RSC TF Project: Challenging Misconceptions in the Classroom

The Challenging Chemical Misconceptions in the Classroom project was carried out in the academic year 2000-2001. It was funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry (the Professional body and learned society for Chemistry in the UK and Eire), as one of its annual Teacher Fellowship projects and based at the University of London Institute of Education.

Teaching Fellow: Dr Keith S Taber (on secondment form Homerton College, Cambridge), Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education

Reporting to Dr Colin Osborne, then RSC Education Manager (Schools & Colleges)

Based within the University of London Institute of Education science and technology education group

During the year a number of probes (listed at Challenging Chemical Misconceptions) were developed and tested, designed around common alternative conceptions and learning difficulties in chemistry learning over the 11-18 age range.

Project outputs

Taber, K. S. (2002). external link: Chemical Misconceptions - Prevention, Diagnosis and Cure: Theoretical background (Vol. 1). London: Royal Society of Chemistry.

Taber, K. S. (2002). Chemical Misconceptions - Prevention, Diagnosis and Cure: Classroom resources (Vol. 2). London: Royal Society of Chemistry.


The materials were evaluated as part of an independent review of RSC education resources by an Open University team:

The following comments are taken from the evaluation report (Murphy, Jones & Lunn, 2004).

"Teachers welcomed having access to relevant research evidence in the Chemical Misconceptions product and reported that they selected Misconceptions Volume I to develop their practice and their understanding of students’ learning.

• Teachers were using the activities and guidance across the key stages. A common comment was that the product was a ‘very useful tool’.

• The student resources and guidance for teaching in Volume II were rated exceptionally highly against all criteria. Teachers found the guidance about target level i.e. age and ability very effective in supporting their planning.

• Teachers reported a very high level of success in improving students’ learning across the vast majority of the most frequently used probes in Volume II. The feedback from interviews supported this view.

• Students observed and interviewed had extended their understanding of key concepts about the nature of matter. Where confusions remained this was largely due to the way in which the teacher had used the probe.

• All teachers’ using the Misconceptions texts had altered and extended their view of learning irrespective of their starting point perspectives. This was confirmed in interviews: ‘It really did enlighten me.’ ‘You suddenly realise a bit more about how the children are thinking rather than how we are thinking.’

• Teachers who no longer used the product had incorporated it into their practice and their schemes of work or had moved on and sought out additional research-based material. Non-users who were introduced to the product via the study were keen to make use of it in the future.

• The teachers found the product an effective tool for mentoring student teachers.

• The structure of the probes reflects an embedded pedagogic strategy that is successful. p.9

"A further factor taken into account was national policy initiatives, which had highlighted specific texts for all schools. For example Chemical Misconceptions Volumes I and II featured in the Key Stage 3 science strategy in England as recommended materials." p.17

Murphy, P., Jones, H., & Lunn, S. (2004). The evaluation of RSC materials for schools and colleges: A report. London: The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Writing about external link: Teaching and Learning about Chemistry

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external link: Exploring Conceptual Learning, Integration and Progression in Science Education

Dr Keith S Taber:

University of Cambridge Faculty of Education

external link: Personal Webpages

external link: Faculty staff page

© Keith S Taber