RESEARCH

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Determination of students’ alternative conceptions about chemical equilibrium: a review of research and the case of Turkey
Haluk Özmen
Received 3rd April 2007, Accepted 27th December 2007 DOI: 10.1039/b812411f This study aims to determine prospective science student teachers’ alternative conceptions of the chemical equilibrium concept. A 13-item pencil and paper, two-tier multiple choice diagnostic instrument, the Test to Identify Students’ Alternative Conceptions (TISAC), was developed and administered to 90 second-semester science student teachers enrolled in CHEM 102 Chemistry II course in spring 2006, after they received fourteen 50-minute regular course instruction concerning the equilibrium. The content validity of the test was established by the panel consisting of lecturers. The Spearman-Brown reliability for the test was 0.71. Analysis of the results collected with the TISAC show that students did not acquire a satisfactory understanding of the chemical equilibrium concept. For the first tier of the test items, the range of correct answer was 48.8% to 78.8%. When both tiers were combined, the correct response was reduced to a range of 22.2% to 48.8%. In this study, seventeen alternative conceptions were also identified through analysis of the TISAC. These conceptions were grouped under the headings of the application of Le Chatelier’s principle, reliability of the equilibrium constant, heterogeneous equilibrium, and the effect of a catalyst. Keywords: chemical equilibrium, alternative conceptions, Turkish prospective student teachers levels struggle to learn chemistry, and many do not succeed (Nakhleh, 1992). Research shows that from their first formal exposure to chemistry, many students do not correctly understand fundamental chemical concepts (Gabel et al., 1987). Although there are many concepts with which students have difficulty, chemical equilibrium is considered to be one of the most difficult and important topics in the general chemistry curriculum (Garnett et al, 1995; Quilez-Pardo and Solaz-Portoles, 1995; Solomonidou and Stavridou, 2001), owing to its abstract character and its demand of the mastery of a large number of subordinate concepts (Quilez-Pardo and Solaz-Portoles, 1995), and because of its essential role in developing an understanding of other areas of chemistry such as acid-base behavior, solubility, and oxidation-reduction reactions (Voska and Heikkinen, 2000). Bilgin (2006) stated that chemical equilibrium presents particular opportunities for the development of alternative conceptions. Chemistry teaching is textbook oriented and based on blackboard presentations, and on chemistry problem solving using algorithmic strategies. Students learn the taught rule by heart and they try to apply it without understanding, fixating on the pervasive set of reasoning rule-rote recalling algorithm (Quilez, 2004a). Although these rules sometimes help to answer the questions correctly, various empirical studies concluded that students as well as teachers often use and apply them erroneously (Bucat and Fensham, 1995). Because the examinations are generally based on algorithmic problem solving, students are passing examinations and continuing into higher years of study with little conceptual understanding of basic chemistry concepts. This weak understanding on basic chemistry concepts lead to the development of alternative conceptions at further educational level.
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Introduction
Research has shown that children bring to lessons preexisting conceptions about scientific phenomena and how natural events occur, and ideas that can interfere with students’ learning of correct scientific principles or concepts, and interpret any new information from the viewpoint of these existing ideas and beliefs (Posner et al., 1982; Palmer, 1999). This realization has caused science educators to be increasingly concerned about discovering students’ difficulties prior to, during or after the instruction in conceptualizing scientific knowledge, and suggesting ways of remedying these. A number of terms are used for these ideas constructed in students’ minds, such as alternative conceptions (Gonzalez, 1997), misconceptions (Nakhleh, 1992), alternative frameworks (Gonzalez, 1997; Taber, 2001), conceptual frameworks (Southerland et al., 2001), and spontaneous knowledge (Pines and West, 1986). Taber (2000) and Özmen (2004) have summarized these terms in detailed reviews. Also, Taber (2002) discussed in detail the prevention, diagnosis and cure of students’ misconceptions in chemistry. In this study, for simplicity, the term of alternative conception is used to describe any conceptual difficulties, which are different from or inconsistent with the accepted scientific definitions. It is not surprising that students’ ideas concerning chemical phenomena have become a popular research area, because of the abstract nature of many chemical concepts and the difficulty of the language of chemistry. Many students at all
Karadeniz Technical University, Fatih Faculty of Education, Department of Science Education, 61335 Sögütlü-Trabzon-TURKEY. E-mail: hozmen@ktu.edu.tr

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A review of relevant literature In the chemistry education literature, there have been numerous studies concentrating on determining and classifying students’ understanding related to chemical equilibrium in the past three decades, and they indicate that some students retain many alternative conceptions about this concept (Bergquist and Heikkinen, 1990; Quilez-Pardo and Solaz-Portoles, 1995; Thomas and Schwenz, 1998; Tyson et al, 1999; Voska and Heikkinen, 2000; Solomonidou and Stavridou, 2001; Chiu et al., 2002; Kousathana and Tsaparlis, 2002; Quilez, 2004a, b; Piquette and Heikkinen, 2005; Bilgin, 2006). Although these studies were conducted with subjects of different age levels, similar alternative conceptions were identified. Although there is plenty of information on this in the international literature, there are few studies focused on determining students’ alternative conceptions at all levels on this topic in Turkey, because teaching and learning chemistry, and in general teaching and learning science, is a new research area. Studies related to the determination of alternative conceptions are generally focused on secondary school students; studies involving university students are few. To remedy this, we decided to study Turkish first year university students’ alternative conceptions on chemical equilibrium. In addition to the determination of the alternative conceptions, possible methods to overcome them are discussed in this study.

Table 1 Percentage of each response combination for item 4 on TISAC Choice of first tier a b c 1 17.7 1.1 2.2 2 3.3 3.3 21.1 Reason (%) 3 – 15.5 – 4 32.2* – – Total 53.2 19.9 23.3

Note: Question 4 was: Consider the following reaction that is in a state of equilibrium in a blue solution. CoCl42-(aq) + 6H2O (l) Co(H2O)62+(aq) + 4Cl-(aq) pink blue What will be observed if water is added to this system? (a) *the solution turns pink (b) the solution becomes more blue (c) the solution remains unchanged Reason: (1) to counter the increase in amount of water present the system will form more Co(H2O)62+(aq) (2) liquids are not included in the expression for K and hence the ratio of products to reactants will not be disturbed (3) the forward reaction has a higher mole ratio than the backward (4)* the ratio of concentration of products compared to reactants as expressed by Q will decrease and more Co(H2O)62+(aq) will form *Correct choice and reason.

Method
Subjects The subjects of this study were ninety prospective studentteachers in their first year of a four-year study in the Department of Science Teacher Education. The study was conducted at the end of the second semester in spring 2006. All the students took Chemistry I and Chemistry II courses in two semesters. Each course involved four 50 minutes lectures and two 50 minutes laboratory sessions per week and was compulsory for all undergraduate students in the first and second-semester of the first year, respectively. All the students enrolled on the courses had completed the study of the chemical equilibrium concept, which was discussed in fourteen 50-min lectures in Chemistry II in the second semester. They also took Analytical Chemistry and Organic Chemistry in the third and fourth semesters. There are no chemistry courses in third and fourth years. Therefore, Chemistry II is the last course in which chemical equilibrium is taught. Instrument One of the methods to diagnose alternative conceptions is to develop multiple choice responses to questions based on students’ reasoning, including alternative conceptions. This type of questions is called the two-tier multiple choice question in related literature (Peterson et al., 1989). Such questions allow researchers to determine the reason behind the choice of the students and are readily available to teachers. Accordingly, the Test to Identify Students’

Alternative Conceptions (TISAC) was developed and used to determine students’ alternative conceptions and learning difficulties on the target concept in this study. The TISAC includes 13 two-tier multiple choice questions, as originally used by Peterson et al. (1989). The first tier consisted of a content question in multiple-choice format with three choices. The second tier consisted of four possible reasons for a possible answer to the first part: three erroneous reasons and one correct reason. In developing the process, while some of the questions were taken from the literature (Tyson et al., 1999) and used with minor revisions, some others (Voska and Heikkinen, 2000; Huddle et al., 2000; Piquette and Heikkinen, 2005) were re-designed in accord with the two-tier multiple choice format. The rest of the questions were developed by the researcher. Table 1 offers an example of an item (Tyson et al., 1999) that assesses understanding of the application of Le Chatelier’s principle, as well as the item analysis. Scoring the items An item was scored as correct on the TISAC when both the desired content and reason were selected. Items were evaluated for both correct and incorrect response combinations selected. For example, Table 2 shows response combinations selected by the students in an item dealing with the application of Le Chatelier’s principle. 32.2% of the student teachers selected the desired correct answer combination.

Results and discussion
Table 2 summarizes the characteristics of TISAC, and a copy of the test is presented in Appendix. The reliability of the test was estimated to be 0.71 using the Spearman-Brown formula (Ferguson and Takane, 1989). The difficulty indices ranged from 0.23 to 0.86, providing a wide range of difficulty items.

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Table 2 Characteristics of the Test to Identify Students’ Alternative Conceptions (TISAC) Areas evaluated Approach to equilibrium: items 3, 7 and 8 Application of Le Chatelier’s principle: items 4, 12 and 13. Constancy of the equilibrium constant: items 1, 5 and 11 Heterogeneous equilibrium: items 2 and 9 Effect of a catalyst: items 6 and 10

Table 3 Percentages of content choice and correct combination Items 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 . Table 4 Percentages of students’ alternative conceptions Alternative Conceptions Approach to equilibrium Forward reaction goes to completion before the reverse reaction starts When there are equal concentrations of substances on both sides of an equation, chemical equilibrium has been reached The rate of forward reaction is greater than the reverse reaction rate Equilibrium reactions go on until all the reactants are consumed At equilibrium, no reaction occurs Application of Le Chatelier’s principle Le Chatelier’s principle can be applied in the initial state before the reaction has reached equilibrium When a substance is added to equilibrium mixture, equilibrium will shift to the side of addition When the temperature is changed, whether the reaction is endothermic or exothermic does not affect the direction of the equilibrium shift When the temperature is increased, more products form Constancy of the equilibrium constant An increase in temperature always increases the numerical value of Keq Equilibrium constant, Keq, will increase with increasing temperature in an exothermic reaction When more products are added to an equilibrium system at constant temperature, Keq will increase The numerical value of Keq changes with amounts present of reactants or products Heterogeneous equilibrium Le Chatelier’s principle can be applied in all systems, including heterogeneous equilibrium systems Increasing the amount of a solid ionic substance that is at equilibrium causes more dissolved ions to be produced % of students 32.2 23.3 26.6 42.2 45.5 13.3 12.2 17.7 23.3 17.7 12.2 37.7 11.1 16.6 22.2 Content Choice 58.8 75.5 54.4 53.2 56.6 62.2 76.6 56.6 78.8 73.3 48.8 55.5 61.1 Combination 32.2 47.7 23.3 32.2 34.4 26.6 45.5 24.4 48.8 36.6 22.2 27.7 46.6

Number of 13 items Response Two-tier multiple-choice format First tier: content knowledge Second tier: reason for the content response Time to 25 to 35 minutes complete test Discrimination Mean range (items) indices 0.48 0.30-0.39 (3) 0.40-0.49 (5) 0.50-0.59 (2) 0.60-0.69 (2 0.70-0.79 (1) Difficulty Mean range (items) indices 0.45 0.20-0.29 (2) 0.30-0.39 (2) 0.40-0.49 (4) 0.50-0.59 (2) 0.60-0.69 (1) 0.70-0.79 (1) 0.80-0.89 (1) Spearman0.71 Brown

The discrimination indices ranged from 0.32 to 0.76. A value of 0.30 was established as a minimum, and those greater than 0.30 were considered acceptable without the need for further revision of the test items (Peterson et al., 1989). The content validity of the test was established by a commission consisting of a professor and three assistant professors in chemistry education, and also five lecturers who teach chemistry in a different department of the university. Analysis of the results collected with the TISAC show that students did not acquire a satisfactory understanding of the chemical equilibrium concept. For the first tier of the test items, the range of correct answer was 48.8% to 78.8% (Table 3). When both tiers were combined, the correct response was reduced to a range of 22.2% to 48.8%. As seen in Table 3, the percentages of correct responses to the first parts of the questions (content choice) are generally above 50%. Unfortunately, it is not possible to say same thing for the correct answer combination. By referencing Gilbert (1977), Odom and Barrow (1995) stated that if a multiplechoice item has four to five distractors, understanding is considered satisfactory if 75% of the students answer the item correctly. With a two-tier item with two selections on the first tier and four selections on the second one, there is 8.3 % chance of guessing the correct answer combination. Because none of the student teachers scored above 75% on the correct answer combination (Table 3), the results of the study suggest that student teachers did not acquire a satisfactory understanding of the chemical equilibrium concept. t

Seventeen alternative conceptions were identified through analysis of items on the TISAC. These were grouped under the headings: the application of Le Chatelier’s principle, constancy of the equilibrium constant, heterogeneous equilibrium, and effect of a catalyst. Table 4 shows the proportions of the students showing them. Chemical equilibrium is a difficult concept in which students in all levels have alternative conceptions. Here, students’ alternative conceptions are grouped under five categories and discussed below in detail.

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Approach to equilibrium In this research, 32.2% of students believed that forward reaction goes to completion before the reverse one starts, 26.6% of them believed that the rate of forward reaction is greater than the reverse reaction rate before and after the equilibrium, which may be true until the equilibrium is established but it is not true at equilibrium. 42.2% of them believed that equilibrium reactions go on until all the reactants run out, and 45.5% of them believed that no reaction occurs at equilibrium (see Table 4). Similar alternative conceptions were reported by Wheeler and Kass (1978), Hackling and Garnett (1985), Banerjee (1991), and Griffiths (1994). As time passes, reactants are being turned into products and product is being turned into reactants at the same rate (Russo and Silver, 2006). Based on this knowledge, we conclude that the idea that the rate of forward reaction is always greater than the reverse reaction, including at equilibrium, which is held by 26.6% of the students, is an alternative conception. In the literature, Hackling and Garnett (1985) reported a similar finding. Similarly, Niaz (1995) reported an alternative conception that after the reaction has started, the rate of forward reaction increases with time and that of the reverse reaction decreases, until equilibrium is reached. These findings show that students do not have an appropriate understanding about the equality of the rate of forward and reverse reactions at equilibrium. Another alternative conception is that when there are equal concentrations of substances on both sides of an equation, chemical equilibrium has been reached which is held by 23.3% of the participants. These students think that concentrations of reactants and products become equal at equilibrium. Hackling and Garnett (1985) and Huddle and Pillay (1996) reported a similar alternative conception. This idea may result from the explanation of equilibrium state when, while explaining the equilibrium, we say that when the rates of forward and reverse reactions become equal, dynamic equilibrium is established, and there are no further changes in concentrations (Russo and Silver, 2006). Probably students interpret this statement that the concentration of reactants and products become equal at equilibrium. As a result, the concentrations themselves may vary, but the ratios between the concentrations in a given situation do not. Application of Le Chatelier’s principle One of the alternative conceptions determined in this study is that Le Chatelier’s principle can be applied in the initial state before the reaction has reached equilibrium which is held by 13.3% of the participants. In the literature, Solomonidou and Stavridou (2001) reported a similar alternative conception. They stated that students made overextended use of the Le Chatelier’s law, as they applied it in predicting the evolution of a system of initial substances before the system had reached chemical equilibrium. However, this principle is only used when the system is at equilibrium. With this point, another alternative conception of the students is that when a substance is added to an equilibrium mixture, the equilibrium will shift to the side of addition, which is held by 12.2% of them. Moving from the Le Chatelier’s principle, we can say
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that if we introduce more of one reactant, the reaction will proceed to the right side that consumes this reactant, and vice versa. This shows the erroneousness of the students’ ideas. Another way to disturb equilibrium is to change the temperature, and we can use Le Chatelier’s principle to predict the direction of the shift. Two alternative conceptions related to the effects of temperature change on a system at equilibrium were determined. One of them is that when the temperature is changed, whether the reaction is endothermic or exothermic does not affect the direction of the equilibrium shift, which is held by 17.7% of the student teachers, and the other is that when the temperature is increased, more products form, which is held by 23.3% of the participant. Voska and Heikkinen (2000) reported a similar alternative conception that when the temperature is changed, the direction of an equilibrium shift can be predicted without knowing whether the reaction is endothermic or exothermic. Constancy of the equilibrium constant Although students think that the numerical value of Keq changes with amounts of reactants or products present, which is held by 11.1% of them, we know that the numerical value of the equilibrium constant for a reaction is the same for all of the infinite number of equilibrium positions as long as the temperature does not change. These students also think that the numerical value of equilibrium constant depends on the concentrations and changes with the amounts of reactants or products present. Students also think that when more products are added to an equilibrium system at constant temperature, Keq will increase, which is held by 37.7% of them. Voska and Heikkinen (2000) reported a similar alternative conception. Three alternative conceptions were determined related to the effect of temperature change on equilibrium conditions and equilibrium constant. These are; an increase in temperature always increases the numerical value of Keq, which is held by 17.7%, equilibrium constant and equilibrium constant, Keq, will increase with increasing temperature in an exothermic reaction, which is held by 12.2% of the student teachers. Similar alternative conceptions reported in the related literature (Hackling and Garnett, 1985; Voska and Heikkinen, 2000). Heterogeneous equilibrium Item 9 in TISAC was about the effect to the position of the equilibrium and equilibrium constant of adding excess of a solid reactant to a system at equilibrium. The CaCO3-CaOCO2 system is typical of heterogeneous equilibria. In this item, students were asked about the effects of adding more CaCO3 and CaO separately to the closed container at equilibrium. Related to the two additions, two alternative conceptions were identified. Firstly, 16.6% of the participants believe that Le Chatelier’s principle can be applied in all systems, including heterogeneous equilibrium systems. These students applied Le Chatelier’s principle in both additions, and arrived at the wrong conclusions. This alternative conception has been reported in the literature (Wheeler and Kass, 1978; Gorodetsky and Gussarsky, 1986; Banerjee, 1991; Kousathana and Tsaparlis, 2002). Secondly, 22.2% of the

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students believed that increasing the amount of a solid ionic substance that is at equilibrium causes more dissolved ions to be produced. However, we know that adding or removing a solid to the system at equilibrium does not change the equilibrium state if the solid is present originally when the system is in the equilibrium state (Umland, 1993). Effect of a catalyst Two similar alternative conceptions were identified in this research. One of this is that a catalyst affects the rates of the forward and reverse reactions differently, which is held by 22.2% of the participants, and the other is that a catalyst speeds up only the forward reaction, which is held by 17.7% of them. Similar alternative conceptions have been reported previously (Hackling and Garnett, 1985; Gorodetsky and Gussarsky, 1986; Voska and Heikkinen, 2000). Existence of these alternative conceptions reflects incomplete understanding by students of the existence of a common reaction pathway and transition state for the forward and reverse reactions.

Conclusion and implications for teaching
The study of the students’ answer to the test items revealed that only a minority of them (22.2% to 48.8%) had satisfactory conceptions and understanding about the chemical equilibrium concept (see Table 3). Results show that students had difficulties in representing and conceiving the dynamic nature of chemical phenomena, and especially those involving chemical equilibrium situations. A similar result has been reported by Solomonidou and Stavridou (2001). According to research data, participants have various alternative conceptions ranging from 11.1% to 45.5%. A majority of them had inappropriate understanding of the approach to equilibrium, and they manifested serious difficulties in conceiving the shift of equilibrium and the constancy of the equilibrium constant, and they misapplied Le Chatelier’s principle to explain the effects of temperature, concentration, and catalyst. Although students took several chemistry courses during their previous schooling in order to learn various science concepts, including chemical equilibrium, the presence of alternative conceptions in their explanations indicates their fragmented understanding of these abstract concepts. Research findings provide evidence that misunderstandings of the concepts related to chemical equilibrium are widespread at various levels of education, including among prospective chemistry teachers (Pedrosa and Dias, 2000). What should we do to make teaching more effective and to remediate alternative conceptions? One of the most fruitful outcomes of the studies on students’ alternative conceptions is to alert teachers to students’ difficulties in conceptualizing science knowledge, and hence suggest more effective strategies for improving classroom instruction. Before teaching a concept such as chemical equilibrium, for example, the teachers should be able to check the literature to find out what is known about alternative conceptions that students may bring to class, and which
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teaching methods are the best in correcting them. Once a student’s particular alternative conceptions are identified, the teacher can help her/him to achieve an understanding of the scientifically accepted concept (Piquette and Heikkinen, 2005). Because there are several alternative conceptions determined in the literature related to chemical equilibrium, alternative conceptions identified in this study may be less important for an international audience than for a Turkish audience. But, as stated by Quilez-Pardo and Solaz-Portoles (1995), although there are many alternative conceptions determined and known, research results have little effect on the actual classroom practice, and many chemistry teachers continue to teach their subjects as if none of these researches had been undertaken and, as a result of this, there is a gap between research and teaching. The key problem is that teachers expect research to be presented to them in a form they can readily apply because they are too busy doing their job to read the research literature (De Jong, 2000). For this reason, to explore and use research findings to improve chemistry learning, it is important to develop diagnostic instruments as well as improving curricular resources and teaching approaches. Studies indicate that students experience difficulty in understanding the submicroscopic and symbolic representations because these representations are abstract and can not be experienced (Griffiths and Preston, 1992; Chandrasegaran et al., 2007). Students often are not able to translate one given representation into another because of their limited conceptual knowledge and poor visual-spatial ability (Keig and Rubba, 1993). For example, traditional teaching methods cannot supply to student the adequate representations of systems of substances at equilibrium related to empirical and the atomic level, manifested serious difficulties in conceiving the initial situation of a system at chemical equilibrium and the equilibrium shift. For improved conceptual understanding, it is important to help students see the connections between the submicroscopic, symbolic and macroscopic representations (Gabel, 1999). The goal of most science education researchers is to help students to learn science subjects in the most appropriate way (Bilgin and Geban, 2006). There are a few convenient ways of this when describing and explaining chemical phenomena, especially chemical equilibrium. Computer-assisted instruction, simulations, conceptual change strategies, analogy, laboratory activities, and etc. are among these (Dagher, 1994; Chambers and Andre, 1997; Huddle et al., 2000; Özmen, in press). One of the most important of them is computer-assisted instruction. Computer software may contain simulations and visualizations of experiments representing systems at chemical equilibrium, and simulations of chemical reactions related to atomic and symbolic levels. These simplify visualization of the abstract concepts by the students. Özmen (2008) suggests that teaching-learning of topics in chemistry can be improved by the use of computer-assisted instruction. Huddle et al. (2000) reported that brighter students benefited greatly from the equilibrium games, in which computer software addresses most of the major known

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alternative conceptions in chemical equilibrium, and includes simulations. Computers may simplify doing experiments related to chemical equilibrium and students may understand abstract concepts such a way. In addition, the effects of the different factors on equilibrium may be seen by doing experiments and applications in a virtual environment. Since most of the computer software is interactive, this creates necessary opportunities for the students in terms of ‘doing and learning’. Teachers can help students eliminate their alternative conceptions by providing an adequate knowledge base and clear understanding of these concepts by this way. Another way of effective teaching is conceptual change strategies. Conceptual change texts are one of the conceptual change strategies and are used for changing students’ alternative conceptions, and focus on strategies to promote conceptual change by challenging students’ alternative conceptions, producing dissatisfaction, followed by a correct explanation which is both understandable and plausible to the students. In the literature, many studies in science education relate to conceptual change text, including chemistry concepts such as acids and bases, electrochemistry, solutions (Wang and Andre, 1991; Yürük and Geban, 2001; Cakir et al., 2002; Calik et al., 2007) and emphasize their effectiveness. Although there are no studies that focus specifically on the investigation of the effect of conceptual change texts on students’ understanding of chemical equilibrium, personal experience of the author in general chemistry lessons shows that conceptual change texts may be very effective in the teaching of such concepts. Preliminary observations, experience and unpublished studies of the author confirm this idea. Therefore, conceptual change texts, especially focused on students’ alternative conceptions in chemical equilibrium, should be developed and used in teaching these concepts. Literature states that such texts are apparently particularly effective in group-learning situations (Guzzetti et al., 1997). And also, Bilgin and Geban (2006) reported the positive effect of a cooperative learning approach based on conceptual change condition on students’ understanding of chemical equilibrium concepts. The amalgamation of the conceptual change texts and cooperative group learning may be an alternative way for effective teaching of chemical equilibrium concepts. Laboratory activity is another teaching way used in science teaching. The literature suggests that students enjoy laboratory work because it is more active, something they find more motivating (Hart et al., 2000) and students have a chance to engage in hands-on activities. Both science and non-science majors are reported to find laboratory-based activities to be motivating and exciting (Markow and Lonning, 1998). There have been many studies reporting on the effectiveness of the laboratory instruction (Hart et al., 2000; Özmen et al. in press), and many authors believe that laboratory work helps to promote conceptual change. Therefore, laboratory activities should also be used to teach some abstract concepts related to chemical equilibrium. For example, the experiment of chromate/dichromate equilibrium may be used to teach the application of the Le Chatelier’s principle.

Finally, future researchers in collaboration with teachers and curriculum developers should develop new teaching materials about the chemical equilibrium and implement them in classrooms in an experimental setting, so that they may better understand the effects of different teaching techniques and materials on alternative conceptions. Although the related literature indicates that there is resistance to changing existing conceptions in children’s mind, we cannot sit back and wait for the misconceptions to be turned into the scientific concepts without any effort.

Appendix
Items used in TISAC:
1. The following hypothetical reaction reaches equilibrium at 25ºC: C (g) + D (g) . Once equilibrium has been reached, the A(g) + B (g) concentration of C is increased by the addition of more C. Assume that the temperature remains constant. Which of the following can be said about the numerical value of the equilibrium constant? (a) decreases (b) increases (c) *remains unchanged Reason (1) the rate of reverse reaction increases and the rate of the forward reaction decreases (2) the rate of reverse reaction increases and the rate of forward reaction stays the same (3) *the ratio between products’ concentrations and reactants’ concentrations is constant at constant temperature (4) the concentration of the products has been increased 2. Limestone decomposes to form quicklime and carbon dioxide as CaO (s) + CO2 (g). What can we say about any follow: CaCO3 (s) equilibrium shift after removing some solid CaCO3 from the equilibrium mixture? (a) shift to the reactants’ side (b) *will not shift the equilibrium (c) will not be predictable Reason (1) the amount of CaCO3 is increased in the system and a new equilibrium is established (2) *because CaCO3 is solid, removing it does not affect the equilibrium (3) CO2 and CaO react to form more CaCO3 according to Le Chatelier’s principle (4) the amount of solid CaCO3 removed is not known 3. Carbon monoxide and hydrogen react according to the following CH4 (g) + H2O (g) When 0.02 M CO and equation. CO (g) + 3H2 (g) 0.03 M H2 are introduced into a vessel at 800 K and allowed to come to equilibrium, what can we say about the rate of reverse and forward reactions at equilibrium? (a) *the rates are equal (b) forward reaction rate is greater than the reverse one (c) reverse reaction rate is greater than the forward one Reason (1) forward reaction goes to completion before the reverse reaction starts (2) *the rates of the forward and reverse reactions are equal when the system reaches equilibrium (3) as time passes, the concentrations of products increase (4) at the beginning, the concentrations of the reactants are greater than the concentrations of products 4. Consider the following reversible reaction that is in a state of equilibrium in a blue solution. CoCl42- (aq) + 6H2O (l) Co(H2O)62+ (aq) + 4Cl- (aq) pink blue What will be observed if water is added to this system? (a) *the solution turns pink (b) the solution becomes more blue (c) the solution remains unchanged Reason

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to counter the increase in the amount of water present the system will form more Co(H2O)62+(aq) (2) liquids are not included in the expression for K and hence the ratio of products to reactants will not be disturbed (3) the forward reaction has a higher mole ratio than the backward (4) * the ratio of concentration of products compared to reactants as expressed by Q will decrease and more Co(H2O)62+(aq) will form 5. In the first step of the Ostwald process for the synthesis of nitric acid, ammonia is oxidized to nitric oxide by the reaction: 4NH3 (g) + 5O2 (g) 4NO (g) + 6H2O (g) , ∆H = - 905.6 kJ/mole. How does the equilibrium constant vary with an increase in temperature? (a) increases (b) *decreases (c) remains the same Reason (1) an increase in temperature always increases the numerical value of Keq (2) because the reaction is exothermic, the concentration of product increases (3) *the equilibrium will shift to the left with an increase in temperature (4) whether the reaction is endothermic or exothermic does not affect the Keq 6. Sulphur dioxide and oxygen react to form sulphur trioxide in the 2SO3 (g). ∆H = - 197.78 following reaction: 2SO2 (g) + O2 (g) kJ/mole. What can we say about the forward reaction rate compared with the reverse reaction rate if a catalyst is added to system? (a) higher (d) lower *(c) the same Reason (1) a catalyst increases the collisions between reactants’ particles and produces more product (2) *a catalyst lowers the activation energy for the forward and reverse reactions by exactly the same amount (3) a catalyst affects the rates of the forward and reverse reactions differently (4) because more products are produced, the reverse one speeds up 7. The equilibrium between sulphur dioxide gas, oxygen gas and sulphur trioxide gas is as follows: 2SO3 (g) . If the reaction starts with the 2SO2 (g) + O2 (g) concentration of 0.02 M SO2, 0.01 M O2 and 0.00 M SO3, and reaches equilibrium at a constant temperature, what can we say about the equilibrium concentrations of SO2 gas and O2 gas? (a) *decrease (b) become zero (c) remain unchanged Reason (1) equilibrium reactions go on until all of the reactants run out (2) concentrations are constant because no reaction occurs at equilibrium (3) *as time passes, SO2 and O2 reactants are consumed, decreasing their concentrations (4) this system does not reach equilibrium because there is no SO3 at the beginning 8. Suppose that 0.30 mol PCI5 is placed in a reaction vessel of volume 1000 mL and allowed to reach equilibrium with its decomposition products: phosphorus trichloride and chlorine at 250ºC, when K eq= 1.8 PCI3(g) + CI2(g) . What can we say about the for PCI5 (g) concentration of the PCI3 gas and CI2 gas at equilibrium? (a) higher than 0.30 M (b) *lower than 0.30 M (c) equals to 0.30 M Reason (1) concentrations of all species in the reaction mixture are equal at equilibrium (2) all the phosphorus pentachloride turns into the products (3) *phosphorus pentachloride decomposes to an extent less than 100% to produce phosphorus trichloride and chlorine (4) because the total moles of the products is higher than the reactants’ ones 9. Calcium carbonate decomposes to form calcium oxide and carbon CaO(s) + CO2 (g) dioxide according to the equation: CaCO3 (s) + heat After the system reaches equilibrium in a closed container, extra solid CaCO3 is added to the equilibrium mixture. What will happen to the concentration of carbon dioxide after addition? (a) increases (b) decreases (c) *remains unchanged Reason (1) increasing the amount of CaCO3 (s) that is at equilibrium causes more dissolved ions to be produced.

(1)

because CaCO3 (s) is added to the reactants’ side, equilibrium will shift the products’ side (3) because CaCO3 (s) is added to reactants’ side, equilibrium will shift the reactants’ side (4) *the concentrations of pure solids, that is, the quantities in a given volume or densities, are constant 10. Carbon monoxide reacts with oxygen to form carbon dioxide in accordance with following reaction. 2CO2 (g), ∆H = - 566 kJ/mole. Suppose that you 2CO (g) + O2 (g) have a reaction vessel containing an equilibrium mixture of [CO] = 0.30 M, [O2] = 0.20 M and [CO2] = 0.25 M. What will happen to the concentration of CO2 if a catalyst is added to the equilibrium mixture? (a) will be higher than 0.25 (b) will be lower than 0.25 *(c) will be equal to 0.25 Reason (1) a catalyst speeds up the forward reaction, increases the collision between reactants’ particles and produces more product (2) both the amounts of reactants and the amounts of products increase (3) * a catalyst has no effect on the equilibrium composition of a reaction mixture (4) because a catalyst lowers the activation energy, more reactants turn into the product 11. Consider the gaseous reaction of hydrogen with iodine; 2HI (g) . Suppose that we have a mixture of H2 (g) and I2 H2 (g) + I2 (g) (g) at 700 K with the initial concentrations [H2] = 0.1 M and [I2] = 0.2 M. When the system reaches equilibrium, the numerical value of equilibrium constant equals, K eq = 57.0. If the initial concentration is 0.3 M H2 and 0. 3 M I2, what would say the numerical value of Keq when the system reaches equilibrium? (a) increases (b) decreases (c) *remains the same Reason (1) an increase in the concentrations of the reactants increases the concentrations of the products (2) *the numerical value of K eq does not depend on the initial concentrations of the reactants (3) the numerical value of K eq changes with amounts present of reactants (4) because more product will form, the numerical value of K eq changes with the same ratio 12. If you have a 0.5 M solution of sodium dichromate (Na2Cr2O7) in which the following equilibrium is established Cr2O72— (aq) + H2O(l) 2CrO42— (aq) + 2H+ (aq) yellow orange and you add 10 mL of 0.5 M solution of sodium dichromate to the original solution what would you observe? (a) the solution becomes yellow (b) the solution becomes deeper orange (c) *the solution remains unchanged Reason (1) to counteract the increased amount of Cr2O72— (aq) the system will form more CrO42— (aq) (2) there will be more collisions between particles of Cr2O72— (aq) and H2O(l) (3) *there is no change in the concentration of any species (4) because of increase in Cr2O72—, Q will be greater than Keq 13. Consider the following reversible reaction that is in a state of equilibrium. N2 (g)+3H2 (g) 2NH3 (g) , ∆H = - 92.4 kJ/mole (2) If the temperature of the system is increased, the equilibrium position will (a) *shift to the left (b) shift to the right (c) remain unchanged Reason (1) when the temperature is increased, more products form (2) *if the temperature is increased, more reactants are formed (3) when the temperature is changed, whether the reaction is endothermic or exothermic does not affect the direction of the equilibrium shift (4) temperature changes do not affect the system that is at equilibrium.

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