Student’s Misconceptions on Chemical Bonding: A Comparative Study between High School and First Year University Students

José R Ballester Pérez, María E Ballester Pérez, María L Calatayud, Rosa M Garcia-Lopera, José V Sabater Montesinos, Elvira Trilles Gil


The aim of this paper is to investigate the students' understanding about some aspects of the chemical bond and to determine their related misconceptions. Concretely, topics such as the interpretation of some properties of substances (colour, boiling points, solubility and conductivity), intra and intermolecular forces, hydrogen bonding, covalent and molecular networks, geometry and polarity of molecules, are investigated. The research methodology used has been a questionnaire consisting on 15 multiple choice questions as a diagnostic tool. The questionnaire was applied to 79 high school students (17-18 years old) from six different secondary schools in Valencia (Spain) and 99 first-year undergraduate students of Chemistry and Pharmacy degrees at the University of Valencia (19-20 years old). In the light of the obtained results, the main misconceptions observed are: to attribute macroscopic properties to particles; incorrect prediction of boiling points; to perceive ionic compounds as being formed by molecules; misunderstanding the nature of the hydrogen bond and assuming that it is established in any molecule containing hydrogen together with nitrogen, oxygen or fluorine, regardless if the hydrogen atom is directly bonded to these atoms or not; confusing the geometry of a molecule with its distribution of electron pairs around the central atom; and, finally, a wrong prediction of the polarity of molecules. Suggestions that could be accommodated in normal classrooms, are made in order to improve learning.


misconceptions, chemical bonding, secondary school, undergraduate level

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