, it was observed that in the pre-test, the prospective teachers made creative comparisons regarding the chemist that related mostly to the laboratory, but that the post-test and retention test rather contained the aspects of chemists as researchers, meticulous persons, facilitators and managers. Also, 18 prospective teachers were engaged in interviews to understand their prior knowledge about chemistry and the chemist, as well as the reasons for the changes in their creative comparisons. The results of the interviews indicated that a large majority of the prospective teachers were able to fully reflect on their inadequacy about their previous knowledge about “chemistry” and “chemist,” and it was seen that they could explain the reason they changed their creative comparisons as an outcome of the History and Philosophy of Chemistry course. In the light of these results, it can be said that the History and Philosophy of Chemistry course may help prospective chemistry teachers in their perceptions about both chemistry and the chemist and may add depth to their knowledge.