The answers given by the X group in the post-test and during interviews showed a dramatic revision of their existing ideas, which provides evidence of their strong conceptual change. Furthermore, the subjects in the X group who experienced stronger conceptual change were less likely to demonstrate misconceptions in the post-test than their counterparts in the Y group.
This study also found at least three specific misconceptions demonstrated by the subjects from both the X and Y group, which can be added to the list of students’ misconceptions documented in the literature. These misconceptions were found written by the students in the pre-test and post-test and detected during the interview sessions. These misconceptions were (a) a reducing agent is only in atomic form (b) there are positive atoms and negative atoms, and (c) in electrochemical cells, the cathode is always a negative electrode and the anode is always a positive electrode.
Another common misconception held by the subjects was that they believed the salt bridge supplied electrons which flowed through electrolyte solutions as electrical current in order to complete the galvanic cell’s electrical circuit. The answer to the purpose of a salt bridge, ‘in order to complete the circuit’, was probably repeated from similar statements found in most general chemistry textbooks.
The research process demonstrated that factual knowledge such as definition of terminologies can be remembered and understood easily by the students in X and Y. Some misconceptions about simple concepts can also be restructured and resolved through both instructional approaches. In other words, it seems adequate for the factual knowledge to be intelligible in order to facilitate weak conceptual change, regardless of the method of instruction. For example, by just memorizing the facts, the subjects might have been able to give a correct definition of electrolyte.
The findings showed that the subjects in both groups had little difficulty in answering factual questions. The interviews, however, revealed that even after instruction, some students possessed misconceptions of some difficult concepts. This was more evident in the Y group in relation to answering post-test questions concerning (a) the determination of the cathode and the anode of galvanic cell, (b) the prediction of reactions occurring in the electrolytic cell which used concentrated solution or reactive electrodes and (c) the explanation of the function of the salt bridge. A comment on why these misconceptions were less amongst the X group point to the greater efficacy of the teaching approach used with these students, which will be explained in the next section.
The overall findings show positive results for the effectiveness of X to enhance students’ conceptual change of electrochemistry. These findings revealed substantial support for the hypothesis of the study that X was significantly better as an instructional strategy to enhance conceptual change compared to Y. Therefore, engaging students in constructivist instructional activities and presenting explicit sequences of animations does seem effective in significantly improving students’ conceptual change.
This study has found that through X, which shows step-wise sequences of diagrams to illustrate complex, abstract and dynamic concepts of electrochemistry led to better conceptual change than through Y. Most importantly, the study revealed that complex, abstract and dynamic concepts need more than just the conventional instructional method to ensure correct understanding and accurate conceptual grasp. The analysis of the post-test answers and the interview transcripts revealed that the subjects in the X group held more correct and complete electrochemistry concepts compared to the Y group. The correctness and completeness of the answers demonstrated by the subjects in the X group strengthen the claim that they experienced stronger conceptual change. Furthermore, clear and precise step-by-step constructivist animation is useful for students with less existing knowledge to conceptualize difficult information. Such animation would also be useful in promoting quality argument during collective discussion.
This is because animation has the ability to clarify difficult and abstract concepts in a more convincing way without complicated explanation. Therefore, it can be suggested that collective discussion, and the use of well-designed constructivist animations, as instructional intervention, as experienced by the X group, seem to provide scaffolds, which enhanced the subjects’ conceptual change.
The study also revealed that students who received instruction using static illustrations written on transparencies were generally successful at answering the post-test and probing questions at surface understanding. They seemed to answer using over-generalized statements such as ‘the purpose of salt bridge is to complete the circuit’, and ‘electrons can flow through electrolyte.’ They used these statements to justify their answer without understanding the basis of the concepts or apply the concepts to inappropriate situations.
The perception of students towards X, as evidenced by their general comments, was also positive. Overall responses to the open-ended questionnaire revealed that animation was accepted as a more plausible, intelligible and fruitful teaching and learning method. The X group agreed that they could easily understand the concepts shown to them through animations and was much easier for them to make sense of the concepts. In this case, concepts are considered intelligible to students in the X group when they can explain the concepts in their own words. Findings also suggested that X has an advantage over Y as a more fruitful presentation, which encourages the solving of problems in a variety of new situations and conditions.
Responses from the open-ended questionnaire revealed that one of the important features of the animations was their ability to systematically portray complex, abstract and dynamic concepts of molecular processes. It is worth mentioning that animations could serve as an alternative replacement to static illustrations printed on transparencies (or drawn on the whiteboard) as practiced in conventional instruction.
Although the effect of X was only analyzed from the comparison of the pre-test and post-test and from the probing interview questions, the findings demonstrated that the X group outperformed the Y group, thus supporting a major hypothesis for this study: X enhances students’ conceptual change in electrochemistry.
In conclusion, the findings support the movement from direct transmission approach to teaching and learning to constructivist approach as proposed in the conceptual frramework of this study. This study has proved that constructivist can be implemented through different techniques; one of these is through X, which is practically designed for science teachers to implement constructivist activities of teaching and learning both from cognitive and social perspectives. X can be implemented at all levels of education, effective in engaging students in active learning environment, in small or big classrooms.
No one is absolutely sure how computer-mediated instruction will drive the future direction of science education. A consensual view from such research is that user-friendly computer technologies will gradually replace or at least complement the conventional direct transmission approaches, especially to cater to groups of students with diverse backgrounds, motivations, interests and learning styles.
Although the study has brought attention to the advantages of using animation in teaching scientific concepts, it should be noted that further research with longer instructional time and larger samples are recommended in order to explore possible strengthening findings. In addition, more topics in chemistry should also be covered. The implementation of computer animations across different science disciplines such as Physics and Biology would allow broader comment spanning different science domains.
In addition to the conceptual change approach used in this study, there are many other approaches of constructivist teaching in the area of science education such as cooperative learning, problem solving, group discussions, hands-on activities, concept mapping and problem-based approaches which can be integrated with computer technologies. This study has shown that combining clear and precise step-by-step constructivist animation with collective discussion has led to better conceptual change than through the conventional instruction. It is believed that other approaches of constructivist teaching in the area of science education can also be implemented in well-designed computer-mediated teaching activities.
Even though this study found the use of animation and collective discussion promising as part of constructivist instruction, X, like other constructivist computer-mediated instruction, places specific requirements on teachers. On this basis, the potential of the computer as a constructivist instructional tool is unlikely to be fully utilized unless the science educators, when planning their lessons ensure that they:
1. represent subject contents that promote active knowledge construction;
2. structure teaching activities that probe students’ current ideas;
3. structure teaching activities that allow them to examine their own ideas;
4. organize teaching activities that challenge students’ understandings and resolve misconceptions;
5. create teaching activities that engage students on their current interests; and
6. encourage students’ involvement in classroom discussion.
Therefore, future study is needed to examine the extent to which these strategies might be integrated and manipulated in computer-mediated instruction in order to enhance not only students’ conceptual understanding but also their ability in other science process skills such as problem solving, scientific thinking, and critical thinking skills. More study is needed to determine the way of integrating and implementing such strategies in conventional classrooms and how they can cross subject discipline boundaries.