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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Kind, V. & Kind, P.M. (2011). Beginning to teach chemistry: How personal and academic characteristics of pre-service science teachers compare with their understandings of basic chemical ideas. International Journal of Science Education 33(15): 2123-2158.

Author(s) from Durham


Around 150 pre-service science teachers (PSTs) participated in a study comparing academic and personal characteristics with their misconceptions about basic chemical ideas taught to 11–16-year-olds, such as particle theory, change of state, conservation of mass, chemical bonding, mole calculations, and combustion reactions. Data, collected by questionnaire, indicate that despite all PSTs being regarded technically as ‘academically well-qualified’ for science teaching, biology and physics specialists have more extensive misconceptions than chemists. Two personal characteristics, PSTs’ preferences for teaching as a subject ‘specialist’ or as a ‘generalist’ teaching all sciences and their self-confidence for working in these two domains, were assessed by responses to Likert-scale statements. Proportionately more biologists tend to be ‘super-confident’ generalists, while more physicists were specialists anxious about outside specialism teaching. No statistically significant relationships between personal characteristics and misconceptions were found, suggesting that chemistry may be being taught by confident PSTs with poor understandings of basic ideas. Furthermore, these data suggest that attending to PSTs’ personal characteristics alongside other components of a teacher’s professional knowledge base may contribute to creating more effective science teachers. The paper presents a novel way of considering PSTs’ qualities for teaching that offers potential for further research and initial teacher training course development.

School of Education