Are creative comparisons developed by prospective chemistry teachers evidence of their conceptual understanding? The case of inter- and intramolecular forces
The aim of this study is to determine prospective chemistry teachers' creative comparisons about the basic concepts of inter- and intramolecular forces, and to uncover the relationship between these creative comparisons and prospective teachers' conceptual understanding. Based on a phenomenological research method, this study was conducted with 101 prospective chemistry teachers studying in the Chemistry Education Department at a state university in Turkey in the academic year 2011–2012. The research made use of two data collection instruments, a creative comparison questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. The concepts of “non-polar covalent bonds, dipole–dipole force, hydrogen bonds, ionic bonds, covalent bonds, polar covalent bonds, and van der Waals force” were set out in the creative comparison questionnaire and the prospective teachers were asked to complete the sentences about these concepts (example: ionic bond is like .......... because ...........). Content analysis techniques were employed in the analysis of the creative comparisons set out in the questionnaire. The analysis of the data revealed that the prospective teachers generally developed their creative comparisons based on the formation and strength of the different bonds and that they also had alternative conceptions, particularly regarding the formation of covalent bonds, hydrogen bonds, and the van der Waals force. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to learn more about this and obtain detailed information about the level of understanding of the prospective teachers. Twelve prospective teachers were selected for the interviews on the basis of the creative comparisons they had developed in the creative comparison questionnaire. The analysis of the interviews showed that the level of conceptual understanding of the prospective teachers was not tightly linked to the complexity of their creative comparisons. However, it was seen that the creative comparisons submitted by the prospective teachers could be used to infer their conceptual understanding. Also, these creative comparisons could be helpful in determining what the prospective teachers' alternative conceptions were.