Determining Students’ Conceptual Understanding Level of Thermodynamics

Hakan Saricayir, Selahattin Ay, Arif Comek, Gokhan Cansiz, Musa Uce


Science students find heat, temperature, enthalpy and energy in chemical reactions to be some of the most difficult subjects. It is crucial to define their conceptual understanding level in these subjects so that educators can build upon this knowledge and introduce new thermodynamics concepts. This paper reports conceptual understanding levels of high school students of common thermodynamics subjects such as heat, temperature, enthalpy and energy changes in chemical reactions. The sample of the study was composed of 418 randomly selected students from 11 different high schools. A cross sectional survey model was employed in this study. Data were collected through the Conceptual Understanding Test (CUT), which consists of 16 questions. Cronbach's alpha reliability coefficient for the test was 0.72. Besides, interviews were conducted with 10 students to get qualitative data about their beliefs on the subject. The results of the study indicated that students’ level of conceptual understanding in thermodynamics concepts is very low. It was observed to be especially low for the concepts of (1) relationship between energy, enthalpy and bonds in chemical reactions, (2) energy and catalysts in chemical reactions, (3) changes in heat, temperature and enthalpy during change of state, and (4) the relationship between heat, temperature, mass and specific heat. Most of the students in this study do not fully understand common thermodynamics concepts although they have been studying these topics since primary school.

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Journal of Education and Training Studies  ISSN 2324-805X (Print)   ISSN 2324-8068 (Online)

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