Atomic theory, or the nature of matter, is a principal concept in science and science education. However, students often have great difficulty understanding this concept and the many subsequent alternative models that follow it.
This study explores the troublesome nature of this fundamental scientific concept to better understand students' difficulty in learning atomic structure.
We chose three high-achieving students from an original interview sample of 20 students who were selected from an introductory college chemistry course and compared pre- and post-course interview responses.
Our findings suggest atomic structure as a possible threshold concept for further study in science.
Park, E-J., & Light, G. (2009). Identifying atomic structure as a threshold concept: Student mental models and troublesomeness. International Journal of Science Education, 31(2), 233-258. See publisher’s website.