Reconsidering learning difficulties and misconceptions in chemistry: emergence in chemistry and its implications for chemical education
Identifying students' misconceptions and learning difficulties and finding effective ways of addressing them has been one of the major concerns in chemistry education. However, the chemistry education community has paid little attention to determining discipline-specific aspects of chemistry that can lead to learning difficulties and misconceptions. In this article, it is argued that emergence plays a critical role in the epistemology and the ontology of chemistry and hence it should be taken into account for understanding learning difficulties and finding ways of addressing them in chemistry. It is particularly argued that one of the fundamental sources of learning difficulties and chemical misconceptions is learners' failure to understand the emergent nature of chemical entities, their properties, and interactions. In this article, an interpretive analysis framework is suggested for identifying specific learning demands and the sources of learners' misconceptions about the emergent chemical properties and phenomena. Findings from previous research on learners' misconceptions regarding emergent chemical properties are reanalyzed and interpreted through this framework. Inadequacies of typical teaching practices and their consequences are discussed from an emergentist perspective. Finally, implications of the emergentist perspective for more meaningful chemical education are discussed.