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Chapter 5

Johnstone's Triangle and the Learning Process: Making Understanding Accessible

To communicate the ideas and understandings of chemistry to the next generation, we employ language, symbolisms, visual representations and models. Johnstone was acutely aware that, no matter how we communicate, the limitations of the working memory capacities of the learners control the extent of understanding. In everything, Johnstone argued that we start with the tangible, the macro, what can be experienced with the senses. We start where the learners are, in terms of what they know and understand, their age and their social context. The triangle model stresses that whether we use language, the symbolisms of chemical or mathematical equations, diagrams, graphs or physical models, two key factors must be considered. The first is that whatever we do must be presented in ways that do not overload limited working memory capacity. The second is the goal to develop mental models of physical reality where the models fit the evidence and make some sense of it: the goal is correct understanding. In all this, we are not trying to teach learners that there are three levels. We are not aiming to show them how to link levels. Johnstone wanted learners to experience a little of being enabled to look at their world through the eyes of a chemist and enter into the wonder of making some sense of their world from a molecular standpoint.

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29 Jan 2021
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