We are unable to create an online viewer for this document. Please download the document instead.
Transversal Approach to Intrinsic Motivation for Learning
Chemistry on Three Conceptual Levels
Iztok Devetak, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Education, Kardeljeva pl. 16, Ljubljana
Saša A. Glažar University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Education, Kardeljeva pl. 16, Ljubljana
Katarina Senta Wissiak Grm, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Natural Sciences and
Engineering, Vegova 4, Ljubljana
Mojca Juriševi?, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Education, Kardeljeva pl. 16, Ljubljana
The purpose of this study was to determine the nature of students’ intrinsic motivation for learning chemistry on
three levels of chemical concepts. All together 722 students, aged from 13.4 to 18.5 years, participated in the
study. The intrinsic motivation was measured with the questionnaire “Intrinsic Motivation for Learning
Science”. Results show that the highest level of motivation for the macro level can be detected on all levels of
education. The lowest level of intrinsic motivation was found to be for learning the symbolic level of chemical
concepts. It can be concluded that secondary school students show the lowest intrinsic motivation for learning
chemistry on all levels compared to primary or university students. It can be revealed that students on all levels
like the most experimental work, but they show little interest in explanations of the phenomena on the particulate
level and an even lower level for writing it down using symbolic chemical language. Given the results, teachers,
especially in secondary schools, should be encouraged to approach the subject in a manner that seems more
likely to engage students, capturing and igniting their motivation before they are reduced to merely learning by
rote, without dynamic interest in the topic.
Background, Aims and Framework Abstract
The complexity of chemistry teaching and learning has its source in the complexity of
chemistry itself (Williamson & Abraham, 1995; Gabel, 1998). The in depth learning and
understanding of chemistry concepts is presented by the ITLS model (Devetak, 2005;
Juriševi? et al., in press) that connects macroscopic, submicroscopic and symbolic levels of
the concepts in constructing an adequate students’ mental model with visualization material
assistance. For sufficient understanding of science phenomena, teachers and students must be
able to achieve and demonstrate the transfers between the phenomenon, its microscopic world
and its symbolic representations (Johnstone, 1993; Staver & Lumpe, 1995). Many chemistry
courses concentrate only on the symbolic level of chemistry teaching, neglecting the other
two (Lee, 1999). Because of this, students think that chemistry is just a science of symbols of
elements and formulae of compounds and chemical equations; but they do not understand its
particulate nature nor do they picture the dynamic processes, which decreases intrinsic
motivation for learning the subject. Some authors emphasise that submicro-representations
are useful for a proper understanding of concepts (Pickering, 1990; Smith & Metz, 1996).
Analogues and physical models facilitate the reconstruction of mental models in students’
long-term memory. The two-dimensional drawings and three-dimensional models used to
teach the submicroscopic world of matter might be considered to be analogues of actual atoms
and molecules (Gabel, 1998). One step forward is using computer submicro-representations
and other video technology to animate reactions and to demonstrate particle behaviour during
the physical or chemical change (Williamson & Abraham, 1995; Sanger et al., 2000).
Using analogues has a motivational effect on the students (Theile, Treagust, 1994), although
these methods have certain limitations in effecting conceptual change (Gabel, 1998). Duit
(1990) suggested that in order for an analogue to be effective it must be familiar to the
students and it must be in a domain in which students do not have any misconceptions (cited
in Gabel, 1998) and have developed hypothetico-deductive reasoning (Lawson, et al. 1993).
Many researchers report that the decrease in intrinsic motivation with years of schooling is
particularly noticeable in mathematics and science and is at its peak in the period of early
adolescence (Eccles et al., 1998). The research results also show that the differences in
intrinsic motivation for learning science are statistically significant (p < 0.001) in different
grades (Anderman & Young, 1994; Zusho et al., 2003). A decrease in interest in science can
also be the result of a number of incorrectly or incompletely understood scientific concepts,
since students do not study science in great depth, nor are they stimulated by their teachers.
The basic aim of this study is to determine the level of students’ intrinsic motivation for
learning chemistry across the educational vertical in Slovenian schools. The research
questions asked in this study are: (1) What is the level of students’ intrinsic motivation for
learning different levels of chemical concepts with reference to the ITLS model at specific
educational levels?; and (2) What is the trend of development of intrinsic motivation for
learning chemistry during students’ progression across the chemical education vertical?.
Methods and Samples
A total of 722 students participated in the study. The whole sample comprises: (1) 191
elementary school students, average age 13.4 years, (2) 391 secondary school students, average
age16.3 years, and (3) 140 university students, average age 18.5 years. The sample is
transversal because of our interest in vertical development of intrinsic motivation among
students of different ages and different levels of chemical education.
The instrument, “Intrinsic Motivation for Learning Science” (IMLS questionnaire, Devetak &
Juriševi?, 2002), used in this study, was developed to measure the level of intrinsic motivation
for school learning in general, for learning some specific school subject (i.e., biology, physics,
foreign language and math) and the level of intrinsic motivation for learning chemistry
regarding the ITLS model (i.e. macro-, submicro- and symbolic level). All together it
comprises 125 items. The response to each item is on a five-point Likert-type scale anchored
from 1 - strongly disagree to 5 - strongly agree. The internal consistency (Cronbach ?) of the
IMLS is 0.98. The validity of the instrument was confirmed by correlation calculations, that
ranged from r = 0.601 to r = 0.821; p = 0.000 for all correlations.
The instrument was administrated in groups during regular lessons, with anticipated
principal’s and parent’s permission following standard procedures. For the purposes of the
study 56 items were used. Data obtained by IMLS application was analysed using descriptive
statistics and one-way between-groups analysis of variance (ANOVA).
Chart 1 shows characteristics of students’ intrinsic motivation for learning chemistry in
general and for chemistry learning on macroscopic, submicroscopic and symbolic levels. Test
of homogeneity of variances showed that Brown-Forsythe test of equality of means should be
mean v 50
chemistry - general
chemistry - macro
chemistry - submicro
chemistry - symbolic
Chart 1. Intrinsic motivation for learning chemistry in general and on different levels of the
ITLS model on three school levels.
According to the results all students show the highest level of motivation for learning
macroscopic components of chemical concepts. The highest level of motivation for the macro
level can be detected in primary school students and the lowest among secondary. The lowest
level was detected for learning the symbolic level of chemical concepts. A more detailed
comparison of the results will be presented at the conference.
Conclusions and Implications
It can be concluded that secondary school students show the lowest intrinsic motivation for
learning chemistry on all three measured levels compared to primary or university students.
These results are similar to the findings of Eccles et al. (1998), who reported that the decrease
in intrinsic motivation with years of schooling is particularly noticeable in mathematics and
science in the period of early adolescence. Secondary school students participating in our
study are in the middle of the adolescence period, so these results confirm previous research
conclusions. It can be also concluded that intrinsic motivation for learning chemistry in
general and for learning it at different levels of ITLS model are statistically significant
between students in primary and secondary school. Similar results were obtained in their
research Anderman and Young (1994) and Zusho et al. (2003). The differences in intrinsic
motivation for learning chemistry were not statistically significant between primary and
university students. The level of motivation for learning the symbolic level of chemical
concepts is the lowest, which probably means that students of different ages like the most
experimental work, but they show little interest in explanations of the phenomena on
particulate level and an even lower level in writing it down using symbolic chemical
According to the results, primary and especially secondary school teachers should concentrate
on encouraging students to explain chemical phenomena by describing it in terms of particle
names involved in the chemical change and they should lead them to develop a spontaneous
need to explain the observed process. After students develop the necessary skill in explaining
the phenomena, the teacher should apply abstract symbolic chemical language. Without deep
understanding of the processes involving particles of substance the chemical equations would
mean nothing to students, who would just learn it by heart (Devetak, 2005). Teachers’
sensible use of 2D or 3D static or dynamic submicro-representations of particle interaction
during the educational process on all levels of chemical concepts would stimulate students’
interest in chemistry and would result in much increased chemical knowledge.
Anderman, E. M. & Young, A. J. (1994). Motivation and Strategy Use in Science: Individual
Differences and Classroom Effects. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(8), 811-
Devetak, I. (2005). Explaining the Latent Structure of Understanding Submicropresentations
in Science. Doctoral dissertation, Ljubljana: Faculty of Education, University of
Duit, R. (1991). On the Role of Analogies and Metaphors in Learning Science. Science
Education, 75 (6), 649-672.
Gabel, D. (1998). The Complexity of Chemistry and Implications for Teaching. in B. J.
Frazer, K. J. Tobin (ed.) International Handbook of Science Education (pp. 233-248),
Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publish.
Johnstone, A. H. (1993). The Development of Chemistry Teaching. Journal of Chemical
Education, 70(9), 701-703.
Juriševi?, M., Devetak, I., Razdevše-Pu?ko, C. & Glažar, S. A. (in press). Intrinsic Motivation
of Pre-Service Primary School Teachers for Learning Chemistry in Relation to Their
Academic Achievement, International Journal of Science Education.
Lawson, A. E., Baker, W. P., DiDonato, L., Verdi, M. P. & Johnson, M. A. (1993). The Role
of Hypotetico-Deductive Reasoning and Physical Analogues of Molecular Interactions in
Conceptual Change. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30(9), 1073-1085.
Pickering, M. (1990). Further Studies on Concept Learning versus Problem Solving. Journal
of Chemical Education, 67(3), 254-255.
Sanger, M. J. (2000). Using Particulate Drawings to Determine and improve Students´
Conceptions of Pure Substances and Mixtures. Journal of Chemical Education, 77(6), 762-
Smith, K. J. & Metz, P. A. (1996). Evaluating Student Understanding of Solution Chemistry
through Microscopic Representations. Journal of Chemical Education, 73(3), 233-235.
Staver, J. R. & Lumpe, A. T. (1995). A Content Analysis of the Presentation of the Mole
Concept in Chemistry Textbooks. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30(4), 321-
Thiele, R. B. & Treagust, D. F. (1994). An Interpretative Explanations of High School
Chemistry Teachers´ Analogical Explanations. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,
Williamson, V. M. & Abraham, M. R. (1995). The Effects of Computer Animation on the
particulate Mental Models of College Chemistry Students. Journal of Research in Science
Teaching, 32(5), 521-534.
Zusho, A., Pintrich, P. R., & Coppola, B. (2003). Skill and Will: the Role of Motivation and
Cognition in the Learning of College Chemistry. International Journal of Science
Education, 25(9), 1081-1094.