Investigation of pre-service chemistry teachers’ understanding of radioactive decay: a laboratory modelling activity
The first purpose of this study was to introduce a laboratory modelling activity focusing on teaching the concepts of radioactive elements/atoms, radioactive decay, and half-life. The second was to investigate pre-service chemistry teachers’ understanding of these concepts. Fifteen pre-service chemistry teachers who had enrolled in a Physical Chemistry Laboratory course participated in the study. The participants simulated the radioactive decay process of an imaginary radioactive element called Cornium during the laboratory modelling activity. In this way, pre-service chemistry teachers were able to visualize and model what is meant by radioactive decay and half-life. Data sources included responses given to open-response conceptual questions, participants’ drawings about radioactive decay and half-life, semi-structured interviews, activity worksheets, and observation notes. Qualitative analysis of data revealed that the pre-service chemistry teachers had misconceptions about the definition of radioactive elements/atoms, radioactive decay, and the half-life process before the activity. The role of the modelling activity in exposing and eliminating these misconceptions was discussed.