Moving beyond definitions: what student-generated models reveal about their understanding of covalent bonding and ionic bonding
Chemistry students encounter a variety of terms, definitions, and classification schemes that many instructors expect students to memorize and be able to use. This research investigated students' descriptions of ionic and covalent bonding beyond definitions in order to explore students' knowledge about chemical bonding. Using Johnstone's Multiple Levels of Representation framework, an interactive interview protocol was designed to explore secondary and first year university chemistry students' understandings of bonding. This paper reports findings from the first phase of the interview when students were asked to create models to depict and explain covalent and ionic bonding using art supplies. Analysis of the student generated models and their accompanying explanations revealed multiple misconceptions about covalent and ionic bonding even though students could recite definitions.